Winter Boating Safety

yachtThe right boat insurance coverage is essential to protecting your investment in any weather, but knowing how to boat safely during the cooler months can go a long ways towards reducing your risk of needing to file a claim. Since we would all prefer to avoid danger here are a few tips to keep you safer and avoid needing your marine insurance company on speed dial.

What everyone needs to know about winter boating:

• Float plan is a must. You should always leave a float plan with a reliable person so that if you don’t return at the time you are expected they can begin a search. This is especially important in winter when squalls and storms can blow up quickly and falling overboard is even riskier in cooler waters.

• Plan ahead. Always have enough fuel for your return trip even if there are weather delays. You do not want to run out of fuel on the water in inclement weather. Also if you’re traveling during the winter ensure that your yacht insurance coverage is in force an adequate for risks in that area.

• Get the right life jacket for winter weather. There are special personal flotation jackets for cold-water temperatures that offer better protection in the cold because they are more insulated. You may even want to consider a survival suit, especially if you are a commercial fisherman or charter boat operator. If you’ll be boating in a warm climate the weather may still be pleasant but remember that even slightly cooler water can increase the speed that hypothermia sets in. Have a plan in the event that you or someone else is accidentally knocked overboard.

• Keep safety supplies on board. These include a fully stocked first aid kit, adequate drinking water and food to last for all the passengers for at least a few days, and at least one change of clothes for each person in case someone falls overboard or gets wet some other way. Other things to consider are pocket warmers and hot beverages or soup in thermos containers if you don’t have a galley kitchen.

• Dress appropriately. As with any outdoor winter activities, layers are the best way to dress warmly. If you get too warm, it’s easy to shed a layer. In cooler climates cotton, wool or other special thermal undergarments are also a wise choice. In addition to mittens, gloves and a warm hat, ski goggles can be extremely useful if you are facing biting winds and driving snow. In warmer climates remember that you will need adequate protection from wind and sun while you work to obtain help.

• Prepare for freezing temperatures. Northern winter’s can be harsh on vessels. Just as with cars and trucks, boat batteries can be affected by the cold. Investing in an economically priced solar charger can help ensure your battery is strong despite the cold. Depending on the type of boat you are operating, you may also have to protect plumbing lines or hoses from freezing. Be vigilant to ensure lines are empty if need be, kept warm, or better insulated.

• Know how to summon help in the event of an emergency. Every boat out on the water in winter should have a distress light to send an SOS signal or a flare gun. A VHF marine radio is even better because you can issue a Mayday call on channel 16, complete with your boat’s name, your location and a description of the emergency.

It is exhilarating to be outside on the water in winter, but it is so very important to stay safe and be prepared for the risks of possibly cold weather and cool water.

Ready for winter boating? Revisit your boat insurance coverage for the year ahead, contact the knowledgeable staff at Global Marine Insurance to request a quote for boat or yacht insurance and receive coverage tailored to your unique needs.

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