Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beaufort Scale

Following our last paddle there was considerable discussion about weather, forecasting and decision making about starting our trip in the first place, especially since there were some novice kayakers among the group. The group leaders made a choice to proceed with a good understanding of the current weather and the forecast for later in the day. There was no objection voiced from any of the experienced paddlers at the time of the departure to the takeout nor any disagreement as we left the wharf. All safety measures were taken including assignment of sweeps and assistants and four experienced paddlers had VHF radios. The photos at the start suggest wavelets on the water, and not enough wind to extend the flag.
The Beaufort Scale can be a useful tool in combination with knowledge of where one is going,skill level and duration of the trip.
I would estimate the Beaufort Number to be 2 when we left.
Since weather forecasting is not always reliable in this region we have to keep vigilant about the conditions and that was why we headed back early and avoided the final section of the paddle. The wind direction and our location kept the group fairly close and manageable until we hit the turn around the final headland.
At the turn the Beaufort was 3-4 and as we headed into the final stretch a 4 on the scale. Waves were less than a metre, but it was understandable some of the novices were a bit worried and even some intermediate paddlers were apprehensive. At one point one novice paddler blew her whistle as she was uncomfortable but not in immediate trouble. Experienced paddlers would have just been having fun but in this case were assisting the newer paddlers.

Since novice paddlers are just beginning, their comfort zone is very limited - making sure enough time is allowed to reach a protected area will minimize discomfort and angst among the group and ensure novices return to paddle another day. I think this was done, I discussed it with the team leader at a break and we left early enough so that we would come under the predicted increased winds for the evening.

I have found keeping this scale in mind helps me understand how wind speed affects me on the water. As well it gives a good predictive idea of what you are going to be doing. If you see white caps as you are driving in to the take out - you know it is going to be a good workout and if you aren't physically and mentally up for it you have to let your fellow paddlers know.

Two books to check out:
Lull J: Sea Kayaking Safety and Rescues. Wilderness Press, Berkeley 2001
Where the Wind Blows A Guide to Marine Weather in Atlantic Canada, Breakwater 1995

No comments: