Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Kayaking--Loving Ice and Snow

I'll have to remember my camera next time.

Why, you ask? Cabin fever. It's so quiet. It's not cold, if you are dressed for it. Lessons learned over many icy seasons, some of which transfer to winter dingy rides.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Either a wet suit or dry suit are safe, or be damn sure the water is shallow. Even then, at least wear...
  • Wind blocker fleece. Not as good as a wet suit, but definitely safer than ordinary fleece, as it traps water. With tight cuffs at wrist and ankle, it adds considerable safety. A paddling jacket is also wise, as it keeps the water from the paddle shaft from running up your sleeve. Ask yourself "how are these clothes going to be, walking back to the car soaked?" At a minimum...
  • Wear a rain suit with TIGHT ankle cuffs. Sometimes I wear Gore-tex pants and a Gore-tex paddling jacket.
  • Wear a non-inflatable paddling PFD. Obviously. Nice an warm, anyway.
  • Partner. Sea kayaks are very difficult to self-rescue, and with 32F water capsize is deadly. Unfortunately, I like to paddle alone. I'm VERY careful, I've practiced self-rescue in the summer, but never practiced in winter clothes. I should. I will. 
  • Remember the bailing scoop. 
  • Stay close to shore. Why not--it's safer.
  • Paddle easy. High effort = heat. Heat = pealing layers. Too few layers = hypothermia if you roll. Paddle easy.
  • If there is thin ice to break, do NOT use a deep stroke for more power. The paddle can become trapped and will tend to roll the boat on the upstroke. Paddle shallow.
  • The easiest time to fall in can be getting out! It's tempting to step right to shore, to keep the feet dry, but the shore is icy.
  • Take several pairs of gloves.
I used to sail my beach catamaran through the winter, so I'm comfortable with the idea of icy water and dressing for it. But it is a serious matter. So far--knock wood--I've never capsized in cold water... unless pitch-poling a beach cat at 20 knot counts.

Hobie 18 sandbard jumping, circa 1975
I remember seeing this photograph in a Hobie 18 ad, way back in the day, and so I figured that was the way to sail a beach cat. I caught air like this off Cape May many times, some with my mom on board. Must have scared the hell out of her.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds fun .. except if I were to fall in! Glad you never capsized into those icy waters, and love the picture!