After spending the winter months pining for spring, we can hardly wait for the first opportunity to pull the cover off the boat and get back out onto the water. Making it even more tempting are warm temps and gentle breezes that prompt us to break out the shorts, t-shirts and sandals. While the air temperatures can soar into the 20’s, the water temperature may not yet have even reached the teens.

By doing a little preparation and learning the truth about hypothermia, you can increase your chances of surviving an unexpected immersion into very cold water. Here are some tips:

  1. Check the (marine) weather forecast before heading out – Unexpected squalls can wreak havoc on small open boats. If the weather looks iffy, stay on shore.
  2. Dress for the water temperature instead of the air. Layer your clothing so that you can adjust to whatever conditions exist.
  3. If you fall in, DON’T PANIC! It takes at least 30 minutes, even in ice water, to become mildly hypothermic. The initial cold shock will pass in about a minute, according to cold water expert, Gordon Giesbrecht –from the University of Manitoba.
  4. WEAR a lifejacket or PFD – After about 10 minutes in really cold water, your arms and legs won’t work so well. Your lifejacket or PFD will keep you afloat and your airway clear.
  5. Don’t overload your boat – Overloaded boats ride lower in the water making it easier for the boat to swamp and capsize.

Keep these tips top of mind and you’ll be sure to make your trip a round trip.


Courtesy of: the Canadian Safe Boating Council