Oneida Lake kayak incident

Can’t get to link. Experienced doesn’t mean your smart. If you’re that cold in 90 minutes you did something very wrong. Your experience doesn’t give you good judgement.

By Anne Hayes |

An experienced paddler was stuck in cold Oneida Lake waters for around 90 minutes before a passing boat rescued him from potential hypothermia this past week.

Bob Raymonda, 62, wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably nice weather Wednesday and take a trip to Oneida Lake. He decided to attempt a solo 16.5 mile downwind paddle in his new Epic V9 kayak.

Raymonda has more than 30 years of paddling experience. He has been a marathon paddler since 2017, racing in the New York Paddlesports Racing Association. He is a 2018 gold medalist in the United States Canoe Association Marathon Nationals. Most recently he completed a 90-mile race where he placed first in his age group.

Raymonda’s boat is called a surf ski - it is 19 feet long only about 19 inches wide and weighs 26 pounds.

Knowing that any solo paddle can be dangerous, Raymonda shared his planned route with his wife and told her what time to meet him at the finishing point. He also took his phone with him so she could track him while he was on the water.

After setting out he was enjoying the waves and making quick progress. However, Raymonda said he underestimated how strong the wind was and how large the waves would be further along his route.

He was struggling to stay close to the shore as waves were beginning to push him to the middle of the lake. At times he was more than a mile away from shore, he said in a Facebook post.

Raymonda’s boat was also fairly new and is unstable, increasing the risk of tipping over, he said.

He shared his story on several Facebook groups to warn people of the dangers that even the most experienced kayakers face, he said.

Bob Raymonda
Bob Raymonda after completing the Adirondack Canoe Classic, also known as the Adirondack 90-Miler that goes from Old Forge to Saranac Lake.
In his post, Raymonda acknowledges mistakes he made during his attempt to kayak the 16.5 miles downwind on Oneida Lake by himself. He wanted his experience to serve as a cautionary tale to other paddlers.

He said his biggest mistake was his own pride. He wanted to prove that he could face his fear of capsizing in his new boat.

“My insanely stupid bravado could have cost me my life,” he said in his post.

Just under an hour and a half into the paddle, at around 2 p.m., Raymonda’s kayak tipped over, dumping him in the water. The waves were too large for him to get back into the boat, he said.

Raymonda was not wearing a wetsuit and did not bring a safety whistle, another mistake he said. Without the wetsuit, he had to keep moving to try to stay warm.

Luckily, he has capsized near the state South Shore Fishing Access boat launch but he was still far from shore. While still tethered to his boat, he attempted to swim toward shore. Unfortunately, the boat was pulling him back out every time he made progress swimming.

Raymonda had a life vest so he was not worried about sinking, he said. However, with low water temperatures, he knew there was a possibility that hypothermia would set in.

The Oneida Lake water temperature this month is about 55 degrees, according to an online site that tracks lake temperatures.

At that temperature, a person can start to lose dexterity in 10 to 15 minutes, according to several hypothermia charts. A person can become exhausted or unconscious in one to two hours and can die if in the water longer.

Hypothermia can affect the brain making the victim unable to think clearly, according to the CDC. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because victims cannot process what is happening or how to help themselves. Hypothermia is often caused by submersion in cold water, according to the CDC.

Raymonda said that if he had been thinking about how seriously the hypothermia could affect him, he would have been in a panic. By keeping that out of his mind he was able to stay calm and focus on finding help, he said.

Raymonda had his phone with him but with the waves constantly moving him around he was worried he would drop the phone if he tried to call for help, he said.

Since he was so close to a boat launch, he saw several boats pass by him, he said. Unfortunately, he was so low in the water it would be difficult for passing boats to see him.

Raymonda continued to try to swim and wave boaters down for 90 minutes. Clouds were covering the sun and he was getting colder by the minute, he said.

Finally a couple in a boat passed near him and a woman onboard saw him waving.

The two people helped Raymonda onto the boat and he was able to call his wife and tell her what happened. He said that before they rescued him, he was doubting how much longer he could continue swimming.

Raymonda was almost too cold to speak and could only thank his rescuers with a handshake and a wave.

He is very thankful that he was able to return to shore safely and chose to share his story on Facebook as a way to help other boaters learn from his mistakes.

Since he made the post on Thursday, he has received over 1,000 responses. He is overwhelmed with the support he has received for sharing his story and hopes that he will be able to prevent a similar incident from happening to someone else.

The Epic V9 pictured is 19 feet long and only around 19 inches wide.
Raymonda took his new Epic V9 kayak on Oneida Lake for a 16.5 mile downwind paddle Wednesday. Provided by Bob Raymonda
Staff writer Anne Hayes covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, a story idea, a question or a comment? You can reach her at

He was in the 55 degree water for 90 minutes

A primary reason we avoid Oneida lake is its penchant for very disorganized choppy conditions(shallow lake prone to chaotic wave patterns with very high boat traffic). I crossed it once to safety escortBill Quick(the kayak guy) on his journey through the canal system. Def best early morning with optimal forecast

Got to read it this time. He’s a total moron. Lucky he’s not on a morgue table.

Posted the same thing on Strictly sea kayaking on FB. They didn’t like what I said which was the same as here. He is a member there. Sorry going out like he did I’ll stand by my statement.


Indeed. I’m sure glad he is safe, but I don’t understand how a boater with so much experience could make this kind of mistake.

I had to stop reading reddit because so many paddlers there refuse to take advice about cold water and dressing for immersion.


When I crossed that lake with Bill, it was July iirc, and I still insisted that we start early and believe we were underway by 6am. It builds very quickly on that lake.

Odd that he was not properly dressed for immersion, or equipped with a whistle or other signaling devices Especially considering he was solo on a new boat that he wasn’t completely in tune with yet


Yes to all of this. A cascade of outright errors in judgement that quite frankly have no excuse. I’m glad he lived to tell the story, and I hope people that hear it learn from it. Thanks for posting it here


We all screw up. That doesn’t make us stupid or careless, just human.


I appreciate that he has been willing to share his story so that we may all be reminded how quickly small things caa ask add up to be big ones


I agree with this. My (wild) guess is that he was excited about his new boat and it clouded his judgement in dangerous ways.

1 Like

Two guaranteed judgment clouders for males.
Women and cool new toys. We’re really in trouble if a woman is perceived as a toy.
I say that based on my aging memory.


55F water = drysuit for me, especially for a distance paddle solo.


I saw this on a FB group. Biggest single factor seemed to get short shrift in those responses and maybe here too.
The guy went out disregarding the wind and the likely amount of waves the wind combined with fetch would create. The remaining issues of getting pushed away from shore (paddling skill in conditions) and being underdressed became critical because of that initial mistake. Which happened before he launched.

This really became sea kayaking decisions. And while the 90 miler is a prodigious race that attracts outstanding paddlers, it is not quite sea kayaking.


His multiple decisions were not a mistake or error. They were choices he made knowingly. We could all say I forgot something. He believed his own press. It was just reckless. Glad he made it.

He was not dressed at all for water conditions. No wetsuit so in 55°F it’s insane. My no gear paddles end at 65° in conservative circumstances. I drag my hand in the water and day imagine my whole body submerged even for 5 minutes. No thank you.


Ultimately he admitted he screwed up.
Those of us that have the experience to know just how bad it could have been, it’s a great reminder to not slack on the safety.
Let’s use this to teach those that don’t have the experience and not turn it into an insult/bash fest.
It’s easy to insult, it takes some effort to educate.


He’s not inexperienced by a long shot. Can’t open the article now. Kayaking 32 years it said?

Didn’t want to use his phone because he was afraid he’d lose it? Money for a new epic but none for communications and a host of other things he should of had like even a dollar whistle? God bless he survived but no sympathy from me at all.

Raymonda was not wearing a wetsuit and did not bring a safety whistle, another mistake he said. Without the wetsuit, he had to keep moving to try to stay warm.

You lose more body heat by swimming in water cold water. Not even a CG certified pfd. He didn’t have much more he could have done wrong.