Coast Guard Stresses Dangers of Cold Water

BOSTON – This week, with sunshine and warmer temperatures forecasted for the weekend, the Coast Guard is stressing cold water warnings and the danger of sudden cold-water immersion to early spring boaters, paddlers, sailors and fishermen on the inland and coastal waters from Maine to New Jersey.

“With spring weather in the offing and with most inland ponds and lakes ice-free, there are many people heading out on our inland and coastal waters,” said Al Johnson, recreational boating specialist for the Northeast’s First Coast Guard District. “Boaters, paddlers and others venturing out on any body of water at this time of year should have a definite plan of action in the event of sudden cold water immersion.”

Johnson strongly recommends always wearing a life jacket and further recommends 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, a light and, better yet, a VHF radio and cell phone,” Johnson added. “It might sound excessive, but if you give some serious thought to crisis management and the incapacitating effects of very cold water, this equipment can save your life.”

“Regrettably, so far this year, we’ve already lost a small boat fisherman and a canoeist,” lamented Johnson. “Neither was wearing a life jacket. This last Sunday, we lost an experienced and properly equipped whitewater kayaker in Maine, and this week we lost a boater and a sailor in Long Island Sound, tragically neither of whom was wearing a life jacket.”

Johnson recommends a two-step process for surviving in cold water immersion. The first step is wearing a life jacket, and the second step is researching and understanding the latest concepts in cold water and hypothermia awareness and protection.

“Remember, when you’re on the water, you’re in command,” said Johnson. “When you’re in the water, you’re at the mercy of the elements. And, if you’re not properly prepared, the encounter will possibly be fatal. Plain and simple, cold water kills!”

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