Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And The Moral Of the Story Is...(plus I can't resist a safety plug)

The Moral Of the Story: If you are a one-eyed, pot-smoking, deer-poaching lobsterman from Maine, and you come upon a couple of hapless kayakers floundering about in 47-degree water, and there's any one or two items in that description of yourself that you'd really rather not have widely aired, you might want to ask a few questions about those paddlers' occupations (and maybe have them sign a non-disclosure agreement of some sort) BEFORE you save their okoles.*

Stop there if you prefer your Frogma "lite". Here comes the part where I get all serious-like.

Safety Plug Which I Can't Resist:

OK, more seriously, the writer did list a couple of basic safety precautions that she & her husband failed to take that could've turned the whole thing into the minorest of adventure (as TQ likes to say "It's not an adventure 'til something goes wrong") - it doesn't sound like they were dressed for the water, they didn't check the weather, and they left some seriously must-have pieces of their kits (flares, whistles, radio & spare paddles) at home.

They were very lucky, and I suspect they will Never, Ever, EVER make those mistakes again.

And hopefully a few other people will learn from their now well-publicized mistakes, too.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you can probably guess what's next -

Yep, here comes the part where for the umpty-zillionth time, I recommend some much nicer ways to learn the hazards of cold water boating!

Here are a couple of my favorite cold-water boating sites -

Chuck Sutherland's Off-Season Boating site has been on my blogroll since Day 1, I think -

And of course the incredibly comprehensive Expert Center maintained by Bill & Janice Lozano of Atlantic Kayak Tours has a very thorough section on hypothermia.

An even better way to learn is to attend a cold-water workshop - these usually tend to happen earlier in the off-season, but it's certainly worth checking in with your local outfitters or clubs to see what's going on in your area. For example, I see that the Small Boat Shop in S. Norwalk, CT has their Cold Water Workshop scheduled on January 30th, this coming Saturday. I can't make it this year & I'm bummed, theirs is a favorite of mine because it's one of the few where participants can actually get geared up & jump into some SERIOUSLY cold water. Here's my "trip report" from last year (featuring the coldest water I'd ever rolled in).

Nothing happening near you? You can still watch people cold-shocking their tails off for the boating-safety cause - there's a great set of videos produced by Cold Water Boot Camp (the Canadian original - the Canadians know a thing or twenty about water of the cold variety) and the experiment's been successfully repeated here in the US by Cold Water Boot Camp USA (I know one of those guys through the Small Boat Shop, he was one of their workshop speakers last year - as a person who has voluntarily been put into a state of mild hypothermia, he has some good firsthand stories).

Note, slightly later - I think Mark is one of the Small Boat Shop's speakers again this year!

Y'know, I really started out meaning to take a five-minute break from work to slap together a quick funny post. It's very hard to take off-season boating safety lightly, though.

*as usual, credit where it's due, thank you to the netizens of the NYCKayaker email list for bringing this story to my attention - it ran while I was in PA, I would've missed it if it hadn't become the topic of the liveliest debate in a long time!


Ol' Philosophizer said...

Nice to see Bill and Janice Lozano get some props. They're really nice people who actually tolerate us knuckleheads in the Malden Yacht Club, although I sometimes suspect that they use us as an example of what not to do. When they paddle with us, I think they're doing research.

I hope to have a chance to follow your advice today now that Monday's rain has opened the Hudson to us again. I'll be drysuited, paddling with a partner, and won't stray far from shore (and we won't have any beer 'til we get back!).

bonnie said...

Oh, they are great, AKT is my favorite place to go for lessons. Last year felt like a bit of a washout as far as my own personal paddling development in part because didn't make it up there once for lessons.

They run a good place, their instructors are always fantastic, and they're really nice people too.

Have fun today!

DaveO said...

At least the boys waited until after the deer hunting to light up a doobie and drink some bad adult beverage. Cold water and offshore winds are no good on any body of water!

Jim Keyes said...

The New York Times was totally irresponsible in printing this article. Nowhere does it seem as though the paddlers took any long-term information from their experience. It's cast in the light of "it was scary at the time, but we all got through it".

I live right on the Hudson and every year I see families in rec boats going out on the first warm day of the year with no thought to water temp or changing conditions. They never have any kind of safety gear. Any time I ask them about it they always answer "We're strong swimmers". Swimming is never an option in cold water. It is a pretty bad option in current as strong as the Hudson.

I'm a year round paddler but even on the warmest most calm days of Summer, I'm out with an extra paddle, paddle float, pump, tow belt, knife, radio, food water and clothes. I've never actually needed most of these things, but you never know which trip will be the one where you will.

bonnie said...

Spring is the worst. You get those first balmy days & everybody wants to get out & enjoy it.

A friend of mine actually had a good story - one stunning March day, he went out paddling. Being a good paddler, he was dressed in full cold-water riot gear. As he got back to the beach, a couple of ladies had just arrived were pulling a canoe off their roof. They saw him & I guess they asked why he was dressed like that. He explained. They put their canoe back on the roof rack & went home.

A happy ending.

Unfortunately it's still never a surprise to read about spring drownings after the first spell of warm weather. Never takes much reading between the lines to know what happened.

This is in fact specifically why I am a HUGE fan of the new NYS lifejackets regulation that requires all recreational boaters in craft of 21 feet or less to wear their lifejackets from November 1 - May 1st. People just don't get how much slimmer the margin of error gets when the water temps go down.

I wish that author had bothered to mention whether she & her hubby were wearing theirs.

PeconicPuffin said...

"strong swimmers"

Everyone should click on the Chuck Sutherland link you included and scroll down to the story about the "elite marines, trained as water survival instructors". They capsized a canoe in very cold water, and all nine died trying to swim the 100 yards to shore. Marines trained as water survival instructors were very strong swimmers, I'm sure.

Don said...

It seemed like every other sentence listed a dangerous mistake. One key detail got edited out by the Times. According to the author they were missing both, not just one, paddle after the initial rescue/pump out.

Definitely a double take to read in the article about the rescuers asking them not to mention the poaching.

With the warm December we already had our "first sign of spring", a group of snowmobiles falling through the ice with death resulting.

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