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Cold Weather Paddling



At least 2 hazards to our club paddlers present themselves during the cold season:

1.  Falls due to slippery conditions on the docks due to rain saturation, frost, snow or ice buildups.

2.  Hypothermia – due to;
– air temperature (particularly wind chill effects,  to which the Bedford Channel is particularly susceptible due to the easterly outflow winds during an Arctic weather high pressure conditions)
– water immersion.

All crews should be aware of these risks and discuss them amongst themselves and with the captain / coach before leaving the dock.  A concern raised by just one crew member about paddling conditions should be taken seriously and addressed before departure.

The following is a short description of the effects and self- and crew-rescue procedures for water immersion.

The human body loses more heat when wholly or partially immersed in water than it does while only exposed to the air. Thermal loss in water is 2 to 5 times greater than in the air.  Most experts in immersion, hypothermia and cold water near drowning/drowning DEFINE COLD WATER AS TEMPERATURES BELOW 20 DEGREES Celsius .

Hypothermia is defined as a drop in body temperature below the normal level. At this lower temperature, a person’s muscle and mental functions are affected. A person exposed to cold water, and becoming hypothermic, can exhibit certain progressive signs and symptoms. They are as follows:

* Shivering and slurred speech, conscious but withdrawn at the early stage

* Slow and weak pulse, slow respiration, lacks co-ordination, lacks muscle strength,
irrational, confused and sleepy at intermediate stage; and finally:

* Weak, irregular or absent pulse or respiration, loss of consciousness at final stage.
If you end up in the water, do everything you can to conserve body heat, including:

* Wear your PFD or lifejacket. Valuable energy will be lost keeping your head above water if you are not wearing it.

* Climb onto your boat to get as much of your body out of the water.

* If alone and your boat sinks, adopt a “heat escape lessening position” (H.E.L.P.) by crossing arms tightly against the chest and by drawing the knees up close to the chest.

* If with others and your boat sinks, “huddle” with other persons by getting the sides of everyone’s chest close together with arms around the mid to lower back and legs intertwined.