The end of summer and beginning of fall doesn’t mean it’s the end of the boating season. In fact, with beautiful fall foliage, crisp, cool air and fewer crowds, many people feel autumn is the best time of year for boating. But colder water and shorter days can make problems on the water much more dangerous. Here’s a few tips on how to stay safe and get the most out of your fall boating.
Wear a PFD – You should always wear a PFD when boating. But as the cold weather sets in, it becomes more important than ever. During autumn, the days might still be warm, but the chilly nights mean the water will be very cold. Wearing a PFD will help protect you from the initial shock if you go in the water. It also serves as a layer to keep you warm even out of the water.
Have a Light – Maybe you don’t plan on boating until dark. But darkness comes quicker each day this time of year, and you may be surprised by it, especially if rough conditions delay your return or you’re enjoying yourself so much you forget about the time. Make sure you’re prepared with a waterproof headlamp and/or flashlight. And, if you’re in a small boat, check that your navigational lights are properly working.
Check the Weather – Autumn storms can move fast and form unexpectedly. And they can often bring strong rains, winds, and significant drops in temperature. Keep an eye on the weather before and during your trip so you’re not caught unprepared.
Dress Appropriately – A single autumn day can bring significant fluctuations in temperature and conditions. Dress in layers so you can adapt if it gets warmer or cooler. Avoid cotton, which can sap heat from your body. Dressing in synthetic material will keep you warm and dry. Also bring rain gear and a change of clothes.
Have a Float Plan – Be sure to let someone know where you’ll be and when you expect to be back. No one expects anything bad to happen to them on the water. But things do sometimes happen, and it’s always a surprise. At this time of year, if you do get in trouble out there, time is of the essence.
Stay Nourished – During cool fall days, you might not be hot and sweating, but you still need to hydrate. Remember to do so even if you’re body isn’t reminding you. Also remember to eat. Staying well fed and hydrated gives you energy and warmth, and helps minimize the risk of hypothermia should you fall in.