Holidays Kayaking Tragedy

Duck hunter died Friday in a kayak incident. Body recovered today. No PFD, waders, frigid water, frigid air temps and high winds at time of the incident. All add up to a preventable death. Hate it for the deceased and family. Expecially around the holidays.

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YouTube link, the original link may get blocked.



Another excuse for the powers that be to regulate and make our paddling lives miserable.

After kayaking for 20 years I tipped for the first time 6 weeks ago not 25 feet from shore and was able to free myself from an underwater tree that flipped me thanks to a PFD and dry suit. The former because I was able to use my hands to exctricate the boat, paddle and my legs from the branches that had trapped me. The latter because I wasn’t cold, didn’t panic and could take my time. Maybe I am awesome enough I could have done it on my own without the safety equipment but a thorough intellectual analysis would reveal a much lower probability of success and a substantial chance for entanglement, panic and failure. That is 25 feet from shore within sight of a house people. It happened so quick I didn’t have time to react when I hit that underwater tree. WEAR YOUR SAFETY GAER INCLUDING PFD 100% OF THE TIME AND IMMERSION GEAR WHEN LOWER AIR/WATER TEMPS DICTATE (air+water temps F= or less than 120’)


Drain plug?

Sadly one bad choice in life and you’re out of here. Even crossing the street. God bless him.

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Accidents involving duck hunters are pretty common in RI. it is unfortunate that duck season here is in December and January when the conditions are dangerous. These guys often head out in small boats (sometimes paddle boats, but more often small motor boats) and try to go through challenging tidal conditions to get to prime hunting areas - no cold water gear, no PFDs. We had 2 deaths in 2014, but I always hear about a couple of accidents each year - bad time to be in the water.

Wonder why this guy was out in the middle of the lake - just trying to cross? To these guys boating/paddling is just a way to get to the good hunting spots. They don’t think about cold water safety like we do, nor are they likely to invest in expensive paddling gear.


In some places like Montana PFDs are not in fashion. People just don’t wear them much. What are in fashion for fishermen are chest waders. That is one of the worst combinations and very unsafe. It is common for salmon and steelhead fishermen to be out in the shoulder seasons and even in winter on the coast.

Hunters and fishermen in general are focused on their activities and not on the boating part. They are some of the worst offenders of general boating safety issues.

If you are going out in cold water any time of year, then wear a PFD, dress for immersion and practice rescues.


While all of us were taught the “120 rule”, some sources indicate that the major, or perhaps the only factor to consider is the water temperature. Several references on-line about this.
One reference:

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Agree in some sense, but even 45° water is insignificant if its shallow with a shore 20 ft away and the air tempersture is 95°. Beware words like never, always, only. Guidelines are guidelines.

I agree that there are many factors that may be relevant and that absolute statements are usually wrong.

But in your example of 45 degree water and 95 degree air temp 20 feet from shore you are assuming that people struggle (and don’t panic, and can swim) before drowning. Bad assumptions. Many times people simply go under and never come back up and 45 degree water makes it a perfectly plausible scenario. It’s almost instantaneous. I’ve experienced it as a lifeguard and it happens many times every year on our Lake Michigan beaches. The 3 folks that needed my help as a lifeguard were all within 10 feet of safety.


I don’t think 45 degree water is ever insignificant.
You can get pinned, you can get carried down stream in the current or lots of other things can happen and you will have the strength of a new born puppy in a short amount of time.

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I used to paddle close to shore in water in the 40’s wearing a farmer John, paddle jacket and pfd. Thinking all I’d need to do if capsized is stay warm enough just long enough to swim the boat to shore. Dry off, change clothes and it’s all good.

However as I’ve learned (from reading and thankfully not from experience) cold shock incapacitation (which gets worse as we age) and gasping reflex can occur in shallow water within arms reach of shore. One can lose use of hands soon followed by arms and legs within minutes.

So I stopped doing that.

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Hence the immortal line from the Heart of Darkness and repeated in Apocolypse Now . . . Don’t get off the boat!

Quint: "leven hundrid wen inta tha whater, three hundrid an sixteen came out . . . sharks tuk the rest . . . I’ll never put on another life jacket . . . Farewell and adieu to my fair Spanish ladies . . . or ever get in a kayak again.

60/60 that my mantra.