Two days ago Mike Lavallee posted a message relating to the dangers of cold water immersion and he noted that two kayakers died in Massachusetts last week. This is very sad. One was a locally well-known, experienced white water kayaker, and the other a dad out with his daughter and a friend.
I was out on my local lake over the weekend and saw plenty of people canoeing and kayaking in street clothes with no PFDs. They are either unaware of the dangers of cold water immersion, or figure it's not going to happen to them (BTW, Ma law requires wearing of PFDS from Sept 15 - May 15). The dad who perished was not dressed for immersion nor was he wearing a PFD. He capsized as he rounded a bend in a river. The rivers are flooded and flowing quickly. It is easy for your kayak or canoe to get pushed sideways as you round a bend, pushing you over your paddle before you have a chance to get it out of the water. (I don't know if this is what happened to him, but it is worth knowing that it can happen). I learned this the hard way after coming out from under a bridge with quick flowing water. Luckily it was a beautiful, warm summer day, the water was warm and I was close to shore. That was years ago, but it made an impression on me as I never expected to capsize on that beautiful calm day.
Here is a link to a pretty good article on cold water immersion. It is a bit wordy, but will go into some interesting details about the physiology of what happens to your brain and body in cold water.http://www.seakayakermag.com/2008/Feb08/cold-shock.htm
Understanding the dangers of cold water immersion will give you the ability to make important decisions regarding how to prepare yourself to paddle this time of year. Being properly prepared and knowing what to do can save your life. Forget about the myth of adding air temp and water temp to equal something or other (whatever it is) to determine if it is safe to paddle. You must dress for the water temp! That might mean getting your head or hands wet to keep from overheating. It's better to be a little hot than it is to be dead.
The most interesting thing I picked up from reading this article was to take the time to get your breathing under control after capsizing. In addition to the talk about cold water, the article also address why it is important to practice self and assisted rescues. I hope you will all take the time to read this and share this information with others.
On a brighter note, warm weather will eventually be here for good and the business of messing about in boats will be underway.