Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Many discussions regarding.... Dry Suites, Wet Suits, Footwear, Launch Trousers, Jackets, Waders etc
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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by DouglasW » 30 Jan 2018, 13:44

ADMIN EDIT>>>>
[b]Following from a previous post running off track, We have moved this topical discussion onto this new page.
Are waders for you?
The thread continues.[/b]


==============================================================================================



I and my friends boat year round in a variety of small craft. We always use a dry suit from November until end of March and if it is rough until the end of May by which time the sea temperature has heated up to about 12C. I need to use a breathable dry suit when kayaking due to overheating but that is not so important in a powerboat as long as you do not put it fully on while you are humphing and heaving the boat on land. When launching the boat,I tend to have the legs on but keep my arms out and tie the suit arms round my waist until I am just about to enter the water. The water temperature is currently 7C off the south west coast of Scotland and it will not rise above 9 until mid late May. The dry suit needs to be paired with a wicking undersuit and socks made of stuff like polypropylene /polyester fleece not cotton. The dry suit keeps the cold water off your skin, the fleece keeps you warm.

WINTER BOATING IS SERIOUS. If there is any chance at all you might fall in (that is why you wear a life jacket after all) you should seriously consider a drysuit for winter boating in small craft. Sudden immersion in cold water is an extreme stress to the body, you can die almost straight away of cold shock, where the heart stops beating properly or of aspiration of water due to the mammalian gasp reflex. A little later you might die of hypothermia, drowning or even myocardial infarction if you are struggling to get back in the boat. The bottom line is cold water can kill you very quickly, even before you get a chance to drown. If you do find yourself in the water in winter without a wetsuit, I guarantee you will not be able to operate your VHF or activate your PLB the cold grips and inactivates you so quickly.

A kayaker I knew called Freddie Stewart died at the mouth of Loch Craignish in April 2005, when he capsized and could not get back into his kayak. He was not wearing a dry suit, he was 23 years old and very fit. A high speed tourist RIB got to him very quickly but he was already dead. The post mortem showed he died of hypothermia not drowning (inhalation of sea water).

Alternatively you could be full sibling to an ostrich and buy a really great fish finder.... :)

Douglas

Elsewhere Chris has posted a link to a blog about a boater's experience in the RNLI cold pool, which is actually a balmy 18C. It is worth a read.

In my comment to Chris' post, I mentioned 3 people who died after falling into cold water in Fleet Bay where I do a lot of boating. I knew two of them and was on the water the day each died (same caravan site) which means I knew three people who have died after falling into cold water. Of course I have been boating since 1958 which is a long time but I am glad I was not one of those 3.

Douglas

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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by Frankelsbikes » 30 Jan 2018, 13:45

Hi Douglas
Another great read and stark reminder of the dangers. As mentioned I really struggle with cold in general and the thought of going in the water give me goosebumps just reading it. I will be on a T40 Honwave mostly two up S&SW coast and hope to never end up in the brine!!
I am doing a fair bit of hiking and understand layering, my thoughts were to just waterproof that and all is good!
Lots to take in and explore, all part of the adventure.

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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by DouglasW » 30 Jan 2018, 14:14

Hi Frankelsbikes, a two piece and layering will keep you toasty warm while you are in the boat but as soon as you fall in you will find icy water grips you every where. I used to wear a BA/two piece suit when winter kayaking until December 2005 when The Gurnard fell in only 100m from shore and quickly became hypothermic in water which was 9C. He was wearing two layers of fleece on both upper and lower body. waterproof leggings with tight fitting calf high neoprene kayaking boots and a waterproof cag with latex wrist seals and neoprene neck seal. It is actually much easier to get back in a kayak from the water than back into a RIB, especially if you have two kayakers on either side as in our case. But the Gurnard quickly became very uncoordinated and could not manage it, partly as his leggings had filled with water. I had to tow him to the shore which was fortunately very near. I have written it up in Ocean Paddler magazine, UK Sea Kayak Guidebook and my blog.

Since then I have only gone boating in cold water conditions with a BA and a dry suit.

Douglas
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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by DouglasW » 30 Jan 2018, 14:35

In case you think that sea kayaks are less sea worthy (and so have a greater need for dry suits) than small SIBS/RIBS they are not. In a skilled kayaker's hands they will handle breaking seas and tide races in a way that small boats cannot. One of my friends paddled from the east coast of Greenland to Iceland to the Faroes to Sula Sgeir to Cape Wrath in Scotland last year. He had paddled Shetland to Norway as a warm up.

Here is the text of the article mentioned above which was published in Ocean Paddler magazine in 2008:

A chilling winter warning.

This is an account of the danger cold water holds for the sea kayaker. It is also a story of how a sequence of relatively minor events led to a potentially dangerous situation. Fortunately though the significance of those events was not recognised at the time, once the incident occurred, planning and equipment ensured a happy outcome.

It was late December during a rare high pressure spell of light winds and clear skies with sunny days and frosty nights. We planned a short paddle from Largs in the upper Firth of Clyde on Scotland’s west coast. The Accuweather upper Clyde sailing forecast was for a 6 mph northerly dropping to 3mph. The BBC forecast for Largs was for sun and 7 mph northerly winds. It looked like it was going to be a great day. Ronnie had done a lot of kayaking in the late 60's early 70's but had stopped until the previous September when I took him out in my Rockpool Alaw at Arisaig. He enjoyed the experience of kayaking again so much he gave up smoking! I hadn't seen him since then but he was very keen to go out again.

I decided to go to Largs and take him the 2.5km across to the Great Cumbrae island that shelters Largs from the rest of the Clyde. I thought if the weather changed, he could always get the ferry back. I know the area well as I have been sailing, windsurfing and kayaking there since 1967. We arrived at Largs in a flat calm just as the sun was coming up. We met up with Steve one of my regular paddling partners.

I was very surprised how much weight Ronnie had put on since stopping smoking. I wished I had brought the Quest for him rather than the Alaw (which had been a good fit in September). But we removed the hip shims, got the footplate right and got him squeezed in and made sure he could release the nylon spray deck.

FIRST MISTAKE

The Alaw was now too small for him. We should not have gone.

I had brought him a breathable, two piece salopette and cag with velcro neoprene seals at wrists and neck. I had also brought my 3 mm neoprene shorty wetsuit and thermals for underneath but the wetsuit was now far too small for him. He ended up with two thermal long johns, 1 thermal top, a micro fleece and a normal fleece under the two piece suit. He also had neoprene knee length kayaking boots, neoprene gloves and a neoprene cap. He complained he was too hot!

We were soon paddling over a glassy sea but a dark line on the horizon soon changed everything and we had a force 4 NW wind channelling straight down the Kyles of Bute towards Largs meeting a flood tide of about 1 knot. A short sea soon built up and Ronnie was really enjoying himself paddling into it. I asked him if he would like to turn back. He definitely didn't!

SECOND MISTAKE

I should have turned back straight away as the weather was now out with his recent experience. With my local knowledge, I had little excuse for not appreciating how local winds funnel and accelerate down through valleys in the hills and between the islands in the Largs area. Sometimes over familiarity with an area does breed a lack of caution. Also within a group, peer dynamics may make it difficult to say “I do not feel ready for this”. The leader should be prepared to turn back or call off the expedition as soon as the conditions change to make the weakest member uncomfortable, even if he/she says “I am fine, I want to go on.”

However, we were soon in the calm of the lee of Cumbrae and landed on a little beach to enjoy a cup of hot soup. We were planning what to do next. I suggested heading south in the shelter of Cumbrae but the wind further out had now definitely dropped and Ronnie had caught a glimpse of the hills of Arran behind Cumbrae and fancied a quick look round the north of the island to get some photos.

Steve and I told him we would turn back as soon as he felt uncomfortable. The wind was dropping further so we continued round the point. We headed out from shore a bit, to get the best view over to Arran. Unfortunately we had not gone much further when another very dark squall line appeared on the horizon. This time Steve and I told Ronnie that we would turn to the shore and land on another beach 500m directly downwind. It was soon on us blowing about 4 to 5 and the seas built up very quickly. Ronnie found the following sea much more difficult and I saw him do a couple of successful low braces. I wondered if I should raft up with him.

THIRD MISTAKE.
As soon as I saw him brace I should have rafted. The leader should be alert and be prepared to intervene/change plans/retreat early before an incident develops.

As we approached the shore the waves steepened, he broached and fell in 190 metres from the shore. He was disorientated and had the cold water gasp reflex but I was right beside him and got him to hang onto my bow. I got his boat emptied in seconds while Steve calmed him down. We then got him in between his boat and mine facing towards his bow. He was very cold and he was moving very clumsily. We have practiced getting big people into boats before and found the best way is between the hulls, arms over both boats, feet into cockpit and limbo forward. Ronnie got his legs into the cockpit but even with Steve and me on either side, he couldn't get his bum on the seat (a combination of being big for the cockpit, cold, uncoordinated and the seat back folding forward under his bum).

A breaking wave washed over us and he was in again, looking even colder. I looked at the shore it was just over 100m away. I told to Ronnie to grab the back of my boat (he had no strength left to get on the back deck of the boat) and shouted to Steve to keep an eye on him and paddle beside him in case he couldn't hold on. I then paddled hard for the shore. The GPS data shows that it was only 7 minutes from the fall in to the shore. He could hardly stand and the freezing north wind was blowing up the beach with no shelter and making him more hypothermic by the second (he had lost his neoprene cap).

Now at last, some of the planning began to go right. I got him into my 4-man Pertex emergency shelter. Steve and I got his wet clothes off and he put on the Buffalo pile and Pertex jacket and trousers I always carry for emergencies. He then put the two piece paddling suit and boots back on top together with a Gore-Tex mountain cap. With three of us in the shelter and three flasks of hot soup down our necks we soon had a warm fug. Even so, it was over half an hour before he got warm again. Once he was warm enough, he walked round the point to a sheltered bay on the east of the island and I towed his boat round. In the sun and shelter of the lee side of the island we had lunch washed down with more hot soup (we had 6 flasks between the 3 of us).

Ronnie was soon back to form and even wanted to paddle back to Largs. We did have another spare change of clothing but he sensibly decided to take the ferry back and I towed his boat back to Largs.

Critical review.

What if we hadn't been near the shore? We could have used a scoop rescue (we had two hand pumps and a portable electric pump between us to empty the boat after this) but even with 2 experienced kayakers, we might have found it difficult to get him into the cockpit. Once he was in, one of us would then have needed to raft up with Ronnie while the other towed. (We have practiced this.)

What if we had not been able to self rescue? Well I had VHF, flares and EPIRB and Largs RNLI Inshore Rescue Boat station was only 2.6km away. Steve and I (we are both doctors) were amazed at how quickly Ronnie developed symptoms of hypothermia (and he has much more natural insulation than a thin person). He could have been seriously hypothermic by the time outside help arrived.

Steve who was not any better dressed than Ronnie has now bought polartec aquashell wear for under his cag and salopettes. I was wearing a drysuit with polartec aquashell insulation layer underneath. You might say we shouldn’t have gone with Ronnie in the winter but in Scotland on a sunny Spring day the water is even colder. Then temperature in the west coast Scottish sea lochs drops as low as 6.5 degrees C even although the sun and air temp might tempt you to paddle in shirt sleeves! On a sunny day in spring 2008 a west of Scotland sea kayaker died of hypothermia in just these conditions.

In conclusion, learn from my three main mistakes above. Although we had a satisfactory outcome, prevention is always better than cure. Anticipate problems and intervene early rather than react too late once a problem has occurred. Know that cold water is a killer and dress for the water temperature.


Douglas
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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by DouglasW » 30 Jan 2018, 15:21

Hello again Frankelsbikes, although we hope never to fall out of a boat or off the quayside etc it does happen. A few years ago this chap fell out of his RIB 8 miles of Pembrokeshire. Although the kill cord worked, the boat drifted away faster than he could swim after it. He spent 3 hours in the water until the helicopter picked him up. Three things saved him. He was wearing a dry suit and a life jacket and had a PLB on his life jacket, which he activated. I guess he got value for money out of his safety gear. Hew has written a personal account on RIBNet but I can't find it.

I do not wear a dry suit in my kayak, sailing dinghy or F-Rib 330 for short coastal hops June till October when the sea temp on the Solway is 12C to 18C. However, I swim a kilometre every day (30mins) in the sea June to October so I am used to cold water. Most people who are not acclimatised would find even a few minutes in 12C water life threatening. However, if I am doing a longer crossing in the summer eg Arran to Ailsa Craig or Seil to the Loch Buie on Mull I will use a dry suit in either kayak of F-Rib.

Douglas
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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by Paul B » 30 Jan 2018, 16:14

Some cracking posts by Douglas, I think that perfectly explains why I have a one piece surface drysuit for waterskiing etc and a 2 piece one as well, I only use the bottoms generally when in my sib, but might have a rethink on that when the weather isn’t too kind and when I’m doing any winter boating in the future :thumbsup
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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by Frankelsbikes » 30 Jan 2018, 16:23

Thanks for some great information, if that doesn’t make you think nothing will.
Oh and thanks for kissing the shiny new fisfinder goodbye for a while!!
Any dry suits for sale or recommendations??


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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by DouglasW » 30 Jan 2018, 16:48

Thank you frankelsbikes and Paul. I agree with Paul that a surface dry suit is the way to go. Divers suits are too heavy and have unnecessary things like purge valves. I like to have a pee zip in mine. These come in both male, female and unisex designs. Most dry suits have latex seals at the wrists and neck. These are perishable and I normally get 3-4 years out of them but my last lot went after just one year probably because I stored it in a shed I had just creosote. I now keep anything with latex in the spare bedroom. You can also get semi dry dry suits if that is not an oxymoron. These have neoprene cones at wrist and neck but do let a bit of water in. When you come to need new latex seals you can either send them back to the manufacturer or try googling the rubberman. You can also do it yourself and the Gurnard has posted about putting new seals on dry suits elsewhere on the forum. DAMX make some really robust non breathable dry suits. Peak, Gul, Typhoon, IRS, Palm, Musto etc all do surface dry suits that are partially breathable.

Douglas
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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by DouglasW » 30 Jan 2018, 18:09

frankelsbikes>
Any dry suits for sale or recommendations?
For those that are boating through the winter and may be thinking of a drysuit.. the Wetsuit Outlet has some cracking deals on surface drysuits...20% to 43% off. I particularly like the look of the top of the range Musto Gore-tex (but no pee zip) one reduced from £700 to £400. Gore-tex suits are the most breathable and Gore-tex insist on higher standards of construction from manufacturers who use their material.
080605IMG_5012.jpg
Another one to consider is the budget but well respected Lomo Tornado at £225. If a suit is airtight it is going to be watertight!

Douglas

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Re: Waders / DrySuit - OR Not ???

Post by The Gurnard » 30 Jan 2018, 18:58

LOL..I just notice these posts so though I would offer my two pence worth as I was the one in the water in Douglas's reports

Yup..its true..(although I have my own version of what happened during the 7 minutes I was in the water.. but it does not change the outcome).

When I got on the shore after that short time.. I became very light headed and though I was going to pass out. My problems were only beginning on the shore. The bitter December wind was cutting me to the bone. There is little shelter on a shore. There is not a doubt in my mind that I would have passed out and possibly died if Douglas had not got me into a survival bag to keep the wind chill off me. That bag saved my life :o

The IRB was only a matter of a few miles away. I know I could not have relied on them saving me even though they were so close. It would take another 15-30 mins for them to get the distress call ..launch the boat..find US..and get me warm. I don’t know if my body could have waited that long.

I recall a conversation I had on another forum. One guy was saying if you fall in the water from a boat..you will wish you had a PLB. I replied..if you fall in the water with a PLB..you will wish you had a dry suit.

That day changed my whole outlook on boating. I have never and will ever go back into a kayak. I wish I could but it put me off for life.

Obviously it has not put me off going to sea..in fact I practically live on it in the summer. :D
I have most my days so Im not scared of water.

Since that day..I always carry a survival bag.. its just a big plastic bag I can climb into to get out the wind. I would recommend everyone to carry one.

I practise self rescue ..not as often as I should but I still do it. Last time was my last day on the water in 2017.

Im glad I did because I found that I could no longer get into my boat..possibly due to age or illness. I found it too painful on my bare feet in the cold water to clamber up the OB. I also found my legs are now too stiff at the knee to get on the cavitation plate of a short shaft OB. I had not the strength to haul myself onboard. Im now prepared for the new season.. I made a step ladder for next season.

I used to wear chest waders ..but my first self rescue wearing them made me realise I couldn’t get out of them when in the water. There is no way I could climb onto a boat with them full of water. So I compromised..as soon as I launched the boat..they were rolled down to my knees. They could easily be kicked off if I fell overboard. That worked then ..because I tried it.

Later I started wearing thigh length waders which IMO are safer than chest waders..but again..as soon as I am in the boat.. they were pushed down to my knees. They are not so bulky round my knees at chest waders are which is why I prefer them. I moved away from waders last season in favour of Drysuit bottoms with tight belt. That was my reason for the end of season self recue. I didn't have problems with them..yes a bit of water got in ..but I was still warm in them.

I now have a full drysuit ..but as I don’t go out during winter ..I don’t really use it often. However I know I can rescue myself in what I do wear.

My view is..by all means wear waders..but make sure you can get into your boat from the water however you wear them.

I guess many will say..but I wont fall out my boat.

I never say that ..and in fact..the first year I got my F Rib..(2 years ago) I fell out.

It happened in a flash. I was about 30 yards from the shore having just left it. Throttle full open..going up on the plane nicely. There was a few waves so I grabbed hold of the rope I hang onto with my right hand ..left hand on throttle. Then.. damn ..by cap started to blow off my head. Reflex made me grab it. I let the tiller go to catch the hat. Next moment I was flung overboard because a wave swing the boat sideways..the OB spun to full lock..and the F RIB turned on a sixpence. It was as quick and as easy as that and I was thrown in the water. Kill cord stopped the OB dead ..so no problems..only my pride was damaged. :roll:

Of course..that wont happen to you guys..you all have far more experience than me. Stay safe ..and dress for the worst happening.. it does happen ... to fools like me :oops:
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