Jul 12 2021 All Articles

​Boating safety in winter

Boating safety in winter

Maritime New Zealand tells us boating during winter brings additional challenges, such as unpredictable weather and colder conditions. Advice is to plan ahead, know what you are facing and be prepared to take some additional steps to stay safe.

In winter, New Zealand’s seas, lakes, and rivers are very cold. Coldwater immersion can kill in as little as 30-40 minutes, especially in New Zealand’s alpine lakes.

As the days are shorter, be sure to leave enough time for your return trip if you want to be back before nightfall. Shorter trips may be sensible given less daylight hours and increased wind chill during winter.

It’s well worth heeding advice shared on the Maritime NZ website.

  1. Check the marine weather forecast before heading out, and frequently during your trip as things can change quickly and unexpectedly. If in doubt, don’t go out.
  2. Wear your lifejacket. Not only do they aid buoyancy, they add warmth. Never add extra layers of clothing over your lifejacket.
  3. Dress for the weather. Layer up and take an extra set of clothes. Remember, dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. If there’s a possibility you may end up in cold water then wear survival clothing that offers thermal protection.
  4. Take two (waterproof) ways to call for help. Have a VHF radio and/or personal locator as your mobile phone may not always get great reception. Store these in waterproof containers or bags.
  5. Avoid alcohol. While alcohol may make you feel warm, it actually accelerates heat loss.
  6. Let others know where you are going and when you will return. You can also use your VHF radio to file a trip report with your local coastguard.

People in, on or around, cold water should heed the cold-water immersion guidelines. Information on cold water survival is available on the Safer Boating website: survive-in-cold-water. This includes, for example, postures for conserving your heat and energy (hold arms tight across the chest; press thighs close together; raise up the knees to protect the groin region). If in a group, adopt the huddle posture (press the sides of the chests and lower torsos together; hug around the lifejackets; intertwine legs as much as possible; talk to one another). And, importantly, if children are in cold water – they should be sandwiched in the middle of the group, as they succumb to cold much more quickly than adults.

Do take time to check the aforementioned survive-in-cold-water website – there's plenty more advice there. Why not learn techniques to improve your chances of survival in cold water? Winter seems to be the perfect time to do so.

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No matter what your plans are on the water in 2021, Mariner Insurance is here to support you. We have been offering Kiwis specialist marine insurance in New Zealand for over a decade with cover for all types of boats and watercraft. Just talk to us about what you’re doing on the water, and we can tailor one of our insurance policies to fit.