-- Last Updated: Jan-23-13 4:39 PM EST --
Whatever you want to call it; I have experienced it.
The absolute worst time was on a day when I was paddling tandem with a friend. I was in the stern.
It was a mid winter day; about 20 degrees, with a very nasty wind chill.
We had just rounded a 90 degree curve, and hit a patch of fast moving water, with lots of obstacles.
Friend was supposed to be wearing glasses, but he had taken them off as they kept fogging up on him. His vision was extremely poor without glasses.
I was looking back upstream; watching a pair of rookies who had just dumped on the curve, to assure they made it shore. Told bow man (several times)"Mike, keep sharp lookout in front of us for obstacles". When I saw rookies were ok, I started to turn back around, facing downstream.
Bow man did not see tree limb just below surface of water, attached to a sunken log.
Bow of canoe high centered on the tree limb.
We hit the water in a couple of heartbeats; I hit the water face first. Kept my mouth shut & quickly rolled over onto my back, reached out & grabbed the canoe, and got rid of my paddle. Hyperventilated a little(willed my body to think & act),finished up lengthy, censored expletives, and got my body under control. My buddy did likewise, and less than a minute later we were on opposite sides of the canoe, swimming the canoe towards shallower water, near shore. Got to the shallows; got on the same side of the canoe, emptied as much water out of the canoe as we could, and quickly waded it into shore.
My whole body felt like it was literally on fire.
Shivering started immediately, and got worse with passage of time
By the time we got on shore, my hair, eyelashes, moustache & beard were frozen. My dump bag was lashed to a thwart, but I could not get the frozen rope holding it untied. I cut the rope, and got change of clothes out. But this time, all of my clothes were frozen stiff. When I moved the ice made a crackling noise. I had a hell of a time getting my pfd and clothes off. Was shaking(uncontrolled shivers) so much, I could not undo buttons & buckles without difficulty, and the zipper on the pfd, and my pants were actually freezing shut. Boot laces were frozen; took a while to get them loose. Finally mananaged to get undressed; I think it may have taken the best part of 15 minutes. I immediately felt better as soon as I got a stocking cap, and layers of dry clothes on, but it took a fire, and a warm drink to warm us up enough to stop the shivers.
My winter dump bag got much larger after that experience(probably about 1983),and it has a larger variety of warm clothes, and more fire starting material.
And I still, always wear a knife.
Other winter time, out of boat experiences have occurred in similiar conditions, but the first was the worst. I learned a lot from the first one.
I'll take a cold swim over getting caught in a hydraulic any day of the year.