Night Navigation for Sea Kayaking
Hi sea kayakers, welcome to another sea kayaking safety and technique story from Sea Kayaking Dot Net’s fence post navigation series, your online source for tips, pointers and hints about equipment for sea kayakers around the world. I’m Adam Bolonsky, writer for WaveLength magazine and numerous other sea kayaking publications.
Sea kayaking at night poses a small host of potent challenges. At the least, sea kayaking at night is disorienting. With no clear view of the horizon or the shoreline, it’s difficult to assess speed and progress. Wave size and swell height are difficult to assess, and boats on the water are hard to detect other than by catching a glimpse of their running lights – the red light to port, green to starboard, white at masthead or stern.
As your sense of hearing becomes more acute to make up for the reduced visibility, the environment becomes spooky. hours. Sounds like the plop of fish, the crash of a wave, the buzz of a roaming powerboat is fraught with mysterious significance. You expend a lot of energy trying to figure out the meaning of what you hear.
If you plan on kayaking at night, you’ll need a compass with a lubber line and card well lit enough to be visible in the dark. Yet you’ll fare badly if you rely on a headlamp: a headlamp LED or otherwise bright enough to illuminate your compass is also going to be bright enough to affect your night vision.
A good solution for nighttime navigation is to buy a compass illuminated with the same sort of light common to of boat that runs in darkness: low-watt red light which provides enough illumination to read the compass, but not so bright as to elimate your vision.
One compass worth having a look at is the NighQuest, from Seattle Sports. You attach it to your foredeck with its suction cup and bungee lanyards. The compass’s internal electronics are waterproofed with an O-ring gasket. The binnacle includes a photosensitive switch which turns on the the red night vision bulb, illuminating the compass card and lubber line. The bulb is just bright enough that you can read the compass with eyes still sufficiently dilated to peer into the darkness for landmarks, navigational markers or the running lights of other boats on the water. It’s reasonably priced: about $40 US.
Well that’s it for today’s Sea Kayaking Dot Net’s fence-post navigation article, your online source for tips, tools and hints useful to sea kayakers around in the world. Until next time, I’m Adam Bolonsky at Sea Kayaking Dot Net, on the web at paddlingtravelers.blogspot.com. See ya ’round!