I was at a dinner last week when a friend and I were talking about the lack of winter weather so far in December and January. In fact, he was telling me about how just that afternoon, he had taken his canoe and put in at the lagoons and paddled for over two hours. He said it was great, and this extension of his season was wonderful.
He then went on to tell me that in a few corners filled with tall grass, a little glaze of very thin ice was still present in the water. I ask him if he was aware of the new “mandatory cold-weather life jacket regulations” that just went into effect in Pennsylvania. You guessed it! He did not know what I was talking about.
The new regulation, which takes effect as of November 1, 2012, is as follows:
A person shall wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD or Life Jacket) during the cold-weather months from November 1st through April 30th while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any size canoe or kayak.
His first reaction was that he never wears a life jacket in the lagoons. He feels that he is a good swimmer, so it is not needed.
My answer was that next year, all that is going to change in cold weather. He will not have a choice during cold weather. I fell that the new rule is very good, and am sure that the Fish Commission and other agencies will be enforcing it come next November.
The reasoning behind this change is that cold-water shock is a major factor in boating fatalities when the water temperatures fall to less than 70 degrees. This shock causes people to involuntarily gasp and can result in the person hyperventilating, aspirating water and reducing their ability to swim and breathe properly.
After a bit of discussion, he agreed with the reasoning. We then talked a bit about a few other cold-water safety ideas, which are as follows:
- The life jackets offer additional insulation from the cold.
- Know the waters where you are going to boat.
- Let someone else know where you are boating.
- Have a cell phone that is fully charged.
- Wear clothes that still insulate even when wet, (Fleece, polypropylene).
- If you should fall into the water, cover your mouth and nose with your hands.
- Stay with the boat; get back in it or at least on top of it.
- Do not remove your clothing while in the water.
I think in cold weather, it is not a good idea to canoe, kayak or boat alone. You
are just asking for trouble if you should fall into the water. Enjoy Presque Isle, but do it safely.
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