Posts Tagged ‘a-higher-chance’

Fall kayaking Can Be a Rewarding Experience…


…if you’re ready for the cold Idaho Statesman – Edition Date: 09/11/07 By Dr. Collins – Link to article is HERE

The days seem so short now, and there is frost up on the peaks in the Frank Church. Winter is coming on strong, and we all hope for a great snow year, both for the critters, the farmers and the skiers. For the kayakers, the season is still going strong.
Gone are the rafts full of screaming people, gone are the crowds at the put-ins, and gone are the lines at the favorite waves. What has not gone is the pure joy of seeing the river with a different face the fall face. It is a very pretty one indeed, but beware of the smile; there are still dangers out there.
In fact, most people think low water means safer water, and this is definitely not true. Low fall water means not only cold water but also bigger rocks and tighter runs. All those routes you used down various rapids just won’t work with low water, and new rapids surface that you may have never seen before. As an example, just below Mike’s Hole there is a rapid that is pretty much washed out all spring and summer, until now. If you stick to the left, that hole that sprang up just might give you a surprise. The message is clear: This is a new river at lower flows. Rocks pop up, logs become problems, and even things like cars in the river start to surface!
After adjusting to the low water changes in the river, you also need to consider your own preparation and how to prepare your boat. It is definitely a team effort out there. For starters, the main Payette will soon be about 50 degrees. Not freezing, but not warm either. Spending several hours in 50-degree water will definitely chill you out, so you need to dress appropriately.
Start on the skin level. The first layer should be a non-cotton, sweat-transfer layer like polypro. Even though you are mainly concerned with the cold, you need to have a way to get rid of skin moisture and sweat in order to stay warm. Next, a thicker synthetic fleece vest or shirt will help keep the warmth you generate in and the chill from the water out. For the outer layer, either a paddling jacket with a tight neck and arm closure is the ticket. Gaskets on a dry top work great, of course, as does a dry suit.
If you are going the gasket route, make sure you take a close look at them before you head up. The cold weather will make them less flexible and will encourage them to split. If you see cracks in them at home, you can count on these cracks failing when you try to slip your head through in the cold. Duct tape does not work to fix them either, not even temporarily. People have died from a duct-tape repair to a dry suit that failed and allowed the suit to fill up during a swim. The answer is to get them to the river shop and get them fixed before you find out how much water can leak in through a small split in a gasket.
Since the head is like the radiator for the body, you need to pay special attention to heat loss there. There are great inner head liners that will fit under most helmets and provide enough of a head-seal that you won’t get that “ice cream headache” when you roll. They are great stocking stuffers, by the way. Really, spend the bucks to get one of these and you will never boat without one in the cooler weather again.
Ear protection is also important in cold water. There are special ear plugs for boaters, and they do work well. Dousing your ear canal with cold water is not only painful but can lead to overgrowth of the canal. In some cases this may require surgery to repair. Since the water is lower, and there is a chance of scraping against a rock if you flip, some folks are using face-guards on their helmets. These can protect against kissing a rock and having dental work done. Consider them.
Finally, the hands are especially vulnerable to the cold, and, lucky for you, there are paddling-specific gloves out now that can solve this problem. They work great and are pretty lifelike. The old standard pogies are always an option. They don’t work as well as the new gloves, but with them, you keep your hand directly on the paddle. It is your choice.
What about the boat? Trying to get one of those newer, tighter spray skirts on can be a real chore, and almost impossible when it really gets cold. Think about using a skirt that is not so tight around the cockpit. Try leaving it on the boat to stretch it out a bit, too. Also, a dab of Vaseline may do wonders to help them slip on and off. Inside the boat, pack a few items that you might not otherwise take. Consider an extra throw rope and carabiners, maybe even a pulley. The lower water exposes more rocks and the channels are tighter, so you may be dealing with a higher chance of getting the boat caught. At home you might also review Les Bechdel’s River Rescue book and bone up on z-drags and so on.
As for creature comforts, consider taking a hot beverage in your water bottle. It will not only heat the inside of the boat a bit but will really do wonders for your core body heat. Another safety item is a few bags of “instant heat.” These packs of chemicals heat up when you smack them and stay warm for hours. If you are really cold, pack them under your armpits and you will heat up like a gas grille.
This time of year, signal devices like whistles are very helpful to keep in contact, especially where the rocks might hide a trapped boater. Again, they are easy to carry and easy to use. Finally, penguin boaters should be on the lookout for ice jams as the season gets later. They can show up in the most unexpected places, and getting swept under one is no one’s idea of fun. If there are ice rims on the shore, be alert to the jam possibility.
Having said all this, know that boating in the fall and winter can be like snow camping all the beauty plus the solitude we rarely see these days. Just make sure you are prepared, and you will be rewarded many times over for your efforts.
Paul Collins, M.D. is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Orthopedic Health Care in Boise. Collins is an avid participant in many of Idaho’s outdoor activities. Send your sports medicine questions to  outdoors at or to the Idaho Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.