Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation, by David Burch

By Vladimir Brezina

Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation, 4th Edition, by David Burch. Falcon Guides, Globe Pequot Press, 2008

The availability of handheld charting GPS units has made small-boat navigation so easy that many kayakers are neglecting the basic principles that must be used to make navigation, including GPS navigation, safe and efficient. And what to do if that magic box fails, as in a kayak it sooner or later will, due to water intrusion or just dead batteries? David Burch is passionate about all aspects of small-boat navigation, and it shows. His Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation, now in its 4th edition (2008), is a classic.

In this book Burch covers

  • nautical charts and chart reading
  • compass use
  • dead reckoning
  • piloting
  • tides and currents
  • GPS use
  • marine radios
  • navigation in traffic
  • Rules of the Road
  • navigation at night
  • navigation in fog
  • chart preparation and navigation planning

and many other topics.

The book is a pleasure to read. Each topic is covered in considerable but never excessive detail, and accompanied by plentiful, beautifully clear illustrations that effectively focus on the point being made in each case.

Burch well understands the difficulties of navigating a kayak that may be awash in waves, where the usual navigational tools are lacking, where it may even be impossible to refold the chart in the wind! This is a book specifically about kayak navigation.

The section on GPS and other electronic resources is inevitably somewhat dated (technology has progressed so rapidly since 2008!) and not so useful. This is not a book for those who want to understand how to use their GPS.

Otherwise, Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation is the one-stop resource for everything kayak-navigation-related. As I said, a classic!

13 responses to “Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation, by David Burch

  1. same with the ultralight pilot yes indeed ……. funny how so similar in a way ,concernin this gps thingy ….. Q

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve got that book! And now that I took an intro navigation course (my blog post on that will come out on Wednesday) I’m motivated to actually read it. I don’t have a GPS anyway, so I need to be able to read charts, because we want to start going out on salt water adventures, since there’s so many to be had in our area :D the lakes are beautiful, but it’s time to expand our skill set.


    • I am by no means denigrating GPS. If it’s available, it could be accounted poor seamanship not to make use of it, as of every other available navigational aid. And GPS can be a real lifesaver on a pitch-black night in a bay studded with islands in an uninhabited area, such as the Florida Everglades…

      But yes, most of the time GPS is not needed.

      Good luck in your future adventures!


  3. Hm. No doubt a good reminder, Vlad! As a non-boating person I had assumed everyone would want to know how to read charts, as well as use GPS.


  4. key is chart prep and then mark off the area as you pass them like a handrail. And that fail dead reckoning. But really get most of the work done on land first. Safe Nav’s.


    • Yes indeed, Burch us very big on chart preparation. Thanks, Taino!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Heh! Yes, we were sharing some of your nuggets of gold with one of our friends the other day…. I kept saying, “And when I took the navigation course with Taino….this is what I remembered!” Nuns and cans, ugh ugh ugh!! I failed the 3* on that point (and also not being able to bow rudder or edge….)


    • Johna Till Johnson

      My post was supposed to be a reply to you, Taino!


  5. Pingback: My Article Read (6-15-2015) (6-16-2015) | My Daily Musing

  6. looks like a useful reference
    for me, thanks :-)


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