Kayak club warns of cold water despite bright, sunny skies

Kayak Cove was littered with colourful kayaks on the weekend and while the air is warm, the water is not.
A member of the Windsor Essex County Canoe Club is on his first official kayak trip of the season Sunday. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Warm temperatures, blue sky and calm waters brought many out to the Detroit River this weekend and the same conditions will likely do so again today.

Kayak Cove was littered with colourful kayaks Sunday. The cove is across the river from Peche Island, which was the destination for the Windsor Essex County Canoe Club's first official outing of the season.

Although members ready to paddle off were excited, they all had safety on their mind.

"I made sure that everybody that went out today had the proper cold water gear on," said Stacy Adam, the president of the Windsor Essex County Canoe Club.

Adam said the surface temperature was 4 C, or 41 F. She said it's important to be covered in a dry suit when the water is still that cold.

Hypothermia is a real possibility.

In water colder than 5 C, people can lose consciousness in 20 minutes. Even in water with temperatures ranging between 7 C and 14 C, maximum survival time is 2-3 hours, according to Parks Canada.

"I'm not wearing this gear for the air. I'm wearing it for the water," said John Lesperance, member of the club.

He said if he does fall in the river, it won't be a problem, because the dry suit has rubber around the neck and wrists. Lesperance said the rubber seals the water from coming into his suit and getting him wet.

He has safety tips for those going out on the water. Lesperance said in addition to wearing a dry suit, if you are going to kayak in the Detroit River you must use a sea kayak. Those provide the buoyancy needed in the rough waters.

He said you must always have a life vest, which should have a whistle attached. Lesperance also checks his suit regularly for holes, by jumping in the water.

The No. 1 rule for him is to always paddle with a friend.

"You just don't know what going to happen, "said Lesperance, "Then if you're in water with currents, then you should have at least three people."

Kathy Macdonald agreed. She said she'll never kayak alone after an experience with her son.

"I took him to the Elora Gorge and he tried to miss some tubers, flipped over and that's probably the most nerve racking situation I've ever been in, is to try to get him upward without him hitting his head.

"Fortunately, there were people around who grabbed his kayak. Where the water was shallow enough, they grabbed him, because I wouldn't have been able to get to him. So never again will I ever kayak alone."