Below freezing - Concerns/observations:

Took a break from work today at 4pm to canoe on the city pond today. It was 36 F when I started and about 30 when I finished about 5:30pm.

  1. Boat froze to grass while I was emptying it of gear, sponging out water and wiping down hull. First time for that.

  2. Straps on mukluks didn’t loosen up too easily because they had gotten wet and were frozen stiff. This could be a bit of a safety issue if they fill up with water and you can’t get them off. I hadn’t thought about the mukluk straps freezing, though I’ve had frozen tie down straps on the boat on the car top several times.

  3. Ice covered gunwales slide on to rack more easily than usual.

    I usually don’t paddle in below freezing temperatures.

So what advice do you want?
I see you don’t mention your fingers. That’s usually the first body part that calls for attention for me.

Maybe you did give advice. I wussed out at six degrees. Its hard to get started then. Easier to finish then.

Sweet isn’t it?
Seems like most of my canoe trip involve cold. Keeps the bugs down and not so many red necked bi-peds around.

Some thoughts
I don’t imagine myself ever removing my boots in an emergency. Paddling boots with top straps don’t collect all that much water when submerged that you’d notice it while swimming. Stick an open plastic bag under water and note that you can let all the air out to cause water to flow in, but the volume of water collected that way is really small unless you actually force the water in somehow, a process which can’t occur when boot tops are strapped shut (water leaks by the straps until all the air is out but water can’t be “powered” into the boot past that semi-tight seal to puff them out). However, if for some reason you DO want to take them off while or after swimming, half a minute of swimming will thaw them, since the water you are swimming in is warmer than the freezing point. You can use the same trick for convenience too, so if you want to get your boots off, just stand in shallow water for about a minute and all that ice that caused the boots to be “locked to your feet” promptly disappears. You might need to thaw them that way all over again to get them laced up when you put them back on though.

I’ve seen the ice-slick rack too. It’s a good reason to use good tie-down technique, and gunwale blocks of some kind (I make my own) are great too.

One thing that’s tough to deal with is wet ropes that freeze after your boat is tied to the roof. Gosh they are hard to untie, especially if your fingers go numb as quickly as mine do!

I suspect
I suspect the frozen muklucks, if filled with water, would not be frozen. The process of filling with water (submerging them ) would likely defrost the frozen laces (water being above freezing temperature, or it would be ice).

Just a guess - not something this Californian has to deal with…

Below freezing
We paddle all winter (Michigan).

My mukluks have straps too, but I’ve never had reason to tighten them - they stay on fine without bothering to tighten. If they did freeze, they would easily release if submerged. The only real concern is to be properly dressed. Wet suits OK, dry suits superior.

Watch out for that ice
I think it was the only time paddling ever stopped being fun. It was cold and the wind was blowing 25-30. The wind kept me pinned in some mud flats. I was in a fix, but that’s not why I write.

There was a lot of spray flying, and everything got kind of icy. When I finally got to the landing, I threw the boat up to my shoulders and it about crushed me. Ice had accumulated on the boat. I knew there was ice but wasn’t expecting the extra weight. So, watch out for that!


I paddled once
in below freezing weather. Problem I ran into was that I had put the keys to my car and my cell phone in my deck bag. With the latches frozen solid, I couldn’t get it open. Luckily, I remembered my cold weather survival stuff and had drunk a lot of water.

It’s handy that urine is warm.

Some friends of mine said that they didn’t ever want to borrow my deck bag.

Didn’t happen, but came close once…

Early spring day, the river was flowing smoothly without many chunks, air temps maybe in the low 40s, mild winds, cabin fever - must paddle. Took off with a bud in my lightweight tandem for a short paddle.

Got a little stiff after maybe five miles, about halfway through, as happens to old guys kneeling in the cold.

Got out on an island for a leg stretch. The island was mostly a big sandbar still covered in ice/consolidated snow maybe six or eight inches thick, so landing involved stepping up on a ledge but over water that was shallow. We got out without incident and slid the boat up on the ice maybe fifteen or twenty feet from the water. That’s much higher than I usually leave a boat in warmer weather. We then set off to “walk out” some of the kinks.

We’d gone maybe a hundred or so feet when we heard a weird noise - not the terns, geese, breeze in the trees, flowing water… kind of a raspy sound. Turned around to see the very slightest of breezes was blowing the boat down the island over the ice toward the open water at the end. The boat was accelerating. A pretty serious foot race with an inanimate object ensued.

I won, but there is a lesson in this. You really really want to keep your boat in cold weather. If we’d have had to swim the channel and hike out it could have “turned epic” really quick. The water was barely liquid, the air wasn’t exactly balmy, and even after getting to shore it would have been several miles of bushwhacking to get to a road which may or may not have had a car on it. It could easily have been a month before anyone else came that way by water.

Always take a painter in the cold. Keep it dry. Stake or tie your boat to a tree EVERY time you step away from it on ice. Even if only a few feet. It takes very little wind to blow a boat away, it happens fast, the consequences could be really ugly.

Homemade Gunwale Blocks
Would you elaborate please? Sounds like something I might want to incorporate into my strapology.

Funniest thing ever
Your quote is one of the funniest things ive read

“It’s handy that urine is warm.”

It means so much more when you’re talking about getting your gear out of an iced up bag…

good to consider

– Last Updated: Nov-28-12 3:01 PM EST –

Benign but a nuisance nonetheless. Kayamedic has a good point also re: reduced finger dexterity - add that to gloves and things can get difficult to grip or grab. I've had my bungies freeze to the deck also, and my hatches lose a bit of flexibility.

My rule of thumb is that everything takes a bit longer in colder weather.

Something else to consider as ice forms, is that wind can open and close open water routes, and block your previously open route back to the launch.

Mukluks and Kneeling Pads

– Last Updated: Nov-28-12 7:29 PM EST –

I paddle quite a bit in winter. Thank Heavens for a good kneeling pad in freezing weather. Keeps you from sliding around. Even if you don'k kneel, use one and put it where your feet go to keep you from sliding around.

As for Mukluks filling up Dave, don't worry about it. Unfortunately, I have a penchant for swimming fully clothed with Mukluks on in the wintertime. Anyone can dump a canoe and go for a swim when it's 90 degrees, but REAL men swim when Jack Frost has settled into the landscape (LOL)! I'd have to sit here and think how many times I've swam with them on, Dave, but they are NOT going to fill with water and weight you down. They may get a little wet inside, even that water will warm up to a warmer temp than outside.

As for boats, I always like to paddle one with a lot of stability this time of year to decrease the time I spend swimming. Doesn't always work, but I find that when I'm dressed a bit more bulky I tend to have more "Balance" issues.

As for clothing, layers. I add and subtract and add back again. You adjust more often to keep from sweating. And I always dress for a possible swim. Just ask Wally, Bob, or Boyscout and they can elaborate why (LOL)!

You were with me last winter?
No one has mentioned when you run on an ice shelf and it breaks on you… I wound up almost tilted over…some of the ice broke on one side of the boat and not the other…not the time for a dumping…

My mukluks filled with near freezing
water a couple Decembers ago during an out of boat experience and after just a few minutes of standing in chest deep water with the boat, I was getting greatly concerned about hypothermia just from the water in my mukluks - it never started warming up.

Everything else stayed dry inside and I warmed up quickly after getting on shore and removing the mukluks, dumping them and wringing out the wool socks and putting it all back on.

My mukluks don’t seal well around my skinny calves when against slick nylon type material.

Fortunately, the air temp was about 50 F, so there wasn’t any freezing to be concerned with when out of the water or when my feet were bare.

To Thaw Out Mukluk Fasteners…
…or anything else “Frozen stuck,” put it in the water. If the water is liquid, it will thaw it out. Learned that from fishing below freezing in the winter. Just Can’t imagine those Mukluks getting that much water in them?

I almost got boxed in

– Last Updated: Nov-29-12 1:29 PM EST –

A few years ago I was paddling on a local river impoundment. Little movement on the water, beautiful sunny day with hardly a breeze. As I was returning to the put-in I noticed things looked completely different, and I had to sprint to beat the moving ice from boxing me out.

I've gotten my bow caught as you describe, not quite as bad - in my case the floe didn't break. Still a scary experience!

Thermoses (plural)

– Last Updated: Nov-29-12 4:06 PM EST –

A long time ago I went winter kayaking with
an old timer, a senior seasoned paddler.
For lunch he pulled out 3 thermos bottles.

I chuckled and ribbed him claiming if he drank
all that stuff he would be peeing in his dry suit.

He smiled as he grabbed the first one and asked me
"you going to pour your chili on your hatch to open it"
as he poured hot water and easily removed his hatch.
He also poured a bit on an exposed Pelican Case
so he could open it for his camera.

He then took the 2nd thermos, poured some plain hot
water in a cup, added soup mix, and stirred.
Another cup was filled and tea bags went into it.
We ate lunch and enjoyed the sunshine.

Then the 3rd thermos came out.
Okay old timer, "now what" I asked ?
He said "watch this" and poured the whole thing
over his neoprene booties, and warmed his feet.

He smiled and mentioned to me;
"have fun washing the chili out of that thermos".
"Keeping just hot water makes it real easy for me."

Now it's the 3 thermos rule for me, every time.
Quick, simple, effective, and well worth it.

My gunwale blocks

– Last Updated: Nov-30-12 2:26 PM EST –

So far, I only use gunwale blocks when using my two-boat-wide cross bars, which are made from 2x4s. Each block is a piece of 1" x 1" angle iron that's long enough to overlap the width of the 2x4. On the bottom side of the 2x4 is a flat steel plate of the same length as the piece of angle iron. Bolts are welded to the angle iron, pointed down, so that they line up with matching holes in the flat plate and clamp the whole device to the 2x4 (the bolts are welded for convenience only, but it's a really big convenience allowing one-handed installation in that hard-to-reach area between the two canoes). One nice feature is that the contact surface can be set at different angles to match the angle of the gunwale, so unlike factory-built blocks, there's a flat surface-to-surface contact instead of just one sharp edge of a flat surface in contact with the gunwale.

Steel isn't such a good contact surface for gunwales, so for padding, there's a piece of clear plastic tubing bolted to the vertical surface of the angle iron. That tubing has a piece of rope inside to keep it "cushy" instead of getting squashed flat, and the bolts heads holding the ends of the tubing to the metal are covered by short sections of split plastic tubing so they can't mar the gunwales (though the rope-padded section of tubing stays thick enough to keep the bolt heads away from the gunwales).

When carrying a single boat I use my standard round bars, and instead of gunwale blocks I make use of auxiliary lengthwise bars on each side of the rack as anchor points for loops of rope that serve to "pull" the hull both to the right and left, making the boat immovable between them. If I were to use gunwale blocks on round bars, I'd use something incorporating U-bolts. I'd probably use a rectangular block made from 1.5-inch square tubing (steel), having a pair of slotted (or maybe just over-sized) bolt holes to accept the ends of the U-bolt. Slotted or over-sized holes would make it possible to set the blocks at various angles matching the curve of the gunwales. I'd install gunwale padding the same way as described above.

With either type of block (the type I made for 2x4s or the type I would make for round bars), a person could make at least 50 of them for the same cost as a set of them from from Yakima or Thule, and making a set of 4 doesn't take very long if you have the tools.

that’s a good idea…
…where was he carrying them?

I’d imagine if in the cockpit, with spray skirt on, they’d make for a pretty cozy perch.