Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not Quite Ready for Kayaking

Lamprey River in Newmarket, NH
Today was in the low 80s, unseasonably warm for this time of year in New Hampshire. Time to take out the kayaks, right? I know some folks who planned to get out on Lake Massabesic this weekend, but personally I'm going to wait just a few more weeks to give the water time to warm up.

Doug always teases me about being overly cautious when it comes to starting our kayaking season. Why am I waiting? Because most water bodies in our area haven't hit 50-degrees yet. And if we were to find ourselves unexpectedly in the water, we'd be battling possible hypothermia in as little as 5-10 minutes. (Of course, a wet or dry suit could protect against this, but who wants to wear a suit when it's in the 80s? Plus, we don't even own them.)

The experts at the American Canoe Association recommend that you wear protective clothing if the water temperature is below 65-degrees or if the sum of the air and water temperature is below 120-degrees.

I certainly don't want to put a damper on anyone's paddling fun, including my own. But I also know my own skill level and comfort level. If I were to capsize, I'm not convinced I could get safely back in the boat within 10 minutes.

In water temperature under 50-degrees, it takes less than 10 minutes for your core temperature to start dropping, your motor skills to become impaired and your cognitive thinking to slow. All of that makes it even more difficult to get back in the boat! I know there are people far more experienced at safety maneuvers and/or who are out there with wet suits -- but for me, it's better to be safe and wait for the water to warm up.

We're spending the time planning our 2009 kayaking adventures. We also went to Kittery (Maine) Trading Post today and looked at some new gear, including some paddles that were light as air. Will write more on that soon!


The Former PK said...

We did go kayaking on Saturday despite the risk of hypothermia ... Guess we just couldn't wait for the kayak season to start. We went on the Contoocook River (about 10 miles of it) and we were the only kayakers out there! Luckily we didn't flip or have any problems, so now I can say it was well worth it.

Lucie Bryar said...

I'm jealous of your kayaking! Glad to hear you had no problems. I know many kayakers who have been out there already. I wouldn't ever discourage anyone from going this early, but I think paddlers should be well-informed about the risks and make decisions based on their individual skills and comfort level. Thanks for writing, PK.