Coast Guard and state agencies stress cold water dangers

BOSTON – The Coast Guard and state boating agencies continue to warn spring boaters, paddlers, sailors and fishermen on northeastern inland and coastal waters of the dangers of cold water and sudden cold water immersion.

“Plain and simple, if things go wrong on the water and you’re not prepared for the immediate shock of sudden cold water immersion, your chance for survival is greatly reduced,” said Al Johnson, the recreational boating specialist for the First Coast Guard District in Boston.

“While the best protection against cold water is wearing a dry or wet suit, wearing a properly-fitted, comfortable life jacket is your first step to survival and a great assurance of returning home safely,” said Johnson.

Although a life jacket offers minimal protection against the debilitating effects of cold water, a life jacket will keep you afloat while your body acclimates to the water temperature allowing time for rescue efforts, to deploy flares or make a distress call, said Johnson.

“To date this year, we’ve lost six boaters and paddlers on the waters of the northeast and all six cases can be directly attributed to the debilitating effects of cold water.”

With the warming trend forecasted for the weekend, coupled with recent rainfall through out the northeast, there is potential danger to boaters and paddlers on smaller rivers, creeks and streams.

“Smaller tributaries will be higher and fast-moving and can be extremely hazardous to unsuspecting or inexperienced boaters and paddlers,” said Johnson. “High creek and river levels can cover downed trees and debris and easily create strainers and unforeseen eddies and rips.”

Johnson strongly recommends always wearing a life jacket, letting a responsible person know your itinerary, being prepared for the unexpected, carrying a VHF radio and cell phone, and the importance of developing an awareness of the dangers of cold water. He also says, for boating and paddling mothers, a top-quality, Coast Guard-approved life jacket makes the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

“How often in life has a mother’s advice kept one of us afloat,” queried Johnson, “so it would be appropriate, if in an on-water crisis, your thoughtfulness might do the same for her.”

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