Broken Group Islands - first half

Well I’m not sure where the week went but I wanted to finish posting about my kayaking trip before I head out on my bicycle trip! I think I’ll try to weave the various topics of packing, food, and certain locations into one long post, so here goes!

Getting there: In my route post I mentioned the basic route for each day. We had two weeks to work with for this trip so we had plenty of time for getting to and from our put-in location. Many people will do a little extra driving to get to the Toquart Bay Campground and Marina as a starting point. This requires about an extra 3km paddle to reach the islands, but is a lot cheaper. Richard hadn’t been paddling a lot so we agreed to do a more leisurely trip, which included taking the M.V. Frances Barkley from Port Alberni using the Lady Rose Marine Service (I keep calling it a ferry but Richard keeps correcting me saying it is a freighter). This would put us in at Sechart channel, a lot closer to the group of islands we were going to paddle.

About a month before our trip we were at SSTIKS and in talking to some folks we got to know Dorothea from Vancouver Island who very kindly offered to let us stay at the house she was working on in Port Alberni. Since there is only one departure option on certain days of the week (8am each M, W, F, and Su) we knew we’d have to stay the night somewhere so this worked out perfectly. We took the afternoon Anacortes-Sidney ferry, drove up to Port Alberni and stayed the night at Dorothea's. From there it was an extremely short drive to the dock. 

Here I am the morning of our departure with Dorothea in front of her place (it is up for sale if anyone is interested!). 


She had dessert for us the night we arrived and had breakfast ready for us in the morning, it was like our own bed and breakfast! She also dropped us off at the freighter to see us off then kept our car for us while we were gone. Sincere thanks Dorothea, for all the help and a fantastic sendoff.

At the dock, we were given a 3’ x 3’ bin for our gear. This included all of our food and water too so we used two just to avoid crushing anything.



They used a crane to then load all of the full bins.


They hand loaded the empty kayaks as well.


This ferry, sorry – freighter, was a gorgeous three-hour cruise down the Alberni Inlet.


We landed at the Sechart lodge where we attended a very brief “orientation” for some basic does and don’ts in the National Park while they unloaded all the bins and kayaks (there were about a dozen other kayakers, many getting rentals from the lodge).


After our orientation it was time to load the kayaks and by about 1pm we were ready to paddle out. Our first day we paddled to Hand Island in hopes of seeing hundreds of starfish we were told might be in the bay there. It was a tad windy but we got through it ok and found a nice sheltered beach. No starfish but a quick glimpse of the area and I quickly recognized what a beautiful trip we were going to have.


From here we headed on to Dodd Island where we would set up our first base camp. By this time it had gotten quite windy and we had to cross the Peacock Channel where the wind was funneling between islands. It was extremely choppy and I started to worry about all the paddlers I saw going out without drysuits or other safety equipment but several of the folks from our trip down on the Barkley eventually arrived at the same campground and seemed to be fine, though extremely worn out from their struggle against the wind.

Dodd had a beautiful campground and we got a nice ocean view for our campsite, but it was an extremely crowded location. There were at least two guided groups on the island plus maybe a dozen other paddlers around.


For our first meal we decided to try something new. We carried some fresh vegetables (snow peas straight from the garden!) so we could make a garlic stir fry of carrots and snap peas along with couscous.


After dinner we enjoyed a campfire with several other paddlers who were on the Barkley freighter with us. Richard tested out his new backpacker over and made fresh peanut butter cookies which were a hit with our campfire group.

The next morning was a leisurely one since we didn’t have to break camp. I did some rolling in the morning and then by midday, around low tide, we decided to paddle around some of the islands. We had the SeaTrails chart, Barkley Sound Marine Recreation Map (useful for interesting sights to see), the full scale Broken Group Nautical Chart, and the “Kayaking the Broken Group Islands” book by JF Marleau (which we learned from several Canadians is more readily available in the US despite being written by a Canadian!). A little overkill on the resources but it helped us identify key areas to check out between islands!

Based on a couple references there was supposed to be an old fish trap using rocks off Turtle, a great beach in the Tiny Group, and a couple places for tide pooling. The best spot seen that day ended up being the shell beach within the Tiny Group, which was also a nice sheltered break from the afternoon wind.


We also saw deer on Dodd island. As I learned on an earlier San Juan trip, they swim between islands. By the way, this is the beach in front of our campground, extremely low tide! Many of my wildlife photos reminded me that wildlife photography is hard, especially with a basic point and shoot with minimal zoom!


On day three we had a simple breakfast, packed up camp, then paddled to Gilbert Island which is among the more exposed outer islands. It was a calm, foggy morning (see other foggy morning photos in the earlier post about kayaker safety).


We left Dodd around low tide so we had some excellent tide pool options. We floated along the west side of Turtle in about a foot of water where we could see all sorts of animals. Here is a sample of the wide variety of just the star fish and other animals we saw throughout our trip.
Sunflower star
Ochre stars 
Lots of Bat stars - mostly blue ones
Ochre star
Bat star
Six-leg bat star

I just realized I don't have photos of a couple other varieties of starfish we saw which included a spiny pink star and leather star. With all the tide pooling I started to wish I had a face mask so I could do a chest scull while looking down on the sealife and just pop my head up for air when needed!

In this vicinity we also saw a lot of Moonsnail collars. These are their egg cases, a mixture of eggs, sand, and mucus. We never saw moonsnails but we saw plenty of these plunger-shaped cases!


Between Turtle and Turret Islands there is a great rock area where there is supposedly a sunken shipwreck. This ended up being my favorite place for tide pooling. The muscles were enormous, there were tons of starfish, and gigantic sea anemones and other sealife.


Ok, I wasn't having the best success with my underwater photography of wildlife either, but I had to share this huge sea anemone I saw in this area, there were tons of them!


Once we set up on camp on Gilbert we thought about showers since the sun had burned through the fog. We had to carry all of our own water for the entire trip, but we also carried a “sun shower” so we could clean up at some point. We decided to shower on this day. We took a dip in the freezing cold salt water for an initial rinse then used the warmed up sun shower water for washing our hair and getting a salt-free rinse. Sorry, no shower pictures!

BEST CAMP MEAL: We also treated ourselves to pizza this night! This has been my favorite camp meal since our very first camping trip 5+ years ago. All it requires is mini Boboli crusts, a hard cheese that will melt, pepperoni, and sauce. We dehydrate the sauce so we don’t have to carry the jar and we vacuum seal the cheese to help it last longer.

My favorite way to make this is to heat the pepperoni in the sauce pan so they get crispy. You take out the pepperoni and put in the Boboli so it gets warm and crispy with the grease. The warm and rehydrated sauce is then put on top, plus pepperoni and cheese plus any other ingredients (sometimes Richard dehydrates tomatoes so they are “sun dried” or you can bring plenty of other toppings). Put the lid on top of the pan in hopes of the cheese melting then enjoy. This time we had the pizza oven so we were able to bake our pizzas a little more so the cheese was thoroughly melted, yum!

Here is Richard with the camp oven in the foreground.


Pizza, yum! My favorite!

Since the oven was out Richard made brownies which we shared with the handful of other paddlers on this island. Another hit and a sure way to find a campfire seat with others who have already gathered wood and started a fire!

We're about half way through the trip at this point. Given the length of this post I think I'll do a second post tomorrow to cover the remainder of the trip. 


Broken Island Group Route

The Broken Group Islands have plenty of kayaking options for both beginners and advanced paddlers. The inner islands are fairly well protected and great for beginners (1-5 in second image below), the outer islands are more exposed and have great options for rock gardening and exploring areas during conditions like swells and heavy winds (6-8 in second image below).

Here is a general map of the bottom half of Vancouver Island for reference, the circled part is where the Broken Groups can be found:


Here is a general image of our route from the GPS tracking:

I’ll catalogue some of the days and include photos in future posts, but our general route was:
  • Day 0: Drive to Anacortes for afternoon ferry reservation to Sidney, drive to Port Alberni.
  • Day 1: 8am freighter (reservation with kayaks) down from Port Alberni to Sechart Lodge (1). Load kayaks up and paddle to Hand Island (2) then over to Dodd (3) to set up camp (most crowded campsite of our trip, two guided groups).
  • Day 2: Mellow morning, practiced rolling, paddled out around Turtle (4), checked out the Tiny Group islands then back to Dodd. Spent a bit of time chilling out with the beach to ourselves for the day.
  • Day 3: Pack up camp and paddle out past Turtle, past shipwreck rocks between Turret (5) and Turtle where there were some fantastic tide pools, then over to Gilbert (6).
  • Day 4: Gale force warnings in effect but we paddled around Effingham (7). I did a separate solo paddle out to the west of Gilbert around Cooper Island.
  • Day 5: Paddle out around Dicebox where we saw a whale, then outside of the islands around Howell and Wouwer (8) and then back in to Gilbert.
  • Day 6: Break camp and head to Gibraltar (9). Saw a whale feeding in the waters north of our campsite.
  • Day 7: Paddle around Gibraltar to check out the sea caves then over to the lagoon (10) between Jacques and Jarvis Northwest of Gibraltar. There were such great rock gardening options on the exposed Eastern side of Gibraltar that I also did a second trip around Gibraltar on my own going the opposite direction.
  • Day 8: Break camp and head back to Sechart lodge to catch the 4pm freighter back to Port Alberni.

We really only missed a handful of islands on the Western end of the area. We had a lot of relaxation and reading time, and we thoroughly enjoyed having 3 different base camps. It was a nice change of pace not having to break camp every morning with a set destination in mind! We just checked the tides and evaluated what we wanted to see, usually based on low tide tidepooling locations, and paddled a little bit.


Return from Broken Group Islands - Kayaking Safely

We just finished up a fantastic 8 days, 7 nights in the Broken Group Islands (BGI) off the West Coast of Vancouver Island and there is an incredible amount to write about. I think I’ve narrowed it down to a couple different upcoming blog posts:
• Loading kayaks for camping
• Food for kayak camping
• General route and trips
• Wildlife

But first, I have to start with the realization that perhaps we’re kayak snobs. Ok, maybe not snobs, but we couldn’t help but talk about a lot of the kayakers given our concern about them being out there. We usually do remote trips which require preparedness, skill, and knowledge. The Broken Groups are a spectacular place to paddle and are accessible to all levels of paddlers, from real beginner paddling options to advanced paddling on the outside islands in more dynamic water. Because of the variety of options available this meant that we saw a lot more kayakers than we normally do, primarily many novices.

Many of the beginners were out for their first paddle and a few too many were going without guides. This is worrisome to us and we couldn’t help but be anxious for their safety when they talked about plans to paddle to the outer islands (which should be left to the experienced folks). To be fair, as beginners they don’t know what to be prepared for, but then that means they probably haven’t read the charts and books so don’t know what areas are safe and which to avoid as a beginner. Buying a chart at the “orientation” meeting an hour before paddling out in rental kayaks doesn’t really cover what you need to know.

I’ll admit that perhaps we were a little over prepared given that there is a lot of beginner-level paddling in BGI, but I’d prefer to be prepared. Here is Richard in his dry suit checking out a chart on our first day out. He is happily wearing his PFD, tow belt, knife, flares, VHF radio and his spray skirt has temporarily been taken off during the break. His kayak has a spare paddle, chart holder, compass, and GPS.


Given our safety awareness, we just couldn’t help but comment when watching paddlers come into some islands with paddles upside down and backwards, wearing t-shirts and shorts with rain boots (which can pull you under in a capsize), crunching their rudders over the rocks. I’ll skip detailed comments about dragging kayaks up a long rocky beach since I know many will say it is just the gel coat, but I’m pretty sure it was more than just the gel coat during those extensive drags across rocks and shells.

Toward the end of our trip I found we were commenting on the other kayakers so much it was making me feel like a snob. That feeling probably comes from us chuckling at the beginners with guides, which isn’t really fair since you have to start somewhere and at least they had a guide. But it is the really unaware beginners without guides we worried about most.

Appropriate attire: You should really dress for the water temperature rather than air temperature. 15 minutes in the water in what you’re wearing (or not wearing – one person was only wearing swimming trunks) and you’ll likely start to become hypothermic. You can become hypothermic even on a nice day in 65+ degree water, and here it is closer to 40F. We were the only ones in dry suits, which may have been overkill for the inside islands, but they kept us warm, dry, and happy, including on the windy days among the inside islands when water sprays up onto the kayak.

Safety: Have you practiced getting back in your kayak? How long does it take you? Can you get back in when windy and with swells? It amazed me that the place renting kayaks does provide a paddle float but they don’t check that people know how to use it or talk about how to get back into a kayak. I did hear several people say that their kayak is really stable, especially from many folks in tandems. Even if it is stable, that is just initial stability and it can still go over. And what about handling it in waves and swells and strong winds? One person told me their kayak was stable so they would be fine in waves and swells.

Weather: But you’re only going out when the weather is nice? How do you know the weather will be nice? You’re going off the warden’s statement that it will be sunny all week? I noticed that the 20-something warden’s weather prediction was for “sunny all week” and didn’t include additional weather elements. It was sunny, but the wind often picked up in the afternoon, usually 10-15 knots. One day was beautifully sunny but there were 25+ knot winds and a gale warning in effect! Three kayakers we met paddling in through those conditions realized after the fact that they shouldn’t have gone out in it and were thoroughly exhausted and glad to have made it back without incident. At least they had previously practiced rescues but they didn’t have radios or dry suits. If they had gotten into trouble they would have ended up in the channel far away from anything given the direction the wind was blowing.

Fog: Another morning was so foggy we couldn’t see the outer islands and had to navigate with compass, charts, and GPS. The warden’s suggestion at our “orientation” was “if you get lost in fog just paddle north and you’ll hit land eventually.” Nice advice. Well, if you’re going to make it seem like something you don’t really have to worry about does everyone at least have a compass so they know which way is north in the fog? Below is a photo of our foggy morning, this photo was taken when we were about half way across the channel and you could almost see the islands through a tiny break in the fog (it was also pretty windy and we started getting white caps broadside):


Almost there:


Other conditions: The outer islands are exposed so there were swells to deal with. There were typically 1-2 meter swells when we paddled along the outside of the islands (plus wind waves one day). Below is a photo of what swells mean when the water interacts with land. Those are not waterfalls, that is the water rushing off the muscle and barnacle-covered rocks on the low end of a swell. I enjoyed rock gardening through some of these areas, but I intentionally skipped some areas that would certainly have ended in kayak damage or personal injury. Hopefully beginners are giving these areas a wide berth, you have to know how the water interacts with the surrounding area and how to handle your kayak or you might end up sucked in, flipped over, and injured due to the sudden push/pull/drop into an unexpected sharp rock.


I go on these rants about unprepared kayakers and then realize that lots of people are paddling the Broken Group Islands and returning home just fine. So am I being paranoid and fatalistic? There is a story in the book “Deep Trouble” in which an experienced kayaker loses his kayak on the outside of Wouwer Island, one of the more exposed areas of the Broken Group. But outside of that incident (where the kayaker should have known better and been better prepared), it sounded like there aren’t that many incidents. When I asked the warden about it one morning, it sounded like the only incident during our week was someone going over and losing their camera and wallet (but their cigarettes were safe!) and that was on a guided trip so the guide was able to get them back in their boat quickly.

It isn’t the guided groups I’m concerned about though, you have to start somewhere and I’d like to think that the guided groups will prepare properly and avoid dangerous conditions for their clientele. But what about the beginners who don’t know any better and might get into unexpected trouble? Coming back from this trip I saw this news story about a kayaker death on the east coast (2nd one in a month there) http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/10/news/hancock/man-dies-after-kayak-overturns-in-eastern-bay/?ref=mostReadBox  and I know of a few too many coast guard rescues in the Puget Sound just from the first half of this year. I don’t want to regulate people, but it seems reasonable to worry about kayaker safety (I suspect these news stories are what causes some of our family and friends to worry about us on these trips).

Here are the two people I’m currently most concerned about:


No spray skirts, not wearing PFDs (will they share the one on the deck between them?), one originally started out with their paddle upside down, and what are they thinking with all that stuff on top of their kayak!?!?! I’m not convinced the person in front can see over all the gear. It was windy so I wish them good luck with all that stuff that will likely cause the wind to push them off course. And even if they think it is a stable tandem, what happens if they do go over? Can they even right that kayak with all that stuff on the deck (assuming it doesn’t sink due to lack of flotation and weight)? Hopefully they’ll get a chance to enjoy those folding chairs; I truly hope the two of them come back in one piece.

When we landed at the dock at the end of our trip there were more kayakers going out, and it wasn’t even the busy season yet. There were three kayakers who joined us in gawking at some of the other paddlers (primarily the two in the above photo). I appreciated their statement about noticing the difference between those getting ready to go out and us coming in. It was a general observation of how to kayak properly (us with all of our safety gear) and how not to kayak (many of the others). Overall, it was a relief to meet other people about to paddle out who will be as prepared as we were.

I truly hope this post doesn’t come across as snobbery. I’m very aware that when I first started kayaking I was ready to jump in a kayak and go paddle without being mindful of conditions and safety gear. I learned fast and now am extremely respectful of paddling conditions. Overall, I’m glad people are enjoying the sport, but I seriously hope they’re all coming back safely and then continuing to learn so they can reduce their risk on future trips. There is a lot of great paddling to enjoy, I just hope it ends positively for all who try it.

With that, I'll get off my safety soapbox and work on additional posts about what a spectacular trip we had to the Broken Group Islands!

Wind waves at Alki Point

I'm pleasantly exhausted. A group of paddlers were getting together today to go on a simple post-holiday paddle. However, the conditions ended up predicting significant winds so the plan changed to playing in wind waves off Alki Point.

John S. and I were going to carpool to meet the group but when we touched base in the morning, when the winds weren't particularly strong yet, we decided to go out a little later than the rest of the group hoping the winds would be stronger. Check out this graph and guess what time we managed to get on the water:


Yee haw! What fun! We got out there just as the peak wind was starting. It maxed out around 33 knots with gusts of 46 (about 38mph with gusts of 49mph). We would paddle out to the point where we got hit with the full force of the wind, paddle like on a tread mill for a little bit as we would get pushed away from shore a bit, then turn and surf back into Elliot bay before heading in to Alki again to reach the calmer water. Then repeat!

We did several rounds of surfing like this, which can be very exhausting, mostly during that treadmill part when pushing against swells with the wind and waves pounding at you. The winds were so strong I almost felt like my paddle was going to be pulled out of my hands a couple times. Near the end I decided I should practice a re-entry and roll – where you wet exit out of your kayak and then get back into your kayak and roll back up. We went out into the middle of the swells and John stuck nearby in case I needed help getting back in.

There was no problem getting out, other than the fact that the wind was blowing so hard in nearly blew me back upright! I got out and held onto all of my gear and went to get a big breath of air when my head popped out of the water and practically water boarded myself! I was wearing a balaclava (full hoody and face covering to keep my head warm), which was also covering my nose and mouth. As I tried to take a big breath of air in I got a full mouth of soggy balaclava! My eyes probably popped out of my head as I tried to figure out why I wasn’t really getting any air and then I quickly grabbed for the balaclava and yanked it below my nose and mouth to breath.

Of course I had to let go of something when I did that, but fortunately I had chosen the paddle which was between me and my kayak, which was downwind of me, so I was able to grab the paddle again pretty quickly. The rest was pretty easy. Since I was on the upwind side I just held onto the kayak, took a breath of air and did the typical re-entry and roll with the wind doing most of the work. I realized after that it was my “off side” so I guess I can say I no longer worry about which side I’ll roll up on. I did have a ton of water in my kayak but I quasi-surfed back into calmer water where we dumped it out. John showed me a great way to hold onto my paddle while putting the spray skirt back on – put the paddle out like an outrigger and just lean forward onto the paddle to keep it in place while using both hands to reattach the spray skirt! This provides a much better sense of stability while bouncing on waves without having to hold onto the paddle.

We did one more surf run after dumping the water out and then went in to join the others at the pizza joint. All in all a great time playing on the water in lots of wind!

A couple other lessons learned for next time: I see why John was considering wearing his helmet – there was a ton of debris in the water. The dead raccoon floating in the water probably wouldn’t have hurt my head, but the logs and wood with nails in it might have had I unexpectedly gone over! Also, since we were near shore I decided not to bring a spare paddle. However, once I felt the wind nearly pulling the paddle out of my hand I realized this is the exact situation when you need to have a spare paddle on board, regardless of how close you are to shore!


One More Kayak

When I first started kayaking I didn’t entirely understand the people who had 10 or more kayaks. If you ask someone who has that many kayaks how many they really need, they’ll respond with “one more than I already have.” I like to think of myself as a minimalist, and always like to purchase items that serve multiple purposes, so I couldn’t comprehend this need. However, after getting enough kayaking experience I finally understand this desire to always have one more kayak, as evidenced by my most recent acquisition of a third kayak.

I started with a Mariner in 2004. I had been renting a lot of kayaks and had previously tried a Mariner but had decided that, while I loved how it handled, it was too expensive for me and I wasn’t yet certain I was ready for that commitment. However, when I learned that the Broze brothers were going to close their business (the first time) I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to buy one in the future. I decided I was truly ready to buy a kayak and I jumped in to buy a Mariner Elan. It seemed tippy to me at the time and I didn’t have very good edging skills, but it was a good kayak to grow into. It maneuvered beautifully, it handled extremely well in the wind (I often had weather cocking problems in rented kayaks), and it would meet my needs for kayak camping.

Loading gear 

I still own this kayak and can’t imagine getting rid of it. It is truly the perfect camping kayak with the volume it holds, the low front deck is perfect, and I’ve mastered edging this beautiful kayak.

After a couple years Richard and I were introduced to traditional Greenland kayaking. I adopted the idea of using a stick and quickly realized I didn’t want to go back to a Euro paddle. But at first I laughed at the idea of getting a skin-on-frame kayak. What was the need for another kayak when my Mariner was perfect? Well, we went to SSTIKS (South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayaking Symposium) and I tried some of the qajaqs (traditional spelling of kayak) and understood.

A kayak that fits like a glove
Traditional kayaks are designed to fit your body exactly. Richard and I spent time measuring ourselves following various guidelines, and then laid out the basics for a skin-on-frame kayak. Working with Bob Kelim over several weekend trips to Nahcotta, WA, we built custom kayaks (See http://kayakgrrl.livejournal.com/1084.html). These kayaks are designed to move when you move; twitch and it maneuvers the way you want. This kayak truly fits like a glove. Designed for my height, my feet sit exactly right on a foot rest; the width was built for my size; the coaming was measured and installed at the right angle to ensure I can slide right in; the masik is placed exactly where you’d want thigh braces; and the back is in just the right place making lay-back rolls happen properly.

Jeanette's kayak 

Because it fits like a glove it is an extremely low volume kayak and is not usable for camping, the perfect excuse for keeping the Mariner! It is extremely light so it is easy to pick up and toss on the car for quick paddles, no assistance needed. Seriously, I can pick it up with one hand if needed, and I can portage it down to the water carrying it on my head.

A performance kayak enters the picture
A third kayak? It sounds like I have the best of both worlds with a light boat that fits like a glove, and another for longer trips. However, ever since I tried the Illusion on a trip to Alaska in 2008 (see http://kayakgrrl.livejournal.com/tag/sitka%20alaska), I’ve been dreaming of owning an Illusion. My minimalist mentality kept preventing me from buying one, but after coveting them for two years, when I saw a used one for sale I couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity. I’ll admit that the main reason I wanted an Illusion is how beautifully it rolls; I can do a majority of the Greenland competition rolls in it. Interestingly, I can do more rolls in this kayak than my Mariner or skin-on-frame (which is a better paddling than rolling kayak). However, it is also a performance machine (see the recent review in Sea Kayaker Magazine). It is the most maneuverable kayak I’ve been in, you can do a 360 on a dime! I love putting it on edge and paddling around, it is super easy to glide and maneuver around people when paddling with groups. It handles just fine in the wind and has a skeg if needed. Though I know the Illusion can be packed for camping, it is a lower volume kayak which gives me the perfect excuse to keep the Mariner for long trips.

New Kayak 

One more kayak
Again, many will say they always need one more kayak than what they already have. Three kayaks certainly seems like enough, but I could see another one in our future! We always talk about traveling to places we want to kayak: Prince Edward Island or even abroad. If we were to buy folding kayaks we would be able to bring a kayak on the plane instead of having to deal with shipping a kayak! There is also the question of owning a white water boat. Richard already has one (he has a Mariner Max, skin-on-frame, and Jackson white water boat). With all my bicycling plus sea kayaking I’m not sure I can take on river kayaking too, but it is always a possibility. For now, the “one more” will most likely be a folding kayak at some distant point in the future.

Towing a Sailboat by Kayak

I haven’t been getting out paddling enough this year! I’ve either been out of town for family things, or I’ve been bicycling (just completed a week-long loop around the Columbia river gorge). Since I specifically named this blog for kayaking I have not been writing about my bike trips and therefore have been rather quiet! Perhaps I need to change the blog to kayakbikegrrl or something.

I now have the perfect reason to post an update though: I recently towed a sailboat from my kayak!

But first some background: a friend and I went to the Seattle Arboretum for an easy afternoon paddle. I’m used to getting to the arboretum from Lake Union so it was a treat to put in at the University dock. We were already in the midst of the destination and saved at least 30 minutes of paddling time each direction.

We went straight into the arboretum under the bridges and came across a group of ducklings with their momma! They were so adorable. It was surprising to see them at the start of August; shouldn’t the babies have been born around spring? We saw plenty of other young ducklings, but these were the youngest by far.


Here is a GPS image of the general route we took, starting at the U and going counterclockwise.

arboretum rout

There are various nooks and crannies you can paddle into among the cattails and such. We went into several of these. You get away from a little more of the freeway noise and see a few more birds this way. Notice the new kayak I haven’t blogged about yet…

Arboretum offshoot

We did a big loop and ended back at the UW dock, but just before we got there we noticed a young lady in a small sailboat stuck in the middle of some lily pads. We originally continued paddling but then my friend suggested that perhaps we could tow her out. I didn’t have my tow belt but decided to go back and see if we could help her. I asked if she had a line we could use to tow and when she said yes I asked her to pull in her rudder so we could tow her out. There was only one line so it was tied to my kayak and I slowly towed her out while my friend documented the experience.

Towing a sailboat

towing a sailboat 2

There was a rescue boat there by the time we got out but I think he appreciated not having to motor through the lilies! It didn’t take long to tow her out, it was mostly just a tug at a time since we couldn’t really get any momentum. She was embarrassed but grateful. I never pushed to get a full explanation of how she ended up so far in the middle of those lily pads!

New Roll
I also did some rolling while on this trip, in areas that weren’t too murky anyway! I came up with a new roll too: the “forgot my nose plugs roll.” I’ll roll in salt water without plugs but am not so keen to do so in lake water. I did two versions of this roll, one is the crook of the elbow roll with the free hand holding my nose, the other was a shotgun roll with the free hand holding my nose. I've gotten sinus infections from lake water so wasn't keen on that experience again.

All images in this post were taken by Mark Canizaro.


Deception Pass and More Kayaks

Trip Report: Deception Pass May 7th, 2010
Max Ebb 2:23pm: -5.06 knots

Rand and John were doing another trip up to Deception Pass and I had the pleasure of tagging along. I guess I haven’t been kayaking enough to remember to bring my camera with me but it was a gorgeous day. See any of the previous DP posts containing photos and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

We launched from Bowman around 2pm to get to the pass in time for the max ebb (-5.06 knots) happening at 2:23pm. The timing was perfect since we were able to take advantage of the eddies to basically get sucked towards the pass with little effort. That helped us save our energy for playing in the pass.

The West side was fairly flat so we worked our way to the East side of Deception Island to play in a standing wave there. I was just happy to be able to keep up with them given how little kayaking I've been doing so far this year (biking instead). We then moved over to the south side of the main pass to play in eddies there as well. As the afternoon wore on more boats came through the pass which made for more fun! The waves created by the boats made for some decent surfing attempts too.

Before heading up Setsuko kindly offered her kayak to John to take up to the pass, so he was paddling her Japanese Qaanaaq in the pass. I’ve tried her kayak out previously and it is supremely easy to roll (definitely a "cheater" kayak!). John was enjoying playing in it and says that it definitely handles like a skin on frame kayak.

John and I swapped boats temporarily so he paddled my Mariner while I was in the Qaanaaq. I previously felt fine in Setsuko’s kayak but I guess with my regular lifejacket and all the extra gear (radio, water, etc) I was a lot more top heavy and most definitely did not feel stable in her kayak at all! I was eager to switch back to my Mariner.

We played for a bit more before heading back. Overall, it was just another beautiful day in the pass.

More Kayaks Tangent
On a side note, I love my Mariner and definitely don’t want to give it up. It is perfect for camping trips and it surfs well and is all around a great kayak. However, for almost two years now (gosh, has it been that long since Alaska?) I’ve been wanting an Illusion. After the pass on Friday I was teaching the French Immersion class again on Monday and was in an Illusion. Paddling the two so close together like that really reminded me how much I love the maneuverability of the Illusion and I already know it is fabulous for all the rolling I love to do. Maybe someday soon I’ll get one.

I never thought I’d need 3 kayaks, but I think I understand now! As someone else once said to me when answering the question of “how many kayaks do you need?” he said, “one more than I already have.” I thought two was more than plenty, and now I’d like to think that three kayaks would certainly be enough if I were to get another one, but then perhaps there will be the day that we need folder kayaks for travel…


Greenland Presentation

While I haven't been able to kayak as much as I'd like the last couple months (travel plus rather sick) I am preparing a presentation I'll be doing on our Greenland trip we took last year. Come hear me:

Greenland Competition 2009 Presentation
While participating in this annual event, Jeanette Rogers discovered an ancient kayak culture that includes the entire Greenlandic family even today.  Please join us as she presents her photos and tells the stories behind the scenes as she takes us through the various competition events--including races, rolling, AND ropes!--that highlight these amazing people with their special boats.  Downtown REI flagship store, 7-9 PM, free admission, non-members welcome. See http://www.washingtonkayakclub.org or email lajbkayak@yahoo.com for more info.


How Kayakers get a bad name

The woman I work for often frets about my kayaking excursions. Admittedly, many think I'm a bit crazy that I love to roll my kayak so much and a friend commented "don't say Jeanette doesn't know how to have fun" after reading about my cold water immersion experience. But if I'm going out on a trip I make sure I'm safe: I check the conditions, I wear immersion gear, I typically go with someone, especially if going out in challenging conditions, and I know how to get back in my kayak if I have to wet exit for any reason.

I think it is the stories like the one on the news today that causes people to worry about me when kayaking. The initial report was just that they had to be rescued, with no details on why. That vague type of report can certainly cause a lot of worry for other kayakers and those who worry about us. If you don't follow up on the story, people may be left thinking that kayaking is inherintly dangerous (though hopefuly the 2am business gave them pause). The full story revealed that these two guys went out kayaking without any immersion gear, drunk, in the middle of the night. Sigh.


Yes, even experienced kayakers get into trouble and I know a very experienced kayaker who died on the water last year, but seriously, I'm much safer when kayaking than these guys.


Cold Water Immersion Workshop

The Kayak Academy has started a tradition of starting off the new year cold. Jan 1, 2010 was the second year that they got a group together down at Lake Sammamish for a “cold water immersion” workshop. Twenty-eight of us showed up to brave the cold temperatures. The day was actually fairly warm, 42-48 degrees, (which is warm when decked out in kayak gear) but the water was chilly, around 38 degrees.

We started out practicing rescues with no gloves on. Brrrrr! It is amazing what a difference gloves can make. The second my hands hit the water the first time they were prickly with the cold. After all the rolling I’ve been doing over the last year it was strange to actually wet exit! It was good to practice rescues again and Richard did a good job of getting me back in my kayak.

After a bit of practice it was time for a longer immersion: we all walked into the water to see how long we could last in the cold (photo from Barb Sherill/Gronseth).

Group immersion

Everyone was allowed to wear what they felt would keep them warm. I wore what I would typically wear while kayaking so I had a fleece liner on inside my dry suit. I did also wear a short sleeve poly pro top under the fleece to help keep my core warm.

With all of the Greenland style kayaking I’ve been doing, I decided to wear my tuilik. So on top of my dry suit I wore an inflatable PFD and then my tuilik. It is a pretty thick neoprene and covers me pretty well from head to knees. I had a lot of air trapped inside my tuilik so I bobbed near the surface easily (I'm not standing!). (Photo from Barb Sherill/Gronseth) 

Tuilik Immersion

I typically have a problem with cold hands and toes so I wasn’t surprised when those start to get cold. I was wearing neoprene gloves and my hands were much warmer than they were without gloves previously. One of our fearless leaders, Bob, had us doing things that might cause us to be colder. At times we had to keep our hands under water, we had to swim around or keep our feet straight down, and also dunk our heads as if waves were washing over us.

Everyone managed to stay in the water for at least 20 minutes. The record last year was apparently 22 minutes (the air temperature was a lot colder last year) but the record this year was about 40 minutes. I actually stayed fairly warm. After about 30 minutes I was ready to get out of the water, but I definitely think I could have lasted a lot longer. In my tuilik was pretty warm in general. To keep my legs warm, I pulled my knees up into the tuilik and pushed my toes into the rim of the tuilik, the part that goes around the cockpit. With such thick neoprene the cold didn’t penetrate too badly. I do wonder how it compares to wearing the typical life jacket and spray skirt. (Photo from Barb Sherill Gronseth)

Richard immersion 

After the immersion exercise, we warmed up a bit then went back out to practice a few more rescues. This time, the goal was to get the swimmer out of the water as quick as possible. Richard did an awesome job of this, having me get on the bow of his kayak while he dumped the water out before I got back in. (Photo from Sean Watson) btw - if you're hoping to learn from the photo below, just leave your feet in the water, you'll balance much better, I was just playing around and keeping my toes warmer by keeping my feet up.

Cold water rescue

I was also impressed that when I decided to pretend that I was unconscious. Richard managed to get me back into my kayak rather quickly with no assistance from me!

Overall it was a fun day and great practice for cold water. It certainly wasn’t as cold as Greenland, but then I didn’t get in the water for long periods of time over there.

For additional footage of this event, you can see some video another participant posted:
CmdrKayak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKE7vx7kQ2k