Time flies when you’re having fun. That’s especially true with the boating season in New England, where long, cold winters make our sweet summer boating days all too scarce. It makes sense that we want to stretch out our boating season into fall, when crisp, clear autumn days make for some of the best boating of the year. But with shorter days and colder water, fall boating presents unique challenges. Here are a few tips to be prepared for autumn boating.
Check Your Boat’s Systems – With shorter days, it’s easy to be surprised by darkness. Make sure your navigational lights are working properly, and carry a few waterproof flashlights. Also, be sure your emergency flares haven’t expired and your bilge pump is operational.
Dress Appropriately – New England weather is notorious for changing at a moment’s notice. That’s especially true in autumn, when temperatures and conditions can change rapidly. Dress in layers to adapt to temperature fluctuations, and bring rain gear and a change of clothes.
Check the Weather – Speaking of New England’s volatile weather, autumn afternoons often bring fast-moving, unexpected storms. Check the weather before you hit the water, and then continue checking it while you’re boating to avoid being surprised by a sudden storm.
Wear a PFD – Autumn days might still be warm, but the cool nights mean cold water temperatures and an increased risk of hypothermia if you fall overboard. And the shock of falling into cold water can claim even strong swimmers. It’s always smart to wear a PFD, but it’s especially true in the fall.
Check Your Charts – Come late autumn, some local channel markers and buoys are pulled by local authorities. And if you get surprised by the early nightfall, you could find yourself trying to navigate in the dark. Make sure your electronic and paper charts are up to date so you can use them to navigate.