Many consider Labor Day weekend as the official end of summer and boating season, but it doesn’t have to be. Boating in the fall can be a nice change from the heat of the summer. With most of the summer folks packing it up for the season, that leaves less crowded waterways for sailors and power boaters alike.
But the beautiful weather can be deceiving — and dangerous. While the water is typically less crowded and changing leaves add to nature’s splendor, cooler water temperatures require extra water safety precautions.
Here are eight tips to consider when boating in the cooler months:
- Dress for the water, not the weather: Bring extra layers and rain gear. Fast-moving storms can bring sudden temperature drops, and dropping water temperatures can turn a spill overboard into a dangerous situation.
- Wear a life jacket: In the autumn, as water temperatures start to fall, boaters who accidentally fall overboard run an increased risk of hypothermia. While children under 13 must wear a life jacket when the boat is underway by law, it’s a good idea for adults to wear them, too – especially at night
- Tell a friend: Let a family member or friend know where you’re going and what time you expect to return.
- Check the weather: Frigid water temperatures can make an unexpected squall twice as dangerous. Stay up-to-date on the latest weather patterns and bring your boat in if the clouds begin to gather.
- Start early: Get your crew up early, because the sun goes down earlier making dark cold evenings.
- Leave the cold drinks at home: Pack warm drinks as opposed to a drink with ice. A thermos of coffee or travel mug will be greatly appreciated instead of a cold drink on some of those cooler days.
- Stay warm: To enjoy evening and overnights aboard your boat, a small electric heater makes all the difference. It heats a small space in no time
- Update your charts: Local aids to navigation like channel markers and buoys placed by local authorities may be pulled as early as October in some areas. With autumn’s shorter days, you also may wind up cruising home after dark, making even familiar landmarks hard to spot. Make sure your charts – electronic and paper – are up to date so you can use them to navigate instead of visual aids.
Why not get a little extra boating in before the weatherman forces you give in? We say prolong the inevitable as long as you can and get boating!