As fall sets in, Coast Guard urges safety at sea

BOSTON – The Coast Guard advises fall season boaters today to exercise caution while enjoying New England’s inland and coastal waters this holiday weekend.

Fall and the changing weather bring the added danger of cold-water immersion for late-season recreational boaters, paddlers and fishermen. Additionally, as waterfowl hunting season approaches, inland and coastal duck hunters are advised to use caution.

“Although warm weather is forecast for the Columbus Day weekend, summer-like conditions on the water are over,” said Al Johnson, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Northeast’s First Coast Guard District.

“Inland and coastal water temperatures are rapidly cooling and will soon approach or dip below 50°F,” he said. “Boaters and paddlers venturing out on the water at this time of year should have a definite plan of action and be prepared in the event of sudden cold water immersion.”

Johnson recommends always wearing a life jacket, having a float plan, and if possible, wearing a wet or dry suit.

“At the minimum, a life jacket should be equipped with neoprene gloves, a wool hat, and a signaling kit that includes a mirror, flares, whistle, light, and VHF radio,” Johnson said. “It might sound excessive, but if you give some serious thought as to what can go wrong on the water, the better your chance for survival.”

In the event of capsizing or falling overboard, the Coast Guard recommends staying with the boat, because it’s easier to see than a person alone in the water. Cold water also diminishes swimming ability. If two or more people are in the water, they should clip together to conserve heat, and try to avoid drifting apart.

“From now until May it’s mandatory in Massachusetts and Connecticut for canoeists and kayakers to wear life jackets,” said Johnson.

“Not just at this time of the year, but anytime you’re on the water, be aware of what can go wrong. Luck favors the prepared, responsible and prudent mariner.”

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