Our Matt Hunter explores the increased risks of boating on cold water and what you can do to keep safe.
GRAFTON, NY – "It's beautiful, I've been waiting to go out on the canoe and it's the best opportunity I've had and I love it," Waterford resident Joseph Carey said.
In almost any other year, Carey's canoe would be collecting dust in mid-March, but with temperatures hitting the low seventies, he and his family were able to enjoy their first day of the season on the water at Grafton Lakes State Park.
"I think usually most of this lake is frozen over still," Carey said.
"The water is a little bit cold but it is really nice out for this time of year," said Bethany Carey, Joseph’s 12-year-old daughter.
Calling the water cold may be an understatement. While anything under 70 degrees is commonly regarded as "cold” by officials, most of New York's waterways are currently reading in the low to mid forties, temperatures than can be especially dangerous if one falls in.
"It’s pretty chilly,” New York Stat Office of Parks and Recreation Education Specialist Ro Woodard said. “It won't be too long before our hands stop working, our muscles will cool and even if we're swimmers we won't be able to swim."
"Your heart rate and blood pressure go up, hyperventilation takes place, you can become unconscious and all of this takes place within a very short period of time, a minute or too," said Brian Kempf, the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Director of Marine Services.
Last year, a third of New York's 25 boating fatalities occurred early or late in the season when temperatures were low.
To protect yourself from the cold, the New York State Department of Parks and Recreation recommends wearing a life jacket with a dry or wet suit and at least one more layer of insulation.
"This actually has a gasket so that when you fall in, water doesn't get into it at all, so this is really good stuff," Woodard said.
Because the water is usually less crowded this time of year, it's also recommended you let others know where you are headed and boat with a crowd if possible.
Despite the added risk, boating can still be safe and fun this time of year.
"The general message is be prepared, have all this stuff and hope you never have to use it," Woodard said.
"We have multiple people here, my wife, her friends, everybody is out on the boat, so we all can help each other out," Carey said.