Yukon 360 Canoe and Kayak Race

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the race structured like this?
What maps are there for the river?
What safety cover is there?
What if something goes wrong?
What is the river like?
What sort of camping gear should I take?
What's with this enforced stop.  Why and How?
What happens at the end of the race?
What about prizes, awards, ceremonies?
How do I get to Faro?
How do I get back from Pelly Crossing?
Do you have any guidance on using the Spot Device that far North?
Where can I rent a suitable boat?
How can you afford a finishing banquet with such a low entry fee?

Why is the race structured like this?

This race goes through some fairly empty territory, and are not planning on having any safety boats (although there may be a "sweeper" boat at the back). 
At the time of year that the race is being run, there is real night: it gets dark, and the river is not safe to be run in the dark.  We want to stop overenthusiastic racers from paddling in the dark.  The "conventional" way to do that is with checkpoints.  We are not doing that, we are modelling this race after its big brother the Yukon 1000, using technology instead of people.  Hence the Spot devices.  That also turns the race into a good "virtual" spectator event. 

What maps are there for the river?

Mike Rourke has not done a Stewart map, but he has done the Yukon. So for the first section I suggest printing out the google earth arial photos of the river.  I have saved as .jpg files some Google Earth images. You cna find them here.

What safety cover is there?

There isn't any.  That might be a shocking answer, but it is the truth.  But we do require that you take those magic Spot devices, and you can press the panic button if there is a real emergency.  If you run into a problem that does not constitute an emergency, you ought to be equipped to deal with it.  It would be unwise to set out with less than four days worth of food, and plenty of warm clothes, and all the sorts of things you would expect to take on a long weekend trip.  You should anticipate what would happen if you are stuck for a day because of weather, or injury, or who knows what.  There are no bail out points between Faro and Pelly Crossing, but it is all downstream. 

What if something goes wrong?

It depends who is asking the question. 

If you are a paddler, then you have to start making choices.  There are communities along the river.  At drifting speed you may be several days away from the nearest one.  Unless there is an acute emergency you should be able to get to a village even if you have lost all your food and most of your ability to paddle. That doesn't help if you have lost your boat.  (note: always tie up your boat)

There is river boat traffic on the river, more past Circle.  If you are on a main channel, you can expect to see a couple of power boats a day.  If you are in trouble you may be able to attract attention.  There are also other teams out on the river who are required to give assistance to teams to appear to be in difficulty.

It is up to you, the paddler, to decide whether or when to push the HELP or 911 buttons on your Spot device.  It is up to the paddlers and their emergency contact to decide ahead of time what HELP messages actually mean.  Do they mean "we are not making anticipated progress", or do they mean "we can not make progress but do not need medevac"?  But remember, your HELP status will appear on the web page and will be propagated out to other boats if they phone in. 

Note: it is very hard to push any button on your Spot device if it is attached to your boat, you are on shore and your boat has drifted off.  Make a habit of having the thing attached to you when you are not in the boat.

For the emergency contact, it is much harder.  This is the worry position in the team. However confident the paddlers are, and however confident the emergency contact is in the team, they will dream up bad scenarios.  Rule 1: Don't Panic.  Remember that if it was urgent they would have pressed the 911 button.

There are really only two situations you have to handle: a HELP message, or a long silence. As discussed above, the meaning of a HELP message is something you should decide with your paddlers ahead of time.  Similarly you should decide with your paddlers what a long silence means.  There could be lots of reasons for a silence: equipment failure, battery failure, lost Spot device, lost boat, or worse.  We can not tell you when to worry and when not to worry.

If we encounter a long silence or a HELP message, we will want that relayed to any boat that has a satellite phone.  No boat will keep a satellite phone turned on: their stand-by life is too short.  But we expect that some boats will phone in each night if for no other reason than to check the position of other boats.  We ask that if a team shows up on the web site as status HELP, or status "OUT OF CONTACT", that you relay that information to your team on the river at least if your team is upstream of the last known location.

OK, suppose that you decide you need to take action.  Now what.  Well, if you want to pull the trigger on an emergency response then you need to contact the RCMP.  The contact numbers are as follows

LocationPhone Number
Whitehorse, YT867 667 5551
Faro, YT867 994 5555
Pelly Crossing, YT867 537 5555

The RCMP will know that the race is on.  You will need to tell them the last known location of the team, when that was, and a description of the boat and the paddlers.

If you decide to start a search and rescue, please, please make sure that we are also kept in the loop.  Phone us first.  Keep us up to date with any developments.  Especially tell us when the situation is resolved.  Obviously we will tell you if any new information comes in.  Let us hope we never have to worry about all this.

What is the river like?

The river is generally pretty flat.  There are some minor riffles in a few places, and three named rapids: Little Fish Hook, Big Fish Hook, and Granite Canyon.  None of these are particularly challenging at the sort of water levels to be expected in August.  None of them are even as big as Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon, at least not in August.  In June, Granite Canyon is a lot more "fun".  These rapids are discussed in the Rourke publication.
Much of the time the river flows between fairly high banks, but camping spots are not hard to find.
The preamble of the Rourke map talks about the river.
You maybe a hundred kilometres by river from any settlement. That means that if anything goes wrong, you are very much on your own.  Think about that before taking any risks.

What sort of camping gear should I take?

Well, light, obviously.  You need a tent, a real tent.  It can rain, or hail, or even snow quite heavily.  You want a tent that keeps you dry as you are not going to want to waste time getting things dry.  The tent has to be free standing.  You are not going to be cruising down the river looking for the best camping spots, you will take what you can find.
Bring a decent sleeping bag.  You will be tired, and tired means cold.
Bring bear spray.  The salmon are running this time of year.  If you are lucky you will see a bear, but probably not in camp.  Use sensible bear precautions: cook away from your tent, keep you food separate from your tent and away from you boat, etc.

What's with this enforced stop.  Why and How?

The is a lot of daylight this far north even towards the end of summer, and August is towards the end of summer.  But it does get really dark.  The river is too big and remote to paddle in the dark.  So we have this scheme where you have to check in with your spot device as you stop for the night, and again in the morning as you leave.  This enables us to monitor when you stop.  The idea is that we want you off the river early enough that there is no real chance of getting benighted, but also give you some flexibility if you can not find a suitable, safe camp immediately. 

Here is a table showing the sunset, end of twilight, start of twilight, and sun rise times for Faro, and Pelly Crossing for the 18th of August.

  Sun Set  End of
Twilight 
Start of
Twilight 
Sun rise
Faro 21:48 22:44 05:08 06:04
Pelly Crossing 22:04 23:00 05:19 06:16

To give people a chance to find a half-way decent (and safe) campsite we are giving you a bit of flexibility.  You HAVE to stop by 22:30.  You MAY NOT start before 05:00, and you have to be stopped for 8 hours. That gives you an hour and a half flexibility.  Note that if you stop as late at 22:30 you are paddling after the sun has set.  That is OK as the sun sets very slowly, but not optimal.  If you start as early as 05:00 you may be fumbling around in the dark as you breaking camp, leaving things behind and breaking things.  Not to mention being nithered.  Of course you can sleep longer that the required eight hours, but it is a race.

Make a habit of starting to look for a campsite starting about 21:00, and get less and less fussy as 22:30 gets closer.  This gives you about an hour to find a camp in the evening. That should be plenty of time.  Maybe you will have to be not very fussy, but it is a race.

The Spot devices can take a while to send a message after the OK button has been pushed. We have seen it take anything from less than a minute to nearly 15 minutes. We will take that into account when enforcing this rule, but do not push your luck on this.

What happens at the end of the race?

You land on the left bank of the river right before the bridge in Pelly Crossing.  It should be obvious that you are approaching the bridge: Pelly Crossing is well spread out up the river  There will be someone there to time you in, bit it is your responsibility to land and get your boat out of the water. 

What about prizes, awards, ceremonies?

Prizes will be awarded in Pelly Crossing at noon on the Monday, just after the check point closes.. 

How do I get to Faro?

It is our intent to have a van or two, with trailers, to take people and their boats to Faro.  There may be room for a support person.  We will see.  And we may have to charge for this.  We don't know yet.

How do I get back from Pelly Crossing?

It is our intent to have vans and trailers in Pelly Crossing to take people and boats back to Whitehorse.  We will see.

Do you have any guidance on using the Spot Device that far North?

There are pretty good instructions on how to use the features on the spot web site for the Checkin, Help, Spot-cast, and 911 functions.

However, these instructions leave out a few points.

The device can take a while to get synched up with the various satellites.  It can take, they say, up to 20 minutes.  Either leave the device on (the batteries last a long time: they say one year or 1900 OK messages) or turn it on and put it in a place with good visibility of the sky well before you want to use it. IN general, the device can work out where it is very quickly unless it has not been used recently or if it has moved a long way since it was last used.  Turn the device on and leave it outside with a clear view of the sky for half an hour after you get to Whitehorse.

They leave out some subtle information presented to you by the indicator lights.  If any outbound message is pending (Checkin, Help, Spot-cast or 911) then both the ON/OFF light and the light over the relevant function button will flash.  If they flash together you have GPS sync.  If they do not flash together, you do not have GPS sync.  When a message is actually being sent, both lights stay on for about 5 seconds.

The satellites used by Globalstar have an inclination of 52 degrees.  This means that they are always in the southern half of the sky when you are as far north as we are.  In fact, the orbital geometry means they are never more than 51 degrees above the southern horizon when you are 65 degrees north.  Trust me on that  — you don't want to see the math. This means that if you are in a section of river that is flowing east (like some sections of the 30 Mile river between Lower Laberge and Hootalinqua) or west (much of the river) and that has high banks, you may have problems sending messages, especially from the south side of the river.

The Globalstar satellites have some known problems.  These problems affect voice calls.  They do not affect the messaging function used by Spot.

This should be your procedure for using Spot during the race:

  • The morning of the race, well before the start of the race, turn your Spot device on, wait for the light over the on/off button to flash a couple of times, then put the device into Track mode by pressing and holding the OK button.  The light over the OK button with light green.  Hold the button until that light goes out (about 5 seconds).
  • When you start looking for a camp, take the device out of track mode by pressing and holding the OK button until the light over the OK button lights red.  It will flash read a few times, then go out.
  • As you arrive at camp, press and release the OK button to send an OK button.  Press the OK button again after 20 minutes have elapsed as a precaution.
  • In the morning press the OK button first thing, then again a minute or two before you leave.
  • After you have been on the river for 20 minutes or so, you should see that the light over the OK button has stopped flashing, indicating that the device has finished sending its OK messages.  Make the device start sending Track messages by pressing and holding the OK button.  The light over the OK button with light green.  Hold the button until that light goes out (about 5 seconds).
  • Avoid trying to send a message when you are under tree cover.  The device will have difficulty seeing either GPS or the Globalstar satellites.
  • Mount the device on the deck of the boat.  I have observed that OK messages take longer when the device is in the bilge, and I have seen a lot of Track messages lost when the device is not on deck.  I estimate that the Kevlar deck of my Sea-1 is dropping the signal strength by about 75%.
  • Power the device on, and put it in a position with a clear view of the sky 20 minutes before you want to send a message.  Do not wear the thing around your neck: even GPS devices lose track of where they are is worn like that.  It is important that the thing be kept face up.  The antenna is just behind the Spot logo.  Make sure the spot logo has a clear view of the southern sky. 

It can take a few minutes after you press the OK button before the message is actually sent. The message that is eventually sent carries the time and location that are current at the time the message is sent, NOT when you pressed the button.  This has implications for how you should use them as you stop for the night and how you use them in the morning.

You MUST do a "dress rehearsal" with your Spot device well before the race starts or you will be withdrawn from the race.

While the Spot device is almost pure magic, there is a small but real risk that an important data point may be lost or delayed.  To make sure that no penalties are assessed erroneously, or more accurately, to make sure that such penalties are rescinded, make sure your GPS is recording everything and has useful timestamps associated with your tracks.

All GPSs are different.  But for the Garmin eTrex, each time it starts a new track segment it records a time stamp.  So, make a habit of doing the following:

  • As you stop for the night, turn your GPS off and on again. As soon as it knows where it is, turn it back off again.
  • Turn your GPS on just before you leave, allowing it time to acquire satellite lock before you push off.

If you do that, then we can upload your tracks and see the timestamps and rescind any penalties you may have been assessed but not actually deserved.

Where can I rent a suitable boat?

I don't know. And it really isn't my problem. OK. Kanoe People and Up North Adventures have a number of suitable kayaks for rent, Seaward Passats, etc. Canoes are another issue. I have a couple of boats I can rent out, and the Yukon River Quest have a number of eminently suitable canoes.

How can you afford a finishing banquet with such a low entry fee?

We can't. This is a "racer's race". Prizes will be awarded in Pelly Crossing. You used to be able to buy really good hamburgers there.  You can still get food. When you get back to Whitehorse, we expect some racers to meet up in the various bars, caf├ęs, and restaurants. The organisers will be participating, no doubt, but nothing is being organised.