Coast Guard urges boaters to dress for water temps not air temps this time of year

Coast Guard crews training in high seas outside Oregon Inlet in March 2018. [USCG image]

As temperatures drop along the mid-Atlantic coast, the Coast Guard urges all boaters to prepare for the water temperature, rather than the air temperature.

The average water temp along the mid-Atlantic during the winter months is 53 degrees, which can cause unconsciousness in about an hour and estimated survivability is between one and six hours.

Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95.

The Coast Guard recommends the following best practices when on the water during this time of year:

  • Dress for the water, not the weather. Warmer days during late fall, winter, and spring can deceive boaters into thinking that the water temperature is warm, just because the air may be. Water temperatures at 70 degrees or below can cause hypothermia.
  • Check the water temperatures, if they are anywhere near 70 degrees, wear a wetsuit, drysuit, float coat or some sort of waterproof, insulated gear.
  • Roughly 20 percent of people who fall into cold water die within the first minute due to cold-water shock. Cold-water shock causes an involuntary gasp and an immediate loss in breath control, which increases the risk of sudden drowning.
  • Wearing a life jacket can keep you afloat, provide insulation and make you visible. Even the strongest swimmers lose muscle control after 10 minutes of being exposed to cold water, making it nearly impossible to locate and put on a life jacket after-the-fact.
  • File a float plan. Letting people know when and where you are going, and when you are expected to be back, exponentially increases the odds of being rescued if something unfortunate happens. You can create a float plan quickly and easily on the U.S. Coast Guard’s official app for smartphones.