Marine navigation and skills

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

For paddlers: consider a combination of charts, compass, and GPS technology to ensure your ability to navigate the complex network of islands which make up Gwaii Haanas. Paddlers should know basic strokes and maneuvering skills, including bracing, surf landing and launching, and self-rescue techniques. Knowing when not to paddle is an essential skill as well. Schedules must be flexible enough to remain onshore during poor weather conditions. See our checklist for details on what to bring on your kayak trip

For boaters: ensure your equipment, including engine, navigational devices and depth sounders are in good working order. Always carry enough fuel as there are no fuel stations in Gwaii Haanas. Understand how marine hazards and weather may impact your ability to travel. Be considerate of less manoeuvrable vessels in constricted areas such as Burnaby Narrows, and the north side of SGang Gwaay. Navigation skills are extremely important, especially on the western and southern coasts where fog is a factor.

Gwaii Haanas is so remote that you cannot rely on other people if you get into trouble. It's recommended that independent travellers carry VHF radios, but even so, it is possible that it will take several hours, even in good weather, for help to arrive.

Are you ready for an independent trip to Gwaii Haanas? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you filed a sail/kayak/float plan with a friend or relative?

  • Do you have contact numbers and a means of communication in case of an emergency?

  • Can you self-rescue?

  • Are you aware of the effects of cold water immersion and cold shock?

  • Are you experienced in reading marine charts and tide tables?

  • Do you have good navigational skills? Can you take bearings and use triangulation to establish your position? Do not rely solely on GPS

  • Do you have first aid and wilderness survival training?

  • Do you have experience in wilderness travel?

  • Do you have all the necessary safety equipment?

  • If your own experience or training is limited, will you be travelling with others who have adequate experience or training?

  • Who will lead the group?

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