Safety Features

subpage

Cold Weather Rowing Tips

by USRowing Safety Committee | Jan 19, 2015
When the weather turns cold, rowers in northern states are forced to head indoors, but there are many clubs that have year-round opportunities to be on the water. Most rowing on the water above the mid-Atlantic in the east and Texas in the Midwest stops when the fall racing season is over, but there are some clubs and rowers that have developed procedures to allow for cold-water rowing. USRowing’s Safety Committee advocates caution, but we know that there will be those who want to row until the ice stops them.
When the weather turns cold, rowers in northern states are forced to head indoors, but there are many clubs that have year-round opportunities to be on the water. Most rowing on the water above the mid-Atlantic in the east and Texas in the Midwest stops when the fall racing season is over, but there are some clubs and rowers that have developed procedures to allow for cold-water rowing. USRowing’s Safety Committee advocates caution, but we know that there will be those who want to row until the ice stops them.

The policies of each club are going to be dictated by their situations. Do you row on an open body of water with little hope of an imminent rescue, or do you row on a small river that is lined with houses? Are you a single sculler heading out by yourself, or is your team rowing through the winter? Your club has to develop a plan that makes sense, and it has to make sure that all the members are aware of the plan and follow the procedures.

Cold water rowing is dangerous; there is no way around it. Below are survival times for persons immersed in cold water. These times are for people physically in the water, but keep in mind how long you will be in wet clothing on top of your boat or on the shore once you get out of the water. Uncontrollable shivering, disorientation and impaired judgment start to occur before exhaustion or unconsciousness.



Cold weather rowing brings its own set of risks. Take precautions to protect yourself and your teammates. Here are some recommendations for rowing on the water during cold weather.

Row with a safety launch.
Not only might you get some coaching, this person can throw you a life jacket, pull you out of the water, help you back in your boat, and if need be, get you back to the boathouse fast and then take care of your boat.

Bring a life jacket. We know the law says if you row on a body of water that is deemed “navigable” by the United States Coast Guard you do not have to have a life jacket in your boat with you, but what about common sense? If you are a single sculler and you row during the winter months, take an inflatable life jacket and stuff it behind the footboard. If you go out with a safety launch, make sure the launch has enough life jackets for everyone on the water.

Use a buddy system.
If you head out without a safety launch, then row with a buddy – someone who can help you get back into your boat, can give you a dry shirt and help you if you become disoriented due to the onset of hypothermia.
Carry a cell phone in a waterproof container. Call for help before you become so cold that you won’t be able to work the phone. If you are going to call for help, you have to know where you are, which means knowing some specific locations on shore to help the rescuers to find you. Telling 911 that you are “at the 1,500-meter mark” is not helpful, but knowing a street name or number, or major landmark, is.

Make some noise. If your cell phone is not operable on the water, carry a sound-making device. Whistles, horns—something loud enough so that somebody on shore will hear and then see you in the water.

Check your log. The logbook at the boathouse is good, but only if there is someone checking it. If you are the last or only person on the water, it may be hours before someone checks the logbook. Don’t rely on it unless you know that someone will come looking for you if you don’t sign back in.

Know your water. If you row on a river or a body of water that has a large fluctuation of speed, know what the speed is. Some clubs have a flow meter link on their sites, and you can check to see how fast and how high the water flow is. Usually with high levels of water comes a high level of debris.

Rule of thumb. A common cold-weather boathouse policy is the crews can launch if the water and air temperatures combined add up to more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. For example, if the water is 50 degrees and the air is 40 degrees, then the cold weather rules go into effect. In addition, when the water temperature is 50 degrees puts the cold water rules in effect. If the water gets below 50 degrees, then the survival time is probably not long enough for a rescue and precautions must be taken.

Click here for more safety feature articles.

Advertisement
    United 250x250
    College Blog Graphic
    May Madness Graphic
Sponsors
sub-row
Kinesio Logo