Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Always Dress For The Water Temperature Fengquan Guan May 9th, 2010 - Milford, Connecticut
While on an annual visit with friends in Milford, Fengquan Guan, 32, of Beijing, went paddling alone on Long Island Sound in a grey, 16-foot double kayak that he had used on previous occasions. He set out at 11 a.m., wearing a black sweater, black jeans, and a Body Glove PFD, for what he thought would be a short trip along the shoreline. The water temperature was a very cold 54F, and conditions in Long Island Sound were rough, with winds gusting around 23 mph and 2-3 foot seas.
When he didn’t return within two hours, Guan’s friend called the local police and the Coast Guard was brought in to search the area. Using helicopters, Falcon jets, and rescue boats, police and Coast Guard personnel initially canvassed 1,250 square miles searching for him. The search was finally called off the next day at 9 p.m. after no sign of either Guan or his kayak could be found.
One day later, however, his kayak was discovered by Southold police officers, swamped at the high tide line in Goldsmith's Inlet, and the search was resumed, again without success. His body was finally recovered two weeks later when it washed ashore on Ocean Beach in Amagansett. The Body Glove PFD was found washed ashore nearby, suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t properly fastened and came off in the water. [Click photos to zoom]
Case Note - The Wind Shadow
Milford, where Guan launched, lies in a crescent shaped indentation of the Connecticut coast that’s quite protected unless wind is blowing from the East or South. Although offshore conditions in Long Island Sound were quite rough, the water would have appeared fairly calm to Guan when he was standing on shore preparing to launch his kayak, because the water almost always appears deceptively calm when the wind is blowing offshore. This is another example of a paddler falling into a wind shadow trap.
Guan had planned to take a short paddle along the shoreline, but at some point he got far enough offshore that his kayak was caught by the wind. This can happen very suddenly and without warning when the boat leaves the protection of the wind shadow.
He was unable to paddle back against the wind, something that's particularly challenging for a single paddler in a double kayak, and at some point he capsized. His kayak was blown over 30 miles across Long Island Sound and washed up in Southold on the north shore of Long Island. The current carried his body out around Montauk Point and into the Atlantic Ocean, and then south along the coast until it washed up on a beach in Amagansett.
Major Contributing Factors
Not Dressed For Water Temperature
Unable To Recover From Capsize
Unable to Call For Help
Unaware of Hazards
Lack of Weather Awareness
Unable To Deal With Wind and Waves