When you run trips out on the ocean there are a number of conditions that occur that can be cause for caution. One of these, especially when you are paddling on the Atlantic side is FOG.
We arrived for a 9.15 paddle yesterday morning to beautiful sunshine and only a very light breeze. Within the 15 minutes of signing in and setting up the weather had flipped entirely as the fog descended rapidly. We obviously chose to stay on shore and opted to have coffee while we waited for the fog to lift.
IMAGES: Amy Carrington (These images are taken 15 minutes apart!)
But it got me thinking about the times I have got lost in the fog and what I would do if I got lost again.
Naturally if one notices the fog approaching then the best thing to do is get off the water as fast as possible, not being able to see your landing site, or other boats on the water, nor navigate clearly to shore is not a position you want to be in if you can help it – it is easier to go in the wrong direction than you might think – and personally I wouldn’t like to land in the shipping lane, or on Robben Island!! In those times don’t be fussy about getting back to your particular launch site, just find a safe area to get off the water and make for it as fast as possible.
The question remains; what if you do not manage to get off the water in time? The first thing I would do is make sure that everyone in the party is as warmly dressed as possible. Fog is chilly by nature and having paddlers cold and lost can lead to a rapid sense of humor failure. Before setting off again, tie all the boats together – nose to tail with a leader in the front and the appointed leader at the back of the train of kayaks. Nothing is worse than loosing a mate in the fog. The next thing I would do is get one of the paddlers to blow the whistle every 2 minutes or so. Kayakers in the fog have a very real possibility of getting run over by other craft that are lost and without AIS there is no telling where they are and likewise they cannot see you. A whistle also alerts other kayaks in the area that you are near and may help them locate your group and band together.
A lot of paddlers now paddle with their cell phones, and just switching on Google Maps will give you a really good indication of where your group is relative to the shoreline and a safe point of exit. Trust Google Maps over your sense of direction. One of your paddlers may have a Garmin watch and a number of them have a ‘return to home’ function which works exceptionally well.
The NSRI app, Safetrx, also has an Explorer icon on the first screen that will pin point your position within seconds and is great for navigating in the fog. Just remember to switch the map over to SAT view for a realistic view of the coastline. The big advantage of using the Safetrx app is that if anything else goes wrong one can quickly call for help. The golden rule for assistance is Call for help EARLY (if you think things may go wrong call for help) The NSRI needs time to launch their craft before they can come and find you.
Once you have an idea of which direction you need to head start paddling slowly and carefully listening out for other whistles, calls for help and oncoming motor boats!
IMAGE: Derek Goldman