ANNAPOLIS, Md. – As the days slide farther into fall, recreational boaters face a unique set of safety issues. Warm days collide with deceptively cold waters, greatly increasing the risk of hypothermia even on a “T-shirt” day. Weather can change quickly. And, if you run into trouble, the summer crowds have gone (cue the chirping crickets) leaving few potential rescuers close by. The non-profit BoatUS Foundation has five tips that will help boaters, anglers and sailors understand these unique safety issues and ensure everyone gets home safely.
Dress for the water, not the weather: Indian summers can bring T-shirt days and downright balmy temperatures – but don’t be lured into this false sense of summer. The sun may be shining, but water temperatures are cooler. 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.
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 available at www.BoatUS.com/floatplan. One piece of floatplan etiquette: always check back “in” upon your return.
Always check the weather: “You could be well prepared, however, the one thing that’s out of your hands is the weather,” says BoatUS Foundation President Chris Edmonston. 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 smartphones, go to www.BoatUS.com/foundation/Findings/49.
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” (For a look at bilge pump maintenance, go to BoatUS.com/boattech/casey/14.htm). Also do a once-over inspection of the engine, communications and safety gear to ensure all are in good shape and ready to go.
Leave the drinks for home: Beer, wine or distilled spirits all do the same thing – they quickly drain your body of heat bringing on hypothermia’s deadly effects much sooner when compared to warmer months. Help yourself by avoiding alcohol while you’re out on the water.