August 2016

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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.