Even strong swimmers can experience great difficulty surviving if they accidentally fall into cold oceans and lakes during the winter. So, make sure you follow the tips below to ensure boater safety. Before boating, check your local weather for any dangerous wave conditions. It takes a lot less rain and wind than you probably expect to cause major damage to a boat. Winter storms can take a heavy toll on boats and even result in sinking. You should also tell someone else where you are going and what time you expect to return. Make sure you take enough clothing to dress in layers and stay dry and warm. Also, review the capacity plate on your boat and do not exceed any of its limits when loading the vessel.
While on the water, always wear a life jacket. About 75% of boating fatalities involve capsizing, boaters falling overboard, or flooding or swamping boats. Sudden immersion in freezing cold water can cause people to experience temporary paralysis and drown. Also, thick clothes often worn for protection against cold air temperatures become heavy in water and make it difficult for those wearing them to stay afloat. A life jacket will help keep your head above water in an immersion accident until you can control your own breathing and thus dramatically increases your chances for survival. It can also serve as thermal protection against hypothermia while keeping you afloat until you can rescue yourself or someone else can help you.
It is best to avoid drinking alcohol while boating to avoid placing yourself and others in dangerous situations such as leaning over too far, jumping from vessel to vessel, and moving around too much or standing that can lead to passengers falling overboard or a boat capsizing. In addition, make sure you keep a sharp lookout, maintain surrounding awareness, and advise other passengers about general boating safety tips. During boat launching and recovery you should pay close attention to docks and the ground near shorelines for any ice so you do not end up slipping and hurting yourself.
You should also make sure that the boat insurance policy on your vessel is up to date and provides adequate coverage for winter boating. Some companies provide a discount for accepting a boat insurance lay-up period for boats over 27 feet. Lay-up is a period of the time that the boat will not be used. These policies are typically for boats located in climates with cold winters. During a lay-up period the boat insurance coverage includes damage that may be incurred while it is in storage, but not while it is being navigated. For this reason it’s important to ensure that your boat insurance policy does not contain a winter lay-up before you go boating.
For more boating safety tips visit the United States Power Squadronsï¸ï¸ website.