How even an experienced kayaker can get into trouble in the cold waters of Lake Oneida


An experienced paddler was stranded in the cold waters of Lake Oneida for about 90 minutes before a passing boat saved him from potential hypothermia last week.

Bob Raymonda, 62, wanted to take advantage of the exceptionally beautiful weather on Wednesday and take a trip to Lake Oneida. He decided to try a 16.5 mile solo downwind paddle in his new Epic V9 kayak.

Raymonda has over 30 years of paddling experience. He has been a marathon paddler since 2017, participating in the New York Paddlesports Racing Association. He is a gold medalist in the 2018 United States Canoe Association Marathon Nationals. Most recently, he completed a 90 mile race where he placed first in his age group.

Raymonda’s boat is called a surf ski – it’s 19 feet long, just 19 inches wide, and weighs 26 pounds.

Knowing that any solo paddle can be dangerous, Raymonda shared her planned route with his wife and told her what time to meet him at the point of arrival. He also took his phone with him so that she could follow him while he was on the water.

Once he left, he took advantage of the waves and progressed quickly. However, Raymonda said he underestimated the strength of the wind and the size of the waves further down his route.

He was struggling to stay close to shore as the waves started pushing him into the middle of the lake. Sometimes he was more than a mile from shore, he said in a Facebook post.

Raymonda’s boat was also fairly new and unstable, which increases the risk of tipping over, he said.

He shared his story on several Facebook groups to warn people of the dangers even the most experienced kayakers face, he said.

Bob Raymonda after completing the Adirondack Canoe Classic, also known as the Adirondack 90-Miler which goes from Old Forge to Saranac Lake.

In his post, Raymonda acknowledges the mistakes he made while attempting to kayak the 16.5 miles downwind on Lake Oneida on his own. He wanted his experience to serve as a warning to other paddlers.

He said his biggest mistake was his own pride. He wanted to prove that he could cope with his fear of capsizing in his new boat.

“My unbelievably stupid bravado could have cost me my life,” he said in his post.

A little less than an hour and a half after the paddling began, at around 2 p.m., Raymonda’s kayak tipped over, throwing him into the water. The waves were too big for him to get back into the boat, he said.

Raymonda was not wearing a wetsuit and did not bring a safety whistle, another mistake he said. Without a wetsuit, he had to keep moving to try to stay warm.

Fortunately, he capsized near the South Shore Fishing Access boat launch, but was still far from shore. While still strapped to his boat, he attempted to swim to shore. Unfortunately, the boat pulled it out every time it progressed while swimming.

Raymonda had a life jacket so he wasn’t worried about sinking, he said. However, with the low water temperatures, he knew there was a possibility that hypothermia could set in.

The water temperature of Lake Oneida this month is around 55 degrees, according to an online site that tracks lake temperatures.

At this temperature, a person can begin to lose dexterity in 10 to 15 minutes, according to many. hypothermia graphics. A person can become exhausted or unconscious within one to two hours, and can die if they stay in the water longer.

Hypothermia can affect the brain making the victim unable to think clearly, according to the CDC. This makes hypothermia especially dangerous because sufferers cannot figure out what is going on or how to help themselves. Hypothermia is often caused by immersion in cold water, according to the CDC.

Raymonda said if he had thought about how seriously hypothermia could affect him, he would have been freaked out. By keeping this out of his mind, he was able to stay calm and focus on seeking help, he said.

Raymonda had his phone with him, but with the waves constantly moving him, he was worried about dropping the phone if he tried to call for help, he said.

As he was so close to a boat launch, he saw several boats pass by him, he said. Unfortunately, it was so low in the water that it would be difficult for passing boats to see it.

Raymonda continued to attempt to swim and wave to boaters for 90 minutes. Clouds covered the sun and it was getting colder and colder by the minute, he said.

Finally, a couple in a boat passed by and a woman on board saw him waving to her.

The two people helped Raymonda get on the boat and he was able to call his wife and tell her what had happened. He said that before rescuing him he doubted how long he could continue swimming.

Raymonda was almost too cold to speak and could only thank her rescuers with a handshake and a wave.

He is very grateful that he was able to return to shore safely and has chosen to share his story on Facebook in order to help other boaters learn from his mistakes.

Since posting that message on Thursday, he has received over 1,000 responses. He is overwhelmed by the support he received for sharing his story and hopes he will be able to prevent a similar incident from happening to someone else.

The Epic V9 shown is 19 feet long and only 19 inches wide.

Raymonda took her new Epic V9 kayak out to Lake Oneida for a 16.5 mile downwind paddle on Wednesday. Provided by Bob Raymonda

Editor Anne Hayes covers breaking news, crime and public safety. A tip, a story idea, a question or a comment? You can reach her at [email protected].


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