Why Knot Go Fishing at Little Harbor Boathouse?

In late May, I head over to the Little Harbor Boathouse in Marblehead, Mass., to take part in a Guided Hobie Kayak Fishing Excursion. It would be a three-hour fishing program with use of a Hobie Kayak, fishing gear, and know-how from three very friendly and experienced guides: Jesse Minoski, Joe Gugino (see above photo on left), and Mike Marquis.

Our prey? The striped bass which had recently moved north from their southern vacations to spend the long summer feeding in New England waters. May and June is prime fishing season for this species.

The rocky shoreline around Marblehead is ideal striped bass territory, Hobie Team member Minoski says (he took the photo), and the Little Harbor Boathouse’s “hidden gem” location means you don’t have to go more than a half mile from the launch to fish and you duck out of the wind behind Crowninshield and Gerry’s Islands.

Maryellen Auger, owner of Little Harbor Boathouse, has a Hobie Revolution 11 waiting for me. It’s an ideal boat size for women, she notes. Sleek and lively, the Revolution uses a pedal system to propel forward (a paddle is attached by bungee chord on the side if you need it). The kayak comes in three lengths, 11, 13 and 16 feet, increasing in speed with the hull length. Conveniences include a molded-in rod holder, multiple hatches, lots of on-deck storage, and a “hyper adjustable” Vantage CT seat with webbing, that is so comfortable you could sit out there all day and cast a line. The seat sits off the floor and keeps you dry and is removable to turn into a beach chair.

I “power-pedal” my way out through Little Harbor behind Crowninshield and catch up with six eager clients and three helpful guides.

A couple of the clients catch fish on the dropping tide and release them. I’m not so lucky, but I can tell you how wonderful it is to sit out on the ocean in a comfy seat on a fresh spring day, casting a line, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, camaraderie, and communing with a species that obviously knows the most of any of us about the water dynamics and food below. All and all, I had a very good time and highly recommend it, especially for someone new to kayak angling such as myself.

Little Harbor Boathouse will hold two more Hobie First Cast Kayak Fishing Meetups this season. The dates are: Saturday, June 17, 8:30-11:30 (good Father’s Day outing) and Sunday, June 25, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Details and 24/7 on-line reservation to participate in Hobie First Cast Guided Kayak Fishing Excursions, Private Guides, and Hobie hands-free Kayak rentals visit:


For ongoing fishing guiding service out of Little Harbor Boathouse – the blues come out in July – with 2017 Hobie Fishing Team Members Joe Gugino and Jesse Minoski: www.whyknotfishing.com

– Tamsin Venn

Paddlequest 1500: An Expedition to Inspire Outdoor Desire

John Connelly at Newbury Kayak and Canoe. From left to right: Zand Martin, NFCT Board of Directors; Jack Phillips, Development Director MITA; da man John Connelly; Mike Duffey, owner Newbury Kayak and Canoe; Keith Attenborough, sales NK&C; Madison Moran, Membership and Development Associate MITA.

John Connelly at Newbury Kayak and Canoe. From left to right: Zand Martin, NFCT Board of Directors; Jack Phillips, Development Director MITA; da man John Connelly; Mike Duffield, owner Newbury Kayak and Canoe; Keith Attenborough, sales NK&C; Madison Moran, Membership and Development Associate MITA.

It was a year ago that John Connelly became the first paddler to both canoe the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (740 miles) in northern New England and kayak the Maine Island Trail (375 miles), connecting them via the Saint John River and Bay of Fundy (385 miles) in New Brunswick. The grand total? 1,500 miles.

Recently, Newbury Kayak & Canoe in Newbury, Mass., hosted John to give a presentation. Present were sponsors Maine Island Trail Assn., and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail as well as an enraptured crowd, reliving his adventures vicariously.

How much water did you take?

Did you ever capsize?

Would you do it again?

What was your favorite spot?

It was interesting to hear his talk to see what message stayed with him a year later. See “Paddlequest 1500: An Expedition to Inspire Outdoor Desire,” ACK, September 2016 where we talked to John right after he returned from his epic journey.

Although John was alone during his expedition, he posted his whereabouts on his website, received thousands of “followers” and was often greeted by “Trail Angels” who knew where he was offering encouragement … and beer.

He calls the expedition as challenging, rewarding, and eye-opening. There was the drama… told to stand down by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, when they thought he was a canoeist who entered the country illegally (not); and violent storms, as in crossing Mooselookmeguntic Lake, where it was safer to keep going than to turn into shore for protection, through rain, sleet, snow, and vicious winds.

John, who was passing the big 6-Oh, was more than up to the challenge. He has spent 19 years in the whitewater rafting industry and ten years in management at L.L.Bean as leader of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools. He was a member of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team, competing in whitewater World Championships and World Cup competitions. He co-authored “Appalachian Whitewater – The Northern States,” a guidebook for rivers from West Virginia to Maine. He is a risk management consultant, is the President and Chief Experience Officer of Adventurous Joe Coffee LLC. John lives in Falmouth, Maine with his wife, Nicole.

He is writing a book and just finished revising a draft. I would urge everyone to read it when published. Aside from being a terrific story teller, he has a great deal of knowledge about both river and sea conditions, and is in general an all around good guy.
Several highlights of his talk: He started in April but waited two weeks after ice-out to make sure the lakes he was paddling wouldn’t freeze on him overnight and leave him stranded sans snowshoes. A favorite place was the Nulhegan River in Vermont, a 15-mile tributary of the Connecticut River, where it’s possible to run the entire river.

The most remote he experienced was in the segue from NFCT to MIT, no maps or guides, and he relied on old pals with local knowledge to accompany him on that stretch, culminating in going through the Reversing Falls at St. Johns, where even someone used to high water was awed by the dynamics of that water flow. Needless to say, he made it through without mishap. Plus he didn’t capsize once on the trip.

He wonders if anyone has ever found a level spot to camp on Halifax Island on the Maine coast. He encountered eagles (dozens in one day) and whales. He lost more than 30 pounds but ate well.

He also presumably drank good fair-market coffee, as owner of Adventurous Joe Coffee.

His main post-trip mantra? Go light. Don’t wear yourself out on hauling equipment around. He planned his gear so he was able to make one-way-only portages on NFCT, for example.

These and many more interesting tips John shared. The book should be a good read from a person who is clearly comfortable in wilderness waterways, is keen on being fit, having the right equipment, maintaining community, knows route planning and navigation (no off days for fog), an unfailing belief in how outdoor experience leads us into a profound stewardship of natural resources… and sheer perseverance. Should I go on? John is inspiration to us all.

Thanks to Newbury Kayak and Canoe for hosting and MITA and NFCT for sponsoring. We paddlers are all so lucky.

Check out John’s upcoming presentations at www.Paddlequest1500.com.


Essex River Race: May 20, 2017


Tammy and David in the push to the finish. Photo copyright by and courtesy of Donna Lind.


The Nootka in Maine, 2002. It looks shorter because it’s angled away from the camera

Thursday night at home, Tammy says, “I really want to do the Essex Race this Saturday.”
“OK,” I respond. She runs the race every couple of years.
“Oh, and I’d like us to do it in a double.”

So here’s the story. First of all, the only time Tammy and I had raced a double kayak was the 1995 Blackburn Challenge in a fast Seda Tango loaned to us by Bob Hicks. Second, our own double, a large Necky Nootka more than 22 feet long (the boat I always used on our trips with the kids, with Lilly in the forward seat and Anton in the middle hatch. Fast, stable, and with plenty of room for gear and the occasional batch of lobsters bought directly from the lobster boats), has mostly sat on the racks for the past 12 years, since the kids moved into their own boats, quietly gaining water weight. The last time it was moved, I could have sworn it was tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds. Third, it was probably full of spiders and was pretty dirty after a winter on the racks under the oak trees, requiring its annual cleaning and polishing a little earlier than usual. Fourth, didn’t Ozzie Osborn of ERBA (Essex River Basin Adventures) just recently mention to me that his term for a double kayak was “divorce boat?”

Oh, and it also meant that I would have to find and install the Hullavator racks, because there was no way that we could lift the boat over our heads to get it on the car as we used to. We tried. Instant vertebral compression fractures.

We did figure out how to maneuver the boat up onto the car. (We had to bungee-unlock the Hullavator handles, then each grab an end of the kayak and swing it up, then release the handles so it would lock into the racks. Hope it works in reverse.) And on Saturday, May 20 at 07:15 hours, we rolled, bleary-eyed, into the ERR’s new venue at the Riversbend Restaurant in Essex. Fortunately, the change from funky, small-town marina to funky, small-town marina plus upscale restaurant meant that the access road, famous for its collection of potholes and small meteor craters, had been paved smoothly over.

Early as we were, the scene was already one of controlled (ish) madness, as craft ranging from SUPs through sea kayaks, surfskis, dories, sliding seats, up to multi-rower gigs looking as if they were just preparing to speed Captain Cook from the Greenwich docks out to the Endeavor, were carried on or behind autos from all over the East Coast. Since the parking lot triples as space for the restaurant, storage for many motorboats, and the headquarters of the Essex River Cruises, the crowd was well jammed in, looking for a way to drop their boats at the ramp. We were early enough to be able to find premium dockage for the Nootka next to the ramp in the marsh, and slide our car into a spot next to a line of cabin cruisers.

Then it was a matter of signing our lives away on the release form (“YOU MUST SIGN A WAIVER IN PERSON,” according to the website) and standing around waiting for the Captain’s Meeting at 08:30. The only grumbling in our crew was from my neglected tum, which had not had time for breakfast. Fortunately, one of the participants had brought in mass quantities of coffee, cream cheeses in various flavors, and bagels. Lovely!

(This act of charity underscores a critical aspect of the Cape Ann Rowing Club, which sponsors, organizes, and runs this race and July’s Blackburn Challenge. All aspects of the events, from planning and scheduling, through implementation to clean-up, are handled by volunteers. Nothing but praise for this great organization and its dedicated members.)

The Captain’s Meeting is where the course is gone over, heat starting times restated, and rules of the road laid out. The affair took place at the porch of the restaurant. The crowd was enlivened by a small group of officials, including the harbor master and some Coast Guard men packing heat. Over a bullhorn crackling with static directions blared out and were repeated to shouts of “Louder!” Then the only bit of disagreement occurred when the harbor master ordered that wearing of PFDs was required. The cries of, “NO!” and, “May 15th,” arose from all sides, but especially, it seems, from the SUP and surf ski paddlers. This made little sense to me, until I looked it up in Section 323 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations:

“CMR Section 323-2.07(10): Any person aboard a canoe or kayak between January 1 to May 15 and between September 15 to December 31 shall wear at all times a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of Type I, II, or III.”

Since it was after the 15th of May, the nays won. We dithered a bit on that one, trying to decide whether carrying our PFDs on deck, increasing windage, was worse than the binding that wearing them would cause. Since the wind was quite strong, and we would be heading into it for more than half of the 5.5 miles of the course, we decided to wear them.

Now boats began to take off as their heats were called. The organizer at the ramp was good at calling back vessels who tried to launch more than 15 minutes before their heat was called, a grim necessity in the narrow confines of the start. I began to feel the normal urges that precede a race, but was loath to go to the official porta-potties, situated a couple of hundred yards up the hill. These are traditionally decorated with long lines of desperate racers trying to get rid of all that coffee. Fortunately, Tammy had found one in the lower lot, hidden behind several large motor boats still on their winter racks. Whew!

Our next decision was where to put in. Our nice marsh launch site had succumbed to the steadily falling tide, and now we looked over a three-foot cliff. Not a great spot, but otherwise we would have to schlep our ocean liner over the boats that had jammed themselves in between us and the ramp. We decided to schlep, and, at last, we took to the water and approached the start.

The most important factor in a start is position, position, position, relative to the starting line. Also useful is some experience with your boat. As we came around the corner from the ramp, the north wind started blasting us full in the face, and the high prow of the Nootka, catching it like a sail, began to fall off, and we started moving backwards. (If you look at the photo of us heading towards the finish, you will see how my bulk lifts the bow right up. When I used to paddle with the kids in front, I would stick a couple of small boulders under the bow hatch to lessen this effect.) I pumped at the rudder pedals, trying to remember how they worked in reverse, and we soon found ourselves in an excellent position, if the race had been heading straight over the rapidly drying marsh. “Go!” rang out, and our competitors rushed off, followed belatedly by boat number 156.

The course first follows the meandering channel of the Essex River until it opens wide into Essex Bay towards the Cross Island archipelago (Cross, Dilly, and Corn). The dropping tide was with us as we headed out, but the advantage of the current was overwhelmed by wind. So, heads down and arms pumping, we started on our five-and-a-half-mile adventure.

It’s always a good idea before a race to do some training in the boat you plan to use. The question was, was 23 miles in an entirely different model two decades earlier sufficient for the day? Well, no. Because of our feeble start, we were dead last across the line. Still, we managed to maintain our position throughout the race!

In the confines of the river, the mass of our class seemed so very far ahead as we rounded a curve just in time to see them disappear around the next ahead. When we came out into Essex Bay, however, we could see that our position was not as desperate as we thought, and we traded leads with several doubles for the next mile or so. I pulled our rudder out to reduce drag, and we began to make up time.

Crossing the bay to Cross Island was a steady grind against the headwind over open water. Stroke timing in a double is critical, and it was my job as stern paddler to make sure that our strokes were as coordinated as possible, maximizing their effect. Stern paddler in a race in a headwind always gets a face-full of water, as the breeze flings the drip from the bow paddle directly into his face. The constant shower was actually not unpleasant, as it countered the effect of an extremely bright sun. The crust of dried salt on my sunglasses did make it hard to see, and I was startled when Tammy cried a warning to change course. Although it seems a straight push to Cross Island from the opening of the marsh into the bay, the falling tide poses risks for paddlers unfamiliar with the area. We were heading towards the great mud bank just to the south of Cross, and with the wind and sun reflections the shallows were hard to differentiate from the channel. We swerved to avoid grounding and headed for the deep water of the channel. On the left (west) side, the channel stays deep nearly up to the rocky shore of Cross, so we cut a few feet off by cruising under a ramp between the rocks and a float.

Despite the relentless breeze, we had kept a steady pace up to the narrows between Cross Island and Conomo Point. Increasingly, the draining of water from the bay as the tide dropped further was creating more obstacles, and would eventually expose a great expanse of sand bars and mud banks with just a few channels threading through. Any attempt at a short cut would have meant a grounding. As we came around Cross, I looked in desperation for the passage that I knew existed sometimes between Dilly and Corn, only to see four feet of dry land where but a few short hours ago had been water.

Cross Island, which would seem to be a turning mark for the race, is no such thing, as the swing around Dilly and Corn is several hundred yards of exposed paddling. Here we met a desperate dory floundering about. “Have you got a Leatherman?” he cried. His oarlock was coming loose and he was tool-less. Alas, we had no tools either, and we had to leave him to his fate.

The trip back to the finish line was by cadence count, 20 power strokes followed by 20 or more more relaxed lily-dips. I must admit I was getting a bit tired by this point. No, I lie. My chest was heaving and my tongue was flapping in the following breeze, which seemed to have dropped just in time to minimize the advantage it would give us against the outgoing tide. “1-2-3-4-5-6…” we chanted, then “pant-pant-pant….” and repeat.

The surfskis started to pass us, as well as, it seemed, every other boat on the bay. We did pass a fast paddling herring gull, and I gave it a surreptitious glance to see if it bore a number. Maybe we wouldn’t be the very last entry to cross the line.

We entered the narrow river channel and began the meander back to the finish. (Why the distance back to the start after rounding the half-way mark is at least twice as far as on the way out is one of those mysteries of racing.) Tammy kept saying, “Just one more curve. Oops! Just around the next curve. Oops!” and so on, until we sped (¡really!) across the line. We had finished; we had kept our position in our class and surprisingly, pulled ahead of two other doubles to finish sixth of eight boats; and we weren’t divorced! Not at all disappointing, considering.

Will we do it again? Not on your Nellie without at least some together time training. Maybe the nine-mile circumnav around Castle Neck? It was nice to be back in the Nootka after so many years, so it might be a good thing to schedule at least a few trips in her this summer. All in all, it was a lovely race, ending with a delicious pizza, beer, bacon cornbread, and steamed clam picnic from the Riversbend chefs.

Old Quarry Offers Registered Maine Guide Course

10410866_528413997286753_823576111468112043_n (1)Old Quarry in Stonington, Maine will run a Registered Maine Guide Course at the end of May in time for the summer guiding season. Held at Old Quarry in collaboration with Pinniped Kayak, the course is designed to prepare participants for the State of Maine Sea Kayak Guide Exam. Participation in the course does not guarantee certification.

This 6-day, 56-hour course, held over a four-day weekend (Memorial Day) and a two-day weekend, will cover a variety of topics including risk management, trip planning, group leadership, navigation, safety, island ethics, and minimal impact camping. There will be on-water training in kayak paddling skills, rescue techniques, and towing. If time and weather permit, one night may be spent on an island learning group island camping techniques.

Due to the time of year this course is offered, drysuits are required for all on-water activities. Old Quarry has a few dry suits and many wet suits for rent if you do not have your own. It has dry suits and wet suits for sale as well. Students should be in good physical condition and be prepared for the weather and sea conditions of spring in Maine.
Course Dates: Fri, May 26, 8:30 a.m. – Mon, May 29, 4:00 p.m. & Sat, June 3, 9:00 a.m. – Sun, June 4, 3:00 p.m.
Registration: Contact Pinniped Kayak to register.
Lodging & Meals: Contact Old Quarry to reserve campsites, bunkhouse, meals.
Old Quarry Ocean Adventures is the gateway to the islands of the Deer Isle – Stonington archipelago, with a campground, practice pond, classroom facilities, and two all-tide launch sites. Its Sea Kayak School offers courses for most any experience level.

Spring Migration

Great_Egret_at_Bill_Forward_Pool_-_Susan_BalserOne of spring’s great events is the daily arrival of migrating birds. Some will stay around to breed and nest and others will just stop for a rest and bite to eat before they get on their northward way again. One migrator that sends a riffle of joy throughout is the great egret, newly arrived a couple of weeks ago in our neighborhood north of Boston. One of our favorite marsh sentinels, it is easy to spot, its white frame stands out in the colorless marsh.
Spring migration takes place over a shorter period than the fall migration. Birds are trying to get here quickly and immediately set up shop and reproduce. It’s nice to know we’ll be able to enjoy the egrets’ stately walks across the marsh and white flashes of flight for the summer months to come.
Plum Island just to the north of us is one of the most productive birding areas on the Atlantic Coast and even in the country. Every Wednesday morning, David Moon, Sanctuary Director for Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, leads field trips in and around the Plum Island area. The program has been going on for 21 years! And is enormously popular with locals and visitors alike. No registration is necessary, just show up and pay your fee. For more information, www.massaudubon.org, or joppaflats@massaudubon.org
Susan Balser, a Wednesday morning birder regular, has very kindly let us use her photo of a great egret from Bill Forward Pool on Plum Island. Spring is here!

Island Expeditions: 30 Years Supporting Conservation in Belize

front-page-kayak-coral2Dangriga, Belize Canadian ecotourism and adventure travel company Island Expeditions has announced its 30 Year Anniversary with promotional events going on for the next three months. The company has also confirmed its continued commitment to conservation efforts in Belize parks, each year contributing over $100,000 to organizations that are actively involved with protecting the coral reefs, wildlife management, education, and advocacy for sustainable development in Belize. Since 1987, Island Expeditions has been leading the way, introducing thousands of adventure travelers to Belize, educating them on the local Belizean culture in pristine environments. The activities the company offers include kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), Mayan archaeology, and rainforest exploration.
In 1987, Island Expeditions was one of the first adventure travel companies in the world to develop their unique brand of trips combining education and adventure on the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, even before UNESCO named it as a heritage site. The company is well known in Belize and has several remote island basecamps for reef activities: Tobacco Caye, Glover’s Reef Atoll (a United Nations’ World Heritage Site) and Lighthouse Atoll, which has close access to the legendary Blue Hole. Travelers can also experience a wide range of jungle adventure activities at Bocawina Rainforest Resort, a luxury rainforest resort with ziplines, cave tubing, bird watching, and Mayan ruins.
Island Expeditions founder Tim Boys states, “After three decades in Belize we’ve always known since the beginning how delicate and beautiful the Belize Barrier Reef system is and it’s been our mission to provide ongoing financial support while educating people from all over the world on how important this marine environment is to the global community.” Tim adds, “Island Expeditions’ trips are designed to provide the traveler with a complete Belize experience, no matter what time of the year they come.”
A pioneer in the adventure travel industry, Island Expeditions has been providing world-class kayaking, SUP, and snorkeling experiences in Belize for thousands of international travelers since 1987. Their Belizean guides are recognized as the top professionals in the industry – speaking multiple languages, they receive extensive training and are licensed by the Belize Tourism Board. Over the thirty years, the company has brought more than 22,000 tourists, including high school and university students to this Central American country. Students and travelers can get educated on the tropical marine life located in United Nations World Heritage Sites and jungle wildlife located in National Rainforest Parks. Island Expeditions is able to offer year round trips to Belize for all levels of travelers.
In April, Island Expeditions will continue to celebrate its 30-year milestone with discounts on trips booked to Belize, with new winners announced every week; and chances to win gear package giveaways, Amazon Kindle E-readers, and even a free lunch at popular restaurants like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and the Keg Steakhouses.
To contact Island Expeditions:
US & Can: 1-800-667-1630
Int’l: +604-894-2312
UK: 0800-404-9535

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun at SeaSpray Kayaking


Image courtesy of Sea Spray Kayaking

By Tamsin Venn

Our current issue features some great tips and advice on what the camp counselors have to say about the fun kids have learning at kayak camp. We talked to Scott Shea, owner of SeaSpray Kayaking and Paddleboarding on the New Meadows River in midcoast, Maine. Shea is a long-term outdoors teacher and father of three sons so he’s in a good position to know.

“We’ve had kids who started in our kids camp when they were 11, now they are out of college, got their Maine Guide License, and are actually guiding for us… and they have full time jobs. It’s neat to see the interest sparked early and that it’s something that continues for personal and professional reasons,” says Shea.

Seaspray offers half-day and full-day camps for kids starting at age eight. It used to have half-day morning camps for just the younger kids, to keep their attention and to avoid the afternoon sea breezes that the older kids could handle better. But now Seaspray gives a choice of a half day or full day for everybody.

“That’s worked out. The kids know what they like, whether they want to be outdoors all day. The biggest thing we’ve found in teaching kids is that they learn by doing. The adults want to know precisely about what their body position should be, but the kids just kind of watch, and say ‘Hey I can do that,’ and then do it. Younger kids wonder how to do a roll. You just set them up and give them a feeling of what to do and they’re rolling. Adults don’t allow their brains to relax and feel it,” says Shea, psyched by his young students’ can-do attitude.

“With the kids, combining all kinds of challenges and games with the instruction works well. In wet exits, we tell them to hit the hull of the kayak before they release the spray skirt, they do it 51 times, so the next person has to get 52. We don’t have to say anything to keep them relaxed under water, it’s neat to see the kids push one another. They’re learning what they don’t even realize they’re learning. When we get into rescues, we treat it as a game. If they capsize, it’s fun to get the gear, get reoriented, and get paddling versus something that has to be really scary.”

Other activities include sailing with umbrellas or tarps, scavenger hunts, tugs of war, and fishing. SeaSpray offers week-long camps June through August at seven locations in Maine from West Bath to South Portland. It also has an advanced overnight camp and a fishing camp in Falmouth. Like the coast of Maine, every camp is a little different, Shea notes, with wide open ocean and surfing off Cape Elizabeth. Some areas are better for fishing, and some for whitewater. (Seaspray also sponsors a kids’ fishing tournament every year.)

Regarding the use of mobile devices, “The only break they get is snack time or lunch time, We don’t even have to say anything. We don’t have the downtime, so kids can’t go running over to use their devices,” says Shea.

Shea is highly experienced in outdoor teaching. Notably, he is the father of three sons, ages 12, 14, and 18. “They love the outdoors, so that’s always a nice thing,” he says of his three boys. He continues to take any outdoor ed class he can, and he’s gone through all the Maine Guide licenses in the state.

Age appropriate gear is essential. “The kids get free rentals for the rest of the summer, so they’ll bring their parents, and the parents are shocked on how well their children just take off. They didn’t think they could go that fast and that long. A lot of it is in the kayaks they are in. The number one thing parents should understand is the importance of equipment.”

For more information, visit the Sea Spray Kayaking website.

Kayaking Tips for Seniors by Tamsin Venn

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A pod of oldies paddles the Ipswich marsh. Photo by Tamsin Venn.

Kayak touring is one of the best recreational activities for seniors. It is low impact. It’s easy to learn. It’s a great way to get together with other seniors and connect. It’s intellectually stimulating involving navigation skills and tide charts.
Here are ten tips to make this sport even more enjoyable.

  • 1) Go light. Lifting a kayak on and off cars or the beach can strain your back. Light kayaks made of carbon fiberglass material can be well worth the investment. More kayak manufacturers, recognizing the need of the older paddler, are reducing weight using various materials. Aim for a boat 35 pounds or less. Consider a wood kayak, which is light, durable, lively, and lovely to look at.
  • 2) Invest in a good paddle for ease of swing weight. Again carbon light materials can be expensive but well worth the price, and wood is a good option. Consider a Greenland paddle. It has a longer and narrower blade that lessens the upload on your arms and shoulders.
  • 3) Lifting your kayak on and off a car, especially as a solo paddler, can be onerous. Thule makes something called a Hullavator, a mobile rack that allows you to load the kayak at waist level on the side of the car, then lifts it onto a rack on top of the car. A strut device eases most of the kayak’s weight.
  • 4) Most kayak accidents happen on land, on rocky shores where you may slip on seaweed. Always step in between the rocks, not on top of them.
  • 5) A kayak cart removes the need to haul it on your shoulders. You can even rig up a cart to a bike to get your boat to the water. If you ever go to the Adirondacks, where portaging from one pond to another is de rigeur, you will see seniors everywhere using kayak carts. Strap them to the back of your kayak when not in use, or stow them in the rear hatch. Nothing says portage better than kayak cart.
  • 6) The usual kayak safety planning is even more important as you get older. File a float plan with a family member or friend. That indicates your proposed route, time of return, and a description of your kayak. Other useful (and in some cases mandatory) items: a weather radio to indicate wind force and direction; cell phone in waterproof case or VHF; a pfd (personal flotation device); whistle; and a wetsuit or drysuit if you are paddling in cold water. Hypothermia from cold water immersion is one of the kayaker’s biggest challenges.
  • 7) Carry a tow rope, so you can tow the grandkids in their kayaks back to shore if they get tired, or so they can tow you! Towing is a remarkably easy way to assist someone back to shore.
  • 8) In the off season, lift light weights to keep shoulders and arms strong.
  • 9) Do yoga to assist in balance and flexibility, especially key for getting in and out of your kayak.
  • 10) As in downhill skiing, road biking, or other low-impact sports where you might run into crowds of people or vehicles, it’s best to venture out when you can expect less traffic. Avoid busy summer weekends when motorboat and Jet Ski traffic is at its most frantic… and noisy. Go early in the morning, when the world is tranquil, and you’ve got the water to yourself.

Happy Summer Paddling!

Tamsin Venn is the publisher of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker and a regular contributor to Seniorsskiing.com

Tamsin Venn Reviews the 2016 MITA Guide

You know summer has arrived when the MITA (Maine Island Trail Assn.) guidebook arrives in the mail. Or the link to the new mobile app in iTunes for the online version. Now we can get down to some serious paddling adventure planning in Maine this summer.
The guidebook always sends me into flights of fancy. Will this be the summer I paddle the entire trail, from Kittery Point to Machias? With family obligations lessening their pull, why not?
The other approach, though, as I read through most of 280 pages or so of the 6×8 spiral notebook is the idea of sampling. Let’s see, I could launch from Round Pond and visit Thief in Muscongus Bay or launch from Tenants Harbor and visit Cylends; or set out from Millbridge Town Landing to land on the bold and beautiful Bois Bubert. I am always ready to go back to Deer Isle, stay at Old Quarry, and do the Merchant Row circuit; then Jonesport Campground and paddle to the exquisite Little Water island. Just drive up for the weekend and putter around for a couple of days.
It is all eminently doable thanks to the MITA guidebook, which has now been published for 28 years. Like a sturdy oak tree, it has aged well. It still uses a lot of the original material – about 40 pages of the essentials like what to carry for safety measures, wildlife protection and viewing, camping regulations, leave no trace, what to do with waste and trash, afternoon winds and weather, and how to tie a knot or two. All of it is incredibly useful information, admonitions interspersed with basic know how.
Then come descriptions of the islands themselves, running south to north, now ending in the Canadian Maritimes. Having received this book every year for more than two decades, I flipped through, savoring many memorable visits of the place and people I was with.
The tenor has altered, from the mix of public BPL (Bureau of Parks & Lands) and privately owned islands, once nearly 50/50 split as I recall. MITA was a marriage of state and private owners who embraced and respected the spirit of mariners using their islands in the public interest. Over the years, a new cast of players has joined the ranks. Fifty concerns – land trusts, friends of, towns, a science center, a college, Audubon, Chewonki, and even the Cuckolds Fog Signal & Light Station Council, have joined the ranks, publicizing use, mostly day use only, but necessary jewels in the crown for safe navigation along the coast. It is a remarkable consortium of island owners, all joined in the spirit of providing public access. They only ask one thing, that the paddler follow the usage guidelines and restrictions, listed on the site description pages in the guidebook.
I would venture that the idea of the trail as an Appalachian Trail on water – the holy grail of paddling the full 375 miles, from Portsmouth to Cobscook Bay, spending a summer to do so, using the 200 islands and mainland sites as stepping stones – is still alive and well.
I found myself checking out, with increased interest, the islands of one acre or less which the guidebook notes would accommodate only two people; like the tiny house movement, maybe the tiny island movement will take off.
Also, I aim to use the app which is loaded with very useful information, including photos of the islands so you can get an idea of what the island looks like and land on the right one.
Summer is not summer without a trip to a Maine island. For the price of membership in MITA, you have all the information you need to make that happen. Go to MITA’s website for more.
See you on a Maine island!
Photos are copyright by Daniel E. Smith / ScenicNewEngland.net and courtesy of the Maine Island Trail Assc.

Paddling Pater on Dies Patris

So, we were actually a week off. I’m going to try to see if I can winkle another breakfast-in-bed on the actual date. As part of my wishes for Father’s Day, I wanted to go on a family paddle. 18-year-old Anton was unmoved by filial loyalty and buzzed off with his friends, but I managed to get Tammy, daughter Lilly, and her friend Dan out. Unfortunately, although the day was quite lovely, there were extremely high winds (17-45 mph) and small craft advisories, so we decided to go to the closest large lake around, Chebacco in Essex. (And, yes, if you google Lake Chewbacca, you will find a link to it, as well as to that crazy (like a fox!) Chewbacca Mom on youtube.)
We got to the lake just as a large contingent of gleaming, sparkly bass boats were leaving. The lake is small enough (~240 acres) that boats are supposed to all travel counter-clockwise. Since we mostly had the lake to ourselves, and since we hugged the windward shore, as much as one exists on a small lake, we paddled where we chose and encountered nothing worse than winds strong enough to tear my sun hat off. A short paddle, and not one I would choose except in similar conditions, but pleasant enough. I suspect that if the winds had not been so fierce, we would have found the lake covered with boats on a beautiful Sunday. Tammy took the pics with the neat camera I gave her on Mother’s Day 2015, which is why no pics of her, but I think the one of her and Hog Island at the top of the blog makes up for that.