Stay the Course! Using A Range to Determine Position by Mitch Mitchell

In the past two articles we talked about wind – both the effects of fetch, as well as what effect wind has on our kayak. This time we are going to talk about how to tell what the wind or current is doing to our kayak (or paddle board). A lot of times, especially on stand up paddle boards, our renters go out and even thought they are pointed into the wind and paddling forwards, they are actually losing ground and going backwards. Another common scenario is that they are heading out to Point of Cedars Island and even though they think they are going straight towards it they are actually being pushed well to the side making their paddle much longer than expected. So how can you tell, once on the water, exactly what your boat or board is doing? The answer is: by using a range.
Using a range is actually very simple and extremely useful. To use a range you pick two fixed objects where one is behind the other and then watch to see if and how there relationship changes. Let’s say that you are paddling from Coastal Kayak to Point of Cedars Island and want to know what effect, if any, the current is having on you. You could line up a tree on the island with something behind it – let’s say a water tower. If, as we paddle, these two items stay lined up, then we are paddling straight. If it appears that the water tower, which is in the background, is moving to the right than that means we are moving to the right. In that case we might want to aim our kayak or board more to the left so that the two items remained lined up. This is called setting up a ferry angle. If we have to turn so much that we are now paddling at a 90 degree angle to the island and the water tower in the background still appears to be moving to the right than the current or wind is pushing us faster than we can paddle and we will never make it to the island. In that case we would need to come up with a different strategy for reaching the island. In the following photos I’ve lined up the two channel markers. As long as they stay lined up it means that I am headed straight for them. However, in this case you can see that the marker in the back is moving to the left of the front one which means that the wind or current is pushing me to the left.

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