You’re floating in middle of a lake in pitch dark. The only sound is the water quietly lapping the side of your boat. Above you, a blanket of stars that both inspire you and make you feel incredibly small at the same time.
The other night my wife and I decided that it would be fun to do a little stargazing in a kayak. We love turning our heads to the sky at night, but hadn’t yet done it from a kayak. We decided to set out about an hour before sunset. The plan was to watch the sun go down from the water and then paddle around as night set in. The sunset was incredible and I ended up getting this shot of an ambitious fellow powering across the lake on his “bike.”
Before we knew it we could barely see our hand in front of our face, and the stars started to appear. If you haven’t been in the middle of a lake in the dark, I compel you to do so. It’s the most surreal feeling, because you can’t see what is holding you up. There is also this strange feeling that something might rise from the water and swallow you up, which adds to the beautiful eeriness of sitting there in the dark, far from shore.
We figured a few things out, so I made a list of the things I’ll be certain do do the next time we go out, which will be soon.
1. You need a good lantern.
A non-motorized watercraft still needs to have a white light on the back of the boat. We were both using Zippo Rugged Lanterns, and they were perfect for this task. They were easy to strap to the back of our kayaks, they were bright enough to keep us safe, and most importantly – they float.
2. Get a pair of stargazing binoculars.
Most people tend to think of binoculars as a purely land based tool, but have you ever looked at the moon with them? It makes a big difference! At $70, the Celestron Skymasters are an affordable choice for grab-and-go stargazing.
3. Get a waterproof bag for your phone
This just takes the stress away. Having my phone was great because I love using Skyview to identify constellations. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a waterproof case. The JOTO is only $8 and it works great.
4. Mark your launch site
If there is a bright light at the boat launch you’ll be fine. If there isn’t you won’t have a chance of finding it. If you can see your car an easy option is to leave the interior light on. Two hours isn’t enough to drain your battery. My favorite is to mark the parking lot in Topo Maps.
5. Wear you lifejacket and use your head
I know, I know…”I’m a great swimmer, blah blah blah.” It’s can be very disorienting to be on the water in the dark because you have fewer reference points. Also, make sure you’re familiar with any hazards the lake might have, and if for some strange reason the lake is very busy at night, please don’t go at all. Find a quiet lake and I promise, you have one of most amazing evenings of the summer.