Monday, July 9, 2012

Paddling in fog

Fog moves in

Earlier today a posting appeared on the local NewsGroup about paddling in fog.  The plan by a party of three appeared to be paddle to an agreed location on a known heading.  One of the three paddled off heading, the others followed to keep the group together.  There was some speculation the wayward paddler wanted to handrail along the coast in the fog.  No matter, all three arrived safely.  But, it does raise some issues.

Paddling in fog to or from an island doesn't afford the paddler the handrailing option.  Then the ability to paddle on a heading takes on a greater or an absolute import.

Last June four of us paddled in a dense fog from Long Island to Bordeaux Island at the entry to Arnolds Cove.  It was a small target but we hit it dead on.  Why?  Because we had a bearing and we trusted the compass.  The sea was calm.

What if the sea is a mass of breaking waves and the kayak is yawing all over the place.  Padding even a short distance off course can have a huge impact on hitting the target, especially if there is no backstop.

If the kayak yaws back and forth regularly the overall heading may be maintained.  Attention to the degree of yaw relative to a wave set would be necessary to determine whether its necessary to adjust course one way or another.

If seas are so chaotic that its next to impossible to maintain an accurate heading the best option I believe is to take note of the heading angle relative to the waves or wind and keep a consistent overall angle relative to that.

Use time to cover the distance as a backstop when paddling to an island.

Also, I believe it would be wise to practice maintaining an accurate heading on a clear day just to get a feel for the difficulties that waves and wind present.

And, as a final backstop, have access to a functioning GPS.


  1. Tony, You highlight some interesting perspectives. Seeking to paddle your course in fog and rough seas is difficult. If you are heading for a small island, it is going to be a big challenge. However, if you are heading to somewhere along a caostline, then aiming off is the best strategy. By this I mean, deciding the heading you want to paddle, then "aim off" by (for example) 20 degrees. When you make landfall, you won't be at your intended destination, but you will know in which direction to turn and follow the coast to get there.

  2. Agreed, that is the recommended practice.

    Tony :-)