cold water paddling

Could there be some discussion on cold water paddling concerns/tips beyond the clothing. For instance, I heard a concern about fellow paddlers having ice build up on their decks and difficulty dislodging extra paddle secured on deck. Feedback on awareness and safety issues.

I was paddling the Millers in central Mass weekend before last. In the afternoon the sun went behind the hills and we started getting ice forming on the boats. At the takeout I had to use hot water from my thermos to get my spare paddle free. Never did get my painters free. Glad I didn’t need them on the river.

Anybody got any ideas for keeping gear accesable in subfreezing temps?

Flame thrower anyone?


i went through this not too long ago…

– Last Updated: Jan-19-06 8:52 PM EST –

I went out for an early December paddle and the resulting experience led to a similar discussion among me and my paddling buddies. I posted the following on my club message board:

"Yesterday, we had a nice time over in Two Rivers for the annual NEW Sea Kayakers Christmas party. The day started with Ross, Lee, and myself heading over to Lake Michigan for a paddle. Air temperature was around 15 degrees and water temperature was about 33 degrees. It was COLD. After only about 5 minutes of paddling, our sprayskirts, paddles, and glasses were coated in ice. Heck it was so cold that I only managed to do about 3 rolls! When we were done with my paddle, my PFD zipper was frozen solid and I needed two other friends to loosen all my straps so that I could wiggle out of it. Good times.

I did have an interesting experience with the cold. Since my glasses kept freezing over because they were wet from rolling, I had to stop every few minutes to scrape the ice off them. Normally I'd simply set my paddle on my lap without a problem. What happened was that the ice covered paddle made contact with the ice covered tuilik/skirt and immediately slipped away. I looked up to see my paddle happily floating away. Now I have a pretty confident hand roll so I wasn't worried but that definitely could be a situation in which someone might be forced to wet exit if they capsized. Luckily Ross turned around and I was able to hand paddle over to my paddle while he looked out for me. I hadn't brought my spare as he had brought one and I took the risk that one spare would be all we needed for our small paddle. Of course since the spare was frozen solid upon the deck, I don't know how someone could have even accessed it while under water. It was interesting how extreme cold puts little challenges all over the place. Heck if my spray skirt got so frozen onto the coaming that I couldn't wet exit and my paddle was gone, my spare was frozen onto the deck, and I didn't have a hand roll, what would I do? My first instinct would be to pull out my knife and cut myself out but unfortunately my knife was frozen solid in it's sheath. Under those circumstances, I'd probably be a dead man. It's sobering to think that even with all our safety precautions, the extreme nature of the cold could still have put us in a tricky predicament. I definitely learned some things about cold water paddling yesterday."


Now the reality of the situation was that I was wearing a tuilik which isn't as tight on the coaming as a spray skirt. If I had a bomber fit rubber rand skirt, I would worry a little. However, even then, I believe that as soon as you flipped, the water (even though it is hovering near freezing) would soften the ice enough to loosen your skirt and free your spare paddle if need be. (I'm not volunteering to test that theory!) As for my knife, I don't think water would have been enough to loosen that up as it was frozen solid. Here's a picture of me shortly after the paddle trapped in my frozen PFD. The hand on my arm is one of my friends who was kind enough to melt the straps a little to loosen them to the point that I could wriggle out.

More Info

Here’s a little write up with some general thoughts