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Warm Days, Cold Water – Spring Paddling Safety

Posted in Paddling Safety on

Curious why we didn’t open our rental sites today? Spring paddling can be tricky, tempted by sunny warm weather we are all eager to get out on the water comfortable in wearing only a t-shirt and shorts. What happens if you were to capsize? what if you can’t get back in your boat quickly? It’s easy to forget how recently the Charles River was a frozen block of ice.

Jaime Sharpe Circumnavigating Svalbard island in the arctic
Jaime Sharpe Circumnavigating Svalbard island in the arctic

Paddlers who are immersed in cold water lose body heat four to five times faster than when in air of the same temperature. Such rapid heat loss can lead to cold shock, cold incapacitation, hypothermia, and death. This morning, the MIT weather station was reporting a water temp of 55 degrees in the Charles River Basin (Although it will warm up quite a bit this afternoon.)

When the water temps are below 60 degrees, regardless of the air temp, you will need to dress for possible immersion. Specialized clothing is required, at a minimum, wool, fleece, or other synthetic layers that will continue to insulate when wet (NO COTTON!), alternatively, a drysuit and appropriate insulation underneath may need to be required for safe paddling.  WEAR YOUR PFD! it’s importance cannot be minimized, especially in cold water.

See below for our recommendations:

Water Temperature Hypothermia Risk Appropriate Clothing
60°F and up low Clothing for the weather
55-59°F moderate Wetsuit or drysuit
45-54°F high Drysuit recommended
below 45°F extreme Drysuit strongly recommended

We’re so lucky that the Charles and Mystic Rivers warm up pretty quickly, and we expect to be open tomorrow for rentals (fingers crossed!). Please remember that big lakes and the ocean take significantly longer to warm up, so be careful and check the water temp before you head out!

Some Helpful Resources:

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