Here we go. The unofficial last weekend of summer. Labor Day.
Three final days of summer to squeeze the last bit of fun out of the warm weather before the trees turn colors and the kids head back to school.
Go out on the lake. Head for the campsite. Crank the music and drink a few beers. Get it all out of your system for another year.
But in cutting loose, please remember how easily tragedy can strike if you put aside basic precautions and are unprepared for conditions.
On Thursday, a 44-year-old Mechanicville man died in Saratoga Lake after falling out of his canoe near Brown’s Beach and failing to resurface. An innocent venture that turned deadly, blamed in part on windy conditions on the notoriously choppy lake.
It’s been a common horror story all summer long around here.
In late June, a 35-year-old Ballston Spa man jumped into the lake from a boat without a life jacket and drowned. Also in June, a 47-year-old Mayfield man jumped into the water from a boat to rescue his struggling child and drowned. In June, a 61-year-old man died while swimming near his boat in Lake George after suffering a medical condition. A companion’s effort to save him failed. In July, a 66-year-old woman drowned in Lake George near Bolton Landing.
That isn’t even the full list.
Police didn’t say whether Thursday’s victim was wearing a lift jacket. But a lot of people who fall out of boats or drown swimming near them aren’t wearing them.
It’s a simple precaution that the Coast Guard estimates could save more than 80% of people who end up in the water.
Spend some time and purchase a vest that conforms to your size and weight, and wear it whenever you’re out on the water, even just swimming. If your canoe or kayak flips over, you likely won’t have time to retrieve it and put it on.
Another tip. Be aware of conditions. If the water is too rough and you’re in a vessel that easily tips over, think about doing something else or waiting for conditions to improve.
Know your abilities and be absolutely honest with yourself about your health and physical condition. We’re not all as young and in shape as we used to be.
One of the best ways to avoid a tragedy on the water and off is to avoid alcohol.
Alcohol is the leading contributor to fatal boat accidents, according the Coast Guard. Drunk operation of a boat can lead to crashes and to the driver being unable to avoid swimmers. Drunk swimmers aren’t always aware of their surroundings and alcohol impairs their abilities and judgment.
If you’re operating a boat, don’t speed around other boats or swimmers. It seems obvious, but people die because operators don’t see people or boats, and don’t have time to avoid them.
On land, don’t take the weekend for one last summer bender. Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the deadliest for car crashes and drunken driving crashes, given the high volume of drivers on the road and the volume of alcohol they drink.
You’ve made it through summer safely. Don’t let down your guard this final weekend.
Do all you can to protect others and yourself from a tragedy.