SK Team Paddler Update Joe Crespi
Paddling Past Dark
If you’re a true paddling fanatic, you’re in the water until the sun goes down, but what about staying out even later? Though the ocean waves can seem much more intimidating after the sun has set over Jacksonville, kayaking at night can be an excitingly eerie experience—provided you take the right precautions, of course.
When you’re paddling at night, you’ll need to make sure you can see, but you’ll also need to make sure others can see you. To stay safe on any late-night Jacksonville kayaking excursion, start by:
GOING WHERE YOU KNOW.
Everything looks a lot different at night, and this can make navigation tricky. If you go somewhere you’ve paddled many times in daylight, you’ll have much better chances of finding your way in the darkness. Pick somewhere you’re completely comfortable with, especially if this is your first time kayaking at night.
LETTING THE MOON LIGHT YOUR WAY.
When the sun goes down, the moon can be a paddler’s best friend. If you’re planning a nighttime paddle, schedule it for a few days before the full moon—this way, you’ll have plenty of moonlight as soon as the sun sets. Other celestial bodies can also be navigational assets: the North Star, or Polaris, is the final star in the handle of the Little Dipper and can point you towards true north.
For reasons both legal and logical, you’ll need a white, waterproof light to let other aquatic travelers know you’re there. Glow sticks work well for this purpose and can be attached to your PFD, while adding reflective tape to your deck will improve your chances of being seen by boats. You’ll also need another light to use as a distress signal, so try bringing along a few flares, a waterproof flashlight or a strobe. Of course, being loud doesn’t hurt either—a whistle is small, noisy and reliable and an air horn is sure to get just about anyone’s attention.
WATCHING FOR LIGHTS.
Because bigger boats are everywhere in Jacksonville, kayaking at night can be dangerous if you don’t keep a watchful eye. If you see a pair of white lights coming towards you, a boat is probably headed your way. Send a signal with your light source or noisemaker to alert the driver of your presence. Red and green port and starboard lights can also tell you if a boat is moving in your direction. If the red light is to the left of the green light, the boat is moving away—if the red light is on the left, it’s time to signal or get out of the way.
Kayaking at night can help you look at your favorite paddling destinations in a new light, but be sure you’re ready for the nocturnal challenges that await you. Have you been night kayaking in Jacksonville? Share your tips and experiences with us in the comments below!