Fall boating season has arrived, and with it come different types of risks that cold water and air temperatures bring. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water shares these three fall safe boating tips just right for leaf peeping season.

fall safe boating
Having an emergency boarding ladder ready to go and easily reached from the water is important when water temperatures are cool. Photo courtesy of BoatUS

File a float plan. 

A float plan is as simple as telling a responsible person where you will be going and when you’ll be back. With fewer boats on the water after Labor Day, a float plan ensures rescuers will be notified if you ever fail to check back in after your outing. Additionally, leaving a note under your vehicle’s windshield wiper at the launch ramp can help trigger an alarm.

Have a way back into the boat if you fall overboard. 

Falls overboard may be ranked number five on the 2021 U.S. Coast Guard’s list of the “Top Five Primary Accident Types” with 273 accidents, but they also led the most number of deaths (170 fatal), as well as more fatalities than all the other top four accident types combined (number one: collision with vessel—1226 accidents/31 fatal; number two: collision with fixed object—508 accidents/43 fatal; number three: flooding/swamping—461 accidents/55 fatal; number four: grounding—308 accidents/23 fatal). Your boarding ladder should be functional and accessible as cold water can quickly sap strength. If your boat doesn’t have a built in-ladder, a compact emergency ladder or even a looped line attached to a cleat, pre-rigged with foothold loops every few inches and hung over the transom, can substitute.

Wear a high visibility lifejacket. 

Camo styling hides a danger—dark green, tan, and black camo patterns are remarkable at doing exactly as designed, blending you into your surroundings. However, that’s not a benefit if you happen to be floating in the water and rescuers are searching. If possible, make their job easier and wear a lifejacket with high visibility. For smaller vessels and paddlers, leaf peeping season is also a really good time to secure the lifejacket to your body—that includes using buckle snaps.