High winds send couple to the rescue

01/19/2012

A kayaker was rescued near Marshall last Sunday after falling into trouble amid exceptionally strong winds.

Two local residents, Ann and Bill Grimes, were first on the scene when the distressed kayaker reportedly crawled ashore. Having attended a hypothermia training course at the Marshall Disaster Fair last fall, the couple was able to assist the woman, who was not wearing a wetsuit, until an emergency crew arrived.

West Marin Disaster Council Coordinator Libby Colman credits Richard Clarke, the disaster coordinator for Marshall, for initiating the training program, which took place in September.

“They knew to take off her wet clothes and wrap her in a blanket to keep her slowly warming,” Colman said.

Clarke happened to come across the scene some time after the rescue occurred. “I was driving home that day from Petaluma and came around the bend in Marshall, and here were three emergency vehicles,” he said.

Although unsure of the cause of the kayaker’s misadventure, Clarke said that Tomales Bay was particularly choppy that day. “There were 20 to 30 mph gusts. It was a very big wind from the northwest—water was going all over the place,” he said.

And while the kayaker is believed to have fully recovered, Clarke still hopes the incident can serve as something of a cautionary tale.

“Ninety-five percent of the time kayaking is really safe. But the other 5 percent, if you don’t have a wetsuit on and you don’t know how to self-rescue and take care of yourself, you only have 15 to 30 minutes in the water before you succumb,” he said.

“To go out there in this water right now [without a wetsuit] is just over the top crazy,” Clarke added.

According to Colman, the early signs of hypothermia can include mild confusion or  irrational behavior. Submersion in 50 degree water can lead to death within one hour.