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Old 24-11-2015, 21:49   #1
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If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

I've read that hypothermia is the main concern when going overboard. So, assuming one has a life jacket, one should assume a seated position with head above water, and make no attempt to swim to conserve energy.
Now I swim a lot, and I know I can't bear cold water in a swimming pool unless I swim and generate some heat. So is it even possible to stay still in water when it feels so cold?
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Old 24-11-2015, 22:00   #2
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

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Originally Posted by darsunt View Post
I've read that hypothermia is the main concern when going overboard. So, assuming one has a life jacket, one should assume a seated position with head above water, and make no attempt to swim to conserve energy.
Now I swim a lot, and I know I can't bear cold water in a swimming pool unless I swim and generate some heat. So is it even possible to stay still in water when it feels so cold?
Anything is possible if you make your mind up! The bottom line is convective heat transfer is minimized if you remain motionless. It allows the water trapped in your clothes to warm and not be replaced with the cold ambient water which would happen if you are moving.

For really cold water you cannot generate enough heat by swimming (exercise) to replace the heat lost through convection.

Hence, by staying motionless you maximize your slim possibility for rescue by staying alive longer.


As a diver in a dry suit the saying goes: science can't explain it but there is 100 degrees difference between 38 deg F water and 42 degree F water.
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Old 24-11-2015, 22:15   #3
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

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Originally Posted by darsunt View Post
...So is it even possible to stay still in water when it feels so cold?
No.

OK ... LakeSuperior's answer is much better. He's absolutely right. Don't move, huddle in a small still ball, and you'll last longer. This will give you more time to be rescued.

But if you are in a place with little or no chance someone coming in time (like much of Lake Superior ), I say do everything you can to get out of the cold water. Get as much of your body out of the water. Swim for shore if there's any hope of making it.

Most importantly of all, don't fall in.
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Old 25-11-2015, 06:12   #4
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

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For really cold water you cannot generate enough heat by swimming (exercise) to replace the heat lost through convection.
Even in moderately cold water, by swimming you are going to use up your energy, exhaust yourself, and then be all that much more susceptible to hypothermia. You'll be nice and warm for a while, then you will become too tired to go on, and you will very quickly succumb as soon as you stop.

Though, as Mike said, if you are a strong swimmer, and know which direction to go to get to land, and have a reasonable belief that you can make it, then maybe you want to start swimming. (Assuming, of course, that there is almost no chance that anyone on the boat will be coming back for you.)
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:02   #5
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

I have attended a few Safety at Sea seminars. Swimming uses up more energy than you can save. The most important thing to do in cold water is to protect your core temperature. That is why the recommended position is to curl up in sort of a fetal position- legs bent up and arms crossed over your chest and remain still and float until rescued.
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:06   #6
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

For an Offshore Survival Certificate to work in the UK North Sea and Norwegian Waters, we are taught to take up the HELP position. HELP is Heat Emission Loss Prevention......or something like that.

Bring your knees up to your chest, and cross your legs at the ankles. Wrap your arms around your legs at the shins.

As a previous poster stated this is to minimise, as much as possible, the flow of cold water around your body and allow it to warm up as much as possible. A body in water will lose heat approximately 20 time more quickly than in air. So its important not to loose any water that has had body heat transferred into it.

Of course, all this assumes a number of things. 1: You enter the water in a conscious state: 2: You have a fully functioning life jacket that will support your body weight: 3: You are wearing appropriate clothing for the conditions.

There are other physiological considerations: Age, weight, general fitness, size etc, plus a bloody minded positive attitude that you are going to survive.

But in direct answer to your question: This is how I would do it.
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:11   #7
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

If you're in a lake try to stay in the top 2 to 3 feet, there's a heck of a difference between water temp down 5 feet and the surface.
Bill


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
No.

OK ... LakeSuperior's answer is much better. He's absolutely right. Don't move, huddle in a small still ball, and you'll last longer. This will give you more time to be rescued.

But if you are in a place with little or no chance someone coming in time (like much of Lake Superior ), I say do everything you can to get out of the cold water. Get as much of your body out of the water. Swim for shore if there's any hope of making it.

Most importantly of all, don't fall in.
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:13   #8
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

Among the North Sea fishermen of my youth the common wisdom was: "Don't bother to learn to swim. It only prolongs the agony!"

I can swim, but refuse the enter water unless I can see the steam rising from it. Even in the warmest of summer weather in the Salish Sea neither my beloved nor I go on deck without PFDs and life-lines. The air may be at 80F. but once in the water the life expectancy of a strong, fit man is about 40 minutes because the water temperature is only 45F, or so.

In any kind of wind and wave the same rule holds for the cockpit.

Even if you retrieve a person who has been overboard, you are still faced with the fact that once body temperature goes much below 94F, and metabolism slows down, it becomes questionable whether residual metabolic activity can bring the body back up to survival temperature without exogenous assistance. And you are unlikely to have much of that.

So the lesson to learn is this: Do NOT go overboard, and do NOT suffer your crew to conducts themselves in manner that may conduce to their going overboard.

Concentrate on that! Resuscitation techniques only become relevant if you succeed in getting a MOB inboard again betimes.

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Old 25-11-2015, 09:14   #9
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

Having been in really cold water, believe me when I say you wont even be thinking straight. When I went in, it felt like a million skewers piercing my body. I was a good swimmer, but I hurt so much and was so instantly, intensely cold that I could not swim at all. It was all I could do just to move my legs a little to try to get ANY motion.

I was stupid and jumped off a diving board into a pool on New Year's Day. Hey, people do it in the Arctic, right? I was extremely fortunate that I made it to the shallow end and could craw out before I drowned.

Best thing is to not fall in in the first place. Take a crew that has enough skill to get back to you and help you aboard. PRACTICE while its warm, you don't want to try to figure this out in the actual situation.
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:17   #10
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

I have been through a number of offshore survival courses (including underwater helicopter escape training) and I totally agree with what sailing_gal and subs57 have just said. However, even before you start worrying about conserving heat, you should worry about minimising cold shock - the initial shock as you hit the water is potentially very dangerous. The only other thing I can add is that if you find yourself in the water with other people then cuddle up REALLY close (don't be shy!). It's amazing how much heat you can conserve this way.
If you want chapter and verse have a look here: www.hse.gov.uk/research/otopdf/1995/oto95038.pdf
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:27   #11
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

We have a (somewhat cruel but very true) saying here in the Netherlands: "Naast de boot is dood".
Literally translated: "Next to the boat is dead".

Meaning that, even if you go into HELP position, the chances you're found in time (even if there's someone trained in MOB procedure on the boat) and can be hauled back on board in time, are very, very slim.

So fully agree with Mike OReilly: don't fall in. Make sure your lifeline doesn't allow you to fall overboard, and use it
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Old 25-11-2015, 09:58   #12
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

If the water is seriously cold, both floating and swimming is dangerous. You have only few minutes time to get rescued.

My understanding is that (based of Finnish statistics) it is more dangerous to try to swim to the shore than stay with the boat or something else that floats. The swimmer much too often overestimates his ability to reach the shore in cold water.

If you want to survive in cold water I would recommend a life raft (if your boat is big enough) or a small dinghy. Also a survival suit could help, but that may not be the most practical solution. Or a wet suit if you are sailing a small dinghy.

One more thing. Wear a good life jacket with understraps.
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Old 25-11-2015, 10:23   #13
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

Look up Dr. Freeze online. The guy is a Canadian Dr. Who has studied this forever using himself as the subject. He has some great findings that bust many of the myths.
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Old 25-11-2015, 10:26   #14
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

The guy's real name is Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht.
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Old 25-11-2015, 10:33   #15
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Re: If go overboard, how can one keep still in cold water?

The chances of being recovered after going overboard at sea are less than 50:50 even when you do everything correctly with help immediately available.
We had a crew member go overboard near Singapore form a large ship where I was a crew member. The seas ware rolling at 6-8' swells. The sea water temp was probably 75F at least.
The crew member was a 22 YO in good health and a swimmer. He was not wearing flotation. The OOD, bridge crew and crew members knew we had a man overboard within 1 minute of another crew member observing the incident. Every technique we tried in the recovery process FAILED.
The final report was "Crew Member lost at Sea".
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