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Coast Guard rescues kayaker from cold water of Piscataqua River

BOSTON — A Coast Guard rescue crew from Station Portsmouth Harbor rescued a kayaker Thursday afternoon near Wood Island at the mouth of the Piscataqua River after he capsized in the 43-degree water.

Coast Guard watchstanders learned of the overturned kayak at 12:10 p.m. from a good Samaritan who saw the kayak from land.

A 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew from Station Portsmouth Harbor was underway at the time conducting training near the vicinity of the report, and was able to locate the kayaker at around 12:15 p.m.

“When we pulled up to the kayak we saw legs sticking out from under it,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Christensen the coxswain of the lifeboat. “He must have been breathing from a pocket of air in the kayak.”

The crew pulled the 35-year-old man, who was not wearing a life jacket at the time, aboard the lifeboat and treated him for hypothermia and shock. They used scissors from their first aid kit to remove his cold wet clothing. 

“My crew acted quickly using blankets to dry and warm the man up,” Christensen added.

The crew then brought the man to a pier near the Coast Guard Station where he was transferred to awaiting Portsmouth Fire Department EMS.

The functional survivability rate was less than two hours based on the water temperature and the clothing the man was wearing. 

The New Hampshire Marine Patrol also responded to the call.

Here are some important safety tips:

 -Paddlers are more exposed to the elements than regular boaters.  Paddlers need to equip their boats with required and recommended safety gear, such as a hand-held VHF-FM radio and wear the proper personal protective clothing, including dry or wet suits, when advisable.

– Paddlers are strongly encouraged to purchase and carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

-Signaling devices, like day and night visible flares, a signal mirror, and/or a whistle, air horn or sound producing device, help broadcast your distress and can aid emergency crews in locating you.

-File a Float plan:  A float plan is telling someone where you are going and when you will be back. Emergency responders need this valuable information in order to search for distressed paddlers.  The Coast Guard mobile app allows you to complete an electronic float plan and send it to a friend or family member.

-Safety in numbers:  Paddling in groups increases the chances of being seen by motorized boaters.

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