Cold Weather On-Water Safety Tips from New York Sea Grant

OSWEGO COUNTY – New York Sea Grant reminds boaters, canoeists, kayakers, anglers and hunters who enjoy being on the water through the fall season that New York State law requires anyone in a boat that is less than 21 feet long on New York waters to wear a Coast Guard-approved floatation device from November 1 to May 1.

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These New York State Parks signs encourage paddle-sport enthusiasts to wear a life vest to extend their chance for survival and rescue on the water.

“The goal is to keep people safe as they enjoy the great natural resources across New York State across all four seasons,” said Coastal Recreation and Tourism Specialist Dave White, based with New York Sea Grant at the State University of New York, Oswego, N.Y. “We urge people to learn about the different types of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets and float suits; select the one that is the best fit for their activities at different types of year; and, the key point, wear it.”

White says the seasonal law is focused on shorter-length boats for a reason.

“The November to May law is primarily for people in kayaks, canoes and rowboats as open vessels that sit low on the water, the use of which often extends into the colder season. A life jacket, particularly if it is brightly-colored, helps rescuers more quickly locate someone who has fallen into the water and may be at risk for hypothermia. A life jacket extends the opportunity for rescue and survival,” he explained.

White notes that New York has a lot of open water all winter and suggests that those fishing in waders in streams also wear a floatation device and use the buddy system.

Life jackets are required year-round for children under 12; everyone on a personal watercraft; and anyone being towed by a boat.

A new safety initiative by the New York State Parks Bureau of Marine Services increases the visibility of kayakers with reflective Safe ‘n Sight decals applied to each side of a paddle.

The decals can be requested by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to NYS Parks Marine Services Bureau, Attn: Safe ‘n Sight Stickers, Albany, N.Y. 12238.

A street address is not required.

New York Sea Grant, a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the state’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

For updates on New York Sea Grant activities, visit or search its RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links.