Coast Guard Stresses Cold Water Dangers

The Coast Guard and state boating agencies continue to warn spring boaters, paddlers, sailors, and fishermen on northeastern inland and coastal waters of the dangers of cold water and sudden cold water immersion.

"Plain and simple, if things go wrong on the water and you're not prepared for the immediate shock of sudden cold water immersion, your chance for survival is greatly reduced," said Al Johnson, the recreational boating specialist for the First Coast Guard District in Boston. "While the best protection against cold water is wearing a dry or wet suit, wearing a properly-fitted, comfortable life jacket is your first step to survival and a great assurance of returning home safely."

Although a life jacket offers minimal protection against the debilitating effects of cold water, a life jacket will keep you afloat while your body acclimates to the water temperature allowing time for rescue efforts, to deploy flares or make a distress call, Johnson added.

"To date this year, we've lost six boaters and paddlers on the waters of the northeast, and all six cases can be directly attributed to the debilitating effects of cold water," Johnson said. Current warming trends coupled with recent rainfall throughout the northeast adds up to potential danger to boaters and paddlers on smaller rivers, creeks, and streams, he said.

"Smaller tributaries will be higher and fast-moving and can be extremely hazardous to unsuspecting or inexperienced boaters and paddlers," Johnson noted. "High creek and river levels can cover downed trees and debris and easily create strainers and unforeseen eddies and rips."

Johnson strongly recommends always wearing a life jacket, letting a responsible person know your itinerary, being prepared for the unexpected, carrying a VHF radio and cell phone, and developing an awareness of the dangers of cold water.

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