Coast Guard reminds boaters of cold water dangers

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Coast Guard Sector Virginia reminds recreational boaters and paddlers to be mindful of the inherent dangers of cold water temperatures as air temperatures rise in the region.

Despite air temperatures increasing to spring-like conditions through the weekend, the ocean, Chesapeake Bay, rivers, and surrounding lakes in the area remain significantly colder.

Cold water can be particularly dangerous this time of year because warmer air temperatures can encourage people to dress for warmer weather, without realizing the water temperature is drastically different. Even with forecasted highs this weekend in the low 70s in some parts of the region, the water temperature in the Chesapeake Bay near Cape Henry is only 42 degrees with other bodies of water displaying similar cold temperatures.

“Dressing for the water temperature, not the air temperature, and wearing a lifejacket are the best ways to increase your chance of survival should you fall in cold water,” said Lt. Mitchell Latta, a Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator at Sector Virginia. “Not only do life jackets keep you afloat, they provide insulation and make you visible to responders. Therefore, having a life jacket on before entering the water is key.”

Roughly 20% of people who fall into cold water die within the first minute due to shock. Even the strongest swimmers lose muscle control after 10 minutes of being exposed to cold water, making it nearly impossible to put on a life jacket and call for help.

Boaters and paddlers should also have a VHF-FM marine radio on hand to call for help during an emergency and bring along other safety equipment such as EPIRBS, first aid kits and dewatering equipment. For a full list of safety gear visit

For more information on how to stay safe on the water, please visit The Coast Guard Auxiliary’s boating safety website at or contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit at

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