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Kayaking in really cold water



  • Toller or "troller?"
    Just kidding.

    Look, as some notables have said above--Get a drysuit, or at least some reasonably priced drywear to go over that wetsuit. Also, a partner frome time to time, wouldn't be such a bad idea.

    I'm in upstate NY. I also own a couple Neckys. I've rolled, capsized, and swam just about everything from Class IV rivers(December thru March)to thin ice-cutting paddles on thawing windswept lakes.

    Send me an email if you want to safely partner-up sometime and take in water a little further from shore.

    If you live close enough, maybe I'll rendezvous with you...But if something sounds crazy--Maybe I won't;-.
  • Cold Water Immersion
    If you haven't seen the Cold Water Boot Camp video, take a look at the bottom of this article - http://www.nrsweb.com/services/newsletter/2011/rtneditor_0611c.asp

    Its focus is the importance of wearing life jackets, but it also reinforces the point of always dressing for the swim. There's a lot of good advice in this thread. Glad to see so many dialed into the need to stay safe while doing what we love to do.

  • Options
    You also need to realize that there are cases where small things get you in big trouble in a hurry. Maybe you bang up an ankle or something and instead of hustling out, you are doing a on-legged poling swim thing.

    I missed an eddy last weekend on a Class III, got flipped over above a drop, fell over and laded squarely on a rock which banged up my arm and shoulder blade, wasn't moving downstream and had to punch out. My safety guy missed a throw and I ended up swimming 50 yards in the rapid and another 50 in the washout.

    This was on an easy III run where I would normally not have any trouble at all. I wasn't planning to flip over on this trip, much less swim (last swim was 14 months ago on the Ocoee). I had on a drytop/wetsuit combo, so I was fine, but it goes to show how quickly one little thing can compound into a real situation.

    When you're thinking about paddling alone in cold conditions you need Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C and you need to practice them all in those conditions. You have Plan A and a fairly weak Plan B (lots of things might go wrong) that you haven't tried.

    I avoid paddling with those who refuse to take sound advice. I don't want to be around when your Plan B starts coming apart.

    Jim $0.02
  • winter paddling
    Paddle in December, dress for immersion. There is always a chance of capsizing. The scenario you describe, frequent paddling in winter with over confidence is exactly how people get dead.
  • Options
    Cold Water Cold Temps
    Fortunately, I have never dumped in cold water, but I have experienced hypothermia. On a cold winters day, in Washington State, I went fishing along the shore of a local river. It was 35 degrees and snowing lightly. After an hour and a half of fruitless fishing, I discovered that I could no longer work my reel and headed back to my car. I was wearing neoprene gloves. When at my car, I discovered that I could not remove my gloves, my hands being swollen and freezing. I got them off using my teeth, but it took a long time. Next, I discovered that I could not put my hand into my jeans pocket, so swollen were they, to get to my car key and being alone and in a remote spot had no one to help me. Finally, after a miserable hour of walking around, another car parked nearby and I then had to convince a skeptical fisherman to please put his hand into my pocket and get my key. That was a lesson in cold that I will never forget. It took sitting in my car for about 45 minutes before I could get my hands to work and I could drive home.
  • No solution to your cold hands?
    Your situation sounds like nothing I've ever heard of before, on account of your hands swelling up. It makes me wonder what else might have been physically wrong with you. Still, obviously your hands were extremely cold but it seems you spent that whole hour "walking around" but not making use of the warmth you carried within your clothes. Did you try to make your hands warm by putting them inside your clothing? Stick your hands inside your shirt - up under it from below if you can't work the buttons. Stuffing your hands down your pants is great too - it "sounds wrong" when I describe it - but it works wonders (it probably can't be done if you have a big belly though - in that case maybe put your hands right on your belly). Even if you are severely hypothermic, your body is still warm enough under your clothing to use as a heat source to get your hands working again (your hands can function quite well at a temperature that would kill you if the rest of your body were that cold, so yes, your body IS much warmer than your numb, functionless hands). You don't mention doing any such thing, and I have often heard of people with numb, nonworking hands making no effort whatsoever to warm them, so I figured it's worth mentioning.
  • Possibly Reynaud's
    sometimes extreme swelling happens. Sufferers usually have continuing difficulty with cold exposure.
  • In this case...
    Half of those replied didn't read the original post!

    "a car with heater running"?

    The OP has a HOUSE on the shore!

    Or they didn't read the rest of the thread when the OP provided additional clarification information:

    "Your hand will be useless for re-entry"?

    From the OP: "at 80' out, the water is 4' deep"!

    Unless the OP is shorter than 5', he can simply STAND UP, empty the boat by flipping it over, and cowboy back into it! No inflating paddle float, no pumping water out or any such nonsense. At most, it would take 30 seconds!

    And if after a couple tries (1 minute), he decides it's fruitless to get back in, he can simply swim/wade back to shore. 80' takes what? 3 minutes? 6 maybe? Certainly less than 10 minutes, which is quite doable for many people. Unpleasant maybe, but not debilitating.

    In college, I used to go swimming in 40 degree water once a week, wearing nothing but regular summer swim wear. It's not nearly as terrible as many here make it. Sure, it felt cold the first 30 seconds. But the body react to it and it felt almost toasty warm after that, at least for the next 5 minutes. We sometimes stay up to 10 minutes in the water.

    To the OP, the most valuable advices presented so far is TRY SWIM THE DISTANCE! You'll then know how long it takes FOR YOU, and how cold it feels TO YOU. Go back to the house, warm up and come out again in different sets of clothing to find out what difference they make and decide accordingly!

    Also scout the shore to make sure you can actually get on land from every point of the shore. You don't want to swim to shore only to find the vegetation is so thick you can't move through it. Or worse, a cliff bank you can't get out at all!

    As someone had pointed out, you have a plan A (not capsizing), and a weak plan B (swim to shore). Make that plan B solid by actually swimming it!

    I wouldn't "advice" anyone to do it or not do it. It's their own decision. They need to make it base on facts relevant to the particular individual at a specific circumstance, not some rigid one-size-fit-all rule, nor scaremonger rhetoric.
  • Options
    partly the point I made
    just try it but like any risky experiment have a safety net such as a rope to someone on the dock that can pull you in.

    The problem for many (not all) is both in the gasp reflex and how almost any action can be very hard. So just walking or swimming to shore can be harder than in warm water. Any kind of rescue that requires a bit of strength, dexterity or clarity of mind can also be a problem. Not for all but many, so experiment away. If all goes well you have that extra confidence and if it doesn't go well you know you need to make other arrangements.
  • You can forget that depth remark
    -- Last Updated: Dec-13-12 5:01 PM EST --

    With a high level of confidence, I call "bull" on that remark about the depth within 80 feet of shore. I attribute it to the obviously high level of defensiveness adopted by the OP. What lake exists where the depth within some certain distance of shore never exceeds a defined value? You'd have to be in a region of extremely flat topography for that to be true, and that can hardly be the case in Upstate New York. Even if it were true, the idea that a person could simply walk to shore and not get cold hands is bull too, at least in terms of such a blanket statement as yours. I know for a fact that without the right mittens, my hands would be numb within about a minute of the initial dunking and probably useless soon after, and I wouldn't be able to warm them up again without putting them someplace warm. Most people's hands are not as cold-susceptible as mine, but I'm hardly the only one who's like that either. Some of the cautionary advice was provided by people who's own experience gives them credibility. I see no need to take a reactionary stance about most of what's been said.

  • Guessing you haven't been hypothermic...
    As I found out, the time to be unable to help myself can be under 5 minutes. That was in temperatures much warmer than winter in upstate NY. I am not the only one who indicated that kind of actual experience. Your personal experience when you were younger is not necessarily going to apply for this individual, nor does it change what others have experienced.

    You are also not reading the OPer's posts well. Unless he said something in there that I missed, he has not indicated any habit or ability around an on-water re-entry. Your posit that he has an on-water option is not something I can see a basis for here.
  • Water depth in CNY
    Actually, Oneida lake, where I kayak extensively and used to scuba dive extensively easily fits the OP's description. Smack dab in the middle of NY state. There are MANY miles of shoreline where you can walk out well over 200 YARDS and not exceed 4' in depth. The lake is notorious for getting very rough very fast on the east end with a west wind blowing because of the bottom topography. It is approximately 23 miles long x 5 miles wide yet only has a max depth of 50' (and that is in one hole on the whole lake) and an average depth of 6'.
  • common sense?
    -- Last Updated: Dec-13-12 7:35 PM EST --

    "he has not indicated any habit or ability around an on-water re-entry. Your posit that he has an on-water option is not something I can see a basis for here."

    When you can stand up, there's no need for any "technique", aka ability, for re-entry! Just stradle the boat and get in!!!

    Besides, it doesn't really matter. If the re-entry doesn't happen, just swim or wade ashore.

    That's my whole point: all the crap people throw around doesn't apply in this case!

    "As I found out, the time to be unable to help myself can be under 5 minutes.
    Your personal experience when you were younger is not necessarily going to apply for this individual"

    By the same token, nor does your personal experience necessarily apply to this individual either!

    The OP should try his "rescue options" himself. Simple as that.

  • Yeah, I found a map of that lake
    -- Last Updated: Dec-13-12 8:24 PM EST --

    It is a shallow lake, and considering its size it's extremely shallow, with very gradual slopes, so I'd say you are correct. However, at a glance, I'd estimate the average depth to be more like 20 feet, rather than just six. I'd like to see if the surrounding topography matches the character of the lake bottom. I suspect that "getting rough very fast" is more due to the tremendous size (very long fetch) than the bottom, since shallow water tends to restrict wave size, except at locations where the waves first enter the shallower water, but maybe there are localized areas where the bottom shape makes things rougher. Since the OP's lake is extremely deep, I'm still expecting the overall topography to be irregular, even if not steep on average, but I guess we can't know unless we learn its identity.

  • And that is what everyone has said
    The posit that the person should test out his tolerance was said above again and again. I am not sure what is gained by your saying it with an attitude that other who said it were off base because they had a basis in personal experience.

    As to the re-entry, you suggested it as a first option. The OPer has only spoken of swimming.
  • .
    "As to the re-entry, you suggested it as a first option. The OPer has only spoken of swimming."

    I didn't suggest it "as a first option", it was suggested by other posters.

    I was merely pointing out it was much easier when the water is only 4' deep!
  • 250 feet deep
    Humm the lake at its deepest is 250 feet according to OP. That's a deep lake. I did read the post above about a lake in middle of NY that is shallow along shore but this lake the OP talks about doesn't sound anything like that kind of shallow lake. Not sure how anyone would know its only 4 feet deep along the entire paddle a person would be doing in a lake that is that deep in the middle. I sure would like to know what lake the OP refers too. He is basing his ability to get out of the water on the water ONLY being 4 feet deep. But "WHAT IF" its actually 6 feet deep if and were he goes over? Then what? I wouldnt rely upon it always being shallow. I would at least find a comfy wet suit.
  • what I wonder
    -- Last Updated: Dec-14-12 12:03 PM EST --

    How does a still body of water in upstate NY stay unfrozen all winter long along the 4' deep shoreline?

    Now I'm thinking of getting iced-in. It doesn't matter as much how deep the water is if you're iced in or out - you're going to get wet.

  • That's a good point too
    The lake won't stay open, consistently anyway, where it's shallow. There will be a "tendency" for the shallows to stay open on account of the fact that the water of various temperatures (and different densities) in the deep areas won't simply stay "stacked like building blocks", but will spread out over a bigger area, but surely a lot of the shallow areas will freeze-up solid.
  • Options
    Don't do it
    If you fall into 35 degree water with no wetsuit your life expectancy will be about five minutes. I own wetsuits but I don't paddle once the water temps drops much below 50 even if the air temps are warm unless i am in water so shallow I can walk to shore if the boat capsizes.
  • LOL
    While you were posting this.. my pal and I were out paddling. Or trying to paddle. The river was open..but the cove we were in was frozen with a one inch thick layer of ice. The water was about four feet deep..

    It was a lot of work to break through the 100 feet to open water. We thought of just jumping on the ice...:)!! Even with a drysuit on that seemed just unappealing..
  • another thing to add
    All this is really up to the individual. This weekend after listening to others I dressed far to warmly. Had to go to shore and Remove the dry pants and splash top and swim for a while. From now on I'll swim first an do a self rescue before going out in a new place or in a temperature that I haven't swum in a while.

    Other things that affect my cold water response:

    Eating - If I eat a giant breakfast with lots of eggs and fruits and veggies, I am warmer all morning. If I eat a granola bar or something I'm not as warm.

    Amount of sleep - I'm cold when I'm tired or sleepy. I've notice that I feel a little colder every night at bedtime, It is like a signal to get under the covers.

    Tension or stress - I feel much warmer after the first couple swims or soakings. I think it is the relief in knowing that I am dressed OK for the conditions.

    As a sit on top paddler it is usually easy for me to dress for the water and splash to cool off. But with a helmet on and while trying not to slow down a group, it is harder to cool off on the move.
  • Options
    Physiological Considerations factor in
    Some of us do actually do it, know it, and try to help
    - backing it up with references and life experience.

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