Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shine a light - kayaking in darkness...

"Kiekeboe!": Well known Dutch seakayak-coach demonstrating how to shine a light...

Update 29-12-2008: René suggests in the comments an alternative solution - you don't have to shave your head: the Navi Light 360 - click here for René's review. Used on a baseball-cap with a large brim it must be a good solution for a solo paddler - for group-paddling it might shine to bright with 16 LED's...

Fijne kerstdagen! Merry Christmas!

We just had the shortest day - daylight is scarce these days. My paddling during the week now mostly takes place in darkness. Even on the quiet waters around Woerden, with seldom any other traffic on the water - it's important to be visible on the water. To meet Dutch regulations a kayak should have a white toplight that is visible from all directions (it doesn't have to be on continuously). Red/green navigation lights in addition are an option, but are not compulsary.

After years of experimenting with less durable solutions, since over a year I am absolutely contented with the Tektite Stern Light. The versions with one or two LED's are sufficient - 4 LED's are defintively to much - the bright light will blind you. The requirement that the light should be visible from all sides - makes mounting on the kayak awkward - I am not a fan of big constructions on the deck. Sea kayak-coach Axel demonstrates the perfect solution - very basic, preparation is just a regular visit to the hair-dresser ;-)

Downside of this solution is (1) that the suction cup sucks really powerful - dismounting may leave some questionable traces and (2) (more serious:) downside of a white light shining above you is that it disturbs your night vision. That's why I opt for the second best solution and mount the light on the deck behind my back. OK, this doesn't meet all regulations completely - the paddler is in front of the light, resulting in no 100 % visibility from all directions. But because most traffic looks down on a kayak from a higher position - on the water the light works also sufficient with approaching vessels.

To read compass and charts I use in addition a simple red LED-bikelight in a waterproof bag. Works better -and is much cheaper - than a chemical lightstick!


Marc Martin said...

Merry Christmas Hanns.

Anna & Marc.

Tony said...

Hans, would this be an issue for the night vision of people paddling behind you in a group? We have club paddles of between 25 - 30 people and this may be a good solution to being seen as opposed to glow sticks.

Tony :-)

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Hans, you referred to be visible for approaching vessels.
My experience with night paddling on the Waddenzee is that as "they" do not see you on their Radar, yo do not exist..
So although not allowed, I have a strong preference for stealth.....the advantage: no disturbance of your own lights...

Btw, if you are interested, I use a handmade LED- compass light....


Hans Heupink said...

Hi Marc an Anna!
Thanks and best wishes for you too. I am looking forward to meet you in Llanca with Easter!

Hi Tony!
The LED lights are brighter than glow sticks. In a large group the lights from the first paddlers can be irritating and hindering for the following paddlers. But the lights are easy to be switched on and off...

Hi JB!
Indeed: at sea most ships navigate on the radar at night. Commercial vessels won't notice your tiny little LED-light...
The point is: regulations are one thing - wise night paddling however is clever addapting to the situation you are in: that's different at sea, near shipping lanes, in busy ports or in an area like Woerden. "Stealth paddling" can sometimes be adequate. Around Woerden we have to deal with fishermen rushing around in small boats - often without illumination - in this situation a light really works!


René said...

Hi Hans,

Light for paddling at night stimulates quite a lot of peoples' creativity.

The perfect solution (in my view), with stronger light) can be found at my blog:

And about stealth paddling: I once paddled at night at the Alkmaardermeer on my way home when suddenly a very fast speedboat without lights appeared. I paddled without light that time and was in danger as the boat headed directly at me. By changing course I managed to escape, but since than I carry this headlight.

René ;-)

René said...

Sorry something went wrong with the link.
I cut it in two underneath: may be you can make a decent link from this by nitting the 2 parts together, hans:

Hans Heupink said...

Hi René!
Thanks for this addition!
And for Stealth paddling: only with a good light in hand-reach!