Boating in the winter is a normal thing for many people. Recreational activities such as fishing and hunting are what many look forward to on their days off. But this winter season, make sure that you’re educated and aware of the biggest threats to your safety when going out on the water. This post lists several risks associated with boating in cold weather and is meant to inform you properly before you head out.
The first safety threat when boating in the winter is the increased risk of contracting hypothermia in the case of man overboard situation. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95˚F. No one thinks this will happen, but it does. Even water temperatures below 70˚F can be dangerous. Hypothermia decreases the time of survival to just minutes, and while life jackets may increase the survival time, without help this can easily cause death.
Increased Accident Risk
Boating in the winter generally increases the risk of fatal injury due to the extreme temperatures of the water and the air. These temperatures can have negative effects on a watercraft, causing batteries to lose their charge. Icing of essential parts of the boat can cause quicker degradation, creating holes and causing the boat to take on water. Proper maintenance of the watercraft is non-negotiable.
Winter storms can shut down an entire city in a matter of hours. If you’re out on the water things can be even worse. When a winter storm strikes, you can experience little to no visibility, extreme temperatures, snow, sleet, high winds, and intense waves. Always plan your trip several days in advance by diligently examining the forecast. If there is any sign of a winter storm over the duration of your trip, we highly recommend staying at home for your safety.
Even if you’d compare yourself to an olympic swimmer, cold water will always have the upper hand. There’s something called “Cold Shock” that occurs when you fall overboard. Regardless of how strong of a swimmer you are, your body’s response to sudden immersion in cold water is an involuntary gasp reflex that can cause inhalation of water which results in drowning. This is also why wearing a life jacket can greatly increase your chances of survival.
We hope these things will help you assess the risks and threats to your safety before you boat this winter. If the risks outweigh the benefits, it is wiser to remain home until conditions improve. Smart boating is safe boating, and always remember to wear your life jacket!