With colder weather oncoming many boaters and paddlers pack it in for the winter. But there are those who don’t let the cold bother them and continue to fish and paddle throughout the winter months. For those die-hards, BoatUS, the organization representing the boating sports, has these suggestions if going on-water during cold times, or even on warm winter days.
BoatUS says that it’s wise to know when to wear thermal protection be it with a dry or wetsuit. However, a long-assumed guideline meant to help paddlers make the right decision is sometimes known as the “120-degree rule,” that may put paddlers in danger.
The 120-degree rule, according to BoatUs, is a formula that adds together the air and water temperatures to determine when thermal protection is required. It assumes that if the total is above 120 F, that no dry or wetsuit is needed.
“Using this formula, says Ted Sensenbrenner, BoatUS Assistant Director of Boating Safety, a paddler could mistakenly believe that if air temperature is in the low 70s and water temperature is hovering around the low 50s, that thermal protection is not necessary. That could not be father from the truth.”
Sensenbrenner says that warm fall spring days give paddlers a false sense of security. “Water temperatures have plunged, but the sun on your face hides the reality that accidentally going overboard at this time of year could quickly lead to trouble,” he opines.
According to BoatUS research, sudden cold-water immersion can kill in several ways: involuntary gasp reflex and hyperventilation, cold incapacitation and immersion hypothermia. Not wear a life jacket compounds the drowning risk.
“A word to the wise. Always wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on deck and especially in a canoe or kayak. And consider water temperature when dressing for your next boating adventure,” says Sensenbrenner.
And if you haven’t as yet winterized your boat, the organization recommends doing the following before stowing it for the winter.
1. Check your fire extinguisher to ensure it’s charged.
2. Pull the vessel’s drain plug and dry and clean the hull. Doing so helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
3. Make sure propellers are free or dings, pitting, cracks and distortion and that they’re secured properly. Also inspect the hull for blisters, distortion and cracks.
4. Check the fuel system for any leaks or damages, giving special attention to fuel lines and connections. Damaged fuel hoses could be cracked, brittle or soft. As with fuel lines, check all belts, cables and hoses that may have been damaged during the season. Ensure belts are fitted tightly and that there are no cracks on the outer jacket of the throttle, shift and steering control cables.
For more information, go to BoatUS.org.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.