As a lover of the water, this time of year brings about mixed feelings for me. Yes, it’s beautiful outside and that can make for some wonderful days on the water. The chill in the air is also a reminder that winter is not far away. I do use my boat during the colder months, but of course, it is not the same.  One of the big differences is how I prepare for a day of boating in winter. Let’s face it, a day on the water in January is different than a day in July. An unexpected fall overboard can be very different and can end up in disaster.

So how do you still enjoy your boat safely when it’s cold outside?

Here are a few tips:

  • Dress warmly – This seems obvious, but it is amazing how many people ignore it. It’s easy to just throw on a light jacket as if we were taking a quick trip to the convenience store up the street. You should dress as if you will be out in the cold for the entire day. Staying warm allows you to focus on what you are doing and makes the trip more enjoyable.
  • Wear a life jacket – Let’s face it. Most of us have life jackets on our boats but we don’t often wear them unless we are using them to float in the water or unless we get into a situation where we feel we might actually need to have one on. If you are boating in winter, it is a good idea to always have it on, especially if you are alone. Falling in cold water when it is 45 degrees outside is no joke. Often the shock of the cold water causes your muscles to freeze making swimming difficult to almost impossible. Having a life jacket on can save your life.
  • Have a float plan – This just means you need to let someone know where you are going. In summertime, there are plenty of boats on the lake. If something unfortunate happens to you, there will most likely be someone near who can render assistance. During colder months, boat traffic can be fairly sparse. If you are victim to an unfortunate event and no one knows where you are, it could be hours or days before assistance arrives.
  • Check the weather – Make sure you are ready for what Mother Nature is going to do that day. You don’t want to get out on the water and realize that it is much colder, windier and/or wetter than expected.
  • Carry a VHF radio – We all use cell phones for communications these days, but they have their limitations. They often don’t do well when wet and they don’t float. A good VHF radio is designed for use in harsh conditions and many of the handheld models also float. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take your cell phone but take a radio as well.
  • Make sure your vessel is ready ­– This is important anytime you go out on the water, but it is especially important in winter. Check fuel, batteries, fluid levels, etc. There is never a good time to have an equipment breakdown on the water but having one in cold weather is the worst.

Cold weather does not have to hinder you from boating. It simply means that you should take some extra precautions to ensure safety.

A few extra minutes preparing for your trip can give you peace of mind while out on the water.