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 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.
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!) will work. Alternatively, a wetsuit or 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|
|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:
- National Oceanographic Data Center’s page on New England Sea Temperatures to view current and historical average water temperatures at eight locations throughout New England.
- Boston Harbor Water Temperature (as well as wind speeds, wave info, etc.)
- Off Season Boating, Cold Shock & Hypothermia by Chuck Sutherland, a short brochure with life saving tips on how to prepare and what to do in cold water
- For more info and videos on the danger of cold water heat loss and pros and cons on paddling clothing, see our How To Guide for Cold Water Paddling.