Safety for the First Days on the Water after Winter Conditioning

Coach/Launch Safety

After a winter break, coaches and launch safety may be overlooked as crews return to the water early. Ensure equipment and launches are managed well to minimize cold water risks.

For coaches, cold weather brings circulation issues and hypothermia. Prioritize safety to maintain decision-making abilities.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Layer clothing: Polyester base layers, waterproof outerwear, PFD, and consider a survival suit.
  • Equip launches with necessary safety gear based on crew size and local conditions, including lights for early or late practices.
  • Check local conditions before practice, considering winds, white caps, precipitation, ice, and dock conditions.
  • Allow extra time for launch setup in cold weather, including priming the engine and checking batteries.
  • Always wear a PFD and attach the kill-switch before leaving the dock to prevent accidents.
  • Understand launch behavior in emergencies and troubleshoot common issues before getting on the water.

Prioritize safety over eagerness to practice, and be prepared to delay if conditions pose risks.

Facts: Water Temps below 45°F (7°C):

  1. Rapid onset of hypothermia: Immersion in water below 45°F can lead to hypothermia within minutes, especially if not adequately protected.
  2. Increased risk of cold shock: Cold water temperatures below 45°F can induce an immediate cold shock response upon immersion, including gasping, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate.
  3. Decreased dexterity and coordination: Cold water can impair motor skills and coordination, making swimming and self-rescue more challenging.
  4. Limited survival time: Without proper protective gear, survival time in water below 45°F can be as short as 15 to 30 minutes for the average adult.
  5. Potential for ice formation: Water temperatures below 45°F increase the likelihood of ice formation on the surface, posing additional hazards to boaters and swimmers.
  6. Increased risk of cardiac events: Cold water immersion can trigger cardiac events, especially in individuals with pre-existing conditions, due to the body's physiological response to cold stress.
  7. Reduced buoyancy of standard flotation devices: In extremely cold water, the effectiveness of standard PFDs may be compromised as they provide minimal insulation against hypothermia.
  8. Impact on marine life: Cold water temperatures below 45°F can affect the behavior and distribution of aquatic species, influencing ecosystem dynamics.
  9. Importance of swift rescue and treatment: Prompt rescue and proper rewarming techniques are critical for increasing the chances of survival for individuals exposed to water temperatures below 45°F.
  10. Essential safety measures: In such cold water conditions, wearing appropriate thermal protection, using safety equipment, and following cold water safety protocols are vital for minimizing risks and ensuring safety during water activities.

90 Degree Rule

The '90 Degree Rule': the air and water temps should add up to at least 90 degrees.

So on a 40 degree day, you need 50 degree water - and note that CLCR prefers to err on the safer side by using 100 as the ideal sum when water temp is below 50 degrees (ie. water is 45, air is 55 degrees or higher).

Here are some general guidelines to follow if you are thinking of going out on the water:

  1. Check local regulations: Familiarize yourself with any local regulations or guidelines regarding spring rowing activities, including waterway restrictions, permits, and safety requirements.
  2. Assess water temperature: Monitor water temperature to ensure it's safe for rowing. Spring waters can still be cold, increasing the risk of hypothermia. Wait until water temperatures are suitable for your level of experience and preparedness: Masters, Collegiate, High School/Middle School.
  3. Weather conditions: Check weather forecasts for wind, precipitation, and temperature fluctuations. Avoid rowing in inclement weather or strong winds that can create unsafe conditions on the water. We use paid for "Storm" and "Windy" apps.
  4. Equipment readiness: Inspect rowing equipment, including boats, oars, and safety gear, to ensure they are in good condition and functioning properly. Address any maintenance or repair needs before heading out on the water.
  5. Dress appropriately: Wear suitable clothing for cold water conditions, including thermal layers, waterproof outerwear, gloves, and hats. Dress in layers that can be adjusted as needed to regulate body temperature. Coxswains in 4s should have water-proof protection or dry-suits when possible.
  6. Safety equipment: Carry essential safety equipment on board, including personal flotation devices (PFDs) for each rower, communication devices (e.g., cell phones, VHF radios), and navigation lights if rowing during low light conditions.
  7. Warm-up exercises: Perform thorough warm-up exercises before launching to prepare your body for rowing and minimize the risk of injury.
  8. Launch and recovery procedures: Follow proper launch and recovery procedures to ensure a safe transition onto and off the water. Use caution when launching and be mindful of other boaters and waterway users.
  9. Supervision and communication: Ensure there is adequate supervision and communication among rowers, coaches, and support personnel during spring rowing activities. Establish clear communication channels and emergency protocols.
  10. Monitor conditions: Continuously monitor water and weather conditions while on the water and be prepared to adjust plans or return to shore if conditions deteriorate or become unsafe.

By following these guidelines and prioritizing safety, you can enjoy spring rowing while minimizing risks and ensuring a positive experience on the water.