Kayak Navigation: How To Measure Direction And Distance From Kayak


As a novice kayaker, you have a lot to learn. From kayak care and maintenance to kayaking safety, there are many things that you have to be familiar with to master the craft. Another thing that you should learn, which will also be the focus of the rest of this post, is kayak navigation. 

Learning how to measure direction and distance from a kayak is crucial when preparing for a kayaking adventure as it will come in handy for location awareness. This makes it easier to pinpoint where exactly you want to go while making sure of your highest level of safety. 

Ready to learn the basics of kayak navigation? Read on and learn from some of the insights we will be sharing. 

Formal vs Informal Navigation

To start, let us first discuss the two types of kayak navigation – formal and informal navigation. 

In the case of informal navigation, it will come handy when it comes to short and easy trips. The tidal stream is usually less than one knot. No need to have technical devices. Before the start of the trip, however, it is good to determine the height of the tide and the direction of the current, making it easier to plan your return. 

Meanwhile, with formal navigation, you need a map and a chart, as well as other navigation devices that will keep you sound. It is not recommended for novices and best to be planned as a group so that there is someone to extend a helping hand when needed. 

How to Measure Direction and Distance from Kayak

By measuring the direction, you will be essentially determining where exactly are you headed. Are you going to the north or south? East or west? The measurement of the direction is important to have an assurance that you will reach your destination safely. Otherwise, you risk being lost in the middle of the journey. 

Use a Compass

When it comes to kayak navigation, a kayak compass is one of the best items to have. This way, you will never have to be left guessing when it comes to the measurement of direction. It is an important navigation tool that will keep you safe and sound. 

To know how to use a compass, you will need to be familiar with the different parts, A typical compass has an index line, direction of travel arrow, compass dial, orienting arrow, magnetic needle, and housing. 

Aside from the compass, to measure direction when kayaking, you will also need to have a map, which will serve as your point of reference. The reading on the compass should be the same as the map so that you can paddle all the way in the right direction until you reach your destination. 

In the map, there is usually a scale given in inches or centimeters, making it easy to measure the distance concerning what is printed on the map. 

Meanwhile, measuring the distance is all about identifying how far you have already traveled from one point to another. Also, it can be a measurement of how far you are from your current position to your destination. 

Use a GPS

If a compass is what you will need in measuring direction, when it comes to the measurement of distance, a kayak GPS will be able to extend a helping hand. It is one of the best kayaking essentials since it can provide important information that you need to know while you are kayaking. 

Depending on the GPS device that you are using, it can be advanced enough to provide a plethora of details that can be useful when it comes to measuring a distance. The kayak speed and distance can be easily determined by the device, so there is no need to measure it manually. 

To add, another benefit of using a GPS is that it will be possible to mark waypoints. This is a good way to remember your way back to your point of origin, minimizing the chances of getting lost. You can have it named as you desire and add a short description to make things easier to remember. 

Using GPS will also be important when it is time to ask for help. This will make it easy to pinpoint your exact location based on the coordinates from the device and you can send it to someone who will rescue you. 

Know the Nautical Mile and Knots


When it comes to kayak navigation, there are two important things that you should know – a nautical mile and knots. 

Simply put, nautical mile refers to the distance at the sea. One nautical mile is roughly equivalent to 1.15 land miles or 1,852 meters. 

On the other hand, knots refer to the speed of the kayak, boat, current, or wind. The speed limit in coastal areas is also given in knots. One knot is one nautical mile per hour.  

Wind and tide, among other conditions, will affect the measurement of speed. When the tide is high or when the water is rough, you will naturally tend to be slower. In this instance, you need to know how to paddle a kayak properly to keep safe and reach your destination quickly. 

Watch Out for Navigation Marks

When discussing the basics of kayak navigation, it is also important to mention the navigation marks that you can see on your journey. As a part of learning how to kayak, you have to be aware of what they mean. 

If you see buoys while navigating the water, pay attention to the color and the meaning. Yellow buoys are used to mark an area for swimming and recreation. Red and black buoys, on the other hand, mean that there can be an isolated rock or shipwreck, among other small hazards. 

If you are kayaking at night, watch out for a lighthouse and other fixed navigation lights to help you find your way back. 

Globo Surfer Overview

By now, we hope that you are already familiar with how to measure direction and distance from a kayak. This isn’t easy. But with the right kayak accessories, including a compass and GPS, things will be a lot easier on your end. This way, there is a lesser likelihood that you will lose track of where you are heading or where should you paddle all the way back to your destination.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!