Adventure Home Page
Calendar of Lessons & Guided Trips
to Wear & Bring
In the northeast,
dress for kayaking depends on water temperature. Please
note the current water temperature (next paragraph), and read
our Water Temperature Note, Warm and Cold Water Outfitting,
Cold Water Risks, and Life Vest Law sections, all below.
As of May 16, 2013, the
water temperature in western Long Island Sound is 56 degrees,
"cold ." Please continue reading our discussion
about water temperature risks below. Our favorite source for
sea temperature data for western LI Sound is UCONN's
MySound site. For other stations, see the links on the left
of the mysound page. If a data buoy is offline, try another
station, or go to www.maineharbors.com/weather/seatemp2.htm
Always check the weather before
paddling. For a current National Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) weather report for the New York to Connecticut
coast, follow this link and click on Long Island Sound for the
We suggest you go back and click on "Bridgeport" to
check the current wind speed at Sikorsky airport, which is close
to the water.
Know the tides. Tides running against the wind cause
choppy conditions. An outgoing tide, combined with offshore
wind makes return to shore more difficult, by a factor of two-three,
or more. Understand how moon phase affects tidal heights. Know
the time of sunset before you launch. I've computed a 2013
Tide Calendar for South Norwalk, on mobile
geographics. Scroll down the page to input different dates
or sites. I use the Tides app on my smart phone. It automatically
displays tides for the closest location. Both info sources show
time of sunrise/set and tidal height information.
or Moon Rise/Set Table see this U.S.Naval Observatory site.
Water Temperature Note
The water temperature of Long Island Sound is mild to warm from
June through October, with temperatures from the low-60's to
high-70's. Peak warmth occurs from mid-July to mid-September.
During this time "warm water outfitting"
is appropriate for paddlers close to shore and those travelling
in groups of three or more kayaks.
From November through May, water in western Long Island Sound
ranges from 59 to 32 degrees, cold to frigid! During this
time, "cold water outfitting" is
mandatory on Kayak Adventure lessons and trips. We specialize
in outfitting appropriately for year-round kayaking. Detailed
information follows the discussion of water temperature risks.
Water Temperature Risks
Humans need a water temperature of at least 72 degrees to maintain
thermal balance. If you lose your kayak and are immersed in
60-70 degree water in summer paddling gear, you may lose consciousness
in 2-7 hours. This is not long enough for someone to find you
alive if it is dark by the time help is contacted. Check the
chart on the boatsafe.com website for a table of
survival times for different water temperatures.
When sea temperatures dip below about
60 degrees, what you wear protects you from "cold shock"
and "gasp reflex," which can take your life within
moments of capsizing, if your head goes underwater (as
it does when you capsize a sit-inside kayak). Individual variation
to cold shock response is wide, and is affected by many factors.
Cold shock deaths are common in April to May, when warm air
temperatures lure unprepared paddlers onto the water.
Hypothermia is a serious threat year-round in the Northeast.
If alone and not dressed properly, you may have only
minutes before your hands become too numb for you to get back
in your kayak. The most serious consequences face solo paddlers
who lose their kayak upon capsizing. This outcome has a high
probability due to three factors:
- a third of paddlers kick the boat away from themselves when
they wet exit.
- sudden immersion into water takes most people by surprise,
and they are disoriented.
- wind can carry an empty kayak away much faster than any person
Injuries that impede re-entry (shoulder,
wrist, hernia); medical conditions, such as asthma; or physiological
reactions, such as claustrophobia or panic, could further reduce
your survival time. In early summer, fall, and throughout the
winter, proper dress is the cornerstone of survival strategy.
If you paddle in Maine, Alaska and other northern destinations,
cold water is a year-round condition.
Ms. Kayak's Cold Water Guidelines:
Never paddle alone. Dress for immersion (as if you plan to fall
into the water). Always wear your life vest fully fastened and
equipped with whistle, a waterproof means of communication,
and a Coast Guard approved strobe light. Never paddle in sea
conditions in which you have not practiced self-rescue. Use
a paddle leash. Bring extra layers of clothes, a hot de-caffeinated
beverage, and high-calorie snack to prevent hypothermia. Don't
use 'recreational' kayaks in cold water. Sit-on-tops have two
advantages over sit-in kayaks: your head usually remains above
water if you capsize (so you avoid gasp reflex), and they are
easier to get back onto, getting you out of cold water and lowering
your hypothermia risk.
We recommend that you paddle in groups of at least three kayaks,
paddling in close formation to be ready to help each other within
seconds. All participants should be practiced in rescue
procedures. We practice every month, all winter on Long
"Warm" Water Outfitting (water temperature
above 60 degrees)
Kayaking is a water sport - assume you will get wet.
Use quick-dry nylon or polyester fabrics for your shorts/trousers
and shirt. Please, no cotton garments. Wear quick-dry underwear
or a bathing suit (women, wear a two-piece suit). Bring a fleece
top and waterproof windbreaker in case of rapid weather change,
or to keep warm after wet exit practice. Wear a hat with dark
under-brim to protect your eyes from glare off the water. Wear
sunglasses with retainer strap. Apply sun screen. If you are
going to become a regular paddler you may want to invest in
neoprene gloves and boots, and a waterproof paddling jacket.
We like neoprene shorts or a shorty wetsuit for excellent 'grip'
to your kayak, for easier eskimo rolls, and to keep warm when
wet. We rent neoprene shorts and Farmer Jane/John wetsuits.
We recommend paddling gloves and booties,
which you can rent or buy from us. Gloves keep
your hands from sliding on the paddle shaft, facilitating proper
stroke technique. They can be a critical re-entry aid, giving
a sure grip on wet, slippery surfaces. They prevent chafing
and callouses, especially important on longer trips. Neoprene
booties, aqua-socks or sneakers keep you from slipping on algae
covered rocks, and from getting cut, scraped and bruised when
landing and exploring. They provide excellent contact with
footpegs for maximum drive during the propulsion phase of your
forward stroke. Make sure your footwear has no straps, which
can catch on your footpegs and cause entrapment. Open footwear,
such as flip-flops and sandals, are not permitted for any of
our lessons or trips. (One man was found drowned when he practiced
rolling alone with sandals. Another man severed a toe in the
footbrace track when paddling with bare feet. These incidents
did NOT occur on Kayak Adventure outings!)
Other things to bring: Always
bring water. For trips over ninety minutes, we suggest
a high energy snack and 8-10 ounces of electrolyte-replacement
beverage taken every 15-30 minutes. Each person's need
for fluid will vary depending on their weight, sweat rate, exercise
intensity & duration, how they are outfitted, and the weather
and sea conditions. Hydration before and after exercising is
critical to optimal performance and recovery. For an excellent
discussion of this topic, see this sports
Eyewear retainers are recommended. If you bring your cell phone,
a camera or electronic car keys, store them in a dry bag, waterproof
case or in double zip-lock baggies. Nota bene: You should be
able to use your means of communication while it remains inside
the waterproof container.
Here I am dressed in full gear for a summer expedition,
with Tilley hat, sunglasses, ACR strobe light, Princeton Tec
navigation light, Fox 40 whistle, Stohlquist Life Vest with
tow belt, nylon long-sleeved shirt, NRS neoprene spray skirt
and nylon shorts. Not in the photo are my NRS Maverick gloves
and NRS over-the-ankle zip Paddle Shoes.
For night time paddling: Kayakers must display
a single white light, not flashing, from sunset until sunrise
while underway. We stock the Princeton Tec Eco-flare with white
bulb (not the red flashing bulb that it is sold with). Coast
Guard regulations require kayakers to have a night distress
signal. We recommend the ACR "C" Strobe, a compact,
life vest worn, flashing white light to be used only in emergencies.
Lithium batteries are required. The strobe must display these
words: "USCG approved."
"Cold" Water Outfitting (water temperature
Your body: Protect your torso by layering, using only
synthetic fabrics, never cotton. Start with quick-dry nylon
bikini or brief style undies. Then put on a long-sleeved thermal
underwear top and a 3mm Farmer Jane/ John wetsuit. Add a medium
weight insulating layer over arms & chest, either crew or
mock-tee style to avoid bulk at the neck. Last put on a windproof,
waterproof, breathable paddling jacket (with gaskets or secure
velcro closures at neck, waist, and wrists). On winter days
I use a thicker insulating layer and add paddling pants with
velcro closures at ankles. If you can afford it, go for a drysuit
or "Semi" drysuit, instead of a wetsuit. Since drysuits
are shell garments, they must be worn with adequate insulation
underneath. Fasten outer shell garments carefully to protect
yourself from cold shock and gasp reflex. We rent Farmer John/Jane
wetsuits for $10. Breathable, waterproof paddling pants or jackets
rent for $10 each. Our cold-water rental package is $33, including
wetsuit, jacket, pants, gloves, boots and hood.
head: Cold-water paddlers should have a neoprene hood
to protect the head from cold shock in case of accidental immersion.
A snug-fitting fleece or wool hat can be used if you improvise
a chin strap. Otherwise, it will fall off in a capsize. My
favorite hood features a visor, and perforated neoprene ear-flaps,
which let you hear better than other hoods. We rent these
for $3. In May & October, we suggest you wear a regular
cap, but carry a neoprene hood or fleece hat in your life vest
pocket in case you need to warm up quickly. During coldest months,
we never go out without a neck fleece.
Your feet: High-top, 5 to 6.5 mm neoprene boots
(with waterproof liner socks or dry-suit booties) are warm and
flexible. Knee-high mukluks with thick synthetic socks keep
your feet dry if you don't wade in water deeper than your boot-tops.
They must be worn under dry pants, as they will fall off or
fill with water if you capsize. We rent both styles. Note: To
insulate best, all neoprene wear should fit closely, but with
adequate "wiggle" room for toes.
In this winter photo I'm wearing a Kokatat Meridian drysuit,
Stohlquist life vest, neoprene hood, and NRS Toaster Mitts with
gore-tex pogies over my paddle shaft. My kayak is a
Current Designs Willow, and my paddle a 210 cm Bending Branches
Spirit Twilight (now sold as AquaBound carbon Spindrift).
Your hands: Neoprene paddling gloves with goretex
pogies on top are suggested for warmest hands. Our favorite
cold water gloves are 2-3 mm neoprene with a non-slip palm (NRS
or Stearns). For hands that chill fast, use 3 mm neoprene mittens.
For broad hands try the Stohlquist MAW. We also like 5 mm Deep
See Thermocline gloves with zip-back, which are easy to put
on, although they provide less grip. Rental of any style winter
gloves is $3. Goretex pogies over your gloves keep the wind
from cutting through wet neoprene. They are expensive, but definitely
worth the price for winter paddlers. We rent them for $5.
Other gear: Bring your personal supply of water
and snacks. We provide all other gear.
If you are outfitting your own kayak, you should have these
items, which we can provide:
Paddle leash by North Water Rescue $29; Fox40 pea-less
whistle $5.95; Princeton Tec navigation light $14; ACR C-strobe
$25; Brunton 58 kayak compass $65; SOLAS tape strips for paddle
and boat $10. A whistle and life vest are Coast Guard required.
Our guides carry: a cell phone and/or VHF radio,
compass, first-aid kit, hot beverage in a thermos, snacks, extra
warming layers, and duct tape.
LIFE VEST LAW - CT state boating regulations
require you to wear a life vest from October 1 through May 31,
when the water is dangerously cold. New
York State Navigation Law requires life jacket wear from
November 1 through May 1 for vessels under 21 feet. MA
regulations require a life vest be worn from September 15
through May 15. It is not enough to "wear" the vest.
It must be fully fastened. A life vest that is unzipped will
float off if you capsize, trapping your arms and making it difficult
to swim and maneuver. I've personally seen two men lose their
lifevests while practicing wet exits. They had not tightened
the side straps.
On October 12, 2003 two college-age women died in Nantucket
Sound, Massachusetts. According to the Boston Globe,
they launched from the boat ramp at Harwichport, MA in two 8
foot plastic kayaks wearing t-shirts and bathing suits. When
they hadn't returned forty minutes later, two friends called
the local fire department and a search was started. Friends
and family said the women, 20 and 19 years old, were athletic
and strong swimmers. Mary, a junior at Brandeis College, had
taken a course in sea kayaking several years before. A helicopter
found the kayaks the next day at 10:34 am, tied together and
floating about a mile off the coast of Monomoy Island. The Coast
Guard found Mary's body four miles south of Monomoy Island.
Sara was never found.
Two young men fishing off a single kayak died in Martha's
Vineyard, Massachusetts on October 14, 2002 when their kayak
floated away and they tried to swim after it. They succumbed
to swimming failure in the cold water.
A 35 year old Yale graduate and strong athlete who paddled regularly
between East Haven and Branford lost his life on November 8,
2002. His recreational kayak and a backpack washed ashore November
9, but his body was not found until December 3. There is no
indication that he was wearing a life vest, although he did
have a sprayskirt. The water temperature was between 53-61 degrees.
The winds were 20 to 30 knots. Seas were reported to be four
feet or more. A small craft advisory was in effect.
None of these paddlers were wearing life vests.
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