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Even the coldest weather of the year can’t keep some diehard boaters from taking to the water during the winter months. If you’re one of them, you need to be extra careful, as decreased air and water temperatures present special dangers. Here are some tips to help keep you safe and warm if you brave the winter waves.

  • Be sure to let family members and friends know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. You should do this no matter what time of year it is, but it’s especially important in the winter when less people will be on the water to help in case of an emergency.
  • Wear manmade fabrics like polyester rather than cotton. Cotton gets wet and stays wet, losing its insulating ability and actually causing chill. Polyester wicks moisture away from the skin, keeping you drier and warmer. The same is true for under layers as well as outer layers.
  • Don’t just take a life jacket — wear it. Falls overboard happen, and more than half of all boating fatalities due to drowning occur because of the effects of being immersed in cold water. Thick clothes worn for protection against cold air temperatures can become heavy in water and make it difficult for those wearing them to stay afloat.
  • Consider wearing a neoprene wetsuit or float-coat. These can dramatically increase your chances of survival if you unexpectedly end up in the drink. Plus, they add insulation and warmth without being too bulky.
  • Know how to survive in cold water. If you do fall in, get out quickly. If you can’t get out, conserve your body heat by holding your knees to your chest and clasping your arms around your legs. This will protect your core. Do not remove your clothes and cover your head. Call for help but don’t flail your arms, as this will tire you out and cause your body to lose heat faster.
  • Plan for “what if.” Trust us, you’ll be happy you brought back-up warmth if the worst happens. Pack a change of clothes, thick towels or blankets, a thermos filled with a hot beverage or soup, pocket warmers and other forms of heat that can quickly heat your body. It could mean the difference between a survival story and a tragic tale.

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4 Responses to Boating Safety on Winter Waters

  1. John Longley says:

    EPIRBs, PLBs, and PABs are also smart take-alongs anytime, but really smart when few other boats are on the water.

  2. Lee McNelly says:

    Excellent recommendations and gives us something to look forward to with our spring launches !

  3. Pat McGinle says:

    Safety reminders for recreation is much appreciaated. Telling friends and family your destination and possible alternatives is very important. Time you expect to return is especialy needed.

  4. Bob Lake says:

    Very good and sound advice.

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