Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Paddling on a Un-Winter-Like Day

Mark & I went out for a paddle last Sunday, taking advantage of some weather that is very unusual for January. Mark posted some photos and you can find them here.

Since I rarely paddle in the winter, and since this type of prairie paddling is so different from what the folks on the West Coast experience, I decided to post an account of our paddle on WestCoastPaddler.com. You can find the post at the link here. Here is what I posted for those folks:


I was out for a paddle on Sunday on the South Saskatchewan River here in Saskatoon. My friend Mark (http://www.wildpaddler.ca) & I, he in his solo canoe (which he built himself) and me in my kayak, launched from downstream of the weir and paddled downstream for a little more than 4 kilometers. The upstream and upwind paddle was much slower. We were on the water for a total of an hour and a half and during that time the temperature rose from about 0°C to +4° according to Environment Canada. Winds according to EC were from the wsw 22km/hr. It was a beautiful sunny day and extremely unusual for January being that it was so warm.
The river was mostly open with just some shore ice on the far shore and on sandbars, though the amount increased the farther we went from the weir. Likewise, the amount of floating ice increased the farther we were from the weir, though most of the pieces were quite small and of no consequence.
I was dressed for immersion wearing a drysuit with multiple insulating layers of long underwear and fleece. My feet had thick wool socks, the drysuit booties, and Chota mukluks. I was too warm in the body while paddling, but tolerably so. I had a neoprene cap on my head that I wore under a brimmed hat. That brim was very helpful to reduce the blinding of the low sun which at it's peak would only have reached 15.7° above the horizon. My neoprene paddling gloves were a tad cool and one finger on each hand quickly became cold so I think I should add some pogies to the system. The activity helped keep my hands from getting overly cold and they never got any colder than they were in that first few minutes.
Toward the end of the paddle with Mark close at hand I decided to try rolling, my first rolls in these conditions. I started by lowering myself into the water using the bow of his canoe. If I was going to have a cold shock response or have an unexpected reaction, I wanted to be able to pull myself up quickly. That went well and I committed to the full roll. With blocks of ice floating overhead, I didn't spend a lot of time hanging around under the boat relaxing (as I usually try to do). The rolls went very well, and the cold was tolerable. These might have been my fastest rolls ever (the buoyancy of the dry suit over the insulating layers no doubt helped). My head was certainly cold, but my upper body did not even feel the cold. Once up, my head quickly warmed. Three rolls seemed to be enough to prove the point that I could do it in these icy conditions and we finished our paddle shortly thereafter. I wish I had taken the opportunity to go for a swim. With help at hand it would have been a good opportunity to really test my system of dressing for cold water immersion.
Unfortunately, I left my camera in the car. Mark did take a few pictures so I'll post a link if he gets them up