Archive for the ‘At Night’ Category

published in Canoe News, Summer 2011, Vol 44 No 2, p.6

Working at a college gives me the benefit of a two week vacation from Dec 18th to Jan  2nd, so one would think that I got a lot of kayak camping in.  Unfortunately, I spent more time on land catching up on the basic day to day stuff.  But the time I did get out to camp was perfect.

Sean and I camped out on an island on two separate nights  Dec 23rd to the 24th and Dec 30th to the 31st.  Both times we parked at the west side of Tom Stuart Causeway north of the drawbridge.  It is not well lit at night and it is also a dog park, thus walking at night with a kayak to the water’s edge can be a smelly and squishy event.  Never the less, the location is a good place to launch.

Before getting on the water I outfitted my kayak with two deck lights on the stern.  The smaller one has a suction cup on it; where as, the taller light has a bungee and locking cam to keep it on the deck.  Kayalu makes the taller light “Kayalite”.  I have had it for about nine months and used it on several types of kayaks.  It is a good piece of kit.  (A detailed review is now available).

On December 23rd we paddled east into Boca Ciega Bay to Archie’s Island.  It was mild and in the upper 40’s F.  The moon was almost full and the tide was unusually high.  When we got to Archie’s there was a group also camping on the island.  We saw their powerboat on the east side of the island and gave them plenty of space.  We set up our tents behind some brush and started boiling water for dinner.

We went simple and ate Pad Thai by Backpacker’s Pantry, hot coco, and Freeze-Dried Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  Yum.

We could hear the wind howl during the night.  And for a moment I thought I hear our neighbor’s powerboat engine come on.  In the morning there was so much sea foam on the shore it looked like mini icebergs.  But that was not the most surprising thing we saw.

The people who were camping on the east side of the island did move their boat.  And they anchored it like amateur boaters.  The Carolina Skiff was high and dry with the Yamaha engine’s propeller locked and buried vertical into the shell encrusted beach.  Ouch.

On December 30th we paddled west into the inter coastal waterway to Travestine Island.  We took our time getting to the island.  We looked at the Christmas lights on the local condos and meandered through some mangrove tunnels near an island.  This was tricky at night and we had to paddle backwards after entering a tunnel.  When we got on to Travestine we also discovered we had a neighbor so we gave kayaker some distance.

We set up camp and started boiling water for dinner.  Sean and I both received some new pieces of kit during Christmas.  And it was time to test it out.  I got a Snowpeak GigaPower Stove, and Sean got a GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Cook System

I always cook with a bunsen burner pad to distribute the heat.  And this worked great with the Snowpeak.  The only thing I now want to add to my kit is a Snowpeak windscreen.  Because I can see cooking on a beach without one could be a problem.   Sean’s GSI Cook System worked great, but I still prefer my GSI kettle, Sea to Summit collapsible X-Mug, and Snowpeak chopsticks.

In the morning there was evidence on the shore of the effects of cold water.  There were several juvenile horseshoe crabs dead and washed up under a dead tree.

Before breaking down camp we fired up the stove to have some coffee.  Sean was a little skeptical about trying Starbucks VIA Ready Brew coffee.  We had the Italian Roast and it was great!

As we were paddling back to Tom Stuart Causeway we saw our neighbor on the water.  He was sailing his Hobie kayak.  He was having fun in that boat.  Given the chance, I would try sailing that type of kayak.

-Jeff

Hello Paddlers,

It is with a renewed spirit and heavy heart that I am writing this blog. Very conflicting statement I know, but you MUST read on to understand what chain of events has led to the previous statement! On Friday night, Sept. 4th at 11:00 p.m.- Jeff and I set out on a late night paddle and possible camp out on one of our local intra-coastal islands in Boca Ciega Bay. We paddled from the causeway at Madeira Beach out to Johns’ Pass(3 miles), through the pass to the gulf. We stopped on the beach to stretch and relax- listening to Reggae music playing in the distance at Gators on the Pass(local watering hole).

We were approached by a Police truck on the beach, the officer asked “what are we doing tonight?” To me this was kinda a silly question as Jeff and I were standing there next to 2 Kayaks and were in full paddling gear. I was half tempted to say we were out for a game of late night Beach Golf–“Here’s your SIGN”!

But decided to be polite and explained we were out enjoying the moonlight to paddle in. He informed us that the beach closes from 1 a.m. till 5 a.m.- couldn’t help but wonder what the local Indians would have said to that statement back 100 years ago…

Jeff and I left the beach (1:15 a.m.) and quickly paddled over to Archie’s Island(1-1/4 miles), back in the Intra-coastal waterway. We pitched the tent and drifted swiftly to sleep (2:45 a.m.) with the sounds of the water lapping at the shore and wind moving through the islands trees and sea grasses.

Archies-Island

My Mountain Hardwear “Skylight” tent is more than a decade old. And it still looks new after heavy use!

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise and nice gentle sea breeze(7:15 a.m). We got up and packed up our gear and I made Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal for Jeff and I for breakfast.

oatmeal

We were eating breakfast and reflecting on a wonderful nights paddle and how refreshed we were even though we only had about 4 hrs. sleep.

That’s when we heard the engine of a small seaplane buzzing around!

seaplan island hopping

We finished breakfast and got into our yaks and started to head back to the causeway, as we paddled along we were watching the seaplane skim across the water, then fly through the air. At one point the plane flew directly over us! I rolled with a paddle float and Jeff thought that they waved at us.  Jeff and I both remarked how cool it was.

*

< you can hear the plane pass over us in this video >

Then it happened; as the plane flew out towards Johns’ Pass, Jeff and I heard a loud “POP” sound and the plane looked like it just ran into a wall with an abrupt stop, followed by a rapid nose dive. It fell straight down from estimated height of about 225 feet, into about 7 feet of water. Jeff and I quickly paddled over to the site of impact and discovered a crowd of civilian rescuers all trying to free 2 people that were still strapped in and trapped under water.

seaplane crash pic 09-05-09

helping with rescue

Sean giving an account

Unfortunately in the end neither man survived the crash as they both sustained serious trauma from the impact. A retired fire fighter and I managed to recover one of them (within 20 min.) with the help of others and we turned him over to rescue officials that soon showed up on scene. The other person was eventually recovered by rescue officials within less than 1 hour from the time of impact.

What a tragic event and emotional roller coaster, we went from being on top of the world and fully refreshed to being totally somber and mentally/physically drained. I can’t speak for Jeff, but believe me as tragic as this event was. In my opinion it was a paddle I soon won’t forget and has taught me once again the preciousness of life and how fast it can end. We were some of the last people to see those 2 men alive, they sure looked like they were having fun. To their families God Bless You and Keep You through these tough times! Know God has a plan for all things that happen, even if we don’t understand the BIG picture!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved with this event, especially the 2 men in the plane, and all those that took the time to call 911 or were in some way involved in the initial Rescue attempts and susequent recovery of the 2 men’s bodies.

Make sure You take the TIME to say I Love You, and HUG your wife,husband,partner,children,friends,family as often as you can!!!!!!!!! WE ARE NOT PROMISED TOMORROW!! LIVE AND LOVE LIFE!!

Thankful but still Reflecting,
-Sean

Bay News 9: “Families try to cope after two die in aircraft crash” Sept 9, 2009

Bay News 9: “Two killed in aircraft crash near John’s Pass” Sept 8, 2009

lighthouseRetailers lure us in and then try to brainwash us into purchasing their flashy inventory.  The reality is that we do not need a lot of fancy stuff to stay safe on the water.  To think people created the kayak to hunt on some of the deadliest waters known to man.  And they survived.  Their greatest tool was common sense.

Following the assumption that kayaks are nearly invisible on the water, there are still a few things we can do to increase our chances of being seen.  I do not recommend exclusively using chemical light sticks.  Their soft glow does little to light a 17 foot kayak.  And they easily blend into the nighttime clutter of land lights reflecting off the water.

Some LED lights allegedly produce a 360-degree light visible a mile away on a clear night.  I use the “Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light with Suction Cup Base” placed on the stern of my kayak.  And I place a “Princenton Tec Aqua Strobe” on highest point of the back of my PFD.  I have a Princeton Tec Apex Pro LED Headlamp.  My boat has reflective deck lines, and 3M reflective tape.  The backside of my paddles also has reflective tape on it.

Interesting, some blogs maintained by retailers have stated that a person can purchase a headlamp that is visible over a mile away (1609.344 meters). This is a curious claim.  I have compiled a list of four manufactures and their top headlamps.

  • The specification of a headlamp to reach one mile must have a maximum beam distance of 1609.344 meters.
  • Conversion of meters to mile to feet
    • 120 meters equals 0.074564543 of a mile equals 393.70078704 feet
    • 100 meters equals 0.062137119 of a mile equals 328.08398832 feet

It is the law that we paddle with lights on our kayaks.  And the lights do help other boaters see us when they are near us.  Unfortunately, from a fast moving powerboater’s perspective LED lights are a useless means of marking a kayak at night, as it moves in swells, twilight, in fog, and heavy rains.  So, if you still think that powerboats are going to see you and move out of your way then I recommend doing two things.  Kiss your loved ones and take out a good life insurance policy.

Beyond using lights there is the use of reflective tape, clothing, and deck lines.  The drawback to using them is that a light must hit the reflective surface.  Consequently, a powerboat traveling quickly with only their running lights on probably will not cast enough light to make the product visible until they are on top of you.

I always file a Float Plan with my wife and I do not deviate from it.  If I am running late I call her.  And because I carry a SPOT she can keep track of my location.  Nevertheless, my most important piece of common sense gear for paddling at night is paddling with caution.  I am always looking around and keeping track of boat traffic.  When I see a boat, I stop; focus on what it is doing, and how the red and green lights are oriented on it.  If the red light is on the left, the boat is pointed away from me.  If the red light is on the right, the boat is pointed towards me.  And even though I am lit up like a Christmas Tree and my paddles are covered with reflective tape I assume that the driver of the boat does not see me.  It is also difficult to gage distance and the speed of a boat at night.  Consequently, the best way to avoid a nighttime collision is to keep your distance from powerboats.

BuoyThere is one reality to paddling at night.  A kayak is nearly invisible on the water.  A trained powerboat captain traveling on smooth water at a safe cursing speed on a clear moonlit night will have difficulty seeing a person in a kayak.  This is an assumption that I always observe when I paddle at night.

Many powerboat owners are safety minded, and they do observe the rule of the water for traveling at a safe speed.  The rule is that “Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.”

The fact is a few small lights on a 17 foot kayak less than two feet from the surface of the water will not been seen by a boat a mile away moving on plane.  Some LED lights produce a 360-degree light visible a mile away on a clear night.  In addition, some blogs have stated that a person can purchase a headlamp that is visible over a mile away (1609.344 meters).  I will explore that claim in “Kayaking at night: Gear”.  Unfortunately, most of these types of lights usually become apart of the nighttime clutter of land lights reflecting off the water.

It is the law that we paddle with lights on our kayaks.  And the lights do help other boaters see us when we are around docks, and boat launches.  Beyond paddling around docks and boat launches, small LED lights are useless kayaking at night in swells, twilight, in fog, and heavy rains.

I paddle like many of you in seas of three to five foot swells.  I also know that there are many people on vacation in my local waters who rent powerboats.  Many times vacationers do not know the water like locals and are prone to making mistakes when it comes to navigation.  I cannot tell if the person driving the powerboat is a local captain or a tourist.  Nor can I tell that they are sober.  I am not going to take the risk that the driver will stay on course and navigate the channel markers correctly.

Below is a video of us sitting in our kayaks next to a boat dock listening to a band.  Look at how difficult it is to see the slow moving powerboat.

This is why I paddle with caution at night.  I am always looking around and keeping track of boat traffic.  When I see a boat, I stop; focus on what it is doing, and how the red and green lights are oriented on it.  If the red light is on the left, the boat is pointed away from me.  If the red light is on the right, the boat is pointed towards me.  And even though I am lit up like a Christmas Tree and my paddles are covered with reflective tape I assume that the driver of the boat does not see me.  It is also difficult to gage distance and the speed of a boat at night.  Consequently, the best way to avoid a nighttime collision is to keep my distance from powerboats and to avoid the five common risks to paddlers (10 May 2009).

—Jeff