Sunday, 28 January 2018

Irish Islands and the Dalkey Seals

I love to go kayaking everywhere I travel. Whenever I head out to another country or new region in Canada or the USA, my first thought is "Where is there a body of water I can paddle on?" and my second question is "OK- is there a kayak I can rent somewhere nearby?"


Occasionally due to legal/liability constraints, I am unable to just rent a boat and go for a paddle alone or with a friend. There have been times when the only way to get on the water is by joining a "tour."

Usually joining a tour means that it will be a pretty chill day of paddling. I've found even tours marketed towards experienced kayakers or athletes usually mean paddling slowly with lots of breaks. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can be nice to have a simple, slow moving paddle in a beautiful area.

Despite preferring to rent my own boat, there are positives to "tours." Usually the guide can tell you cool information about the local ecosystem and regional history. They might know awesome hidden spots to see wildlife and have pointers about things to do. I typically travel by myself and tours can also be a nice way to meet other folks.

Don't throw away the opportunity to paddle in a lovely place if you have to compromise and go on a tour. Sure, you might feel a bit annoyed when the guides ask everyone to watch the "how to use a paddle demonstration" but if you have been a guide yourself, you know to just be kind and go along with it.

This past July (2017), I was returning to Ireland for a work conference and wanted to get some paddling in. I landed in Dublin from my red eye flight, grabbed a coffee to make up for only getting 3 hours of sleep, and took a bus to Bullock Harbor in Dalkey where I met up with the guide from Kayaking.Ie (an awesome kayak company founded by Jenny Kilbride).

We had a lovely afternoon paddle to Dalkey Island and saw SO MANY SEALS! There was time to walk around the island and check out the historical sites.



Another advantage is that you don't have to worry about bringing all of your gear-- they likely have all of it there for you already. 


Not everything has to be about pushing yourself to your limits. Sometimes you can have a wonderful time just being on the water and checking out a new spot!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Snow-kayaking!!



We tend to think of kayaking as a seasonal sport- especially here in Canada where some of our favorite rivers freeze over. Not to fret! There's now a way that you can break your kayak out of storage during those frigid months!

Join us on our snow-kayaking adventures!



In case the embeded video doesn't work, here is a link to it on youtube!

Edit: since some of you didn't get the joke (and you know a joke is good when you have to explain it...) this is a parody video of the action sports genre

Sea Kayaking in Korea

Back in the summer of 2015, I went to Korea! Apart from enjoying its awesome mountains and amazingly delicious food, I wanted to check out the kayaking scene. As I only speak 9 sentences in Korean, finding out information about where and how to kayak in South Korea was pretty difficult. Getting much information in advance of my visit was pretty hard. Hopefully this post can help out anyone looking for information!

I wish I had been able to arrange sea kayaking in Ulleungdo, a beautiful, star-shaped island, 120 km east of the Korean Peninsula, like this guy did: https://vimeo.com/73213911 However, getting to the island would have required over a day of travel time and I was worried about getting stranded there and missing my plane back to Montreal from Seoul if I got trapped there due to weather and an infrequent ferry schedule. As far as I could tell, I would have had to bring my own kayak on the ferry with me. As someone just in Korea for 2 weeks, that seemed pretty impossible. If any of you are able to do it, let me know below in the comments!!!

Muuido island, off of the west coast, and easily accessable from Seoul's International Airport, would have been an easier island to kayak around. A local Seoul kayak club actually organizes special trips to the island. I got to check out this island, renowned for its jellyfish, but my timing was not great and was thus unable to kayak were.


The kayak club that organizes trips to Muuido, Gangnam Canoe Club located in Ttukseom Resort, was actually the only group I was able to hook up with in order to get any kayaking in. The Han River, which served as the site for the Rowing Regatta in the 1988 Summer Olympics and is a popular windsurfing spot, is a very chill place to kayak. The river also serves as the source of water for 12 million people and has played a pivotal role in Korea's history. The water was a bit polluted when I was there, but kayaking there was a nice way to see the city.


Also the Gangnam Canoe Club rented me one of the nicest kayaks I have ever had the pleasure of paddling. It felt almost like a waste on such calm, flat waters. I wished I could have taken her to the sea. But it was a pleasure, nonetheless.

To get to the Gangnam Canoe Club, take Subway line 7 to Ttukseom Resort Station. Take Exit 2a, turn left, and walk about 10 minutes along the bicycle road towards the upper reaches of the Hangang (Han River). If you see lots of tents with windsurf rigs, you are in the right place. Go to stand number 8. Their phone number is 02-457-4757.

Also, this article about two guys who kayaked around the entire Korean peninsula and were accompanied by a monk along the way is a great read! Very inspiring! http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/n_feature/2011/03/18/43/4901000000AEN20110318011100315F.HTML

Additionally I didn't write about it here, but there are some white water kayaking options about 2 hours outside of Seoul with some pretty chill rapids. Here is more information, for those of you who read Korean.

If for whatever reason you aren't able to go kayaking, you will still have a blast in Korea!! The national parks are easily accesible and you will get some amazing hiking in! Hiking in Korea's national sport and wow, is it fun to do there!!!


Sea Kayaking from downtown San Francisco

San Francisco is a fun city to visit with great food and beautiful nature close at hand. I highly recommend hiking from the Golden Gate Bridge to Land's End  as you can check out some beautiful trees, walk down to beautiful beach after beautiful beach, and maybe have the pleasure of seeing some whales from the cliffs (as I had the pleasure of doing).



All of that beautiful ocean water made me want to do one thing and one thing only... you guessed it: go sea kayaking!!!

If you are just in the city for a day or two and want to gain easy access to a boat, head to City Kayak at South Beach Harbor! Their website has a handy dandy guide of how to get to their location at Pier 40 by public transit: http://citykayak.com/aboutus/



Now San Francisco is known for its rough waters, but beginners can paddle through the harbor and a series of canals by the Giants Baseball Stadium. City Kayaks also offers classes.

During a short visit to the city, I rented kayaks twice and had a great time.
NB: If you want to rent kayaks, you have to take a quick written test (with the exception of sit-on-top kayaks).

Friday, 22 July 2016

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick



The Bay of Fundy has the world's largest tide changes!

For example, Burntcoat Head in the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, has the greatest mean spring range with 14.5 metres (47.5 feet) and an extreme range of 16.3 metres (53.5 feet).

What does this mean for you as a paddler???!!!-- it means it is really important that you catch the tides at the right time or you are going to have a hard time! Guess what? Philippe and I screwed that up-- meaning some very long portages. Oh well! It was a learning experience.


Okay to be fair it was not all our fault- but yea basically by running late the first day we made a chill trip quite difficult. Don't forget the Maritimes are on Atlantic time! Also fun fact: The Canadian Tide Charts don't factor in Daylight Savings (Remember to add one hour to the times shown in Canadian Tidal Tables when daylight savings time is in effect). Also packing your boats the first time can take a really long time until you have your system down. By the last day of your trip it will just take a couple of minutes but on day one with a new boat you will need some time to adjust.


It is pretty hard to find information about kayaking the Bay of Fundy unless you want to do it with a kayak guiding company (which we definitely didn't want to do). One of the reasons for this is because it is kind of difficult to do this kind of trip as if you hit the tides wrong there are really, really long portages on mud flats!!

If you want to paddle along the coast, like we did, for easier navigation, you are going to have a harder time finding a camping spot since all the sites are set up for hikers, high up on cliffs rather than for paddlers. We made it work- with some muscle.

Don't get me wrong- this was one of the best weeks of my life. My happy place that I go to in my head whenever I am stressed is remembering the night after our second day of paddling. However, hopefully with these tips you will have an easier time. 



Our Itinerary

On JULY 12, 2015-  We drove to Fundy from Montreal by cutting through Maine. It was one of the funniest experiences I've ever had at the border since the obviously bored border guard asked us so many questions, down to the details of how we chose our dissertation supervisors. We camped at a free camping area (Thanks Maine!) at the Machias River Corridor. There isn't much of a sign and when driving through the fog at night it can be hard to find... but it is beautiful and so worth it!

JULY 13 (Day 1 of paddling)

Due to where we were in the tide cycle, we had to get up really early (this would have been easier if we had gotten to our campsite before 2 am). Seriously just drive to New Brunswick the day before so Day 1 of paddling isn't so stressful. However, work schedules can force some shitty conditions. Actually when making life decisions, chose to be a historian (like me) instead of a scientist/engineer so that you have a more flexible schedule and can leave before rush hour. Just kidding... well kind of.

We had to go back into Canada and at the border crossing there were SO MANY Canadian Geese.  Nice Canada moment! If only we had some Tim Horton's coffee with us. Then we drove up to Dipper Harbour to get our boats from the lovely people at Eastern Outdoors and loaded up the car. 

Our goal was to get to Alma before midday for the tide and to paddle to Martin's Head, which is free to stay at! Thanks to the blogger at Going Out On a Limb for the tip!

So I said getting to Martin's Head was our goal. Well since we were so behind schedule we only made it to about Point Wolfe and then had to paddle against the current. Then we walked our boats through a river for a long time and then came to a big rocky area. I went exploring - looking for a camp spot and realized we had to carry our boats about a kilometer, hide them up in the trees and then hike up the cliff and camp out at the National Park's camping area. This process was exasperating and a bit miserable (plus it was getting cold). 

The ranger at the park was really nice and soon we went about setting up camp. Then Philippe realized he had grabbed the wrong food barrel and had to hike down to the boats. I was alone with the stove and tent and I let the stove go out under my watch. I just felt like the weak link. But then everything was okay after a team hug. After that hard day, we were excited to paddle the next day. 



JULY 14 (paddle day 2)

We then had a long paddling day before us (25 km) since we were already behind. Every bit that had been a rocky shore was now filled with water when we began our paddle. We went all the way to the Salmon River Campground. When we paddled by Martin's Head we both thought "yep that would have been an awesome place to camp!" So go there instead and don't deal with the Wolfe Point madness. 

We also paddled by the Biosphere area and it was very pretty. If we weren't up against so much mileage and the fear of a long portage there were some beaches along the way that would have been awesome to stop at and enjoy. Philippe also likes to tease me that I am not good at maps (despite doing historical geography) but since I am writing the blog, I just want to say here, for the record, that I was the one who correctly identified Long Beach and Salmon River. 

When we got to Salmon River we got to surf some waves into shore. Wheeee!!! Super fun!

There was a funny moment with a couple who had obviously driven to the park and hiked down the kilometer or two to the beach. We asked them some questions- like "where are we?" and without seeing our boats, they must have thought we were a tad bonkers. Oh well! It still makes me laugh when I think of the look that they gave me.

It seemed like we would have an easy night ahead of us without too much portaging. LIES! We had to search for a long time of where to set up camp. After river crossings, scrambling up cliffs, and so forth, we found a cliff to set up on. It was a lot of work and despite delirium from exhaustion and paddling with our glowsticks as the tide came back in and carrying the boats over so many rocks and boulders, this camping spot was worth it.

That night it was THE PERSEOIDS and I have never seen so many shooting stars!!! It was an endless meteor shower! Exhausted we splayed out on the cliff and watched the stars (and the planes headed to Europe). It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced. 



JULY 15 (day 3 of paddling)

Due to the tides we couldn't start paddling until the early afternoon so we got to sleep-in on our cliff. When I returned from walking in the woods to go to the bathroom, Philippe said in a very serious voice, "I'm not sure I should tell you this." Apparently he had seen a seal and was worried I would be very jealous. Well luckily our seal buddy reappeared (and with a friend!). These seals spent their morning hanging out with us. 

Our paddle to St. Martin's didn't take too long-- but it was beautiful (St. Martin's is host to some of the iconic rocks of New Brunswick) and we had fun kayaking into some sea caves! Remember to always enter a cave backwards!!!



I cleaned the boats and waited on the shore for 5 hours while Phi had an adventure trying to secure us passage back to the cars. While on the beach I shared the love of sea kayaking with a lot of curious strangers. I hope a few of those people ended up trying it out. I especially tried to encourage the women who said they were too scared-- SAY YES TO FEMALE EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SPORTS!

I befriended a lovely couple who were worried about my safety on the beach alone at night and they brought me dinner (wonderful, fresh, homemade pie!!!) and offered to let me stay at their house. People are SO NICE! When Philippe returned, they asked their friend if we could camp out on the patio of their friend's restaurant. Philippe got a taxi back to his car and I watched over the stuff. 

JULY 16
We slept a few more hours in the tent after he returned and then drove back to Dipper Harbour. Rather than cutting through Maine since the car was having problems we drove the long way back through Quebec. Philippe was a saint for doing all that driving. 

This was still one of the most amazing weeks of my life- despite all of the pain. With the below tips it can be a bit easier on you. Also we would have been more likely to see whales if we had paddled the islands. Oh well!


TL; DR?? Here's some tips.

TIPS:
DO: Rent kayaks from the wonderful people at Eastern Outdoors
DO: Remember time zones.
DO: Remember to add one hour to the times shown in Canadian Tidal Tables when daylight savings time is in effect
DO: Enjoy paddling the waves! and surfing the waves into shore!
DO: Spend the money on the shuttle back to your car instead of trying to wing it last minute
DO: Learn to enjoy the hardships. They can be the best of learning experiences.  And boy does it help cement friendships!!
DO: Become a historian (this is just a general life tip.) Just kidding!


Friday, 15 July 2016

Kayaking Saguenay Fjord

Hey Kayak Enthusiasts and Friends,

I first started this blog after I had spent SO MUCH TIME trying to figure out how to rent kayaks in Korea and figured I should share the results of my research with the world-- especially since I rely on other kayakers' blogs when planning my trips (I've still yet to write the Korea post). For many locations there are not that many online resources for sea kayakers. And when you do find the resources you need- even if you are quite an experienced/ advanced paddler- people can be quite discouraging.



The first post is going to be about my recent trip to the Saguenay Fjord that I just got back from a couple of days ago. I'll do a quick recap with highlights and then give some resources.

The trip went so smoothly!...in part because we had AMAZING WEATHER and probably also because I have never spent so much time planning a trip before (including when I had moved to Europe twice (Ireland 2009 and France 2010)). My friends and I had to plan this trip 5 TIMES before it could happen due to weather, work, and other barrienrs. I AM SO HAPPY that it finally came together. Hopefully this post will make your trip planning a lot easier.

JULY 8: We drove about 5 hours from Montreal and camped at Parc National Grand Jardins. It is a lovely spot to spend the night and break up the drive. We saw a bunch of porcupines. They have a really adorable waddle.


JULY 9- AKA THE FIRST DAY OF PADDLING:
Paddle Count: 13 km
Camping: Anse de Tabatiere

We woke up and had breakfast and then drove to Baie-√Čternit√© to pick up our kayaks and safety equipment at OrganisAction's basecamp (cabane √† kayak), situated near the beach, about 300m from the Visitor's Center of Saguenay National Park. Here we saw a waterfall and some of the most beautiful cliffs of the trip. Remember as we were paddling towards the mouth of the fjord, the cliffs became less radical as we moved toward the sea.


After about two hours we got to our campsite- marked by the Quebec flag. These flags felt like pulling up to an outpost in the wilderness. We set up Platform 1, after a 30 meter portage up the shore, in anticipation of the rising tide (and this short portage was our longest of the trip). On our paddle we faced only a little headwind of up to 10/11 knots (and these were our windiest conditions in the fjord the whole trip). There was a stream to gather water in a fern forest. We also did some bushwalking, I ran laps on the beach, and Philippe got frustrated skipping stones. Brian had a lovely nap. We finished the evening with a great fire.




JULY 10:

Paddle Count: 18 km
Camping: Anse de Cheval


We woke up to rain, but it was nice to paddle in! Actually that morning I just felt filled with pure joy! The Baie de Tabatiere was beautiful- such a lovely town to kayak past. The rain and fog meant very little wind and the paddling was very easy.


We paddled past a pretty island and the bay in which the belugas care for their young, but we didn't see any whales.


It was still raining when we got to the campsite- which had a pretty meadow with wildflowers, beautiful rocks, a sandy shore, a river, and a small waterfall. We set up camp on Platform 3 (I'd recommend Platform 2 if it isn't raining). Well the sky cleared and Philippe and I went into the bay to practice rolling our sea kayaks in the very cold water. When I successfully rolled, I cheered loudly for joy and a seal popped up 6 feet away from me. Brian named our seal friend Graydon. Graydon was cool. We enjoyed the rocks and swam in the river. Philippe and I invented the stick game (where you throw a stick and hope it lands upright). Another great campfire! Platform 5 at this campsite was beautiful and on the cliff, overlooking the water.




JULY 11:

Paddle Count: 15 km
Camping: Anse de David


As was the case every day, I woke up first (I like my alone time in the morning) and did some yoga on Platform 5 with the rising sun. We took our time this morning (every day the tide in our favor was later and later- 8:15 this time- and there was no need to leave right on time since the paddling distances were so short. We could have easily done 30 km a day but this chill pace allowed us the flexibility to make up a day if we had to stay onshore for a day if the weather (really the wind) was bad.


I had loved the Cheval campsite and was worried the next one wouldn't compare. However, after fighting some head wind at the end of the paddle, we hung out in a pretty cove and then finished by coming into Anse de David which was BY FAR the best campsite (well besides the bugs). Each night the bugs got progressively worse as we headed to Tadoussac and I seemed to be the blood sacrifice of our group.


David had beautiful rock features, some great beach, a rushing river with deep pools in a canyon, a gorgeous waterfall, and so many beautiful wild flowers. Sure this was our first day with black flies and so many mosquitos (I finished the trip with over 100 bites on my body) BUT there were also lots of dragonflies, butterflies, and lightening bugs!! Here we made a new seal friend, saw a bald eagle, found mussels and clams, and watched fish in tide pools. We also swam in the canyon. We had such a nice fire that night and the sunset was on fire. Lightening was in the distance but we were sheltered from it.



JULY 12:
Paddle Count: 13 km + an extra 5
End of the paddling part of the trip


Platform 5 at David was another stunner where I did some morning yoga. The guys and I then hung out in the waterfalls again. The water was flat and glassy. We went slowly through the end up the fjord. A few huge waterfalls cascaded down alongside us.


This was also the first day we saw other kayakers. There was a small group led by a kayak guide from Tadoussac. Since I hadn't seen other humans in awhile for some reason my first thought was that they were going to attack us-- weird, I know. I also said this out loud which I am sure they heard. #fail


In case it wasn't obvious- we were the only people staying at these campsites. I can't imagine how weird it would have been if other people were there. It definitely would have been a really different trip. However, since Sepaq highly discourages anyone from undertaking this trip (telling us over and over about how it is just for Highly Advanced paddlers), it tends to be pretty much empty of people. We essentially didn't see anyone besides an occasional sail boat in the far distance and some fishermen that just waved... well until the last day.


THIS WAS THE DAY WE FINALLY SAW WHALES! There was a pod of about 6 BELUGAS that swam by us. That was really cool.

We planned to meet the guys with the kayak trailer at 3:30 at Baie St. Cats. Ee wanted to take our time the last day as it was the day at wanted to hang out with the whales for longer. The ferry crossing was a fun bit of excitement. We paddled on the other coast and quite past our end point to hang out on a beach. Philippe rolled his boat again with the gear in it- well done! (his roll is always far more graceful than mine). I went for a run ( I had been jonesing- I literally run every day so 2 days off was rough). After a quick lunch we had to paddle 2-3 km against the current and against the wind to get to the boat ramp. This was really the only difficult moment of the trip and it wasn't very difficult. And amazingly 5 minutes after I pulled up to shore, the guys from OrganisAction showed up with the trailer and had dropped off our car. It couldn't have been smoother! Seriously awesome! The guys and I cleaned off in the bathroom of a Parks Canada building and began our drive south.


We drove to Parc Jacques Cartier for one more night of camping. We got lots of yummy food at the grocery store in Mount Sainte Anne (where we were last together as a group for a nordic ski race) and set up camp and went swimming in the river.

JULY 13:
I woke up early to run 7 km on trails in the park alongside the waterfalls and to go for a swim. We then headed back to Montreal! Thanks to Philippe for doing all of the driving.


Final notes:

I want to give a shoutout to the crew at OrganisAction for all of their help in renting us the boats and doing the shuttle. Here is their website: http://organisaction.com. If you want to do this trip you are going to have to book your campsites by phone with Sepaq (the kayak camping sites aren't available online): https://www.sepaq.com/pq/sag/index.dot?language_id=1.

The distance we paddled in total!


This isn't the kind of trip you do for your first kayak- camping trip as there can be really crazy weather, wind, and waves in the fjord. You also need a fair bit of backcountry experience. Again we were quite lucky with our conditions. However, I highly recommend it!

Stay tuned as I hope to actually  recount my past kayak adventures!

-Alex