Does this dark little area lead to the pier where we parked our cars, or is it the next one? ...
There's nothing wrong with getting a bit lost. The journeys you remember are the epics, the ones where you needed all your senses and experience to get out of trouble... (Kayarchy)
When Russ Johnson sent word out that he was planning to lead a paddle at 7:30 pm on Friday, I was excited and looked forward to learning more about night paddling....FOR REAL.
I was impressed with my travel time. Even with construction, I left my home in the northwest suburbs and was there within and hour and fifteen minutes. I took I90 to 47 N, after it turned into 120 across the border, I jogged over on B, then Zenda and right to Linn Rd which went straight to the lake.
Right where the lake is the narrowest is where we put in; Russ & Jen Johnson, John Gabris, and me. This made our night navigation easier. We only had two crossings where we really had to be careful to watch out for boat traffic--Williams Bay and then crossing back to the other side at the narrow area. The trip was about 3 hours long.
Haze, fog, and night are all considerations that involve special gear and special planning and for some of us---the adventure.
When Russ planned to put in at 7:30 pm I immediately emailed him with excitement about how he was planning to do the night navigation. I had read that it is a good thing to practice paddling in the dark so that, in the future, if you are caught off guard, you will know what will be expected of you and what equipment to have always handy--just in case. Okay, ....but it just sounded a bit fun, too.
I had done a sunrise paddle in the Apostles a few years back and we left our campsite following the North Star and the shoreline with our headlamps ready if we needed them. It was a clear night and the moon and stars lit the water nicely for us as we watched the sunrise. EASY.
On a clear night, locate the Big Dipper. Look at the two stars furthest from the handle and draw an imaginary line through them and up.
The North Star (Polaris) is the first bright star close to that line, about five times the distance between the two stars themselves.
For our trip on Lake Geneva, not only did we have overcast skies, but Russ had us putting in just as the sun was getting ready to set. LESS EASY...
Except for two crossings, we stayed behind the buoys as we travelled along the shores to avoid the powered boats. As we crossed the Williams Bay area we did have some boats to watch and we stayed together and noted the red and green lights on them.
The red light goes on the left and the green on the right. Regardless of the white lights, if you can see red and green at the same time, a vessel is coming directly towards you. If you can see only green, the vessel is probably approaching, and certainly going from your left to your right. If you can see only white, it is going away from you or is stationary. Sea Kayak Navagation
Rule 25 of the Maritime Law Guide says that a rowing boat, which would include a kayak, is not required to display the usual white lamp visible from all around as long as there is "ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision".
High-speed vessels will often display a flashing yellow light. There are many other light configurations. If you want to cross a shipping lane at night, you'll need to know quite a few. There's a wikipedia page with the full list: Lights & Shapes.
We each had at least two sources of lighting. I had a water-proof head lamp attached to my pfd and a small white lite attached to the bungy on my stern. John tried the red and green lights attached to his bow and quickly found out it's easy to hit them with your paddle if they are too close to you.
As we paddled to the darkest bend in the lake, Russ said, "Where going to take a little water break here." Next thing I know there's splashing and he's doing his re-enter and roll ... then squirting Jen with water from his pump... At the end of our trip Russ gets a nice size crayfish out of the water just for Jen...
It was a very FUN and SAFE night. Sometime, I hope to take Russ up on a repeat with 3' waves for a little interest....