Saturday, December 05, 2009

12/05/2009 - Gravine Island

Launch: Byrnes Lake

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1) Remarkably, on the morning after a night calling for snow flurries, about 8 or 9 hardy individuals showed up for this club paddle. Temperature was 37 degrees at launch time, cloudy, and breezy.

2) The clouds quickly gave way to clear sunny skies. Bill, Marty, Dave and myself braved the Tensaw River crossing to get to Gravine Island. Waves weren't bad considering the wind but current was running 2 to 2.5 mph because the waters were being blown out of the Bay from strong north winds. Our speed going upstream was 2 mph and coming back it was close to 6 mph.

3) After a short hike on Gravine Island where we saw fresh deer tracks, we kayaked up a nearby tributary and were surprised to see two sailboats anchored together. Two big dogs were running around on top of the sailboats.

4) During the busy hunting season kayakers are encouraged to be visible by wearing hunter's orange. Our group was definitely visible. This turned out to be a nice paddle. We saw one small alligator and several big herons.

A couple of post trip safety observations.

If a kayak trip calls for crossing a big river during the passing of a cold front (small craft advisory condition), one should have a spray skirt. Most of the sit-in kayakers in the group today turned around because they didn't have a spray skirt. A spray skirt, paddle float, and pump should be standard safety gear carried on every trip for those paddling sit-in kayaks.

A fisherman on a power boat told us the water temperature in Byrnes Lake was 49 degrees. Buoy readings in our area show 55 degree water so it is entirely possible for shallow creek waters to be colder than the Bay Waters. It is that time of year now - our waters are cold. It could be 75 degrees outside, but remember, cold waters adds a significant risk to kayaking.

Someone in our group today was not wearing their life jacket. If you haven't watched the Hypothermia Boot Camp video and the 1-10-1 video, I beg you to watch them. Just do a search on Youtube to find them. People who kayak alone in cold waters without wearing a life jacket don't have to worry about dying from hypothermia - if they survive the first minute, they'll probably not stay above water much more than 5-10 minutes. Long before hypothermia ever sets in, they will drown.

The reason I yak about this problem is, in a group paddle, if someone not wearing a life vest happens to capsize, what should be a routine 10 minute self rescue might become a frantic group effort to try to save this person. When kayakers are in close proximity together, not paddling, and dealing with a floundering swimmer that they are trying to keep above water, in wind, fast current, and waves, there is a high risk of the rescuers turning over too.

So, when you go on a group paddle in cold water conditions, not wearing your life jacket for your selfish comfort, please understand that you also put your fellow kayakers at risk too because most kayakers are caring people who will try to save their fellow kayaker. Thanks.

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