Anyway, yesterday CPA co-hosted another lecture/workshop on the topic of Cold Water Safety. The speaker was Moulton Avery, internationally recognized heat and cold stress authority, Executive Director of the National Center for Cold Water Safety, and long-time fellow Chesapeake paddler. The presentation was held at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak.
Having reviewed hundreds of accidental drowning cases, Moulton has come to characterize Cold Water as a large, hungry predator. "It is fast, powerful, and deadly. It has unlimited energy, no need for sleep, and is perfectly camouflaged," he states. He paints a vivid picture, one best kept in mind while floating on it's back this winter. You can look at cold water from three feet away and it looks perfectly innocuous. Throw in an inviting sunrise, a little warm air flow from the Gulf, and most of us are eager to take the bait. But don't be fooled. Cold water is a ruthless killer. If it doesn't fill your lungs with water in it's initial envelopment, it will try to stop your heart or cause your brain to stroke. And if you are lucky enough to survive the initial few minutes, over the next hour or so it will literally suck the life out of you.
Nine out of ten canoe and kayak fatalities are cold water related. According to the US Coast Guard, in 2011 canoe and kayak ranked second out of 13 boat classifications in the number of fatalities. The only boat classification that had more fatalities than us were the power boats.
So, next time you consider cold water paddling; before you leave please look over Moulton's Five Golden Rules. They will help you stay alive. Then remember my reminder: Hunting season is open. The predator is hungry and he will be waiting for you.
This morning after writing this blog, I learned that as we tested our gear yesterday in 36° F bay waters, some folks in Jamaica Bay, NY faced down the predator. This time the prey escaped, but there will be many more face-offs this season.
Please, read the information provided on the National Center for Cold Water Safety website. It contains much practical information aimed at increasing your chances for survival should a mishap occur. As Moulton readily points out, no one plans to drown. But we all also make mistakes. On land, mistakes carry with them little consequence. On cold water, even the smallest of mistakes can cost you your life. We all must plan and prepare for the worst possible events that can happen. Above all, dress for the water temperatures and wear your PFD. Proper cold water dress will buy you time in your struggles with the beast. While help may be only a few feet away, rescues never happen quickly and the countdown begins when you hit the water.
Good luck out there.
Note: The National Center for Cold Water Safety is a non-profit organization. It relies on your charitable contributions for continuing support. Please help them get the word out. We need to work with them to change the statistics. Get involved. Donate!
CPA steering committee member Catriona Miller has posted Moulton's presentation on YouTube. Due to the length, it's posted in two parts.
Cold Water Safety Part 1
Cold Water Safety Part 2