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Cold Weather Boating Requires Preparation, Caution
For Immediate Release -February 23, 2011 from the US Coast Guard and Marine Board
Wear It Oregon! 
While many boaters in colder parts of the country have winterized their boats or put them into storage until spring, many boaters in Oregon still use their vessels for hunting, fishing or transportation during the fall and winter months.  However, the risk of deadly accidents increases with cold weather.   Extra preparation and caution should be taken before heading out on the water in the winter. 
In Oregon, the importance of wearing a life jacket becomes even more critical where cold water immersion is a year-round concern.  Sudden immersion in cold water can have severe physiological consequences, including cardiac arrest, quick loss of body heat (the body loses heat 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air) and involuntary inhalation of water (gasping) that results in drowning.  Wearing a life jacket can keep the boaters head above water, keep the person warm, and provide a chance for rescue.  "The Marine Board's statistics show the vast majority of boating-related fatalities involve males between 40 and 80 years old and 85-90% of them were not wearing a life jacket," said Ashley Massey, Public Information Officer for the Marine Board.  "The hardest part is also learning that many of these individuals had years of boating experience.  Sometimes being over-confident in your skills and abilities as a boat operator can put you at risk."  Even though adults are not required to wear a life jacket, the Marine Board always advocates wearing one.  "So often when we receive information about a boating fatality, we hear life jackets were on board but floated downstream.  There just isn't time to put one on in an emergency.  Boaters need to wear a life jacket because a situation can become dangerous before there's time to react," Massey added.  
Wearing the right clothing also contributes to more enjoyable and safer cold weather boating.  Consider layering clothing, and including a wet suit or dry suit, to help ward off hypothermia.
The US Coast Guard and Marine Board offer the following tips for safe winter boating:
  • Assess the risks – think what can go wrong and be fully equipped and prepared.
  • Leave a float plan with a responsible individual who knows your intentions, location, and who to call if you fail to return as scheduled. 
  • Carry a VHF radio and an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), signal flares and other means to draw attention to your location.
  • Be aware of and prepared for the shock of sudden immersion and incapacitating effects of cold water – dress to get wet and carry a change of clothing in a waterproof container.
  • Be aware of activity around your vessel and potential for fast-changing weather.
  • Boat safe and sober – save the alcohol for when you’ve safely returned.
  • Be sure your vessel is in good operating condition and has the necessary safety equipment on board before you leave the dock.
  • Be educated -take a boating safety course and carry your boater education card when you’re out on the water.  All boat operators of watercraft over 10 hp in Oregon are required to carry a boater education card.  Refresh your seamanship skills by taking part in a continuing education course through the US Coast Guard or US Power Squadrons.
Boat Safe...boat sober and wear a life jacket!