Kayaking Technique Forum

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Eat, Pay, Get Out
In Response To: Re: Kayak Frogger ()

: 4. I'm not sure I know what "Kayak frogger" refers to. If you mean
: playing in the white water right behind a big boat, that's insane.


Reasonable people can disagree about things. In this case, we see things differently.

Kayak Frogger refers to the game Frogger where the object is to hop your frog across a river where logs and flotsam are moving in both directions. Some versions have the frog crossing a highway with cars and trucks moving in both directions. You have to avoid getting hit by the objects or get splatted.

The idea is that a crowded shipping lane is like the Frogger game layout with ships and boats moving in both directions and the kayaker having to dart in and out to avoid getting splatted. It really has nothing to do with wakes or whitewater. The metaphor is about collision avoidance.

Since Tim took the time to explain his position more clearly, let me explain an important aspect of my view clearly. If my expedition is to paddle from Grand Marais, MI to Wawa, Ontario along the Lake Superior coast, I will certainly have to cross one crowded shipping lane where ships leave the Soo Locks and head out into Whitefish Bay and to Lake Superior. This is a very busy place and the ships can be very big... 1,000 footers... and very wide.

I am not suggesting that you avoid crossing over. I am not suggesting a portage through Sault St. Marie. Unfortunately, a crossing is required. How should I do it? Well there are several things that can reduce the risk of being in dangerous waters. First I can check the web before I leave Grand Marais for ships navigating the locks and see what ships are expected and when. I can plan my crossing with this information in mind. The positions at any given time of all major ships on the Great Lakes is available on the web.

I can also ask people who have crossed about specific problems they have encountered. Ask for recommendations about the best way to execute the crossing. Pre-plan the crossing.

Next, are some common sense precautions like turning on your VHF and switching to the channel for ship pilots so you can monitor commercial voice traffic. Next is line of sight... can you actually see any ships approaching? Is your vision unobstructed? Is there fog that obscures vision? If so, don't go. Wait until the fog lifts. Are wind and sea conditions good? If not, don't cross... wait until they are better. If on the ocean, are the tides right? If not, wait until they are. Do you have the proper safety equipment in case something bad happens? If not, don't cross. Are you rested and fresh so you can paddle hard across the lane? If not, don't cross.

Finally, there is the matter of your course. The object should be cross the lane as quickly as possible so you spend as little time as possible. Your course should be at a right angle across the narrowest part of the shipping lane, if that is at all possible. The Greek Restaurant philosophy applies to these crossings... Eat, Pay, Get Out.

In the case of the Soo Locks example, there is another consideration, the closer you cross to the locks themselves, the slower the ship speed as they have not had a chance to really get up to cruising speed or they are slowing to enter the locks. Better to cross where their speed is lower as it gives you more time to avoid them.

I'm sure others can add more precautions and procedures depending on various types of crossings. And it would be a great thing for people from this board to compile a checklist of procedures for shipping lane crossings that we could share with others.

My point is that when you go into a shipping lane you are going in harm's way. Nothing can change that. The paddler must be especially cautious and on the alert. A single lapse of attention can have the most dire consequences. In crowded lanes, avoidance is superior to crossing regardless of experience, training, or ability. If you MUST cross, then do so cautiously, wisely, and with the proper respect for the danger.

If you succeed at crossing, don't imagine for one minute that a crowded shipping lane is any less dangerous the next time. Don't expand your repetoire of destinations based upon being an accomplished, expert shipping lane crosser. Don't say that shipping lanes are not an obstacle because I know how to cross them. If you think this way, you are playing Kayak Frogger and may well get splatted.

Safe Paddling!