Friday, November 23, 2018

Coastal Navigation

In the interests of being more educated about being on the water, I joined in on the local Kachemak Bay Campus Maritime class offering recently, Coastal Navigation, which focused on Kachemak Bay navigation. Twenty three hours of instruction over three weeks enlightened, engaged and entertained me, whetting my appetite for boating, something quite new despite my living here in Homer for 11 years.

A huge focus of the class was safety, which led us to the fun of setting marine flares, setting off smoke flares and shooting rocket flares, as well as practicing extinguishing fires with fire extinguishers.

Setting off a flare, which floats and keeps its brilliant light even when immersed in water

Correct technique was emphasized for shooting off rocket flares, as they have a little kick

Smoke flares in the water in foreground, and the rocket flare illuminating where it landed for a few seconds before extinguishing

The light of the flare left a trail of smoke and lit up the water

A call to the Coast Guard before and after setting off flares managed any calls that might come in from this exercise

Fun stuff aside, we learned to navigate with maps, figure out exact tide depths between high and low tides, identify bouys and lights on maps, and much more, despite most people's ultimate dependence on their electronic devices for all this information.

Knot tying was valuable, though I think I'll need to keep practicing to stay fresh.  Tying up a boat right was listed as a marriage-saving skill, as apparently many mishaps happen in the stressful process of docking.

We learned about boating essentials, listing 17 must-haves for every boat, starting with the float plan, all the way through PFD's, survival gear and a VHF radio.

Knowing the rules of the sea for colors and locations of lights on boats, bouys, throwing anchor, docking, mayday calls and more is useful for me, as a non-captain rider on boats. We practiced mayday calls, learned the best type of survival gear, and even how to drive the boat into certain types of waves.

Best of all, however, was hearing all the stories from Anna Borland-Ivy, a woman who has been on the water in Alaska all her life fishing and recreating. Hearing all the local knowledge about places I am familiar with and how to navigate these waters with incredible tides shifts of 28 feet, glacial water and wind effects, rip tides, and currents humbled me to the power of the sea.

It was an incredibly valuable use of my time, and expanded my awareness of how little I actually knew about seamanship despite living on the edge of the sea and being out on the water regularly. I highly recommend this class, which is offered every semester by the Maritime Program classes at Kachemak Bay Campus.

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