4 tips for boating in colder temperatures

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For many people, recreational boating season begins during the spring and ends during the fall months. However, some may still choose to venture out later in the year when the temperatures begin falling and the waters become colder. While this scenario is not uncommon, it does call for boaters to be more diligent about their maneuvers and adopt additional safety guidelines associated with winter boating.

Boating accidents can be costly and dangerous at any point in the year, but they can be particularly worrisome during the cold winter months when the risk of hypothermia is high. Additionally, some may underestimate the temperatures of the water when the breeze and air still feels warm. According to Michigan Live, cold water is defined as any water temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, there are several tips and practices boaters should put into motion when they make their last few trips in cooler temperatures.

1. Follow the I.C.E. rule

The U.S. Coast Guard encourages boaters to remember the acronym ICE when boating or fishing in colder temperatures. The “I” stands for intelligence, which involves becoming educated on the weather conditions, knowing which types of cold weather and waterways to steer clear of and knowing how to call for help. “C” relates to dressing in proper clothing. Although the air temperatures may still be fair, water temperatures can be much colder. Therefore, it’s important to dress for the latter temperatures, not the former. Lastly, “E” relates to using the right equipment, such as marine radios, life jackets and items that may be needed to warm an individual who has fallen overboard.

2. Implement a float plan

Regardless of the season, boaters should always ensure that family members or friends know where they are in the event of an accident. Mapping out the waterway boaters plan to follow, detailing how long they will be gone or when they will return and maintaining some way to get into contact with loved ones is important. Should an accident occur, emergency responders may have an easier time finding a stranded boater if they have a general idea of which path they followed.

3. Avoid boating alone

The risk of storms during the winter season may be relatively similar to the spring and summer months – depending on a boater’s location – but the cold weather temperatures can make it more dangerous. Therefore, having assistance in the way of boat passengers – especially those who are also familiar with boat safety and procedures – may help individuals better weather any issues that may arise.

4. Ensure all equipment is working properly

Boaters should always do a quick check that their boating equipment – such as their VHF-FM marine radio, flares and other emergency equipment that is crucial during an emergency – is working properly before they go out. The Coast Guard recommends using as many waterproof hand-held models that are available. Individuals should also keep in mind that even though they are prepared for an emergency, they should closely monitor the marine weather forecast even in periods of good weather.


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