Coast Guard urges safety on the water, protect from the elements

1st Coast Guard District News
BOSTON — The Coast Guard urges all boaters and outdoor enthusiasts to be prepared on the water as record-setting winter weather continues.

With air temperatures in the single digits and water temperatures at or below freezing, the risks of being in the water are dangerously increased and hypothermia can quickly set in.

The Coast Guard has been involved in two fatal boating cases since the new year:

  • On Jan.1, the Coast Guard and numerous local and state agencies searched for a missing kayaker who was reported overdue near Fairhaven, Mass. Rescue crews searched more than 320 square miles during a 17-hour search with no sign of the missing kayaker. The search was suspended.
  • On Tuesday, the Coast Guard and numerous local and state agencies searched for three hunters after their skiff was found overturned near Wesport, Mass. A Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., helicopter crew located two of the hunters, who were recovered by the harbormaster. The two men were pronounced deceased by local EMS. The helicopter crew located and safely hoisted the third hunter, and transferred him to Rhode Island Hospital symptoms of hypothermia.

“Yesterday’s events show that the recent severe cold we’ve been experiencing can transform a near-shore recreational activity into a life-or-death situation in just minutes,” said Cmdr. Dave Husted, operations officer, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod. “It’s imperative that everyone engaged in water-borne activities take proactive steps to ensure their safety and the safety of others, especially in the winter months.”

In an effort to increase the safety of people on the water this season, the Coast Guard recommends the following:

Stay informed. Be sure to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and boaters should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions. The public should monitor the National Weather Service, local television and radio reports. Boaters can monitor weather patterns, fog and developing storms on channel on VHF-FM marine-band radio; small craft advisories are also available on channel 16.

Always wear a life jacket. Since there is little time to reach for stowed vests when accidents occur, wearing one at all times reduces your risk of drowning.  Federal law requires you to have a personal floatation device on board for each passenger.

Protect yourself against hypothermia. Invest in a dry suit or other Coast Guard-approved full-body floatation survival gear. Although Gulf Coast water temperatures are still relatively warm during the winter season, the threat of hypothermia is still great. As soon as a person’s core body temperature drops below 95 degrees, hypothermia sets in and occurs 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. A person in the water not wearing a life jacket can lose body heat from efforts to remain afloat. Once the shivering stops, the body is no longer able to heat itself, and the person can lose consciousness and drown.

File a float plan.  A float plan is simply letting family and friends know where you are going and your expected time of return. File a float plan with someone who is not getting underway with you and stick to the plan. If you change plans, contact the person. A float plan assists responders in the search of an overdue boater who may be in distress. More information about float plans, and an example of one can be found at

Never boat under the influence. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.


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