-- Last Updated: Dec-09-12 9:56 AM EST --
...even if you stick close to shore in relatively shallow water.
Early last spring, while I was visiting relatives who live near Lake St. Clair, a young couple took a canoe out into the lake on a quiet 70 degree sunny day, and managed to flip it in shallow water perhaps 250' feet from shore. The man waded in, but the young woman, whom he thought was close behind him, didn't make it. He was so disoriented that he didn't realize she wasn't there.
For me, cold water paddling equals full immersion gear - drysuit, fleece and merino underlayers, cold water hood and gloves, a drybag packed with a complete - and I mean complete from polypro underwear to a good wind blocking outer layer with lots of wool and fleece in between - change of warm clothing, and most importantly, a companion or two who know what they're doing.
Final thought - wetsuit vs. drysuit - in this neck of the North Atlantic, it's drysuit all the way. A decent used drysuit need not be expensive - if you were here, I've got two Kokatat SuperNova suits hanging in the closet I'd be pleased to get $200 for. Perfect? - no, the booties leak a little, but some Aquaseal could fix that. I've upgraded by buying two used Reed ChillCheaters for about $250 each...and that's a hell of a lot less for all four suits than your survivors would pay for a coffin...