Memorial Day weekend on the water: Tips and risks

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The weekend leading up to Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of boating season in West Michigan; with it comes fresh warnings from Ottawa County authorities.

Much like police will be patrolling roads for distracted and speeding drivers, crews will be combing lakes for boaters who don’t slow down in low wake areas.

“We want to keep that traffic down and slow, especially in front of marinas because there’s a lot of damage that can be done by the boats that are exceeding the speed (limit),” said Sgt. Dean DeVries of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit.

Lake Michigan’s water level is 13 inches above the May average and up five inches from last month. The higher water levels mean an elevated risk to visitors of the big lake.

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“The piers right now, especially when the winds start kicking up, can be a super dangerous place to be, obviously. And now with the water levels as high as they are, it does not take as much of a wind for the waves to go over top of the piers and put people in jeopardy,” DeVries told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday morning.

Northwest winds pose the biggest threat to pier visitors in Holland; at the Grand Haven pier, southern winds are the most dangerous.

DeVries says boaters should always check their supplies before heading out on the water, ensuring batteries are charged, flares are on board and there are enough life jackets for every passenger.

DeVries urges boaters to make sure life jackets fit each person properly, with smaller life jackets for children.