Boating in the off-season has both joys and risks. But knowing what to bring and how to handle adverse situations can help keep you safe on the boat this winter.
In addition to your first-aid kit and marine band radio, pack a waterproof bag with a dry change of clothes, calorie-dense snacks, fresh water, a thermos with something warm to drink, duct tape, a waterproof portable flashlight, extra batteries, flares, a disposable lighter and matches.
Wear a float coat or float jacket to provide buoyancy as well as additional insulation. Paddlers should wear additional protection from cold water.
Ask a friend to join you. If either of you is injured or falls overboard, the other can summon assistance or help the person back on board.
If your boat doesn’t have a boarding ladder, consider providing a sling to retrieve someone who falls overboard. Even an uninjured person may find it nearly impossible to climb back aboard in heavy, cold, wet winter clothes.
Understanding its phases and learning how to survive cold-water immersion will increase your chances of survival. Visit coldwaterbootcampusa.org to learn more.
If you fall overboard and help is not immediately available, draw your knees to your chest and wrap your arms across your chest, hugging your life jacket in the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P.). If others are in the water, huddle to conserve body heat.
Lastly, file a float plan. Tell a friend, family member or someone at the marina exactly where you are going, who is boating with you, and when you plan to return. Don’t stray from the plan, and if you do, alert the person holding your float plan. –John M. Malatak