New York State Boater's Guide - 2020 - 51

craft are low profile watercraft and may not be readily seen by
larger boats. Paddlers should generally avoid heavily trafficked
areas of any waterway and if necessary to cross a marked channel,
do so at right angles and move as quickly as possible so as to
avoid impeding the passage of larger craft in the channel. As the
likelihood of capsizing or swamping is greater on smaller watercraft,
cold water immersion becomes a real danger when water
temperatures drop below 70° F. Therefore everyone is strongly
advised to wear a life jacket and the appropriate clothing designed
to retain body heat. When operating at night you are required to
carry a white light to show to prevent collision. All paddlers must
carry a whistle or other means of making an efficient sound signal
to attract attention when in the vicinity of power and sail vessels.

Cold Water Immersion

Paddlers and sportsmen often boat during the early and late
seasons when water temperatures are
cold. Boaters are required by law to wear
a life jacket from Nov. 1 to May 1 on all
boats less than 21 feet when underway.
In addition a boater should dress for the
water, not the air temperature, as a boater
who capsizes or swamps in cold water
can be in an immediate life threatening
situation. Cold water immersion has four
phases: upon immersion cold shock occurs
which can include involuntary gasping,
hyperventilation, panic, and possible cardiac arrest. Between 3
to 30 minutes later swimming failure may occur as muscles and
nerves quickly cool and the victim looses motor control along with
the ability to self rescue. Next, hypothermia, typically occurs after
30 minutes in the water which can then lead to unconsciousness
and death. Last is post-immersion collapse. This can occur during
or after rescue due to damage to lungs and heart as cold blood
returns to the core area from the arms and legs.
To survive a cold water immersion, try reboarding or climbing on
top of your boat, slow heat loss by huddling up and do not remove
clothing even if it is wet, use a whistle or visual distress signal to
summon help. Leave a float plan so authorities can be called should
you fail to return on time.
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