Cold water in central New Jersey

I posted in the fall and received plenty of great advice on winter paddling. This is just a little bit of where I am since then.
I purchased a Gortex Kokatat semi dry endurance suit and continue to kayak regularly on the D and R Canal. Usually my sessions are just about 1.5 hours just to get some exercise. Recently I’ve been reading more about cold shock and have come to the conclusion that for my regular routine hypothermia is not really a threat. I paddle from my car 10 minutes in one direction then back and the same in the opposite direction. Boring yes but it’s enough to satisfy the itch for me until warm weather returns. I’m never more then a 5 minute walk to the car and 25 feet from shore and certainly dressed for the water temperature. My biggest concern is being upside down and gasping or panicking. Admittedly I have not taken any safety courses but will do so when they become available. I’ve decided to mitigate this risk by sticking to my Pungo 120 which is much easier to exit with it’s basically open cockpit. Self rescue is not a huge concern as I would be perfectly happy to just float to shore and forfeit the Pungo in the unlikely event of a capsize.
I would like to try a wet exit in the cold. If anyone would like to form a group or setup a get together somewhere like Spruce Run or another location in Central NJ that would be great.

You are paying attention Flyjimmy. Going solo in the winter though still puts you at risk under some conditions. It would be best to paddle with at least one other person.

I agree. The problem is my wife bought me the dry suit for Christmas. I bought a neoprene hood and gloves from Amazon and charged some boots to my credit card from outdoor play. If only Amazon sold friends with flexible schedules I’d be all set.
For solo trips I stick to the canal. Still the danger increases but that’s the best mitigation I can think of. It’s also close to home.

My winter routine is very similar. I’m also happy to stay fairly close to home and just get out for some exercise, rarely over two hours. I wear a Kokatat semi-drysuit too (not the goretex one) and always wear my PFD. I go 2-4 miles upstream from my put-in/vehicle but could usually get back downstream in under an hour. I have a change of dry clothes in the boat with me and more in the car. I have a towel and extra hats and gloves too in case I get wet and need to warm up. I’ve got a water resistant phone in a waterproof container. I have more than one canoe and use the more stable ones in winter. I’m also alone and willing to take that risk. I’m just happy that it’s been a mild winter so far so the rivers are open.

Practice submersion at a shallow beach with someone near you. Even 3-4’ of water. What type of hood? I wear a kokatat balaclava it’s about 40 bucks. Protects your neck and I keep the hood on my kokatat drysuit up when waters below 60°F

Dry clothes do little if you have a GASP REFLEX. You should be prepared for full submersion if you in water where you can be submerged. Try wet exits in shallow water just roll over with a spotter. GASP can happen in 60° water.

I keep lots of clothes in the car as well. I’ve spent lots of time in cold water.

I have a NRS storm cap with the full neck. I’m looking forward to trying some wet exits and being fully submerged. I just need to find some others that are interested in meeting up. Hopefully there are some others in the general area with the same concerns. Im not overly concerned with rolling just the confidence to exit a boat once finding myself upside down in cold water and maybe fumbling through some self rescue in cold water.

Seems like much more neck protection than your NRS storm cap.

Thanks! I have the Storm cap.

If you have never practiced wet exits from your kayak, don’t start in cold water. Find a warm water pool or wait till warmer weather and try on protected water.

It may sound stupid but one thing you can do to habituate yourself to cold water immersion of the face is to fill up a deep sink with cold water using ice cubes if necessary and practice dunking your head repeatedly. This will also allow you to practice breath control and resist the urge for hyperventilation that occurs with cold water immersion.

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I know you have a cap it’s much different. Look at the protection of neck size on the kokatat there’s a huge difference. It protects the nape of you neck that gives you a GASP REFLEX Two oz. of water can drown you. Semi dry means water will come into your body it would not be my choice for water temps out there now.

To be clearer . I have the NRS storm cap with a neck I also have the one in your link but decided it wasn’t enough.

Just a small drip comes in the semi dry once it saturates the neoprene neck. I wouldn’t think it would be an issue unless staying submerge below the neck for long periods but I’m open to the conversation or I wouldn’t be here. What water temps would you find the semi dry good for.

One thing this summary doesn’t mention is that with an open boat your head is much less likely to fully submerge than a kayaker with a skirt if you tip over.

One other thing that could be practiced (perhaps in warmer weather) is exiting your boat and keeping your head above the surface. The buoyancy of the PFD will help.

See how semi dry suit keeps water out if you’re swimming in :ocean:

I have no intentions of swimming in surf. Not that I don’t appreciate the input but it really doesn’t apply to my situation.

The D&R canal is calm and sheltered, and only 4 or 5 feet deep. You should be fine.


All that said, the only time I’ve seen anyone fall out of a Pungo was when they were getting in or out. I have hit several underwater stumps in mine and other than some momentary excitement, I’ve never come close to falling out or capsizing.

I’m really not that concerned with capsizing the Pungo but I still wouldn’t go out on water 38f without being dressed for it. The one time that I did end up capsizing the Pungo was going over a log and getting stuck. I basically fell out and didn’t find myself upside down. This is the main reason I’ll stick to the Pungo for this winter until I have a chance to practice wet exits.

Thanks for the link. I’ve watched that several times and I believe the semi dry is good for the conditions I paddle in. I’m familiar with surf and cold open water from other sports and have no desire to be in those conditions anymore. I had an extremely bad experience when I was much younger with a dry suit that failed in rough conditions.