Remember dangers of cold water boating The air may be getting warmer as spring begins, but the water is still cold. That is why Bill Shattuck, boating safety specialist for Game, Fish and Parks, and the National Safe Boating Council want to remind people of the dangers of cold water boating.
"Cold water, water with a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, can be a real killer, especially if someone falls in unexpectedly," Shattuck said. "Boaters always need to be aware of the dangers of cold water; but particularly during the early part of the boating season when the water is colder and when there are not many other boaters around to help in an emergency."
According to Shattuck, the first hazards of cold water are panic and shock. The initial shock can severely strain the body and may cause instant cardiac arrest.
"Survivors of cold water accidents often describe having their breath 'knocked out' of them upon their first impact with the water," Shattuck said.
Disorientation may also occur. People have been observed thrashing helplessly in the water for 30 seconds or more before they were able to get their bearings. In addition, immersion in cold water can quickly numb the extremities to the point of uselessness.
Cold hands may be unable to fasten the straps of a life jacket, grasp a thrown rescue line, or hold onto an overturned boat.
Proper preparation is important when boating on cold water. Shattuck gives some tips to reduce boaters' risk:
Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
Dress properly for the cold. Several layers of light clothing offer better protection than a single heavy layer.
Always wear a life jacket. It is extremely difficult to put one on in the water.
Should you fall into cold water, try not to panic. Think survival. Keep movement to a minimum, treading water slowly and only when necessary. This will reduce heat loss and keep trapped air inside clothing, which provides both buoyancy and insulation.