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Courtesy of the Department of Fish & Game's MassWildlife

Courtesy of the Department of Fish & Game’s MassWildlife

In light of recent cold water boating tragedies in the Commonwealth, and as we find ourselves in the midst of another cold snap, it’s important to remind boaters and hunters of some facts and tips for surviving the outdoors in frigid temperatures.

Safe Boating in Winter

  • Wear a life jacket – there are now jackets, coats and “survival” suits available for cold weather water survival.
  • Tell a responsible person where you are going – be specific about your launch time, location, destination and return time.
  • Do your weather homework (calculate tides, wind speed, wind direction and water temperature) and expect it to change.
  • Know the tides, currents, sandbars and other features of the area you are boating in.
  • Have proper communications for a rescue, such as a VHF radio, and know how to use it.
  • Don’t stand in the boat.
  • Make sure the weight distribution of people and gear is even throughout the boat.
  • Don’t overload the vessel with gear and persons.
  • When hunting with multiple people, agree on zones (directions) of fire to reduce the chances of recoil tipping the boat.
  • Take a Boating Safety course if you’re a novice and refresh your knowledge if you need it. Learn more about a Boating Safety course near you by clicking here.

Cold Water Survival

  • According to United States Coast Guard accident statistics, 20 percent of people die within the first minute of cold water immersion due to the cold water gasp, which is when the person ingests water, panics and drowns.
  • Personal floatation is a key component to survivability.
  •  Apply the 1-10-1 rule: Take 1 minute to stop the panic, after which you have 10 minutes of physical ability to save yourself and 1 hour of consciousness.
  • These numbers will be dependent upon the person’s overall health, the ratio of water temperature to body temperature, the air temperature and wind. Without proper flotation, all of these factors can reduce survivability.

If you’re planning on boating before the cold winter weather breaks, remember these tips and stay safe.

Written By:


With a background in the fast-paced worlds of local elections and ecommerce start-ups, Amy has joined the EEA team to spread the word about Massachusetts’ incredible environmental, agricultural, and energy initiatives using social media and good old-fashioned story-telling. A Boston University graduate, she can be found in her spare time picnicking and reading in sunny parks, sunning and swimming at the beach, thrift-shopping, or visiting friends and family in Vermont.

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