Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Breakfast on Mistake Island




Eleven of us paddled along the narrow ribbon of dark, calm water near the shore of Knight Island, shepherded by a young woman who, mindful of the seals hauled-out on a ledge a quarter-mile distant, was trying to keep us quiet. As we pulled into the cove where a sandbar bridged the gap between Knight and Mistake Islands, I saw what I thought would be the best landing spot, a small crescent of gravel untouched by the southeast wind funneling between the two islands and over the bar. We were looking for a place to cook breakfast. I hoped that our leader, who’d been taking her turn for the last mile or so, would also recognize the calm spot. The air felt cool and damp, and the breeze added a rawness that might easily induce a hypothermic chill. It was our last day on the water together though, and I felt determined to take a back seat and see what unfolded. 


The leader seemed to mull it over and then called to the guy who happened to be in front of the pack. She told him to go ahead and pick a place to land… delegating, but also leaving it to chance. He paddled ahead, and just when I thought he’d land in the windiest spot, paused and headed-in for the calm spot. I doubt that anyone but my co-instructor noticed this tiny victory, but I felt immensely relieved- not just that we would land our kayaks in the lee, but that the group seemed to be learning something, improving. In general, they learned quickly and I often felt impressed when we saw a dramatic increase in abilities or judgment. Recognizing both the existence and the importance of finding a spot out of the wind on a raw, cool day may not sound like a big deal, but the more I teach paddling, the more I realize that I take some of these more subtle skills for granted. And these subtle skills, which are often just the myriad tiny choices we make again and again, all day long, can add-up, not to overdramatize – to life or death.


We were on the third morning of a camping trip in the Jonesport – Great Wass archipelago. We’d been camping on private islands that the company had permission to use, but for our last morning, the group had decided to start the day with hot drinks and save breakfast for a more picturesque spot. This seemed a good idea to me. So much of what we did out there felt like work – training for a job these new guides would soon be doing. I hoped they would experience some of the joy of discovery that many of us feel while paddling, that thrill of finding our way among new shores to find places with an otherworldly feel. It’s that joy, I think, that fuels our desire to take it seriously, to invest in learning and improving.

Moose Peak Lighthouse, our goal for the morning, and what would undoubtedly be the visual highlight of the trip, beckoned, down at the south end of the island, a reward of sorts.


After we get accustomed to our own paddling process, it’s easy to take for granted all the things we learn to do in a particular way. Like whether or not we fling our paddle up on the beach like we’re ridding ourselves of something we’ll no longer need, now that we’re on land. Or whether we drag boats over the rocks and barnacles or if we carry them. Do we take our paddle apart and tuck it inside the cockpit where it won’t float or blow away or get stepped-on? Do we set-up the cook stove at the top of a sandbar where it is subject to the wind we were trying to avoid, or do we find a spot lower down? Do we dress for the water temperature or do we paddle in shorts and a t-shirt? Do we stroll bare-footed on a remote shore that bristles with sharp-edged shells, broken glass, urchin spines and barnacles? Do we put-on a warm hat and an extra layer when we stop for a break on a cool, blustery day?


These things are akin to hearing someone call a chart a map, or suggest that we’ll be paddling at ‘knots per hour’ rather than knots – it hurts our ears, but after pointing it out once, maybe twice, you just figure that people will need to learn on their own. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. Or maybe they’ll find their own way of doing things that will work just fine. Or maybe they’ll just get lucky and never find themselves in cold water in inadequate gear, unable to get back in their boat or to reach the radio they’ve stowed inside a drybag in a hatch. Which is what happened just about a year ago now when a guide and client died off of Corea. 


After that happened, despite the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guide’s and Instructors’ press release that essentially stated that the ocean is a dangerous place and bad stuff happens, a lot of noise was made about improving standards. But as the summer wore-on and the temperature went up, everyone got so busy that they seemed to forget about it. Over the winter we practiced most weekends at the Bar Harbor pool, but you don’t see too many other paddlers there, let alone guides, practicing any rescues. Lately, Nate has had a few takers for his Risk Management classes, but they tend to be the usual suspects, the paddlers and guides who already take it pretty seriously and train for the inevitable mishaps- and like me, probably find that kind of stuff fun. The Coast Guard and Marine Patrol have been checking for guide licenses, PFDs, whistles and the ubiquitous orange ‘If Found Contact’ stickers inside of kayaks, but I don’t know if they have much to say about people wearing inadequate gear in sub-50-degree water.


I can’t always tell exactly how chilled people might be, but by the time we wolfed-down our oatmeal, a few people had lost interest in seeing the lighthouse and wanted to get back on the water, I suspect, so they could start moving again and get warmer. But they waited while the others hiked out to the lighthouse, and seemed relieved to get moving again when we returned.


At some point during our ten-day class, I was asked if most guides, after getting their licenses, kept learning and practicing to improve their skills. I would have liked to have given a more positive answer, but I told them that the usual pattern seemed to be that getting their license was usually the beginning of a long, downward slide into complacency, that they begin to assume that since they’ve been lucky so far, they’re doing something right. And I suspected that this pattern helped account for two deaths a year ago. I admitted that this was not an opinion that would win me any friends, especially in the guiding community.

While many paddlers with far more paddling miles behind them, and perhaps less training may lack confidence, that guide’s license seems to instill some with a confidence that can quickly turn dangerous. I was hoping that my candid answer might have a sobering effect, that it might urge my students to treat the license as the beginning of a long path toward learning more and becoming safer. And I hoped, if my students became chilled because they were underdressed and had to wait while the rest of us walked to the lighthouse, that it would be a learning experience. Only time will tell. 


I haven’t found how Mistake Island got it’s name, but one might easily assume that someone made a mistake there once, and odds are, something bad happened as a result. But for us, it was an idyllic spot for breakfast, and perhaps the climax of the trip, before we made our way back out to the take-out.

Notes:
For more information about this area, check-out Route #6: The Great Wass Archipelago in my guidebook, AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in NewEngland.

We're now in the process of preparing for our summer trip, and we'll be leaving... pretty soon. The 'to do' list is two pages long.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Whitewater For Sea Paddlers: Class in Vermont




Rebecca and I just spent three days taking a whitewater class in Vermont with Nate Hanson (Pinniped Kayak) and Todd Wright (St.Michaels College Adventure Sports Center) (both of them pictured above). I can still count the number of days I’ve spent whitewater boating on two hands, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it and enjoying it more each time. 

  
Much of my attraction to taking the class was that I didn’t want to sit through a beginning whitewater class that assumed I would need to learn a lot of skills that I already had. While there may be more emphasis in whitewater on certain skills and strokes, they’re basically the same maneuvers we would do in sea kayaks. With my last blog entry about whitewater for seakayakers, I posted it on some Facebook groups with the question: “do sea kayaking skills transfer to whitewater kayaking?” and a number of people weighed-in with opinions in the Facebook comments. 


Some of those people had experience in both pursuits – which seems like a good basis for an educated opinion. In general, those with experience in both pursuits felt that skills definitely transferred, and those with a whitewater background tended to assume that sea kayakers might need to learn the basic sorts of skills that we teach sea kayakers during their first lesson. I suppose this says more about our notions about either pursuit than anything else, but after the last three days I can claim with more conviction that both forms of paddling are parts of the same thing: different boat, different environment, but most of what you learn in one boat or environment is going to help you in the other as well. I not only learned about whitewater paddling, but that experience will help refine my sea kayaking skills. 


Everyone in the class had been previously coached in sea kayaks by both Nate and Todd, and in addition had all spent some time paddling in tidal currents like Sullivan Falls, so on the first day- Monday on the Lamoille River, we were able to get out and start having fun right away. 


That day was a ‘park and play’ day, where we used the features in a short stretch to get a feel for the boats, play around on features and experiment with some of the maneuvers we would use in tidal currents, like reading the water, ferrying, surfing, attaining against current and getting efficiently into eddies. 


In the afternoon we worked on safety and group management: rescues, swimming with and without boats and tossing a throw rope to a swimmer. 


One big difference between the two boats is that sea kayaks maintain momentum pretty well. You can take a couple of good strong strokes that will propel you well across an eddy zone. But, while whitewater boats can turn on a dime (which will be super easy if you’re accustomed to turning a sea kayak) they have the momentum of a potato. And you’ll need to use strokes, edging and trim to minimize turning. This took some getting used to.


The next two days we did day-long runs on the White River and the Lamoille. It rained hard for much of Tuesday, so when we returned to the Lamoille for a longer run on Wednesday, the volume of flow had more than tripled. It was my first day paddling a whitewater boat in sunshine, and as far as I can tell it functioned pretty much the same as on a cloudy day. 


By then, we were given a longer leash, striking off on our own to find our own lines and features, and I think we were all beginning to have more of a sense of autonomy, like we might be able to get out and do this on our own and have a sense of what we should or shouldn’t get into. 

 
 
Aside from the whitewater-specific experience, as an instructor, it felt great to be a beginner in a class. It helped put me into the shoes of the people I teach and guide, reminding me how it feels to be frustrated when I’m not understanding something, as well as the little victories when I rise to a challenge and maybe have an ‘aha’ moment or two.


It’s also worth mentioning that the part about getting to go down a river amidst some gorgeous scenery is pretty awesome as well. Sometimes you get a stretch of flatwater where you float/paddle downstream and take a breather before the next set of rapids, and in those times I marveled at how sea kayaking had brought me to this beautiful place, via a whitewater kayak. And, as with paddling on the ocean, it brings us to some sublime spots to eat lunch.


I think a lot of sea kayakers who might otherwise enjoy and benefit from river paddling find the thought of it scary because it’s a little mysterious, and what we mostly see of it in media are the more sensational moments, which might involve drops from waterfalls or getting pinned inside a grabby hole. As with all paddling, there’s always risk, but you can still have challenges and minimize the risk, and a good way to do that is to start with a class like this one.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What We're Doing This Summer or Upwest and Downeast

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In just over two weeks Rebecca and I will launch our kayaks from our most recent backyard, and embark on a two-month paddle along the Maine coast. This has been a good place to live, watching the tide come and go in Greenlaw Cove where just offshore, a pair of glacial erratic boulders perch on a ledge like sculptures on a pedestal.

Our plan is to head southwest along the coast to Kittery, and then turn around to return to Deer Isle before taking a similar foray up and down the Downeast coast. I suppose if heading toward the Canadian border is considered heading ‘downeast,’ we might call the opposite heading ‘upwest,’ so if we were to give our trip’s parameters a name, it might be Upwest and Downeast.



This trip has been a long time coming. I have a tendency to rationalize these things, to make-up excuses as to why we’ll do the irresponsible thing and evade work and other responsibilities during  our busiest time of the year. But I think most people understand. We’re doing it simply because we want to and we can. Life has a way of throwing curveballs that keep one from realizing fantasies, and even as I write this I can sense potential trip-interfering events looming on the horizon. For awhile, we hesitated to even tell people what we were doing, as if speaking the dream out loud might jinx it.

But there are advantages to telling people what you’re up to. I’ve mentioned it to people who immediately offered the use of a rustic cabin, or offered to mail us supplies, or put us up for a night and a shower… or even to join us for a day or two of paddling. I can hardly express how much we appreciate these offers, as much for the show of support as the concrete logistical help, but also because we know the adventure will be richer if we’re open to sharing it in various ways with others. And besides that, we could use a little help, especially in some areas that have little in the way of MITA campsites, like the stretch between Portland and Kittery.


We’re hoping that having two months will allow us to move at a comfortable pace, to still have some time for painting and writing, and just appreciating the places. And, by essentially paddling the coast twice, we’ll be able to visit more variety of places – offshore islands, inland rivers… ice cream shops. You could say that, as much as embarking on a journey, we’re hoping to continue the lifestyle we’ve enjoyed, living close to the ocean, spending time in our kayaks exploring, and trying to express it through art.

It often seems these days that outdoor trips longer than the average vacation getaway are heavily played-up, with sponsors, a marketing identity with a catchphrase and maybe a logo, fundraising websites, as well as a purpose or cause that often seems to go beyond anything that might come organically from the place or the experience. This is a big trip for us, but as far as sharing it, I’m viewing it as another chapter of this blog that I’ve kept for the last decade.

But we’ve been experimenting with clever names for it, and here’s one: Michael And Rebecca’s Most Excellent Maine Sea Kayak Adventure (MARMEMSKA). The acronym sounds like an Eastern European city, or perhaps a code name for a mission in a spy thriller novel, but hey, I think it works. Or maybe Upwest and Downeast. Or maybe it doesn’t need a name. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Two A.M. on Harbor Island



The sound of the waves woke me. Or it may have been the effect the sound of the waves had on my bladder: a gradual awareness that I’d need to climb out of my sleeping bag and pull-on my shoes. I’d pitched the tent on the soft, mossy ground just above the granite ledges, and from where I lay I could just make out the dim outlines of the kayaks twenty feet away, and beyond them, the dark ocean, the looming shapes of islands and the sparkling lights of Stonington three or four miles away.


The waves were a little closer than I’d anticipated. We’d carried the kayaks up the granite incline, far beyond the reach of rockweed and the dark, slippery patches of algae, and put them down, all in a row at what appeared to be a good height for a night with a nearly twelve-foot high tide. 


Earlier, I’d sat with the others out in the fading evening light with my back against a big driftwood tree. Some were drinking wine, remnants of the pasta dinner that one of the cooking groups had provided, and I was having my usual tea (which is akin to setting an alarm clock for 1:30 am, just before high tide). It was one of those quiet interludes in a trip when all the work is done, when we’re no longer teaching or questioning the group about which of their leadership methods is working and which are not, and the conversation bounces around the group, recounting experiences, learning about where the others have been and where we’re going. As the lights in Stonington became more pronounced and the voices of our friends became heavy with the wearying weight of a long day, the seals joined our conversation. They called-out in dog-like groans that sounded like questions. They may have been directed at us: who are you? What are you doing here?


Someone had a penny whistle, and he responded beautifully: clear notes, slow enough to avoid an obvious melody, but intentional enough to sound like a response. It seemed to satisfy the seals. They continued to linger down below, chatting as we had been, but perhaps resigned to accept our presence there. It was time for bed.

Later, when I awoke to the sound of nearby waves, I checked my phone, which I’d plugged into a battery for the night: about a half-hour before high tide. I pulled on a jacket and stuck my feet into the vestibule to get my shoes on, and stepped down the ledge to the row of kayaks. The highest waves were just beginning to lap at the sterns, so I pulled each boat up a few more feet. They were tied-up, of course, but I preferred to avoid seeing the kayaks actually begin to float and getting bonked-around by the waves.

Twenty minutes to high tide. The crescent of the waxing moon, just past new, lay to the west, just below the trees. Stonington’s lights were the brightest feature, while off to the northeast a dim glow in the distant sky marked the location of Mount Desert Island’s towns. Aside from that, a couple of blinking lights on buoys helped give shape to the night. Of course I always bring a few lights with me on trips, but it can be surprising how seldom I use them. I had my headlamp in my pocket, but didn’t find a need to use it even once. When I’d check my phone for the time (or to post a photo on Instagram, which I’ve just begun to experiment with) the light shone blindingly bright, cancelling, for a moment, my ability to see much else around me. But most people seem inclined to use headlamps fairly liberally, and as I stood there watching the tide crest at the sterns of our kayaks, a light came-on in a tent and bobbed down to the boats to check them, followed, a few minutes after I’d returned to my sleeping bag, by another: a good omen, I felt, for our leadership students, since it seemed that their internal clocks, or perhaps their bladders, were also becoming better-attuned to the nuances of tide.


Notes:
This was the culmination of day 3 of Pinniped Kayak’s SeaKayak Leadership course, based at Old Quarry Ocean Adventures. The course is meant both for aspiring guides and those looking to improve their skills at planning and leading sea kayak excursions, whether alone, with friends or family or more organized trips. 


As I’ve pointed out in the group management section of my guidebook, AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England, the need for leadership skills sneaks-up on you, whether you’re planning on guiding or leading or not. Learning these skills intentionally is far preferable to learning them the hard way – by trial and error – which are often the trips we read about in the news. 


We were camped on Harbor Island, at a MITA campsite along the edge of Merchant Row. You can learn more about this area in AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England, Trips #14 and #15. 


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lunch On Steves Island

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We paddled straight-out from Stonington, toward the familiar, wind-stunted shape of Steves Island, and it felt strange to me, realizing how long it had been since I’d launched from Colwell Ramp and followed this route that had once been my after-work getaway out to the islands. Despite the forecast of increasing winds, the air felt clear and warm; it finally felt like spring, and the activity at the ramp  - guys launching floating docks and then a seining dory – added to the feeling of a new season upon us. We crossed the Thorofare, aiming toward Steves Island with Isle au Haut lurking in the background.


Owens had come down from Colby College, where she would graduate in only a few days and then head-off to lead a month-long trip along the north shore of Lake Superior. It was good to have a guest who wanted to make the most of her time in our backyard.


We were in the habit of remarking that it looked nice out there, but we had this or that to do instead of paddling. There’s always a ‘this or that,’ and since this might be Owens’ last paddle on salt water for awhile, we had a good excuse to get out there.

 
The previous day she and I had paddled from Greenlaw Cove, where Rebecca and I had spent the last seven months house-sitting, and taken a loop around the east end of Eggemoggin Reach. Today though, we’d been drawn back out to the Stonington archipelago.


Moments after we passed Green Island, the wind picked-up, warm and sudden. We’d been thinking we might look for some splashy spots farther out, but the wind was now in our faces, and as we approached Steves it looked so inviting that we just had to land. It seemed we might not find a better spot for lunch, sheltered from the southwest winds on  a sunny ledge in the lee of a granite outcrop.


Of course we had to circumnavigate the island on foot first – a ten-minute meandering walk.


There is something about Steves Island that makes it seem more idyllic than other islands. It is only two miles from Stonington, tucked-in among a sheltering neighborhood of larger islands, but it's just far enough to feel apart from things in town. Maybe part of the allure is its tiny size, the way it doesn’t let you forget you’re on an island. Or it could be its pocket beaches, composed of crumbled and bleached shells, nestled between smooth granite ledges that soak up the sunlight and invite you to linger and just take it in. And of course the four MITA campsites are all sublime. When we lived in downtown Stonington we could see Steves from our apartment, its sloping shape almost iconic against the familiar hilly background of Isle au Haut. On the water, the island seemed to draw me toward it like a tractor beam.


Back when we lived in town, I was the island adopter for the Maine Island Trail Association, and I usually brought a garbage bag to pick-up whatever bits and pieces I might find. But I realized that most visitors to Steves felt about it like I do, and they took care of it as if it were their own, which is in a sense true of this state-owned gem. It was reassuring to me, looking-out from our home in town, to have this magical place always out there waiting, and at times I fantasized about what it would be like to spend a summer camping on one island after another, all for the price of a MITA membership – a fantasy that provided the seeds of the trip we’ll be taking this summer.


After lunch we meandered back to town: George Head, Sand and Crotch Islands, the Thorofare. Having ‘lived away’ (in Deer Isle) for a bit, I thought the village looked particularly nice: the colorful houses descending the hillside around the harbor, the fleet of lobster boats, now mostly returned for the day, the trees leafing-out in myriad shades of green. And it is entirely possible that I enjoyed returning to the mild hustle and bustle of Stonington (it seems that way when you've been out in the quiet islands) more than when I lived there.



Notes
MITA's annual clean-up on June 17th has enough volunteers (you can get on a waiting list) but there's still room to sign up for our Wreck & Round Island clean-up through Island Heritage Trust and MITA on June 18th. As we have for a few years, Rebecca and I and perhaps others will guide this free trip (including kayaks and gear, courtesy of Old Quarry Ocean Adventures).

Want to read more about Steves Island? Check-out this article I wrote for AMC Outdoors Magazine about paddling with a family to an island on the Maine Island Trail - in this case, Steves Island. You can also click on the Steves Island tag below, and it should bring-up a few blog posts. It's tough to imagine that I haven't already written at least one "Lunch on Steves" post.

Thanks to Rebecca Daugherty for most of these photos

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sunday Morning on Hells Half Acre



There’s usually a few moments in a trip that I could focus on – some episode or revelation that just seems to stick-out and perhaps act as a shorthand for the whole experience, and when I’m leading others on overnight trips, that moment often seems to be the space of quiet time in the morning before everyone else gets up. That’s what grabs me from last weekend: Sunday morning on Hells Half Acre, the sky turning light and wind in the treetops beginning to build, but the rain yet to begin.


 
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We made a point of waking fairly early so that we might beat the predicted wind and rain and get back across the Thorofare and Webb Cove to Old Quarry. The group, a college leadership class I was coaching through Pinniped Kayak, had been concerned about the dire forecast, but fortunately they still appreciated the value of spending the night out on the island. I would have been disappointed to miss this- this view out my open tent flap: the sparse forest defining itself in the dim morning light, the wind shadow in the cove and beyond it the seas beginning to build out by Bold and Grog Islands. From the comfort of my sleeping bag I could even see our destination at Old Quarry.

 
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With the poles for my MSR tent sent back for repairs, I was using our old Moss Starlet, a sweet little tent from the early 1980s – one of the first to use the open netting design for the roof so that one might lie-out and look at the stars. Of course, I rarely do this, since I’m usually camping at times when I need whatever heat that the thin rainfly might retain, not to mention protection from dew and rain. Still in my sleeping bag, I got the stove in the vestibule going and made myself some coffee, which I sipped while reading a novel, and after a bit, I began to hear noises from the other tent platform, and my day began in earnest. But that was a good interlude- perhaps good enough to make it worth whatever trouble we needed to go to in order to wake-up in such a place. And Hells Half Acre is so easy – less than two miles from the launch at Old Quarry.

 
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There were other moments as well. We saw two other distant parties of kayakers. One was Joseph Mullins (above) whose blog I’ve been following with a sort-of concerned curiosity after he was rescued by the Coast Guard off of Baileys Mistake on the first day of a trip down the east coast. 


The other was another, larger college group that passed Little Camp Island while we ate lunch there and continued without pause, nearly single-file and strung-out over some distance, as they went straight across a wider stretch of the Thorofare. Both of these sightings prompted useful discussions among the future sea kayak leaders in the group.

 
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I dropped the group off at Old Quarry and had a cup of tea with Finn, who is running things there this summer. For the most part, Rebecca and I won’t be working there this year, since instead we’ll be spending a couple of months paddling the Maine coast. I’ll elaborate more on that in another post. Some people tell us we should have a website for it… essentially a marketing scheme, but I think a few updates on this blog ought to be sufficient. We’re just going on a paddling trip, for fun, for two months.

 
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I had a five-mile paddle home to Greenlaw Cove. The previous day I’d paddled out Stinson Neck and portaged over the Sunshine Causeway. On my return trip on Sunday though, the wind and rain picked-up considerably from the east, and I was really happy that I had a rising tide to take me up through Hatch Cove and up through Inner and Southeast Harbors into Long Cove (offshore from the house where we spent the end of last summer) where I again carried-over to Greenlaw Cove: all amazingly sheltered paddling for an otherwise rough day. I even managed to paddle past my dream house (above).


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The cool rain felt good on my face, especially knowing I would have the luxury of a warm home from which to watch the storm build through the afternoon.













Monday, May 15, 2017

Whitewater for Sea Kayakers: The Union River


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When we’re teaching or guiding people in sea kayaks (or to people wanting to rent kayaks) and we inquire about their experience in such boats, we sometimes get a response along the lines of a shoulder shrug and the claim that ‘I’ve done whitewater,’ as if their having once spent some time in a short boat bobbing down a creek trumps anything one might do in a sea kayak. It seems a common attitude, and it would be understandable if the only thing one saw of sea kayakers were the more prevalent species (perhaps best that I don’t describe that at the moment – that could be a whole other post) (And my guess is that if you're reading this, you are not among that species).

 
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But the response could mean anything from ‘I pointed it downstream and somehow lived,’ or ‘I’ve learned rescues, refined skills, spent LOTS of time on the water and expect that some of that might apply to sea kayaking as well.’ Usually the former is probably closer to the truth, akin to a skier who manages to get to the bottom of a black diamond run and figures he (sorry- it’s usually a ‘he’) is now an expert. Kind of like hitting your first roll, once upon a time, in a sea kayak.

 
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Well, the shoe is on my other foot now; I’m a sea kayaker wondering how my abilities might transfer to whitewater kayaking. And I know that if I told that to most whitewater instructors I’d probably get a fairly obvious eye-roll. I’ve gone whitewater kayaking a few times now, under close supervision of more competent paddlers, and I’ve loved it. And I would say that having good boat handling skills does transfer, especially if you’ve spent some time in tidal currents or surfing, and you’ve rolled enough in those conditions that you tend to come-up rather than swim. (Maybe swimming isn’t a big deal, but it does seem like a bit of a bother, especially when the water is COOLD) (note the extra 'O' - I'm trying to learn the vowel-enhanced lingo).

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I did a little whitewater canoeing when I was in high school, mostly on what I would consider guided trips, and then Rebecca and I paddled on our own on some rivers out west (The Colorado, the Rio Grande) on excursions that could only be counted as mishaps in which we were lucky things didn’t get worse. Ah, but you really want to be able to get to those places, deep in the canyons, far into the wilderness, and the rivers are the way to get there. We’re lucky, actually, that those mishaps didn’t turn us off on paddlesports. Those experiences may have actually encouraged us to approach sea kayaking as we have: cautiously, seeking guidance and coaching, building confidence slowly. 


So our approach to whitewater is similar. We’ve wanted instruction, but you know that a beginner class might try our patience. We’ve waited for the opportunity to take a whitewater class aimed at sea kayakers, and in a few weeks we’ll do just that. Nate has been good about getting us out in those short, funny boats as pictured in these shots from a recent run on the Union River in Ellsworth. 



That run is perhaps a bit easier than the Sou, and it allowed us to spend a lot of time just trying to surf the waves, getting more of a feel for how these boats handle. And maybe we’re Nate’s guinea pigs a bit as well, since he’ll be assisting Todd Wright in the upcoming Whitewater for Sea Kayakers class. The class will be June 5-7, and is based in Burlington, Vermont. There may still be spaces left. I’ll admit, hearing the roar of that running water still gets my stomach a little fluttery, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.