Cold Weather Boating Tips

The Lake Patrol Section of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol would like to remind cold weather sportsmen who hunt or fish from boats in cold weather that they have entered the statistically most hazardous time of the year for boating. With the pleasure boating season over, there are fewer boats on the water to render aid during an emergency, so boating alone is discouraged. Boaters should always leave a float plan behind with someone who can call authorities if the boater hasn't checked in at a predetermined time.

Boaters should layer clothing and avoid cotton, which offers little insulation when wet. High energy foods and snacks and warm drinks are recommended. As is the case when operating any vessel or vehicle, boaters should especially stay away from alcohol in cold weather. Cold water drains energy and body heat rapidly. A foam life jacket can provide life saving buoyancy, and insulation to give a boater extra time to get back aboard before being incapacitated by cold water immersion or hypothermia should he or she fall overboard. Automatic inflatable life jackets can be adjusted to fit over bulky winter clothing and offer great freedom of movement. Boaters should always be aware of the weather and take into account the hazards that weather can cause for people in boats.

Also, all boaters should insure that they have a method of getting back in the boat should they fall overboard. This could be anything from a boarding ladder to a length of rope or a strap with a loop or loops for footholds.

An emergency kit containing, at minimum, dry clothes and a waterproof lighter or matches, and flashlight is also recommended should a boater become stranded ashore due to a boating accident.

A cell phone is always a good idea, though many of Oklahoma's lakes have areas that have limited cell coverage.