Monday, January 20, 2020

Crabby Kayakers

Winter is probably my favorite season on the Mendocino Coast.  I love the excitement of winter storms - big waves, dramatic skies, and rain.  It is fun to watch the weather forecasts and to go out on storm watching missions.  Often our storm watching missions evolve into wave watching missions both on and off the water.
Hail or High Water! The USCG training our of Noyo Harbor in stormy conditions that included hail, high winds, and huge surf.
Playing in big seas in our whitewater kayaks on the Mendocino Coast of California.

Winter is also Dungeness Crab season. This weekend kicks off Mendocino County's Crab Feast.
Kayak Fishing for Dungeness Crab - aka crabbing.
Last week, ABC 7 Bay Area Life aired a special feature on Crab Feast Mendocino.  They interviewed Jeff and I and shared a little bit about Liquid Fusion Kayaking in the feature.

This weekend's weather forecast is looking pretty wet.  Grab your rain coat and do some storm watching and then feast on Dungeness Crab.
Storm watching from Fort Bragg's Noyo Headlands Park.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Gearing up for Winter Kayaking

It's a new year!  Are you excited to get out on the water but concerned about chilly air and cold water temperatures. Here are some tips that I have found helpful for staying warm when kayaking in the winter months.
Sea kayaking on a chilly day on the North Coast of California. Photo by Pelle Hammarstrom

First  - what is cold water?  

The National Institute for Cold Water Safety says we should treat any water temperature below 70F with caution.  

What are the dangers of cold water? 

Cold shock, drowning, heart failure, stroke, and hypothermia are the dangers.  For more information, check out Why Cold Water is Dangerous.

Tips for Winter Kayaking Warmth

Thermal Protection -
 My number one choice for paddling in the winter months is a drysuit - specifically one that includes feet.  I make sure that my drysuit is roomy so that if it is really chilly or I am going to be in the water a lot I will still be warm.  Read my blog post on drysuits.
Drysuits are a super comfy option for cold water and cold weather paddling. LFK instructors Jeff Laxier and Cate Hawthorne showing off their colorful and functional Immersion Research Drysuits.
My layers under the drysuit vary depending on air and water temperatures, how hard I am going to be paddling, and how much time I plan to be in the water.  My go-to base layer is my Immersion Research Women's Union Suit.  I have found the Immersion Research (IR) women’s onesie to be the best fitting and functional of the union suits available.  The 2 features that I really appreciate are the relief flap in the crotch and no zippers.  Depending upon water and activity level, I may layer over my union suit (both top and bottom).  I also carry an extra fleece top in a dry bag in case I get chilled and want another base layer under my dry top.
Immersion Research makes a super comfy zipperless onesie with a convenient relief flap.
If a drysuit is not an option, then a wetsuit and drytop combination is my second choice.  Here are 2 combinations that I have found to work
1.      5/4 surf suit and a dry top
2.      3mm Farmer Jane with a union suit and additional fleece top.

Keep Your Feet Warm
I often wear a pair of wool socks (sometimes 2) and a pair of neoprene boots in my paddling shoes.  When its cold, I find neoprene paddling shoes/booties to be warmer than my regular paddling shoes.

Keep Your Hands Warm
Pogies are my first choice for keeping my hands warm.  On very cold days, I will wear gloves and pogies.  My favorite paddling gloves are Patagonia’s neoprene fly fishing gloves.  Their XS fits my small hands perfectly. 
Pogie are mittens for kayaking.  They velcro over the shaft of the paddle and work quite well.
Keep Your Ears Warm
Keep your ears warm.  I prefer ear plugs because they keep out cold water and wind, work with my helmet, and protect my ears.  Some people prefer to wear neoprene hoods or skull caps.  If I am doing a lot of rolling or swimming in cold water, I wear both ear plugs and a hood.
Ear plugs are an essential item for kayakers to protect their ears from the wind and cold water.
Protect Your Eyes from the Wind
Try wearing sunglasses or glasses with clear lenses. You might be surprised how much they cut down on the wind and help keep you warm.
Another excuse to wear my Maui Jim's.

Keep Well Fueled
Make sure you stay well hydrated and fueled.  I usually bring a small thermos with hot tea and honey or hot chocolate.  On a cold day, I find the warmth and sweetness are more appealing than plain water.  At lunch time, I find that fatty foods like cheese and/or a nut or seed butters work well.

Other Comforts
Poncho – I often carry an inexpensive easily packable poncho to pull on at lunchtime and when we are off the water but not getting out of our paddling kit right away.  This provides a wind break and keeps heat in.

Dry Gloves and Hat – for off water breaks, I keep a dedicated pair of warm gloves, and a warm, dry, knit or neoprene hat to pull on during lunchtime and off water breaks.
Sunglasses and knit wool hats are part of my cold weather kit.  Thanks mom for the cool hats.
After paddling, I change out of all of my paddling clothes (including base layers) and into dry, warm clothes.  For changing out of my paddling base layers, I use my fleece changing station for warmth and modesty.  Usually I have another warm knit hat stowed with my extra dry clothes to be extra toasty (thanks mom for all the warm wool knit hats).

Please share in the comments below if you have other tips for staying warm when kayaking in the winter or if you have found any of these tips to be helpful.