Staying Safe in Cold Fall Waters

The season is changing but winter is not yet upon us. There is still a lot of great seaplane flying weather before we pull out the skis. There are fewer boats on the lake this time of year and colder water; less boat traffic doesn’t bother us but colder water is a concern. This is the time to wear that PFD. Great—you say—how long will I last bobbing around in 45 degree water with fewer boats on the lake to save me? Not very long unfortunately. Take a look at these useful references regarding cold water survival. This is an eye opener and a true reality check on how the human body does not do well immersed in cold water. To learn more about surviving cold water emergencies visit:

Effects of Hypothermia (from FAA AC-91-69A)

Water Temp. in °F Exhaustion or Unconsciousness* Expected Time of Survival
Up to 32.5° Under 15 Minutes 15 to 45 Minutes
32.5° to 40° 15 to 30 Minutes 30 to 90 Minutes
40° to 50° 30 to 60 Minutes 1 to 3 Hours
50° to 60° 1 to 2 Hours 1 to 6 Hours
60° to 70° 2 to 7 Hours 2 to 40 Hours
70° to 80° 2 to 12 Hours 3 Hours to Indefinitely
Over 80° Deferred indefinitely Indefinitely
*Times given are for a young adult in good condition and health with no alcohol or drugs in system.

Remember: 1-10-1

1-10-1 is a simple way to remember the first three phases of cold water immersion and the approximate time each phase takes. 1 – Cold Shock. An initial deep and sudden Gasp followed by hyperventilation that can be as much as 600-1000% greater than normal breathing. You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. Cold Shock will pass in about 1 minute. During that time concentrate on avoiding panic and getting control of your breathing. Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep you afloat and breathing. 10 – Cold Incapacitation. Over approximately the next 10 minutes you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs for any meaningful movement. Concentrate on self rescue initially, and if that isn’t possible, prepare to have a way to keep your airway clear to wait for rescue. Swim failure will occur within these critical minutes and if you are in the water without a lifejacket, drowning will likely occur. 1 – Hypothermia. Even in ice water it could take approximately 1 hour before becoming unconscious due to Hypothermia. If you understand the aspects of hypothermia, techniques of how to delay it, self rescue and calling for help, your chances of survival and rescue will be dramatically increased. Source: