Cold Water Boating Safety


While most Vermilion, Ohio boaters prefer to enjoy the summer months, winter boating is just as enjoyable but does have its own challenges. Water temperatures are dropping, and the threat of hypothermia is rising. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature that is caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Should a cold-water accident occur, make sure you’re prepared to survive an incident. It is important to remember that cold water will cool a body 25 times faster than cold air of the same temperature.

Falling into cold water is downright dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If this event is to occur, there are distinct stages of reaction that the body will show. Failure to recognize these stages will lead to hypothermia. In the first 3-5 minutes of immersion, the body will go into cold shock. This means that the body will have an immediate gasp reflex. It is important to focus on keeping your head above water. In 3-30 minutes, the body will begin to experience swimming failure. It is after about 30 minutes that true hypothermia will set in. Something to remember during this traumatic event is to not remove any clothing or shoes. The air trapped between the layers of clothing will keep a person afloat and protect from direct exposure to cold water.

Be sure to inspect your boat often to make sure it is ready for the cold waters and wind. Freezing temperatures can make equipment on or inside the boat not function properly. This is also a concern for boat ramps. During freezing temperatures, be cautious that the ramps can develop a layer of ice, making it dangerous to launch or retrieve your boat.

When embarking upon a winter boating adventure, remember to dress to get wet. If you find yourself wet during the winter climate, you run the risk of hypothermia. It is strongly recommended that you always wear your personal floatation device (PFD), no matter the weather. Take the time to explore alternative options to your PFD such as a float coat, which has extra stuffing to keep you warm.

No matter what season you’re hitting the water, always be aware of the threats that are present and follow safe boating practices. If you prefer the warm season of boating, use this off-season time to take an Ohio Boating Education Course. It is also a great time to visit boat, sports, and travel shows to find new places to explore with your boat.