Open water passage

Submitted bytomcoates onSun, 07/28/2019 - 16:29

Has anyone ever had a kayaking trip where you were out of sight from land for a few hours? I was seeing what it takes to make a passage between the mainland to an island 18 miles away on the Chesapeake River .



Sun, 07/28/2019 - 18:45

I've never been out of sight of land in my kayak.

If you won't have any visible landmark to guide you, you'll need to paddle by compass bearing.

Some folks find that stimulates sea-sickness, so it would be a good idea to do some practicing before the day of the passage.

This is a low island that you are heading to?


Sun, 07/28/2019 - 22:36

Low island!! Max elevation= 4ft

Looks like there's a 50 ft water tower, so you could probably see the top of that when you are about 10 miles away, on a clear day....

Brian Nystrom

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 09:18

Getting fogged in is a pretty common occurrence on the Maine coast. While navigating is a bit worrisome, the bigger issue is that you can hear lobster boats all around you, but you can't see them until they're really close. That is unnerving, to say the least!

Etienne Muller

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 16:25

If you are dead reckoning you need to consider speed over the water, tidal drift, wind, and so on. Tidal charts, and grilling the locals for information are useful. Also planning for neap tides help.

On a longish crossing you can count on around 4 mph over the water. A fun exercise would be to paddle by dead reckoning for around three hours, then check your position by GPS. This way you can tell if you would have navigated accurately the old fashioned way, but can make the necessary corrections if you are off course, before any error adds a lot of extra distance to your trip.


Wed, 07/31/2019 - 18:09

yes there are a lot of factors that have to be taken into consideration. I would definitely not go with out hand held GPS, paper charts or VHF radio. I will be in training for this trip this year to take a couple of 3 to 5 days trips with land in sight. I did not know there is a water tower, that is a great advantage. other factors that have come to light are maritime traffic of large ships smaller vessels and waves so far out in the middle of the bay.  realistically i think spring or fall of next year i would be ready for this trip. 

thanks for all the input, i want to make sure all my bases are covered


I have not done any serious open water paddling on salt water but it would seem prudent to me (of course it would) to attach a strobe light to the deck and use it if visibility is an issue. The strobe would warn the bigger boats that there is something on the water nearby. 

Robert N(o "T") Pruden


Tue, 08/20/2019 - 08:42

I considered paddling there this spring, it was beyond our abilities. But it looks to be 13 miles, not 18, so that should be shorter. Unless of course you have a specific launch spot in mind! If I recall the big shipping lanes are to the west of the island but of course, small boats can be east of the island.


Wed, 03/04/2020 - 09:03

what kind of spray skits are recommended for big river and coastal touring. I do not expect waves any larger then 2-3' normal days 1-1.5'





Wed, 03/04/2020 - 18:21

It's not the waves and situations we expect that can cause problems, usually! :)

What sort of boat are you paddling? Poly boats and many DIY boats with thick coaming 'lips' don't grip the skirt as well as a thinner glass coaming.

A coaming rim that isn't flat in profile (the common 'S' shape) won't grip the skirt as securely as a flat coaming.

The skirt has to fit the cockpit rim- if the skirt is too narrow, I've seen them pop off the side when the paddler leaned out (or rolled).

I prefer neoprene skirts with sewn shock cord (not in a tunnel) like the Snapdragon and Level Six Explorer.  The Reeds 'rubbery' skirts with double thinner shock cord in a tunnel are also grippy, but not very rugged, so don't take one to rescue practice where you are pulling boats across your deck.

The Level Six Excursion is a nice (relatively) inexpensive skirt that has worked well for me. Excellent choice for a spare on a trip, because it packs very compactly.


i have a current design solstice(fiberglass,old fish form 18') and a kevlar sealution 16'. i am looking for something to keep the water out when it rolls along the deck

thanks John



Thu, 03/05/2020 - 19:35


The CD Solstice is a popular design, so you should be able to find a skirt that fits, fairly easily.

Most manufacturers (like Snapdragon) have a list of boats and the skirts that fit them. is also a good resource.

Reeds and I think Snapdragon will also make custom skirts if you provide a tracing of the rim.

Try to buy from a place that allows returns if the skirt doesn't fit.

BTW, neoprene skirts 'loosen up' when damp, so a dry skirt can be a tight (not impossible) fit and be OK.

If there is a tide running between the island and the mainland which reverses in direction calculate this way:

How long will it take?

Divide by two.

Depart to the island by that amount of time before dead high or low depending on what side of the island you want to pass.

Set you course for the island and stay on that course.

Don't vary your magnetic heading.

The tide will bring you back.



Fri, 03/13/2020 - 14:37

that is pretty interesting John, on course setting. i would not have thought of that but adjusting the time to where i reach half way at slack tide makes sense.  i have planned on hitting a channel marker out it in the channel to get a feel for the effects of tide and current. i have already been kayaking in the Rappahannock river, near the Chesapeake,  most of last summer so i have a feel for the tide but not on a large body of water. it seems hard to find data on how fast the water is flowing, i saw from .6 to 4 knots but wind speed averages about 9.5 mph, that could be challenging if it was in the wrong direction. i am getting antsy to be out on the water again and training for this trip.

thanks for all the imput


I paddle this area frequently. Some good warm up paddles would be Windmill Point to Bluff Point crossing Fleets Bay also out to Smith Point Light and Wolftrap Light, both are several miles offshore. Doing these in varying conditions will get you more comfortable in conditions you are likely to encounter. Conditions may very with water depth, on a paddle out to Wolftrap Light we left with waves running 1 1/2' to 2+' a mile or so offshore there is a shoal where they were at times over 4'. I got hit broadside by a breaking wave that pushed me sideways 10' according to the paddler behind me.   A little farther out things calmed back down. Rough water training classes definitely paid off here.  If you paddle from Smith Point Marina its around 15 miles. Getting in and out of the Little Wicomico can be difficult at times with the strong currents and narrow channel, I usually time my departures and arrival to suit the tides. Winds shouldn't be a problem till you start getting above 12-15 kts. 15kts and above expect 4'-6' swells depending on the tides. Fog can be very unnerving if you are not prepared and haven't experienced it.



Wed, 03/18/2020 - 20:30

George that is some great info.  I was thinking along those lines.  From Stingray point i could paddle out to a channel marker or two just to get a feel for the greatness of the water. i thought about Smith Point as a jump off spot going to Tangier. That might be a 25 mile paddle from where i would start at Bush Park. Where did you go for rough water training?



I had a class with Nigel Dennis in Charleston SC. Next fall at the Kiptopeke Symposium they will have rough water training, very good class with great instructors. I don't know if Nigel is still doing classes in Charleston, haven't seen them advertised in the last few years. My class was to be Open Water Training but turned into some Rough Water and High Wind Training due to the weather. The people at Smith Point Marina were very accommodating as far parking was concerned but it was in the late fall and not much activity. Smith Point Marina to Smith Point Light is roughly 8mi round trip and you will have to deal with the tidal flow from the Potomac River, good training for a crossing, you'll get some practice judging course corrections due to currents. It's better to over compensate and paddle with the current to reach your destination than under estimate wind up paddling against a strong current. Dameron Marsh Natural Area Preserve would be another good launch, very secluded parking and about 17mi to Tangier Island .