Friday, April 30, 2010

Kayak Demo Day San Juan Island

Welcoming Emotion Kayaks to Discovery Sea Kayaks.

To kick off the new line kayaks arriving at our shop we are hosting a Kayak Demo Day May29th. Starting at 9:30am we will have kayaks at Jackson Beach for test paddles. Bill Walker, the rep for Emotion Kayaks, will be here to provide in depth information on the different models.

Discovery Sea Kayaks will have kayak packages for sale in the shop, 185 First St Friday Harbor Wa. If you test out a kayak you like just drop by the shop and take it home. We have great package deals in the works for the Demo Day.

Demo Day will end at 5:30pm May 29th. So make sure to drop in and check out the kayaks.

Emotion Kayaks are great for beginner kayakers, wildlife watchers, photographers, fishermen, and to toss on your boat for quick exploration of bays.

You can pre order a kayak package before May 15th and receive 10% the package price.

Contact for details: 360.378.2559

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mothers Day Special

Discovery Sea Kayaks is offering a Mothers Day Special. May 9th all Moms receive 50% Off West Side Half Day Kayak Tours departing at 930am and 230pm. Please check out the tour on the company website: West Side Half Day Kayak Tour.

Limited Space: Book Now: 360.378.2559

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Discovery Sea Kayak, Seattle Magazine

Discovery Sea Kayaks was mentioned in Seattle Magazine May 2010 for Great Escapes for 2010.

Here is a link to the article: We are mentioned in the "what to do" section

Once again the Discovery Team is very grateful for being recognized for our hard work. We strive to provide the highest quality kayak adventures possible, not just in the San Juan Islands. The Discovery Team's passion for kayaking and the outdoors shines on every tour. Thanks to our great Guides and Staff we are able to share our vision with everyone who joins a DSK San Juan Island Kayak Tour.

Thanks again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Just wanted to share this video that is posted on the Canoe and Kayak Magazine homepage. It is a short video and will only take 5 minutes of your time. I hope you can take the determination of this one person and let it inspire you to take on the difficult tasks in your life.

Discovery Sea Kayaks Recognized

Just wanted to post a quick announcement that Discovery Sea Kayaks took Second Place in the King 5 Best of Western Washington contest. We are always faced with touch competition here in the Pacific Northwest, where there are lots of outfitters. But we were please to see we made the mark at Second Place. Though First Place is always the hope, this leaves us a bit more room to improve and provide even better service than before.

This is Discovery's second year making the list in the Top 5! Thank you to all who voted to help Discovery be recognized for all of our hard work.

So come back and join us on a true kayak adventure around the San Juan Islands...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

To Skeg or Rudder? That is the Question.

I have had a few people looking to get more information on buying a kayak with a skeg or a rudder. I am not going to write a post and say you should have one over the other but I will give some simple facts and then my opinion.

First I will start out with the skeg. For those who are not familiar with the skeg system, I will give a quick description. The skeg is located on the hull side at the stern of the kayak. It is deployed from the cockpit via by a rope system or a cable slider system. When deployed it moves vertically out of the hull and retracts the same. It can be adjust variably to reach the desired effect.

The most common mistake people make is thinking that the skeg is just a different form of a rudder. A skeg is not used to maneuver a kayak. The skeg is used to create lateral resistance. So you might ask yourself, why do I need this lateral resistance?

To answer this question we have to look at the design of kayak and a few terms. Kayaks generally will turn into the (weather cock), by design, when the kayak is neutrally loaded or unevenly loaded with heavy weight in the bow. By neutral loading I mean that heavy point of the kayak is centrally located, being you the paddler. Given a neutrally or bow loaded kayak with wind off the beam. Most kayaks will turn bow to the wind (weather cock). If you are making a course between two points with a nice wind off the beam, maintaining you course may become difficult. This is where the skeg comes in. By lowering the skeg you increase the resistance in the stern. The increased resistance at the stern corrects for the beam wind. The result will be one of two things. You will start maintaining your course with more ease or your bow will start to turn down wind (lee cocking). If you start to have lee cocking you have lowered the skeg too far and creating too much resistance in the stern. For this reason the skeg has a variable drop, so that you can fine turn or trim your kayak.

So with above explanation I hope you take away a couple of key points.
  • Weather Cocking: the kayaks tendency to turn up wind when neutrally loaded or bow loaded.
  • Lee Cocking: a kayak will turn down wind with a skeg lowered to far or a stern loaded kayak.
  • The skeg is NOT a rudder and maneuvering the kayak will be done with edging combined with proper paddle strokes.
Now we can move on to the rudder. The rudder is used to maneuver the kayak left and right. Rudders come in all types of deployment methods and shapes. I am not sure of the big difference the shape makes in a rudder but they all serve the same purpose. The rudder has a more simple explanation than the skeg. So I will not spend as much time on the rudder system.

In simple terms, if you are using a rudder and need your kayak to turn to the right or adjust to the right to maintain a course. You just have to press on the right foot peg to control the rudder. It is nice and easy system: Press the RIGHT foot peg to go RIGHT and the LEFT foot peg to go LEFT.

Now let's get to why you might want one over the other. For this section I will be giving my personal opinion. My experience with the different systems has developed over many years as a kayak guide and kayak educator. To get any biases out of the way, I paddle a kayak with a skeg.

I feel skeg style kayaks have lots of positives.
  • You rely on your skills sets to master maneuvering your kayak.
  • When paddling in rough conditions you can use the foot pegs to to push against to aid in rotations and power.
  • Learning bracing and rolling the foot pegs, once again, offer a stable platform to push off of with your lower body.
A couple of negatives:
  • It is very common that the skeg gets jammed with rocks. So if you plan on using the skeg while paddling, make sure that you clear it before leaving the beach.
  • The skeg housing in the stern of the kayak takes up storage space.
  • Not very often, but the skeg cable/ropes can break.
I will list the rudder bullets all in one and let you decide what is negative or positive.
  • You can maneuver the kayak left to right via the rudder and minimal skills.
  • Easy to maintain course with a poorly packed kayak.
  • Rudder cables break and leave you without the ability to steer if you have not learned proper skills to maneuvering.
  • Rudder assembly breaks and you cannot deploy the rudder or do a simple field fix unless you have spare parts.
  • Foot pegs do not lock place so you do not get a strong platform to push off of for power paddling, bracing or rolling.
  • Foot pegs get jammed requiring repair.
  • Rudders can become dangerous in rescue situations.
My overall personal opinion:

I do think that rudders have a solid place in the market of kayaks. But I think it is important for each individual to decide what type of paddling the will be doing or what type of paddler they want to become. If you plan on learning all the proper paddle strokes and edging techniques and would suggest getting a skeg kayak. This does not mean you cannot do the same in a rudder kayak. You would just learn with the rudder not deployed.

In the end I prefer to not use either. I have a skeg in my kayak and have used it very little over the years. I pack my kayak for the condition I am in and use edging to maintain my course. I have found this work well for me and deal very little with weather cocking issues.

A quick rule of thumb for skeg kayaks.
  1. Skeg up = Weather Cocking possible
  2. Skeg down = Lee Cocking possible
I hope that I was able to clear a few things up for some folks. If there were any questions or I have confused you more than you were before. Please leave a comment for me to address..


Friday, April 16, 2010

Transient Orcas

So I was at work yesterday day and the Marmot order came in. So it was time to open boxes and start getting it all in the computer, priced and then out on the floor. I decided to grab a quick lunch with my buddy Eduardo when my phone rang. It was my buddy Ivan who is the owner of Western Prince Wildlife Cruises. He got word there was a pretty good size group of Transient Orcas out in the Straits. He called around and wanted to see if anyone wanted to go out on his fast boat Western Explorer. It is nice to be able travel fast when the Orcas are pretty far away and the Western Explorer does just that, TRAVEL FAST.

It was a great day out. There was a bit of rain when we left the harbor but the sun won the battle by the time we got on the scene with the Orcas. There were a couple different groups just traveling around. There was a few tail slaps here and again and we got an unexpected close pass by a small group.

There were some great photos taken from the encounter. I only had my IPhone with me. I did not have much time to get prepared to head out. Even so, everyone else aboard had nice DSLR's with good lenses to catch the event. I will post my few image below. But I am going to include a couple of links to pages that have much better pictures..

Western Prince Facebook (Ivan has images posted from the day and many more cool images to check out.)
Whale of A Purpose Blog (Jeanne is an avid whale watcher and picture taker. She does not have new images up as of this post, but she has some other up and I am sure new ones to come.)

Check out my images below and remember they are IPhone images, so not the best. I have to get back to work, ENJOY.

A large mail passes by and gives us a nice tail slap.

Dorsal fin of the large mail know as "Chainsaw"

Another view of "Chainsaw"

Here is a cool grouping passing the side of the boat

A couple of dorsal fins off the bow

Robin joined me on the outing. She even got a little work done by doing a couple of plankton tows.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to Select a Kayak Outfitter

I am going to outline some basic steps to help find a kayak outfitter to take a kayak vacation. I will mainly use references to sea kayaking as that is what I am most knowledgeable about, but this advice could be applied to many kinds of outdoor adventure vacation activities. Through my years as guide and business manager, I have seen people put in unsafe situations and people spend money on vacation activities that was less than it could be - if not a bad experience. Therefore I thought I could provide some helpful tips to get the most out of your kayak vacation.

Many regions have a different sets of guidelines for choosing and outfitter and it is important to understand the environment in which you will be heading out in. Being the in Pacific Northwest where the water temps are pretty cold, winds can be strong, the currents can be extreme. It is important that you know a bit about the situation and that you choose to go with guides that are skilled and tall all the extra precautions to make you safe and comfortable. Some of my comments may not apply if you are looking to go with a company that offers sit-on-top tours in Florida, but even then, it is good to know what your getting into.

With all that said I hope this will help people find respectful and safe companies to go kayaking with.

Outfitter Websites: As with most things today the Internet is usually the place to start window shopping for your kayak outfitter. This is a good way to isolate outfitters in the region you plan to visit, but be careful when reading the content of the websites. Many companies will make amazing claims and show you images of great wonders with wildlife piled high in one image and kayaker in the middle. Here are a few things to think about.
  • Images on the site: Do the images seem to be even possible. Believe me I have seen it all and Photoshop computer software can do a lot to images to make a fantasy out of bits of reality. Use good judgment and good common sense. If a company is willing to dupe potential customers with images on a website, then imagine what they will do once you arrive.
  • Exclusive paddling areas: This statement I have seen more than once. There are times when this is true. But usually it means they are based in a resort and have an exclusive launch location, but the area can still be accessed by other companies leaving from a different location. But when you see these statements be careful. Usually this is marketing to get your business and when you arrive at the launch beach with every other company in the region, well you start to feel a bit taken. More often than not, outfitters paddle the same regions.
  • Research or Non-Profit: I have seen this claim a few times. Yes, it can be true some of the time and yes, some organizations may even be registered as non-profits. Though this sounds philanthropic, it is in your interest to follow through and see what these organizations really do. I have found some really do research, but I have also found the opposite. Using the non-profit status and research tag is a great marketing tool that has been used more than once to attract clients. They use marketing tag lines such as, "Feel good knowing your money goes to save the wildlife". Such a statement should raise a red flag and behoove you to looking into such claims. Be sure to explore the company's website and explore their associated businesses and research institutions.
  • Guide Training: You might be concerned about safety and if you aren't, you should be. Guides should all undergo training and their training should be on-going. Just because a guide is shown how to do something once, does not mean they have perfected the techniques needed to be proficient in rescues. Like everything else, kayaking takes practice, being a trip leader takes practice and being a rescuer takes practice. I have been a guide for many years and I am continually practicing my skills and taking courses to both refresh my techniques and learn new ones.
    So, if you see claims like, "oldest company" or "I have been leading tours for the last 30 years", ask them if they continued their training or what level of training they have had, including first aid. In some areas, tandem kayaks are common for guest to paddle on tours. Be cautious of any company where the guide exclusively leads trips in a tandem kayak. Sometimes companies cannot help it, but they usually try to get the number of guest to be even to ensures the guide is in a single kayak which is easier to maneuver in a rescue. Single kayaks are more agile and creates a safer environment for the guest. Avoid at all cost, tours where odd number groups are required to run tours. This means the guide will must be in a tandem kayak, NOT GOOD. In addition, make sure the company provides all the guest with life vest (PFD's) and that the guides carry first aid kits, tow ropes, radios or other forms of communication if available, and extra warm gear in case of emergency.
  • Better Business Bureau: Check the company out with the Better Business Bureau and be sure to check all names a company may have. Sometimes a company will have more than one name associated with them. Check them all out as it is hard to say what complaints have been filed.
Make Phone Calls: It is simply not enough to just read a website and book you kayak tour. The website should be used as a resource to collect information so that you can ask good questions when you call. During your phone call you should voice all your concerns and questions, all of which should be addressed without issue by the company. Again, use common sense. If you feel some of your questions have created a defensive nature to the person on the other line, then something is wrong. Respectful companies will go out of their way to make sure you are well informed and answer any questions you have.

Check Travel Sites for Reviews: Though this is not a sure fire way to get information since companies that are issue prone will go to great lengths to leave an overly grand review for themselves. Sites such as YELP and Trip Advisor can provide information from past guest on tours.

Other Red Flags: Just wanted to bullet a few extra tips while looking over sites and chatting with kayak tour outfitters.
  • Equipment: It is always best to figure out what you are paying for. Some tours market all inclusive but you end up providing half the gear yourself. Small details to think about. Will you be provided dry bags or foul weather gear for your day tour. If you are going on a camping tour will you be provided tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, dry bags, foul weather gear, forks, spoons, cups etc. You will find all "inclusive" means something different to everyone.
  • Food: If you are going out for the day some outfitters will provide you lunch and some will as you to arrive with you own lunch. Make sure to ask what food will be served for lunch if it is provided. If you are going on a camping kayak tour see if all meals are provided. Some may not include lunch. Ask about snacks and other energy based foods that will be needed for the day while kayak touring.
  • Payments: See if they accept credit cards and if they do be concerned if they want to add a percentage if you decided to pay by credit card. If they want cash payments only be concerned if you are dealing with a legitimate company. Requiring a person to pay large amounts of money in cash could mean to company is not on the up and up with the IRS or other tax collecting agencies. BIG RED FLAG!
  • Outfitter Insurance: This is a very important issue. Some kayak tour operators may not carry liability insurance. A lot of the time these operators will avoid using areas for camping and launching kayaks that require permits, since most launch locations that require permits also require outfitters to have have proof on insurance. You do not want to go with an outfitter that does not carry liability insurance.
  • Hints on Safety: You can get somewhat of an idea on safety by looking at the outfitters website. If you see images of guides or guest kayaking without proper safety equipment such as PFD's (life jackets). In any area I personally feel PFD's should be worn. But in areas where swift currents and cold water are common, PFD's are a must and should always be worn by guides and guests. Not wearing such safety equipment and posting images of such online is irresponsible of the outfitter. Use common sense and look for clues on unsafe behavior.
So what can you do to protect yourself from the above? It's simple.
  • First go over the site with your common sense goggles on. Shopping for a grand adventure is fun, but do not let a websites content take advantage of you with unrealistic claims and images.
  • Make a list of things that caught your attention, negative or positive.
  • Call the company and discuss things that may concern you. You should always call before booking, even if you end up booking online. Collect as much information as you can about the company over the phone.
  • Ask pointed questions. If they do research or make such claims, ask what it is they do. If they donate to research or conservation organization, ask for a history of who they donate to. See how recent the company's research is or donations have been.
  • Check Travel Review Sites for further information.
  • Feel good and comfortable with your decision. If for any reason you have hesitation, KEEP LOOKING FOR A OUTFITTER.
  • Ask companies if they are members of local associations or business groups. Most lodging places receive commissions for send guest to certain outfitters so they are not always the best source of information. You should feel free to ask your lodging front desk when inquiring about an outfitter, if they pay commissions.
All in all I feel there are a lot of good outfitters out there working hard to do the right thing and provide a great adventure. But there are those that choose to take a different route to simply get as much business as possible.

I hope this small article has provided some good information for those looking to for kayak outfitters for their vacation. Shop smart and just use good judgment and all will be okay... and hopefully have fun!..

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kayaking All Weekend

I was on the water leading kayak tours Saturday and Sunday. It was nice to be out and on the water all weekend. Saturday the tour started out with a bit of chop and following seas. The winds were out of the NNE at a steady 15kts. But the wind pushed us South pretty fast. We arrived well ahead of schedule at Deadmans Bay. We got out and took a short walk along the coast. Before long it was time to head back out on the water. The NNE winds were stiff so paddling was slow and choppy. My guest did well and had a great time being on the water.

Today was a bit nicer with lighter winds out of the N. I had a group of students from the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs. It was a good size group and everyone did a great job. It was a nice time to be on the water. The winds faded as the afternoon turned to early evening. Tours are always fun when you have a large group that listens well and gets on the water quickly and on the flips sides gets things loaded quickly. Clean up is always a bummer with all the gear and kayaks to clean. So I did not get out of there until later, around 830pm. But all is clean and ready for a tour tomorrow.

Guess I really do not have much else to share as I pretty much just kayaked this weekend.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nice day for a hike.

Well after work Robin and I decided to head out and get a bit of hiking in. It was a great walk. We headed out to the DNR land to explore the area. As we hit the trail head Guinness was excited to be outside as he sniffed and tugged at his makeshift leash.

It was nice and windy but we had some protection as we approached Young Hill from the East and with the wind being out of the West, it was nice. The sun was warm and bright, though the trail was nice a muddy. Spring flowers were popping out of the ground everywhere. We managed a few off trail excursions though some nice thickets. But we always returned to the trails to move on. We poked around having fun along the way and finally got the to top of Young Hill. Reaching the top, we were met with lot of heavy gust of wind. It was still a beautiful sight. We did not hang out to long as it was getting a bit chilly in the wind. We headed back into the woods and down the hill. On our way our we saw a few deer starting to move about.

After a bit of time we made it to the car. It was a really nice little hike in a great forested area of the island. Just what we all needed after sitting in offices all day.

Tomorrow brings great fun as I am hopeful the winds will be down and I have a Kayak Tour to take out. The whole weekend is looking pretty good. So I hope people are coming out to enjoy. Discovery Sea Kayaks will be on the water and I will be guiding, so come join me.

Robin and Guinness under some pretty nice Cedar Trees.

HUGS.. Guinness never gets enough hugs ;)

A large Madrona on the ground. The wind must of got the best of it.

A view from the top of Young Hill. I promise it was windy up there..

That is all I have for the day. Check back for pictures from my kayak tours this weekend.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let the wind blow.

Well it is another windy day here on San Juan Island and luckily we do not have any tours out. There seems to be a good amount of people roaming about town, but I am sure that kayaking is the last thing on their minds today.

I hope to get out for a short walk or run today. It will be a cold one out there, but I need to get out. I have a kayak tour going out on Saturday and there are spaces available. Stop by the DSK SITE or give us a call to join, 360.378.2559.

Western Prince Whale and Wildlife Tours are operating tours as well. Enjoy a trip around the island looking for wildlife and enjoying the scenery. Plus if you book a tour with Discovery Sea Kayaks and the Western Prince you will get 10% Off each tour.

**If you have a Washington State ID Discovery Sea Kayaks will give you 15% Off our West Side Day Tour till May 15th.

Looks like the winds are forecast to ease up this weekend. So the kayaking should be good. So don't be afraid to travel on up to the island and enjoy the early season. Great deals can be found all over the island for the early travelers.

Hope everyone out there is enjoying their day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kayak Tours and Wind

Well it has been busy over the week and I have been getting on the water for some guiding. I had a good 6 days in a row of Day Tours. That is always good, but not when the wind will not stop blowing. The sea state has been a bit cranky due to all the SSE and SSW winds we have been having on the island. Though the seas have been rough my groups have been having a great time.

I have not seen any Orcas yet, but I have read reports of some Transients out near Race Rocks. Bald Eagles have been busy building on their nest and going through the motions of courtship behavior. Some of the summer sea birds are hear and a few loons are still around. We had a great encounter with a fox on the shoreline. The fox had to scale a pretty steep area to get down to the waters edge. But when we approached, it scaled the near vertical with ease. On one trip we had a great view of two different California Sea Lions swimming north in the Haro Strait. So there is plenty to see right now.

Today I mainly worked in the shop. It is time to get ready for all of our new gear and clothing. All our Marmot and The North Face clothing gets here in a couple of weeks. So if you need some new clothing for the outdoors, stop by the shop.

Plus we are gearing up for our garage sale. April 24th: New and Used Equipment. Boreal Design Esperanto tandem kayaks, a few single kayaks. Plus camping gear: Tents from The North Face, and sleeping bags too. Plus some good deals on New clothing and outer wear.

Well I guess that is all I have to say today.

My Explorer setting at Deadman Bay while we were taking off to hike to the Lime Kiln Lighthouse. Discovery Sea Kayaks.

A view from Deadman Bay. Not a bad day until the wind picked up. Then is was fun and tougher to lead people home. But Fun! Discovery Sea Kayaks.