Up here in Queensland where I live, we tend to take our warm weather and equally warm coastal waters for granted. Even in mid-winter, our coastal water temperatures are usually quite mild.
On a recent visit M.A.S.T. (Marine and Safety Tasmania) in Hobart, I picked up one of their flyers – Cold Water Immersion – which reminded me how critical water temperatures are to survival if you have the misfortune to fall overboard or capsize – especially in our Southern waters.
The flyer has lots of facts and figures about how long you could last in the water (depending on water temperature) and a reminder to “Always Wear a Life Jacket” to aid your survival chances.
If the water temperature is below 4.5C and you are not wearing protective clothing, you could reach the state of exhaustion or unconsciousness in 15 – 30 minutes and your chances of surviving are likely to be less than 90 minutes.
The risk of drowning increases nearly five times if the water temperature is below 15 degrees – and in Tasmania, it rarely gets above 20C.
In waters above 21C., you are likely remain conscious for up to 12 hours and survive for much longer – if the sharks don’t get you first!
Wearing a life jacket will make you more buoyant so it will be less tiring to keep afloat and if wearing a standard 150N jacket, your head will be kept above water even if you’re unconscious. The bright red or yellow of your life jacket will also help rescuers to spot you more easily.
Remember the “Golden Rule” when out boating – one hand for the boat and one hand for you and by practising this rule, you might never have to hear the call “Man Overboard!”.