Cold snap poses additional risk for boaters across NSW

21 August 2020

Boaters across NSW are advised to take extra care with gale force westerly winds and a severe drop in water temperatures forecast from today until mid-next week.

Centre for Maritime Safety Director Peter Harvey said very cold conditions are forecast across most NSW waterways with extreme wind chill expected in exposed areas, with conditions deteriorating further due to rain, sleet or wet snow.

"Water temperatures across inland waters, rivers and estuaries in NSW are likely this weekend to be the coldest this winter," Mr Harvey said.

"Across NSW most of the estuaries, rivers and inland waters will have water temperatures below 15 degrees, and many inland waters will be down around 10 degrees. Ocean waters will be very cold as well with temperatures expected to range between 13 to 17 degrees along the coast."

Mr Harvey said cold water is a lesser-known but significant factor in boating fatalities and serious injuries in NSW, with almost 30 per cent of fatalities in the last 10 years linked to cold water.

"Just yesterday we had a tragic boating incident on the Mid-North Coast where cold water and hypothermia appear to be contributing factors," Mr Harvey said.

"Water below 15 degrees is considered dangerous but temperatures at that level and below are commonplace across NSW waterways at this time of year, and in alpine areas all year round.

"If you fall into cold water, cold shock can set in very quickly and you're at serious risk of hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperature. Wearing a lifejacket at all times will help – it can only save your life if you are wearing it."

Mr Harvey said waterways across NSW will generally be affected by large wind chop in exposed areas, and large powerful swells are likely to begin impacting coastal waters from late Sunday and continue well into next week.

"Southern coastal bars will be particularly affected by these conditions and the temperature in many alpine waterways is likely to be near-freezing with snow forecast," Mr Harvey said.

"Boaters are advised that due to the strong winds, exposed lakes and estuaries will be very choppy and likely dangerous for small craft."

Boaters heading out on the water are encouraged to log on and off with Marine Rescue NSW via app, marine radio or phone.

For more information on boating safety, visit our Maritime website.

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