Dress for Immersion

Coast Guard rescues a capsized kayak. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

On a mid-June day, just before summer officially arrived, an energetic 28-year-old man decided to take advantage of the dwindling time left of his honeymoon in Maine. Before he and his wife left their cozy cabin, he prepared to take one last trip on his rented sit-on-top kayak to explore Frenchman’s Bay’s picturesque waters.

The air temperature that day had been a relatively mild 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The water: 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Clad in a PFD, T-shirt and shorts, he told his wife he would be back in one hour, just in time for them to check out of their cabin.

An hour and a half after he promised he would return home, the U.S. Coast Guard and state rescue crews began their search, and found the man before sunset. They were too late.

This tragic story is true and an all-too-common an account of what can happen if paddlers do not dress for immersion. Of all the elements, water temperature is the most important for which to prepare. It can be the most deceiving AND the most dangerous; especially during the first tempting, warm days of the season. In Maine, ocean waters do not typically rise above 63 degrees, and even then not until the very end of the summer or early fall. The alluring lakes and streams in the New England region are even colder.

All paddlers know that each voyage can result in an unintended swim. Paddlers exploring cold regions must prepared for water far below room temperature, even in summer. Sudden immersion in cold water (LCDR Colleen McCusker is a CG Recreational Boating Safety officer of Sector Northern New England.
A special thanks to the Maine Association of Sea Kayaker Guides and Instructors (MASKGI)

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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