coming back alive
Tragedy at Spider Lake
Calm, black, waters turn unexpectedly deadly.

Roger and his wife Peggy had just settled in to their campsite on Georgian Bay, when they heard a scream from across the lake. Grabbing a canoe, they paddled out to where a yellow canoe had overturned, only to see a young woman, named Angela, swimming to shore. When the woman finally noticed Peggy and Roger, she began screaming, "He's under the canoe! He's under the canoe!” But they could see no one.

As Roger tells it, “ The water was dead calm, black and cold. Angela's clothes, which she had removed so that she could make it to shore, looked foreboding floating around the empty canoe and floating paddles.”

As Angela sat on the shore, hypothermic and in a state of shock, police and search teams arrived on scene, and began to conduct a thorough search of the water. But it was too late. Raffael, a 23 year old student who had just graduated from University, drowned when the canoe he and Angela had been sitting in while washing dishes, capsized.

Not wearing a life jacket, and disoriented by the shock of the cold water, Raffael had begun swimming towards the shore. When he could swim no further, Angela went to him and struggled to get him out of his heavy clothes. They started sinking together, and eventually Raffael let go, drowning in the frigid water, as his girlfriend watched, helpless.

Had Raffael been wearing a life jacket, perhaps he would have been able to stay above water and maintain his body heat, increasing his chances for survival. Instead, it took only a few minutes for a promising young life to be cut brutally short.
As Roger explains,

“It is so hard to comprehend how a simple lapse, and an innocent could have such a tragic end.”

The Body and Heat Loss
Stage 1: Initial immersion and the “Cold Shock” response
  • You begin gasping for air immediately

  • You find it harder to breathe

  • Less blood goes to your brain making you disoriented, faint, and more likely to drown

  • Increased heart rate overworks your heart

  • You may suffer from heart failure or die

cold shock
Stage 3: Long-term immersion and the onset of Hypothermia
  • Hypothermia is a core body temperature of 35°C or below

  • Only affects you after 30 minutes in cold water

  • There are three stages of hypothermia:

    1. Mild hypothermia- you are cold, cannot communicate and shiver constantly

    2. Moderate hypothermia- you are only slightly aware of your surroundings, have slow and jerky movements, become stiff and stops shivering

    3. Severe hypothermia- you become unconscious, your heartbeat is not regular, your breathing seems to have stopped and you appear dead

Derek Wasn't So Fortunate
Even a serene boating experience can be dangerous for the unprepared.
A Mid-Summer Nightmare
cold water 
Caught off guard by unexpected waves
Cold water can be a deadly killer, even in the middle of summer. On July 5, 2000, 13-year-old Mathieu Cusson saved his father from drowning after their canoe capsized during a fishing trip at Comencho Lake, near Chibougamau, Quebec.

Mathieu, his father and a visiting friend were returning to shore with their catch shortly after lunch when their five-metre freighter canoe was capsized by two large waves. The three struggled repeatedly to remove the outboard motor and attempted to straighten the canoe in 4oC water, but the waves continued to push them farther out.

As hypothermia began to set in, Mathieu saw his friend remove his life jacket and let himself drift away. Although weak, Mathieu swam to the unconscious teenager and brought him back to the canoe where his father was fighting to stay awake.

With his father holding onto his friend, Mathieu swam with them in tow to a large rock, some 15 minutes away. While he and his father survived their five-hour ordeal, sadly, his friend did not. Mathieu’s friend became disoriented after being suddenly immersed in the cold water, and did not recognize the necessity of keeping his life jacket on, in order to maintain his body temperature.
Stage 2: Short-term immersion and loss of performance
  • Blood flow to your arms and legs decreases

  • Limbs and hands become numb

  • You lose the use of your fingers and are unable to grasp rescue lines or reach onto a rescue boat

  • You lose your ability to swim

  • When swimming, you are in a vertical position. With more of your body underwater you have a greater chance of drowning

canoe full of water
Stage 4: Post-Rescue Collapse
  • About one fifth of all cold water immersion victims die because of a drop in body temperature after they have been rescued

  • Cold blood begins to flow to your body core, cooling it even more

  • Your heart finds it more difficult to pump cold blood and slows down

  • You may suffer from heart failure and die

floating pfd
A Cruiser-Suit Style PFD