September Newsletter

Welcome back!

Thanks for subscribing to this newsletter, we hope you enjoy these brief monthly updates.  You can always check out what's new at Driftwood Kayak at the Driftwood Kayak website or by following us on Facebook.

Kindness of Strangers
"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
- Blanche DuBois in Tennesee Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.

   Driftwood Kayak's 1-day and multi-day trips usually go without a hitch.  But, as in life, not always.  Sometimes we do all we can to make things work but the unexpected happens and it's then that we look around for some help.  Three such recent incidents come to mind.  Strangers went out of their way to help out as they often do and saved the day.

1. The Bilge Pump
We found ourselves at the put-in in Stonington with three kayaks loaded and ready for a 3-day kayak - camping trip.  After checking all my gear, I found that we 'd brought everything we needed except a bilge-pump.  A bilge-pump is an essential piece of equipment in the event of a capsize, and going back to get it would put us a couple of hours behind schedule.  Just then,  Noel and his family were arriving at the put-in.  They had been on a 4-day kayaking trip and were starting to unload their boats ready for the drive back to Washington, DC.  When he heard of my predicament, without hesitation, Noel saved the day and handed over his bilge-pump with a smile and a "just mail it when you get back".  Thanks Noel!

 2. The Destroyed Tire
We'd planned an all-day trip out of Brooklin and had just dropped off the boats on the beach at the water's edge.  We were now shuttling back to the house to take kayakers to the put-in.  Suddenly - it must have been a nail - a warning light flashed red and I could hear the ominous sound of a rear-wheel puncture - the tire was dead flat.  I was on a country road, there were no houses in sight and I had left my phone in my kayak at the beach.  I drove a little way, slowly, slowly, and then further, trying not to damage the wheel.  I rolled into the driveway of a solitary farmhouse in Sedgwick.  John came to the door. Inside, Clarence - in his 90's and wearing a military-style Navy baseball cap, greeted me quietly and told me that when he was much younger, he had fought on the Korean Peninsula.  And John was more than happy to let me use their landline to call AAA.  Long story short, within the hour I was back at the beach and we were pushing off from shore for a full day on the water.  Thanks, John and thanks, Clarence!

3. The Missing Kayakers
The details of the event are below (see 'Safety First').  Two 'missing kayakers' were paddling out of sight in 10 - 15 knot winds in mid-afternoon.  I was out looking for them when I chanced upon a small sailing-boat which was moored off McGlathery Island just south of Stonington.  Jeremy and his family who were from Portland, ME, were sitting down in the boat to an early dinner.  Without missing a beat, Jeremy offered his time and his Zodiac to help find them.  We circled McGlathery in winds that were becoming stronger by the minute without any luck.  Since it was getting towards late afternoon, we decided to go back to see if the two kayakers were at our starting point at our campsite.   We were overjoyed to see that they were.  Jeremy, you were simply amazing.  Thanks, Jeremy! 
 

Sudden Storms

   This month's Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine has a very nice article on storms which appear apparently out of nowhere, storms which may not be in the weather forecast.  What to do in the face of unpredicted weather is something we often face here in Maine - with its juxtaposition between warm air currents and relatively warm waters to the south and the colder weather and seas to the north. Maine also has a complex coastal geography, largely the result of the five major rivers which flow south at the coast and these contribute to the sometimes unpredictable weather patterns we see on the coast. 

Tamsin Venn, the magazine's publisher and author of this article has compiled opinions from local kayaking 'thought leaders' on what to do in the face of a sudden unexpected storm when you have a sea kayaking trip planned.  Do you cancel the trip or proceed with extra caution? Knowing what to do and how to effectively monitor the changing weather requires a combination of technical experience and of 'local knowledge' - that elusive quality that comes with the passage of time.  Sharing experiences with other kayakers, with 'the locals' and with kayaking guides are a good way of gaining knowledge about local weather patterns.  Being 'prepared for the worst' is a good standby motto.  Canceling a trip is always a tough call but making that call can be a lifesaver, or at least a decision that in the end means you're just as eager the next time to gear yourself up for a trip.  I'd highly recommend that anyone paddling in unfamiliar waters in Maine get a copy of the article, in the September issue of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker (Vol 25, No. 6, p. 25).

Safety First

   I'm not a proponent of renting kayaks to paddlers vacationing in this part of Maine.  It's likely that vacationers are not familiar with the dynamic tides, currents and wind which can cause trouble.  Which is why my trips are 'guided' only. I was recently on a 3-day trip with a father-and-son group and one afternoon after we'd made camp on island, they suggested taking the kayaks out for a short paddle while I took it easy on the island.  The weather looked good, they were both strong, though not experienced, paddlers, and I said sure.  Just minutes after they'd left and as I was watching them from the beach, the wind seemed to pick up and almost before my eyes, white-caps appeared on the water, suggesting 10mph winds or more.  Suddenly I felt uneasy and thought I would catch up them 'just in case'.  I jumped in my kayak and 10 minutes later with the wind picking up found myself battling close to 15mph winds with no other kayaks in sight.   To cut a long story short, after an hour of heavy paddling and of asking various boaters in the area if they had seen other kayaks, I chanced upon a veteran coastguard employee who happened to be sailing with his family. The two of us scoured the area in his Zodiac, finding nothing.  We returned to the campsite and found that our two friends had made it back safely.  We had been within minutes of making in a 'Missing Persons' call to the Coastguard and were relieved, to say the least, that we did not have to.  'All's well that ends well' was a phrase that came to mind and later the three of us had a lot to say about kayaking safety.  Lesson learned - know and plan for unexpected conditions and only venture out on the ocean in conditionsyou can handle.  Stay tuned for more details on this in an upcoming Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine issue.

Island of the Month:
Green Island

Freshwater swimming hole at Green Island just south of Stonington.

Access to the island, which is about 48 acres, is on its southeastern side where there's a small cove with a rocky beach where you can land in kayaks.  Behind the beach is a path to a small meadow, a loop trail, and the swimming hole which is in an old quarry. You can camp on the island which has some fantastic views of the Camden Hills to the west and of the Merchant Islands to the north.

“We need the tonic of wildness…at the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because it is unfathomable”
 - Henry David Thoreau, in ‘Walden: or, Life in the Woods’.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
 - Jacques Yves Cousteau.

“The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators”

- Edward Gibbon.

'"There is no path to kayaking happiness, kayaking happiness is the path."
- Anon.

August Newsletter

Welcome back!

Thanks for subscribing to this newsletter, we hope you enjoy these brief monthly updates.  You can always check out what's new at Driftwood Kayak at the Driftwood Kayak website or by following us on Facebook.

Maine Island Trail and Microplastics

   Driftwood Kayak recently contributed a blog-post entitled "The Maine Island Trail and Microplastics" to the Maine Island Trail Association's (MITA) "Tales of the Trail" series, which appears regularly in their online newsletter.  MITA organizes semi-annual island cleanups of all the islands which they oversee to help keep Trail sites looking good.  But that's not the only reason for the clean-ups - we're also helping to lower the plastic footprint in the form of marine debris left behind by kayakers, lobstermen and other boaters.

Location of the Pacific Trash Vortex

Location of the Pacific Trash Vortex

 

   Marine debris cause a myriad of environmental problems. Much of the debris is plastic which doesn't readily bio-degrade and simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces - microplastics - which are nearly impossible to remove and which are harmful to marine life.  Creation of the 'Pacific Trash Vortex' is well-documented.  Less well-known is the pooling of trash in the Atlantic waters.   The blog-post discusses the impact of microplastics on the waters we paddle and beyond, and why it's so important to "Leave No Trace."

You can read the full blog-post here...

The Joys of Kayak Camping

   Nena Vandebroek's "The Naked Kayaker" (nothing to do with nakedness!) is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but earlier posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where Nena writes about coastal engineering and hydrology.

   Driftwood Kayak recently contributed a guest-blog to The Naked Kayaker, "The Joys of Kayak-Camping".  Here's an 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.IAnd if it's your first overnight trip overnight trip, you may find you actually connect in a new way with your 'minimalist side'.
  
   You’ve paddled hard all day and reached the island...you're helping your kayaking buddy carry his/her kayak over that slippery bank of seaweed to find that perfect spot of sand above the high tide mark where you'll park your boat for night. You both eye the small clearing beyond the beach where you'll pitch your tent before the sun goes down. You’ve faultlessly navigated your way to the spot you’ve been talking about all afternoon. Now, if you can just get out of those damp kayaking clothes, put on your favorite cotton shirt, pitch your tent, and open up that bottle of Malbec while your gourmet specialty dish bubbles away on that amazing little WhisperLight stove…
  
   ...then, (to paraphrase Steve Jobs), 'the light-bulb might go off' and suddenly you 'get it'.... You don’t have to be anywhere right now except here. Tonight and tomorrow seem to stretch endlessly before you, and you find that, yes, you really are living in the moment.
  
   I’ve come to believe that multi-day kayak-camping can take you into a whole new dimension of experiencing the outdoors, largely because of a shift in your perception of both time and motion, which can translate to a much deeper level of experience.  Albert Einstein once said that, "In this world there are two forms of time - there's mechanical time and there is body time.  The first is unyielding, predetermined.  The second makes up its mind as it goes along.  Each time is true, but the truths are not the same." - Read more...

Porpoises at Stonington

   We'd just reached the harbor after a 3-day kayak - camping trip to Isle au Haut and islands south of Stonington.  Just as we finally found the entrance to the fresh-water swimming hole on Crotch Island, we discovered that at low tide there was not enough water to reach the entrance and we couldn't walk over the mud-flat - the mud was just too deep.  We reluctantly gave up on our plans for a refreshing swim, vowing one day to return at high tide when there'd be sufficient water access.

   We had an hour or so on the water before we'd rendez-vous with our pick-up at the agreed time at the town-landing.  So, instead, we slowly paddled along the shore and into one of the the waterfront working sections of the town, to check out Billings Boatyard from the water.  Two of us had gone on ahead and sat in our two kayaks, a few feet apart, waiting for the others to catch up.

   We were both relaxed,  scanning the water, looking at buoys, small boats, abandoned dock pilings and seagulls as they swooped down searching for mussels and other shellfish. 
  
   Then out of nowhere, between the two kayaks, there rose out of the water and into the air what seemed like an enormous fish, two feet or so in diameter and perhaps five feet long.  It was so close the kayak rocked side to side.  One of us screamed (not me :).  The animal disappeared.  Then quick as a flash, another huge, curved form came up out of the water between us and it was another and this time I could see its face from the side and its muscular, green-gray body and its dorsal fin. Porpoises! Curious animals, there was no doubt they'd seen our white hulls and had swum over to investigate.  Porpoises are sociable and are known to be attracted to moving boats.  From a distance they may even have thought we were fellow porpoises - who knows?

   It was an amazing experience to see these animals in the wild, and close enough to reach out and touch them.  Missing out on our visit to the watering-hole now didn't seem so important.  There'd been no time to reach for a camera.  But, you know, I'm glad.  I'm just happy to still have that split-second memory of marine wild-life up close.

Safety First

   This year Driftwood Kayak has recommended that kayakers wear shortie wetsuits.  In the summertime we're paddling when the air temperature may be 80 or 85 degrees in the middle of the day.  However, the water temperature in the water may only be in the mid- to high- fifties.  A quick dip at that temperature wearing a swimsuit may be fine,  but any length of time in the water more than that becomes hazardous or worse.  If a kayaker falls out of a kayak in deep water and is not able to self-rescue or for some reason cannot be rescued by a guide or a fellow paddler, then hypothermia will rapidly set in.  There have been enough serious incidents in Maine coastal waters in recent years - some of them tragic - to alert paddlers to dress appropriately.  Experienced sea kayakers wear wetsuits or drysuits during Spring and Autumn.  'Dress for immersion' should also become the norm for all recreational sea kayakers in Maine in the summer months.

Island of the Month:
Harbor Island

Looking west from the hill on Harbor Island at mid-day. 

Looking west from the hill on Harbor Island at mid-day. 

Harbor Island is just north of Isle au Haut, it has some fine camping sites with fantastic views of the Camden Hills to the west and of the Merchant Islands to the north.

“We need the tonic of wildness…at the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because it is unfathomable”
 - Henry David Thoreau, in ‘Walden: or, Life in the Woods’.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
 - Jacques Yves Cousteau.

“The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators”

- Edward Gibbon.

'"There is no path to kayaking happiness, kayaking happiness is the path."
- Anon.

July Newsletter

Welcome back!

Thanks for subscribing to this newsletter, we hope you enjoy these brief monthly updates.  You can always check out what's new at Driftwood Kayak at the Driftwood Kayak website or by following us on Facebook (stand by for more Facebook activity now that summer is here).

Three-Day Trip

We had our first three-day trip in June and had a fine time in all respects.  Three of us left Stonington Harbor early in the afternoon after some discussion about our route and plans for the day.  We each had a deck compass and one of us carried a marine chart of the area.  We carried food for three days - pre-made meals which were frozen and kept cold in the bottom of each boat.  We took frozen food rather than dried camp food simply because it tastes better and is actually easier to prepare in a camp environment.  This decision turned out to be a good one and we later agreed that the meals were a great success.

Our base-camp was on Buckle Island, one of three private islands on the Maine Island Trail.  It's a small, uninhabited island, no more than a quarter of a mile across, wooded with mostly Eastern Pine and Red Spruce, and with a long granite ledge on the north and rising sandbar on the east side where you can watch the sun come up over Mount Desert Island.  Which we did!  We established our kitchen on the beach and from there launched our boats on the second day south towards Harbor Island just off Isle au Haut and then on the third day back towards Russ Island and Stonington Harbor.

We had good weather, clear skies and little wind except on the last day when the paddle back to Stonington was a challenge against a gusty south-west wind.  During the trip, we visited several of the islands in Merchant Row - McGlathery, Bills and Pell, each of which has its own special character.  We resisted the temptation to bring back souvenirs of the trip - rocks, shells, driftwood etc., leaving 'only our footprints behind'.  Instead we took photographs of artistic creations one of us made out of fragments of urchin shell and beach glass.  When we arrived back at Driftwood Kayak and had cleaned out the kayaks, put away the gear and washed out our dry-bags it seemed as if we'd been away for a week!

Island Art - sea urchin and beach-glass

Island Art - sea urchin and beach-glass

Dry-bags after a trip

Dry-bags after a trip

Evolution of a Sign

Four years ago, Chris McClay of Modern Vegan made it known to me that Driftwood Kayak needed a road-sign.  How else would people find us? 

In the tradition implied by its name, the first sign was written on... yes, driftwood.  Eclectic, artistic, cutesy and very much 'of Maine', it was carved and embossed by Derek on a piece of driftwood using his unique style of design which pretty much represented what Driftwood Kayak was in the first couple of years and still sits proudly at the entrance to the house.

DK Sign Vers.001

DK Sign Vers.001

The next iteration was digital, informative and more, well..like a sign...

DK Sign Vers.002

DK Sign Vers.002

With help from Jessica Egmont of Eggs Nest Studio, Version 3 was more line with, yes, the Driftwood Kayak brand.  Complete with teal-colored text and 'swish', passive solar lights, bordered with reflective tape, it may even be visible from Caterpillar Hill, three miles away.

Now that's evolution in action :)

DK Sign Vers.003

DK Sign Vers.003

Safety First

Safety is our Number One priority when out on the water.  When the air temperature is 70 or 80 degrees in June, the water temperature can be in the 50's.  Immersion for any length of time at that temperature is hazardous and potentially life-threatening.   We are a 'coastal kayaking' company and do not venture out into 'open water' where in a summer squall, seas of 5 or 6 feet are not uncommon.  We practice all standard safety procedures and carry at all times the following - VHF radio for coast-guard communication, chart and compasses, repair kit and medical kit, spare clothes, bilge pump and paddle-float, strobe-light, flares and whistles, tow-rope, food and water.  We wear PFDs at all times and leave a 'Float Plan' when we paddle away from shore with word of our route and expected return time.  We take particular note of weather and tide conditions, and use 'local knowledge' to watch out for hazards - shipping lanes, current and weather patterns and of 'safe havens' to aim for if needed.  We have experience and training in self-rescue and deep-water rescue techniques in the conditions we see here in this region.  In short, we do everything we can to guarantee safe paddling.  We are now encouraging everyone to wear wet-suits when the water temperature is below 60 degrees.  We can provide these or you can bring your own.  Just one more level of safety to reduce risk when having fun in this amazing wilderness environment.

Island of the Month:
Buckle Island

P6170017.jpg

Looking south from the beach at Buckle Island during a full moon.

We need the tonic of wildness…at the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because it is unfathomable.
— Henry David Thoreau, in ‘Walden: or, Life in the Woods’
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever
— Jacques Yves Cousteau
There is no path to kayaking happiness,...kayaking happiness is the path
— Anon