According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in Massachusetts result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water/weather. Paddlers in kayaks and canoes must wear life jackets from Sept.15 – May 15 every year. Waterfowl hunters using canoes/kayaks are reminded that this law also applies to them.
This is not a simply a recommendation; it is the law. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife reminds residents and visitors that this law is intended to protect canoeists and kayakers during months when water and air temperatures are coldest.
If paddlers capsize or fall overboard, they can succumb within minutes to hypothermia (the lowering of a person’s internal body temperature), which deadens arms and legs and renders a victim unable to swim, paddle, or stay afloat.
A related danger – the “cold-water-immersion-reflex,” whereby a victim, shocked by frigid water, involuntarily gasps and ingests a significant amount of water – can lead to death by drowning.
Though water temperatures may still be warm in early fall, cooler air temperatures can contribute to hypothermia for a wet boater.