Book Review: Navigation, Sea State and Weather - A Paddlers Manual

Thursday, 09 September 2010

Navigation, Sea State, Weather - Freedom of the Seas Volume 1Navigation, Sea State and Weather - A Paddlers Manual is a brand new instruction book on the market written by Michael Pardy, JF Marleau, Andrew Woodford & Piper Harris.

The goal of the book is to tackle some of the more complex theory topics that most paddlers have a hard time wrapping their heads around. Several of the topics include tides and currents, using a compass, navigation, and how weather works.
The authors of the book are all extremely well qualified instructors and authors. They are owners of the company called SKILS - Sea Kayak Instruction and Leadership Systems, one of the busiest intermediate/advanced instruction schools in Canada and they have probably taught more paddlers how to be instructors then anybody else in Canada. Michael Pardy is also a co-author of the book, Sea Kayaker Magazine's Handbook of Safety and Rescue so you know that the content between the covers is up to a very high standard.

Reading through the book, I was impressed in they could take a complex topic like, “how to read a tide chart” and explain it in such a simple and concise way that I can actually remember it 20 minutes later (tides have always been a struggle for me). Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a book with the information dumbed down to a grade one level, there is a lot of technical information throughout that will take several reads to get it all.

That being said, the book isn’t perfect. My biggest criticism is comes from within the weather section. Peppered throughout the chapter the authors use real life examples of where particular weather will likely occur. My issue is that the vast majority of the examples are from British Columbia and usually from a very particular part of Victoria Island. This could be very helpful if you lived or knew the places named in the book but doesn’t quite carry the same punch and is hard to relate to if you don’t know Prince Rupert is. Of course this really isn’t a huge issue in the grand scheme of the book, just a quirk that I noticed when I read it the first time but got over it on subsequent readings of the weather chapter.

I do appreciate is the authors specific goal not to limit the audience of the book. You see, this isn’t a book specifically for sea kayakers. The information within the book is written so that it could easily be applied to kayakers, interior canoeists or hikers. Though the majority of the content is related to paddling on the ocean with its currents and tides, the authors made a deliberate attempt to make it applicable for paddlers on fresh water or hikers on the trail.

If you are an instructor looking for new teaching resources, Navigation, Sea State and Weather – A Paddlers Manual will give you a whole pile of new ideas. Since the authors are very active instructors themselves, the book is written in such a way that it could be used as a full lesson plan for any theory topic that you might be called on to teach yourself. I guarantee that you will end up stealing a whole bunch of their ideas and incorporating them into your own lesson plans.

Covered topics include:
•    Reading charts
•    Taking compass bearings,
•    Tides and currents
•    Waves and surf
•    Understanding weather phenomena
•    And making the most of marine weather forecasts

The book is self published by Skils but don’t think that this is a hack job. It’s well laid out with excellent photographs and illustrations throughout. You can purchase it via your local paddling shop or directly from the Skils website at

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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