As the days slide further into fall, recreational boaters face a unique set of safety issues. Warm days collide with deceptively cold waters, greatly increasing the risk of hypothermia.
And, if you run into trouble, the summer crowds have gone leaving few potential rescuers close by.
Use these tips from the BoatUS Foundation to ensure everyone gets home safely.
1. Dress for the water, not the weather: Always bring extra layers and rain gear this time of year. Fast moving storms can bring sudden temperature drops, and water temperatures are now getting closer to the zone where a simple fall overboard could be a big problem.
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2. Tell a friend: A floatplan could be as simple as letting a family member know where you are going and what time you expect to return, or a more detailed written plan for longer trips, easily left on a windshield, given to a friend, or dropped off at the Harbormaster office. BoatUS has a free floatplan at BoatUS.com/floatplan. Always check back “in” upon your return.
3. Always check the weather: The good news is that with today’s technology, it’s easy to keep an eye on it. For a look at weather delivery options ranging from VHF DSC radio to smart phones, go to BoatUS.com/foundation/Findings/49.
4. Always check the boat: Capt. Rich Lendarson of TowBoatUS St. Joe Michigan reports, “The majority of small craft that I see in the fall wouldn’t have sunk if owners had checked to see they had a working bilge pump.” Also do a once-over inspection of the engine, communications and safety gear.
5. Leave the drinks for home: Beer, wine or distilled spirits all quickly drain your body of heat, bringing on hypothermia’s deadly effects much sooner when compared to warmer months.