Kayaking is a fun and exciting way to get physical exercise while getting to explore local and distant bodies of water in your town and county at the same time. Many people take to the water each year, particularly during the warmer months, to get their share of the water and develop their skills maneuvering by themselves or with partners with more experience. However, as with any sport or situation involving water, there are certain precautions you should take to ensure your trips out to lakes and rivers are safe and enjoyable ones and not treacherous and life threatening ones. Paddling through harbors is a situation most kayakers will not have to deal with because they tend to keep to rivers, lakes, and streams. However, it is important to know how to get through situations involving harbor kayaking on the off chance that you are ever placed into such a situation and cannot get out of it without getting through it. This article will discuss some of the in and out lessons people should be prepared to put to use when engaged in harbor kayaking, paddling, and navigation, in order to increase your chances of getting through such situations without risking your life or the lives of those around you.
A harbor is a type of water situation that resembles a super highway; in fact, deep water channels within the harbor will have markings similar to those on highways and interstates. These markings are designed to indicate the specific water routes boats are allowed to take when getting into port. Although you can paddle a kayak in as little as three or four inches of water, it is just as important for you to be able to read a deep channel marker as it is for an ocean liner or a cruise ship captain, as they are indicative of what you can and cannot do safely on the water.
The water channels in most harbors have red buoys that mark them on one side and green buoys that mark them on the opposite side. When you are returning to the harbor from excursions out at sea, you should remember that the red buoys will always be located on the right side while the green buoys will always be located on the left side. A good mnemonic to help you remember this arrangement involves the three Rs: Red is Right is Returning. The buoys are designed to mark the deep water channels present in the harbor that can be used as a road for both power boats and sail boats.
As a kayaker, you will not be required to use the lanes in the harbor that are marked as deep water channels, as you can use more shallow lanes to get back to shore. However, it is still typically a better idea for you to keep out of the markers in a similar manner to how someone on a bicycle will typically keep to the shoulder of the road when pedaling on a busy road. In much the same way as keeping to the side of the road on a bicycle allows faster traffic to pass through the center, keeping outside the markers of deep water harbor channels when paddling in a kayak helps keep you out of heavy traffic from larger, faster, and more dangerous sea vessels.
When you paddle in a harbor channel, it is okay for you to paddle on the left or the right sides of the channel, and in either direction. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to cross the channel, you can apply the same heuristics that you would use if you were a pedestrian who was seeking to cross a busy street. You should always look in both directions before you attempt a crossing and use your vision and hearing skills to carefully judge how far away and how quickly any sea vessel is from you in the approaching direction. You should not loiter or lounge in a harbor channel, but always have a direction in mind and make efforts to get there. You should cross directly instead of diagonally and stick together if in a kayaking group for visibility.