The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding Lake Champlain anglers and boaters that New York State boating law requires all persons aboard motorboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and sailboats less than 21 feet in length to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while on New York waters from November 1 to May 1.
New York implemented this PFD law in the fall of 2009 after a spate of deaths involving people who were not wearing life jackets while boating during spring and fall cold water temperatures.
Sudden immersion in cold water after falling overboard or capsizing, particularly at water temperatures below 68°F, can overcome even the strongest swimmers. It may lead to sudden cardiac arrest or gasping and inhalation of water, the loss of swimming ability and grip strength, and eventually hypothermia and unconsciousness.
“After a long winter, the sight of open water and the feeling of warm sunshine can give boaters a false sense of security,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry. “The reality is, the ice has just gone out, and water temperatures are still extremely cold. We encourage anglers and boaters to be cautious and safe while on any watercraft in the early spring.”
Wearing a life jacket, no matter what the season, is the single best way boaters can keep themselves safe on the water, and it can significantly improve their chances of survival should something unexpected happen while boating.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife also reminds anglers and boaters that children under 12 years of age must wear a Coast Guard approved personal floatation device at all times while boating on any Vermont waterbody.