The 3rd season of the year brings a lot of changes: the colour of the leaves turn, the temperature drops, it is getting dark sooner and the daylight changes.
Changes that also affect us boat lovers. But hey, these changes don’t mean you can't go out and enjoy a boat trip anymore. Actually a lot of anglers say it’s the best time of the year as nature calms down and creates a quiet, peaceful and colorful atmosphere.
According to the US Coast Guards “Recreational Boating Statistics 2011”, there aren't any more accidents happening than in the summer months, but the accidents that are happening are far more fatal. The main reason for that is of course the drop in the water temperature. And as there will be fewer boaters around you in fall, you should pay additional attention and be self-sufficient in case you get into an emergency situation.
Just keep a few things in mind, and you will still be able to enjoy what is one of the most beautiful times of the year.
Have an eye on the weather:
Weather can change quickly in autumn, and the mixing of warm and cold air can make storms occur faster than you would think. If you have a smartphone, get yourself a good weather app for your device, like the one from Sea Tow. It is free for IOS and Android devices and gives you a good overview on tides and forecasts as well as navigation information.
Autumn is also the time to put your shorts and T-Shirts back in the closet and get your warmer clothes like gloves, rain gear and warm coats out. Just be prepared for quick changes in temperature.
Make sure your boat and it's engine are in a good shape and your tank is full before you leave:
Check on your navigation lights and flares and ensure those are not past their expiration date. It's always good to have waterproof flashlights and spare batteries on board in case you have to e.g. gear at a dock after dark.
A lot of fuel docks close down during fall, so make sure you are fully gassed up before you leave. And if it's already getting to freezing temperatures in fall, you might want to add some fuel additive to prevent water in the fuel line from freezing that could cause your engine to chug to a halt.
Wear a life jacket:
Hypothermia (the condition in which the body's core temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism and body functions) is one of the main causes of death in fall.
The main signs for hypothermia are:
• Shivering or trembling
• General lack of coordination, including stumbling and dropping things
• Drowsiness, confusion, and apathy
• Mumbling and slurring of words
• Weak pulse and shallow breathing
The jacket is an essential part of your wardrobe, should you accidentally fall into water. It keeps you afloat and helps you with your self rescue before you will start losing muscle control in your arms and legs (depending on the water temperature, this usually happens after 10 – 15 minutes).
Don’t rely on your smartphone only - make sure your VHF is working:
Even though we live in the 21st century and smartphones have taken such an important role in many peoples every day lives, their coverage is limited when offshore and out in nature. And of course cell phones generally cannot provide ship to ship safety communications or communications with rescue vessels.
Having a fully functioning VHF is part of being self-sufficient in case you get into trouble and there might not be other boats close by. The VHF calls can be received by the coast guard as well as by other ships. And of course it provides you with storm warnings and other urgent marine information.
Update your charts:
Fog, bad visibility and the days ending earlier make visual navigation harder. Also some local aids to channel markers and buoys placed by local authorities may be pulled as early as October in some areas. So make sure all of your charts are up to date. You can also leave a float plan with a responsible person on shore who will know what to do if you’re overdue.
Your boating enjoyment doesn’t have to end just because summer is over. Just keep these few tips in mind and you will be able to enjoy more weeks out on our beautiful lakes, rivers or oceans.
Some of the information provided by: