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post #5 of Old 12-11-2009
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a cold water lesson

In college, I used to race 470 one design for the school's racing team. One very cold February day, we had a race against Kings Point, the course was off Kings Point and ran near to the Throgs Neck Bridge. Because of the cold and extremely blustery day, there was alot of debate as to whether or not to call off the race but competitive minds won over the more cautious and the race went on. Most of the other sailors had wetsuits but being a poor self supporting student I could not afford one at the time and to keep warm I was wearing a fairly heavy down parka. About half way through the race, a squal ripped through the fleet and the race was immediately called as masts were snapped and boats began to go over. I was crewing and the skipper of my boat was hell bent on continuing so he refused to let up and off course we were one of the boats that went over. I will never forget the shock of that ice cold water as the boat capsized. I immediately gasped as it first hit, luckily my head was above water at that moment or I am sure I would have taken a lungful of water! The committee boat happened to be at the farthest pointit could be from us at the time and was busy helping the crew of another boat that had capsized. The two of us managed to right the boat against rapidly stiffening muscles, and the captain , who was wearing a wetsuit, managed to hoist himself over the gunnel into the boat. I made an attempt to do the same but just as I thought I was going to make it, the weight of the water logged down parka dragged me down and puilled me completely underwater. I managed to get my head above water, thanks to the fact that I was wearing a life vest. I wanted to pull off the down coat, but not really thinking about such an oocrance when I got suited up, I had the life vest over the jacket and was afraid if I removed the vest to get the jacket off I might not be able to keep my head above water. I could only manage to cling ontop the side of the boat and pray for assistance. The skipper did make attampts to pull me in but he was cold and weaak and could not manage by himself. Finnaly, the committe boat spotted us and raced over. Several, very welcome, and strong arms lifted me out of the water into the committee boat just as I felt like I was going to go underf for the final time.
I was rushed to the shore, and they immediately threw me in a cold shower, clothes and all. I can only remember how hot that cold water felt to me. It was almost as shocking in its warmth as the sea water was when I went in. After, I recovered quickly with the help of some hot coffee and warm dry clothes. I never have forgot that and learned alot of valuable lessons. One of the most inportant was to think carefully about what I wear in cold weather and how I layer things, especially my life vest!. Rick
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