Boating Off-Season: Safety Tips from the USCG Auxiliary

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Boston Lighthouse after a winter storm – USCG Auxiliary Photo.

Some of us just can’t stay off the water no matter what time of the year. During the “off-season” months (for most October through April), it is even more important to practice safe boating.

Lake and sea temperatures are typically coldest during off-season months and even the strongest swimmers will be in grave danger. A high percentage of boating fatalities are caused by boaters falling overboard, or capsizing.

If you head out the season please remember some of these tips to help keep you safe:


  • Always check the local weather forecast and sea conditions. It might be clear and sunny when you head out, but you never know what Mother Nature might have in store. Check the days forecast and if rain, snow, fog, high seas are predicted, it might be a good idea to postpone your trip.
  • When you head on out on the water ALWAYS wear a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket can dramatically increase your chances for survival. In the event you fall overboard swimming in cold water will be difficult if not impossible. A PFD is your best chance to stay afloat, get back to safety and survive.
  • File a Float Plan. A Float Plan is a life-saving device on paper (or email). A float plan may include:

– A description of your boat

– Who is on board

– A description of the safety equipment you are carrying

– Where you expect to be and when you expect to be there

Instruct the person holding (a friend, family member, or marina *you cannot file a float plan with the United States Coast Guard*) the float plan to notify the Coast Guard or other appropriate agency if you do not return within a reasonable time after your scheduled arrival (taking into account weather, etc.). Remember when you arrive at your destination, or if your plans change, notify the person holding your float plan to avoid unnecessary worry and possible waste of search and rescue resources. For more info and a downloadable plan visit –

  • Don’t boat alone. If you fall overboard, having someone else there to pull you back in or call for help is paramount.
  • NO ALCOHOL WHILE BOATING. Drinking just one alcoholic drink could make you feel warmer, but it actually lowers your core body temperature. It can also impair your judgment, and in cold weather conditions speed up the process of hypothermia.
  • Take along extra clothing and a blanket in a dry bag. In the event you fall overboard and your buddy pulls you back onto your vessel, you’ll need to get out of your wet cloths and get warm.

These are just a few basic tips. Bottom line, do your homework, and use some common sense. Stay safe on the water and keep scratching off days on that calendar until summer arrives!

For more information on staying safe on the water please visit the Boating Safety Resource Center at

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