Hypothermia occurs when you find yourself in a cold environment without sufficient protection to keep your body core warm. We are loosing heat faster than we can generate it. When our core drops to 95 degree F we are entering into mild hypothermia. Most of us have experienced the mild symptoms of shivering in winter. Not a big deal if you can just go inside and warm up.
It becomes a bigger issue if you can’t remove yourself from the source of the chill, such as a capsize on a lake. As hypothermia progresses we lose motor skills, our thinking gets confused, and we can actually start to feel warmer. Our body is pulling all the blood from the extremities in an effort to concentrate the warming blood at the core.
Early spring and late fall is a dangerous time for paddlers. We have a nice sunny day. Maybe even in the 80’s. However, water temp can be still in the 30 or 40. We get lulled into thinking nice day and time to go paddling. After all I don’t plan to go swimming. Well, few people plan to find themselves in 40 degree water with hypothermia setting in within 5 minutes. In as little time as 10 to 15 minutes in 40 degree water you will be unable to rescue yourself and if the lake is sparsely populated, there will be no one to help you. Then we think I will just swim to shore. Wrong answer. As we swim we use up body heat faster and since water absorbs our body heat 25 time faster than air it all is just sucked away. Most people find themselves exhausted and drown.
All of the above are reasons we don’t rent boats until the water reaches at least 50 degree F for paddle boats and fishing boats. These two types of boats are the most stable we have and the likely hood of someone ending up the lake is not high. We wait until 50 degree because at 50 degrees you can have as long as 20-25 minutes to get back in your boat or be rescued. Since both of these boat are usually rented by two or more people, it is likely you can get back and make it back to shore before hypothermia sets in.
All other boat are held until the water temps reach 55 degrees. At 55 degree you have at least 30 minutes to get out of the water and back to shore. It is also likely that there will be more people on the lake and assistance will show up.
As an experienced paddler I have to make the call and I prefer to error on the side of caution. I never want to be responsible for knowingly sending people out, in our boats, in conditions I know are risky or not safe. As of the this writing our water temps are 43 degrees F. That is really, really cold.
So, we will post on our Facebook Fan page, on our voice mail announcement and on this website when we start renting boats. If you want a best guess, with the way our spring is going I would say around the last week of April or the first week of May. It is best to call first to confirm, if you are driving a distance.
Thank you for understanding.