If it’s cold outside where you are, you may have given up being out on the water until it warms up again. While this is your choice, the truth is that it’s still possible to have a blast in your kayak or on your paddle board, even if it’s cold outside. You may need to change how you do some things or add some extra gear, but you don’t have to stay inside. Here’s what you need to know to have a safe, fun time out on the water this winter.
Bring a Communication Device
It’s always a good idea to have a radio or a cell phone with you when you’re out on the water, but it’s even more important when it’s cold outside. In fact, having communication in the winter could mean the difference between getting out of an accident alive and not doing so. Do make sure that you will actually be able to get in touch with someone if you need them. If you’re not sure that your cell phone will have service, for instance, make sure that you have a backup method of communicating, too. A broad-band VHF radio will never be a bad idea.
The idea is not to go into the water when it’s cold, but you still might. If you or someone else falls in, remember this rule.
- 1 – You have one minute to realize what has happened, overcome shock, and get your breathing under control. If you can’t do this, the chances of drowning increase rapidly. If you’re with someone who goes in, this means that helping them control their breathing is the single most important thing you can do after they fall in.
- 10 – You have about 10 minutes to get out of the water or help your friends get out. After this, you’ll start to lose dexterity, especially in your fingers, which makes getting out harder and harder. The longer you stay in, the more the cold will affect the ways your body and mind can work to help you get out.
- 1 – This depends a lot on the ambient temperatures, wind chill, etc., but you have about an hour before hypothermia really sets in and someone who is cold could become unconscious. This is even true if you have gotten them out of the water. It means it’s imperative you get someone to shore and warm them up after you pull them out.
Wear Your Life Vest
Many outdoor sportsmen and women don’t like to wear their life vests. They know how to swim, they have gone in before, and they feel confident that they can get themselves out of any situation that may arise. However, with the cold as an added factor, it’s always a good idea to wear your life vest anyway. This can help you recover from shock within the first minute and it can help you get to wherever you need to go to get out of the water. It also means that you won’t have to work as hard to stay afloat so you can focus on getting yourself back in your boat.
Take Someone Along
The buddy system is always a great system when you’re heading out to the water, but it’s an even better idea in the winter. When you have someone with you, they can help you make good choices, haul you back into your boat or onto land if you go in, call for help, and more. Without the right people available to you, a small accident can turn into something dangerous fast. When you have knowledgeable people alongside you, though, you stand a much better chance of getting out of any bad situations intact.
Have the Right Gear
You will need different gear when you go out on the water in the winter than you do when it’s warmer. It’s important to remember that you need to dress for the water, not for the air. Even if it’s 60 or 70 degrees outside, the water could be close to freezing. Wearing the right things can mean the difference between surviving a swim and suffering because of it. We make specific recommendations here, but you should always choose the gear that will work for you and your craft, and that fits the weather you’re experiencing.
Take Special Care With Ice
Ice is a special and specific type of hazard that you may have to deal with out on the water in the winter. Remember that a chunk of ice can look completely different underneath the surface of the water than it does on top. It may stick out and jab your boat. Ice can also form cracks that are large enough to fit your boat but may not actually be safe. Keep in mind that, while beautiful, ice is treacherous and you may want to avoid it altogether unless you have previous experience paddling in and around it.
You don’t have to avoid the water in the winter. Take these extra precautions and you’ll be ready for anything that comes up. Remember to have fun out there!