Photo Credit Sam Mills
Kayaking in Fog
The darkness of the night set in quickly. I could hear the hum of a small boat motor but I couldn’t see it. As I paddled further out into the blind abyss a sense of doom shuddered through me. The world appeared to end just off the bow of my kayak. My sense of direction was lost in the fog.
Nothing makes you feel as vulnerable as paddling out on a body of water, in fog so dense you can’t even see the bow of your kayak. Paddling in dense fog can be life threatening for several reasons. It is extremely difficult for other people in watercraft to see a kayak until it is very near it to you, especially since a kayak rests so low to the water surface.
Without visible landmarks or a compass it is easy to lose your bearings, and miss the launch access. Or worse, instead of paddling towards the shore, you could be heading out into the main body of water where powered watercraft would have difficulty seeing you. Of the hundred people I paddled with one summer, few if any were equipped with a compass, or knew how to use one. For those few that were equipped with a compass, most were an inexpensive brand, which
may be off by several degrees. If your compass is off by several degrees, you could paddle right past the pullout destination and never see it. Paddling in thick fog is also dangerous because it is difficult to hear other watercraft because sound it muted by fog. The noise from a motor which sounds far away may be in fact only a short distance from you. The code among boaters is to help a fellow boater in distress. Unfortunately, in dense fog, a fellow mariner could pass by within a short distance of you, and never see you.
In marginal and foggy conditions kayaks are even more difficult to see. To help your increase your visibility choose brightly colored clothing and always carry a whistle and air horn. When paddling with a companion or with a group, it is important to remain close together so you don’t become separated in thick fog. If a fog bank begins to roll in, hug the shoreline to use as a landmark. If your visibility becomes too limited, rather than keep paddling, you might want to consider pulling out along the shore, rather than risk becoming more disoriented in the fog.
Whether you’re paddling out into the ocean, or on a lake, always be aware of your position at all times with an accurate map kept in a waterproof sleeve, just in case a fog bank suddenly rolls in. That way you can notify the harbor patrol or coast guard of your location. Most importantly tell a reliable friend where you’re paddling and when to expect you back – just in case you don’t come back someone will know where to start looking for you. Don’t forget to give them the model, make, year, and license plate number for your car. and to always check the weather report before launching.