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Don’t be a dummy…wear a drysuit

This young sailor knows that any smart boater going out on Long Island Sound in April should wear a drysuit or a wetsuit. Photo by Allen Clark /

Vol. 1, No. 112

by Daniela Clark

You may have heard that three people had to be rescued from Norwalk waters this weekend.  The report says that they fell out of their kayak, and though they managed to get back in, they were shivering.  Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve never heard of a three-person kayak and skip to the important part.  The water temperature in Long Island Sound is 45 degrees.  Nobody should be operating a small boat this time of year without wearing a wetsuit or a drysuit.  What happened this weekend is an all-too-common phenomenon.  Casual boaters don’t realize that the warm spring weather they have been feeling in the air hasn’t warmed up the water enough yet for swimming.  For me, the lecture on the high specific heat of water from 10th grade chemistry class really stuck.  Thanks, Mr. McFadden.  And all the memories of those frigid memorial day weekend swim tests helped as well.  But not every boater knows the risks associated with going out in a small boat in April, or even May or early June.  Even with a PFD.  Had the kayakers remained in the water for 30 minutes this weekend, there’s a good chance they would have died from hypothermia.

CT law states that operators of human-powered vessels, such as kayaks, must wear a PFD between October 1st and May 31st.  That’s definitely a good law, but what about a drysuit?  Does the law give boaters the false sense that they can go out on the water in April as long as they wear PFDs?  I’m not for the over-regulation of everything we do, and drysuits would be very expensive required equipment.  But there definitely should be more widespread awareness of the dangers of spring water temps.  While kayakers are not required to have CT Safe Boating Certificates, I would recommend a safe boating course for anybody wanting to enjoy time on the water, any time of year. Here’s a list of Longshore’s one-day Safe Boating courses coming up this spring and early summer.