Lost in the Fog E-mail
Written by Allen Sansano   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 09:54

The Fog

It's happened to many of us at one time or another. For me, it was during my first year of kayak fishing. I had launched at Davenport, CA and got lost in the fog. I knew the general direction home, but ended up a couple of miles to the south. The very next day I bought a compass and a GPS!

This past weekend at the Oregon Rockfish Classic kayak fishing tournament, contestants were met with a thick fog and a stiff current that pushed 3 mph at some points. By mid-morning, the call went out on the radio, "I'm lost the fog". This person had a GPS, but to make matters worse, the person was in the stiffest part of the current and couldn't make any headway in the direction he wanted to travel.  After some time he ended up over a mile offshore and a couple miles south of the harbor entrance.  A Hobie AI sailed out to try to locate him. All of us listened intently as they traded GPS locations, but somehow could not hook up. The lost kayaker was still drifting out to sea. Someone got on the radio and told him to paddle towards the sun, which he did and which brought him back towards the coast, albeit slightly more south.

As one of the tournament organizers, this was one of my worst nightmares, a contestant lost at sea. I was getting more and more nervous. After a while of this, and with the lost kayaker's radio signal getting worse, I got on the radio and asked if it was time to call the Coast Guard. The first response was that it wasn't quite time. To which I responded, "What is going to change in the next 10-20 minute because I've listed to you guys trying to connect for the last hour and I don't see you guys converging?". The response back this time was that it indeed was time to call the Coast Guard. We switched to 16, and he made the call, but there was NO RESPONSE. Hmmm ... I jumped on the radio and hailed the Coast Guard. They were able to hear me loud and clear. I relayed messages between the Coast Guard and the lost kayaker. I decided to drift with the current too, believing the lost kayaker was drifting. I didn't want to lose radio contact with him. Of course at the back of my mind was the thought that I myself might lose radio contact with the Coast Guard as I drifted further. After about 45 minutes our wayward friend was rescued. I had a nice 2.5 mile paddle up current back to the harbor, but was no worse for the wear.

One things stand out for me. Nobody panicked, not the lost kayaker, not the AI sailing out to him, and not me. Communication was orderly. Of course there were a few lessons that were learned.

Know what's going on in the area and your abilities with respect to that. The lost kayaker had this to say, "My GPS showed where I wanted to be but I could not make any headway to the Depoe bay buoy." If the paddler was stronger or the current was weaker, there likely would have been no issues. Reports from the day before had the currents moving 2.5 mph.

Know your equipment. The sailor had this to say, "Sad part of this is we both had Standard Horizon HX851 radios with GPS and registered with MMSI but I didn't know how to use the features that would have allowed us to track each other."

Check your radio. Do radio checks on the water. Get an idea how far you can transmit and how clear it is. The general rule is that for the handheld radios we use, 5 miles is the max. In this case the kayaker was within 5 miles of the port, but was blocked by some land, and possibly had a weak transmitter.

Have a backup plan. What is your backup if your batteries die? A regular compass is a good idea. What is your backup if you were stuck out there outside of radio range? It turns out the lost kayaker ended up just offshore of a stretch of beach that was landable and did have the main highway running next to. One option may have been to head for that beach and hitch a ride back form there.

 

*photo courtesy of Noah Kriel

 

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