Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Officials urge caution during winter boating season

LAKE COUNTY – Winter boating season has arrived, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol Unit and California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) are reminding boaters about the risk of cold water immersion.

Ocean and lake temperatures are their coldest at this time of year and even a strong swimmer can experience difficulty if they accidentally find themselves in cold water, according to Marine Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini.

It can take only a few minutes for a boater falling into cold water to have their ability to swim and rescue themselves compromised and the real risks can take effect in the first few seconds. Ostini said the use of a life jacket or personal flotation device always increases the chances of survival.

The effects of cold water immersion are predictable and well documented officials reported.

Within one minute of an accidental immersion, the body reacts with an involuntary gasp, followed by hyperventilation of up to 10 times normal breathing.

If the head is underwater during that initial deep gasp, the person can inhale enough water to drown. It is imperative not to panic and breathing will return to close to normal.

Within 10 minutes of cold water immersion, a person will become incapacitated to the point that the muscles in their limbs stop working and they will no longer be able to swim or rescue themselves.

Self-rescue should be accomplished before incapacitation becomes a factor. If self-rescue is not possible, the person should at least try to get as much of the body out of the water as possible to delay the onset of hypothermia.

Within one hour of cold water immersion, depending on the water temperature, the body continues to cool and the resulting hypothermia can create a range of symptoms from confusion to unconsciousness and eventually lead to death.

The best way to survive an accidental cold water immersion is to wear a life jacket, according to Ostini. It will help keep the head above water in the event of an accidental immersion until breathing can be brought under control.

It also will keep a person afloat while they concentrate on rescuing themselves. If self-rescue is not possible, a life jacket can provide some thermal protection against the onset of hypothermia and keep a person afloat until someone else can assist with a rescue.

Boaters are also advised to file a float plan before heading out on the water. The chances of successfully locating an overdue boat are much greater if responders have certain facts about the boat trip that may be included on a float plan.

For your own safety and before boating, file a float plan with a reliable person who will notify authorities if necessary, Ostini urged.

For more information on safe boating or to fill out a float plan, please visit or call 888-326-2822.



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