Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cold Water Kills - But First It Makes You Into A Total Silly Geek!

Or at least it made ME into one. I mean seriously, everybody else looks pretty good, but what a doofus I was!

But there's nothing wrong with being a little goofy the first time you try something, and dang it was fun!

The lady beside me is actually a co-worker - the Bears meet at the NY Aquarium's Education Hall and she came running up and said "I work with you but you don't recognize me because we're not at work!", which cracked me up because IT'S SO TRUE - I'm sometimes shocked at how hard I have to work to place someone when I meet them outside of places where I expect to meet them. She turns out to be a veteran Polar Bear, and one of the brave people who volunteer at the famous annual New Year's Day plunge at Coney Island - that's how this troupe gives back, they organize that whole thing.

Boy, some of the Polar Bear women had cute suits. If I'd planned this better I might have gotten a replacement for this Tyr I've had forever, but as I rhymed yesterday, this was a swim on a whim.

The guy who tell me to scream was one of a number of people who were giving me suggestions - I got there a full hour early and so obviously full of nerves and everyone I talked to was really nice about hints on how to do this and have fun. This guy said "If you want to scream, just scream!". There was absolutely no competitiveness - I was told go in as much or as little as I wanted to, just being there and enjoying it was the main thing. Great stuff.

Here was my writeup on YouTube:
Pardon the HEINOUS camera work, this was my first cold-water swim without a drysuit EVER - with all the whooping and hollering, I figured I would hit "record" and see what I got, but my attention was far from entirely on the camera! 

This was a fun personal experiment, I've participated in so many cold-water safety talks but never really tried actually dunking myself in water under fifty. It was actually a lot of fun, but the 10 part of the 1-10-1 rule (1 minute to get your breathing under control, 10 minutes of meaningful activity, 1 hour until you are probably not going to make it) definitely held true for me. The shaking was more the inherited shake that I have that gets exacerbated by stress or excitement (oddly enough, the cold shake actually set in the worst later on, after I was out of the water), and my hands didn't stop working because they just weren't really in the water much, but just after the 2nd traditional circle-up, which happens at 10 minutes, I suddenly began to feel lightheaded, which my friend Capri (aka the Polar Bear Princess, she's one of the most dedicated of the Bears) said is the sign that you need to get out immediately. Here, that just meant walking out of the water and bundling up, no problem - if I'd been away from shore trying to get back into my boat, I suspect that the point at which the spins set in would be the moment it would start to be very tricky to coordinate one's efforts. 

Here with the Bears, though, it was all good fun! Glad they let me come play, what a great group.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter (This Easter I went swimming!)

Hope it's been a happy one!

TQ was working so we missed our usual Easter visit to his parents, so I did something different -
I'd gotten a whim
for an Easter swim
Took a subway trip 
to a chilly chilly dip

Click here for pix!
It was actually really interesting actually going for a swimsuit swim in 45 degree water after all of the talking about cold-water safety I've done. You know that one-ten-one rule - one minute to get your breathing under control, ten minutes of meaningful activity, then an hour that you can probably still be saved if found? Well, I actually had a great time jumping around in the water for about 10 minutes. I was starting to fumble with my camera partway into it, though, and then almost immediately after the 10-minute circle-up, I began to feel ever so slightly light-headed, which my experienced cold-water swimmer friend Capri said meant "Time to get out of the water NOW" (same as winter rolling, actually - you really need to stop when you start feeling spinny).

I had a great time though. Fun to experiment with this stuff I talk about so much in nice controlled circumstances, and it was actually great to be back in the water, even if it wasn't summer-friendly. Boats are great but swimming really
 was my first love.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Boating safety: An idea for what to do when you find the unprepared preparing to launch

Looks like we've got another glorious spring weekend coming up here in the Northeast, one which will doubtless bring out the unwary boaters in droves.

I always feel like a bit of an idiot when I post my annual spring safety rant (see prior post) because I think most of the small group of people who read this blog already know what they're doing, but I always do it anyways just because you never know how people are going to stumble across this important information and I think that the more places it's lying around on the internet, the more likely it is to be found. So I make this one of the places every year. Just in hopes.

But this week I'm sharing something with much less hesitation.

What do you do when you go to your favorite launch site on a lovely soft spring day and find somebody getting ready to launch, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with their lifejacket chucked in the bottom of their boat?

I've never actually run into that situation myself. I'm usually launching from Sebago, the club is committed to teaching members about boating safety, including cold-water boating, and so you very rarely see somebody setting out improperly dressed. But if I ever did, I think that I would try something that worked well for my friend Bob H. a few years back. He told me the story at the terrific Long Island Paddlesports Symposium that Elizabeth O'Connor used to run every March up until she moved to CT.  

 He'd gone for a paddle right before coming to the event (he turned up in full cold-water gear in fact) and as he returned to the beach two women had driven up with a canoe on their roof, wearing jeans and sweatshirts. He approached them and, as he told me when I asked him to refresh me memory of the story earlier this week, "I suggested that they place their hands in the water and note how long they could hold it until pain and/or lack of function ensued. I guess the sight of me in (dry)suit and hood underscored the point."

They left without even taking the canoe off the roof - a very good outcome.  

Although friends have laughed when I tell them this, I'm actually terribly uncomfortable with approaching strangers with safety suggestions. I would do it because as an educated boater and a kayak instructor, I feel like have an obligation to do so (plus I would feel absolutely horrible if I said nothing and then read about them in the paper the next day), but I really feel awkward when I do. This seems like a really nice non-confrontational way for even a shy person to get people to understand how cold the water still is right now and hopefully rethink their plans. 
A good idea and I thought I'd share it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's My Park: New York City Water Trail - plus April snow???!!!

Quick lunch break post, just thought I'd share this neat little video about the NYC Water Trail that Queens Commisioner of Parks (and Sebago clubmate) Dorothy Lewandoski recently put up on Sebago's Facebook group. Tons of friends are in here (and me too, rolling at 2:15 and also in the ribboncutting group a bit before - boy was that a fun day)! 

PS...Come on, Spring. I've been singing your praises at the top of my lungs  and you wanna go and do this? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

More Spring a-Springin' - Prospect Park flowers (plus a hyacinth and a magnolia near home)

I got home from Sunday's sailing instruction class by 3:30 or so, only to realize that I couldn't stay home, it was just too nice, so I decided to go out for another walk in Prospect Park.

The winter ducks were mostly gone, and I think they took winter with them when they left. When I went for my duck walk two weeks ago, everything was still gray and brown. Didn't help that it was a raw and drizzly day, but all the vegetation was still pretty much in winter hibernation - although there were buds getting ready to go if you looked closely.

What a difference two weeks made. My walk started as just a walk, but then it became a flower walk, taking pictures of almost every different kind of flower I noticed. Looks like we have another wintery spell coming up, but this was encouraging to see. Here they are (plus a couple in my neighborhood - first two), and I must say that it's nice to be posting my own after a winter where I would absolutely have a moment in heaven every time a Facebook friend in California or Hawaiii posted COLORS!

No more writing, click on the hyacinth (no longer incipient) for a better view. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring's a-springin' at Sebago!

I went out to the club today for something a little different - one of our relatively new sailing committee members gave a talk about teaching sailing, and although I'm not sure I'm a good enough sailor to teach, I thought I would go listen in at least. I'm glad I went, it was interesting thinking about sailing from that point of view, and it was also a good review of some of the basic principals of teaching, which wasn't a bad thing since it's been a while since my instructor certification and a person does get rusty.

All sorts of springiness going on at the club today - Jim L. was prepping Seagull, the safety boat, for launch, John D. stepped his mast, gardeners were gardening and the cherry tree is blooming by the basin.

The class let out in plenty of time to allow for another outdoor activity. I wasn't together enough to bring my gear, but it ended up being a pretty breezy afternoon, so joining the happy hordes in Prospect Park for a couple of hours afterwards turned out to be the perfect thing to do.
Hooray for Spring!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Safety Spiel

Well, goodness, have we got a nice-looking weekend coming up here in the Northeast. Temps in the 60's in NYC, light winds and sunshine - perfect weekend to break out the ol' canoe, right?

And of course the answer to that question is, as always for this time of year,

"Yes, of course, but please learn
 the risks and have the right gear."

I suspect I'm preaching to a combination of choir and fellow preachers here but I always feel like I have to do this this time of year - the air's warming up but that water is still cold to the point that a mishap that would be humorous in August could actually be the last mistake that person makes.

There've already been a couple of the usual late winter/early spring news stories about kayak accidents doing the paddler social-media circuits - a couple of fatalities, plus one really lucky saved-life story. Naturally the story with the happy ending involved a paddler who was wearing their life jacket - I haven't got time to hunt down the link right now but if I'm recalling correctly, the story was that someone spotted the overturned kayak from shore and called for help. The paddler was past the point of being able to move by the time rescuers arrived but the lifejacket kept them afloat.

In NY State, we're still in the time of year when anyone out in a recreational craft of 20' or less is required by law to wear a properly-fitted lifejacket; that's not the rule everywhere, but a boater who doesn't is taking a big and completely unnecessary risk.

Beyond that, dressing properly is also important - remember that we had a very, very cold winter; I was talking to some of my polar bear swimmer friends last weekend and they were remarking on how cold the water remains right now at Coney Island.

Thinking of doing some spring boating, but not sure how you should prepare, or just feel like you could use a refresher? Visit the links in my Cold Water Safety section, top of the sidebar - always good to know before you go!