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Backpacker Magazine – May 2010

Navigation: Lakes and Oceans

Triangulate, forge through wind, and learn the tides with these water-bound navigation tips.

by: Kristin Bjornsen and Dougald Macdonald



Beware Erratic Tides
For a coastal hike, don’t rely solely on the tide table from the nearest harbor; the time and height of tides may vary dramatically along a coastline. And although most of the world’s tides are semidiurnal (two highs and two lows, about the same height, every 24 hours), some coastlines differ. Along Nootka Island in British Columbia, the two daily lows may vary by five feet or more. Inquire about local variations with the Coast Guard or marine outfitters, or download tidegraph.com’s nifty iPhone app. 

Hug the Curves
In fast-moving water, stay to the inside corner on blind turns, to avoid getting washed into logs, trees, and other debris on the outside bend. The current also tends to be faster on the outer edge, assuming similar shorelines and uniform water depth across the channel at the turn. (If the water depth isn’t uniform, the current is typically slower in shallow water.) Need to dock? Look for back eddies, which will push you shoreward. They tend to form downstream of protuberances.

Forge Through Wind
If you’re paddling toward a landmark but wind or current keep pushing you off-course, try lining up one landmark with another visible object on shore, ideally one behind the other. Keep the two landmarks in the same relative position (to each other) to stay on track. Also, if traveling against prevailing winds, plan to paddle in the early morning or early evening, when winds are typically the calmest. Even a 10-knot wind can decrease your paddling speed by 20 percent.


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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Mar 01, 2014

Navigate using your compass! When you lose sight of the trail and landmarks, stay found by using a compass and reading Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). This book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Before you hit the trail, be sure to calibrate your compass to the declination of where you will be hiking or skiing. Go to: http://magnetic-declination.com. A compass doesn't need satellites, a signal, or batteries and works in all types of weather, day or night, but you need to know how to use it. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart". Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking and skiing. Learn to stay found by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. Learn what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing (for the car and for the trail) just in case you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors.

Star
Liam
Feb 28, 2014

With any kind of luck if you are BACKPACKING you will not find yourself on a lake or an ocean.

Star
Liam
Feb 28, 2014

With any kind of luck if you are BACKPACKING you will not find yourself on a lake or an ocean.

Anonymous
May 13, 2011

If you followed the directions, eye dominance doesn't matter

n.t.
Sep 25, 2010

Some people have dominant left eye, thus their thumb will "jump" to the right using this method.

n.t.
Sep 25, 2010

Some people have dominant left eye, thus their thumb will "jump" to the right using this method.

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