‘Out of season’, cold water boating, especially when there are no other boaters around to assist, is the time when many fatal boating accidents occur.
And according to statistics most accidents occur in and around moorings and marinas.
The reasoning being that we tend to be more relaxed within the relative ‘safety’ of a harbour.
Bur cold water can be a real villain, anywhere, especially if we suddenly and unexpectedly fall in.
For those who still go boating when the water temperature is low, it is important to know the dangers of cold water boating and prepare yourself accordingly.
Effort should be given to whatever gets you out of the water fastest with the least amount of energy.
The first 10 minutes after immersion are critical for a person in cold
water and hypothermia will set in from 30 minutes to four hours after
immersion, without rescue and proper first aid treatment unconsciousness
follows with death not far behind.
Knowing this process is important because, suddenly immersed in cold
water, the boater faces a critical choice — adopt a defensive posture in
the water to conserve heat and wait for rescue, or attempt to swim to
In adopting a defensive posture try to remain as still as possible.
H.E.LP. (heat escape lessening posture) of holding your upper arms
tightly against your sides, thighs pressed together and raised to close
off the groin region, and huddling side-by-side if others are in the
water with you are the most effective methods of retaining body heat.
Research shows that heat loss is greatest from the chest and groin.
Should you decide swimming to shore is your best chance, a survival stroke should be used.
modified breast stroke, sidestroke, or elementary backstroke involves
less exertion than the typical overhand swimming or crawl stroke.
Visualization is proving to be an understandably popular mechanism with elite athletes eager for marginal gains.
It’s not hard to see how these methods from the elite world of sport can be appropriated or adapted for the rest of us.
Visualization can be used to help mentally, by encouraging anyone to prepare strategies for different scenarios, such as falling in the water.
For example, if you visualize falling in and how best to get out, you will not only prepare your reflexes for the eventuality you will envisage prior precautions such as fitting a boarding ladder and having spare dry clothing available.
Of course, no amount of visualization can make up for actual practice, preferably in warmer times.
• Before you leave the dock for the first time, make sure that
all safety gear is onboard, even if it just a trip from the yard to your
• On the first sail of the season practice a man
overboard drill, practice as if the person in the water won’t be able to
climb a swim ladder, and may not be able to attach the sling.
Know how to use the radio or even your mobile phone to call emergency
services. In some areas operators want to enter a street address to
direct land-based emergency crews, this could be a problem if you are on
the water, know the procedure in your area.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
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I am perfectly aware that the majority of Wooden Boat aficionados are sensible folk. However, I need to point out that I am an amateur wooden boat enthusiast simply writing in order to try to help other amateur wooden boat enthusiasts. And while I take every care to ensure that the information in DIY Wood Boat.com is correct, anyone acting on the information on this website does so at their own risk.