Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

April 16, 2009

For Release: Immediate
Press Contact:
Eileen Larrabee
Dan Keefe

State Parks Urges Spring Boaters to Recognize Danger Lurking in Cold Water

Life jacket is the best way to stay safe on the water

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash today reminded boaters of the dangers of sudden immersion in cold water during the early spring boating season. Of New York's recreational boating fatalities in 2008, seven or one-third were associated with small manually propelled watercraft either early or late in the season when water temperatures were cold.

"As the days grow longer, the sun warmer and the ice retreats from the state's lakes, rivers and ponds, many New Yorkers may begin to consider their first kayak or canoe trip of the season," Ash said. "It's essential to recognize that water temperatures are still extremely cold and will remain so throughout the spring months. Sudden and unexpected immersion in cold water can quickly turn a pleasant day on the water tragic. Boaters should learn and practice prudent boat operation in order to ensure a safe trip."

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, along with the United States Coast Guard, strongly recommend wearing a life jacket, especially while aboard small manually propelled watercraft. The Coast Guard estimates that 80 percent of boating accident deaths might have been prevented had a life jacket been worn. Additionally, all boaters should:< p>

Properly equip and carry essential safety gear;

Get a vessel safety check from the USCG Auxiliary or US Power Squadron;

Always let others know where you¡'re going and when to expect your return;

Take a boating safety or paddlesport skills course;

Consider taking a communication or distress device with you; and

Refrain from mixing alcohol with boating;

Should you find yourself in the water, boating safety experts recommend you stay with and preferably on top of your vessel unless you are absolutely sure you can easily make it to shore. Never overestimate your swimming ability, especially in cold water. Every year too many people underestimate the distance to shore or the effects of cold water and unfortunately die while attempting to make it to safety.

While hypothermia is one of the deadly effects of cold water, sudden immersion can also induce sudden cardiac arrest, unconsciousness and the loss of swimming ability and grip strength, all within far less than the 30 minutes or so necessary for the onset of hypothermia.

Also worth noting is that at this time of year the chances of receiving immediate assistance from other boaters or law enforcement is minimal since most are off the water and fewer people are likely to notice an individual in trouble.

For more information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit