Lothar and I learned to sea kayak by reading books and just getting out there and doing it. When I met him in 2002, he told me that his dream was to paddle to Glacier Bay, Alaska. Of course, I wanted to go too. For the next five years, we kept our dream alive by gathering gear, working our way through a stack of how to books and guide books, and getting out on shorter trips. A few dog eared classics from our book collection still travel with us in “The Blue Book Bag.”
If you are new to sea kayaking or a novice, keep in mind that sea kayakers can easily end up in a great deal of trouble—as in being seriously injured or killed— if they don’t appropriately manage their risk. Most accidents are preventable, so proceed with caution, take the time to learn and build up your skills and experience, and know your limits. For many people it will be best to start out by taking lessons, learning on guided tours, or finding skilled and experienced buddies to travel with, or a combination thereof.
Having said this, for us the transition into sea kayaking was lots of fun and fairly straight forward. It helped a lot that we both had decades of experience travelling self-propelled for long distances through wilderness, on land and along waterways, and that I had plenty of seafaring experience and Lothar’s an expert whitewater kayaker. I had the savvy to not mess with marine weather (which can and will spank you if you don’t respect it), to not camp below the high tide line, and to not leave boats sitting untied where wind, water, or both might steal them away. And Lothar had the paddling skills that gave us a wider margin of safety if we made a bad decision and accidentally end up in much rougher conditions than we anticipated or wanted to be in. These days, we’re both finely tuned up on all fronts, “like a well oiled machine,” as Lothar likes to say.
So here’s a list of some of my favourite sea kayaking resources. Last Updated 13 June 2019
Please leave me a comment if you have any recommendations to add to the list.
Dowd, J. 2015. Sea Kayaking: the Classic Manual for Touring from Day Trips to Major Expeditions. Greystone Books Ltd. Vancouver/Toronto. University of Washington Press. Seattle.
- This book provides inspiration and essential information for sea kayaking. John’s paddling experience and experiences make mine look like a trip to the local pool. The thought of having to paddle out to sea to survive a storm threatening to break my boat onshore gives me the willies. This is the book that convinced me to learn more about weather.
Dowd, J. 2013. Sea Kayak Videos Episode 1: Getting Started. YouTube video.
Frazer, Neil. 2001. Boat Camping Haida Gwaii: a small-vessel guide to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC, Canada.
- This book is outstanding. With a small motor boat, this guy has probed a plethora of nooks and crannies along the the coast of Haida Gwaii. If you want to know where you can sneak into shore to camp, this is the book for you. Mixed with natural and local history, this book is well worth the effort of two carries, up and down the beach, per day.
Kimantas, John. 2006. The Wildcoast 2: a kayaking and recreation guide for the north and central B.C. coast. Volume 2. Whitecap books.
- A great book.
Kimantas, John. 2007. The Wildcoast 3: a kayaking, hiking, and recreation guide for BC’s South Coast and East Vancouver Island. Whitecap books.
- A great book.
Kimantas, John. 2012. BC Coastal Recreation Kayaking and Small Boat Atlas: British Columbia’s South Coast and East Vancouver Island: a companion to the Wild Coast 3. Revised and Updated.
- I don’t have this book of maps, but just in case you are interested. There was also an earlier edition with water-resistant maps that may also still be available if you are interested. Let me know if you see a revised and updated version.
Miller, Robert. 2018. Kayaking the Inside Passage: a Paddler’s Guide from Olympia, Washington, to Muir Glacier, Alaska. Second Edition. The Countryman Press.
- I have the first version of this must-have—for entertainment and practical values—guide for paddling the Inside Passage. When we were preparing to paddle from Prince Rupert to Glacier Bay to Juneau, I took this book to the local stationary store and asked them to split it into three. They hole punched and spiral bound the spine. We took the introduction and the relevant northern section and left the middle at home. It worked great. I’m not sure if it would work with the print materials used in the Second Version. Let me know how it works if you try. This book is not only an excellent guide with information about some key hazards and the locations of campsites, it’s also an entertaining read with snippets of natural and local history and travel stories that will keep you amused along the way.
Dowd, John. 2013. Sea Kayak Videos Episode 2: Navigation. YouTube video.
Dowd, John. 2013. ‘Sea Kayak Videos Episode 3: Weather. Youtube video.
Lange, Owen, S. Living with Weather Along the British Columbia Coast: the Veil of Chaos. Environment Canada, Ottawa. Distributed by Gordon Soules Book Publishers Ltd.
- Lange dedicated this book “…to those who live in the small coastal communities, who sail between the waters of ocean and air, who died at sea and passed over the threshold, beyond the veil of chaos.” There is a theme here. The ocean clearly attracts and produces great writers. I aspire to write like Owen. He shook the mystery out of a topic that left me perplexed in university, leaving me open and ready to learn more through experience. This book is extra dog-eared. It’s made its way into the essentials pile for all my trips.
What Not to Do
Broze, Matt. 1997. Sea Kayer’s Deep Trouble: True Stories and Their Lessons from Sea: Kayaker Magazine. International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, Camden, ME.
- If you’re a (big) risk taker or just a generic dare devil, particularly if you’re a whitewater paddler without seafaring experience, READ THIS BOOK. Come to think of it, I think everyone learning how to sea kayak should read this book. There’s also Sea Kayaker’s More Deep Trouble.
Bon Courage (Good Courage) and Stay Safe!
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