Once fall rolls around, the Coast Guard, local harbormasters and other emergency responders issue their perennial cold-weather boating-safety warnings. Granted, not many folks are still on the water, but if you’re one of the holdouts, the following advice is worth heeding:
- When the weather changes, so should the type of lifejackets you use. Consider a flotation coat or decksuit-style PFD designed to keep you afloat and insulated.
- In addition to the proper lifejacket, wear extra layers of clothing and weather appropriate outerwear. With temperatures averaging in the 50’s throughout October and November, it is imperative to be prepared for sudden drops in temperature or approaching storms.
- Check the weather early and often. Fall weather can change at the drop of a hat, so check the forecast frequently before and during your trip, and watch for sudden line storms and approaching fronts.
- Before getting underway, conduct a safety check of your vessel to ensure that it’s outfitted with the proper safety gear and is in good operating condition.
- Carry a VHF-FM marine radio, not just a cell phone. Cell phones often lose signal and run out of battery power, especially in colder weather. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies.
- Carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) or Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). These devices provide the fastest and most accurate way of locating a person in distress.
- File a float plan, or at least let friends and family know where you plan to boat and give them your expected return time.