compass2I returned earlier this week from a kayak trip to The Broken Group. We didn’t take a GPS (long story), and about five minutes into the paddle I whipped out the compass to set our course and realized I’d forgotten the basics of charting a course from so many years ago (things like subtracting declination properly so we didn’t end up in the Sea of Okhotsk). I always carry my compass, but haven't used it (except as a shaving mirror) in nearly a decade.

Paddling with a non-geographer who I knew would taunt me endlessly if I admitted ignorance of the one thing he’d expect of me given my education and line of business, I reckoned I could probably glean the core concepts as we paddled using various cues on the nautical chart. Without Google access to a quick refresher, it took the first kilometer or so to piece together what I needed (the weather was fine, so there was minimal risk). Fortunately, Bob didn't seem to notice my unorthodox navigation technique and visibility remained good. In fact, we made it through the whole trip without having to radio the Coast Guard (Canadian or Russian).

Oh yeah, the trip was awesome. A humpback whale surfaced next to our kayaks and everything.