Boating safely in cold weather

GUILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Despite the cooler weather, this is a popular time for boaters to be out on the water. The lower temperatures mean boaters should take extra precautions to stay safe.

Rick Anderson is a dock master in Guilford. He was out on the water early Saturday morning, and he dressed for winter. He says it’s best to dress in layers.

“To go fishing I wore long underwear, I have Carhartt insulated bib coveralls,” Anderson said.

Long Island Sound is only about 55 degrees. The temperature drops quickly at this time of year. Boaters often find it feels much colder out on the water than it does at the dock. When it’s very cold outside, doing simple things like putting on a life jacket or making an emergency phone call can be more difficult. Boating experts say to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.

“They overestimate their own abilities, especially in cold water because you’ll lose body heat 25 times faster in the water than you will in the air,” said Mark Chanski of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Boating Division. “Your body starts shutting down a lot faster than people anticipate.”

One of the best things boaters can do at any time of year is to wear a life jacket. Getting help isn’t always easy in the colder months.

“There’s fewer boaters out on the water in case you get into trouble and there’s fewer people that will actually be able to help you,” said Chanski.

Boaters should also prepare for wind, which can be strong at this time of year. That’ll make it feel even colder.

“You never know when the wind’s going to pick up,” said Anderson. “It was pretty rough this morning but it flattened out as the tide changed.”

Because of the colder weather and the earlier sunsets, experts say it’s now especially important to let someone know where you’ll be boating and what time you expect to return.