by Tonya Ferrara
School’s in session, the leaves are turning, cooler weather is coming in, pumpkin spice is everywhere and days are getting shorter. Though we don’t want to think about it, sadly for many of us, boating season is coming to an end (insert sad face, bring on the tears and get ready to hunker down). Here at the Sea Eagle headquarters in beautiful, historic Port Jefferson, NY, that means we won’t be going out on the water…as much. Our fearless leader, Cecil C. Hoge, Jr. does brave the cold for a daily morning paddle in the local bay in his FastTrack or RazorLite or a quick trip around Port Jeff Harbor in his FishSkiff. And we also must continue to test new boats and products so, on nicer days we’ll man up, bundle up and go down to the water. And sometimes, the cabin fever just gets to us and we have to head outside. I mean, we are an inflatable boat company after all and we do live on an island so…
It’s not that our boats can’t take the cold, of course (see PADDLING WITH SEALS, On the FastTrack™ to Copenhagen and SAILING AMONG THE ICEBERGS). It’s just that it can get a bit too nippy for us mere mortals. I mean, standing on a dock or beach or in a boat taking photos all bundled up in a heavy winter coat, hat, and gloves may seem glamorous but trust me, as near & dear to my heart as they are, it’s not always fun standing in bitter breezes taking photos and videos of our boats. But one must do what one must do for the sake of ingenuity, quality, and fun.
Now, just to be clear, the cooler months are a fabulous time to go out for a paddle or to motor around. Our bays are far less crowded – that means very few boats and no swimmers to navigate around. Also, the water is cleaner and clearer since motorboats are not churning up the bottom. Plus, the weather is brisk, so no danger of mosquito bites (fist pump!). And on sunny days the air is clear and refreshing. So, as long as the water and weather conditions are favorable and it’s not snowing (except for crazy Hawaiian Dan that one time) or raining hard we can head down to the water for some photos or testing. And because developing new models seems to often take far longer than anticipated, we often find ourselves testing final prototypes in November, December and even January.
Safety and Comfort First
If you do go paddling in the colder months, remember to dress properly. Wear layers, you’ll warm up especially if you paddle hard, but its chilly out this time of year so it is better to overdo it. Waterproof gear is a great way to go – gloves, jacket, pants, shoes. You may even want to keep an extra set of clothing in a dry bag just in case. Also, be sure to know the weather and water conditions and to let someone know of your float plan – where you’re going, when you’re leaving and when you plan to be back. You can even fill out a U.S. Coast Guard Float Plan form with all your information. Basically, use common sense when going out on the water no matter what time of year it is.
Most important of all, do NOT forget to wear a life jacket. It is always a good idea in spring and summer to wear a life jacket, but in fall and winter this is even more important. In our parts it is the law to wear a life jacket when paddling November through March. This is because the water temperature can be close to freezing and any exposure to cold water for more than ten minutes can put you in serious jeopardy of hypothermia or even death. So please always wear a life jacket when going out in the colder weather. This is particularly important because in the Fall and Winter there may be no boats to come to your rescue.
We also especially recommend the Sea Eagle Waterproof Kayak Blanket to keep you warm and dry. This polartec lined waterproof blanket protects against wind, cold and the dreaded paddledrip that somehow works its way from your paddle to your clothes. Yes, even if we are pretty hardy people, it is nice to be toasty and dry while out paddling or boating.
I used the Sea Eagle waterproof blanket while riding in one of our Sport Runabouts one chilly winter’s day and let me tell you, this puppy works like a charm! Obviously, I wasn’t paddling in a kayak, but it was a pretty brisk day when we headed out of Port Jeff Harbor into the Long Island Sound to get some photos of the FishSUP, I believe. As we were heading through the channel another boat passed us going way too fast for the area and SPLASH! I got soaked! Well, I should say I would have gotten soaked, but thankfully, I had the blanket covering my feet, legs and arms (yes, the blanket’s 53″ long, but I’m only 60″ tall so most of me was covered).
Safe Storage for the Winter
When we’re not out on the water, we keep our boats folded and in their storage bags, when possible. The best place for them is in a temperature controlled room, but like you, we don’t always have that option. So, we’ll stack the folded boats in our annex in a spot where they cannot fall or something cannot fall on them. In frigid temps, our unsupported PVC boats (SE 330s, 370s & 9s) can become rigid and sometimes brittle, so it’s always best to store them where a sudden impact is not possible and where unfolding them is not necessary.
Storing an inflatable boat in a closet, garage or basement in a high place is best. But if that’s not feasible and you need to keep your boat in a shed, find a clean garbage can or plastic storage box with a tight lid – one that is big enough for your boat and inflatable seats to fit in completely with the lid firmly closed. This will help prevent mice and other critters from chewing a big hole in your boat. They might be little, but they can do some major damage, even rendering the boat useless. At the very least, it could ruin a planned trip and cost you time and money to patch the holes.
At Sea Eagle, we love…I mean LOVE being out on the water. We’re totally in the wrong business if we didn’t. Sometimes, though, the weather just doesn’t cooperate here in the Northeast and we have to pack up our beloved inflatable boats, kayaks and SUPs and begin the countdown to spring or hope for the odd warm winter day. If you live in an area where the weather is warm and the conditions are perfect all year, you’re very lucky, take advantage of it. If not, be sure to pack up your boat and store it properly, so when warmer days do come, you can just unpack, unfold, inflate and go!