Lake Coeur d'Alene Angler's Association - Boating Safety


My top 10 things to know:

  1. Know to wear your life vest! In Idaho the rules are:
    • All recreational vessels have at least one type I, II, or III USCG approved that FITS for each person on board. It must be READILY accessible.
    • Vessels above 16 Ft (not canoes or kayaks) must have a type IV and accessable
    • Children 14 years or younger on a vessel 19 ft or less must WEAR theirs.
    • PWC riders must wear a type I, II, or III
    • If you are being towed, all must WEAR their vest

      They must also be good and serviceable, again accessible, and the proper size. Consider wearing it. The time to think about putting it on is not after you've already been thrown overboard.

  2. Know to keep your boat maintained. Know your watercraft. Ensure all blowers work for IB, IO motors work. Make sure all your navigation lights work. Make sure you have extra fuel as well for long excursions.

  3. Know the weather. Know how to check the weather on NOAA radio. Also know what the weather is supposed to be for the time you are out. Even our local waters are slaves to wind and weather. Also know the water temperature. Hypothermia can cause you to be incapacitated in a matter of minutes in cold water.

  4. Know how much your boat can hold. Know how many passengers it is rated for, and don't exceed that. Also take into account how much gear they have to bring on board as well as what you already have stowed. That rating is generally for empty boats.

  5. Know your navigational equipment, and how to use it. GPS, Compass, charts, ATON's, and maps are all well and good but you need to know how to use them. If it's been a while, practice for a bit. Also remember that batteries can and do fail so have a back-up plan if something goes down

  6. Know your water rules: Know how to safely pass, overtake, and how to be overtaken in your boat. Know your give-way rules.

  7. Know your boat: Know how it handles, performs, maneuvers, etc. As the pilot, everyone else is relying on you and your knowledge. Know where all the safety equipment is and how to use it. Don't be stingy with *% the knowledge either. Show others in the boat in case something happens to you.

  8. Know the dangers of alcohol: Drinking and boating don't mix any more than drinking and driving. The cops will bust you for both. If you can't drink 4 beers and drive, don't think you can drink 4 beers and boat. There's no difference.

  9. Know your distances: Watch out for other boats and PWC's and give them good clearance. They may be towing skiers or tubers. They may also not know flagging rules for people in the water or have divers under them. Be courteous.

  10. Know your fumes: CO or fuel fumes can kill you. Make sure the blowers work on your craft if it is so equipped and run them at fueling, idle, or any time recommended by the manufacturer of your boat. Fuel vapors can "pool" in the bilge and given the right circumstances, cause an explosion. CO can collect from the motor exhaust and make it into the living spaces on your boat.
PFD Descriptions Illustrations

TYPE I: Offshore Life Jackets

These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

Type I PFD

TYPE II: Near-Shore Vests

These vests are good for calm waters when quick assistance or rescue is likely. Type II vests will turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water, but the turning is not as pronounced as with a Type I.


TYPE III: Flotation Aids

These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick assistance or rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up. Type III PFDs are used for water sports such as water-skiing. Some Type III PFDs are designed to inflate when you enter the water.

Type III inflatable PFDsType III PFDs

TYPE IV: Throwable Devices/Not Wearable

These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Since a Type IV PFD is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.

Type IV Cushion PFDsType IV Ring Buoy PFDs

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices

These vests, decksuits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities such as kayaking or water-skiing. Some Type V PFDs are designed to inflate when you enter the water. To be legal, your Type V PFD must be used in accordance with its label. A Type V PFD may be substituted for any other type if it is specifically approved by the USCG for the activity at hand and is being worn.

Type V PFD

Cold Water Survival

What is it? It is difficult even for an expert to define. It is estimated to be around and under the temperature of 70 degrees. However, this will vary in each case due to the specific circumstances and physical condition of the person involved.

What Happens in Cold Water?

Many of the fatal boating accidents occur in the "out-of-season" months when the water is cold. What happens to the body when suddenly plunged into cold water?

The first hazards to contend with are panic and shock. The initial shock can place severe strain on the body, producing instant cardiac arrest, as happened to a 15 year old scout in the month of March in Pennsylvania several years ago.
Survivors of cold water accidents have reported the breath driven from them on first impact with the water. Should your face be in the water during that first involuntary gasp for breath, it may well be water rather than air. Total disorientation may occur after cold water immersion. Persons have reported "thrashing helplessly in the water" for thirty seconds or more until they were able to get their bearings.

Immersion in cold water can quickly numb the extremities to the point of uselessness. Cold hands cannot fasten the straps of a lifejacket, grasp a thrown rescue line, or hold onto an over-turned boat. Within minutes, severe pain clouds rational thought. And, finally, hypothermia (exposure) sets in, and without rescue and proper first aid treatment, unconsciousness and death. We all recall the incident in which the airliner went down in the dead of winter in the water in Washington, D.C. several years ago. The vivid video of the rescue attempts and those that died due to hypothermia is not easily forgotten.

Normal body temperature of course, is 98.6. Shivering and the sensation of cold can begin when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5. Amnesia can begin to set in at approximately 94, unconsciousness at 86 and death at approximately 79 degrees.

What to Do In The Water

Cold water robs the body's heat 32 times faster than cold air. If you should fall into the water, all efforts should be given to getting out of the water by the fastest means possible.

Persons boating in the cold water months should be thoroughly skilled in rescue and self-rescue techniques. Most accidents involve small boats which with practice, can be righted and re-entered. Most boats, even filled with water, will support the weight of its occupants. If the boat has capsized and cannot be made right, climb on top of it.

Physical exercise such as swimming causes the body to lose heat at a much faster rate than remaining still in the water. Blood is pumped to the extremities and quickly cooled. Few people can swim a mile in fifty degree water. Should you find yourself in cold water and are not able to get out, you will be faced with a critical choice - to adopt a defensive posture in the water to conserve heat and wait for rescue, or attempt to swim to safety.

Should you find yourself in the water, avoid panic. Air trapped in clothing can provide buoyancy as long as you remain still in the water. Swimming or treading water will greatly increase heat loss and can shorten survival time by more than 50%.
The major body heat loss areas are the head, neck, armpits, chest and groin. If you are not alone, huddle together or in a group facing each other to maintain body heat.


Proper preparation is essential when boating on cold water. Make sure your boat and equipment are in first class condition. Check the weather forecast before leaving for your event. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Dress in several layers of light clothing. Next to a diver's wet suit, wool clothing offers the best protection. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when boating.

First Aid Considerations For Cold Water Victims

Treatment for hypothermia depends on the condition of the person. Mild hypothermia victims who show only symptoms of shivering and are capable of rational conversation may only require removal of wet clothes and replacement with dry clothes or blankets.

In more severe cases where the victim is semi­conscious, immediate steps must be taken to begin the rewarming process.

Get the person out of the water and into a warm environment. Remove the clothing only if it can be done with a minimum of movement of the victim's body. Do not massage the extremities.

Lay the semi-conscious person face up, with the head slightly lowered, unless vomiting occurs. The head down position allows more blood to flow to the brain.

If advanced rescue equipment is available it can be administered by those trained in its use. Warm humidified oxygen should be administered by face mask.

Immediately attempt to rewarm the victims body core. If available, place the person in a bath of hot water at a temperature of 105 to 110 degrees. It is important that the victim's arms and legs be kept out of the water to prevent "after-drop". After-drop occurs when the cold blood from the limbs is forced back into the body resulting in further lowering of the core temperature. After-drop can be fatal.

If a tub is not available, apply hot, wet towels or blankets to the victim's head, neck, chest, groin, and abdomen. Do not warm the arms or legs.

If nothing else is available, a rescuer may use their own body heat to warm a hypothermia victim.

Never give alcohol to a hypothermia victim.

Expected Survival Time in Cold Water

Water Temperature


Exhaustion or Unconsciousness in


Expected Survival Time

70-80" F (21-27° C)


3-12 hours


3 hours - indefinitely

60-70° F (16-21° C)


2-7 hours


2-40 hours

50-60° F (10-16° C)


1-2 hours


1-6 hours

40-50° F (4-10° C)


30-60 minutes


1-3 hours

32.5-40° F (0-4° C)


15-30 minutes


30-90 minutes

<32° F (<0° C)


Under 15 minutes


Under 15-45 minutes