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In case you haven’t noticed from all the Labor Day sale ads and numerous “going back to school” pics overwhelming your Facebook feed, summer is over. Well, not technically over. You’ve still got weeks until the real calendar start of fall, and lots of good weather between now and then, and perhaps even beyond. Still, there’s no denying the days are getting shorter, the temps beginning to cool, and the countdown has begun to that “last” ride of the season.
Looking to push things to the very last day possible? Here are some practical tips on how to safely extend your riding season long past the summer months.
Like it or not, you will be losing daylight hours as your extended season progresses. Plan accordingly. That means checking on what time the sun sets, and making sure you have time to get your ride in AND get back to the beach before sunset. Better yet, try to get back in advance of that setting ball of fire. Late afternoon/early evening hours are filled with glare, making you harder to see out on the water. That late afternoon cruise that was so much fun is now a time when you’ll blend in with the background, particularly if the paint job on your craft is dark.
Want to play it extra safe? Compensate by brightening up your clothing. Chances are you’ll need to add a light windbreaker, wetsuit, beanie or some other garb to combat the chill. Choose a color that stands out from the background. If you don’t want to invest in more pricey neoprene or lifejackets, look to other sports for affordable accessories. Both cycling and hunting gear both typically feature bold, bright colors. Consider adding a bright windbreaker to your wardrobe.
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While we’re talking about staying warm as the temps drop, realize that a watery environment can be a dangerous place as the mercury falls. Hypothermia – a drop in your body temperature – can be a real concern if you take a spill. Make sure you’re dressing not just for the heat of the day, but for the temps you may encounter toward the end of your ride as well.
Play it safe by stashing an extra jacket in your storage compartment. You may also wish to switch to a wetsuit or even a drysuit as the season progresses. Both are designed to maintain body heat in a watery environment, and are key to late-season riding.
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Don’t forget the all-important extremities. Neoprene shoes/booties, gloves, and even headgear will all become important additions to your wardrobe as you head further into the fall months.
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At the peak of summer there are plenty of other boaters out on the water to help in an emergency, but once summer ends the waterways become extremely quiet. Kids are in school, families have closed up their summer cottages, and vacation days have been spent. That quietness can be awesome when you want to enjoy the water without a crowd, but it can be dangerous should you encounter a problem and need help.
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Try to have a riding partner. The company not only makes the ride more fun, an extra person – and an extra boat – can come in handy. If you’re going out alone, make sure someone knows your plans. Leave a float plan, indicating where you plan to go, what hour you expect to return, and any other details that could come in handy should you run into trouble. To prepare yourself, consider bringing along a handheld VHF radio, make sure you have your cell phone charged and in a waterproof bag, and check your safety gear for signal devices like a mirror, flag, and flares. It may seem like overkill, but if you’ve ever been stranded on the water as the sun is going down, you know how scary it can be. Make like a scout and always be prepared.
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