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Coast Guard kicks off Safe Boating Week

Coast Guard units across the Great Lakes are hosting events to highlight the importance of boating safety as residents countdown to Memorial Day weekend. The annual National Safe Boating Week safety campaign kicks off Saturday, which is also recognized as Life Jacket World Record Day.

In the Twin Ports, families are invited to the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for free family activities, demonstrations and programs hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

"We will be trying to break the world record for wearing life jackets," said center director Denise Wolvin.

Visitors can don a lifejacket and get their picture taken, meet Coastie the Safety Boat and learn more about the dangers of rip currents and cold water.

"Participants will place their hands in cold water and try and do some simple activities afterward," Wolvin said. " It is a great way to see how hypothermia affects our motor functions."

Although 2016 U.S. Coast Guard statistics have not been released yet, in 2015 drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities, and 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

"Much like wearing a seatbelt, putting on a lifejacket during or after an accident happens is too late," said Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Ninth Coast Guard District. "That's why we recommend that people wear their lifejackets while on the water."

For this year's National Safe Boating Week campaign, the Great Lakes Coast Guard will focus on three aspects of boating safety: vessel operator responsibilities, paddlesport safety, and the importance of communication before, during and after on-water recreational activities.

For information, visit www.readysetwearit.com or dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat.

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