SOUTHWICK, Mass. (WWLP) — With this beautiful weather we’re having and Memorial Day weekend upon us, rivers and lakes have been packed with boaters. On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Lake Congamond in Southwick, tons of people were able to get their first taste of summer. Now that the unofficial start of the season is here, it’s a good time to get to know and practice boating safety tips.

The sun has been out, the temperature has been rising, and this near perfect weather coupled with a long weekend has water recreation in full swing. Lake Congamond in Southwick was filled with boaters, jet-skiiers, and more all day on Saturday.
And for many- they encourage the mantra that safety always comes first.

“I don’t like craziness. I like safe. I’m at that age where I’d just rather be safe, you know kids are gonna have fun, but you know you could do it the safe way,” expressed Southwick Resident Keith Bolbuc.

If you do plan on engaging in water activities such as swimming or kayaking you should never head out alone. Experts also recommend to familiarize yourself with the body of water you are going to, and if you are boating, always travel at a safe speed. And, while drinking will boating isn’t too uncommon, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is a federal offense.

According to the US Coast Guard there were 658 boating fatalities across the country last year and so as the summer season kicks off it’s important to note every way you can stay safe. Life jackets are imperative. In Massachusetts they must be worn by children 12 and under along with personal watercraft users, but boating safety advocates recommend all boaters and passengers secure those safety vests, as it just might save your life.

“We make sure we have the life vests on and we make sure that the people going on the jet-ski are confident. Ya know on jet-skis it’s easier to fall off than a boat, so we make sure that the people who are on it are comfortable,” expressed Fedor Tereshchuk from Ukraine.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that over 80-percent of boating fatality victims could have been saved by wearing a life jacket.