While temperatures are warming up, Paddle Antrim warns paddlers in Northern Michigan to protect themselves from heightened dangers of cold water during early-season outings.

“As our spring air temperatures are warming, the water temperatures are still cold and so paddlers need to take extra steps to protect themselves from the dangers of being suddenly swamped or stranded in cold water,” says Deana Jerdee, Paddle Antrim Executive Director. “We want everyone to know the risks of cold water. We ask paddlers to stay off the water until it warms or make sure to take the right precautions, which may save your life.”

Right now water temperatures are about 40 degrees, and so a full immersion drysuit with insulating layers is necessary. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause gasping and inhalation of water and hypothermia, resulting in unconsciousness or swimming failure as muscles become numb. Wearing a life jacket may keep your head above water and support your body should your swimming ability fail or you become unconscious.

Should you ever find yourself in the water it is recommended that you stay with—and preferably on top of—your boat. Never overestimate your swimming ability. All too often people underestimate the distance to shore or the effects of cold water and unfortunately drown while attempting to make it to safety.

5 Cold Water Safety Tips

  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket. Simply stated, life jackets save lives.
  • Dress for the water temperature. To find out what the water temperature is, check GLCFS.
  • Avoid boating alone and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Have a cell phone or VHF radio accessible, in a watertight bag, should you need to call for help. (Personal location beacons or EPIRBs are even better than cell phones; on the water, there may not be cell service.)
  • Carry essential safety gear, signaling devices, and whistles.
  • Refrain from using alcohol.

Finally, Paddle Antrim recommends that all boaters take a safety class. Paddle Antrim is offering classes for all types of paddle sports this year. Registration and more information can be found at www.paddleantrim.com/events or call 231.492.0171.

Planning for cold water safety is critical for even the most experienced sailors and paddlers. Always follow these tips, especially in the spring and fall when water temps are cooler. Video by MyNorth, 2013.

Press release provided by Paddle Antrim

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Photo(s) by Lydia Mejia