A Chilly Lesson...

Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
A member has asked that I post something on his behalf, as he had trouble getting it to post. He tells me the details of this event have been going through his mind since it happened. I have also had difficulty getting his message to post. I completely re-typed it, eliminating anything that I thought might have produced the glitch.

Thought I would share a bad experience hoping to save someone else a bad, or worse day.

The February day I went out the water was open but temperature was thirty degrees. I paddled a Nautiraid Greenlander folding kayak. It is 20.25 inches at the widest part. A 19 inch opening where the paddler sits. A wind came up and I had trouble steering. Quick as I knew, I was in the water.

I kicked free of the kayak. Life jacket kept my head from going under. Kayak rapidly filled with water and was of no use. I lost the paddle and my wool cap, realized I was the only one on the lake; knew how cold it was, and headed for shore. Very difficult with four layers of clothing.

Shore was only about 200 yards but exhausted me. I rested twice on trees sticking out of the water. Getting to shore I trudged three-quarters of a mile back to my car through the forest and thickets. I had on leather gloves and my fingers were numb. Barely could get the car keys from my pocket. Managed to get in and start the car. Drove seven miles to my house. Peeled of the wet clothes with difficulty and got in the shower. Painful recovery from frostbite but two days later I was okay.

Some observations:

1. I had survival gear but my fingers were so numb I doubt I could have used much even I was in a remote place and tried to start a fire.

2. When I got home I realized I could go into shock and have no idea what that would entail.

In the future, besides being more careful, I will wear kayaking gloves to keep the use of my hands. I will keep an eye to fire-starting material that can be used with numb hands and fingers.

Tim aka treewater
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I now know why Tim's message wouldn't post when he initially tried it and why I couldn't get it to work either. Hahaha. Apparently we can't use the real word for the place where a person sits in a kayak (or where a pilot sits in an airplane). You know... THAT word. This board thinks it is naughty.
This seems an important topic to discuss, as many of us are eager to paddle as soon as the ice is off the lake.

Here's something from the Wikipedia:

"The actual cause of death in cold water is usually the bodily reactions to heat loss and to freezing water, rather than hypothermia (loss of core temperature). For example, plunged into freezing seas, around 20% of victims die within 2 minutes from cold shock (uncontrolled rapid breathing and gasping causing water inhalation, massive increase in blood pressure and cardiac strain leading to cardiac arrest, and panic); another 50% die within 15–30 minutes from cold incapacitation (inability to use or control limbs and hands for swimming or gripping, as the body "protectively" shuts down the peripheral muscles of the limbs to protect its core), and exhaustion and unconsciousness cause drowning, claiming the rest within a similar time."
Here are a few more possibly-relevant things from the Wikipedia article on hypothermia:

"Appropriate clothing helps to prevent hypothermia. Synthetic and wool fabrics are superior to cotton as they provide better insulation when wet and dry. Some synthetic fabrics, such as polypropylene and polyester, are used in clothing designed to wick perspiration away from the body, such as liner socks and moisture-wicking undergarments. Clothing should be loose fitting, as tight clothing reduces the circulation of warm blood.

Passive external rewarming involves the use of a person's own ability to generate heat by providing properly insulated dry clothing and moving to a warm environment.It is recommended for those with mild hypothermia. Wet clothing should be replaced with dry clothes including head covering. Person to person warming is also helpful. Emergency services should be called if the person does not improve within a few minutes or worsens.

Warm sweetened liquids can be given provided the person is alert and can swallow.

Rewarming collapse (or rewarming shock) is a sudden drop in blood pressure in combination with a low cardiac output which may occur during active treatment of a severely hypothermic person."
Now I understand why my thread would not post. But I worked in one of those places unmentionable in polite company for 25 years.
Anyway, I am so happy to know I had a near death experience. Add to the other near death experiences I have had and I'm about to run out of lives.
For those who wonder, I am 69 years old, weigh 150 lbs, and work out at the gym. But as I have told people when teaching them defensive shooting, the best tool of self defense, or self survival, is on your shoulders.
As I said; I rested holding on a tree stump, took stock of the situation, and realized I was in trouble and had to "go for it" in a measured manner. My cries for help were of no value. I was alone, empty lake, no houses.
Interesting time.
A dry suit, with appropriate insulating layers inside, is the best defense against hypothermia, should immersion occur. Paddling with friends, and having everyone in the group well-versed in rescue techniques, comes in a close second.
Ya, don't mess with cold water. Every year people die from it up here.

And the standard "joke";
why do people wear a PFD in cold water? To make it easier to find the body.