Lake Ontario can have ‘very dangerous conditions’ for swimmers and boaters, warns Toronto police marine unit

Toronto police are reminding people to be extra careful while swimming and boating in Lake Ontario this summer.

As recently as last Friday, the marine unit rescued several paddle boarders and kayakers who had been blown out as far as five nautical miles (roughly eight kilometres) from the shore of Lake Ontario.

Police said they located the stranded persons while en route to rescue another paddle boarder who had their cell phone with them and was able to call for help.

The marine unit, in a June 22 release, said drowning is a real possibility for boaters and water sport enthusiasts who get themselves in trouble.

“It is not uncommon, during windy conditions and rough water, for there to be waves on the lake over 3 metres high. These windy conditions – which sometimes are not obvious from land – affect not only boats on the water, that have the assistance of a motor to help them navigate back to shore, but more importantly all of the paddle-boards, kayaks, inflatables and small store-bought dinghies,” police said.

“These winds can push you out onto the lake quickly.”

The marine unit said Lake Ontario, which “does have very dangerous conditions at times,” should never be compared to smaller “cottage” lakes.

“The waters in Lake Ontario are very cold and people can quickly become hypothermic, giving them very little chance of survival if they are in the water for extended periods of time,” said police, who urged people to check marine forecasts before heading out onto the water, especially those using paddle boards or kayaks.

The marine unit is also reminding swimmers and boaters to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature, and always wear a life jacket.

Carrying a cell phone or a handheld VHF radio when on the water is also a good idea, they said.

Lastly, police are urging swimmers and boaters to let someone know they’re heading onto the water, where they’ll be launching from, where they plan to be, and for how long they plan to be out for.

“All of this information is important in case people run into trouble on the water and the Marine Unit is contacted to conduct a lifesaving search and rescue,” they said.