Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cold Water Boating Basics

April 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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cold water boating basics 1

 After a winter spent indoors, warmer days entice us onto the water. Though we’re eager to jump aboard, we must never throw caution to the wind. Safe boating is a year-round practice, but there are more precautions to take when water temperatures are chilly.

It’ll be awhile before local waters climb above 60 degrees, so an accidental immersion at this time of year can prove fatal. A person may experience shock or hyperventilation, and arms and legs begin to lose sensation and strength, diminishing swimming and self-rescue capabilities.

From November 1 through May 1, New York State law requires that all boaters on recreational watercraft less than 21 feet wear a securely fastened U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while underway. Though this law has a specific start and end date, icy waters don’t care about calendars, so don’t relax your vigil or remove your life jacket no matter how warm that sun feels (this goes for dogs, too — they need properly fitted and brightly colored life jackets equipped with a handle for grabbing and lifting).

Should someone (or everyone) go overboard, remain calm. Quickly perform the most important functions first, such as locating all persons, getting anyone in the water out, and calling for rescue. At this time of year, it’s unlikely that there will be other boaters nearby to lend a hand, so quickly summoning help is crucial. Boaters should each carry a small emergency locator beacon, a portable marine VHF radio, and/or a cell phone in a sealed plastic bag — add in a whistle, signal mirror, and pocket flares. Backups of all communication and signaling devices should be kept on the vessel so that someone aboard can signal if the person in the water cannot do so.

Surviving a cold water plunge is more likely if the person who goes overboard can get back into the boat fast. Boats without a ladder or swim platform should have a foot sling or a webbed strap.

Before you head out, let others know about your boating day. Write up (or text) a summary that includes when you plan on returning. Specify your boat’s name, type, length, color, and the location of its towing vehicle, if applicable. Share the information with a family member or friend, or leave the float plan at the marina if it’s staffed so there’s no delay in getting help if your plans go awry.

Boating while impaired gets the cold shoulder no matter the season. Don’t consume alcohol or take any drugs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of your prescription and over-the-counter medications. Quick rule of thumb: if you shouldn’t drive, you can’t boat.


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Cold water survival video

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