Tips for Safe Cold Water Boating
The first snow has fallen and winter is around the corner but believe it or not there are some die-hard boaters who revel in cold-water boating and not all Canadian lakes freeze over. Before you head out on the water this fall here are a few tips to make sure you stay safe.
First, make sure you check your insurance policy for any lay-up requirements. Marine insurance policies specify specific dates when the boat must be out of the water. If the boat is not out of the water during the specified time and a claim occurs, coverage may be denied, a nasty surprise to find out too late. Check with your agent or broker before heading out to make sure you’re covered.
Cold water and cold weather can deadly and there are not as many passers-by to help if there’s an emergency so make sure you’re prepared for anything that could go wrong. Make sure your watercraft is in top condition and full of fuel. Get the marine weather forecast before you make the decision to head out and pay particular attention to advisories, watches or warnings. Consider rescheduling your plans for another day if the conditions are not ideal. File a Float Plan with friends or family and a local marina before you leave, providing them with a full itinerary and your expected return date and time.
Some watercraft can leave you exposed to the elements so dress according to conditions. Layering is always a good idea because when it warms up on the water you can remove a layer to help regulate your temperature. Avoid clothing that will hold moisture or draw heat away from your body. Always wear a quality life jacket or PFD and keep it securely fastened while on the water. If you are thrown into the water the cold can leave you only seconds to react. Your body will lose heat 20 times faster in cold water compared to cold air. If you plan to do a lot of fall boating you may want to consider purchasing a flotation coat which, as the name suggests, is an insulated coat that includes flotation. This type of flotation device can provide warmth and, at the same time, double as a life jacket or PFD providing protection from hypothermia.
Boating in the fall can have some challenges. Slow down and take your time. Fall water levels are constantly in flux. There are several factors that can lead to changes in the water levels in your area. Government agencies preparing for winter conditions can cause levels to change unexpectedly. Markers may be removed, leaving channels easily navigated in the summer, completely different in the fall. Fall rains can wash hard to spot debris into waterways.
Fall boating can be exciting and beautiful. Just prepare, take your time and be safe.