SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As the weather has cooled down, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is reminding people who are boating, paddling or hunting from a boat to be cautious as the water has also cooled.

“It can be easy to forget that winter is upon us when a bright, mild day or two pops up. It is tempting to grasp at the last glimpses of warm weather by hitting the water in your kayak for one more paddle,” says Marine Services Bureau Education Specialist Rosaria DiSanto. “But a fall or winter excursion on the water requires a little more preparation and caution than a summer boat trip. Just a few adjustments to your pre-trip planning can be the difference between a memorable adventure and an avoidable tragedy.”

According to the Office of the Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the following precautions should be taken into consideration when boaters, paddlers, hunters or anglers head out on the water during the cold months:

  • ALWAYS wear your life jacket. It is legally required for all people to wear a life jacket on board a recreational boat that is less than 21-feet in length between November 1 and May 1. With an increased risk of hypothermia and decreased marine patrol presence during these months, assistance can be further away in the event of an accident, so wearing your life jacket is crucial.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Open water during these months is less than 40 degrees, which can lead to hypothermia quickly. Choose clothing made from fabrics like wool that hold in body heat when wet and avoid cotton. Dress in layers and consider investing in a dry suit, wetsuit, or float coat to keep you warm. Your outermost layer should be your life jacket. Bring a dry bag with an extra set of warm clothes.
  • Use the buddy system and let someone know your plans. Whenever possible, avoid going out alone. Let someone you trust know your trip plans, including who is going on the trip, where you are going, when you plan to leave and return, and a description of your vessel(s). Check-in with that person before you leave and when you return. Tell that person to contact emergency services in the event you do not return when expected.
  • Know the conditions before you head out. In addition to the weather conditions, do your research on water conditions. Check for ice starting to form and be aware that water can freeze if temperatures drop throughout the day. Be sure your entire route is open. Avoid wood and branch piles on the water – they can pull you underwater and hold you there with little chance of escape.

To continue to promote boating safety throughout New York State, the Office provides many educational and training programs that teach boater safety for both visitors and residents.

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