This time of the year, many boaters have winterized their boats, or have stowed them away until the warm weather. However, many die-hard boaters still use their boat throughout the winter, whether for recreation, hunting, fishing or in some areas, simply to get around. While boating always calls for caution and preparation, in the winter it is especially important to take precautions to prevent a tragic situation exacerbated by colder temperatures.

Winter Boating Safety

Before heading out on a winter boating excursion, make sure that you calculate the risks and possible problems – and have solutions planned out ahead of time. Be sure the boat is checked out, well maintained and operating properly – have all emergency equipment aboard, and know how to use everything before you launch. As always, leave the alcohol at home, and boat sober.

Watch the weather carefully, and have a way to monitor weather patterns while you are on the water, as winter weather can turn rapidly. Make sure that someone knows where launched from, and what your float plan and intention for the trip is. Also, it is advisable that you set up a time to check in, so that authorities can be alerted if you have not touched base by the agreed upon time.

While wearing a life jacket is necessary year round, when you add the possibility of hypothermia, it becomes even more critical. In the event of falling unexpectedly into frigid water, there are many additional physical concerns, including cardiac arrest, rapid loss of body heat and involuntary water intake.  A life jacket will keep the boaters head above water even if unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. Dressing in thermal layers, immersion suits or dry suits is also highly recommended. Keeping a set of clothes in a dry bag will also allow you to change if you get to land.Winter Boating Safety

On board, it is important to carry a
VHF radio and an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon); as well as signal flares and other means to that will  draw attention to your location in the event of an emergency. Finally, never assume you have nothing to learn – before a winter boating excursion, refresh your knowledge with a boating safety class. And don’t forget to have your Sign & Glide membership and phone number with you. Should you get stranded out on the cold water, we’ll get you home as quickly as possible.

Winter boating can be exhilarating and beautiful. Stay warm, dry and safe by preparing carefully and staying alert and aware of your surroundings. Then, get out there and enjoy!