<![CDATA[The Weathered Paddle         - The Weathered Paddle Blog]]>Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:51:17 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Kayak déjà vu]]>Sun, 15 Mar 2015 19:09:01 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2015/03/kayak-dj-vu.html Yesterday I participated in a class held by the Chesapeake Kayakers Association titled “Sea Kayaking 101.”  This is a daylong class, held each year, intended to be an introduction to sea kayaking.  I gave an hour long presentation on sea kayak design and selection.  Other topics were directed towards what types of clothing are needed during the different seasons, paddle selection, emergency equipment requirements, USCG rules and regulations, areas of the bay and its tributaries that are interesting to paddle, and so on.  You get the picture.  It was a general, all around introduction to the sport targeting persons who are interested in sea kayaking, but lack the knowledge to commit to the sport. 

The opening remarks to the class focused on a list of the many varied reasons why other kayakers enjoy their sport:  “To see areas of the bay where nature has gone untouched;” “To meet new people;” “To see the Lotus' in bloom;” “To experience the great outdoors;” “To camp on island beaches,” were among the long and seemingly endless list of reasons.  Each reason was accompanied by a PowerPoint slide for illustration.  The slide set was, I admit, a beautiful collection of photos that many of us have snapped over the years.  Gorgeous sunset scenes, islands covered with seaside goldenrod in full bloom, river scenes with tree limbs that overhang the water to form a sort of paddling tunnel, were among the many. I think I said something like “To capture Mother Nature’s beauty in places where others have not ventured”, which of course is ludicrous, because human eyes have seen every part of the Chesapeake.  Still, I count kayakers and canoeists as members of a very small and select group that has had occasion to experience the beauty of the Bay close-up.  We paddle the Bay’s waters in all kinds of weather; we land on shores that other boaters dare not risk; we camp on beaches and in seaside woods where few others have; and we see fields of water-borne blossoms that others will never see except in photographs.  We are indeed lucky to have taken up this unique sport.

At the end of the sessions, all of those who presented stood on stage to field questions.  By far the majority of these questions were technical.  But one gentleman couched his question in the form of an unanswered statement.  “This morning the introduction included a list of reasons why other CPA members paddle.  I’d like to hear the reasons why each of you paddle.”  Hmmm…  Was this a trick question?  Was this gentleman testing us?  No, he was simply interested in hearing our responses.

Each presenter gave a very personalized and honest description of what motivates their paddling experience.  As I stood listening to others, it occurred to me that I had overlooked my original reasons for taking up kayaking.  The kayak is a means of personally re-visiting the rich history of the Chesapeake Bay using a similar means of transportation employed by early explorers – personal watercraft. 

I tried to state my reason in words.  It wasn't completely thought out, but I think some of the points came across because I noted many eyes brighten and smiles forming on faces as heads straightened to listen.  I’m pretty sure I struck a note with many who may not have been aware that they too shared similar thoughts.  The kayak has allowed me to visit the many towns and fishing villages built up around the perimeter of the Chesapeake by a water route.  My view from the water must have been much like that of the early colonists.

This morning, as I sat in my family room reading a copy of Bay Country, I had a déjà vu experience.  I’ve been here before, or I remember this scene.  Well, it wasn’t technically a déjà ju experience.  It was more like a sudden flood of very pleasurable memories, brought back by having shared very similar experiences in a similar setting.  This morning’s experience was triggered by Horton’s descriptions of when he used to hunt geese with his father on the eastern shore.  As a teenager, I too used to hunt the cornfields of southern Indiana with my father.  Our game was rabbit and quail, not geese, but the memories of walking the fields with my father hold special feelings.  As I read, I began to consider that paddling triggers similar feelings.  Most often they occur when coming back to port after having completed a paddle that began in a village from where watermen work.   I will look at the houses along the water, the docks, the curvature of the shoreline, the play of sunlight on the water and sky, and think, “I’ve come home to this port before.”  I get a distinctly warm sensation of attachment that is difficult to explain.  More importantly, I think it is that feeling of attachment that keeps calling to me from the Bay.  Sometimes, I just can’t help but think that I really have paddled into those ports in some other life.  Could this be the real reason that I paddle?  Because I'm searching for home port?

<![CDATA[Prepping for this Summers Paddles.  Meals and menus]]>Fri, 21 Mar 2014 02:28:28 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2014/03/prepping-for-this-summers-paddles-meals-and-menus.htmlI haven't done a lot of backpacking, so I've never really had need to dehydrate my own meals. When doing longer kayak trips, I've always run out to our local REI and purchased commercially dehydrated complete meals. This year I've decided to do things differently. We have a series of paddles planned that will take us down the length of the Chesapeake Bay over the course of the summer months and I plan on taking long dehydrated meals that I have made here at home. This has been a real challenge.

What made me change my mind after all these yesrs, you might ask. The honest answer is, I don't really know. I ran across a website while I was looking for recipes and the web-author published his complete recipes in a book titled Recipes for Adventure.  The author/chef, Glenn McAllister, has placed all of his recipes in a 250 page PDF file that you can purchase for a nominal fee through Glenn's website http:www.thebackpackingchef.com

To be honest, I wasn't looking for dehydrated meals recipes, I was looking for recipes for what I call "wet" meals. Typically, I take along fresh vegetables and prepackaged items that I can cook up quickly over single burner stove. At the end of a long day of paddling, there is not much light left and I'm eager to get my tent pitched and hit the sack.  I'm not much on meals that take a lot of preparation.  Wet meals work because, except on long trips, one is not constrained for space if the kayak is packed properly.  

But this book caught my eye because it could very well be titled The Complete Book of Dehydrated Foods and Meals. The first half of the book deals with how to dehydrate ingredients.  The latter half is how to combine these ingredients into edible meals. For a novice dehydrator like myself, the first chapter was very informative.  It talks about what to look for in a dehydrator. The pros and cons of different types of dehydrators are discussed. By the way, I have not yet purchased my own dehydrator. I am borrowing my son's, until after I determine if I like doing this myself. So far, it has been a lot of work. My wife is more than a little peeved with my spending so much time dehydrating common food stuffs like corn, peas, green beans, ham, hamburger, scrambled eggs, and, well, you get the picture, about anything you can eat.

My approach is to first build a small library of dehydrated ingredients, then to begin putting together meals.  This way, I can pick and choose ingredients to make something that is not only palatable, but will replenish the calories I have burned on the day's paddle. All this takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and planning. As I write this, I am dehydrating 5 bell peppers and 6 jalapeno peppers. It is 8 o'clock p.m. The peppers will take six to eight hours to dry at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. I have timed the process so that when I get up at 4:30 AM tomorrow morning, the first thing I need to do is remove the peppers from the dehydrator and vacuum pack them. I have pre-cut 3 sweet onions that these will go into the dryer before I leave for work.  Tomorrow afternoon, I will pack the onions upon my return home.  

One of the things I especially like about Glenn's book is that he describes several methods for dehydrating especially difficult ingredients. For example scrambled eggs are easy o dehydrate, but notoriously difficult to rehydrate. When rehydrated scrambled eggs taste powdery and inevitably end up chewy.  Likewise, the common food ingredient, hamburger, is rubbery tasting when rehydrated. Glenn has devised several food combinations that make the rehydration process more complete. I won't get into how he does this, because those are the secrets you pay for by buying his book.  Suffice it to say, they work.  

So, what has all this got me so far?  In my freezer, I now have packaged Beef Stroganoff, Cheese O'Rama (a spicy cheese Mac meal), Easy Cheese Rice and Beans, a breakfast meal of Green Grits and Ham (grits, peas and dehydrated deli ham), a recipe called Kick'n Mac, and another for spicy Red Beans and Rice.   I am working on the ingredients for a Rice, Meat and Veggies meal and another for Shrimp and Cheesev Grits.  Sound good?  Check back at the end of the summer and I will let you know my ratings for the taste of these recipes and whether or not the effort was worth it. Meanwhile, I'm content that I have a nice library of meals to do my paddles down the Chesapeake Bay.

If you have suggestions for meal menus, please upload them.  I'm always up for something new and tasty.

<![CDATA[So, you're a history buff.]]>Wed, 07 Aug 2013 01:51:36 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2013/08/so-youre-a-history-buff.htmlI hope this makes you smile.

During last Sunday's swim support I struck up a conversation with one of the guys on a Fire and Rescue Boat, or rather, he struck up a conversation with me. He asked, "Why are you paddling with that board?"

I tried explaining to him it wasn't just a board. "Sure, it began as a board," I said, "but now it was a Greenland paddle." He just stared at me and replied, "But it's a stick."

"Yes, we call them sticks also," I said. "But this paddle design originated in Greenland and the Inuit have been refining it's design for hundreds of years. The Euro style paddles that the others out here are using are rather recent designs. While they have advantages of having more power at speed, the Greenland also has it's own advantages. One is in the ability to maneuver the kayak in difficult conditions and in rolling."

"But it's a stick. How can it be as good as those wide blade paddles?"

"Well," I explained, "it actually has about the same surface area as those plastic paddles have, it's just distributed differently. Instead of taking a grasp on the water immediately, it grabs more slowly as the paddle dives deeper and deeper into the water. And I can control how much face is in the water by the angle I use the paddle. Moreover, because of the design, I can get quite a bit of leverage by holding it like this", I said, grasping the paddle for a sweep roll. "And it doesn't grab as much air in windy conditions as do those wide blades."

"But it's thin, and it's just a piece of wood," the fireman said.

"Yes," I said, "but it's been refined over hundreds of years use. And it has worked in a variety of harsh conditions for the Inuit. It's the ideal all-around paddle."

To which the fireman replied, "Ah, so you paddle with it because you're a history buff."

Exasperated, I nodded and replied, "Yes. I guess I am."]]>
<![CDATA[Who will look for you when you don't return on time?]]>Fri, 24 May 2013 16:21:53 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2013/05/who-will-look-for-you-when-you-dont-return-on-time.html I suspect most of us do not file float-plans routinely.  I used to think of the float plan as being necessary only when I was going on an extended trip or leading a group.  Most of the time when I’ve been given float plans by others, the check-in times have been ignored by the kayakers involved and it’s been unclear what action should be taken as a result.  Did he forget?  Are they OK?  Should I call the authorities? 

Well, my thinking was recently altered by a free web service called Float Plan Registry.  If you are not familiar with this service, by all means click on the link provided and register today.  It could help save your life.  Did I fail to mention, it’s free?

Float Plan Registry is a site created by a boater, for boaters.  It makes filing a float plan so simple that it should become routine for all of us.  Once you register, you predefine all of your vessels (kayaks) and potential contact persons.  The information requested for your vessel is: manufacturer, model, hull identification number, hull color, deck color, year of manufacturer, and photo, if you desire.  For contact persons, you enter their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.  You may add addresses if you choose.  All of the information is maintained securely in the systems database.  With this information in the system, it’s a simple matter of defining an itinerary and deciding at which waypoints, if any, you wish to do a check-in.  The web site then mails the float plan to everyone you name in your contact list.  It’s like, “file and forget.”

I like everything about the website, but what I like the most is that it is active.  On the day that your float plan becomes active, all of the check-in points are monitored.  If you fail to check-in by a stated date/time, your contact person is notified.  (I’m guessing the notice is via e-mail, and not phone call, but who know, this could change.)  The important part is that you are not forgotten.  The system is monitoring your plan and steps to initiate action will be taken if you fail to make a check-in on time.

The system also allows you to “snooze” an alert.

Additional features will make this website attractive to our community.  In one section you can create a  “Virtual Yacht Club.”   Here, you may identify friends/other kayakers and check to see where they are paddling this weekend.  I think the possibilities for this system are limited only by our imaginations.

I know I will be routinely registering my outings.  There are days when I get home early and want to go out before my wife gets home.  I can send her a copy of my float plan that will let her know what time I can be expected and who I’m with.  On those extended outings, the system will keep track of my whereabouts and notify my contacts where to begin looking should I fail to check-in on time. 

If you find other uses for this registry, I’d love to hear about them.  I’m always bowled over by creativity.  Float Plan Registry is going to revolutionize the way we kayak, I think.

Followup note:

I have talked with the owner of this website. Currently, if a Check-in time is missed the system will send e-mail notifications to the contact persons for up to 8 hours afterwards. He intends to add SMS texting and a recorded phone message, but those mechanisms cost money and he wishes to keep the site free. The owner said he is considering adding a Premium version to cover the cost of such contact mechanisms.  What do you think?  I think it's worth it.

Also, the owner would like feedback on the "Virtual Yacht Club" function, stating that everyone seems to like it, but no one is using it. To me it's a great means to find people to kayak with.

<![CDATA[Tackling the Chesapeake Bay]]>Sun, 12 May 2013 14:41:12 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2013/05/tackling-the-chesapeake-bay.html Like many paddlers of the Chesapeake, kayaking the length of the Bay in multiple, consecutive, daylong segments is one of my unrealized dreams.  I’ve never quite drummed up the nerve to begin, although I have sat for hours planning such a trip.  I only know of one other person who has done this paddle in it's entirety.  Many have tried, but been forced to abandon their attempt when Mother Nature has intervened.  She can be a real bitch this time of year.   That’s why when Josh Astor asked me if I would loan him my SPOT Tracker to give his wife some sense of security during his attempt, I was pleased to do so.

I asked Josh if he would allow me to post the trek, in real-time.  He reluctantly agreed to this, pointing out that it would add pressure to complete the trip.  I hope not, for that is not my intent.  Josh has the drive to complete this paddle and has been planning it for over a year.  My intent is lend further support for what I believe to be a very demanding trip.

I have opened this blog in the hopes that it will elicit additional information to share with Josh before he leaves port.    Also, to lend support for this attempt.  If you have any knowledge that may help Josh plan his route, please share it with him. 

Please join me in support of Josh's attempt to complete this difficult paddle.  Monitor his  progress in real-time as as he weaves his way down the Bay.

<![CDATA[The Predator Lurks Beneath You]]>Mon, 11 Feb 2013 16:07:36 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2013/02/the-predator-lurks-beneath-you.htmlThe  Chesapeake Paddlers Association is fortunate to have many talented individuals who are willing to donate their time to pass along their knowledge to other club members.  As I was once told, "It was the way I learned.  Someone taught me,  I'm only passing the information along.  It will help keep you safe."  I love that attitude.  

Anyway, yesterday CPA co-hosted another lecture/workshop on the topic of Cold Water Safety.  The speaker was Moulton Avery, internationally recognized heat and cold stress authority, Executive Director of the National Center for Cold Water Safety, and long-time fellow Chesapeake paddler.   The presentation was held at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak.

Having reviewed hundreds of accidental drowning cases, Moulton has come to characterize Cold Water as a large, hungry predator.  "It is fast, powerful, and deadly.  It has unlimited energy, no need for sleep, and is perfectly camouflaged," he states.   He paints a vivid picture, one best kept in mind while floating on it's back this winter.   You can look at cold water from three feet away and it looks perfectly innocuous.  Throw in an inviting sunrise, a little warm air flow from the Gulf, and most of us are eager to take the bait.  But don't be fooled.  Cold water is a ruthless killer.  If it doesn't fill your lungs with water in it's initial envelopment, it will try to stop your heart or cause your brain to stroke.  And if you are lucky enough to survive the initial few minutes, over the next hour or so it will literally suck the life out of you.  

Nine out of ten canoe and kayak fatalities are cold water related.  According to the US Coast Guard, in 2011 canoe and kayak ranked second out of 13 boat classifications in the number of fatalities.  The only boat classification that had more fatalities than us were the power boats.  

So, next time you consider cold water paddling; before you leave please look over Moulton's Five Golden Rules.  They will help you stay alive.  Then remember my reminder: Hunting season is open.  The predator is hungry and he will be waiting for you.  

This morning after writing this blog, I learned that as we tested our gear yesterday in 36° F bay waters, some folks in Jamaica Bay, NY faced down the predator.  This time the prey escaped, but there will be many more face-offs this season.  

Please, read the information provided on the National Center for Cold Water Safety website.  It contains much practical information aimed at increasing your chances for survival should a mishap occur.  As Moulton readily points out, no one plans to drown.  But we all also make mistakes.  On land, mistakes carry with them little consequence.   On cold water, even the smallest of mistakes can cost you your life.  We all must plan and prepare for the worst possible events that can happen.  Above all, dress for the water temperatures and wear your PFD.  Proper cold water dress will buy you time in your struggles with the beast.  While help may be only a few feet away, rescues never happen quickly and the countdown begins when you hit the water.

Good luck out there. 

Note:  The National Center for Cold Water Safety is a non-profit organization.  It relies on your charitable contributions for continuing support.  Please help them get the word out.  We need to work with them to change the statistics.   Get involved.  Donate!

Post Script.
CPA steering committee member Catriona Miller has posted Moulton's presentation on YouTube.  Due to the length, it's posted in two parts.

Cold Water Safety Part 1
Cold Water Safety Part 2
<![CDATA[Annual Greenland Paddle Reconditioning]]>Mon, 21 Jan 2013 17:35:18 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2013/01/annual-greenland-paddle-reconditioning.htmlI have added a How-To page to the Weathered Paddle website in which the why's and how's of Greenland paddle reconditioning are discussed.   It's more or less a DIY section.  Doing so at the end of each paddling season will ensure the life of your paddles.  If you have any questions on how to go about refinishing your paddles, just ask.


<![CDATA[Chart preparation for kayak navigation]]>Thu, 03 Jan 2013 02:07:15 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2013/01/chart-preparation-for-kayak-navigation.htmlDuring the next few months, many of you will be planning next season's paddles.  If you are like me, when preparing charts you may have difficulty remembering how to account for compass variation.  Let's see, do I subtract variation when going from the chart to the compass?  Or is it the other way?  What's that mnemonic?  "West is best, east is least?"   Best? Least? Or (oh, I really love this one) "GUMA-MUGS" for "grid unto magnetic add; magnetic unto grid subtract."    Oh?  What coast is this for?  Man, I hate decoding these things; especially when they are so unnecessary.

I began this topic to address an easy way to convert between magnetic and chart bearings, but the topic seems to have metastasized into a discussion of making charts and route plotting.  So be it.  One is an integral part of the other.  Three techniques for plotting charts are described.  These techniques are not new.  They have been described elsewhere and presented in several books on kayak navigation.  I have just gathered them here for easy reference.  These are all very basic topics and do not address some of the complexities one runs into in the real-world.  These may come later.

Also included are links to some sites where you can purchase supplies and charting tools.  Finally, coming full circle, I'll show you an easy way to account for declination that does not require memorizing a mnemonic.  It just requires re-adjusting your thinking.  We'll do a couple of examples to show how to convert chart bearings to compass bearings and back again.

Let's get started.

Creating Your Own Charts

How you go about preparing your charts ultimately comes down to where you will be doing your work and the types of tools in your toolbox.  Obviously, if you are in a kayak camp, preparing for the next day's adventure, it is unlikely that you will have a laptop and printer available. But, if you do most of your work in advance, from your home computer, here is what you will need. 

Starting from scratch, you will need a chart for the area you plan on paddling.  This may be a commercially prepared chart or a home-printed chart.  Commercial charts are available through most marine suppliers.  A good source, with a wide selection of charts, is West Marine.  Most of these are larger charts however and can be cumbersome to use on the deck of a bouncing kayak.  For this reason I suggest that you print and laminate your own smaller, notebook sized charts.  To do this you will need: a computer with internet access, a color printer, sheets for laminating the final chart, and probably, a thermal laminator.  Lamination can be done using press-on sheets, but results are variable in my experience.  Given the low cost of high quality thermal laminators and the clarity of thermal sheets (2), I highly recommend investing in one.   Thermally laminated charts are reusable, can be marked up and erased repeatedly, and will quickly become the seeds for a much larger personal chart library.

You will also need a complete set of charting tools: parallel rulers, a  ruler or straight edge, a china marker, a fine or extra-fine rolling ball pen, and a high quality hiking compass.  Parallel rulers may be purchased from a marine supplier.  Hiking compasses are available from a number of outdoor outfitters.  A number of websites offer instructions on compass use.  The other items are stock at most office supply stores.

I'll talk about printing and laminating charts as the need arises in the following sections. 

Preparing routes using prepared charts, parallel rulers, and the compass rose (Figure 1)

This is the easiest and most straightforward technique for charting routes.  You will need a waterproof nautical chart with a compass rose, a china marker, and parallel rulers. 

First, using an erasable china marker, trace out your route by marking waypoints and connecting them with straight-line segments. Place an arrowhead symbol at the end of each segment to denote direction of travel.  Referring to Figure 1, lay one edge of the parallel ruler along a segment of the route, in this instance the segment from A to B, and open the rulers until the parallel ruler intersects the "+" at the center of the compass rose.  From the outer ring of the compass rose, read chart bearing for the leg.  In the illustration, the chart bearing is 62°.  Normally, this is not useful information.  What you seek for your chart is the magnetic bearing.  Read 46° (rounded) from the inner ring of the rose.  Write the bearing along the side of the line segment and mark it with "M" to indicate it is a magnetic bearing. 

In the chart used for this example, declination is 16° 30' East.  This is the number of degrees and direction from True north that a compass needle points at any location in the chart area.  Declination varies from chart to chart.  Sometimes local variations also occur within a charted region.  These can generally be ignored.

To obtain compass bearings for the remaining legs of the route, reposition the parallel rulers on another line segment and repeat.

Figure 1. Using parallel rulers and the compass rose.
Creating your own charts using online software or NOAA BookletCharts (Figure 2)

Rose Point Navigation Systems offers a downloadable, trial version of their chart-generating software called Coastal Explorer Express (3).  It comes in two flavors: Coastal Explorer Express Viewer and a version that integrates real-time positioning data from your GPS.  Both systems utilize NOAA charts.  These are trial versions that automatically download and install NOAA charts during the setup process. If you find the software useful and plan to continue using it, you may also find the purchase price reasonable.  The trial version does not uninstall after the expiration date, however, charts will not continue to be updated and some real-time features included with the software will no longer function properly, e.g, buoy wind and temperature information and wind and current speeds.  For most of us, the elements that remain continue to be useful long after expiration.

NOAA BookletCharts (1) are full-scale nautical charts that have been divided into pages and put into a printable PDF format for convenience.  NOAA supplies these online at no charge.  You may view and/or download them from the NOAA website. 

Each BookletChart contains between 9 and 28 notebook sized pages that print on 8-1/2" x11" paper.  Charts are available for the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coastal regions, as well as for Alaska and the Great Lakes.  Chart size varies from 1,200,000 scale (good for surveying large areas of coastline) to 10,000 scale (good for harbor detail).  For kayak use, the 40,000 and 80,000 scales are ideal. Page 1 of each BookletChart contains the chart index.  The charts are identified by page number and illustrate the approximate chart areas detailed.  Page 2 contains selected excerpts from Coast Pilot.  While not so useful on water, the information on this page can help familiarize you with select areas on each chart; such as the location of harbors, shoals, obstructions, buoys, and VHF-FM radio channels monitored.  Emergency information and instructions on how to place a distress call are printed on the last page of each BookletChart.

Each system for chart making  has its own set of peculiarities.  Coastal Explorer Express allows you to chart your anticipated route using your desktop or laptop computer, then print it directly.  The software automatically corrects for declination and marks each segment of your route vector containing a magnetic bearing and a distance (see Figure 2 for an example printout).  Unfortunately, you cannot select the printed area.  Sometimes you may have to print several pages before the right framing is achieved.  Also, the printed chart probably will not contain information that is key for navigation.  For example, you probably will not see a compass rose, a declination factor, or a distance scale on your printed chart.  BookletCharts share some of these same issues.  While BookletCharts always print what you see on the computer screen, all pages in the booklet do not contain a compass rose or a distance marker.  Labeled lines of latitude and longitude are missing from all but the charts that lie on the outer edges of the larger chart.

Coastal Explorer Express provides you with tools for marking and labeling your route (see Figure 2), whereas this must to be done manually on charts printed from BookletCharts.  Lets take a look at how that is done.

Figure 2. Trip route plotted using online software.
Plotting routes manually using libraried charts (Figure 3)

This method utilizes libraried charts, i.e., charts you have made for previous paddles in the same area and saved in your own personal library.  If your library does not contain a suitable chart, print one using the tools described previously.  Manual chart preparation has the added advantage of not requiring a computer.  Advantage you say?  Yes, advantage.  Libraried charts can be revised at almost any time; at home, in camp, or on the deck of your kayak.  If you decide to add a side-trip while en route, you may do so quickly and easily.  Hence, this is a very good technique to know.

You will need a china marker, a hiking compass, and a ruler (you can use the side of your compass).

Before proceeding, I need to clarify some terms.  Depending upon whom you read, the deviation from true north on any chart may be referred to as either "variation" or "declination".  Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably.  In my vocabulary they imply different things and I believe that once you begin calling magnetic deviation by it's correct term, declination, and not variation, you will no longer have difficulty converting between compass bearings and chart bearings.  The distinction is more than semantic.  The term declination stems from "decline," meaning to become smaller or reduce.  It imparts direction to the manner in which the value is applied.  Variation, on the other hand, is defined as "…a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically with certain limits."  While this does apply to cartography generally, it is not suitable for use in describing deviation on a specific chart where the variable has a finite value.

To better understand why this distinction is important, consider this.  Declination refers to the amount that must be subtracted from True North to correct your magnetic compass. That's pretty simple.  No pneumonic is necessary to determine if it must be added or subtracted.  It is, quite simply, always subtracted. Before you slam me for this irreverence to convention continue reading.

Declination is the offset that must be subtracted from True north to correct for the physical separation of the geographical and magnetic poles.   If you are planning a paddle in waters east of the Mississippi, then declination will take on a negative value.  If you are planning to paddle waters west of the Mississippi, declination will have a positive value.  The algebraic expression relating magnetic bearings to chart bearings on both sides of the Mississippi, is: 

    Magnetic bearing = Chart bearing - declination.               (1)

The catch to using a single equation for all of your corrections lies in  remembering to sign declination. East declination is always positively signed and West declination is always negatively signed.  (It's should be obvious, but just for clarity, East and West, used in this context, refer to which side of True North the declination arrow resides.  East and West do not refer to the continental areas divided by the Mississippi river.)

Let's do a few real world examples.

Converting chart bearings to magnetic, or compass, bearings (Figure 3)

You are kayaking with your buddies.  Your destination is a small island a few miles off Maryland's Eastern shore (See Figure 2).  The route shows you will have to navigate through a series of small islands.  Looking at your charts, you note that the distances between several of the islands are greater than 2 miles.  Suddenly, a bulb lights in your mind with a caption stating, "From our viewpoint we won't be able to see the our next destination at multiple points along this route.  We will have to navigate by dead-reckoning!"  This is followed by a slurry of curse words targeting your friend whom you trusted to make the trip maps, and yourself for giving him the responsibility then not checking the charts yourself.  Your charts have no compass bearings! 

You pull along the shoreline of the first island on your route and begin calculating magnetic bearings.  To do this you begin by laying your hiking compass alongside each line segment in your route; taking care that the direction of travel arrow correctly points in the actual direction of travel.  You turn the bezel on your compass until the orienting arrow points to True north and the orienting lines are parallel with the nearest longitude line.  You read the chart bearing from where the index line intersects with the bezel.  In Figure 2, this is 190°.  This is a chart bearing.  You must now convert this reading to a magnetic bearing.

For most regions of the Chesapeake, declination is 11 degrees West.  Signing declination, it becomes -11°. 

To compute the magnetic bearing for this leg of the paddle, plug the known variables into equation 1 and obtain:

190° (chart bearing) - (-11°) (declination) = 201° (magnetic bearing).

Remember, when subtracting a negative value, you add.

You write this value along the line segment as "201° M" and move onto the next line segment.  When you are through, all segments of your journey contain a magnetic bearing. 

Using the side of your compass, you next measure the distance between waypoints and convert the measurement to mileage using the distance scale.  This is written on the bottom side of each segment.  Finally, you are comfortable enough in your calculation that you lead out using your deck compass and wristwatch to guide you.

Let's do a similar problem using an East declination. 

Previously we found that the chart bearing for our route through Dana Passage (points A to B in Figure 1) was 62°.  Since declination for Puget Sound is 16°, 30' East, we needed to follow a  magnetic bearing of:

    62° (chart bearing) - (+16.5°)  (declination) = 45.5° (magnetic bearing)

In both East and West declination examples we subtracted declination.  The difference was that one was positively signed and the other was negatively signed. 

In the next example we'll convert compass bearings to chart bearings to find our position en route.

Figure 3. Obtaining a magnetic bearing from a hiking compass.
Converting compass bearings to chart bearings for position finding (Figure 4)

Equation 1 can be used to convert compass bearings to chart bearings.  Suppose while paddling from Great Fox Island to Tangier Island, a 5 NM open water crossing in the Chesapeake Bay, you wish to check how far you have to go and if you are still on the plotted course.  From your position you can see the water tower on Tangier Island that corresponds to a tower symbol on your chart.  You can also see Watts island lying to the south-southeast.  Shooting bearings on both, you obtain 169° for Watts island and 248° for the Tangier water tower.  You write each down in your waterproof notebook.  Next, you do some mental arithmetic.  Rearranging equation 1 for chart bearings, you arrive at:  chart bearing = magnetic bearing + declination.  Remembering that for the Chesapeake Bay, declination carries a negative sign, the chart bearing for the water tower is:

    248° magnetic + (-11°) (declination) = 237° True.

The chart bearing to Watts island is:

    169° magnetic + (-11°) (declination) = 158° True.

To find your position in the bay, you rotate the compass bezel so that the index line points to 158° on the compass bezel.  Then you align the orienting lines of the compass so that they are parallel to the lines of longitude on the chart.  You reposition the compass edge so that it points to the north end of Watts island and slightly re-adjust the compass to make sure that the orientation arrow points to True north and then draw a line along the compass edge.  You follow a similar procedure for the 237° bearing shot on Tangier's water tower.

You may have to extend these lines to their point of intersection, but the result will look similar to that shown in Figure 4.  The intersection is your position on Tangier Sound.  You have 3 NM to go to Tangier Island.  You have drifted south of the plotted course.

Figure 4. Triangulating your position requires converting magnet bearings to chart bearings.
Items to verify after you print your custom chart

All of the examples above assume you have a printed chart available.  It can be either a commercially printed chart or a home printed chart.  However, if you do your own printing, you should check off each of the items listed below to be certain your chart will be useable.  Do this before you laminate it.

1.  Declination:  If a compass rose does not appear on your chart, write the declination somewhere on your chart.  Be sure to include the sign, or at least note if it is East or West. The bottom is preferable, as this is where information is commonly located.  Make sure the chart's orientation is intuitive when viewed at first glance.   NOAA charts are printed so that True North is always at the top of the chart and all lines of longitudes are vertical.  If this is not the case, then add a north/south arrow.

2.  Distance Scale:  Add a distance scale if one does not appear in your printed version.  This is an easily overlooked item on BookletCharts.  A penned in scale works very nicely.  You'll need it if your charts are not printed to the same scale.   

3.  Latitude and Longitude Labels:  Label all of lines of latitude and longitude on your chart.  It isn't necessary to include seconds, but do include both degrees and minutes.  You do not want to find yourself in the position of having to call the Coast Guard for an emergency and being unable to determine your location because you failed to label the latitude and longitude lines.

Personalizing your charts

Except on rare occasions, most of my kayaking is done following a shoreline.  On not so rare occasions, I find that the feature I'm interested in charting is illustrated on multiple pages of a BookletChart.  Usually the shoreline lies near the edge of the page and there is lots and lots of open water on the page.  If this happens to you, and I'm sure it will, one solution is to combine the pages.  Simply print the pages containing the feature, then cut and paste them back together to highlight the feature on a single page.  Using a separate piece of paper as an overlay for sizing, mark off page edges, then cut the new chart to 8.5" x 11" size.  You could laminate the chart at this point, but I find that copying the hybrid and then laminating the copy works best.  This way I can always go back to the original and make a second copy if needed.  Be sure to mark the BookletChart number and the pages from which you took the sections, so that you can find the locale of your custom chart from the original index page at a later time.

Before you laminate your charts, you can do additional customization.  For example, mark the location of known put-in sites, possible take-out sites, boat-ramps, good and bad campsites, possible beach sites for lunch landings, and bail points.  Some kayakers pencil in pre-measured distances between points of interest and the circumferences of islands.  Regarding the latter, circle these distance measures to denote their special significance.  I do this on charts for areas I frequent regularly.  This will save you time if you have to make changes to your original route.

Marine charts do not contain topographical information.  You may wish to add obvious ground features, such as peaks or cliffs if you believe the information will assist fixing a location.

The detail of your chart will be highly dependent on the  scale you choose, so if you are printing charts from software, look the printed chart over closely before lamination.  Change the scale of the display version and look for details that may be absent from a low resolution image.  Important coastal features that are obvious on 1:10,000 scale may disappear on a charted printed using a 1:50,000 scale.  You can pencil these features back into your chart  before it is laminated and made permanent.
Figure 5. A custom navigational chart for potential day paddles in the middle Chesapeake Bay.
Let's Summarize 

-    Tools are available online to print your own, personal navigation charts.  These charts are re-usable.

-    When plotting routes, convert chart bearings to compass bearings using the algebraic expression:  

                   Magnetic bearing = Chart bearing - declination.

The values for declination used in this equation must be signed.  Use negative for West declination and plus for East declination.  The equation may be rearranged and solved for Chart bearing when needed.

-    Always create user friendly charts.  Each chart must include a distance scale, a declination, and properly labeled lines of latitude and longitude.

-     Customize your chart before you laminate it.  Routes are applied as needed using a china marker so that they may be erased as new routes are plotted.  The locations of put-in sites, bail-points, good campsites, and other types of  information are your part of your individual knowledge base.  They normally do not change.  If you add them to the chart, they will be there when you need them next paddle.
Online Resources

1.    Nautical Charts can be downloaded as printable BookletCharts from NOAA.  They are ideal for kayak use because they may be printed on 8-1/2 X 11 inch paper or photo quality paper. 

2.    Charts should be laminated to ensure they are not water damaged during use.  Scotch makes a very affordable thermal laminator.

Author note regarding lamination:  If you intend on punching a hole in your chart for a retainer, consider cutting a notch in the chart itself at the location of the intended hole before you laminate it.  This way the two laminating layers will make contact during the heating process.  You may punch through the lamination sheet at this spot without exposing the paper chart between the layers.  If you fail to do so, water will eventually seep into your chart and cause it's ruin.

3.    Coastal Explorer Express, from Rose Point Navigation Systems.

Selected Reading
: For more information than you ever wanted to know about navigating a kayak, check out the books and online sources below.

Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation.  David Burch
Sea Kayak Navigation.  Franco Ferrero.
Sea Kayak Navigation Simplified.  Lee Moyer. 
Kayarchy - the sea kayaker's online handbook and reference.  Sea kayak navigation (2)
<![CDATA[Derek Hutchinson, The Father of Modern Kayaking]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2012 02:57:46 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2012/10/derek-hutchinson-the-father-of-modern-kayaking.htmlShortly after I bought my first kayak, a Pungo 140, I hurried off to the local REI in search of more information about kayaking.  I bought the most informative book I could find, The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking, by Derek Hutchinson.  Of course, the first thing I realized is that I needed another kayak, but that would have to wait another year or so.  In the interim I read about the basics of navigation, the various types and kinds of equipment I would need in this sport, about wave activity, rescues, winds and weather, and of course, the history and origins of the kayak.  Eventually I would buy my first Eclipse, and later move on to other kayaks.  I would learn to roll, scull, etc., what we all learn.  Yet, I kept coming back to my bible, The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking." 

My copy is old and dog-eared, but it still contains information that I have not yet incorporated into my skill set.  It is one of the best all around reference texts written about sea kayaking and I don't believe it will ever be surpassed.  After all, who today could one-up a textbook with a cartoon-like drawing of a kayaker and a thought bubble that reads, "Thinks: A vertical paddle is vital, otherwise I will damage my wrist, I might even stun a passing friend or - worse still - spill my coffee!" to drive home the important points about a one-hand scull. 

Hopefully, in the years to come I will learn more about my favorite sport by re-reading and interpreting what Derek attempted to pass on in his writings.  Hopefully, I'll be able to pass this information on to others along my way.  I might even learn how to do a one-hand scull to make drinking my morning coffee on the Bay more comfortable.

Derek died October 10th, 2012.   He has taught many kayakers the essential skills of kayaking; both by hands on instruction and through his many writings and videos.  He was a Senior coach (BCU's highest award) for the British Canoe Union and considered by many to be the Father of Modern Kayaking.    I do not know the details.  They aren't important.  What is important is that another legend has passed into memory.

For more on the life of Derek Hutchinson, see Eric Soares biography of Living Legends.
<![CDATA[Will you be using your Greenland paddle to hunt seal?]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2012 18:15:31 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/2/post/2012/07/will-you-be-using-your-greenland-paddle-to-hunt-seal.html_ About every other customer inquiring about Greenland paddles asks me, "Which tip shape is best?  Round or square?"  I usually answer that tip shape is an esthetic choice; you choose it based on which shape looks best to you.  Some people choose round, others square, and others yet choose rounded squares.  It's a simple matter of appearance.  Yet, that isn't the whole story.

Where did the differences originate and why? 

In attempting to provide an answer to this question, I'll relate to you a story told to me as a member of a group of students wishing to learn more about Greenland paddles.  Our instructor was Dave Isbell.  Dave is member of Chesapeake Paddlers Association and advisor to the board of QAJAQ USA, an official club of the Kayak Clubs of Greenland.  He is a long-time Greenland paddler.   While describing the many different styles of Greenland paddles, Dave commented on the various shapes seen on different paddles and told a story of a conversation he once had with Greenlander John Pedersen who still hunts seals from a qajaq.    

"The Inuit found long ago that when hunting seals, the drip coming from the end of a round paddle could be heard by their prey.  It served as a warning that a hunter was near.  To prevent this, the Inuit learned that putting a square tip on their paddle gave them much better control of the drip during the closing moments of the stalk.  Accordingly, hunts became more successful and the square tip is now commonly seen on native paddles."

So, there you have it.  The squared tip has a functional basis.  If you answer yes to my question, "Do you plan on hunting seals with your Greenland paddle?", then you need a square tip. 

On the practical side, there are other factors to be considered.  Several paddlers who use paddles with squared tips have told me their paddle is noisier than a round tipped paddle.  They say the paddle tends to "cavitate" in the early part of the stroke.  This would argue for a round tip.

Dave Isbell notes that the squared tip stays put better when doing a shotgun roll.  He prefers a squared tip with the corners radiused about the size of a nickel or quarter.  So this is an argument for a squared tip. 

I don’t have a sound basis for either choice and leave the decision up to the customer.  When asked for a recommendation, I tactfully suggest round tips - or at least rounded tips.  My personal preference, however, for purely esthetic reasons, is a square tip.  Why?  Because I think they look cool.