Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Tips for rivers and oceans

At sea in a kayak At sea in a kayak Shane Gross
06 Feb
Legends and tall tales go with the sea, Geographical takes some sober advice on ocean and river expeditions

We’re an island nation with a strong seafaring heritage. No surprise then that ocean and river-based expeditions are always popular.

This year, Nick Ray is setting out to kayak around Scotland’s coast, 2,015 miles in total. If Ray covered that distance straight out to sea he would hit America. There’s also a plan to row the ever-opening Northwest Passage

If you’re thinking about a similar expedition, here’s what the experts say on preparing to get wet:

Adam Porter has recently returned from a research cruise collecting plankton and plastic samples from the North Atlantic:
The sea is one of the most unforgiving places on Earth, and expeditions need to reflect that reality.
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) is a good principle to follow. Waves and wind are powerful. I’ve lost innumerable bits of equipment at sea. Redundancy is essential. Extra kit is needed to get you through a fix, whether that means packing a spare oar (or two) for rowing or spare fin straps if you’re diving.
Cable ties, gaffer tape, spare rope, a good multi-tool, and spare essentials are always needs, as are ‘load-bearing’ objects, such as an oar or sail sheeting.

The sea is powerful and deserves respect, but with the right kit, spares, emergency plan and equipment you can have the most fantastic time in one of nature’s most epic battlegrounds.

Elsa Hammond rowed solo from California to Hawaii. She has also sailed the South Pacific and unicycled across England:
Prepare yourself for the fact that at sea everything will break and get wet.
Bring spares of everything you cannot do without. If it’s too big, at least work out in advance how you might mend it or get by without it. Fully test any waterproofing kit in advance, and then bring extra just in case.
Water will seep into a boat at sea in ways you never thought possible. The salt attracts moisture, so if anything has once got wet it is unlikely it will feel properly dry again on expedition.

You can save yourself a whole lot of grief out there by being as prepared as possible for wet and broken kit. 

Dave Cornthwaite has extensive river experience. He kayaked the Murray River, paddle boarded the Mississippi and swum the Lower Missouri:
Don’t get complacent. Rivers change their face every single day. The levels rise. The currents change. Hazards lurk just beneath the surface.
Weekends can bring holidaymakers with wakeboards and jet skis. Stay alert and become comfortable focusing on those hazards. 
Respect the river. It can give you the time of your life, or take it away fast. Be reverent and plan well. Make sure you know your stuff before you head into any conditions that are going to be challenging. Where a personal floatation device, however experienced you are.
Keep a waterproof daypack within arm’s reach at all times. It should contain all your essentials: snacks for the day, phone, wallet, and first aid.
Keep the daypack close in case of capsize. If you need to resupply and leave your craft, a daypack means no time is wasted. 

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.