Remember courtesy, common sense - and designated driver, if needed - on the water and off, area sheriffs said.
With the unofficial start of summer this weekend, officials on Friday urged boaters and swimmers to be safe while they're on the lakes or in a pool.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek was at the Water Patrol headquarters on Lake Minnetonka to remind boaters to be courteous on the water, patient while pulling in to launches and to designate a sober operator if alcohol is on board.
Last year, Hennepin County water patrol deputies made 78 arrests for boating-while-intoxicated offenses. The standards and penalties are practically the same as with DWI violations, Stanek said.
He attributed an uptick in BWI arrests in the county last year to the fact that there were more boaters on home waters because of high gas prices, and to good enforcement on the part of deputies.
Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom said that his county so far has had no water-related fatalities this year. "We want this to be our safest year yet," he said.
But statewide, the number of water-related fatalities this year is 40 percent higher than at this point last year, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Stanek urged all swimmers to use life jackets, and said that children should always be supervised by adults. State law requires children under the age of 10 to wear a life jacket while riding in a boat, and that life jackets be available for all boat riders.
The sheriff also noted that lake water is still relatively cool and that swimmers should take care to avoid cold water shock.
Hennepin County recorded 18 drownings last year, five of them children -- double the number of drownings typical each year. Most drownings or near-drownings occur in swimming pools and hot tubs.
Because of recent rains, a no-wake zone has been declared in Fish Lake in Plymouth. That means that tubing and water skiing are prohibited. Boaters should check at launch areas on other lakes to see if they have wake restrictions.
For more information on boat and water safety, click on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater.