Boaters hitting Ontario waters early this season should take extra precaution, warns the Canadian Coast Guard.
Regular boating season doesn't start until April, which means boaters are at a greater risk of life-threatening injuries should any accidents occur.
"Last year we were dealing with ice and couldn't get on the water," said Peter Garapick, superintendent of search and rescue for the Canadian Coast Guard. "This year, where boaters can put their boats in the water at the boat ramps, we've got to ask them to be sure they've done everything to be safe before they get in the water."
He cautions that lifeboat stations on the Great Lakes, Georgian Bay and St. Lawrence River don't reopen until next month.
Garapick said there are financial challenges that prevent the Coast Guard from deploying extra resources earlier than planned.
Despite the recent stretch of unseasonably warm temperatures, boaters heading out early this year should dress for much colder weather because the waters are still quite frigid, Garapick explained.
Anyone who falls in the water will still suffer from hypothermia quite quickly.
"You've got then, 10 minutes before your fingers and hands and legs go numb and you can't move," he said. "You have one hour before you're unconscious from cardiac arrest due to hypothermia."