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Lost in the Fog!

Posted by on January 5, 2012

Anyone who has been lost in the fog knows how disorienting, eerie, and spectacular an experience it can be. For those who have yet to paddle with the mist, here the stage: The fog bank is hanging on the horizon with fog horns sounding in the distance. Then, all of a sudden, it starts to move in and there is nothing to stop it. It envelopes you and your world becomes very small. You lose all sense of direction in your tiny circle of visibility. It becomes very quiet and the once prominent sounds such as the fog horn and the lobster boats in the distance become muted. You are all alone; lost in the fog!

I had been paddling for many years without an incident in the fog. Then it happened. It scared me, I learned from it, and I have now come to enjoy a trip in the fog every once in a while! My first incident in the fog happened on a cool, early summer paddling trip out to Manomet Point in Plymouth. The fog horn at the Gurnet had been sounding all morning long when my friend and I set off from Long Beach. We could see the fog bank lying offshore but we weren’t too worried about it. Our plan was to stay close to shore and I had a small compass in my PFD pocket as a back-up. We’d be fine!

The nuclear power station in Manomet requires that boaters obey a quarter mile exclusion zone marked by a line of white buoys and we gladly obeyed. Then the fog bank quickly rolled in and our view of the shoreline dissolved. It was the thickest fog I’ve ever been in and we were lucky to be able to see 10 yards in any direction. I pulled out my compass only to find that the directional needle had corroded to the pin rendering it useless and leaving us lost in the fog.

    

We were disoriented and stuck until we drifted into a lobster pot buoy. Then another buoy appeared at the edge of our circle of visibility. We paddled toward it and spotted the third buoy. It was then that I remembered that lobstermen tend to lay their pots along rock bands and these bands happen to run out to sea perpendicular to shore. By following the buoys we knew that we would be traveling either into or away from shore. Luck was with us and we soon came within sight of the rocks. Lessons learned: 1) Always have a working compass and 2) Be prepared to think outside of the box!

-Kayak Dave

4 Responses to Lost in the Fog!

  1. frannyritchie

    I love fog. I remember my first morning fog so clearly – we were underneath a bridge in Pittsburgh, and all of a sudden the pilings, the bridge above us, the banks, and even the other boats disappeared. We had to line up like ducklings to get back to the boathouse. It happened so fast – it was creepy, but also totally beautiful.

  2. newenglandwaterman

    You best navigation tool in the fog if you lack a compass is your ears, you’d be surprised how far offshore you can hear someone closing a car door during a windless day in the fog

    • arrudad

      I agree that sound can be a key navigation aid when lost in the the fog but there are two important limitations. First, is that the wind needs to be low as mentioned. Second, sound can be a good measure of distance but it can be difficult to judge it’s directionality. Take a fog horn for example. It’s easy to judge whether or not you are moving toward or away from the horn by how loud it is on a windless day. Now, take the sound of a inboard motor for example. It’s typically difficult to judge where the boat is moving from and to in the fog if there are no other cues. The take-home message here is to always have a working compass and also to be prepared to think outside of the box when the need arises.

      -Kayak Dave

  3. warren

    Wow I was kayaking with my girlfriend when a sudden mist arrived. Never in my life have I been so afraid as we were engulfed by the mist quickly. Luckilly I managed to follow my instincts and listened for the breaking of waves which I knew would be by the coastline. Scary stuff I’ll never forget. NEVER will I kayak again without a phone and a compass!!!!

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