For many boaters, the end of summer means the end of boating season. This doesn’t have to be the case. Boating on Lake Michigan can be enjoyable in the fall as well—especially early autumn. Keep in mind though, shorter days and colder temperatures mean that you will need to take extra safety precautions. Follow the tips below for fun and safe fall boating.

Dress for The Season

The weather in Chicagoland is anything but constant, and this is especially true in the fall. A warm afternoon can quite suddenly become cold; a cool evening can suddenly become freezing. And, of course, rain showers can seemingly pop up out of nowhere. Be mindful of these changes when boating: the last thing you want is to be caught off guard on the lake. For one, we recommend wearing layers. We also recommend bringing rain gear (even if the forecast calls for sun) and a heavier coat. When it comes to weather in greater Chicago, it is impossible to be over-prepared. All of these considerations will contribute to your fun and safe fall boating experience.

Equip Your Boat with Lights

Because the days are shorter in the fall, you will likely find yourself boating in the dark more often than you did during the summer. Equipping your boat with proper lighting is so important. Ideally, you should have a waterproof headlamp. If nothing else, you should at least have a working flashlight. You will also want to ensure that the navigational lights on your boat are in working order. We also recommend carrying an extra set of batteries for your headlamp or flashlight, so that you do not suddenly find yourself left in the dark.

Always Wear Your Life Jacket

To be sure, a life jacket is a vital piece of safety equipment year-round. It is especially important in the fall. That is because life jackets do not only save you from drowning; they can save you from hypothermia as well. Lake Michigan gets dangerously cold in the fall, especially at night. Being completely submerged in this cold water for even a few seconds can lead to hypothermia. A well-fitting life jacket will keep most of your body above water, greatly lessening the risk of hypothermia. One thing to keep in mind: since you will (hopefully) be wearing layers to deal with the cold temperatures, a life jacket that fit tightly in the summer might not fit in the fall.

Make Sure Your Boat Is Well-Maintained

Because there are added dangers that come with fall boating, it is especially important to make sure that your boat is properly inspected and maintained, before taking it out. For boating maintenance in the Chicago area, we recommend Larsen Marine. A complete list of their maintenance services can be found at https://www.larsenmarine.com/service/. We also recommend keeping a maintenance checklist. Larsen Marine has provided a helpful maintenance checklist at https://www.larsenmarine.com/service/boat-maintenance-checklist/. Making sure that your boat is maintained and repaired will ensure that you and your family can enjoy it safely, no matter the time of year.