Although we live and recreate in the California of Canada, ocean temperatures at this time of year are cold enough to be the most significant danger we all face when playing on Vancouver’s largest playground. Here are some things you must know before you launch:
Appropriate Attire – Dress for Cold Water Immersion The water temperature is well below the level where it is safe to recreate without a proper (no shorties) wetsuit or drysuit. People who get into serious trouble at this time of year have often made the mistake of dressing for the air temperature not the water temperature, which is fine until something goes wrong and they suddenly find themselves immersed in the water.
Use Your Head
Significant heat loss is through your head. Hypothermia is the most significant danger experienced ocean recreationalists face. A neoprene cowling, wool toque or hat should be standard equipment.
Always Stay with Your Craft
When a sailing dinghy, windsurfer or kayak capsizes they are usually within a couple of swim strokes of their crew. Some craft, particularly SUP’s and surf skis, require a safety leash (in good condition and properly attached) as they can easily get away in a capsize situation. Never leave your craft in an emergency situation as it is far easier to spot than a person in the water.
Use the Buddy System
Always sail, paddle, row with someone else, especially in cold water conditions. Let a reliable friend or relative know when and where you are going and when you expect to return. Diligently contact them upon your safe return. If you are launching from Jericho Beach stop in at the JSCA office to let us know when and where you are going and when you expect to return.
Be Aware of Sunset
JSCA staff have witnessed people launching within a few minutes of sunset. This is a dangerous practice. If something goes wrong for you: equipment failure; changing conditions; fatigue, etc., you are very difficult to find in the dark. Make sure your safety float plan includes plenty of time to get off of the water before sunset.
For more information on cold water conditions, shiver over to: