GPS experience on Umbagog

This past Sunday, 6:20 AM, I paddled from our campsite on the Rapid river, 8 miles, down a river, across Umbagog lake, into another river, to the take out. And this in a pea soup fog. I was determined to get on the road by 9:00 AM for my 7 hour ride back home.

There were 5 of us. You old timers will know their names (Dougd, Sccottb, jvogt, kayakken) 4 night and 5 days in the Maine woods on a beautiful lake and rivers… We had perfect weather each day, but on Sunday we had fog. I was the only one in the group with a GPS. The others had maps and compasses… We left in two groups, me and the other 4 guys. My GPS has maps and keeps track of where I’ve been. I paddled 8 miles in thick fog following my tracks from 4 days ago. I did the 8 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Had spare batteries too. GPS made it easy, without it, could have gotten lost and wasted time I didn’t have. The others used map, compass and some dead reckoning, then the fog lifted for them, did not for me.


@Andy_Szymczak said:
…The others used map, compass and some dead reckoning, then the fog lifted for them, did not for me.

So? Map and compass with dead reckoning causes fog to lift?

besides fog (wish gps had been available back in the days I paddled the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior), the gps has opened up worry free (navigation wise) night paddling. Whether just a mile offshore, or doing a 15 mile crossing, you aren’t worried about a current or wind blowing you off course.
I also use the gps for logging all my paddling (I save all tracks and pull info (miles, time, speed, location) from them into my log), so I leave it on all the time (rechargeable batteries during the week, alkaline on long weekend trips (lithium - best for many, many hours, but I don’t need them normally))

GPS certainly has a wonderful usefulness . Paddling in the southeast, I’ve been in flooded swamps and in mangrove mazes where a topo map doesn’t help very much.

Plan on it failing, or carry a spare GPS. I never had an electronic failure, but once a rotary knob popped off and the thing became unusable.

Set up a waypoint at your destination, and from time to time, memorize the bearing to that waypoint. Then you can use your compass to steer to the bearing if the batteries go dead, or it drops in the water when you are changing batteries, or a splash gets into the open battery compartment, or salt crystals get into the rotary knob, or half the display disappears.

Also, If you are in fog, you can paddle a steady bearing on your compass, then look at your GPS plot and see how the currents are affecting your course. Or just sit and note the drift.

The thing to pay attention to is how the GPS is indicating the necessary course to the target. On mine the indication is relative to true north until I turn on the compass function. Then the indicated course on the trip computer screen suddenly changes value because it is now relative to magnetic north.

A good rule to follow is make all readings, navigation, and plots relative to magnetic north, or true north, but never mix them.