Cold water immersion is almost always the result of capsizing, swamping, or falling overboard from a boat under 26 feet. Here's six tips to help prevent disaster.
1. Always wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on deck, ESPECIALLY if operating solo.
2. At least the operator, and ESPECIALLY solo operators, should carry emergency communication devices (e.g. hand-held VHF radio, cell phone in waterproof bag) and signaling devices (emergency locator beacon and visual distress signals) ON THEIR PERSON.
3. Make sure the boat has a re-boarding device (such as a swim step, ladder or foot sling) that can be used by a person overboard.
4. Solo operators should ALWAYS attach an engine cut — off device when underway.
5. Cold water boaters should consider carrying a small inflatable dingy or life raft, and immersion (survival) suits.
6. File (and stick to) a float plan.
Stages Of Cold Water Immersion
Without a life jacket, each phase means a much higher risk of drowning.
Cold Shock Response: Gasping, hyperventilation
Cold Incapacitation: Swim failure, loss of function
Immersion Hypothermia: Eventually resulting in loss of useful consciousness