Lake Kesagami is 34kilometers long and 10kilometers wide. Northern lakes of this size quickly whip into a frenzy come bad weather; a potentially life threatening situation when you’re paddling in the middle of one. I wasn’t paddling on the largest part of the lake this day, but the longest necessary open water crossing of my trip lay only a few kilometers ahead. Fortunately, it seemed the good weather was holding, and it was blazing hot when I began to make my way across the big lake.
The lake is famous for good Pike fishing and Woodland Caribou sightings, but the most important thing for me was getting across it safely. The weather was still looking good after I’d completed the crossing and put my spray deck on. It wouldn’t last long though, come late afternoon, a nasty head wind picked up. I put my head down and paddled into it hard, determined to make kilometers.
When faced with a large open water crossing, consider the following:
• Be a weather man: Keep your eye on the weather, never attempt a crossing if it looks like a storm’s on the way.
• Gauge the pressure: If you know you’ll be faced with a large crossing, it’s a good idea to cary a barometer.
• Build a cat: If you’re traveling with two canoes, consider rigging a sturdy catamaran by lashing two spruce poles across the canoe thwarts. Then, secure them tightly by running ropes under the hulls.
• Stay put: Don’t attempt a crossing in dangerous conditions, no matter how far you’re falling behind schedule. In the north, time doesn’t dictate your travel, safety and the weather do. It can take days to wait out a weather system.
• Get decked out: A spray deck will increase your safety significantly in wavy conditions. On this trip, I used a spray deck made by North Water.
• Get to shore: This one’s a no brainer, if you get caught in a storm, paddle to shore as fast as you can!
• Spread it out: If traveling with a group of more than one canoe. Make sure each canoe has sufficient gear and provisions on board should you become separated in a storm.
• Don’t be on break: If you’re paddling in big waves, avoid getting caught on the top of a whitecap. The aerated water where a wave is breaking provides little buoyancy, causing your canoe to swamp.