Every Grady-White captain should insist that all passengers wear a life jacket and dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature–NO EXCEPTIONS. Even if daytime temperatures are summer-like, immersion in water at or below 59° F can be dangerous.
Understand the four stages of cold water immersion, if someone goes overboard:
- Cold shock: Cold water causes involuntary gasping making it difficult to catch one's breath and people hyperventilate, faint, and drown before being able to calm down their breathing.
- Swimming failure: Cold water decreases the ability to move extremities. Anyone in frigid water as long as 5-15 minutes should limit moving about. Movement depletes heat and energy.
- Hypothermia: The body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Violent shivering develops which may give way to far more serious conditions.
- Post-rescue collapse.
Most cold water drowning fatalities are attributed to cold shock or swimming failure so if someone goes overboard, it’s important to get them out as quickly as is safely possible.
To summarize: Wear a PFD, and learn cold water skills.
Happy spring and winter boating from all of us at Grady-White! Be prepared!