Canoe and Kayak Navigation Articles

Chart used for navigation

Over the past few years, I’ve written articles about both canoe navigation and kayak navigation. I based the articles on the navigation classes I teach with the premise that navigation shouldn’t be confusing, and it isn’t confusing once you understand the basics. To help people learn during my classes, I concentrate on the results instead of the terminology. I think it’s more important that a paddler can take a bearing with a compass, follow that bearing or plot a course than know what the difference between the terms bearing, heading and course. These articles reflect that approach.

If you have a website or blog, please, feel free to link back to this article or the individual articles to help get this info out there. I appreciate it.

Canoe and Kayak Navigation Basics

Natural Forces that Can Affect Navigation

  • Understanding Magnetic Deviation: Magnetic deviation can make all your readings incorrect. Learn how to detect it and to correct for it.
  • Navigation: Variation and Declination: These magnetic forces are present throughout the world and can change your compass reading. Learn how to account for variation or declination in the area you’re taking a trip in so that you can match your readings to the map or chart.

Navigations Techniques

  • Dead Reckoning: Learn how to navigate in the fog, along a nondescript shoreline and at night using dead reckoning, which is a fundamental skill for all kayak and canoe navigation.
  • Aiming Off: A navigation technique that makes sure you don’t miss your target.
  • Fixes and Triangulation: Fixes and triangulation helps you figure out where your at. A great skill to use when you don’t know or if you just want to verify your position.
  • Ranges: Learn how to use shoreline features or markers to help you find a Line of Position and eventually your position.

Free Chart and Map Tool


I plan to add more canoe and kayak navigation articles in the future. In the meantime, do you have any navigation tricks that you use when out paddling? Do you have any navigation questions or ideas for articles?

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