Labor Day doesn’t have to be the last time you hop on your boat for the year. With some added precautions, boating for many can be a year-round hobby. In this post we’ll explore ways to not only make boating safer during the winter months, but also let you know about some fun on the water winter activities.

Play, but play it safe

Life jackets or PFDs are even more critical to wear this time of year. With slick and frozen docks and water just above the freezing point, the risk of hypothermia is much higher. Wearing a life jacket is critical not only when underway but even when working around your boat at the docks if you are alone. Inflatable life jacket technology continues to advance and prices continue to come down, making it an affordable alternative to not having one on because it’s too bulky.   

Exit StrategyBeing Careful Around Winter Docks

Every time you walk the docks to and from your boat there is a risk of falling into the drink. Try this: next time you’re down on your docks, take a look around. If you all of a sudden found yourself in the water this winter, how would you get out if you were on your own? Are there safety ladders close by? Does your boat have a ladder you can deploy? What about the boats on either side of you? With temps just above freezing, you’ll only have a few minutes before you cramp up and are unable to move effectively through the water. That inflatable life jacket is starting to look like a good idea, isn’t it?

Hailing and Distress

Underway you have VHF 16. Channel 16 is monitored by most boaters and the Coast Guard, so it brings great piece of mind. That’s great, but think of your local marina at nine o’clock at night and reaching out for help if you fall in may be a whole other story. Are there people around your docks that time of night? How would you reach out for help?

Having a strategy, even if it’s working in “buddy pairs” like the Army does might be a good idea. This concept simply means no one person goes down onto the docks by themselves during the winter months when there are no signs of other folks nearby. Taking someone with you might be the only way you can reach out for help should one of you fall in.

Bundle Up Right

You have to think ahead and plan a bit more than summer months with respect to clothing. From head to toe, you should think in terms of layers, insulation and waterproofing. Refer to our post on Surviving Winter Fishing for more information on proper winter clothing. Start with your base layer. This should wick moisture away from your body. Next layer is your thermal layer(s) to insulate and keep you warm. The final outer layer is your shell. This layer protects you from wind and rain.

Winter Festivities

From cruise outs to lighted holiday parades, the winter boating months can provide you with a lot of social and festive activities. Check your local marina for winter events near you. Many cities also have New Year’s celebrations that can be enjoyed on the water too. This is certainly a must for those of you who haven’t experienced fireworks on the water.

Four Seasons Boating

Winter doesn’t have to mean you give up boating. With the right attitude and some planning, you can not only have fun and enjoy your boat this winter, but also be safe while doing so!