Archive for the ‘kayak camping’ Category

Muscongus BayThe best part of the time in Maine was when Mark, a local guide, and I paddled with a Boy Scout Troop for five days and four nights within Muscongus Bay. Mark asked me what we were getting ourselves into when he discovered that we were on the water with ten youths, 13 to 17 years old, and four adults.  Mark was accustomed to paddling with active adults in their mid 30′s to 50′s.  I assured him that it was going to be a relaxing ride in the country or it was going to be a roller coaster of torment.  All I had to do was ask two questions.  He was very puzzled with that statement.

We got to the boat launch unloaded the seven tandems, our single kayaks, and all of the kit.  Then waited as we ate Wicked Whoopie Pies.  Not to digress, but yum!

wicked-whoopies

Everyone arrived in two large vans.  We greeted them, I found out who the Scoutmaster was and asked my first question, “Could you introduce me to your Senior Patrol Leader?”  He smiled and and quickly introduced me to their SPL.  I introduced Mark and myself then asked the youth “what is your float plan for the next five days?”  He grinned from ear to ear and said he has been looking over the charts for two weeks, he has a few places in mind for camping, and then wanted to know if he could organize the scouts to get the gear dispersed among the kayaks.  After his answer I smiled to Mark and whispered “hold on you are in for a treat”.

I have been in the Boy Scouts since I was eleven.  I have seen it all, the good, the bad, the understood, and the misunderstood.  It is a volunteer organization that is created by volunteers and run by volunteers.  And the things that motivate volunteers is as numerous and diverse as the people themselves.  Luckily this was a troop organized around the philosophy that boys are to learn to be leaders.  And adults are spotters only to be used for advice.

The youths had a plan.  They quickly asked about the most efficient ways to pack their boats.  And they understood my analogies about backpacking balance and weight distribution.  In fifteen minutes,  everyone had boats assigned, packed, and were ready for the float talk.  Mark talked about safety, navigation, communication, and group management on the water.

maine

The first morning we paddled in protected waters watching and coaching everyone on paddling.  These youths comfortably paddled at a three mile an hour pace.  This was a faster pace than Mark had planed on.  We made it to Crow Island in no time.  After landing I smiled at Mark and said “you will fall over backwards if the SPL responds to my next question in the way I think he will”.

We had plenty of time in the day to play but a few things had to be done and I wanted to see if the SPL, SM, and I were all on the same page.  I commented to the youth that now we had gotten to the island ahead of schedule “what is the consensuses on how we should conduct ourselves this afternoon?”  He scratched his temple and said “I think we should get camp ready for the night, get dinner prepped, and then if you and Mark are willing can we paddle more?”  Wow, if only every troop was like this.

Maine

I have to say that as I reflect on this paddle it appears to be to good to be true.  And the reality gets better…

After camp was set we discussed a plan and went searching for seals and found them.  Unique mammals, seals are.  Then it was back to the island for dinner.  Some of the scouts had stayed at the island cooking.  We were treated to some tasty vittles made in a box reflector oven.  That’s right the guides did not cook.  In fact the scouts even served us and washed our dishes, utilizing the patrol method.  For every meal the youths were split into three groups: those who prepared the fire, those who cook, and those who clean up.  With all of the organization and attention to detail these boys were more organized than most adults.

Then as the sun set I heard the sounds of boys.  “Three, two, one…o’ no… too early…”  silence “three, two, one…o’ no… too early…, silence “three, two, one…o’ no… too early… yeah!”  Yes this was one of their nightly rituals.  That, and skipping stones.

We stayed on Crow Island for two nights.  We visited the waters around Thief and Cranberry island.  And on day three we relocated camp to Black Island.   That is where I finally decided after skipping rocks with the other leaders to go for a swim.  So cold, the water was.  I never felt water that cold.  Well so I thought.  December 31, 2012 Darren and I went whitewater kayaking down the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania.  That is a story for the future.

On the last night I shared a treat with the scouts.  Traditionally, the last night of every camp out I eat Jiffy-pop.  I had a great time with these young men that I gave the SPL the Jiffy-pop to make.  First words he uttered was “cool, we’ve never made popcorn on a camp out”.  He walked away knowing that I just wanted a little popcorn.  From the beach the other leaders and I could hear them discuss the directions.  And then their excitement as it began to pop “it’s going to explode…quick take it off the stove!”  Then to hear their dismay when they opened it only to realize that the steam had made the dome.  Quickly they mashed down the foil and put it back on the stove.  This resulted in an aromatic presence of scorched popcorn.  I did get a sorry form the guys.  I smiled and then told them the story of a few of my old scout friends melting an aluminum dutch oven, as I munched on scorched popcorn.

Two months later I got a package in the mail.  It was from the Scoutmaster of that troop.  In the package was a thoughtful letter and two Jiffy-pops.  It was a very fun and rich time.

jiffy pop

The package from the Boy Scout troop reminded me that it is the thoughtfulness and support of others that make every adventure possible.  It is the support of family, friends, locals, training, and commonsense that make expeditions possible.  A lot of my friends who have written about their adventures for magazines are always beholden to the desires of the editor.  And the thing lacking is what sometimes happens at home while they are paddling.

– Jeff

I will post the rest of the story in five days:

We are getting ready for our expedition and one challenge is cleanliness.  If you are not clean in the outdoors you get sick.  So I thought I would take a moment to share some common questions about keeping the cooking kit clean with biodegradable soap.  Some people have asked me… “does biodegradable mean I can wash directly in the ocean/river” and “how much space do you devote to caring cleaning supplies in the kayak”.

My cleaning kit is smaller than my cook kit.  It consists of one bar of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap and a MSR Nano Towel. I use it to wash my pots, to shave, and it cleans everything from my hair to my toes.  There is no need to carry dish soap, a bottle of shampoo, and a bar of soap.  I also prefer not to smell like a candy-cane.  Say no to peppermint.

When it comes to washing up remember a river, lake, ocean is not a bathtub.  Do not jump in with a bottle of shampoo or a bar of soap.  Soap labels are often confusing because many people think that if it says biodegradable they can wash their dishes in the river.  That is not the case.  Graywater needs to be filtered through the soil.  Granted I have been known to drink a little graywater when there was no soap in it.  Here are the highlights of proper dish-washing (Go to lnt.org for lots more details.)

>”All dish-washing (and body washing) should be done 200 feet away from any water source, because we need to keep even biodegradable soap out of rivers, streams, and lakes. (Fish don’t groove on peppermint scented suds.)”

>”Only use soap if you need to (for really greasy pots or on long trips, when serious grime buildup is inevitable). For the most part, hot water and a scrubby sponge will do the trick. Boiling dishwater before doing dishes would be the safest way to make sure you’re not scrubbing your pots with Giardia. But as for me, 99% of the time, I’m content with just getting it hot enough to cut the grease. Your call.”

> “After scrubbing, strain your dishwater through a fine mesh strainer (or a bandanna) and broadcast the wastewater. In other words, fling it far and wide. Then pack out the food remnants in your garbage bag.”

I have known some people also use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to brush their teeth.  I have never put soap in my mouth voluntarily.  I use a non-fluoridated toothpaste.  And toothpaste is a type of soap.  Consequently I use as little as possible.  Sometimes I swallow it and other times I make a raspberry sound and disperse it away from water and over a wide area.

The final cleaning tool I have is waterless hand cleaner.  I have two small bottles.  I keep one with my food kit, and the other with my WAG bag.  –  Jeff

In this post Jeff and I will discuss what gear we are taking on our expedition to the Great Calusa Blueway and the reasons for what we are taking. Also to update our readers on the most recent developments in planning for the trip.

Well it looks like we will be paddling Greenlander Pro Kayaks made by Nigel Dennis Sea Kayaking UK

Which Russell Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks has so graciously provided for our traveling pleasure. We chose these boats because they are first and foremost very expedition proven, as well as F-A-S-T and have quite a bit of room for all our needed gear. Guess what – they are modeled after designs used in West Greenland for hundreds of years, making them the closest we could get to paddling a native style watercraft in modern materials with the exception of a skin-on-frame style kayak that would have to have been custom made.

Jeff is taking the idea of going native literally by paddling his Greenlander Pro with a Greenland paddle for most of the trip. And Sean will just be going wild as usual! Surprisingly that 2 by 4 looking paddle is very efficient on the water.  Granted Jeff will also have his Lendal paddle for the days we go kayak surfing.

The weather in September down on the Cultural/Paradise Coast usually is between 74 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit with the average being about 82-84 degrees. Due to this fact it will not be necessary to have a lot of cold weather gear and therefore we can go prepared for anything with a lot less clothing and gear. That being said here is the current list of gear we are taking and some of the food ideas we have so far. Of course the list could change should conditions change or the wind blow a different direction- Ha Ha Ha!!!

Jeff’s PADDLING GEAR

  • whistle
  • sea shears
  • Mountain Hardwear pants
  • Columbia sandals
  • quick-dry sock liner
  • long sleeve Columbia Shirt
  • Kokatat – Bahia Tour PFD
  • Spray Skirt
  • Dye marker
  • Waterproof Camera
  • strobe light
  • Buff
  • GPS / weather radio
  • hand-held compass
  • signal mirror
  • wide-brim hat
  • ball cap
  • Kokatat – gloves

DECK

  • deck mounted compass
  • Lendel – Paddle
  • compass
  • chart
  • stern deck light

FRONT HATCH

COCKPIT OUTFITTING

  • Empty bottle…
  • sponge
  • paddle float
  • Bug Repellent

DAY HATCH

  • GORP in 2 Nalgene bottles
  • sunblock
  • 3 – Nalgene narrow mouth bottles
  • MSR – 4 ltr. Dromedary
  • “Day Bag”
  • Wallet
  • extra glasses
  • Head Lamp
  • Write in the rain tablet w/ pen
  • P cord
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Synthetic fill jacket
  • MOJO Cliff Bars
  • NorthWater Sea Tec Tow Line+
  • eye drops
  • Bear Bag
  • Tarp for cooking under
  • .
  • .

REAR HATCH

  • Kitchen tools
  • Foul weather paddling clothes
  • Oatmeal for Breakfast
  • 12oz Kleen Kanteen Insulated
  • Mountain House – freeze dried meals
  • GSI Outdoors Hae Tea Kettle
  • Junk Food 🙂
  • Toilet kit
  • waterproof matches
  • MSR – Dragonfly cook stove
  • bunsen burner pad
  • MSR fuel bottles
  • Gas-x
  • Mt. Hardwear bivy
  • 3/4 thermarest mattress
Sean’s PADDLING GEAR

  • Columbia Jacket
  • whistle
  • knife
  • surf baggies
  • water shoes
  • Columbia Shirt
  • Kokatat – Bahia Tour PFD
  • Seals Spray Skirt
  • Bending Branches paddle
  • Dye marker
  • Waterproof Camera
  • chemical light sticks
  • bandanna
  • EPIRB
  • smoke flares/hand-held flares
  • signal mirror
  • Columbia wide-brim hat
  • ball cap

DECK

  • deck mounted compass
  • Swift spare paddle
  • compass
  • chart
  • stern deck light

FRONT HATCH

  • Treehugger hammock
  • Rain Fly
  • mosquito netting
  • Therm-a-Rest Z Lite mattress
  • Camp clothes
  • REI Minimalist bivy bag
  • REI 55+ degree sleeping bag
  • Design Salt’s MummyLiner
  • Spare aa & aaa batteries
  • prosthesis repair
  • travel compression pillow
  • playing cards
  • Charts and promo. fliers

COCKPIT OUTFITTING

  • Empty bottle…
  • MSR fuel bottles
  • sponge
  • bilge pump

DAY HATCH

  • GORP in a Nalgene bottle
  • Bullfrog sunscreen
  • Two 18oz bottles
  • MSR – 4 ltr. Dromedary
  • “Day Bag”
  • Wallet
  • Battery lantern
  • Head Lamp
  • Write in the rain tablet w/ pen
  • multi tool
  • P cord
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Synthetic fill jacket
  • MOJO Cliff Bars
  • Tow Line
  • Off Bug Repellent
  • cellphone w/ charger
  • medications
  • vitamins

REAR HATCH

  • Kitchen tools and canned food
  • Foul weather paddling clothes
  • Oatmeal for Breakfast
  • Mountain House – freeze dried meals
  • GSI Dualist cook set
  • Junk Food 🙂
  • Dry food – I.E. Mac & cheese
  • Toilet kit
  • lighter
  • MSR – Whisper-Light cook stove
  • Snowpeak stove
  • MSR / Snowpeak fuel
  • can opener
  • Pepto-Bismol

So that pretty much gives everyone the majority of the list of our gear. At first glance you may notice that it appears we are taking 3 sleep systems this is not an accident. Jeff is taking a tent and fly and there is not one in my gear list- that is because it is a 3 man tent and that is the one we will be sharing if need be. You will also notice the hammock and bug nets- these are great for quick set-up and are nice & cool to sleep in granted there are trees to hang them in. The third system would be a basic bivy bag for a quicker alternative to bedding down where there are no trees and very limited space or sand for a tent. Lets not forget a couple of nights will be spent in Bed/Breakfast Inns and at the cottages at Bokeelia hopefully- still waiting to see if they will host us.

Now as for fresh drinking & cooking water we are only going to take 4 liter bladders because we should have areas to refill with fresh water every couple of days and the two canteens should keep us sufficiently hydrated- remember we are not going to be out of reach of freshwater for any major length of time. If we needed to we could always purify/filter water if need be but we won’t have to. We ARE GOING TO TRY to de-salinate seawater by means of evaporation though while we are there on the trip as an experiment and to try something “Native”.

As far as food we will be doing instant oatmeals for the majority of our mornings because it is easy to fix, tastes pretty good if you can get enough different varieties and most of all is GOOD FUEL and good for the Heart!! Lunches are going to consist of canned tuna, peanut butter and Lance crackers and cheeses all good sources of protein and carbohydrates. Dinners will be Mountain House gourmet freeze-dried backpackers type meals- most are around 320 to 380 calories a meal. This will of course be supplemented by junk food snacking and trail mix (gorp). Jeff plans on fishing for dinner (Native skills) at least once and I am sure we will find some fresh fruits or veggies at some small store along the way, not to mention food at a Bed and Breakfast at some point. We plan on being totally self supportive though just in case – we will not starve for sure!

Clothing will be fairly light as it will probably be quite comfortable temperatures wise- shorts and paddling shirts during the day with plenty of sun protection for our skin-i.e. sunscreen, hats, and buffs/bandanna to block exposed areas. Remember exposed sunburn skin equates to chills when wet and the wind blows (hypothermia). Yes even in 80-90 degree weather you can still get chilled and shiver! Camp clothing will be camp long pants or sweatpants with dry long sleeve breathable wool shirt. Lets not forget the foul weather gear- Rain/splash hooded jacket and rain/splash pants with fleece cap.

The last things I want to mention are the tidbits- notice all the standard open water safety gear i.e.- Flares, Dye packs, glow sticks, pump, paddle float, rolling/rescue skills, Smoke flares, EPIRB, whistles, lights, signal mirrors, cellphones, et cetera, oh and last but not least training and common sense. Also wanted to mention the reason for 3 stoves. Jeff and I had a stove go down on us on our last expedition that is the need for backups and also each one cooks stuff a little differently.

While most of the gear on the list is tried and true for us and is pretty self explanatory remember to survive you need: clean fresh water for drinking, shelter & proper clothing to escape/deal with the environment, food to fuel you and the kayak and last but not least someone to share it with. Jeff and I think we have the essentials covered. Please feel free to give advice by commenting to the post- does not mean we will take the advice but we are open to hearing it!! Hope everyone enjoys reading the newest post and the 4th and final posting in the Tribal Tides series will be out on Wednesday the 14th of September just before we leave for the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail! Tribal Tides 4 : “Lost Thoughts”- to cover the last few days thoughts and arrangements before leaving!

– Jeff & Sean

PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO GET THE MESSAGE OUT ABOUT CROW- CLINIC FOR WILDLIFE REHAB!!!!
THEY NEED OUR HELP AND LETS GET THOSE DONATIONS GOING- SO HEALING BEGINS FLOWING TO OUR WILDLIFE!!!!

P.S. Those travels pillows are really cool- they are made by Grand Trunk and stuff down to the size of a soft ball!

Hello All, This is the long anticipated 2nd post in the Tribal Tides series. In this post I will discuss the actual route and “natural schedule” that Jeff & myself shall be attempting to paddle during our 2 weeks on the water. Why we chose the direction we are headed in on the route & possible opportunities that are arising.

The schedule as it sits right now of course is subject to change at any given moment depending on weather conditions, paddler safety/health issues, and available lodging/safe places to camp. At this time we are choosing to take full advantage of any local Bed & Breakfasts, inns, and local campgrounds (public or private) along the way; as well as some primitive beach/mangrove camping as available. Jeff & I have chosen not to go totally primitive every night for camping simply because the Great Calusa Blueway, along with Lee County Parks and Recreation & the Florida Paddling Trails Association have made it so easy for anyone to do all or some of the segments of the paddling trail. They have very detailed websites & links that get paddlers/mariners to safe and secure places to bed down for the night.

Also in the works is the possibility of doing an informative/teaching speaking session at the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival  November third through the sixth.  And hopefully the chance to write some reviews about the local lodging & amenities, history of the area, fishing, cooking, and gear as we promote the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail!!

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Jeff & I will launch the expedition on Monday September 19th at the Caloosahatchee Regional Park; near the town of Alva. We will then head down river to Hickey Creek and do some exploring up the creek for 4-5 miles. Paddling back down the creek and headed down river for Telegraph Creek, up & back. Some may know that the Orange River is also here but Jeff and I have done this river many times before when we were guiding trips so we are skipping it. We will then be heading down river to camp and on Day 2 to begin exploring the remainder of the river and a few more of its tributaries. Eventually leaving the mouth of the river and primitive camping on Picnic Island.

Day 3 will find us heading north for Matlacha and threw the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve. Lodging may be there for the night. We will then be paddling out again up the mangrove lined coast on Day 4 headed towards the most northern point of the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail and Charlotte Harbour Preserve State Park for some exploring and then across 4-5 miles of open water to Bokeelia/Jugg Creek/Back Bay areas to bed down.

Day 5 we are headed from Bokeelia over to Cayo Costa Island, a crossing of about 8 miles. We will be primitive camping/exploring on the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico for a day or two if time /weather allow. On Day 6 or 7, Jeff & I will be heading south down the outer islands of North Captiva, Captiva and Sanibel Island and threw the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve towards J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Possible stay on Sanibel or primitive camping on a spoil island in Pine Island Sound. We will be doing some exploring of the wildlife refuge then crossing along Sanibel Causeway and threw Matanzas Pass to San Marcos Island for a possible nights stay.

Day 8 or 9 will find us headed threw Hurricane Bay towards Hell Peckney Bay and into the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve; then across to the Estero River mouth and upriver to Koreshan State Historic Site & Park. Jeff and I will be staying a night or two at Koreshan, primitive camping and exploring Mound Key– site of the capitol city of the once great Calusa Indian Nation!!!

From there it is on Day 11 or 12 that we will head to Lovers Key and Big Hickory Island for a possible nights stay on one of either of the islands. Then on Day 13 we will start to make our way threw the Imperial River Preserve towards our final destination which will bring us up the Imperial River, possibly camping again somewhere along the river. Day 14 which will see us paddling to the Imperial River Boat ramp on U.S. 41 to end our paddling expedition and meet our shuttle vehicle to pick-up our boats and gear and whisk us home to our families & friends!!!!

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If one were to look at the segments of the paddling trail you would see we chose to do section 3 which is also the unmarked section first, then section 2 and finishing on section 1. Yes, Jeff and Sean can count and we do know 1 comes before 2 and 3. If you look carefully though there just seems to be a “Natural Flow” to the direction we chose, not to mention logistically being able to complete the most of the trail without having to double back much on anything to get the most out of the paddle/trail itself. Also lets not forget its “OUR” trip and WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT as most people with teenagers will tell you. (That is my 16 year old sons favorite saying- “I do what I want!” – or so HE thinks!)
Also it is possible that Russell Farrow owner of Sweetwater Kayaks and one of the nations best paddlers and kayaking coaches will be joining & paddling with us for a few days!!(also our boss if you want to call him that- we just call him friend!) Well we hope everyone enjoys the most recent post and the third post in the series will be out in 3 weeks Tribal Tides 3: “Native Gear, well not quite”

– Jeff & Sean