PaddleWise Discussion on Ice Swimming
Date: Tue, 5 Jan 1999 13:24:52 -0700
Subject: RE: [Paddlewise] Ice Swimming
Clyde Sisler wrote:
Application of a dose of Canadian Ballast Rocks (TM) would certainly solve
that problem. ...
Actually that is the answer.
In my younger days I worked as a commercial diver (hard hat). When people
used the old canvas coffins (brass hats and canvas and rubber suits you see
in movies), they wore lead shoes (17lbs each). The back of the legs could
also be laced up to keep your feet from 'blowing up' and rapidly returning
you to the surface, which is contraindicated.
I don't know about the Gortex dry suits since the dry suits I've used were
either canvas (see above) or neoprene, however, you lose most (I believe it
80%) of your body heat through your head. When I was in the water for hours
I had a dry head (because of the gear I was using) and although I got cold,
it was manageable.
My suggestion would be to wear whatever is most comfortable for the main
activity, under your dry suit, and then wear a hat.
Warmth from a dry suit does not come from its' insulation, it comes from
the fact that you're dry. Water transfers heat something like a 100 times
faster than air. So if you're wet from sweat inside your dry suit because
you wore too many clothes, you'll end up colder than if you wore less and
sweated less. IMHO. (When standing around on deck we used to vent our dry
suits by either holding the neck ring open or the wrist gaskets open to
prevent the build up of sweat inside the suit.)
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 14:25:22 -0600
From: Patrick Maun
Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] New Year's Paddle
Michael Daly wrote:
>I paddled on Jan 1 1998 with some folks in Windsor ON on
>the Detroit river. This was an annual event for them and some
>paddlers had considerable experience with paddling in ice
>infested waters. One fellow had a pair of Philips screwdrivers
>under the bungies on his fore deck. He had drilled holes in the
>tops of the handles and ran lines through them. The other end
>of the line was tied to a snap hook that was hooked to the bungies.
Last year, a group of us built some of these using wooden dowels drilled
wil a hole and filled with a penny nail. Throw on a metal eyelet on the end
and attach some cord and you have essentially the same thing with even more
'biting power'. I would stick some cork on the nails to keep the nails from
puncturing clothing. Using these, you can drag yourself up an ice shelf
after a dunking during backcountry skiing or kayaking..
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 16:32:21 -0500
From: "Richard Culpeper"
Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Ice Swimming
In the mid-70s I came across a book promoting winter camping using closed
cell foam. The author went into great detail as to how to cut and tape
pieces of ensolite together to make a winter suit, and then went on to
explain that it was imperative not to perspire. He recommended that one
should put on the suit and then sit quietly in the snow, avoiding all
I thought that this was too dull an activity to become popular, but then
about fifteen years later I came across a study which found that sitting
was the most popular form of recreation -- not sitting while talking, or
reading, or watching the TV -- just sitting. It was then that I realized
that the author of the winter camping book was a man ahead of his time.
On related notes, lately there has been a thread on the BWCA/Quetico list
concerning whether or not one should tote other parties' packs on portages
- -- the consensus seems to be no. Just a few minutes ago I received an
e-mail from a friend saying that he and his partner will be out skiing
tonight, even though the temperature will be -30 less an additional wind
chill warning, and that I should not be surprised to come across them
frozen into a snow drift like popsicles.
Putting all this together, I have come to the conclusion that snowbank
sitting will become a popular winter recreational activity as we end the
millenium (just as flag pole sitting was a popular summer activity in the
30s), and I would urge all PaddleWise readers to respect the wishes of
those whom they might come across laying about in drifts. Please don't try
to warm them up or feed them. Just let them commune with nature.
Date: Thu, 07 Jan 1999 02:01:38 -0800
Subject: [Paddlewise] more on ice, etc
> >I paddled on Jan 1 1998 with some folks in Windsor ON on
> >the Detroit river. This was an annual event for them and some
> >paddlers had considerable experience with paddling in ice
> >infested waters. One fellow had a pair of Philips screwdrivers
> >under the bungies on his fore deck. He had drilled holes in the
> >tops of the handles and ran lines through them. The other end
> >of the line was tied to a snap hook that was hooked to the bungies.
> Last year, a group of us built some of these using wooden dowels drilled
> wil a hole and filled with a penny nail. Throw on a metal eyelet on the end
> and attach some cord and you have essentially the same thing with even more
> 'biting power'. I would stick some cork on the nails to keep the nails from
> puncturing clothing. Using these, you can drag yourself up an ice shelf
> after a dunking during backcountry skiing or kayaking..
Looking at this reminded me of an article and sidebar I ran in my
newsletter in 1992 about Gail Ferris, a Connecticut paddler who now
lives in Greenland.
Some tips in the sidebar are relevant here.
START SIDEBAR, FOLDING KAYAKER JAN/FEB 1992...
GAIL'S GUIDE TO DEALING WITH ICE AND POOR VISIBILITY
Have you done much winter paddling? How do you like that sheet of ice
on a banked beach? Gets in the way of launching and landing, doesnít
Gotten lost in fog lately? Or been out after darkness has set in, and
realized the limits of your night vision?
Such conditions, which are scary to most of us, are the meat and
potatoes of Gailís paddling. The area around Gailís home in the town of
Stony Creek is prone to ice buildup on its shores because of fresh water
streams meeting the cold waters of Long Island Sound. Gail often
paddles in darkness or fog. Sheís worked up some sound techniques for
dealing with these.
Icy Landings and Launches
Gail has two tools that are indispensable for getting in and out of the
water at tricky, iced-over shorelines and boat ramps as well as an
interesting technique when the tools donít work or have been forgotten
Gail carries an ordinary garden hoe to use as a hook to help pull her
on to ice and to ease passage into the water. She has one with slightly
rounded edges so as not to cut the fabric deck of her folding kayak.
One with a shortened handle is best. You would be surprised at how well
a hoe works under icy conditions. Not as good as a mountaineering ice
axe but a lot friendlier to your skin boat.
Another device is a childís plastic toboggan, the kind that rolls up.
How does Gail use this? If there is too much distance to be traversed
on ice, she ties the toboggan to the bow of her boat. This keeps having
the hypalon hull of Klepper from being scratched by jagged sharp edges
of packed ice.
The technique that works for getting up on an icy shore or ramp when
tools arenít handy is fairly simple. Gail carefully climbs out of her
cockpit. She then straddles the boat. Now she can push or pull the
boat between her legs a foot or two at a time while her booties are
relatively well planted on the ice. By virtually sitting on the boat
she avoids a nasty spill. It would be virtually impossible to get
enough traction if she were pulling from either end of the boat.
All of the above are aimed at getting in or out of the water at an
ice-filled shoreline. But Gail also uses the hoe while on the water
when going through tight ice floes. The hoe gives her some purchase on
the ice to pull her kayak along through leads a lot better than would
her paddle, which could easily get nicked by the ice. She has actually
found that it is preferable to go backwards through such ice with the
hoe, or with her paddles when there is enough swing room. Her
experience tells her that she has more power going backwards than
forward whether paddling or hoeing.
In A World Of Limited Vision
Obviously, a compass is your best friend but there are other things
that help you too. At times of limited vision, in fog or in darkness
she experienced during early morning commutes from Rodgers Island to her
regular job, Gail relied on several techniques.
First, Gail observed, especially in dark early morning hours, that her
straight ahead vision was quite limited but it was marginally better to
the sides and at angles. Next, she used a seat-of-the pants approach to
read the seas around her. If it was a following sea, which was often
the case entering Stony Creek harbor, Gail read the waves. If the space
increased between waves, she knew a larger one was building up behind
her and to steel herself for it.
Of late, Gail has been feeling out another technique, distinguishing
wave patterns. I was with her on a day paddle on her turf in late
December and we came upon a phenomenon which could be of use when you
canít see anything or are not in sight of land. Gail had earlier
observed that waves tend to stack up when they meet land, after coming
across a long distance or fetch. What you experience in your boat is
sharp up and down movement rather than rolling as you would with sea
This is a phenomenon well known to Polynesian sailors who have
traversed hundreds of miles without benefit of compasses. Up and down
waves rebound off of land and can be felt quite far out. Clearly, in
the confused world of power boats and tight land contours that surround
us, the pattern is not so pronounced as on broad reaches of the
Pacific. But the phenomenon exists and it may be worthwhile seeing how
much so in your neck of the woods.
hope you enjoyed,
Ralph Diaz . . . Folding Kayaker newsletter
PO Box 0754, New York, NY 10024
Tel: 212-724-5069; E-mail: email@example.com
"Where's your sea kayak?"----"It's in the bag."
Date: Thu, 07 Jan 1999 14:23:43 -0500
From: Steve Cramer
Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] more on ice, etc
> Another device is a childís plastic toboggan, the kind that rolls up.
> How does Gail use this? If there is too much distance to be traversed
> on ice, she ties the toboggan to the bow of her boat. This keeps having
> the hypalon hull of Klepper from being scratched by jagged sharp edges
> of packed ice.
Neat idea. If it works on ice, it'll work on other surfaces as well,
although with more friction. I happen to have a few scraps of HDPE
laying about. I'll just fabricate a little drag pad that I can strap on
the bow. Who needs those $200 carts?
Sometimes I'm so clever I scare me.
Test Scoring & Reporting Services Sometimes, you never can
University of Georgia always tell what you
Athens, GA 30602-5593 least expect the most.
Date: Thu, 07 Jan 1999 16:00:39 -0700
From: Steve Jernigan
Subject: [Paddlewise] ice on flatwater (long winded)
So I got me a new (used) canoe for Xmas. Just had to try it out, so at the
first opportunity I haul it to the nearest likelyhood of finding open
water, which happens to be a large reservoir 'bout an hours drive south.
When I get to my usual put-in, I'm greeted by an impressive view across the
wide expanse of ice covering the entire western part of the resv. Now, I
can see that the main body of water to the east is open, and I'm just about
to bite the bullet and pay the entry fee to the state park / marina when a
couple of duck hunters appear. They tell me that the next cove to the east
has open water, and ask me to chase a few birds their way. Being reluctant
to share the boat ramp with the big boys, (and mostly being cheap), I toss
the canoe over a shoulder and march off thru the mud -n- snow.
Paddled east into a bit of a headwind for a couple of miles, hugging the
shore and staying in the lee as much as possible. Meanwhile, the breeze has
freshened into a fairly steady ~20 MPH wind from the east, so naturally I'm
thoroughly enjoying the return trip, so much so that I blow (literally)
rite past the little inlet with open water from whence I had departed. I
set up to crank around into the lee of the last headland before my (usual)
put-in, and THE ICE IS THERE!!! I'm already further from shore than is
prudent, so I really get serious about making this turn and THE ICE IS
THERE TOO!!! I can see the solid/liquid interface by where the waves quit
off in the distance, but up close, and in the partial shelter of the
headland, and with the afternoon sun in my eyes I'm having a hard . time .
distinguishing . just . . where . . . GRUUNK!!!
Now at this point I should mention that my new (used) boat is rather
rounder in the hull than my usual steed, and this, coupled with the
unfortunate fact that I have lost a tequila-drinking contest with The Lady
the night before and so am about 1/2 hung over, has already stressed my
equilibrium nearly to the breaking point. Luckily, I have already scrubbed
most of my forward momentum, and so the impact is more of a slide than a
blow. In fact, my port chine actually comes up onto THE ICE nearly spilling
me out to starboard. Thru no fault of my own, I slide back into the water
with the canoe still under me. Wide-eyed, I thrust against THE ICE with my
paddle, which of course promptly slips and very nearly precipitates me into
the water to port. I sit very still while the adrenaline surge subsides and
my pulse rate drops back to something less than 200.
Once I can see clearly again, I take stock of my predicament. I have
inadvertently followed a V shaped lead for about 50ft before running
aground (a-ice?), and now find myself surrounded on three sides by THE ICE,
with the wind striving to push me back up onto it. Carefully probing with
my paddle I find that I am floating in very shallow water with ice directly
below me as well as on both sides; perhaps I have flexed the ice sheet
coming aground, as it appears to be quite thin, perhaps 1/2 inch. My spare
paddle is one of those aluminum shafted things and I have frequently cursed
(but never repaired) it's loose grip, and I soon hold it reversed, sans
grip, and use the open end to pole myself backward with my port chine
bumping and grinding queasily along THE ICE. With a final shove I push away
from THE ICE, reverse the paddle (grip? we don' need no stinkin' grip!),
and spin that sucker around like a top. Belive me, a brisk headwind with 1
1/2ft waves never felt so good.
In no time at all I find myself sitting in the local McD's wolfing a
McGrease burger and contemplating mortality. Suppose I'd have gone
swimming? The water wasn't particularly warm or anything. I was wearing my
PFD, but was dressed for the 50F air temperature (jeans, sweatshirt, gortex
shell jacket) with all of my warmer stuff (and two-way radio) in my dry-bag
tied in the canoe. Where I grounded was only about 200ft from dirt, but
that was 200ft of ice. Nearest approach to shore via water more like
1000ft. Crawl across 200ft of 1/2 inch thick ice, even if I could manage to
drag my fat butt up onto it? Not likely! Swim 1000ft in ~40F water? Attempt
to empty and re-board an unfamiliar boat already noted to be somewhat
tippy? Hmmmm! Best I can figure,someone watches out for the fools in this
world! The other thing I decided is that the reason I experienced
difficulty determining where liquid met solid was (I think) because the
wind was pushing waves up over the ice. Scary! Be careful out there folks!
ByeBye! Steve J.
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 19:41:24 -0500 (EST)
From: Neil Somos
Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] ice on flatwater
I don't have superior skill, or a lot of experience. I don't trust
my ability to avoid trouble. I don't even trust my luck (what little
I might have). So whenever I go out on the water on anything other
than boats big enough to have their own life-rafts, I always make sure
I am prepared to take a swim, whether I am planning on swimming or
not. I guess what I trust is taking reasonable precautions against
what might be a worst-case scenario.
So, how do you avoid having to use superior skill?
Use good judgement. How do you get good judgement?
Learn from experience. How do you get experience?
>From having poor judgement!
I'll beat myself up for making mistakes, but as long
as I never make the SAME mistake TWICE, I figure I have
still managed to learn something.
Date: Fri, 8 Jan 1999 14:35:44 -0000
From: Larry Mills
Subject: RE: [Paddlewise] ice on flatwater (long winded)
If I could add a story to the Be Careful Out There group,
in about 1972,3,4, while I was living in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.,
there was a canoeist named John Oakley who put in on the
Chippewa river (100 ft. wide, 10 ft. deep most of the way) one
day in January. He rounded a bend and came to a wider spot
where the surface had frozen. While running his canoe up
the ice and breaking through, the boat flipped and he was
thrown into the water out in the middle of the wide space.
He was not wearing a PFD or much in the way of protective
Someone happened to discover him in the water and called
the rescue folks and his wife. She put her own canoe into
the river and got to him in time to hold him up until the rescue
team could get to them with a boat large enough to pull him
in and get him back to shore. He survived.
So, what's so remarkable about this?
Oakley is a champion marathon long distance canoe paddler.
In 1972 he won at least one leg of the three-part international
canoe championship that takes place in NY, Michigan and
Quebec. He owned a canoe livery on the river and was familiar
with every inch of the water in the area. His skills far exceeded
those necessary to safely paddle this river.
He survived because his wife was also a champion canoeist
and given her level of ability was able to get to him in time
and because he was in such terrific physical condition.
And because he was lucky.
And because he was lucky.
And because he was lucky.
He made some bad decisions and it almost cost him everything.
If this might happen to someone at his level, every one of us is
equally if not more susceptible to proving Darwin was right.
So do be careful out there.
Warm & dry.