Cold Water

Discussion in 'Paddling Safety' started by dut, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. dut

    dut Paddler

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    The latest issue of Ocean Paddler has an interesting article on cold water safety, definitely worth the read. It makes reference to the National Centre for Cold Water Safety. Their address is coldwatersafety.org. Lots of facts on cold water immersion.

    In BC in winter, protection thermal protection is a given, isn't it? Today (December 3) the ocean temperature is 8C(46F) according to an Environment Canada website.

    Lots on the Cold Water website to consider.

    Barry
     
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  2. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Summer, too. The BC ocean doesn't get very warm in most places.
     
  3. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Same here, coastal waters of Oregon.

    Even the lower Columbia River, an "inland" waterway, is sub 55 F until warmer water from upstream begins to affect it, late July or so. Some sort of Earth-wide warming effect, "source unknown" to our orange haired politicians, has caused late August temps to rise into the 70s in recent years. Wonderful for swimming. The higher figures are injurious to anadromous fish, especially salmon.
     
  4. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

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    Thanks for the kick in the butt, Barry. I find it sobering that the basic water temp doesn't vary significantly over the year here.
    Here's a couple of water temp. yearly diagrams from the bible 'Oceanography of the British Columbia Coast':
    Temp-WCoast.jpg
     
  5. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Depends what you mean by "thermal protection". I paddle English Bay all winter and usually the only other folks on the water are the OC1 and OC6 crowd. They don't wear immersion gear. They are dressed more like cyclists (ie: dressed for high output activity). In the 20 years I've been paddling these waters, I can't recall a fatality in that particular group.

    So the big question (which perhaps an actuary can answer) is how much is enough protection? If zero OC paddlers have died in 20 years in English Bay, can we make a reasonable argument that they should dress better? Seems like they have managed their risk pretty well.

    Let the discussion begin...

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
  6. designer

    designer Paddler

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    When I was in the Gulf Group (Pirate Cove area), the water was swimsuit warm.

    But my standard for "cold" in the water on the Oregon coast. I submerged myself in a glacier pool on the East Side of Mt. Hood that had warmer water (but not by much). When XC Skiing in a white out and I feel a chill, I just remind myself that it is summer compared to having the surf roll over my ankles at Seaside.
     
  7. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Andrew, I am not familiar enough with the areas of English Bay used by those OC paddlers to judge, but perhaps you can tell us if rapid, ready rescue is at hand for those folks. Might be different if they were in a remote area, although those guys work so hard at speed that hyperthermia could be a greater risk!
     
  8. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Dave, there is indeed rapid response (on the order of 15 mins), assuming that those paddlers are carrying communication devices. I'm assuming they would have cell phones in waterproof cases, but I would be surprised if they had VHF.

    But your question illustrates my general point: being prepared for the cold water is not only about how we dress. There are many ways to mitigate the risk: travelling with skilled partners, choosing your conditions, choosing your route, carrying communication, etc. That is why Transport Canada does not absolutely require us to wear immersion gear, but rather have equipment or a plan to deal with hypothermia. The point is to think about cold water and to be able to answer the question, "how am I dealing with the risk of cold water today?"

    The problem is that this complex issue gets reduced to tidy little dogmas such as "dress for the water, not the air", much to the delight of companies like Kokatat and much to the distress of paddlers, who find themselves wearing drysuits on sunny July days.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
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  9. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    Yup. I really do try, but when I'm nearly passing out from being too warm after about 20 min of paddling, that's a problem LOL.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017 at 1:29 PM
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  10. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    I often use a farmer john as my base layer, with a light long sleeve layer of thin fleece on my torso, and add stuff on my upper body if conditions require it. The FJ gives me enough coverage that my hands are good for 10 minutes of full function on 50-55 F water, ample to do self rescue.

    Like Paws, if I wore a dry suit in 65-70 F air, I would be drowning in sweat. That TN water must be a lot warmer than ours, compounding the risk of overheating.

    Truly, YMMV.
     
  11. Bluenose

    Bluenose Paddler

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    For the interest of those out west, I’ll give out a little east coast info.

    Our water on the open Atlantic Coast gets down to about zero in February and can rise to 18 or so in August and September. In Newfoundland water may not get above 12 in the summer. The Northumberland Strait between PEI and the mainland can reach 24 late summer.

    With regards to immersion clothing, it depends on skill level, the conditions of the day, the area we’re paddling, what type of paddling we’re doing and the people we’re with. I wear a dry suit a lot as I hate cold water. The “rubber hits the road” with what I’m wearing under my dry suit. I carry a bag of clothing in the car and decide what to wear when I get to the departure point. If I’m unsure I may take a few items in a dry bag. I have various combinations of thick and thin poly and merino base layers. Past experience will guide my choice. I naturally have to be more concerned about my choice in the winter as hypothermia is a real threat.

    As for “dressing for immersion” the question becomes, “How long am I going to probably be in the water?” The general answer for me depends on the rescue, so a few seconds to a few minutes. This is usually the determinant for how I dress. If I dress for long periods of immersion I’ll overheat while paddling although a roll can cool you down.

    In case something goes wrong and I’m in the water for a long time, I carry warming and fire making gear for shore, a bothy bag and a storm cag. In really cold conditions I don’t mind erring on the side of caution.

    Protecting your hands and head are important too. Numb hands and brain don’t work well.
     
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  12. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    Even in BC in the summer, it's too hot. I would die. I usually wear my dry pants, but with anything more than a light poly shirt on top, given the PFD, I'm sweltering!
     
  13. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    I'm looking forward to it finally getting cold enough here so I can break out my new dry suit. Planning a camping trip for late Dec--as long as rain holds off, that will be a go and I can probably try it then! :)
     
  14. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Further north in BC, you can get a 'nice' cold drizzly foggy day any time in the summer!
    :)
     
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  15. tmgr

    tmgr Paddler

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    With all that lovely cold water around, cooling off is never a problem...;)
     
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  16. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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  17. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Terrific link. Click on the link for the year round average temps to see sumertime figures. My local station, Astoria, OR, hits the higher 60s on the F scale in summer, averaging 68 only one month out of the year. Swimming trunks and a rash guard would be tolerable that month only, and even then would require constant, vigorous swimming to stay warm. Look at the winter numbers .... many months in the 40s! Brrrr!
     
  18. tmgr

    tmgr Paddler

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    Let’s not forget about cold shock. There are only two ways to protect yourself from it. 1. Wear some kind of immersion clothing. Or 2. Take icy cold showers every morning for a period (I forget how long) of time. Me, I’d just rather wear the clothing...
     
  19. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Yes, cold shock is a concern. Sea Kayaker February 2008 had a good article on the subject, and the second Deep Trouble volume told the story of a fatality that can be attributed to a novice experiencing cold shock (and associated gasping) during wet exit training.

    That said, I have seen nothing that really quantifies the risk, which makes recommending a solution something tricky. Yes, you can simply say "dress for immersion", but that leads to other questions: at what water temperature? With what clothing specifically? What about the head and ear canal? Should everyone be wearing drysuits, surf hoods, and earplugs *all the time*? At that point, we'd all trade in our kayaks for SUPs...

    The very detailed USCG accident and fatality reports give us no data trails regarding cold shock. CCG reports are similarly sparse, especially compared with what we do know: for example, we have data on the association between drowning and not wearing a PFD. But cold shock is not something that has been measured, except by reading between the lines of these reports, which is speculative.

    Anyone have any anecdotal data about cold shock?
     
  20. tmgr

    tmgr Paddler

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    Well, someone I know experienced cold shock while rolling in the winter. She had on a drysuit, but was bare headed.
    And then, there are all those people that fall off of boats, without wearing a life jacket, and are never seen again. Those unfortunate deaths seem to be likely due to cold shock, although I don’t know if that’s been proven.

    I think the bottomline is that people need to be fully aware of the risks of cold water, and then take the steps to mitigate that risk which are appropriate to them and the particular situation. Which will be different for everyone...