Sudden Spring Weatherturn Takes 2 Lives

Casual kayakers got caught
Just saying every time I see the news reports on tragedies like this they always seem to say experienced kayakers yet that is rarely the case. This group were casual kayakers. I run into them all the time. No experienced kayaker go into 49 F water with cotton on.

The video from the tandem to me looked like maybe 2 foot waves if that. Windy for sure. Lake Erie near me is right around 33F and opening up from ice nicely now, so iam sure some more will go out in the coming next month on a nice 75F air temp day for a paddle in shorts and a t shirt. So more stories to come. And iam sure the news will say experienced kayakers again. Lets hope no more die.

March and April are not the “new” Novemb
Where did you come up with that erroneous soundbite?

March and April are capricious in not only western WA but also much of the U.S. It is a transitional time with frequent days of high wind, downpours (or snow), chilly temps, AND spiky warm days.

Seattle is well inland from the Pacific, as hammahamma pointed out. Please get your facts straight before posting what sounds catchy.

Typical PT Leader unresearched statement about Dungeness Spit being considered suitable for beginners. It is…with the huge caveat that the church group discovered…Suitable for beginners IF weather doesn’t kick up.

April Variations
Funny, I was just thinking about that very thing today. I remember one year when I was in high school when the weather had been quite warm for a while and the box elders were fully flowered on April 15. I remember another April 15 just a few years later when it had been nothing but cold, and leftover winter ice was still piled 12 feet high on the shore of one of the local lakes. That’s like a 6-week difference in seasonal weather on the same day of different years.

You missed a lot of
what I meant by taking that literally.

It’s also still Pacific Ocean water, and it is h*lla colder than anything on the East Coast you find on a swimming beach or in a nice recreational bay fed by the Atlantic, even at at higher latitudes. It is also stunningly colder than many inland water recreational areas, obviously.

I’m not going to emphasize how sheltered, tame and inland this sort of place seems to be, when the higher spring temperatures we are experiencing can lead to a false sense of trust and security that the weather won’t do a “November.”

I grew up (fortunately) just off nice, swimmable water, it wasn’t lethal if anyone fell in, except in winter, and had to be taught by my parent that grew up out here on the other coast that it is not the same everywhere. I almost cry when I read this stuff because these people did not have the fortune of having a step parent who was a good swimmer, that made them take cold water swimming lessons which helped get that notion engraved into their heads that extra- cold water is miserable and dangerous. Boy, did that change my and my sibling’s attitudes. I think one of the victims of this tragedy was a water aerobics instructor- and I will bet they were an EXCELLENT swimmer compared to me - but they didn’t have their usual kayak and thought the sea kayak they took instead was safer.

There had to be some groupthink thing going on there, but again, want to emphasize, we all have done things we wished we didn’t and most of the time it is okay in the end, in spite of ourselves, and I’m not calling them anything, but in the future, people, please check the NWS weather updates, and wear the right things.

If I keep on repeating that one can’t swim safely without extra “water suits” in the Northern Pacific Ocean water off the West Coast, because the human body can’t hack water in the 40º’s, and water in the 50’s also is miserably dangerous and can kill you quickly, sooner or later somebody who needs to read it, will. It doesn’t matter how well you “think” you can swim or get back in the kayak. It just “is.”

"…March and April are capricious in not only western WA but also much of the U.S. It is a transitional time with frequent days of high wind, downpours (or snow), chilly temps, AND spiky warm days…"

Central Wyoming on Tuesday: mid 70s, sunny & breezy.

Central Wyoming on Wednesday: low 30s and snowing steadily.

Water temps both days: upper 40s.

We’re all in between swims. Cold water survival calls for a dry suit.

Atlantic water temperatures

– Last Updated: Apr-16-15 9:00 AM EST –

Not everyone lives in Florida... Maine water temps are very comparable to the PNW. We have been going to the midcoast region each summer for over 20 years, and it is only in the last few that we have seen water break into the 60's in July in back to back years. The temperature to be dressed for in case of a swim runs 57 to 59 degrees even in August.

Many people do agree with your assessment of the water for swimming - those who want to do beach bathing cluster on the very lower edge of Maine where there is sand rather than rocks and shallow bays that heat up quite decently in July and August. But we are talking about paddling here, not swimming, and the best paddling to be had is further northeast where the water temps are as I indicated and there are lots of islands to hop between.

I appreciate that the paddling in the PNW has its own character, and that is challenging. But if you run a line east to west across the country and checked water temperatures you would see that latitude and nearness to the major ocean current trumps what ocean you are in. The North Pacific current in the PNW area, similar to the Gulf Stream in most of Maine, is not exactly hugging the shoreline. The North Pacific current may be carrying cooler water when it takes its first major bend opposite the US coastline than the Gulf Stream when it bends out, but if they are far enough from where people are likely to be in kayaks both Maine and the PNW are going to get fewer favors than South Carolina or southern California.

Maine of course gets slightly shorter days of sun due to latitude, but the bigger difference between that and New Jersey is the Gulf Stream. In fact it can be very close in New Jersey, and is the reason for traditionally good bluefish fishing from the beach when they are running and the Gulf Stream has come in close.

interesting. what about post-trauma?

– Last Updated: Apr-16-15 11:39 AM EST –

That's an interesting story. I've heard of a similar technique used in moments of trauma, for example, immediately after a car accident (or capsize). The idea is to clear your head by briefly concentrating on deep breathing, reducing your heart rate, then calmly assessing the situation - before reacting. Those experienced in TM particularly seem to have an ability to calm themselves and clear their minds with one breath.

I was told to try it and to check my heart rate after each instance to gauge the results. But I don't go around looking for trauma...;)

The Labrador Current ( yes the current of icebergs though they never get here) cuts below the Gulf Stream and thats what you find closest to shore in The Gulf of Maine.

Whale watching boats take advantage of the two currents about twenty miles out where they sit side by side and hence the feeding grounds are. So you see the Gulf Stream is a ways out from where most kayakers go here.

Somewhere there is a link to local buoy conditions. Before we go out in June to the Stonington area I better find it.

We are going to Florida in May.

Bath time can happen to anyone anytime. We all dumped on a windy day last fall in the New Meadows River. The drysuits gave us thinking time. (Even though we hemmed and hawed before launch about wearing them on a nice day that turned out to have a howling wind)

In our case it was tidal currents that did us in.

but pika is right
The water temps on the NE coast and upper great lakes are in fact comparable to those in WA. And the tides can make ME paddling pretty hairy.

Completely agree regarding swimming aptitude and experience in cold water. It teaches you confidence but also, as you mention, respect for conditions.

Ok, I have succeeded in getting both
the upper midwest and eastern contingents to agree that their Water Is Really Cold - or Even Colder Than the Pacific Northwest Water! It is even colder than my local CA river water fed by Sierra snowmelt and the SF Bay water 2 hours away. Yours is colder. Are you happy ?


Now all I have to do is point out that suburban and coastal Seattle area weather (north of where I am) has WARMER winter temperatures resulting in LESS snow and ice than the midwest and New England coast in Maine, and therefore its inhabitants, who mostly experience “just rain with maybe 1 snow-day” in winter, MIGHT construe this to mean that their water is warmer and safer than it is.

If they don’t see much snow and their water never freezes, they may interpret that to mean their water is warmer than it is when they go out and play on it.

Look at the chart on the right. Very Mediterranean in Seattle. Doesn’t freeze much and they don’t run an A/C too much, compared to a lot of other cities in the USA.

Lately, here, we have had both record high temperatures in the high 80ºF ‘s and then night time lows in the 30º’s F. (this week we have just had really cold daytime wind out of the north, when our rare north winds tend to be blast furnace hot and “trouble” in the summer) When there is that much swing between daytime highs and lows, with a fast rise in temperatures after sunrise, I really think something biological is going on with how we behave towards the threat of being accidentally “too cold” after lunchtime.

I am so used to the sunset drop in temperatures we get, that I am suspicious when it stays warm, instead, because that indicates to me it might be higher fire danger the next day.

Now, all I have to do is get people thinking - if you are outside in late winter or early spring, and it got so warm that morning you feel like it’s summer, and you’re gettin’ laid back after your picnic, DON’T GET COMPLACENT about the water temperatures.

All it takes is sun

– Last Updated: Apr-16-15 4:04 PM EST –

I wish that warm balmy weather was what was required to lull unprepared people onto the water, but we had an incident on the Hudson River just this last Saturday that indicated you don't even need that.

We had open water near the launches finally, and a quite nice sun but with truly blustery and chilly wind. To an increasingly scrawny aging female like me it was not great kayaking weather weather even with the dry suit etc, but I am getting lazy. A couple of fellow paddlers were out that day and noted it would have been a lot nicer on Sunday.

But cold wind aside, the sun was out so a couple of people went out in kayaks wearing lightweight clothing and at least one of them capsized. They were wearing PFDs so one made it to an island, the other one was found still hanging onto his kayak though he had to be held for a bit for hypothermia. The dog that saved the day, happily for the paddlers, also was wearing a PFD and was the reason that they were rescued. He managed to make it to the shore with civilization and found a fireman who was out for a walk. Golden Retriever named Alex, what a good boy!

Every area has some combination of factors that make for imprudent decisions when it comes to outdoor activities, even if they aren't exactly the same. It is more of a people problem than a geographic one. Heck only knows what the long term solution is, probably one that no one here would like.

The Saco River around here is almost always benign. So when it does flood there is always someone who needs to be rescued.

It takes experience sometimes to learn… Hard way to get lessons.

I blame it somewhat on how easy it is to jump in a paddle boat… People never even think of lessons…till something bad happens.

Appreciate what you are saying with your posts and making people aware etc., but your facts are all backwards. However, that’s OK because we get your point, be safe out there. The issues I see are two fold. People grossly over estimate their skill level (which encompasses a wide spectrum)and grossly over estimate the value of a PFD. A PFD is not a shield of invincibility and kayaking is continuous learning. This accident made the news in Atlanta. Not sure about the rest of the country.

and late model subarus

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