Posts Tagged ‘kayaking at night’

To be seen or not to been seen.  Both ideas are to be focused on by a paddler.  I have always impressed on fellow paddlers that they should do everything within their power to be seen as they paddle at night.  And paddle with care assuming that other boaters do not see them.

A lot of captains do take care of their surroundings when driving their boats through the navigational markers.  A small well lit kayak crossing the boat channel can appear to be further away than it actually is.  To help with being seen I have added reflective tape, reflective deck lines, and three lights on my kayak.  I have one white light on my bow, one on my PFD and one on my stern.  The thing about having a light on the stern is that in a low volume boat a paddler should try to position their light as high as possible.  And the higher it is the easier it maybe seen in large swells.

Below is pictured two types of deck lights.

The taller light is made by Kayalu, it is their Kayalite model.  I have had it for almost a year and tested it’s durability on several types of kayaks.  It has taken a beating and it is still shining bright.

Unlike most deck lights this one uses a carabiner (karabiner) and an elastic cord to keep it fixed on to the kayak.  The problem I have found with suction cups is that sometimes they separate from the deck in crashing waves or during rolling.  I also sometimes paddle through mangrove tunnels and have had branches pluck suction cup lights of the deck.

So far the elastic cord has given the light just enough flexibility to remain sturdy in surf, rolling and being smacked around by branches.  My concern was how would the carabiner hold up to saltwater.  I have not washed it with fresh water nor have seen a need to oil it.  It is no longer shiny and the spring is still working.

If you are planing on using it on a fiberglass kayak I would use a small part of a shower mat that has the suction cups.  This would give some protection to your gel coat.  That is the only down side to having this type of locking system.

Otherwise this is a great light.  And I will be using it for many future paddling adventures. – Jeff

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

Whoo Hoo Everyone!

I have been so busy paddling and enjoying life,that its been awhile since I have done a post!! Sorry. Well I’m gonna jump right in then.

The other night Jeff and I went paddling for about 3 hours in the dark just for a new perspective on familiar waters. Boy was it an eye opening experience to say the least!! As we were paddling we happened upon an area of shallows and seagrass beds right off the Veterans Park,an area we paddle all the time. As we sat there observing life on the flats at night,Jeff discovered a creature that we never knew existed in these very well known waters. The SEA URCHIN!!!! I am a native of Florida and have seen the sun bleached shells on our beaches my whole life but had never ran into a living one, let alone hundreds like we did on Wednesday night!!

seanWe were holding and touching them, it was only after we got back, I discovered they can stick you and inject poison! Although not life threatening,(for most people) they will give you a painful punture site for days to come! Fortunately for both Jeff and I, we handled them very carefully and we had no problems!

So after our really cool find; I decided to do some research on our spiny little friends! Check out what I found out: Sea Urchins are Echinoderms, this means they are related to Sea Stars(starfish) and Sand Dollars. The word urchin is olde english for Hedgehog or hedgehog like. They are nocturnal(why we saw them at night in such big grouping)and feed on bits of animal,plant,algae and seaweed. They get as big as 4″ in dia. & like Sea Stars can regenerate broken spines( which gives hope to us amputee paddlers-HA HA HA!!!!) They have 5 teeth that they use to scrape off food from rocks and the seagrasses. These teeth continually grow throughout the urchins lifetime. They also have suction feet called Pedicellaria that they use to grab bits of refuse and attach it to themselves as a means of camoflage and self defense as the sucker feet also can inject a mild amount of stinging toxin.

There are more than 700 different species of Sea Urchins in the world and they are found in waters all over the world-warm and cold! They come in colors ranging from black,red,brown,purple,pink and sometimes green. But the species that lives in warm water cannot change to cold and vice-versa. They have only 3 main predators- Sea Otters, Sea Stars, & Humans. The eggs or rowe have increased in popularity(Caviar) over the last few years especially with humans!!!! They are a very important part of the eco-system for the animals they feed, but can also be very destructive to coral reefs and ecosystems if their numbers become to great- Natures’ little balancing act!!!!

urchin

Well I hope everyone has enjoyed this little bit of info, remember to keep your eyes and mind WIDE OPEN for lifes little treasures.To me this is certainly a new respect for the little things- that as cool as they may be can also give quite a wake-up call should you tread on one!!!! WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR HANDS AND FEET!! In a later post I’ll talk about Marine First Aid for bites and stings!!

Happy Paddling and Mahalo to King Neptune Mother Nature!!

Sea Turtle Sean