Sea Kayaking: Lured Back to the Sea

It was my love of sea kayaking that got me thinking about starting a blog in the first place. So a story about how I was lured back to the sea, where many of my treasured childhood memories are cached, seems like a logical place to start.

My Former Home on Trutch Island on BC's Remote Outer West Coast
My former home on Trutch Island on BC’s remote outer west coast. Seven men, BC Tel employees, operated and maintained the repeater site located on the highest mountain on this island. They lived on site with their families. I was four plus when we left, almost everyone else moved away too: automation took it from there.

In 2002 and in the early days of dating Lothar, he let me in on the first of his many dreams for adventure that I would eventually come to know. This one was to paddle from his house in Smithers in northwestern B.C. to Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska. He pointed from his living room window to where he planned to launch his creek boat into the Bulkley River, a tributary of the mighty Skeena River, with approximately 350 km of paddling downstream to the sea part of the journey. Without skipping a beat, I jumped at the idea. I would love to do a trip like that! And so it was that paddling to Alaska became my dream too.

Less than a month later, it was easy to think of presents to buy for Lothar’s birthday: marine charts and a waterproof map case. We quickly moved onto research. How long would it take? What gear would we need? Single kayaks or a double kayak (a.k.a. divorce boat…)? Topo maps or marine charts, or both? Map scale? What food should we take and how should we pack it? How much did we need? The list went on and on.

I love to watch bull kelp (Nerocystis luetkeana) wave hypnotically in the current. Once in a while it's an exhausting reminder that I'm bucking (paddling against) the current.
I love to watch bull kelp (Nerocystis luetkeana) wave hypnotically in the current. Occasionally, it’s an exhausting reminder that I’m bucking (paddling against) the current.

Taking guided trips and courses to learn how to sea kayak never occurred to us, probably because wilderness travel was already a big part of our lives. Both of us had decades of experience traveling over land and down rivers. Lothar’s favourite pastimes were whitewater kayaking, backcountry skiing and backpacking. Mine were whitewater rafting and backpacking, often in combination with another passion, conducting fieldwork as a wildlife ecologist. I also had experience recreating and working on the ocean.

Most of my marine travels were in small motorboats and on B.C. Ferries. On occasion and sometimes by surprise, both modes of transportation have delivered exhausting washing machine rides with a wallop, wrecking havoc on my mind and body. I was primed with healthy dose of respect (mixed with a smidgeon of trepidation) for potential weather induced consequences of sea kayaking. Whenever open water crossings that I knew would take hours to execute emerged in my thoughts, I’d quickly stuff them back into the dark corner they came from, before sea monsters got the better of me. In sheer joy of the sea, I moved onto learning how to travel safely.

By 2004, we had purchased most of our gear and our stack of how-to books was growing. Our self-directed learning program was well underway. From here, several incredible sea kayaking adventures unfold so there’s lots of stories to come.

For me, long distance sea kayaking is an environmentally friendly lifestyle choice.

 

More About the Trutch Island Photo (above right): On the afternoon of 24 July 2011, Trutch Island, was the only feature to peek out of the dense fog that we had been paddling in all day. Orienting to the beacon, Lothar and I decided to make the 5.5 km crossing from Campania Island. The next morning, I wandered among the remnants of my childhood home where seven families once lived and where I fell in love with the sea.

 

1:250,000 topographic maps worked great for our trip from Prince Rupert to Glacier Bay. However, this trip was entirely on the inside passage. When I'm on the outside, I like to have larger scale maps (e.g., marine charts, marine altas) and topos.
1:250,000 topographic maps worked great for our trip from Prince Rupert to Glacier Bay. However, this trip was entirely on the inside passage. When I’m on the outside, I like to have larger scale maps (e.g., marine charts, marine altas) and topos.
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When we were learning to sea kayak, these books provided an outstanding foundation of knowledge and experience to glean from.

 

 

 

 

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