As an avid sea kayaker, I was impressed by the story of Michael Beaudoin and his close call (Aug. 31) after capsizing near the southern end of Jewell Island, a place I know well. Ocean swells in that area are unpredictable, and his survival was a miracle of chance for which we are all grateful.

But the larger story here is the importance of understanding and preparing for the risks involved in cold ocean paddling. These preparations, which are particularly critical for solo paddlers, include practices such as dressing for water immersion (full neoprene or a drysuit for June water temperatures), carrying a VHF radio, keeping self-rescue skills well-tuned by frequent practice and using a boat and gear suitable for rough open water conditions.

Many resources exist to acquire knowledge and skills. The National Center for Cold Water Safety does a good job of detailing cold-water risks and solutions. The Southern Maine Sea Kayaking Network, a local ocean paddling club, holds free skills training events and sponsors many pool sessions in winter where members can work on their skills. Other clubs in the area do the same. Safety is the main focus for all of them.

As Mr. Beaudoin knows, nothing can compare to the challenge and beauty of the open ocean. But as his experience shows, things can change with a single wave, and thorough and serious preparation is the best route to safe and enjoyable paddling.

Janet Robinson
Registered Maine Sea Kayak Guide;
president, Southern Maine Sea Kayaking Network

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