BOSTON — The Coast Guard is reminding boaters and paddlers heading out on the water this holiday season to keep safety in mind.
Weather forecasts are slated to bring unseasonably warm air, but the water can be dangerously cold. The current water temperature in Boston Harbor is 46 degrees Fahrenheit, but last winter during the coldest month it averaged 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Excited boaters and paddlers in their new canoes and kayaks will understandably want to take advantage of the mild weather," said Walt Taylor, the 1st Coast Guard District's recreational boating safety specialist. "The Coast Guard strongly recommends everyone boating this winter always wear a lifejacket over a dry-suit or wetsuit, carry a VHF radio, and file a float plan with someone who knows when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you plan to be back."
The ocean and inland waterways in New England pose unique dangers in the wintertime.
"When a person falls in cold water, their body responds to initial shock with an instantaneous gasp for air," said Taylor. "If their head is underwater, this may cause the person to swallow water and drown."
The Coast Guard's boating safety mobile app titled "United States Coast Guard" can be found in Apple and Google Play online stores, and is a great tool for boaters.
Features of the app include state boating information, a safety equipment checklist, navigation rules, float plans, and calling features to report pollution or suspicious activity.
When location services are enabled, app users can receive the latest weather reports from the closest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoys, as well as report the location of a hazard on the water. The app also features an emergency assistance button, which does not replace a VHF radio, but is capable of calling the closest Coast Guard command center if within cell range.
Winter is also great time to take a boating education course. Course information can be found at the following websites: