Paddling Gear

           Now that summer weather has finally come to New England, you might be thinking about buying new gear or upgrading some of your old or worn out accessories for paddling on the ocean.  Accessories for sea kayaking, as is the case in almost all sports, are continually being improved and you might find one or two ideas in this blog-post about what you need to paddle safely.  At the end of this post I’ll list the items with my recommendations for my preferred suppliers - and you might consider including one of these either for yourself or for the significant other paddler in your life.

           First off, on any sea kayaking trip, you’ll need to take food and water, food being anything from an energy bar for a short trip to packs of fresh/pre-prepared/dried food in zip locked bags for a multi-day trip.  Water should always be available to excess (‘come home with water still in your water bottle’).  As a rule of thumb, I plan on a gallon of water a day per person in the summer so for an extended trip, as well as a ½-liter- water bottle,  you’ll need a collapsible 3-L water container. 

  Taking a break on the Maine Island Trail in Brooklin

Taking a break on the Maine Island Trail in Brooklin

            For clothing, even in summer, you’ll need rain gear – a good nylon jacket or similar will suffice - and extra clothing such as a fleece or similar synthetic – not cotton) top and bottom in case you get wet.  I'm recommending shortie wetsuits be worn at all times, at least here in Maine where the water barely gets above 60 degrees, even by the end of summer.  For safety, purchase a set of flares, a waterproof flashlight and a towline for yourself or make sure that at least one paddler in your party has these on hand.  Someone in your party should also have on board at least one spare paddle in case one gets broken or lost, this spare need not necessarily be the most expensive paddle.  You should have with you a hand-held bilge pump in case you take on water.

           Safety essentials also include a basic repair kit (consisting of items such as rope (polypropylene not nylon), duct tape and a knife and a First Aid kit which you can buy in a sealed nylon bag and which is designed specifically for boaters making short haul trips.  Indispensible for kayakers in Maine where fog is not just a possibility but a reality, a submersible VHF radio is a must in order to keep track of both weather and boats in the vicinity where you are paddling.  You’ll need a personal compass and large-scale nautical chart so you can see details within the region you’ll be paddling. Most good sea kayaks will also have a deck compass which you can use for confirmation of position and direction.

           You’ll need a good quality life vest or PFD which will give you unrestricted arm movement and for a paddle -  if you can afford one expensive item your paddle should be one which is ultra light and made of carbon-fiber.  A light paddle means you should be able to enjoy many hours of fatigue-free kayaking.

           I try to buy only top quality kayaking equipment which will not only do the job but which has a long effective lifetime.  Though there are other companies which can supply your kayaking needs, I recommend the following suppliers which have been the source for most of my supplies.

           Have fun and stay safe! 


Dromedary Bags (MSR,

Rope (US Rope and Cable,

Towline (North Water,

Flares (Orion,

Paddle (Werner,

First Aid Kit (Adventure Medical Kit,

VHF radio (Uniden,

Waterproof flashlight (REI,

Energy Bars (REI,

Nylon Jacket and extra clothing (REI,

Life Vest / PFD (Kokatat,

Compass (Silva,

Nautical Chart (Waterproof Charts,

Bilge Pump (NRS,

Wetsuit (NRS,


Book early and save on 2018 Kayak Trips



Can't wait to get out on the water? Start planning now, and take advantage of our Early Bird Deal for returning kayakers.

If you've paddled with us before, check out our Early Bird deal and save $185 on a Two-Day Trip for 2 people.  

New Season brings New Menu, New Programs and New Routes!

Food for energy on overnight trips is super-important and we plan on cooking some tasty meals using, where possible, organic ingredients from our garden. This will be the first year that our hoop greenhouse will be fully operational and we're already excited about seeing Spring crops.  Also, we've recently acquired a fold-up grill which we can carry in the kayak for grilling fish so if you're joining us, plan on some fresh-grilled fish for dinner. 

During the last two weeks of June we're planning on running four Kayaking Fitness training sessions a week to get ready for the season.  These one-hour sessions will take place on flat water at Walker Pond near Brooksville, Maine and the workouts will be based on training exercises described by Dan Henderson in his book 'Sea Kayaking: Basic Skills, Paddling techniques and Trip Planning', which I reviewed in Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine and in my Island Notebook. To participate in these training sessions, call 617-957-8802. 

Lastly, in addition to paddling to islands south of Stonington, we're planning some new kayaking routes which are accessible from Brooklin just 30 minutes drive from Deer Isle.  On two and three-day trips we'll be exploring the smaller islands around Swans Island in Blue Hill Bay and camping on one of the Maine Island Trail islands.





Medical Noticeboard

A couple of unrelated events in recent months have brought to mind two health issues which can impact sea kayakers particularly when they are on extended trips and may be far from medical help.


The first topic concerns cardiac arrest, which given the fact that the kayaking population is also an aging population, can be a concern. Many, if not all, sea kayak guides are certified as a Wilderness First Responders (successful completion of a four-week course) or at least certified in Wilderness First Aid (completion of a two-day course), and all the Maine Guides in Sea Kayaking that I know are certified to perform CPR. This has become a personal topic for me since I recently found myself in a situation overseas where CPR needed to be performed on a patient who had suffered cardiac arrest. Mouth to mouth resuscitation is not always recommended if the patient is suspected to be infectious - for example with HIV, hepatitis C or TB - and some CPR courses recommend using a specialized paper mask fitted with a filter as a barrier to prevent  cross infection. However, not everyone who is able to perform CPR carries the mask and also the simple paper mask may give only limited protection to the person doing CPR.

SOLO (Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities), a global leader in Wilderness Medical Education, recommends that persons administering CPR use a CPR Pocket Resuscitator for mouth to mouth resuscitation which minimizes the possibility of cross contamination. The device is basically a plastic mask shaped like a clamshell which fits over the patient´s mouth and incorporates a tube with a one-way valve which directs expired air from the patient away from the user. The device is cheap, easy to use and I´ve recently purchased one to carry with me in the kayak and one for the car. I suggest that those certified to perform CPR take a look at this device and perhaps buy one. It may help to save a life.

The second medical topic has to do with bee stings. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, less than 50 people a year die from an allergic reaction to a sting from a bee, hornet or wasp. However, for those who (like myself) are allergic to bee stings, a reaction which can be debilitating as well as potentially life threatening, is a real concern since bees and wasps can be found on some of the islands particularly, I have found, during meal times. Standard protocol is to carry an EpiPen, a device for delivering epinephrine into the muscle of the thigh to prevent severe allergic reaction. In the past I´ve carried an EpiPen in the kayak. The problem for myself and for others like me who are allergic, is the cost. Epipen, which is a prescription medication and is manufactured by the drug company Mylar, has a list price of around $600, and due to patent protection this has been the price for a number of years. With a shelf life of one year that becomes expensive.

Fortunately, this year a company called Impax has a similar device available which is an auto-injector which delivers epinephrine just like the Epipen. The list price is significantly less – with a CVS coupon I recently purchased one for under $40 – which a lot lighter on the wallet for folks like myself who are unfortunate enough to be allergic to bee stings. So if you´re allergic and are planning for some sea kayaking this summer, be sure to purchase the device before your trip.  

New book highlights self-directed kayaking trips in Southern Maine

New book highlights self-directed kayaking trips in Southern Maine

The southeastern corner of Maine, an area roughly bounded by the Kennebec River to the north, the Androscoggin to the west and the Saco to the south, is a region rich in possibilities for paddling on inland and sheltered coastal waters.  These rivers, fed by numerous small streams, springs and ponds, lead downstream to saltwater marshes opening out into Casco Bay at the southern tip of the Gulf of Maine.  As well as a displaying a rich diversity of plant life, the resulting wetlands are populated with a plethora of animals – a wide array of migrant birds (herons, cormorants, terns and ducks), several species of small amphibians (frogs, toads, newts) and reptiles (turtles and lizards) as well as small, and some not-so-small, mammals, like moose, deer and bear.

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New book on sea kayaking covers basic skills, paddling techniques and trip planning

New book on sea kayaking covers basic skills, paddling techniques and trip planning

It seems the last thing an already well informed and enthusiastic sea kayaker needs is one more ‘how to’ book on sea kayaking.  The basics are well covered in classics like Derek Hutchinson’s ‘Expedition Kayaking’ and John Dowd’s ‘Sea Kayaking – A Manual for Long Distance Touring’, and specific kayaking skills such as navigation can be learned from books like David Burch’s ‘Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation’.   As in all outdoor activities, ‘learn by doing, then repeat’, is preferable to reading about it.  But once in a while a book appears which stands out above the rest and ‘Sea Kayaking: Basic Skills, Paddling Techniques and Trip Planning’ by Dan Henderson may well be one of those books.  If you’ve read the rest, you might find that this book picks up where the others leave off.  And for novice paddlers, while not every chapter in the book might appeal to you, there’s a lot here that would.  

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Fascinating book by John Huth discusses navigation in a whole new way

Fascinating book by John Huth discusses navigation in a whole new way

Book Review: "The Lost Art of Finding Our Way" by John Huth 

Reviewed by Peter Jones

         I recently reviewed "The Lost Art of Finding Our Way" by John Huth for Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine and for readers who have not yet read the review in the magazine, here it is: 

         This is a highly unusual and ambitious book.  Though written by an academic - as well as being an avid sea kayaker, John Huth is Donner Professor of Science at Harvard – “The Lost Art of Finding Our Way” is intended for the general public, specifically with sea kayakers and small boat enthusiasts in mind.   It attempts, under the general theme of  ‘navigation’, to pull together such diverse fields as physics, earth and planetary science, cognitive psychology, the neurosciences, anthropology and history.  But don’t be intimidated: somehow Prof. Huth has done it and done it well.

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September 2017

Last Multi-Day Trip this Summer

    We paddled back to Stonington Town Landing last weekend in 10 - 15 mph winds just in time to miss the late afternoon downpour and the gusts which reached 30 mph later in the day.  Closely monitoring the weather during the morning, we somehow, by luck or by judgment, managed to enjoy another perfect day on the water.  While an easy paddle with sunny skies and flat water would have been our choice, the conditions as they were mean't that we had a rollercoaster of a ride getting back from Steves (sic) Island without mishap.  It was a LOT of fun.  
    We'd camped overnight on Buckle Island which has become our go to island for two-day trips.  Wind on the first day had picked up in the afternoon which mean't that rather than circling McGlathery Island we settled in and enjoyed the island serenity - it seemed even more peaceful than usual since lobster boats were in port due to the Labor Day holiday.  We saw groups of terns scurrying along a beach and also guillemots - smallish black and white birds of the puffin family - diving almost in sequence.  Gulls circled as they feasted on shellfish - clams and mussels - first cracking them open by dropping them from a height on the rocky shelves at waters edge. In the early morning we saw cormorants which go through a complicated routine of shedding water from their wings and body after diving - apparently they can dive 100's feet and do so by first soaking their feathers in water to reduce their buoyancy.  After surfacing from a dive, they spend several minutes  flapping their wings then find an exposed rock where they spread their wings wide to dry in the sun.  There they hang out in groups looking like huge vampire bats.  We also saw a kingfisher and a few ospreys diving for small fish which they catch below the surface.  We could hear bald eagles calling across the water on Spruce Island and caught a glimpse of one where they perch high up on fir trees. Eagles are far more common now and it's not unusual to see them up close from the kayak. A lone harbor seal observed us while we were drinking coffee first thing - we must have looked to be an uninteresting bunch, after a glance of just few seconds the seal dove and didn't resurface near our beach.
    We decamped and paddled away reluctantly from our two tent sites - one in the woods, one at the waters edge - not only because skies had now become grey, but more simply because we were sad to leave our island haven.

Tide and Tidal Current

    As I've written in previous newsletters, wind and fog are two of the environmental factors which we consider when planning a sea kayaking trip.  Tidal current and tide times are also factors to think about and both impact our decisions about where to go and when.
    Tide - the vertical movement of water due to the gravitational effect of the moon and sun -  affects our planning and we are always aware of whether we're paddling on an incoming or outgoing tide.  The rate of rise or fall of water is not linear but follows a sigmoidal curve - in the first hour after turn of tide, typically, water rises or falls a foot or less; during the third and fourth hours it rises or falls at three feet an hour or more. Three vertical feet may not seem a lot but in those two hours between low and high tide, for example, 10 or 20 yards of beach may be covered with water, enough to carry kayaks out to sea if they are not secured after being left on a beach.  On the other hand, on an outgoing tide, we can safely leave kayaks at the waters edge while we explore an island.
     Tidal current is horizontal movement of water resulting from tides and in this part of coast is significant in the hours right between low and high tide and is often the reason why boaters are 'swept out to sea' when not cognizant of tide times. Tidal currents, like the tide, increase when the moon is full or new (Spring currents), and decrease when the moon is at first or third quarter phases (neap currents).  Current is affected by geography - by the rising of the sea bed closer to shore and by the 'bottleneck' effect of bays, harbors and headlands - and also by the flow of water from large rivers. 
     It's useful to take both wind direction and tidal current into account when planning a route.  Wind and current together can create complex water movements which are difficult to predict and can make paddling tricky especially when wind is blowing against the direction of the current.  For example, around the islands near Brooklin, water moves in and out of Eggemoggin Reach with the tide and creates significant tidal current.  We often see whitecaps building in the early afternoon when winds are 12 mph or more and if we know that we're at maximum current speed between low and high tide, we'll always head back to the mainland to avoid 'bumpy' water. 'Reading' the water becomes another tool in the sea kayakers toolkit for having fun on the water.  

Book of the Month:  "Sea Kayak Rescue" by Robert Schumann & Jan Shriner

     Sub-titled "The Definitive Guide to Modern Reentry and Recovery Techniques", this Falcon edition published in 2001 covers all you need to know about safe paddling to prevent capsize and describes rescue techniques for recovery in the event of capsize.  Every experienced sea kayaker should know how to do deep water rescue - I do this twice, perhaps three times in a summer and I am probably typical of sea kayaking guides.  The most valuable information is knowing how not to get into trouble.  This starts with using the right gear, and is illustrated perfectly in a figure in the Guide, shown here.


In the photo, the paddler in front is wearing a wet suit, paddling jacket and PFD, and she has a paddle float, bilge pump, boat with adequate flotation, spray skirt, spare paddle and other safety gear (compass and marine chart, VHF radio, spare clothes, medical kit, repair kit, flares and strobe light).  The paddler in the back is wearing cotton, is in a 'wreck' boat and carrying no safety gear, and is a poster child for hypothermia.  A picture speaks a thousand words.

A highly recommended book for your kayaking bookshelf.


August 2017

      As I've written in previous newsletters, fog, tidal current and wind are three of the environmental factors which we consider when planning a sea kayaking trip.  In a previous newsletter I've talked about advective fog.  Fog is an occasional feature but wind of whatever speed and direction is a given.  We see wind speeds this time of year around Deer Isle anywhere from 5 knots or less to 20 knots or more and we are usually paddling in the 5 to 15 knot range. Anything more and unless we're with an advanced group, we are off the water.
       Our plan for the day will depend on the wind and starts before we leave land.  Our route will also depend on the the group, for example how physically fit group members are and whether they've had prior experience of paddling in windy conditions.  NOAAreports hourly prediction of windspeed and direction which we discuss before we leave and observe throughout the day - do the observed wind conditions agree with NOAA predictions?...can we train ourselves to know wind direction and speed by surface wind patterns on the water?...can we take advantage of the island geography to avoid the wind? do we keep the boats going in the direction we want to go when, for example, we're paddling with a beam wind which pushes the stern so that the kayaks 'weathercock' into the wind?  
       NOAA predictions of wind speed and direction are essential and useful but local geography impacts both.  When winds pick up speed we can find quiet stretches on the lee side of islands which means that we can alternate hard slog in open water with relaxed paddling on the lee side.  As mentioned, sea kayaks, being longer in the stern than in the bow tend to turn into the wind and strategies to prevent this include shifting your weight in the cockpit to one side ('edging' the boat), angling, or 'ferrying' the boat into the wind to reduce lateral exposure and even simply paddling harder or more often on the opposite side to the wind. 
       In the summer afternoons, heat rises off the land creating a partial vacuum which is then filled by air moving onshore across the colder water.  Onshore winds in the afternoon and early evening compound surface winds in both speed and direction.  This often means a hard paddle against a headwind at the end of the day.  It is also the reason why inexperienced paddlers sometimes have trouble making it back to shore.  Talking with locals who are familiar with local wind conditions is often helpful. 
       The upside of understanding the wind is that you can use it to make paddling easier and more fun.  'Surfing' in open water on a following wind, paddling into a headwind, successfully maintaining a course with a strong beam wind..these are all a lot of fun and will worth perfecting and adding to your repertoire of paddling skills.

Special Offer:

   I If you've paddled with us before and want to book a multi-day trip for at the first two weeks in September, you're eligible for a free night's stay w/ breakfast (a $95 value) before the trip.  Wake up on the morning of your trip refreshed and ready to go with no traveling involved.  Call us at 617-957-8802 to reserve this special deal.

Joys of Kayak Camping

     A couple of years ago I wrote a guest blog on 'Kayak Camping' for the blog, 'The Naked Kayaker' (nothing to do with nakedness) and by request I thought to revisit this blogpost here. For those interested in the complete post, check out the link at the end of this excerpt...
     The upside of embarking on an overnight kayak-camping trip can be huge.  At the very least, it’s a fun time where you’ll get a good work-out for a couple of days, hone your camping skills, enjoy the outdoors, and get to know some like-minded people who enjoy paddling.  At best, it can truly be a life-changing experience, particularly when you think about the interpersonal dynamics that can develop between paddling buddies - parent-son/daughter, spouses, partners, friends, siblings, etc.
     On a multi-day trip, regardless of weather and sea conditions, you’ll probably experience a certain ‘discomfort level’, hopefully minor, that can be both physical and psychological. And when things work out, which is usually the case, getting over this barrier with friends/family might just be one of the coolest things you’ll ever do in the great outdoors.  (complete blogpost)

Book of the Month:  "The Complete Sea Kayaker's Handbook" by Shelley Johnson

     First published in 2001 this 2nd edition of this popular book is packed with information which is particularly useful for the beginner to intermediate paddler planning to venture out onto the ocean on longer trips.   It's the book I recommend to anyone who asks ' Is there one book which covers all the basics?'   Well, this is it!  Topics include how to select the best kayak for you, choice of gear, the basics of paddling technique, navigating from the cockpit of a kayak as well as chapters on trip planning and logistics and kayak camping. - it's all there, including a great section on Resources and References on specific topics.  Highly recommended.