July 2016

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


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

Save a bottle, save the planet.

A couple of years ago I blogged a piece on ‘Leave No Trace’ - Keeping Islands Pristine and I've since have had many fruitful discussions with clients and other kayakers, especially folks at Maine Island Trail about this wonderful idea called Leave No Trace (LNT). I thought that now is a good time to revisit this topic but with a larger lens.

As a sea kayak guide who paddles with clients from various parts of the country who may or may not have done a lot of kayaking,  I’m often surprised at how many of these outdoor types who are familiar with Leave No Trace practices on land yet have little or no appreciation for how we may impact the environment when we spend time on the water.   So on my kayak trips, I always take time out to chat about the more subtle aspects of LNT – be considerate of others - leave what you find - plan ahead and prepare, as well as the bigee -  “Dispose of Waste Properly”.  I participate regularly in island cleanups which are organized by the Maine Island Trail Association and the majority of trash we see on and around the islands is plastic either in the form of discarded fishing tackle but, more commonly...yes, you've guessed it - plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic anything and everything.

Many folks have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex which spans the waters from the West coast of North America to Japan. You can read about it here.  The Patch is formed by the cycling of four ocean gyres or vortices which are fed by ocean currents.  A plastic water bottle discarded off the coast of California, for instance, takes the California Current south toward Mexico. There, it may catch the North Equatorial Current, which crosses the vast Pacific. Near the coast of Japan, the bottle may travel north on the powerful Kuroshiro Current. Finally, the bottle travels westward on the North Pacific Current.   And its journey ends at the convergence of these currents where, over time, it degrades -  read on.

There's been a lot less focus on the accumulation of trash in the Atlantic Ocean, but a recent article in National Geographic describes a garbage patch which sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Its east-west span is unknown but the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia.  A comparable system of ocean currents which I've described in the Pacific ocean are in play here on our Atlantic coast and so, yes, plastic trash deposited off the Maine coast may well end up traveling 100's of miles out to sea.

The problem of plastics in the water is a complex one.  It’s not just the unsightliness of debris – debris accumulates because much of it is not biodegradable -  many plastics, do not wear down; they are simply broken down by the sun (photo-degradation) into tinier and tinier pieces called microplastics which then enter the food chain.   As well as causing physical harm to mammals, fish, invertebrates such as shellfish and birds,  colorants and chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to environmental and health problems are leached out into the water and can enter the food chain when consumed by marine life. As microplastics and other trash collect on or near the surface of the ocean, they block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below. Algae and plankton are the most common autotrophs, or producers, in the marine food web. Autotrophs are organisms that can produce their own nutrients from oxygen, carbon, and sunlight. If algae and plankton communities are threatened, the entire food web may change. Animals that feed on algae and plankton, such as some marine mammals, fish and turtles, will have less food. If populations of those animals decrease, there will be less food for apex predators such as tuna, sharks, and whales.

Check out this great YouTube on trash and microplastics Video from Channel One.

Cleaning up marine debris is not as easy as it sounds. Many microplastics are the same size as small marine creatures, so nets designed to scoop up trash would catch these creatures as well. Even if we could design nets that would just catch garbage, the size of the oceans makes this job far too time-consuming to consider. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program has estimated that it would take more than 50 ships one year to clean up less than one percent of the North Pacific Ocean.  The scale of clean-up in the Atlantic would be similar.

So, it's really all about how we act on the water, what we discard and whether we give any thought to the larger impact of our small actions, such as absolutely no plastictrash.   And as I caution my clients to observe “Leave No Trace’ principles, I try to emphasize that it’s more than just about keeping these islands looking good.  It’s literally about the future of Planet Earth - hardly what we want to be thinking about as we enjoy our hours or days in our kayaks on the water.   The other side of the coin, however, is that we can feel good every time we don’t ‘lose’ that plastic bottle over the side, or better yet, when we carry home something plastic that someone else has left behind and then ‘picking up’ becomes one more part of ‘ Finding Your Inner Paddler’.

Close Encounter with Epic Kayak

In April 2014 my blog-post ‘Epic Kayak – Sea Kayaking’s Apple Computer’, proved to be my most viewed post - and as I look back over the past couple of years of paddling these amazing boats I thought it a good time to revisit Epic.  The comparison with Apple computer is an apt one, Epic also recognized for being masters of kayak design, innovation and originality.  Unlike Apple Computer, however,  Epic’s products don’t come with a premium price-tag since Epic, like Apple, outsource their manufacturing to China; like Apple, brand loyalty is high – I own 2 Epic kayaks - and it’s not that unusual for some Epic paddlers to own two or more Epic boats.

Over the past two years, I’ve paddled the 16X and the 18X for well over 100 hours each and I’ve come to appreciate their design attributes – the flaws as well as the features I’ve come to like.  As I’ve said before, Epics are highly engineered boats with a smartly designed, fully adjustable and retractable rudder (the Epic Track Master™) that can be used with the forward stroke in a way that beats hands down rudder rigs that I have seen on any other kayak.  I don’t have rudders on my other sea kayaks but I do use the Epic Track Master and I find that it enhances the power of the forward stroke particularly when (and this may not look too elegant) it’s combined with some edge.  The Track Master is super-responsive and just a light touch goes a long way.   

The contoured (nice touch!) seat slides into to several fixed positions and is secured in front with a spring-loaded peg – I’ve found this to be a bit problematic since if any sand gets stuck in the slider which houses the peg, it jams.  There is usually some sand in any water in the bottom of the boat and so I find I’m constantly having to un-jam the slider. 

One of the things I like the most is their perceived lightness on the water.  This is obviously largely due their weight characteristics – they’re about 10lbs lighter than conventional fiber-glass sea kayaks of similar length and width – but the lightness is due to more than that. Hull shape is extreme - these boats are rounded!! - way at the far end of the ‘soft-chine scale’.  I find that for leaning and edging for turns to avoid rocks or to paddle in waves or in swell, you’re much more active below deck in these boats than in conventional sea kayaks simply because Epics are so much more responsive and every little movement below deck has a big effect.  The other oft-touted feature which is due to hull shape is their speed - firstly, they are far easier to take from zero to full paddling speed than are conventional sea-kayaks and secondly, once you've reached full paddling speed,  it's easier to maintain it.  The downside is lack of stability.  I’ve found that in a heavy chop, such as the kind we see in Stonington Harbor on a late summer afternoon, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain balance if you’re not moving.  For that reason, these are kayaks I do not recommend for beginning sea kayakers.  But once a relative beginner or an intermediate paddler feels comfortable in the conditions we see in a P&H or a NDK kayak, then we’ll often switch boats and then I’ve found that the learning curve to paddle fairly well is short – no-one has tipped yet!

I generally feel that for kayak touring along granite shorelines and especially when landing with overnight gear, that Epics are not as tough as are conventional fiber-glass sea kayaks.  They seem to be built more for speed and agility on the water than for hauling in and out on beaches littered with stones and jagged granite outcrops. That’s just a personal opinion of course and others obviously disagree - Freya Hoffmeister encountered extreme conditions while famously circumnavigated Australia in an Epic 18X and who am I to argue with her choice of kayak?  Lastly, aesthetically, these are truly fantastic boats and a joy to paddle – they feel good and they look good.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been stopped by a perfect stranger in a car-park while trailering or by a boater on the water and I hear something like “Hey, looks great…what boat is that, where did you get it?”  So if you haven’t paddled one yet, go for it - you’ll be amazed at what a truly high-performance sea-kayak feels like.

Guided Kayak Trips and Camping in Maine-5979.jpg

Holiday Gift Ideas


            It’s getting on for the end of the year and most folks’ thoughts are turning more to cold weather sports or warm fireside activities rather than sea kayaking in the cold waters of central Maine.  But with the holidays coming on you might find one or two ideas hidden away in this blog-post about ‘what you need to paddle safely’.  So, for some holiday gift ideas, read on… and 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 in your Holiday List 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. 

            For clothing, 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.  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 can recommend the following suppliers which have been the source for most of my supplies.

           Happy holidays and have fun with your gift-giving! 


Dromedary Bags (MSR, www.msrgear.co.nz)

Rope (US Rope and Cable, www.us-rope-cable.com)

Towline (North Water, www.northwater.com)

Flares (Orion, www.orionsignals.com)

Paddle (Werner, www.wernerpaddles.com)

First Aid Kit (Adventure Medical Kit, www.first-aid-product.com)

VHF radio (Uniden, www.uniden.com)

Waterproof flashlight (REI, http://www.rei.com)

Energy Bars (REI, http://www.rei.com)

Nylon Jacket and extra clothing (REI, http://www.rei.com)

Life Vest / PFD (Kokatat, www.kokatat.com)

Compass (Silva, www.silvacompass.com)

Nautical Chart (Waterproof Charts, www.waterproofcharts.com)

Bilge Pump (NRS, www.nrs.com)

A Short Personal History of Deer Isle

“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 ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods

            We ‘discovered’ Deer Isle in 1979 when I was a graduate student in Zoology at UM at Orono.  I needed specimens for my Masters Thesis project and we’d just come back from Peekskill, NY where we’d collected fingerling striped bass from the Hudson and I’d divided my ‘catch’ of a couple hundred tiny fish into three huge tanks, each tank set at very different temperatures.  The research plan was to measure in developing fish the effect of water temperature on their biochemistry (for those pescatophiles out there, you can read about this project in the Journal of Experimental Zoology…


             We were in dire need of a break so that summer we went on a camping trip - myself, Christine and our one-year-old son, Ian - to this magical place we had heard about called Deer Isle.   “Range Seven” on Deer Isle was a campground in name only.  There were no facilities except an outhouse and seven clearings for tents under some trees overlooking a perfect bay where we could collect shells and small crabs for Ian and sit in the evenings and watch the sun go down over the water.  We’d borrowed an old canvas tent and a Coleman stove with a double burner and had brought cooking pots and plates and cups etc. from our kitchen in University housing.   What more did we need?  We spent a blissful week there at our small campsite and vowed to return as often as we could.  Which we did - many times over the following years.

          “Range Seven” now no longer exists, we tried to find it thirty-five years after our first visit and strolled around the area where we thought it had been.  There were the same old trees and there was the same view of the bay but now the outhouse was gone and the spot had been spruced up and turned into a park, ‘Mariners Memorial Park’, which is not altogether a bad thing since now it is available for all to enjoy.  For one small piece of shore-front land to go from private ownership and ‘minimalist camping’ to become an area owned by a conservation land trust is not at all uncommon in Deer Isle and Stonington and that’s a good thing.     The Island Heritage Trust http://www.islandheritagetrust.org/faqs.html and The Maine Island Trail  http://www.mita.org are just two of the organizations which either own or administer land ‘for the public good’ and though progress of a different kind is clearly evident in other parts of the state, this is the kind of progress we as outdoors enthusiasts wholeheartedly appreciate and support. 


Christine, myself, Ian and Derek at Range Seven in 1983            

          In 2004 Chris and went back for a short visit to the area.  We were looking for a property which we could rent out in summers to vacationers and which we could use ourselves in the shoulder seasons – May, June, September and October.  On Deer Isle, we found just what we were looking for, an affordable house with some open land, near to the water which could serve as our ‘getaway home'.  The house we chose was located on Hardy’s Hill in Deer Isle and was still owned by the Hardy family.  It had once served, a century before, as an overnight stop for folks who’d taken had taken the ferry from the mainland to Ferry Landing at the bottom of Ferry Lane, just opposite what is now The Inn at Ferry Landing, which sits today at the bottom of the hill overlooking the site of the landing. For the whole of the first year after we’d bought what became ‘Hardy’s Hill House’, we traveled up from Gloucester most weekends to work on the house, which had not been lived in for almost ten years.  We weathered a major leak in the heating system the first winter, a collapsed basement wall the following year and then a dried-up water supply five years later.  Other activities like scraping off what seemed like acres of century-old layers of wallpaper, removing old carpets, re-sanding floors and replacing old plumbing fixtures became our ‘hobby’ and slowly the house came back to life.  We rented out the house ‘by the week’ to families for ten summers and then in 2014 we changed the model and now the house is open primarily for kayakers staying one or two nights for their kayaking trip with Driftwood Kayak.

            ‘Hardy’s Hill House’ continues to evolve and we like to think that it’s so fitting that once again the house serves travelers in a way similar to the way it did more than a century ago.

Deep-water Rescue

Deep water rescue may be something you’re thinking about as you head out on your first kayaking trip some distance from shore, “What do I do if I tip”, “How do I get back in my kayak” and even “I’m outside my comfort zone, I’m not happy about this”.  First, capsize is much less common than you’d think in a small boat like a kayak, and even long skinny kayaks with a rounded hull shape are more stable than you’d think.  ‘Think like a bike’ works – as you gain speed you gain stability and often the best solution to feeling you’re unstable and might tip is just to paddle forward and get up some speed.  A short time spent practicing the low brace in shallow water as you start out on your trip will increase your confidence for paddling in rougher water. 

On any paddling trip where you’re paddling away from the shoreline and into conditions where you’re likely to encounter waves and swell and wind, your guide or group leader would have discussed with you how to prevent a capsize and what to do if you do find yourself in the water.  (S)he is well-practiced in the procedure for deep water rescue and for getting you back in your boat and will give you on-the-spot instructions for what you should do. 

On your onshore safety briefing you will have talked about a ‘Wet Exit’, that is, how to exit your kayak in the water.  You just remember three words ‘Tuck, Pull, Push’.  

            If you tip and you’re upside down:

                        1. Tuck - bend your trunk forward

                        2. Pull - grab the loop on the front your spray-skirt and pull

                        3. Push - move your hands to the cockpit edge behind your hips and push up

The procedure for getting you back in your kayak can be broken down into a few simple steps.  It’s tricky to describe in words and is best understood visually - there's a video at the end of this post which explains the process. 

First - listen to your rescuer he/she will tell you exactly what to do. 

Second – hold onto your paddle and your kayak. 

1.    Your rescuer will tell you to make your way to her kayak, hand over your paddle, and hold on to her cockpit while she gets the water out of your boat. 

2.    Make your way back to your boat and, facing the stern, pull your trunk out of the water and lie across the back deck face-down with your legs under the front deck. 

3.    Twist your body around so you are sitting in your seat and… once your instructor attaches your sprayskirt and gives you back your paddle… before you know it, you are in!  Congratulations! 

With your rescuer instructing you every step of the way the process is not as hard to do as it sounds and in practice the whole process can take just a couple of minutes.  We don’t generally do practice runs of the deep water rescue on our trips because of course it means you do get wet.

But we’d be happy to demo if you’d like.

 Safe Paddling!

Some thoughts about Kayak Navigation

Some thoughts about Kayak Navigation

Navigation may not be something you need to think about if you’re on a guided tour since you are probably more inclined to follow the route your guide has chosen for the day.   But just as on any journey - walking, cycling, driving etc. - if you have a map and you know where you’re going, you may find you appreciate the trip on a whole new level.  You’ll pick out features on the water such as marker buoys or small islands,  you’ll get an appreciation for distance and how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B and you can adjust your paddling accordingly.  And you’ll be a lot more aware of your surroundings when you’re kayaking if you look at a marine chart before setting out and while you’re paddling.

Read More

My first sea kayak was a Mendesta...

My interest in kayaking goes back to a time when people were still saying “The Beatles, who are they?”   Kayaking (or canoeing as it was known in the UK) as a sport was then truly in its infancy.  Although fiberglass kayaks were available, most of the kayaks you saw were made of wood and canvas and probably built by their owners.  They tended to be clunky affairs, with frames of wood strips fastened with tiny brass screws, with nicely varnished gunwales and cockpit combings and they had brass O-rings at the stern and bow to attach a  ‘painter’ – a length of tow-rope – at each end of the boat.  They were finished with several coats of marine paint over their canvas skins.  A canvas spray cover was attached to the cockpit with stainless steel snaps and they tended to swamp and unsnap when a wave washed over the deck.  And each kayak looked like a boat that had been lovingly, if not expertly, constructed.   A canvas kayak was typically multi-patched since especially on river runs you would inevitably hit bottom and then there would be patching to do before the next day.  Double kayaks were the norm and it was said that if you had problem with kids fighting you’d put them in a double kayak for a day and they’d soon learn to get along.

At my school canoe club we had built several skin-on-frame double kayaks and after two or three years had become expert in reading scale drawings, in cutting and stretching canvas, sanding frames and varnishing and painting.  Our kayaks were dubbed PBK1, PBK2, etc., since the designs all came from Percy Blandford, one the few kayak designers of owner-built kayaks in business at that time.  Skin-on-frame double kayaks are impossible to roll - if you tipped, which we did with regularity, you came out and towed your boat to shore.  In fact, on our many kayaking trips down the Wye River in Wales from Glasbury to Monmouth, capsizing became a way of life for the duration of each trip.  Recovery methods revolved around: a) how to keep your gear dry in a capsize - plastic bags, b) how not to lose your gear - tie everything in, and c) how to efficiently tow your boat to shore with life and limb intact - grab hold of a painter, swim and hope for the best.   On one occasion I remember, boy made it to shore but partly submerged kayak was seen floating downstream, recovered by an onlooker who drove down river, retrieved the boat and delivered it to us the next day.

Stitch-and-glue kayak construction was the next stage in the evolution of the club and we later built a single 17-foot single kayak from marine plywood.  It was a sleek boat, you could carry it with one hand and only the best paddlers in the club got to use it.  The deck and hull were attached to six marine plywood ribs with half-inch copper nails, temporarily stitched to each other with copper wire then taped with two-inch fiber glass weave and the hull reinforced on the inside with a fiberglass sheet. The deck was strengthened with a layer of resin on the inside, and the outside painted with three coats of marine paint.  The kayak was the first kayak we had that you could roll. It also tracked well in the ocean and it marked our move from river trips to ocean trips. 

One Spring, three of us spent ten days, guests of Atlantic College at Llantwit Major in the Bristol Channel, learning the Eskimo roll in their heated outdoor pool and later practicing paddling, rolling and rescues in the surf, which is big in that part of Wales.  Atlantic College was a mecca for mountaineering and orienteering as well as sea kayaking.  Interestingly, Atlantic College was where rigid-hull inflatable boats, now used globally as sea rescue craft, were developed and patented by Rear Admiral Desmond Hoare, founder of the College.  Their kayaks were fiberglass, made by Mendesta, a Belgian company now no longer in business.  Mendestas were designed as slalom boats, short - around 15 feet – and were perfect for heavy surf paddling.  Some time later I bought a used Mendesta from David Sutcliffe, German teacher at Atlantic College, protégé of Desmond Hoare, and joint editor of ‘Canoeing Complete’ (Kaye, London, 1966), one of the seminal kayaking books of that time.   I paddled the Mendesta on rivers, lakes and on the Welsh coast until I left Wales and gave up kayaking for the next twenty five years. 

In 1994 I made another stick-and-glue kayak.  The rest, as they say, is history.