Navigating a Kayak through the Fog

Navigating through the fog in a kayak can be a dangerous task to take on. There are two types of fog, sea fog and radiation fog. Sea fog, also known as advection fog, is a thick fog with strong wind that lasts for days. Radiation fog is still and burns off throughout the day. Though it isn’t by any means a sure fire way to avoid fog, checking the weather reports before kayaking is a good way to start.

The risk in fog obviously comes from the drop in visibility, and fog can come on suddenly and intensely. When your visibility is restricted to between 30 to 150 yards, most other objects often look twice as large as they really are, a visual twist which also makes it look like these objects are moving twice as fast as they truly are. On top of this, the stress and the exhaustion of dealing with the fog may cause you to think you are seeing things that are not there. Along with this exhaustion, be aware that no matter how good you are at feeling your way a certain direction, that ability will fade as the time spent in the fog progresses. If you note the fog approaching rather than having it suddenly settle upon you, moving towards the shore is a good idea.

The gear that you take with you can make a large difference. A compass is an extremely useful tool, but remember that in the fog it will be important to also have a light to see the compass. To make sure that the compass stays with you, attach it to your life vest or clothing with a safety pin. A simple self-righting ball compass is a useful tool that can be found in almost any sporting goods store. Before leaving the shore, hold the compass directly in front of you, at a ninety degree angle from the shore in order to determine which direction the shoreline will be. Also, take note of all landmarks that might serve to locate your position.

Another tool, much more prevalent today, is a GPS system. However, with both the GPS and the compass, be aware that going in a straight line does not mean that you can avoid collision. The GPS only points to a destination, it does not indicate what hazards may lay in the way. To help minimize the danger of collision, make sure that you carry and sound a fog signal every five minutes. If you are kayaking in a group, a whistle is an effective communication tool. Often the whistle can be heard farther than a yell, and the whistle conserves your energy. Discuss whistle code to be used before beginning your trip. Also, the fog may lift as quickly as it descends, so sitting in one place until the visibility is better may be a good way to go. If you are dealing with radiation fog, you can be confident that the fog will begin to burn up as the day progresses. Even if you choose to sit still, remember to sound your fog signal.

If no compass or GPS has been taken along, it is very easy to start going around in circles when the fog has taken away your sight. To make sure that you go in a straight line, attach a light line at the front of the kayak, and attach the line to something heavy. Drop the heavy end at the back of the boat and make sure that the line goes straight in order to keep the kayak heading in the a straight line. Also be aware that your natural instincts towards the correct direction to move will be fading as time passes. When you have determined the best direction to go, do not aim directly for the destination. Compensate for any current and/or drift that might occur on the way.