Rescue on the Lake

A kayak capsized near the deepest part of East Twin Lake after dark on Sunday, Sept. 27, and the person in the kayak was rescued when residents on South Shore Road heard his cries for help. The kayaker was alone, admiring the night sky, when he stood up and lost his balance shortly after 8 p.m. Those who heard him yell for help responded loudly from shore with the inquiry, “Are you in the water? Are you in trouble?” He was flashing a light and said he was okay but that his kayak had tipped and he was getting cold and tired. He had no life vest and was clinging to the overturned kayak. Minutes later, Tom Brophy a South Shore summer resident, and a teenage helper, raced toward the light in a ski boat and pulled the man, a 22-year Navy veteran, from the water. They gave him a sweatshirt and took him to the Marina, where he warmed up and recovered.

Boating after dark is serious business. The kayaker was fortunate to have brought a flashlight, which made it easy to find him in the dark. But Connecticut also requires a flotation device and a whistle or some other sound device, which he did not have. The kayaker was also fortunate in that so late in the season someone with a power boat still in the water heard his yells for help. Here are some general safety tips for kayaking at night:

 

Make yourself seen: Place a green light on your right side and red on your left (to indicate which direction you’re moving). That will allow you to be seen by anyone who might be around—and keep you from getting run over. If possible, avoid kayaking alone after dark.  

Make sure you can see: Kayaking safely is highly dependent upon being aware of your surroundings, so purchase a quality, waterproof headlamp. Keep in mind that artificial lighting actually hinders your night vision, so keep it off as often as possible when kayaking. The headlamp is best used to check navigation and when stopping. Also, remember that ambient light can make things seem further away.

Learn your route: Plot out your route ahead of time and memorize it. Always try to keep track of your bearings because going off-course in the dark is incredibly hard to correct. At night you’ll lose sight of your paddle, the distance will be harder to determine and, if you’re on the ocean, waves might seem to come out of nowhere.

Bring safety gear: Don’t forget your dry bag. It’ll carry your essentials (ID, first aid, radio and dry clothes for starters) in case something goes wrong and you end up in the water. At night you’ll also want to pack an emergency beacon to alert others who might be far away. A whistle is great too.

Beware the waves: This one is for ocean kayakers. If you’re staring directly at a wave, you’re bound to misjudge the size and position and possibly get rolled. Adjust by looking slightly off to the side, about 20 degrees off center. Your retina responds poorly to low lighting but rod cells that are concentrated in the outer edges adjust better to low levels at night, thus making it easier to see clearer from a slight angle.

Have fun but be cautious: Assuming you can handle night kayaking the same way you would day is a tad unrealistic, a rookie mistake. It’s a different animal. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Be cautious and aware of your surroundings and don’t goof off and get adventurous too much before you’ve tested the waters.

The water level in the lakes has been unusually low the past couple months and some residents have inquired about shutting down the gate that feeds Shenob Brook beyond the channel. TLA directors and town officials have inspected the gates and determined that we are letting a minimal amount of water flow into the brook, which is part of an ecosystem that the state requires must be maintained. The problem is not with the gate opening; it is the severe drought that has hit most of Connecticut.

Litchfield County is in Stage 2 drought conditions, meaning we are on alert for an emerging drought that impacts water supplies, agriculture or natural ecosystems. We have had three to seven inches less rainfall than average across the state the past 90 days. Salisbury is likely at the high end of that range. It is not clear if the recent storm did much to alleviate the condition. The TLA board intends to investigate ways to mitigate the effect of summer-long drought on water levels, possibly by allowing the lakes to remain fuller than usual in the spring.


The decision to classify an area as Stage 2 is based on data monitored by state and federal agencies, including precipitation, surface waters, groundwater, reservoirs, soil moisture, vegetation, and fire danger conditions. The state has experienced this level of drought four times in the past two decades, in 2002, 2007, 2010, and 2016. If conditions deteriorate further, the state could reach Stage 3, having reached that threshold only once before, in 2016. More information is available at https://portal.ct.gov/water/drought/drought-home..

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