Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Deale, MD
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I've been swimming in water with ice in a quite a few times, some planned, some not.
* If getting wet is likely (kayak, sailing dingy, or beach cat) a dry suit or wet suit is a greater safety requirment than the pfd. It will provide some flotation anyway and prevent serious hypothermia for a long time (a PFD is still a good idea--I am making a comparison). EVERYONE wears them here in the winter, and certainly before the water hits 40F. You can always where other clothes over the wet suit, as needed. A 3mm wet suit will do for sailing (can't moove in the thick ones).
* Next best is windblock fleece + underlayer (though much less effective, mostly because of looser fit. Still, MUCH better than ordinary fouly/underlayer/mid-layer combinations. Make sure ther eare TIGHT wrist and ankle closures.
* It makes a huge difference whether you are already warm (working hard or paddling) or cold (hunter falls out of stationary boat after setting for a time). If your core is very warm, that adds crucial minutes. Thus, if you are not working hard, the danger is greater. A cold person goes into shock VERY quickly; a very warm person is unhappy when they hit the water, but will not chill for a few minutes. Ther difference, of course, is only minutes, but enough to get up a ladder.
* As a kayaker, the OP was more aware of what needed done and focused on doing it. A guest may simply panic rather than think through how many minutes they have. I always give winter guests and extra warning about cold water and to watch each other.
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