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Paddling in fog, rain, and dark

Posted by on December 6, 2012

I have had the opportunity to paddle in fog and rain and into the night with no moon these last few days, and it was all fun, but required some preparation and care.

I have avoided paddling in the rain a couple of times, but I have gotten over it. My boat has a big cockpit, about six me a half feet long, but Kruger Canoes supplied a very nice spray skirt for it. By pulling my foul weather jacked over the part of the spray skirt that surrounds my lower chest, I stay perfectly dry. I still have to be vigilant because of reduced visibility and keep in mind that power boaters just might be racing home and shielding their eyes.

Not many boaters are out in the fog, but in my limited experience, a significant percentage just shove the throttle up and go. I make it my business to stay out of the channel if that is possible and keep my ears open. Fortunately, the sound of engines falls within the range that I hear well. I have also encountered large commercial vessels moving along at a pretty good clip on the Great Lakes and elsewhere in fog and me in my little canoe. I have vowed not to get in tht situation again without an adequate radar reflector on my boat.

Canoes may legally operate at night without my lights, though the paddler must have a light available. I often wear a headlamp turned backwards and on, but I have had the unpleasant experience of a houseboat on Lake Lanier veering my way and the moron operator yelling, “Oh, I wondered what that funny light was,” just before his giant wake nearly capsized me. I couldn’t actually smell the beer, but…. The Alabama River was really dark when I was paddling last night – no moon and mostly overcast, so not much starlight. There was some light reflected off of clouds from a distant paper mill, and that gave me pretty decent visibility after my eyes adjusted. In this case, I found that my good flashlight, shown ahead periodically, allowed me to avoid logs and snags with no difficulty. I have a great, Black Diamond headlamp, but I found that it lit up the boat so much that it ruined my night vision briefly.

All of these conditions call for a little extra preparation and caution, but the rewards include getting where you want to go, a little sense of adventure, and a unique opportunity for a different kind of serenity.

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