View Full Version : Kayaking etiquette - rules of the road?
10-14-2003, 11:16 PM
The other thread prompted me to ask something I’ve been wondering about for a bit.
The under sail vs. power right-of-way has been drilled in, but other than the obvious liability if you hurt someone, what is the right-of-way of a “personally propelled craft?” It may have been discussed in the safe boating class I took a few years back, but I don't recall.
Kayaks seem to be getting more popular by the week, and it’s really surprising there aren’t more accidents. We’ve got quite a few out around here most good days. I unfailingly control my wake and even try to respect their “personal private space” when practical.
I also try to watch oncoming traffic and have run interference when a larger boat was coming on hard. Most times the kayakers nod and do the there-goes-another-idiot eye roll, but one guy in particular gave me one of the worst looks of my life. He was paddling perpendicular to the channel ahead of me and looked intent on heading across. There were three sport fishing boats traveling the channel and another one cutting through the water to his stern. I slowed on the edge of the channel ‘cause I figured the three sport fishers might slow down a bit for the two of us. (I’m in a 12’ Carolina Skiff BTW) I was never closer than 30 feet from him, and basically idling, but he got really mad at me???
There’s no way he could of crossed the channel ahead of the big boats, and I was never in his path, just kindof hanging back ‘til the traffic passed. Maybe I broke his rhythm, or did he want to go to port and take the wakes bow on???
So kayakers educate me, and anyone else that’s reading this who doesn’t understand how they handle, about what your needs are. Also, what is the proper way for a kayak to cross a traffic channel???
10-15-2003, 01:53 AM
The best thing to do is treat a kayak the same as any other boat. Try not to hit it.
As far as wake goes - try to keep your wake when it reaches the kayak to no more than the usual wave size for the location.
Kayaks can usually pick their way through traffic with no help. Your help may do more bad than good.
I am sorry kayaker's are not appreciative. I always smile at bigger boats when I kayak. I always show appreciation for those who try to help (even if it hinders).
10-15-2003, 01:57 AM
Personal opinion: kayaking is like riding a bicycle. You may have the right of way, but you end up dead wrong if the other guy ignores you or does not see you. Have signals, even a self propelled flare, ready to hand and buck, dodge and weave to stay out of the way.
I would cross a traffic channel like a rabbit crossing the road: quickly! at right angles!
If you want to see some exciting boating (ahem), you should check out Lake Union in Seattle on a busy summer weekend: it's chock full of sailboats and kayaks, many rented from liveries around the lake, plus the frequent excursions of the Center for Wooden Boat's steam launch Puffin. To add that extra bit of spice to the mix, Kenmore Aviation float planes come and go frequently! Weeee!
[ 10-15-2003, 03:01 AM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]
10-15-2003, 02:21 AM
Victoria inner harbour is much the same. Kaos surpreme. I have seen the harbour police giving kayakers and other small boats a stern lesson about taking chances in a busy small harbour. Some people are just so oblivious to potential danger.
10-15-2003, 02:27 AM
It could be that the kayaker thought you were violating "his" space as there are some paddlers who detest everything about all powerboats. Or possibly you just presented one more boat to keep an eye on and he wasn't sure what you had planned, which at close range can be kind of spooky. It's also possible that the guy is just a jerk.
If, as a kayaker, I could make suggestions to powerboaters about dealing with kayaks, top priority would be giving them as much room as possible. In the time that I travel a couple of boat lengths, a powerboat going 40 m.p.h. can travel almost 300 feet. Whether I have the right of way or not, that doesn't give me any substantial control over the situation, so the farther away the powerboat is, the better.
Pleasure boat wakes generally aren't a big deal to a kayak as long as there is reasonable space between the boats. What's reasonable? Enough space that I don't need to stop paddling and try to figure out whether the guy is likely to run over me. In open water, I get real nervous if it looks like a powerboat at speed is going to pass closer than 100 ft. from me or so. If he's closer than that I start wondering if he sees me. At a couple hundred feet even the wake from a small ferry or big pleasure boat is just a few ups and downs and I have plenty of time to turn into them if I don't want to take them sideways.
In close quarters and restricted channels I don't know what you can do other than give as much room as possible and pass at a speed that you deem safe. There are some places where it's just not smart to take a kayak and unfortunately, somebody probably will. One thing you might try when approaching a kayak, especially in a tight space is just waving "hello". You may get a one-fingered wave back from some folks, but at least they will know that you see them, which is always THE big question when you see or hear a boat coming in your direction.
One category of wave/wake problems to be aware of and which are not mentioned in any powerboating, sailing or canoeing course that I have heard of, yet which are very real to kayakers are "reflection waves". If the kayak is paddling along and fairly close to (typically within maybe 75'-100'or so) a cliff face, breakwater or wall of some sort, both natural waves coming in and powerboat wakes tend to hit the wall and bounce back. This sets up a zone near the wall where the incoming waves are slamming into the reflected, outgoing waves and it's like being in a washing machine. Everything is going up and down in total chaos and you're being pounded by steep unpredictable waves from any and every angle. Compared to bad reflection waves, big whitewater standing waves, wind waves or surf are child's play because they are more orderly.
Back when I taught kayaking we would put a student in a boat and tell them to stick one blade in the water. We would then have a couple people stand next to the boat and twist, turn and bounce it as hard as possible, trying to flip it. As long as the student kept the padde in and used it for leverage, it was extremely hard to dump the boat. If they lifted the blade out, they went over in a heartbeat. The same is true when paddling in most waves and wakes, but may not be the case in reflection zones. You need to be quite careful about leaning on an immersed paddle blade in bad reflection waves because a half second from now the water supporting it may not be there. The combination of irregular waves, bad bracing, deep water and what may be a tough shore to climb out on can add up to a situation where you can be within 25 feet of land and be in big trouble.
So if you can avoid pinning kayakers against a wall with a big wake, it would probably be good -and understand that unless they have some big-water experience they may not know anything about reflection waves either. Also, you may run into situations where you think to yourself "Gee, this would be a lot easier for everybody if those kayakers would stay closer to the seawall". They may just be giving themselves some safety space.
"Legally", isn't a kayak just another vessel under power & afforded all the privilages & burdens of that?
10-15-2003, 09:13 AM
Back when I taught the Coast Guard Aux. Safe Boating class we told students that the right-of-way progression was:
2. People powered craft
3. Sail boats
Of course, that is all superceeded by the "Law of Gross Tonnage.
/// Frank ///
10-15-2003, 12:14 PM
And the Law of Survival supercedes everything else...
When you're smaller and slower than most everything else out on the water, you need to pay particular attention to everything around you (usually in my dory, I'm still smaller and slower than most other boats). Follow the rules where possible, but when in doubt, get out of the way to live another day.
The reverse also holds that larger boats have a responsibility to look out for the smaller ones when possible. I get a lot of boaters that pass me at high speed, much too closely for comfort. It's hard to sink a dory, so I've never had any trouble, but that doesn't mean it's polite or appropriate to buzz another boat and send them bouncing.
Generally, I try to give other boats room whenever possible, and most (but not all) boats are polite and return the favor. But never assume anything - always pay attention when there are other boats around, whether they are smaller, larger, or the same size as you smile.gif
10-15-2003, 12:24 PM
A few more comments re: the original post in this thread ...
One is, there are a lot of different points of views, so it's possible the kayaker you referred to didn't understand your intentions in the situation you described. Then too, there are lots of unreasonable people, both in kayaks and in larger boats, so who knows what the story was.
Another issue with kayaks is that they are quite low to the water, so aren't very visible. Rowing boats aren't a lot more visible, so they share some of the same issues, but every little bit helps. When my wife is out in her kayak and I'm out in the dory, we tend to move closer together when power boats approach, to help give a larger
target for them to see (and hopefully avoid).
Most power boaters aren't out to intentionally make kayaker's lives miserable, and the same works the other way 'round, but it doesn't hurt for both sides to do what can in the interests of safety.
10-15-2003, 01:27 PM
I'm a cynic and naturally warry of the "I have the right of way" phenomenon. I have noticed this with cyclists mostly. Many of them get very self rightous about having the right of way to the extent that even when they are clearly at fault or in the wrong place they get pissed off because you get too close. Ordinary citizens do nothing to help this by instantly sideing with the person in a small craft or cycle in an accident.
I was riding in a truck with a freind when we came to a out of service 4 way stop light. The correct thing to do is stop at the light, look around make sure everyone else has gone and then slowly pulll out to make your turn or cross the intersection. As we pull out along come this biker, hauling ass through the cross walk, with out stopping at the light much less slowing down, when my freind pulls out (very slowly) this guy rams right into the side of the truck and flies across the hood onto the pavement, his bike is trashed. Immedialty out come this woman from behind us who exclaims to the biker, "I saw everything! I can be your witness if you need one". Huh? Same thing happened to my freind while he was on his motorcyle. He was in stop and go traffic and he wasn't paying attention so he rammed into this moving truck in front of him, bent his forks. The woman behind him gets out of her car (he was ok by the way) and says "I saw the whole thing". What "whole thing"? He was a dumb ass who drove his motorcycle into the back of a truck! Sorry to rant, I just don't like the attitude that comes along with this rule and I think thats what you witnessed, a bad attitude.
10-15-2003, 01:37 PM
Maybe it is a bad attitude, but its most likely an attitude that comes from being continually shoved around on the water.
The general etiquette around here (North Shore Long Island) is simple, it is:
"Get out of my way I'm a big SEA CAPTAIN conducting important business on a cellphone as usual and I can't be bothered to turn the wheel or cut the throttle or even acknowledge your existence because I paid a lot of money for this gaudy no-class loud smelly garbage and I pay a lot of money for dock space and gasoline and maintenance and you'd better get out of my way rowboat boy because you paid nothing or next to it for your kiddie toy and money has the right of way and I'm really important that's why I'm going so fast, really really really important in case you didn't recognize me -- at the very least you should have since I was the psychotic cretin in the 8000 lb SUV who almost ran you over on the way to the boat ramp because after a hard day of slamming my Cadillac Escalade around the streets while on the cellphone, I like to unwind with my 2000 hp Go Fast Penis Boat by doing 70 mph donuts in the harbor. What are you going to do, report me? Ha Ha."
10-15-2003, 01:43 PM
I kayak almost daily here in the north channel I do not venture into the recreational channel nor the shipping lane I try to stay close to shore, better view less traffic, pwc are my greatest threat they move so quickly and also travel in the shallows I keep my eye on there movements alot more then pleasure craft that mostly stay between the bouys. If I have a reason to cross either channel I do so at 90 degrees and consistently paddle until outside of the channel, Itry to maintain a visual with all traffic, I always wear a life jacket that is orange to help to be seen. There have been some close calls around here with blue kayaks with blue life jackets and blue hats, they blend in and the other boaters often do not see them until they are very close.I love kayaking and have been on the water since 1984 when I built the first one. but safety is my number one concern.
10-15-2003, 01:52 PM
My basic principle in any right of way situation is never to press it. On Lake Union, where I do most of my sailing, many of the kayaks are rented to not very able skippers. I've fished a couple of them out of the water. It may be their first time in a kayak, so they may be concetrating on something other than the traffic. If you try to keep your distance and when crossing their path go behind them, there is less likelyhood of trouble. They may dart forward unexpectedly, but they seldom dart backward unexpectedly. Respect for other boaters and some empathy with beginners can prevent a lot of problems.
Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson )
10-15-2003, 02:34 PM
When I first got o the Hudson I did so in a kayak. I loved kayaking still do but I got bit by the sailing bug ouch and if I have a choice I sail and the yak gets dusty. The Hudson is a busy shipping channel and lots of weekend warriors I bayliners and beers. I'm not visible but I'm aware. I honestly feel more comfortable in a soup full of freighters and speedboats in my kayak than I would in my little sailboat. I can bob and weave in a kayak its like a second skin to me. I also like going into the marsh channels where other boats cannot go. But the BEST way to avoid other boats when kayaking is to do it Greenland Style, kayak in January :eek:
Look Ma no wake LOL ( yea Bruce its me again smile.gif ) http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid52/pe8550a4423bbe1e0c65285f67d39b828/fc975a91.jpg
Edited to note: Notice the red beacon light on my PFD. The rubber gasket full dry suit ( $$$$ but worth it ) The map and tide chart in my forward dry bag and the dome of the compass just ahead of that but obscured by the bag.
[ 10-15-2003, 04:07 PM: Message edited by: Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ) ]
Frank E. Price
10-18-2003, 01:51 PM
Not a kayaker, but I would think that operators of vessels larger than a kayak would do well to observe one of the basic rules:
When on a collision or near-collision course, make your course change large enough that your intentions are immediately clear to the other vessel (kayak).
The kayaker then knows that you see him and that you are taking action to avoid him (it), which I'm sure would be of substantial comfort.
Kayakers should probably keep in mind that they are much more difficult to see than just about any other type of boat, and that for all practical purposes they have no rights. It is also apparent that kayakers often choose to boat in areas where there is just too much traffic for such fragile and hard to see craft. Fast boats especially are not likely to spot a kayak until well within the kayaker's pucker zone. I think that when kayakers go in congested waters the question of who is the jerk becomes highly arguable.
gross tonnage rules. Kayaks "should" not be in the middle of traffic but if they are then the are like a skate boarder or cyclist maneuvering through 4lane traffic that goes between 20mph and 50mph between city lights. The person should know damn well what they are doing.
I tell folks in kayaking classes that we're playing,,so it doesn't make sense to play in the street. Enjoy the periphery and shallow waters where bigger boats can't navigate. If you are crossing traffic do it in such a way that doesn't make other folks have to change course. When it comes to heavier boats the consequences of making them change course is increasingly more problematic. When it comes to work boats and ferries we should NEVER put them in a postion of having to change course,,this is their work place and having some goomba in $4000 kayak or $400 tupperware rec. kayak is messing with their work. It pisses people off. Imagine some 15yr skate boarders zooming into your workplace, "hey dude, what's bugging you?"
Ironically crossing at a choke point feels safer for a paddler as the distance is shorter but actually complicates the boaters more as they are less able to maneuver.
here's the place to get feedback from folks doing the stuff
ok, Joe,,I'll be gentle on you. Xenon strobe on your shoulder/back,not red LED light for emergencies, a bright boat(red sexy but at dusk it's dark), bright jacket/pfd or orange hunting cap is good for day/dusk visibility. A BRIGHT light for night paddling to light as needed or actual red/green running lights. White LED flashlights are good because they last forever. YOu can get a Princeton Tec II that runs on 4 AAA with a tight beam.(those high output halogen lights are nice but burn up batteries big time, having one LED light and one Halogen light is good combo) ACR 180degree while light is a good running light although it's technically not the same as "a light to shine as needed".
For ice cold water there are all kinds of head gear but anything that can fall off or doesn't have the capability to prevent the flow of freezing water into the ear canal is marginal. Fuzzy Rubber hood for $35 from Rapidstyle is the best item around because it's a waterproof and stretch material with fuzzy lining. It covers jaw, neck and head. The nice thing about it for freezing weather is that you can pull it off your head and keep it on your neck. If the need arises you can pull it back on. It can be rolled up tight enough to tuck into a pfd pocket, wearing a heavy lycra divers hood under it is as good as a 5mm neoprene hood since neoprene is meant for complete submersion and the fuzzy rubber works well AFTER the immersion and allows you to hear well. You can wear it and still have a fashionable pile beanie or other hat but when things get wet it's not going to come off.
All this assumes your fingers and dick haven't fallen off,,hey! ever seen someone walk into freezing water and they forgot to zip up their pee zipper? WWWHOOOOOOOEEEEE!!
10-21-2003, 02:41 PM
We have a synphony in the Victoria harbour every 1st Sunday of August, and take a rowboat and the picnic basket. Best evening of the summer. However its the fools that know they are going to be out after dark, without an appropiate lamp to indicate their postion that get to me. You see glow stick, glow wands braided on wrists, bike strobes and headlamps. My wife being the navigator, will say "Some kind of boat, port quarter" and I being the sarcastic as ever, says, "some kind of fool, port quarter."
Its bad form for the local rowing club, but you get a broadside in reply to a polite comment that they should follow regulations,even if its the only night of the year they venture out.
All that said, the best I have seen, and its not legle either, was a kayaker with a red glow stick on the port paddle and a green on the starb'd side. They were very effective, moving up and down while he paddled, and me, without a doubt, knew what was approaching me. It was not correct but was a definite improvment.
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