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Safe crossing

bob budd

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Went over to MV on Saturday in a group of five. Fog on the way out was often thick enough to obscure the buoys in the harbour and, more importantly, the ferries and other large boats in the sound. Placed a securite call as a caution to other mariners choosing a course to be outside the ferry path as much as possible, a crossing being unavoidable. Crossed uneventfully though missed the mark about a mile to the good side (not missing the island altogether) because a late start due to a stop at Starbuck's. At Vineyard Haven some of us had a lively chat with a member of the ferry crew who had not seen us on the radar, cautioning us so.

It has been pretty convincingly studied that there is nothing practical that can be done to a sea kayak to make it sufficiently visible to radar. There are alot of factors, most notably perhaps that the heuristics that identify targets find us to be ground clutter (at least it doesn't say "speed bump"). Instead, you need to rely on appropriate procedures such as choosing a course to minimize "interactions".

On a clear day, one way to monitor course is to use a bearing. That's too fixed objects that draw a line in the water that allow you to say on or to one side of said line. In the fog, you don't have bearings to follow. In this case, you had foghorns behind and in front, pretty effective, and you didn't want them to end up at your beam (as an extreme case). I personally don't practice quite this attention to detail but should and plan to. That is, what is out there aside from the obvious "markers" and try to take them into account at all times. Also, know how long it should take to get to the next point on your chaht and know what to do when it isn't where you expected it (in this case we would turn north and return to mainland lest we end up at Block Island or beyond).

The trip back cleared up soon after we embarked from West Chop light enough to see the mainland. We provided an impromptu rolling and rescue demonstration to the onlookers. Those who sought the race were sorely disappointed.

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