Boaters warned of continued hypothermia risk

NSW Transport Roads and Maritime services
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With another month of winter ahead, boaters need to remember the potentially deadly consequences of immersion in cold water and the need to guard against hypothermia.

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Acting Director Maritime Michael Wright said the loss of body heat is one of the greatest hazards to a person in the water.

'Hypothermia is the term used to describe a body’s temperature lowering to dangerous levels after exposure to cold air or water,' Mr Wright said.

'All boaters should prepare for the possibility of suffering hypothermia while out on the water. Hypothermia can result from immersion or from being in damp or wet clothes and being exposed to wind chill.

'Wear clothing capable of maintaining body heat when wet, such as woollen or thermal fabrics. Have your lifejacket ready for use or preferably wear it.

'If you become hypothermic and are not wearing a lifejacket, there is a high risk you may lose consciousness and drown.

'Obvious signs of hyperthermia are intense shivering, slurred speech, confusion, slowing pulse and dilated eye pupils,' Mr Wright said.

He said there were several cases of hyperthermia this winter which could have had serious consequences.

'Two fishermen were treated in hospital for hypothermia this month after they both ended up in the water when one of them stood up while they were anchored, about 100 metres west of Lilli Pilli baths in southern Sydney,' Mr Wright said.

'Four university students became hypothermic this month after they ended up in the water for 20 minutes during a kayaking expedition near Dunedin in New Zealand. The water temperature was about six degrees but the four women were only in the water for 20 minutes.

'On 13 June the owner of a small tinny was out fishing alone on Burrill Lake near Ulladulla when he fell into the water after his boat capsized. Although he was lucky to have been able to swim to shore, it was a remote location and he was not rescued until much later by a rescue helicopter leaving him suffering mild hypothermia and exposure,' Mr Wright said.