New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reminds boaters of the dangers of cold water when venturing out on small boats. State law now requires that anyone on the water on any watercraft less than 21 feet in length – from November 1st to May 1st – must wear a personal flotation device (PFD).
Wearing a life jacket is the single best way boaters can prepare for the unexpected. Life jackets are critical to surviving cold-water boating accidents and could significantly reduce boating-related fatalities if worn during the colder months of the year.
In New York State this year, seven boaters who were not wearing life jackets lost their lives in cold-water accidents. Far too many boaters and paddlers underestimate the potentially dire consequences of sudden unexpected cold water immersion. Particularly in the cold weather months, a life jacket can mean the difference between life and death.
Boaters, paddlers, hunters and fishers venturing out during the colder months should dress for cold water and consider wearing insulating clothing like a wet or dry suit. You should always file a float plan and carry a VHF radio, cell phone in a water-proof bag, flares, light and a whistle or similar sound producing devices. Immersion in cold water, considered anything less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit, can induce an uncontrollable gasp reflex leading to the inhalation of water, cardiac arrest, the loss of swimming ability and grip strength, unconsciousness, hypothermia and potentially death. These risks are only compounded by the absence of other boaters on the water at this time of year, reducing the likelihood that others will come to the aid of a boater in distress.
PFDs must also be worn year-round by all children under 12 years of age on any boat less than 65 feet in length, unless within a fully enclosed cabin; by anyone engaging in towed activities, such as water-skiers or wake-boarders; and while on board a personal watercraft. Otherwise, a wearable life jacket must be available for every passenger on board every vessel, including non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks.
For more information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit http://www.nysparks.com/.