How the Environment Affects Boaters

All boaters are at the mercy of the environment. Many incidents occur on the water due to tunnel vision, lack of situational awareness, improper lookout, and distracted boaters.

Knowing and adapting to the environmental stressors can help mitigate risk for a safe day on the water (Reference 4.2). Environmental stressors that impact recreational boating include:

Sun, Wind and Glare

These are fairly simple to remedy by using common preventatives including sunglasses, UV clothing, sunscreen, windbreaker, and shade


Dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, fatigue, and poor judgement. It may also lead to severe health complications such as seizures, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, shock, coma, and even death. Ensure there is enough drinking water and non-alcoholic fluids to hydrate each individual on board for the duration of the trip or unforeseen circumstances. Alcohol consumption should always be avoided as it enhances and accelerates dehydration.


Fatigue can be caused by continuous exposure to environmental stressors, constant movement and vibration of the boat, and noise. Fatigue can impair judgment, reduced operating skills, and delayed reaction time which affect the safe operation of the boat. These conditions can be potentially life-threatening to the operator, passengers, and other boaters.

Heat Factors

Overheating (hyperthermia) can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Signs could include nausea, vomiting, confusion, fatigue, dizziness, extreme sweating. If overhearing is observed move to a cooler area if possible and seek medical attention if necessary.

Cold Factors

Both air and water temperatures are factors that influence survival in an emergency situation. Cold Water is defined as water temperature less than 70 degrees (F) Depending on the time of year and location, most areas should consider the risk of cold water immersion preparation, prevention and response.
There are four stages of cold water immersion, the first being cold shock, followed by swim failure, immersion hypothermia and then post immersion collapse.



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