Hypothermia doesn’t only happen when the water or the air are cold. It can happen any time of year and almost anywhere. We got into a situation where we were unprepared for the environment in July in Florida no less. We were kayak fishing the Gulf Coast Flats and the weather was hot and humid. You had to run the air conditioner in the motel room and vehicles. The heat was brutal. We were out fishing and had come upon the first island on our way to a farther island. A thunderstorm was off in the distance so we decided to stop and fish near the first island before proceeding further. It started to rain and then we determined the lightning was getting closer. Here we were on a tropical island approximately 20 minutes from our starting point. We recognized that the storm was going to pass over us so we decided to beach our kayaks on the island and take shelter in the jungle. The storm passed right over us and the lightning was all around. The rain was torrential and we got soaked. Here we were wearing only t-shirts and shorts for the sweltering weather that was the norm. The temperature dropped and it was very windy. We began to shiver. This is the first stage of losing body heat.
The storm wasn’t showing any signs of letting up and after close to an hour of shivering we realized that we couldn’t continue to loose body heat. As we thought of things that we could do to provide warmth or insulation, we realized that our PFD’s would do the task. So we put them on and fortunately they provided enough insulation that our shivering stopped. We saw an opening in the storm and made a mad dash back to the mainland. Shortly after getting back the storm intensified and for the next few hours it was severe. If we hadn’t taken advantage of the short weather window and returned to the mainland we would have been in trouble. The adventure could have been an ordeal; we were very fortunate that it became a valuable learning experience instead. We were both amazed at how cold we got in on a July day. Teeth chattering cold! You can’t really judge what will happen on the water in a couple of hours time. You have be prepared, no matter what the weather is when you launch.