Rebecca and I have launched a new sea kayaking guide service. In February, with snow on the ground and ice in the harbor, “launched” seems an exaggeration. It hardly seems real, more of a concept expressed through a website and a few posts on social media, but it has been a long time coming. The idea for the service is a bit different than that of most outfitters; our goal is to provide clients with guidance and instruction just about anywhere on the Maine coast, and to keep both the overhead and cost of our services affordable. We’re aiming at a niche of paddlers who have their own equipment and could use our help to develop skills and safely expand their comfort zones, who want to learn by doing, by going somewhere. Or, simply, we’re guides for hire, and we know this coast well.
Lately, I’ve been revising the manuscript of Upwest & Downeast: Meandering the Maine Coast by Sea Kayak, an account of our 2017 summer-long paddle along the coast. The revising seems to be unending. I’ll get through the story only to begin again, removing vast sections and then, sensing something missing, write new sections afresh. It’s my second winter on this project, and Rebecca is working on a series of block print illustrations for the book. We’re quite obsessed, and it sometimes occurs to me that we’ve drawn-out our immersion simply because we like where it takes us, back to those long days, paddling from island to island, living that life. In some ways, I think that’s also why we’ve started the guiding service (which is also called Upwest & Downeast). It’s a selfish desire to spend more time out there. But like the book, it’s also a chance to share what we’ve experienced and help others discover it for themselves.
Rebecca and I have been guiding and teaching off and on since 2010. We were reluctant to plunge into the commercial side of the sport, not wanting to sacrifice the personal enjoyment it brought us, but it forced us to seek-out more training, to dial-in skills and take our paddling to a level we would probably not have otherwise attained. As a result, we get much more out of paddling. We’ve also experienced the usual ups and downs of the sea kayaking business, and realized that for us to stick with it, we’d like to cultivate those better experiences and minimize the ‘downs.’ So here’s a few ways we hope to do just that:
- Each trip is private. We help you go on the trip you’d like to take. You don’t need to compromise with a stranger who might have different goals.
- Every trip is a ‘go.’ We don’t put a trip on the schedule and wait for sign-ups. If you’d like more people for your trip, let us know and we’ll try to put you in touch with other like-minded paddlers.
- Each trip is a full-day or more. There are enough barriers to just getting on the water that once there, we want to make the most of it, and we don’t want to rush. We can meander leisurely, or we can focus on putting-in some miles. We can explore islands on foot, lie in a hammock, play in the surf or take a time-out to improve our navigation. Or we can do awesome, big paddles.
- We can go just about anywhere. Take a look at our Destinations on the website to get an idea about our favorite places.
- Guiding / instruction: it’s all the same to us. You choose what you’d like, but we’d rather do any instruction in the context of a journey: no ‘Quickstart’ crash courses. And if you simply want to paddle with no instruction, that’s fine too.
- Our pricing is simple and fair: $300/day for up to two people. Beyond that, it’s $70 for each additional paddler. If you get six people together, that’s less than $100 per person.
- There’s no additional charge for overnights. For two people, a two-day/one-night trip is $600. Again, simple pricing.
But here’s the catch. We don’t provide equipment or food. See paragraph #1: we’re guides for hire, not outfitters. Aside from helping to keep the price down, it encourages the sort of paddlers we once were ourselves: committed to the sport, seeking out new challenges and improving skills along the way to gradually build confidence. There are, of course, reasonable rental options in the area as well. Odds are we’ll eventually invest in some client equipment, but for now we’re going to keep it simple and see how it goes.
Warmer weather is only a few months away. Check-out our new website and get inspired!