5 Tips for Safe Cold Water Boating

Cold water boating can be fun and with fewer boaters on the water, be really exciting but it puts you at risk for falling in the cold water.

If you plan on getting an early start to your spring boating, take a look at our 5 preparation tips for safe, cold water boating.

File a float plan
When the weather is colder, there are less boaters out there, which is good and bad. In the event of an emergency, you’ll be wishing there were more boaters around to assist in a rescue if necessary. In lieu of the low chance of other boaters happening upon your emergency, it is imperative to file a float plan with family or friends. Your float plan should contain details of where you are going and your expected return time. If you don’t return within a reasonable amount of time, that person can then file a report with the Coast Guard with sufficient information to launch a search and rescue.

winter-sailboat.pngIs your boat ready?
Chances are you’ve had your boat docked for at least part of the winter. Before immediately hopping into the water, take the time to run through a de-winterization checklist. Are all batteries charged? Inspect and test all electrical items and electronics. Check the engine and change the oil. Inspect your fueling system for any cracks and refill your cooling system. All boats are different so definitely consult your owner’s manual or trusted mechanic for any other tips to de-winterizing.

Prepare for the worst
Especially in colder weather, pack extra supplies for an emergency like blankets, extra food and water, additional layers and communication and location devices. Winter is also a great time to brush up on any medical training, like what to do in the event of hypothermia. Make sure your crew is prepared and practiced in retrieving a man overboard and how to properly abandon ship. Do you have a life raft on board? When you need to abandon ship, a life  raft is necessary to ensure your survival. Remember, survival times are severely compromised in cold water an emergency flotation to get you out of the water will make the difference.

Dress for the water, not the weather
As we are starting the transition out of winter into spring, we are teased with warm days. It is important to remember that during this fluctuating weather time, even if the air temperature is warm, the water is still cold. Dry suits and immersion suits help to keep you dry but it is still required to layer up. Cotton should be avoided as it traps moisture and should be replaced with high-performance, wicking materials.

Watch the weather
Of course, you’ve monitored the weather leading up to your boat trip, with the quickly changing weather patterns it is important to continue to monitor the weather. Especially during the winter, squalls can pop up suddenly. Monitoring the weather and plotting safe places to dock in advance of the weather can be easily planned. 

When planned properly, boating during winter and into spring can be safe and enjoyable. And just think, all of the planning and preparation you did now will get you out quicker on the water when the weather is consistently nice!

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