Sea kayakers make frequent use of the boat to get out and explore new areas, waters and islands. Fog, marine layers and other visual impediments keep the paddler from navigating by site, necessitating the need for alternate methods of navigation. Orienteering via a deck mounted compass becomes a valuable way of getting through the soupy fog, and put you where you need to be.
Topos or Nautical Charts
Depending on where you are kayaking, you use either a topographical map or a nautical chart. Topo maps are used more when paddling large inland lakes or rivers, like the Great Lakes or rivers such as the St. Lawrence. Topo maps represent more of the land surrounding the lakes. Nautical charts are used when paddling open coasts, from island to island in oceans and seas, or when doing long open ocean crossings, such as in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Nautical charts give depths of the water, distances between objects and directional advice in the legend. Orienteering with either topo or nautical chart requires the addition of the compass.
Taking a Bearing
Whether navigating with a topo or a nautical chart, when the visibility gets socked in, you take a compass bearing and heading. On the map or chart simply locate your destination and then place you flat edged plotter next to your location on the chart and align it with your destination. Using the compass as a guide, align it so you have a clear line of degree you need to follow that corresponds to the heading you took off the chart. Maintain this heading through the fog to arrive near your destination.
Alignment of the Compass
Before using the deck mounted compass, or when installing one, the need to align it is crucial. To align, stare directly down at the compass, move your head until the alignment string bisects the center bearing of the compass card with the graduations, then rotate the globe until the lubber line disappears behind the string. Once the compass is aligned it is ready for navigation and orienteering.
It is important to understand too, that compass orienteering navigation has a margin of error as a result of the magnetic declination on the earth. For the proper calculations for making more accurate navigation, consult your chart or map for the proper declination gradients and set the compass accordingly.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.