The Coast Guard is reminding mariners that as the air temperature is warming, the water temperatures are still dangerously cold. With the rise in air temperature, the number of boaters, paddle craft users, and water enthusiasts taking to water activities also rises.
At a water temperature of 40 degrees, an average person who ends up in the water begins to suffer from hypothermia within minutes, which affects a person’s ability to swim and stay afloat.
The Coast Guard often experiences an increase in the number of search-and-rescue cases in the early part of the boating season while people are getting used to operating boats and paddle craft after the long winter.
Prior to heading out onto the water, boaters should ask themselves the following questions to make sure they’re prepared:
Do I have all required safety equipment aboard my watercraft and have I ensured it is in good working order?
Do I have enough Coast Guard-approved lifejackets aboard? The Coast Guard strongly encourages boaters and paddlers to wear their lifejackets while underway; doing so will greatly increase chances of survival in the water. On a vessel that is underway, federal law requires that children under 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket unless they are below deck or within an enclosed cabin.
Did I file a float plan? It is critical for boaters to let someone know what their water plans are, including when and where they are going. This may be a friend, family member, or someone else they know and trust. The boater should ensure that trusted person knows what to do in the event they do not check in with them as planned or do not arrive to their destination as scheduled. That person should not hesitate to contact the Coast Guard.
Do I know the dangers of hypothermia and how to recognize and respond to someone who may be suffering from it?
Did I check the marine weather forecast for warnings or advisories? Did I check the speed of the current and when the current changes direction?
Are my radios and electronic survival equipment in good working order and registered correctly?
Are my Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and Personal Locating Beacons operational and registered correctly?
The local Coast Guard Auxiliary offers complimentary vessel safety checks, as well as public education courses and electronic float plans.
For additional boating safety information, go to uscgboating.org.
For weather information, go to weather.gov.