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The Thanksgiving weekend is a time to clean up, put away and close up for winter, but if the weather cooperates many boaters use it as their last opportunity of the season to get out on the water. Here's some boating safety tips to keep in mind.

Is my boat too small? Safety tips for this season’s last long weekend

Canadian Yachting Magazine

Thursday, October 9, 2014, 10:44 AM - Canadian long weekends offer infinite possibilities for us to get outside and enjoy our landscape.

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The Thanksgiving weekend is generally thought of as a time to clean up, put away and close up for winter, but if the weather cooperates many boaters use it as their last opportunity of the season to get out on the water and enjoy the Fall colours.

With a wetter than usual summer behind us conditions on lakes and rivers that might be different than we are expecting. Here are some tips that are really worth your while to observe so that your last long weekend of the summer is safe and fun...

The water in October, wherever you may be in Canada, is cold. If you normally eschew wearing your lifejacket you might want to throw it on this weekend. Police warn that Hypothermia can and will set in very quickly should you fall into the water and at least with a PFD or flotation suit you may have a chance in surviving such an incident. (See more on hypothermia below).

Make sure you have ALL of your safety gear onboard for your first time out.

MARINE FORECAST: Check the marine forecast before heading out.

Everyone who operates a power-driven boat in Canada needs proof of competency — something that shows they understand the rules of the road and how to safely operate a boat. The most common proof of competency is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card. You can get one by passing an accredited boating safety test.

Check the weather forecast; make sure you have appropriate numbers and sizes of PFD's for your passengers and that you have a complete safety kit. Here is a detailed list of pre-cruising preparation.

Hypothermia is no Idle Threat

While air temperatures over the Thanksgiving long weekend can often be quite balmy, boaters need to remember that the temperature of the water has dropped considerably since you swam in it in August and September. The cold shock can be deadly should someone fall overboard or their boat capsizes and sinks. A good idea to guard against this possibility is to either wear or pack thermal protective clothing to slow the onset of hypothermia until help arrives.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a physical condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below a normal 98.6° F (37° C) to 95° F (35° C) or cooler. Think of hypothermia as the opposite of heat stroke. Cold water dangerously accelerates the onset and progression of hypothermia since body heat can be lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Hypothermia affects the body's core – the brain, heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Even a mild case of hypothermia diminishes a victim’s physical and mental abilities, thus increasing the risk of accidents. Severe hypothermia may result in unconsciousness and possibly death. About 600 people in the U.S. die of hypothermia each year.

Of particular note is the fact that alcohol consumption will accelerate the effects of hypothermia. See below chart for expected survival times for cold water conditions.

Maximize your chances of surviving by:

  • Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Adopting a survival position
  • Keeping clothing on
  • Getting as much of body out of the water as possible
  • Remaining still and in place UNLESS a floating object, another person, or the shore is nearby
  • Keeping a positive mental outlook (a will to survive really does matter)

In Canada, alcohol still accounts for 40% of all boating-related incidents and fatalities. Let’s give thanks for the abundance of boating destinations that are available to us here in Canada. Be smart and be prepared and ensure that you and your family and friends will all be able to max out on the boating opportunities available to us all.

Read more about boating safety:

CSBC Signs International Lifejacket Wear Principles

Water safety:

Canadian Sailors Get New Safety iPhone App
Don’t Go Out Unless You Can Get Back In - Reboarding Ladders

Article courtesy of Canadian Yachting magazine, www.CanadianYachting.ca.

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