Friday, January 30, 2009

Ahh, A Nice Day For A Run

Ok, it may not have been the nicest day for a run.  But if you wait for the perfect day this time of year, you will never get out there.  I know I have been saying over the past few days I was going to get out and run.  After I got a cold and it seemed to drag on forever, I could not get motivated withe temperatures being cold.  But today I could see myself slipping into the, I'll do it tomorrow, patter.  Then I looked at Guinness and he seemed just as lazy as me.  So I decided today was the day to break out of the funk and hit the trail.  It was a much needed run.  Being around the house my mind had begun to dwell into things that did not really work out for me this winter.  Running as been the cure for refocusing my mind and re energizing my spirits.

I headed out with the clouds thick above and a nice breeze.  I went to the south end of the island where I love to go run.  I took a different route today and I will take it again.  It was a lot of fun with the wide trail shrinking to a single track style trail.  I ran with my new lumbar pack. In the past I kind of had always made fun of these.  But it was on Steep and Cheap for a great price and decided I would try it out.  After I hit the trail with camera, asthma inhaler, bags for cleaning after Guinness and Zune mp3 player.  I have a lot of stuff.  This pack made room for all of that and more.  I get to carry a water bottle now that came with the pack and can stow away gloves and beanie.  It is the Mountainsmith Sprint.  After a few more runs with it I will post a review.  But you can find them for sale on

The run was great, but it started with lot of not so good feelings.  It took awhile for my body to come around to the idea.  As always Guinness and I found our sitting place that overlooks the water and took a few minutes to reflect on the world in font of us.  Cloudy, could and a light rain starting, well it could not have been more perfect.  The wind pushing rain drops carelessly through the air.  Cold and brisk gust of wind bite through to the bone and wake the soul.  It made me smile. In fact I stayed there smiling until the cold was too much.  It was time to hit the trail and generate some heat.

Then run home was the best.  I felt good and the rain was falling lightly around me.  There were two Red Tailed Hawks playing side by side in the wind.  One broke formation a flew just above me with grass clinched in its talons.  These are the reason I love to go outside.  Picking up my pace and wanting finish with a moderate sprint.  I did just that.  Perfect day for a run!

Here are a couple of pictures:

I know he is cute. But have you ever seen a dog look more bored?

He much rather be out here.  So would I!  Not a bad place to sit for a break.  I think Guinness really likes this spot.

Bad picture I know. But this is the Red Tailed Hawk that flew by.  You can see, if you click to enlarge the image, grass trailing behind as it flies.

Ok. A bit of shameless advertising, I know.  But it is for the BEST SEA KAYAK TOUR COMPANY ON SAN JUAN ISLAND! DISCOVERY SEA KAYAKS ;)

Hope everyone is having as fun and as good of day as I am.  

Thursday, January 29, 2009

San Juan Winter Birding

Today was a great day.  Early rise and great breakfast at Rocky Bay Cafe.  Then I was set to go birding with my friend Monika (Orca Watcher Blog).  The condition of the day were cloudy and cold with a moderate breeze.  We were mainly setting out to look at sea birds but as always we check out everything we come across.  

First stop of the day was Cattle Pass.  Located at the south end of San Juan Island and is an area with lots of current flow, we expect to see birds feeding here.  Last time we were there, not much luck.  Today we had more success and started out list for the day.  Whale Rocks located across the way, is a typical haul out for Stellar Sea Lions.  Today we only saw one that I can recall.  Off off Goose Island we spotted a large group of Harbor Seals hauled out.  After spending a bit of time id'ing all the birds it was time to move on.

A quick stop at Fourth of July Beach and off to False Bay.  This is a great place to check out birds. There was a mix of sea birds and duck in the area.  As always there were Bald Eagles around. Today I think we saw Bald Eagles at every stop.  We were not the only curious birders today.  While at False Bay we met Ross, a local nature enthusiast, and he shared his scope with us.  Much appreciated!  Scopes are great for pulling in close views with amazing details.  After checking out the scene there it was once again time to push on.  We were in my car writing down the sightings and Ross knocked on the window.  He was observing gulls stopping their feet in shallow puddles in the shoreline mud.  It is an insane little dace to drive worms out of the mud so they can feed on them.  Once again many thanks for Ross pointing it out and sharing his scope again.  This is something I have not observed before.  It was really fun to watch.

As we pulled off of False Bay Dr, we stopped to check out the flooded areas in the fields.  We were lucky and spied some great views of Pintail Ducks.  They were mixed in amongst a varied amount of Mallard Ducks.  We then headed out to Small Pox Bay on the Westside of San Juan Island.  Not much going on there so we moved on.

British Camp was the next stop on the list.  We had a pretty productive viewing there.  But we notice an old Osprey nest, that has been in the area for a long time,  was pretty much gone.  The bowl shaped nest was torn apart.  We are not sure how it happend.  Once can only guess, but it could have been the wind.  I am not sure.  There was an interesting Juvenile Bald Eagle in the area.  If I had to guess, maybe 3 years of age.  I say this because the plumage was mottled and beak color transition was completing.  

So here is a list of the days birds:
*Surf Scooter * American Wigeon *Gadwall
*Northern Pintail *Mallard Ducks *Great Blue Heron
*Common Loon *Cormorants *Glaucus Wing Gull
*Scaupe *Trumpeter Swan *Junco
*Flicker *Greater Yellow Leg *Oyster Catcher
*Crow *Raven *Bufflehead
*Bald Eagle *Horned Grebe *Hooded Merganser
*Red Breasted Merganser *Common Merganser
*Harlequin Duck *Mew Gull *Red Tailed Hawk
*American Robin *Canada Goose *Peregrine Falcon

So the Falcon was at my house.  Monika did not get to see it.  Non the less it was pretty cool.

But the end of the day we were heading back to town for coffee.  I was driving and all of the sudden a fox catches my attention.  I had to think for a second before I asked Monika if she saw it.  It was back and it did NOT have a tail.  We turned around and there it was.  Monika was able to get some photos.  It was funny looking.  Never know what you are going to see.  Yesterday I saw a crow in town that was miss three quarters of its top beak.  

Here area a few photos.

Cattle Pass

False Bay

Monika looking through the scope that Ross was sharing.

Well that was my day.  Nice to spend most if it outside looking at wildlife.  Even better when you run into other people out doing the same.  But you can tell from the pictures it is pretty cloudy here.  Makes for dark images.

Monika took pictures of some of the birds and the fox.  Please see here blog

Hope everyone is having a great day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How To Buy A Sea Kayak

Buying a sea kayak can be a fun experience.  At the same time it can be overwhelming.  There are a lot of kayaks on the market.  In particular you have a lot of choices if you live in the US or Canada.  Kayaks come in many shapes, designs and offerings.  So how does one decide which kayak will fit the best.  

NOTE:  I am not covering sit-on-top style kayaks or fishing kayaks.  This is designed to help those looking for fully enclosed (decked) kayaks. 

Unlike a car where most people pick out a car by looks and then test drive.  I know many people buy kayaks the same way.  But I do not think that is the best way of getting the best kayak for you. Test paddling a kayak is a must!  If this is your first kayak, test paddle a lot of kayaks. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when getting started.

* What are my goals as a kayaker?
  • Do I want to simply kayak along the shore on calm days in protected waters?
  • Do I want to cross large expanses of water with wave and currents?
  • Do I plan on camping multiple days  or just overnight from my kayak?

This is a good place to start.  Sea kayaks can be broken down into categories.  I call them Recreational Kayaks, Sea Going Kayaks and Surf Kayaks.  For this I will only talk about Recreational and Sea Going Kayak categories.  In looking at the questions above you can kind of start working towards a category.  If you answered yes to the first question then you can start leaning towards a Recreational Kayak.  If you answered yes to the second question then you are thinking about moving in to a Sea Going Kayak.

Recreational Kayaks tend to be short in length and robust in width.  They are very stable and are great for calm waters.  Some downfalls you have in this class:  Safety rigging on the deck tends to be minimal or left out.  Many times there is only one bulk head, so some sort of flotation is recommended.  Storage capacity is small, so you might be limited to shot overnight trips.  The overall design of the kayak is based on being very stable.  With a short waterline they are slow kayaks but have a good maneuverability because they are short.  This is a great choice for calm, protected waters.  Nice and stable for bird watching and relaxing.  Important to note:  doing self rescue from Recreational Kayaks can be tricky.  The key is they are more stable so you may not end up in a self rescuing position as easily.  But none the less, you should practice or take a class in basic self rescue techniques before kayaking.

Sea Going Kayaks are the step up in performance.  You should, but not always, have safety deck rigging.  Two bulkheads are a plus.  More room for storage if you plan to be out multiple days.  A longer water line provides a more swift kayak, but maneuverability takes more skill.  These kayaks are meant to handle rougher water conditions but stability is usually less than that of a Recreational Kayak.

If you have decided to stay in the Recreational Kayak category.  The process needed to buy a kayak is to find one that has the features you wish and do a demo paddle.  If the overall comfort and fit is good, you probably found your kayak.  I really do not compare much performance in this class of kayak as performance and stability are pretty similar throughout.

If you have decided you are going to get into kayaking, take classes and get the full potential out of your kayak.  Then you are in the Sea Going Kayak range.  Here you have entered a new world of options from hull designs and shape.  There are Soft Rounded Chine Kayaks, Hard Chine Kayaks, and Multi-Chine Kayaks.  Some have a lot of rocker and some less.  All of these factors play an important roll in the kayaks behavior.  This is an exciting choice.  Though I feel to be fair to yourself, take your time in selecting your kayak.  Remember that at first the kayak may feel a bit tippy and you may feel uneasy.  This does not mean that it is a bad kayak.  It usually means you have not developed the balance and skill to be in that kayak.

One of the best ways to get a start is to start with your skill building first.  Take a class where you can use kayaks that are provided.  Note the type of kayaks and design that you use. Lessons will help you develop the balance and skill to accurately select your own kayak.  I feel this is the number one way in finding a kayak that fit for you.  Do not let your instructor sway you into a purchase of a kayak right-away.  Know that many places that give lessons also sale kayaks.  So they are partial to a brand that works for them, but may not for you.  Take lessons with different instructors and select different kayaks to use.  All of this will help you in your decisions.

Now that you have reached a point where you can decide between Recreational and Sea Going Kayaks.  If you are excited and want to go shop for your Recreational Kayak at this point.  Well have fun and take your time.  Make sure to demo the kayak and that it is comfortable to be in.  If you are ready to get to the details of Sea Going Kayaks, please follow this link 

Choosing A Sea Going Kayak

If you are just joining us for the discussion.  You may want to read the previous post on "How To Buy A Sea Kayak"

Now you have your mind made up and want to have a kayak that can take you to the seas. Remember I call this the Sea Going Category.  Here we are going to discuss a little more detail about the kayaks so that you can be equipped with a bit more knowledge when you arrive at the kayak shop or your kayak lessons.  

As state in my last post.  I feel taking lesson is the best place to start when looking to buy a kayak. This will allow you to gain skill and test a variety of kayaks.

First off the one thing that pops out at you are the different material kayaks are made of. Carbon/Kevlar, Plastic and Fiberglass.  I will give you my opinion and remember that is all it is.
  • Plastic:  I think plastic kayaks are fine.  I like them because they are durable and with proper care will last you a long time.  They are not as rigid as other materials but still offer a great feel. Plus they tend to cost a bit less than other material.  Not all plastic kayaks are manufactured the same, so you may want to ask what processed was used in making the kayak.  If you are interested in more details on the differences, leave me a comment and I will get something together for you.
  • Fiberglass:  This is my preference.  I have had good success with FB kayaks.  They are rigid and provide a great kayak experience.  Yes you can crack them and put holes in them. It does happen.  But I have always been able to make repairs in the field and complete patches at home.  Some will say they are lighter than plastic.  I am not one to really look at weight too much.
  • Carbon/Kevlar:  I have to be honest I have never been a big fan.  I also do not have much experience as an owner either.  Really the only thing about them is they weigh less and since I am not one to dwell on the weight, then they do not really to much for me.  They are pretty tough, but repairs are far more complicated than Fiberglass.  But hey, they are easy to get on and off your car.
I would never encourage anyone to buy a kayak because it is easier to carry to the beach and get on my car.  Kayak with a partner and they can help you carry the extra pound or two of weight. Carbon/Kevlar kayaks are very expensive, a bit too expensive for such little difference in weight.  I enjoy being in a solid kayak.  A kayak that can take a few bumps, bruises and occasional band-aid.

Hull Designs are an important factor to look at.  Hard Chine, Rounded Chine and Multi-Chine kayak are all made to perform differently. The chine of the kayak will have some to do with the kayaks maneuverability, speed and stability.  Stability is usually referred to as Primary and Secondary.  Primary Stability is where the kayak finds a natural balance with very little edge applied to the kayak.  Secondary is the stability that is at the more extreme of edging before a brace is needed to prevent capsize. I have found that it is a personal choice on what type of hull works.  I enjoy the round chine kayaks, that is me.  So what is all the chine business about?
  • Hard Chine:  Typical of this design are steep vertical sides with a shallow V bottom.  Give the design the kayak on flat water tends to lead left or right with sitting in it.  Some would say it has a low Primary Stability.  But once you edge the kayak over there is a point where is holds its balance very well.  This is the Secondary Stability.  Hard Chine Kayaks tend to have great Secondary Stability.  This will help you when turning the kayak.  Given the steep sides the kayaks tend to track straight and swift.  But turning then requires a bit more of an edge sometimes to overcome the pressure exerted on the side of the boat by the water.  I have found that Hard Chine Kayaks do well in really choppy sea conditions with lots of wind.  They perform just fine on flat water, they just have a tendency to feel a bit tippy sometimes.
  • Multi-Chine:  This is a design I have spent very little time messing with.  It is a series of chines that work together to create what is said to be a stable kayak.  With multiple chines it is suppose to find a nice edge at various levels of edging.  I do not encounter the hull design very often.  So my comments are shot.
  • Round Chine:  This has been my choice for my kayaks.  I find that the Primary Stability is usually strong and in most cases the Secondary Stability is good, but I feel predictable. Meaning I can typically feel the transition from Primary to a Secondary to almost capsize. When I developed that sensation I became comfortable with this design because I felt I had good feed back from the kayak.  Edging is still require of turning and turns well on a Primary edge and as you push to Secondary you get a more exaggerated effect.  The design performs well in flat and rough sea conditions.  Looking the side of the kayak you see a gentle transition (rounded) from the side to the bottom of the kayak.
Ask your instructor if you are not sure what type of hull design you are in.  It is very important to note.

Next I would like to mention Rocker.  This is the curvature of the kayak from front to back (bow to stern).  This has a varied effect on the kayaks performance.  Increased rocker tends to add maneuverability to the kayak.  Though with lots of rocker you see the up swept bows.  When paddling, as you move the kayak through the water.  Pressure builds at the bow, water piles up. This can hinder the kayaks speed.  Sometimes with an increased up swept bow, the kayak may weather cock (turn in to the wind) easier or in light winds.  With less rocker you decrease the maneuverability of the kayak but increase its ability to glide straight.  So more edging is required to turn the kayak.  You tend to see a less up swept bow and weather cocking is less.  

I tend to see less rocker on hard chine kayaks and more rocker on round chine.  This not always the case, but it does seem to be pretty common.  It is best to test kayak with minimal and increased rocker to develop a feel for what is going on.  

The top deck of a kayak is debatable.  I always look for safety lines (deck lines) that run the perimeter of the kayak.  I like to see how they are connected and if they can handle weight. Deck lines are there for a reason.  They need to be strong and fit so that one can get their fingers under them.  I also look for bow and stern surf toggles.  These are not carry handles.  They are used for maintaining contact with your kayak if you come out of your boat in surf or rough conditions.  The toggles should have enough line so that if the kayaks starts roll, it does not pin your hand against the deck breaking your fingers.  Now for the kind of debatable part.  The back deck of the kayak.  Just behind the cockpit.  Some kayaks have a really low back deck.  This was a design feature for safety.  With a low back deck you can more easily mount the deck to perform a self rescue.  Some kayaks will not have this.  Just be aware that certain types of rescues may take more technique and practice with a higher back deck.

All Sea Going Kayaks should have two bulkheads.  This creates air tight compartments in the bow and stern.  This provides flotation if you swamp your cockpit.  Bow and stern hatches should be water tight.  My favorite are the round rubber hatches.  Day Hatches are found on most kayaks today, but not all.  I find it is a useful place to keep water and emergency equipment.

My view on rudders.  Take a class and learn to paddle without one.  Get a skeg style kayak and leave the rudder kayak alone.  If you want more details why, please let a comment and I will put something up.

I know there is a lot of information here and I hope it gives you some terminology you can research and gain more knowledge on.  In the end I hope it helps you find a kayak that is best fit for you and your needs.  

Kayaks become our partners out there.  You rely on it in rough water, explore nature and enjoy journeys together.  So make sure you find that kayak you want as your partner.

Here are a few links to education in my region:
Discovery Sea Kayaks on San Juan Island Wa

Body Boat Blade on Orcas Island Wa

Sea Kayak Shop Anacortes Wa

Columbia River Kayaking Southern Washington

Alder Creek Portland Or

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Light Snow in the Morning, Cold All Day

We had a few snow flurries this morning.  But that tapered off pretty quick.  It was pretty much just cold outside.  I cannot complain.  My family live in Northwest Arkansas and they are in the middle of a ice storm.  My Mom called earlier to let me know a tree feel on their house.  I do not know much more.  I have tried to call, but all the lines are down.  Thousands are without power and it does not look like it will start warming up until Saturday.  So I am not going to complain about a little cold air.

I took a bit of time to sneak off to the West Side of San Juan and enjoy the sounds of the water and the salty air.  Not much of a sunset tonight with all the clouds, but it is still beautiful. The water had a lite chop and the breeze was moderate and chilly.  Guinness and I walked down to a familiar Madrona Tree and took refuge close the the ground.  I could hear Bald Eagles chattering in the distance and before long I caught sight of one flying over the water.  Searching for its last meal of the day, it flew a search pattern over the water.  Soon it disappeared behind me into the woods.  Gulls tossed about the wind in a playful manner.  Usually annoying, but for some reason today they seemed more peaceful as the gilded in and out of view. 

Not like I have a lot of stress in my life or I will die without the connection to the outdoors that I seek so eagerly.  But it is cleansing to the mind and soul to have time that you can simply be an observer on this spinning globe instead of a participant.  Though I feel lucky that I have such a wonderful place to enjoy this time.  Everyone can find there own nature and time.  Be it in your backyard, a garden or a city park.  But if you take time to find that special place I am willing to bet you will never regret the time you spend there as an observer.

Enjoy the pictures!

Simple pleasures of life.

There is not much sun to see here.  But the dramatic set of dark tones mixed with the clouds was good enough for me.


I have to say, I joined the facebook movement last night.  It was a funny circumstance that led to it.  But in the end I have become a member.  It seems like a complete waste of time.  But it has been fun so far.  It was amazing how many friends from High School are there.  Plus it is awesome to see some old friends with their own families.  Pretty cool.  But I will never neglect my duties here on the blog.  Don't worry, kayak information and nature photos will continue as always.

I am sure everyone was worried about that. Laugh!!

Nothing new going on so far today.  A bit of snow early this morning.  Now it is just cold and rainy.

Check back later I hope to get some photos today. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

San Juan Island Sunshine

A beautiful day on San Juan Island today.  Very little wind and lots of sun, though the temperature was a bit cold.  After getting some of my work done on the computer today.  I decided it was time to get out of the house.  I thought I might go for a run, but was in a really mellow mood, so a walk was the answer.  Loaded Guinness (my dog) in the Previa and headed out.  

First I went down to Cattle Pass to see if there were any birds or sea lions feeding in the area. There was not much going on.  You could see Mt. Rainier in the distance, always a clue it is a super clear day.  We walked along the shore and I would spy across the water with my bino's in search of any wildlife that might be passing along.  I just enjoyed the nice scenery and took in the sun.

I walked along the bluff above South Beach looking out towards the Olympic Mountains.  There were only a few birds to be seen on the water.  It seems I had my most luck driving to the locations for my walk.  I saw lots of Bald Eagles, a hand full of Red Tailed Hawks and a few fox. But while I was walking I only saw 1 Red Tailed Hawk, but it was making a kill.  So it was a great encounter to watch, oh the cycle of life.

Speaking of the cycle of life, for those of you who are interested.  February 12th  is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday anniversary.  A man who pushed the theory on Natural Selection and brought the term Evolution to forefront of science.  Over time Darwin's theory has only gained more validity.  With increased technology and experimental processes.  Darwin's theory of Natural Selection proves itself to be one of the greatest theories and help to science today.  In controversy with other beliefs on adaptation and the creation of new species.  Charles Darwin has offered the only sound and scientific route to this process.  To learn more about Darwin Day, please visit

Please note the above paragraph are my personal views and are not represented to take away from anyone else beliefs.  I respect everyone opinion.  So if you disagree with my opinion please feel free to comment, but be respectful!

Now for a few photos from my day.

If you click on the image you can view it larger.  Mt. Baker in the distance with lots of snow.

A closer view of Mt. Baker.  It was a really beautiful day.

I was actually on my way home and saw the clouds over the water and I had to stop.  I made my way down to the shore and took this one image.  To me it has a nice feel to it.  The mountains you see are the Olympics.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lending A Helping Hand

Tonight my friend Penny ,who works at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center here on San Juan Island, asked me if I could help out with a Bald Eagle that was coming in on the 10 0'clock ferry.  I said sure.  Coming from a background in biology and having worked at one point with Bald Eagles I was more than happy to help out.  

We made our way down to the ferry and picked up a box.  Inside the box was an adult Bald Eagle, but you would not have know it.  It was perfectly quite and still.  We drove out to the Center with light snow falling.  Both of us wondering if the bird was even alive in the quite of the car.  Once at the center and opening the box it was alive.  It seemed to be pretty alert and not completely stressed out give the circumstance.  The Eagle was removed from the box and set up to be handled safely.  During examination Penny notice and injury to one of the wings.  The reports said that the Eagle had been on the ground for awhile.  So finding and injury to the wing seemed to be on par with the reports.  In further examination there was a complete break of one if its legs.  It was shattered and the massive talon'ed foot laid limp.  Penny informs me this is not an bird that can be rehabilitated due to the break in the leg.  I was pretty surprised how calm and the lack of the appearance of shock the Eagle was displaying.  It was an unfortunate but understanding event that had to take place.  As wonderful as it is to see a magnificent bird such as a Bald Eagle.  It is never a pleasant sight to see one in pain.  By euthanizing the animal it saves it from possible days of suffering in the wild to a point of death due to starvation.  If one can only see the merciful good in the necessity of euthanization in certain times.  Then you can understand that it is a favor to the animal in the long run.

I did not feel compelled to take any images of the Eagle.  It is one thing to collect and share images of beautiful wildlife.  But it is not in my heart to take images of a wonderful and beautiful bird in its last moments.  I am sorry I have no images to share with this story.

I know that my friend Penny has to deal with this situation all the time.  I feel that making decisions to euthanize wildlife and being the one to administer the final injection, is hard.  I hope she can only see that by ending the suffering of an innocent animal that she is doing a honorable thing.  

Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has been operating on San Juan Island for many years. They rely heavily on local volunteers and donations from the public.  If you are a islander and wish to volunteer please be advised it is to do work, not simply hangout and view the wildlife. But if you are interested in learning more please visit the WHWRC website.  If you are someone who has a great compassion for wildlife and their increasing struggle to survive in an ever developing world.  You make donations to WHWRC.  Everything helps when it comes to helping animals in the wild live alongside humans.

I hope everyone out there is having a good night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ever Think That Power Boat Might Hit You

I just finished reading an article in Sea Kayaker Magazine ,February 2009, that was nice and informative on the "Rules of the Road" for kayaks.  If you paddle on saltwater it is a great article to read through that might clarify some confusion about how to handle areas you kayak with lots of boat traffic.  Spending a lot of time on the water in heavily boated waterways, I've seen some pretty crazy travel paths taken by kayakers.  Some of which I believe the kayaks felt they had right of way when they did not.  As a vessel powered by human power it does seem that we should have right of way all the time.  But this is not always the case.  So if you are at the store and want to give it a read, pick it up and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Planning Your Own San Juan Island Kayak Adventure

There are a lot of people who search on how to plan their own kayak adventure to the San Juan Islands.  This is a great idea if you have a good understanding of a few important topics and you have accomplished kayak skills.  If you are new to kayaking or do not have an understanding about the kayak environment here in the San Juan Islands.  I recommend going with a guide. This way you have someone with you to ensure safety, navigation and enrich you adventure with information about the islands and wildlife.  

The following information is intended for kayakers with a high level of skill and are looking for tips on kayaking in the area of the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

First thing to mention is the water temperature.  Many people who live where the water is warm do not face the idea of what happens when you capsize and it takes you a good amount of time to get back in your kayak.  With the water temperature here around 48F to 50F year round, well you need to be prepared for getting in the water.  Hypothermia is real and can lead to death.  It happens much more quickly than most people imagine.  Combine a low ambient temperature with the cold water temperature and you have one heck of a time getting warm if you are not prepared for immersion.  Learn all skills needed to get back in your kayak quickly in various water conditions.

My suggestions:
*Never wear cotton. *Wool or synthetic base layers are a must
*Wear a dry suit or a combination of dry pants and dry top.
*Have plenty of extra clothing with you in dry bags.

Decide on travel routes.  If you plan to stay on San Juan Island and do day tips around the island or if you plan to pack up and camp on an adjacent islands.

Once you have selected you starting point and your travel route for the day, set up a plan. Check the local marine forecast.  

Make sure to record the forecast wind speeds, direction and outlook.  The weather here changes quickly so it is in your best interest to carry a VHF radio to monitor any changes that may occur. To understand the importance of the wind please see my previous post:

Next is to consult a local tide chart to get the range of tides for the region.  Record all the important times of tide changes and fluctuations.  Do this for each day you plan to be on the water.  In a relationship with tides is current.  You can get a copy of the Washburn's Tables and used with the Canadian Tide Atlas, you can get a trend for the currents.  

*Note the times for tide change and current direction change are different*  Understanding this relationship takes time being on the water in this region.  With experience you can start to get a feel for the estimated time for current direction change by looking at the size of the tidal exchange.  With big tide exchanges you can see up to 1 and half hours before you see the current direction change.  This can be tricky but is a necessity to get a concept of if you plan on kayaking here.

Now you have your weather, tides and currents.  Consult your nautical chart and see how it lines up with your travel plans.  Does it mean you will be kayaking up strong currents all day?  Does it show that if you are crossing a channel you need to have a good angle of approach so you do not get pushed out to sea?  These are question you ask yourself to plan a safe trip.

I am not going to take the time here to explain the best ways to kayak against current.  If you are not equipped with he knowledge to find back current (back eddys) then you should be going with a guide.  If you are not familiar with the concepts of ferry gliding to cross channels, then you should go with a guide.

You have an nice outline now to follow to travel to destinations around the San Juan Islands. Now to make sure you have got all the basic equipment.  Below is a list of things that I have every time I get on the water.  As a guide I consider myself a safe and prepared kayaker.

Personal Wear:
*Wool Base Layers *Wool Socks *Dry Suit
*Personal Floatation Device with Whistle *Neoprene Spray Deck
*Tow Rope *Neoprene Shoes fully enclosed without laces and nice sole.
*I always carry sunglasses and hats (beanies for cold weather)
*Note* in the pockets of my PFD I carry, fixed blade knife, snack, quick repair parts, compass, sunscreen and lip balm.

In My Kayak:
*First Aid Kit *Flares and Smoke (flares are not good for daytime, use smoke for daytime)
*Compact Stove and Fuel *Snacks *Water
*Spare Clothing in Dry Bags(hats, fleece, jackets, gloves, pants, socks etc)
*Emergency Shelter *Tool Kit *Tapes and Sealants
*VHF Radio  *Signaling Mirror *Bilge Pump

On My Kayak: 
*Nautical Chart *Spare Paddle *Deck Compass

The above is what I consider your pe-checklist of things you should do to start your planing. You should consult Washington State Parks on camping locations.  Buy a chart of the area and write on it.  Use it as a tool!  Learn any local laws and regulations to be around marine wildlife. Contact local kayak shops for advice.

San Juan Islands are an amazing place to kayak.  But it does come with its dangers.  Swift currents cause white water conditons.  Learning to read the water and look for features that create back currents and safe places to get out of rips.  Understand the relationship between wind and current and how it effects the water conditions.  Be prepared to take a spill in the 48F water.  

Safe kayaking starts at home when you do a good job on planing your trip.  Knowing emergency numbers for the area and how to contact Coast Gaurd if need be.  Know emegency take outs and landings.  Good Judgement is the next key to have a fun and safe expereience when kayaking. Remember a trip is not really a success if there is a death or near death expereience due to your lack of judgement.  Be realistic about your abilities in realtion to the conditons you face. 

So please take your time in planing your kayak trip.  Make sure you have the skill needed to face the conditions.

I hope that I was able to help give some idea on where to start in planing a kayak trip to the San Juan Islands.  

Remember you can always book a tour with a guide.  Discovery Sea Kayaks has an outstanding safety record and is known for a high level of training.  Who knows if you book a kayak tour with Discovery Sea Kayaks you might just get me as your guide!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunset Picture

I meant to post this pic last night.

Just wanted to post this image.  It is a self portrait.   But really I just like the image.

Another beautiful day here on San Juan Island.  Wish I felt better.  My cold seemed to come back this morning with a bit more punch to it.  :(

Hope everyone is having a good day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Slow Day and Great Sunset

Today did not really go as planned.  But some days are just that way.  I had originally planned on kayaking today.  But an early morning call was to let me that my paddle partner for the day was not feeling well.  Which seems to be going around the island.  So I have to tease a bit and say, Wow I cannot believe you bailed out!  But I understand.  Since I had such a nice day on the water yesterday I decided I would get some stuff done around the house and then clean all my kayak gear from yesterday.

Time seemed to pass quickly. By the time I was done getting most of what I wanted to do for the day, the sun was getting low in the sky.  I pretty much decided earlier in the day that I had to get to the West Side for sunset.  

I found me a nice place where I could lay propped up by a nice rock and watch the water.  Then the funniest thing.  This little boy who was maybe 4 years old, came along.  He came down next to me and just sat right down.  It was pretty funny.  As I looked around I saw his Mom following him along.  The little guy looked at me and said, "your a man".  I just laughed and said yea, I am. He scrambled along the rocks for a bit then came back to sit down next to me for a bit longer. Then it was time for him to go.  As the sun went down it was getting cold and his Mom wanted to go back to the car.  Kids are pretty funny.

Well here are some photos.

Not really the most exciting thing in the world I am sure.  But this was a much needed project that will help us manage waste from our multi day tours.  Compost in the center, recycle to the left and trash to the right.  NICE!

Looking north west toward the Canadian Gulf Islands.

Olympic Mountains

The beauty of a sunset.

The water was so calm.

Check out how the color of the sky changed.  Before there was lots of red.  It was really a nice sunset.

Some days going to the West Side of the Island to watch the sunset can really do a lot for you. Taking the time to step back from everything and relax.  To enjoy something so simple, but so profound.  The sunset is something that all humans, no matter where you are, stop to take notice. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

San Juan Island Winter Sea Kayaking

Today could not have been a better day to be on the water.  There were some Bald Eagles and a few other birds.  But all in all it was pretty quite.  Which there is nothing wrong with quite.  The sun was bright and a breeze out of the north.  My paddler partner today is working on a article for Seattle Magazine.  He was really lucky with the weather today.  We had a pretty nice size ebb tide, so there was a bit of chop for a bit.  But that subsided and the conditions were great.  

After having such a nice day in the sun on the water.  I came home and my roommate and I transferred our home brew to the carboy.  Soon it will be time to bottle and have some drinks!!

Here are some images from the day.

Look at the blue sky! Great time to be on the water.

The ever famous Lime Kiln Lighthouse.

Checking out the shore of Deadman Bay.

Back at Small Pox Bay.  

LOOK AT ALL THAT BEER!  Hope it taste good.

Well it looks like tomorrow is going to be another nice day here on San Juan Island.  Get your kayaks out on the water. I am!

Have a great night.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Down With A Cold

Over the past few days I have been up and down with a cold.  I think sometime yesterday it finally got the best of me.  Feeling a bit off today so I did not get out to do anything fun today.  Which is a bummer since the sun was out all day!  

But tomorrow I will be on the water.  I have custom trip to do.  So should get some photos to share and it is suppose to really nice tomorrow.

Remember just because it is winter does not mean you cannot kayak here.  The San Juan Islands are an amazing place to paddle anytime of the year.  Come on out and do some kayaking.

Hope everyone is doing well.  Time for dinner.

I'm a messy eater. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When Is The Wind Too Strong For Kayaking

This is a good question and I bring this up because I see a good amount of people find there way to my blog by searching for that exact phrase.

My first answer for you is it really depends on your individual skill level.  Some kayakers who may be slightly more advanced with bracing and kayak handling skills might be able to kayak in conditions that far worse than a kayaker without those skills.

So knowing your personal limits is key.  Defining those limits should be done in time.  By honing your skills and taking classes (BCU or ACA).  Slowly build your confidence by attending a class in conditions that challenge you and with the safety of an instructor open yourself up for learning.

Next you have to take in account the region you are kayaking.  If you are in a place with little to no tidal exchange then currents are not that big of a factor.  But in areas where you have large exchanges between high and low tide. Well current is a huge factor then.

Example: If you have a tide that runs South for outgoing tide (ebb) and North for incoming tide (flood).  So you check your forecast before going to the beach and they area calling for winds South 14kts.  The time you are going to be on the water is an ebb tide.  You consult you tide chart and see it is a 10ft ebb.  So now you have wind going the opposite direction of the water. In this case you will start to see wind waves develop on the surface.  Maybe some whitecaps.  The conditions get sloppy.  

Now lets say the wind is forecast as North 14kts with the same ebb tide.  Now you have winds out of the North with a tide heading South.  So the winds and tides are moving the same direction.  You not see as much wind chop and the conditions do not look as bad as the above example.

So my point.  Wind is only a piece of the puzzle when making judgment calls on water conditions.

There is a good tool that gives you visual ques to use when on the water.  It is know as the Beaufort Scale.

This link is good because it has everything spelled out for on water and land observations.

This link is more fun .  I like it as it seems to give you a visual of concept.

As sea kayaker talking to another sea kayaker we typically explain wind conditions in terms of the Beaufort Scale.  This way we both have an understanding on what the water conditions look like.

Working as a kayak guide I am always checking the wind.  Force 1 through 3 winds are comfortable days for guiding.  The water conditions are usually nice within that range. As you move to Force 4 you really need to start accounting for tidal effect combined with the wind. Force 5 we do not want guides on the water with clients at this point.  Things can get out of control with a novice group in these conditions.

For some of my personal kayak trips with experienced friends.  We push things up to Force 8. Doing this require that you have a good working relationship with your partners and their skills. You never really want to be out there alone and being with someone who does not have the experience is the same as being alone.

I know that there is no direct answer on how much is too much.  My opinion is if you are asking this question, then you are new to kayak or has minimum skill set to work with.  If this is the case Force 1 through 3 are good starting limits.  But never go out alone.

Here are a few links to education in my region:
Discovery Sea Kayaks on San Juan Island Wa

Body Boat Blade on Orcas Island Wa

Sea Kayak Shop Anacortes Wa

Columbia River Kayaking Southern Washington

Alder Creek Portland Or

Here there is lots of current mixed with a stiff wind.

Coastal Oregon on an windy day. BIG SEAS!

Playing in a nice breeze with some chop.  Notice I am with someone else.  Make sure you are out with a partner you have confidence in.

Hope that helped.

Summer Kayaking Images

I got a comment on the blog this morning from Kandi.  She was on one of my tours last season.  I borrowed a few images from her site to share.  But you should go check out her blog to see how much fun she had on the tour.

Lyle was her paddle partner for the day.

Nice image!  Sunny and calm waters.  I cannot wait for summer!

Stopping for a little chat.

So warm out that I am wearing my shortie drytop.

Look at the water conditions.  What a wonderful day.

Kandi thanks for sharing your blog with me.  It is always nice to get images with me in them.  It seems most of the time I am taking them, so I am not in many.  Get a group together and set up a 3 day!

Hope everyone one is getting off to a good start today!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oh the Joy of the Trail

Today started as most do, SLOW!  But after I had some coffee it was time to get a bit or work done. I messed around on the computer getting some much needed organization out of the way.  The work I did today will make what I need to do tomorrow a snap.  

After a bit of time indoors it was time to do something outside.  I decided that a trail run was in order.  I have been a little hesitant about running due to a bit of respiratory issues I have been having.  But it was time to get out there an push trough.  As always the run was a lot of huffing, puffing and sweating.  I cannot discount the wonders it does for you mentally.  At least for me. Running along trails with beautiful scenery everywhere and today Bald Eagles were pretty prevalent.  So it was a great decision to go running.

I took a few images on my way home.  If you ever wondered what most days look like on San Juan Island during the winter.  This will answer you questions.

Kind of cloudy.  Though I did see a patch of sunlight, but it was some distance away.  It would have been nice if the sun were out where I was.

Not much really going on.  I will be on the water this weekend.  Looks like I am taking a writer out on Saturday and on Sunday there is a possibility that a friend of mine might want to get on the water. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Day on San Juan

Today was a quite day.  Never anything wrong with a quite day, but sometimes you can start to have to many of them.  Tomorrow I will have to get out and enjoy some outdoor activity rain or shine!

My good friend Mike who works for the Nature Conservancy in Arkansas doing exciting research in caves.  Has started a new web blog.  It is his work in progress and I wanted to share the blog with everyone and I hope he starts to post some of the amazing discoveries he encounters.

I am trying to get some time to head back south and do some caving with Mike.  We used to do bio inventory work in caves together.  But that was a long time ago and it will be fun to be get back underground and share in the exportation.

Here is a picture of Mike, his wife Christy and me.  This was on New Years Day sitting in a creek bed.  The theory is how you spend your New Years Day would set the tone for your new year. So for me camping, hiking and hanging out with good friends.  Man I am going to have a good year :)

Tonight is Tasty Tuesday, our weekly potluck.  Good times and good friends! 


Monday, January 12, 2009

San Juan Island and Slow Days

Not much happening today.  I ran into some friends when I went out for lunch.  It was fun to catch up.  But a friend of mine called and wanted to go see the little cave I was messing about in the other day so we met up and headed out.  

I spent a bit more time checking things out this time around and took a few new photos.  To see Monika's Photos check her blog:
I am sure she will have some images there soon.

Humm. Is this the way out?

Meet some of my new friends

That is all I have.  Have a great day.

Here are some photos sent to me from MoniKa:

Good perspective for seeing the size of the passage.

Checking out critters on the ceiling.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Great Day on the Water

Today was an ambitious day as I had plans to locate and crawl into a cave, then go kayaking.  It turned out to be pretty easy.  The cave was full of water so I was not able to enter.  There is so much water running off the hillsides here.  I am not sure how long it will be before the water has drained.  I will just have to keep checking.  I hope to try and locate some more local caves on the San Juan Island and Orcas Island. 

Kayaking was next on the list.  It was a nice day.  Not too cold, a bit of fog and no wind.  Lyle and I unloaded kayaks, suited up and took off.  Pretty quite out there today.  We were the only ones on the water and other than a bird and a few seals, that is all we saw.  Bald Eagles seemed to be the most common sight of the day.  

Here is a list of birds from the day.

*Bald Eagles *White Wing Scooter *Common Merganser
*Buffleheads *Kingfisher *Harlequin Ducks
*Double Crested Cormorants *Ruddy Turnstone (surprised to see)

After the day paddle Lyle and I came home and started to brew our first batch of home brew. I'll have to let you know about that later.  It has been a funny process of so far.  Seems we have a problem with the brew pot boiling over.  Smells Great!

Here are a few pics from today.

Here is the small entry to the cave.  I know it does not look like it but it is big enough for me to get through.  But it was full of water.  I hope to get in as soon as the water recedes.

Getting ready to have some fun.

Harbor Seals checking us out.

Lyle is rocking his new dry suit.

Kind of a gray day.  But the water conditions were great.

Good Night!