Avoiding Collisions on Mission Bay

-by Jay Murdock, SDKC Safety Editor


Years ago several kayakers were on a nice morning paddle on Mission Bay, but all was not perfect, as there was a near collision with the women’s rowing shells. As they passed, the coxswain yelled that we were heading in the wrong direction, and did not know the “Rules of the Road” of Mission Bay. The incident took place as we headed east, just past the Ingraham Street bridge. The shells were headed west along the south shore of Vacation Island. The coxswain stated there is a counter-clockwise pattern through that area (huh?). Two of us were away from the others involved in the incident, and we watched them paddle like scared rabbits to get out of the way (I didn’t know some could paddle that fast).

After the paddle I went over the lifeguard office to check on this, and was told we were not at fault: “Kayaks can paddle in any direction, anywhere in the bay. The counter-clockwise areas are Fiesta Bay and Sail Bay, and that applies only to power boats towing skiers (to keep them from running into each other).” If anyone was at fault, it was the shells, as the speed in that area is restricted to 5 mph, and they travel at 10-15 mph. But, we were at fault in regards to Jake’s Second Rule of the Road: Don’t let anyone run into you (SDKC newsletter, July 2008). Just because you are in a restricted speed zone, does not mean you can let your guard down in looking for boats that can do you harm. The rowing shells present a particular challenge to us, as they move fast in restricted zones, and can sneak up on you without warning. The general rule, when presented with a boat approaching “head on”, is “Port to Port”: passing to the right of the oncoming vessel. And, keeping your head on a swivel will give you time to react to a situation before it becomes critical.

– contributed by Jay Murdock