There is something undeniably alluring about boating in cold weather—the stark beauty, the reflective solitude, and the adventurous sense exhilaration entice many boaters to set sail under such conditions. While cold water boating is a unique and breathtaking experience, it also presents a unique set of dangers and challenges, and should not be undertaken lightly. This article will help you prepare for a cold water boating venture.
- Be Prepared. Before embarking on a cold weather boating trip, make sure you have everything you might need. This includes an extra set of clothes for each boater, lifejackets for every boater, a floatation ring with rope, a flare/visual attention device, a bell/aural attention device, a fire extinguisher, a cell phone, and possibly an emergency locating device.
- Dress Warm. Be sure to wear lots of layers—not only will this make you more comfortable on your journey, it could also be the difference between life and death should you fall into the water.
- Know how to react should anyone fall into the water. Submersion in cold water is extremely dangerous, as it can lead to drowning, hypothermia, and cardiac arrest, among other conditions. The most important step is to get the victim out of the water as quickly as possible—the average survival time in freezing water is under 15 minutes. Hypothermia can set on very quickly, and can kill directly (freezing) and indirectly (by causing swimming failure, cardiac arrest, and unconsciousness.) Once the victim is out of the water, he or she should receive medical treatment as quickly as possible. In the mean time, the victim should be wrapped in dry, warm blankets and clothes, given warm liquids (if conscious,) and moved as little as possible. Attempt to warm the body core without warming or stimulating the extremities. Many victims of hypothermia show signs of being dead, however this is simply the body’s survival mechanism—continue treatment without losing hope until medical help arrives.
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