Saturday, March 29, 2008

May I Plan a Trip For You?

Let's say you want to try kayaking, or you are already a kayaker, but need some help getting your blades wet. Here's an offer that I hope someone takes me up on. If you give me some information about yourself (see below), then I'll plan a trip for you! Actually, I'll send you some options for paddling near you. In a later post on Dipping and Tipping, I'd like to show someone's response to this offer, and explain the process I went through to find paddling options for them.

Here's what I need to know about you:
  • What is your Zip code? (City/Town and State will work)
  • What kayaking equipment do you have?
  • How experienced are you?
  • How long would you like your trip to be?
  • Are you interested in overnighters (touring/camping)?
Respond to this offer in comments, and I'll post a response. If you comment anonymously, that's fine, but give me a paddling handle that I can call you, like, "Rubber Duck".

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tomales Bay Trip

The best sea kayaking trip I've had yet was a trip to Tomales Bay, with Kevin and Casey. It's a long bay that is very sheltered and opens to the Pacific Ocean to the north. If you put in near Nick's Cove, you don't have a long paddle to the ocean, and you get to see a lot. The highlights are Hog Island, a sand bar with pelicans and sea lions, starfish, Tule Elk and going out on the open ocean.

We did the trip on Saturday October 27, 2007. We hit the water around 11am, which was about one hour before high tide, with the next low tide at 7:28pm. That meant we'd be out on the high slack tide for the most part - no major currents.

We put in at a little beach just off Highway 1 south of Nick's Cove. I added a blue pin, and zoomed in for a close up. You can see where you pull off of Hwy 1 and can park off of the road. Lock your car, put your kayak in the water, and you're good to go. You could also put in at Nick's Cove where there is a boat ramp, but we didn't.
Tomales Bay Put In (Far)Tomales Bay Put In (Close Up) id=
The water was glassy. I've never seen such a large body of water so still. First thing I had to do was take a picture to capture the smoothness of the water. Casey is out in front with the blue sit-on-top. Kevin is in the foreground in the Monterey Perception.

The first thing we did is paddle out to Hog Island. There was a large group of paddlers out there, but they were being very quiet, and the scene was very peaceful.

After paddling between the islands and enjoying the peaceful beauty, I paddled over to the far shore. I found myself skimming over a sea grass bed, and the water was so clear that I had the sensation of flying low over a meadow. You can really see how fast you are moving in the kayak when you are paddling in clear shallow water. Then I started seeing starfish in all different colors; orange, yellow, and purple. We paddled up the bay toward the ocean. Along the way we saw sea lions, jumping fish, cormorants, and many loons.

We made our way toward the breakers. Before making our move to the open ocean, we stopped at the last beach on the west side of the bay. Casey wanted to put on some extra gear in preparation for getting wet. Here there are signs that ask you not to hike inland because it is a Tule Elk breeding area. At the mouth of the bay, you can see the white caps of the breaking waves. I took this picture of Kevin just before we made our way through the breakers. Then it was time to put the camera away in its ziploc bag, zip it up in my life vest, and we steamed our way through the waves.

There was an edge to the swells that wasn't breaking and we aimed ourselves at it. The waves still broke over the bows of our kayaks, and washed over our spray skirts, but we didn't get too wet or cold. The best way to get through the waves is to paddle seriously, and lean forward when cresting a wave. Once outside the break, we had a great ride. Big swells kept rolling towards us, and it is like a roller coaster of ups and downs. Here is a shot taken by Casey, of Kevin and I at the top of a swell.

Returning through the break is a lot of fun, because the swells approach from behind you, and you can't see them coming. For me, looking over my shoulder is very destabilizing, so this was a thrill. The trick seems to be staying perpendicular to the wave because it wants to push the stern of the kayak to one side or the other. I have since learned that you can ride the wave by turning the kayak to one side and leaning into the wave. I will try this another time!

We paddled back through the breakers, and then back down the bay. We passed a buoy that has a bell that you can always hear while you are out on the bay near the mouth.

Then there is a sand bar that is a resting spot for birds, and sea lions.

On the way back, looking up at the ridge of Tomales Point, we could see the silhouette of many Tule Elk with their antler racks. It was now late afternoon, and many flocks of loons were scattered over the bay. We had to disturb them as we paddled back to our trucks, and they make a funny sight and sound as they flee from our path. They run with their hind legs on the water, trying to fly, and they make a hoo-hoo-hoo sound at the same time. We tried not to disturb them, but you can't help it, as they give us a wide berth.

Back at the trucks we load up, and marvel at what a perfect day it has been. On the way back home we stopped in the town of Tomales for some amazing sandwiches and smoothies. Always feels good to reload the fuel tank!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Incredible Kayak Videos

YouTube is a wonderful thing! Just go there and search for whatever topic you want, and you'll probably find a useful instructional video that someone has provided for free. This is especially true for sea kayaking. Here are some YouTube videos that I recommend, and find very useful:

Eskimo Roll: Everyone asks me, do you know how to do an eskimo roll? And, no, folks, we are not talking about sushi. This is a technique to right yourself if you capsize, without getting out of the kayak. It is the quickest and best way to recover from capsizing. It only applies to sit-inside kayaks, and works a lot better if you've got your spray skirt on. There are many YouTube videos that feature the eskimo roll, but the one I've linked to above shows it at such slow speed, and from the perfect angle that it really takes all the mystery out of the technique. Be sure to practice the move under controlled conditions with a buddy.

Surf Launch: Most of my put-ins have been on boat ramps and docks, but I've recently started doing surf launches, and this video will prepare you for the fun and challenge of a surf launch.

Kayak Sailing: I have a friend who tells me to bring an umbrella in the kayak, so when the wind is going my way, I can open the umbrella and ride the wind. That's one way to do it. This video shows a kayaker using a special sail designed to go with the kayak. The advantage of the sail is your hands are free to paddle and steer. The umbrella is the poor man's way to go, or maybe a kite?

Scoop Rescue: This is a great technique for helping another person get back in to their kayak. It can be used with someone who is injured, has hypothermia, is exhausted, or if they are perhaps a complete novice.
  • Also, see the Hand of God rescue, which is very similar.

Kayak Surfing: This is a great video. The instructor watches others kayaking in the surf, and he stops the motion to tell you what they good be doing better. But it also shows you how much fun sea kayak surfing can be!

Seeing Wildlife:
  • This is a great video of seeing whales and dolphins feeding.
  • Imaging seeing these orcas right next to your kayak.
  • Hopefully, you will never have a killer whale land on your kayak, but if this does happen to you, I hope you watched the first video of this blog entry, and you know how to do an eskimo roll (so that you don't have to get out of your kayak and dangle your feet in the water).

How to Find Places to Paddle

There are many ways to find good places to paddle. I personally like to explore my area on my own, but you can also get great advice from books and other resources.

On your own: The way I go about it is to go to Google maps and click on the satellite view. Just enter in the name of your town, and click, "Search Maps". This will give you a satellite view of your town. From here, you can locate water ways near you that look interesting. If you double click on the map, Google will center and zoom in. You can click and drag the map around in the window, and I use this to follow rivers and plan my route. I zoom in close enough so that I can see where the boat ramps are. Once you've found a boat ramp, you can figure out how to get there by road, then plan your paddling route from there.

Books: You can always go to the library to look for books on kayaking. Many books will cover techniques, but other books will cover kayaking trips. They will tell you where to put in and what route to take. Of course, this will depend on where you live, so it will be hard for me to recommend specific books for you. So, try this kayak trips, and look for books about trips in your area.

Other Resources: This means searching the web. I prefer Google for my searches. Just type in, "kayak trips" and the name of your town. Other good search terms are, "boat ramps", or "put-ins". I also like to search for "no motor" to find waterways that don't allow motorboats. I'll try to find specific resources for these, and as I find them I'll add them to my blog.

Happy Paddling!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Recommended Books: How to Sea Kayak

When you are not sea kayaking, you can read about sea kayaking! I recommend the following books to get in the know. You can paddle for years with just the basics, but there are techniques that you may need in certain situations that will begin to benefit you as soon as you learn them. For example, the sculling draw stroke will allow you to move your kayak sideways across the water. This can be very useful for siding up to the dock or another kayaker. More importantly, you should learn early on techniques for re-entering a kayak in the event of an emergency. There are several alternatives to learn. No one plans to capsize, but when you do, you need to know what to do. Most people underestimate the time it would take them to get back in to the kayak, so it is best to learn the techniques, then practice them under good conditions with a buddy who can help you if you get into trouble. So, these books will not only provide you enjoyable reading, but will also prepare you for emergencies.

These books focus on how to sea kayak, other recommendations will focus on trips, locations, and stories about adventures.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate with various retailers on the internet, so I may make a commission on the purchase of certain items that I recommend.