Cold Water Boating Tips

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.

Cold water boating tips illustration

  • 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. 

— Published: February/March 2015

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


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