One man's rush to jump on the kayaking bandwagon

Paddling on Maligne Lake

After my previous experiences paddling in paradise, I was determined to enjoy this experience, no matter how miserable it might be. Rain, clouds, even snow and ice wouldn't keep me from enjoying this experience.
We arrived at the boat house around 9:00AM. There was a young couple standing at the counter renting a double. The man asked, "How far is it to Spirit Island." The guy behind the counter replied, "About three hours. But that's paddling the entire time with no stops. If you want to go all the way there, don't worry about getting back by closing time. There's a night drop box outside. Just put your gear in there and tie up the kayak on the dock." The couple got in their boat and then started towards Spirit Island.
We knew that 3 hours wasn't unrealistic, but it's around 8 miles to Spirit Island from the boat house. It's doable in 3 hours for someone with experience, even in these bathtub boats, but that's quite a workout. We agreed that we'd try for Spirit Island, but we'd turn around before we got there if we needed to.
Heath and Jean
Heath and Jean
I grabbed a PFD and the lightest paddle I they had. Heath informed the owner she wanted a 230cm paddle. He just looked at her and then pointed to the clump of identical, heavy, rental paddles of unknown length, leaning in the corner. He helped Jean and I adjust the footrests of her double and my single. Mine was perfect, but Jean didn't notice till she was in the water that when she centered the pedals, the rudder was well over to the left. When Jean asked what the paddle float was for, the owner showed her how to slip it onto the end of the paddle and then said "then you just use this to climb back into the boat. It's easy." Right. Just like that. Easy.
The only other advice the owner gave was, "When the tour boats pass you, turn into the wake." I wasn't worried by this as I was certain that we could handle whatever the lake threw at us, but the couple that left right before us followed this advice every time a boat went by.
Staring at the scenery
Staring at the scenery
The weather started out great. High clouds, little wind and calm water. We took a break at Four Mile Point and then stopped for lunch about 2 miles short of Samson Narrows. The wind had picked up, blowing the clouds out of our photos, but also creating a nice little chop on the lake. As we rounded the point, we got slammed with strong winds and whitecaps. Jean expressed her interest in turning around, but Heath pointed out that we were almost to Spirit Island and I suggested waiting a few minutes to see if the wind died down. It did.
As we went past Charlton Creek and into Fisherman's Bay, whatever wind remained was at our backs. Jean asked a couple heading back to the boathouse in a canoe how much further it was to Spirit Island. Their response of "just around that point, about 10 minutes" was enough to keep her going.
As we rounded the point, we saw that the inexperienced couple that left just before us had made it to Spirit Island. We went around the peninsula, and landed near the boat pier. Just after we landed, a boat full of camera toting tourists invaded. I grabbed by camera and went over to help Heath and Jean with their boat. I had managed to find a small break in the rocks and landed on the pebble beach, but they had landed in the mud.
My kayak and Spirit Island
My kayak and Spirit Island
We hung out for a while, ate and waited for the boat to leave. When it did, we took all the required photos and stretched our legs. Another boat of camera toting tourists came, climbed the steps to the spot and took the picture, then got back on the boat and left. (Of course I went to the spot and took the picture, but I paddled there, so I'm better than those lazy wimps.)
I considered finding the couple we had followed all day to make sure they were okay, but decided against it. They had seen us come in and knew we were there and there were boats coming and going every few minutes. They left a little before we did.
As we were getting ready to leave, one of the camera toting tourists asked Heath, "Did you paddle all the way here in those?" Heath replied that we had and he replied, "That's great. When did you leave?" She told him that we'd been on the water a little over 4 hours, but we'd stopped a couple of times. He replied, "That's amazing. Good luck!"
As we headed back, the weather started got worse. The temperature fell and the wind picked up. As we hugged the right shoreline back through Samson Narrows, I saw the inexperienced couple up ahead and decided to shadow them for a while on the left side of the lake. They looked a lot better than when they first started. Their seemingly random strokes were now relativly in sync.
I decided to pass them and catch up with Heath and Jean. As I went by them, I heard them arguing with each other, but didn't think anything of it. I reminded me of Heath and I's first time in a double.
A short time later, the wind really kicked up. It was at least 30 knots. It was coming from the right and I had waves breaking over the boat. I had a spray skirt, but neither Heath nor Jean did. I decided to cross back over to them so I'd be close in case something happened, even though I'd be paddling directly into the wind.
As I started across the lake, the wind got worse. At one point it blew so hard that a sudden gust nearly blew the paddle out of my hands. (Note to self: always bring your own paddle leash.) It felt like I was going nowhere. Looking at the shoreline as I struggled forward confirmed it. After about 20 minutes, I finally made it across to Heath and Jean. The closer I got to the shoreline, the more the wind died down.
We were all worn out by that point, but we were also still about 6 miles from the boathouse, so we just kept paddling. As we got to Four Mile Point, we decided to stop and rest. My back was exhausted and my face quite sun burned. We stretched our legs and then I helped Heath and Jean off the beach. While they went ahead, I stayed behind to try to adjust the rudder pedals. The straps were slipping and I could barely turn the rudder anymore.
As I pulled away from the beach, I saw the other couple not too far back. I hadn't thought about them for a while, but then I wondered how they had done in the wind. I should have stopped and made sure they were okay, but I didn't.
As we rounded Four Mile Point, the wind shifted. It was now at our backs and the chop was almost surfable. Every once and a while, I caught a wave and rode it for a few seconds. I caught up to Heath and Jean fairly quickly. As we got close to the boathouse, I pulled ahead so I could help them out of the boat.
As I got there, the guy was just leaving. He drug my boat up on the dock and took my gear. He reminded me about the drop box, locked up the boathouse and then left. Heath and Jean arrived and I put away their boat and gear. I saw the other couple round the point and by then, we were all ready to go, so we got in the car and left.
As we were driving back to Jasper, we passed an ambulance heading towards the lake. I have nothing to base this on, but I can't stop wondering if something happened to the other couple. I also wondered how many other people were still out on the lake.
Overall, we all got some great photos and had a great time. It wasn't easy. It was the most any of us had ever paddled in a day. We all agreed that we'd do it again, just not any time soon.
tags: lake, travel

August 30, 2007

My birthday

Today is my birthday. My family gave me kayak porn: This Is The Sea and This Is The Sea 2.
I guess I have to wait till Christmas to get this.
tags: gear

August 27, 2007

Can we count this one?

I went paddling with Gary today for the fist time today. It wasn't his first time in a kayak. He had drifted down the Neuse river before, but this was his first time really paddling. He had a great time. Does this mean that not everyone's first time stinks? It wasn't his first time, but it was close. Can I count this one?
He said he felt awkward at first, but he got the hang of it fairly quickly. He was also fearless on the water. A large boat took off near us and he took off right into it's 3 foot high wake. I would have never done that when I first started. I introduced him to edging and he nearly got the hang of that too.
tags: lake

August 18, 2007

Quiet morning paddle

I headed out early, hoping to beat the heat and the traffic on the Intercoastal Waterway. The boat traffic wasn't too bad, but it was still hot.
tags: coastal

August 05, 2007

Sea kayak finally meets the sea

It's hard to believe that my Explorer has been a flatwater boat until today. I finally took my new kayak out in the ocean. It wasn't a monumental adventure, but technically, it was in the ocean.
I left the house early and headed up Banks channel to Masonboro inlet. The tide was coming in and I got quite a workout getting out past the jetty. The swells were around 8 feet and there were scattered whitecaps. The boat traffic was quite heavy.
Allow me to state the obvious. My Explorer is awesome. In conditions like these, it handles exactly like one would want it to handle.
My only complaint -- it's hot! The green deck just soaks up the heat. My legs were covered with sweat and the hatch covers were bulging.
tags: gear, coastal

August 04, 2007