Coast Guard advises boating safety as temperatures cool for fall

Northeast Atlantic Coast Guard NewsNEW YORK – The Coast Guard advises practicing safe boating as cooling weather and sea conditions in the fall season pose many challenges and dangers for boaters in the Northeast.

The greatest defense against the seasonal changes is to prepare for them, be familiar with the waters you operate in and make boating safety a life practice.

From September to late November, water temperatures can drop nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit and air temperature cools significantly. These changing conditions increase the danger of hypothermia for all boaters and paddlers.

As the fall season progresses, sea states often can be more rough, with increased winds speeds and severe weather. Sea conditions and weather can change drastically without any notice and overcome your vessel. Earlier nightfall as the days shorten can also be dangerous for even the most experienced boater. Getting caught in the dark can be disorienting and make safe navigation a challenge.

Should you find yourself in the water it is recommended that you stay with – and preferably on top of – your boat. Never overestimate your swimming ability, especially in cold water. All too often people underestimate the distance to shore or the effects of cold water and unfortunately drown while attempting to make it to safety.

Of New York’s 25 fatalities associated with recreational boating in 2011, almost a third of those deaths involved small manually propelled watercraft, occurring either early or late in the season when water temperatures were cold. In almost every one of those fatal accidents life jackets were not worn and in some cases weren’t even on board at the time of the accident. The Coast Guard estimates that 80 % of all boating accident deaths might have been prevented had a life jacket been worn.

Boating safety tips to always remember:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket.
  • Always check weather and sea states before departing.
  • Wear a dry suit or wet suit under your Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Keep immersion suits onboard for emergencies.
  • Do not wear cotton clothing, as it does not resist wind or moisture.
  • Always check sunset times for your area before departing.
  • Have your vessel inspected by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron.
  • File a float plan with someone who knows when you are leaving and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry a portable VHF-FM radio and Personal Locator Beacon (PBL) in your lifejacket.
  • Make sure you have working sound-producing devices in the event of an emergency in low visibility.
  • Ensure flares are up to date and in good working order.
  • Do not overload your vessel with excess passengers.
  • Affix an “IF Found – Contact” sticker on your paddle craft.

For a comprehensive list of boating safety checklists and instructional information, please visit: http://www.uscgboating.org/safety/default.aspx

For more information on life jacket safety as a part of National Safe Boating Week, take a look at the National Safe Boating Council’s website: http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/

To file an electronic float plan: www.floatplancentral.org

For a vessel safety check, visit the Coast Guard Auxiliary website at  http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=V-DEPT

Printable paddler safety checklist:
Paddler Checklist

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