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Sea Kayaking

Monday, April 09, 2018

New in Nova Scotia

As the birds start to chirp outside my bedroom window and the crocuses and hyacinths are popping up in my front yard, my mind instinctively thinks of summer and heading north along the coast. Anyone who's checked out this blog over the past 9 years knows that I adore Nova Scotia, having visited the Canadian province practically every summer or fall. It's not the just the moose I see every time I hike the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton, the exceptional golfing at Cabot Cliffs, the wonderful wineries in Annapolis Valley, and the chance to go clamming or lobster fishing, only to return to the shores for a gluttonous seafood feast. Driving along the coastline on the Cabot Trail or the outskirts of Lunenburg, the scenery is majestic. 
 
Yet, if you need more topical reasons to head to Nova Scotia, there are several new excursions. Pleasant Paddling in Blue Rocks will take one lucky couple on a guided kayaking trip to a seal colony and hidden inlets, perfect for biking and a picnic lunch. Only to be followed by an overnight private island stay in a hand-crafted yurt with a clear skylight ceiling for star-gazing. The excursion also includes a locally-sourced dinner of mussels and charcuterie, and breakfast.  Price is $899 CAD per couple and is available to book on June 25, July 16, August 27 and September 17. In Grand Pré, Tangled Garden will be offering a Gourmet Garden Party food tour on July 11, August 15, September 5, and September 19. The journey starts with a glass of sparkling Nova Scotia wine, followed by exploration of the gardens. Pop-up tastings are tucked away in hidden nooks, featuring fresh seafood, pairings of herbs and local delicacies, rum and more. A picnic lunch is served at the top of garden, accompanied by local musicians. Price is $195 CAD per person or $360 CAD per couple.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/09/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Adventures in New Brunswick Week—Hiking Matthews Head/Sea Kayaking the Saint John River

We woke up early today to hike a 90-minute loop in Fundy National Park to Matthews Head. Breakfast could wait! Except for a handful of bunnies and noisy chipmunks, we had the trail to ourselves. We hop-stepped it through the web of roots through a forest of tall timbers, the reward soon appearing as one stupendous vista of the coast. High atop the hills of Fundy National Park, we looked down on the jagged shoreline, rocky beaches, and boulder-strewn coves. The Bay of Fundy waters were still this early in the day. All you could hear was the lapping of the water and see the sunlight shimmering on the bay to create a magical light show. 

From Alma, we drove 90 minutes to Dominion Park in Saint John to paddle on the mouth of the Saint John River with Go Fundy Events. Our guide, Dan, escorted us past the limestone cliffs to see the earliest fossils recorded by scientists, curly-cues and concentric circles on the cliff face. As we made our way around the bend, Dan pointed out a massive eagle’s nest in a tall pine but we couldn’t find any birds. We did however, spot a large sturgeon jumping out of the water. We paddled onward to find the remains of a lime quarry dating from the 19th century, red bricks that were imported from Scotland. Then we turned the kayaks around and peered up to see the wingspan of an eagle and that distinctive white head. Soon another eagle joined him, his talons holding on to a fish, possibly a sturgeon. They flew above us for a good 10 minutes, stopping only to find a perfect perch, as we continued to paddle back into a strong headwind. It was remarkable end to a memorable day of play on the waterways of New Brunswick. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/29/17 at 05:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Adventures in New Brunswick Week—Sea Kayaking the Bay of Fundy

We started the day at low tide at the iconic Hopewall Rocks, sunlight splintering through the sea stacks or flowerpots rocks as the locals call them (many of the formations have trees sprouting out of the top, thus resembling flowerpots). Walking along the beach snapping photo after photo at the picturesque blend of towering rocks, cliffs, and sea, we walked on the rocky beach and clay-like mud that lined the Bay of Fundy floor. Soon we heard squawking of birds only to peer up at one of the rocks and see a majestic peregrine falcon perched high above. We continued south on Route 114 to reach Cape Enrage at the height of high tide, water and wind whipping around us atop a cliff and lighthouse that juts out onto the sea vulnerable to the elements. 

After lunch of fresh pan-fried haddock cakes and a tangy tomato soup, we were energized and ready to go sea kayaking with Fresh Air Adventure on the outskirts of Fundy National Park. Owner Gina was excited to have us try out her new toys, surf skis, slender and speedy 17-foot ocean Epic V7 kayaks that she uses to race in Hong Kong, where she spends half the year. We got acclimated to the kayaks as we made our way down the Upper Salmon River, an estuary, slicing through the water with a paddle so light the stroke felt almost effortless. Then we turned around and went past the handful of fishing boats before making our way out to the Bay of Fundy. We had to paddle against the winds on the way out to open water, looking at Nova Scotia across the bay. The tide was still coming in with a moderate chop as waves spilled into the kayak. I peered at the tall spruce and firs that stood tall atop the craggy rock of the Fundy National Park bluffs before a larger wave swept me up and I found myself swimming in the salty drink. Gina guided me back into the kayak and we turned around to feel the ebb and flow of the highest tides in the world. I quickly understood why they call these kayaks surf skis. You paddle hard atop the crest of the wave and you feel the sudden rush of water surge you forward, like surfing. It was an exciting way to end an exhilarating day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/28/17 at 04:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Canada Week: Sea Kayaking Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley

Some of us chase after the morning train to get to work. The more indulgent will chase down that shot of bourbon with a pint of Guinness. And the truly intrepid? They follow Ed English as he chases icebergs. Come June, it’s not unusual for villages on the east coast of Newfoundland to wake up to a mountain of electric blue ice the size of a 15-story building. The icebergs calve from the glaciers of western Greenland and begin a slow 1900-mile journey south with the Labrador Current on a route dubbed Iceberg Alley. English, owner of Linkum Tours, takes sea kayakers up to his lighthouse inn on Quirpoon Island, the northernmost point of Newfoundland, to get as close as possible to the huge crystalline structures before they float away. An added bonus are the pods of humpbacks, minkes, and the occasional beluga whales who feed in Iceberg Alley as they make their way north. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/12/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Sea Kayak with Nat Hab Adventures in Greenland, Antarctica, and the Galapagos

When I was working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure and researching my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, I would often go on multi-day sea kayaking trips along the Maine coast or around Prince Edward Island. The trend of long distance sea kayaking was becoming popular in the late 90s thanks in large part to one man, Olaf Malver, who was the director of development for Mountain Travel Sobek. While Richard Bangs put the sport of whitewater rafting virgin rivers on the map, Malver explored the world within the cozy confines of a sea kayak. 

I had the good fortune to catch up with Malver over dinner last week in Boston, where he was introducing the wine he produces in the Republic of Georgia to distributors (we’ll talk more about Georgia tomorrow). Olaf mentioned to me that 80% of adventure travelers only visit 20% of the world, leaving behind such gems as the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific or eastern Greenland, one of the most breathtaking landscapes he has ever witnessed. Now working with Natural Habitat as Chief Exploratory Officer, Olaf brings groups of passionate travelers to remote Greenland each summer. He also organizes trips to the Galapagos Islands, where he promises to get kayakers in secluded coves far away from the cruise ships. He even sea kayaks in Antarctica, where guests have the option to camp on the shores with the penguins before returning to their 60-foot sloop. If any of these trips interest you, please contact ActiveTravels.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/08/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sea Kayaking the Saguenay Fjord

The first you thing you wonder when entering a sea kayak on Saguenay Fjord is where are all the boats? No motorboats, sailboats, jet skies, nothing. Our guide, Jean, tells us there are few places to dock along the 100-kilometer shoreline and even less places to find gas. The second thing you notice is that the water is the color of black ink, perhaps because it reaches a depth of some 900 meters in the middle. We were 80 kilometers down the fjord, only 20 kilometers from the mouth at the St. Lawrence River. This is a prime spot for spotting beluga whales since the federally preserved waters of Baie-Sainte-Marguerite, where belugas mate, were directly across the 2 kilometer channel from us. We paddled along the jagged shoreline lined with cliffs and oversized boulders and topped by pines that remarkably still stand after the harsh winters here. We spotted herons and cormorants but Jean tells us that the rugged shoreline is also a favorite of peregrine falcons. 

Then we crossed the channel as the tide rolled out and waited patiently. “Just listen,” said Jean “and you might hear the belugas breathing.” In the distance, we spotted a patch of white break the surface. Then we spotted it again. Jean has had curious belugas come directly to his kayak to peer up at him, but we weren’t so fortunate today. Nonetheless, the weather was perfect, under sunny skies with a slight breeze. It was wonderful to finally be paddling in the Saguenay Fjord, one of the southernmost fjords on the planet, something that has been on my wish list for quite some time.
 
In the morning, we took a 2-hour hike on the De la Statue trail at Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay. We spotted several massive glacial erratics before climbing atop the cliff face. Spectacular vistas of the fjord were around every bend. Whether you hike or paddle the Saguenay Fjord, it’s hard not to be impressed by the quiet beauty. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/20/16 at 05:30 AM
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England: 50 Coastal Paddling Adventures from Maine to Connecticut

Registered Maine Guide Michael Daugherty has just come out with a beauty of a book describing his favorite sea kayaking paddles along the New England coast. They include many of my favorites, including the Porcupine Islands near Acadia National Park, Georgetown Island off mid-coast Maine, Castle Neck in Ipswich, Monomoy Island off of Chatham on the Cape, Newport, and Connecticut’s Thimble Islands. Many of these jaunts can be done in a memorable day trip or turned into an overnight, ideal for the novice to more experienced paddler. Daugherty notes the distance of each trip, but far more important discusses the tidal changes and necessary cautions against strong currents and boat traffic. Only an avid paddler with a mind for detail could write such a book and I’ll happily carry it in my dry bag for many joyous days along the coast. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/21/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

5 Adventures on a Shoestring, Sea Kayaking Baja’s Sea of Cortez

Warm water, uninhabited islands, sheltered coves, and abundant marine life including dolphins and blue whales, are the reasons why Baja’s Sea of Cortez is one of the premier kayaking grounds. Mexican Ana Lopez and her Canadian husband Peter Marcus started Gabriola Cycle & Kayak over two decades ago before selling their kayaking venture to their experienced guides. Expect the same level of comfort and expertise. Their 4-day winter trips bring you from Loreto to the Sea of Cortez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects the feeding grounds of the Blue Whale. You’ll paddle approximately four hours each day and spend the rest of your time snorkeling, fishing, and lounging on deserted beaches. Trips cost $675 Canadian or $485 US, including kayak rentals, guide, and meals. No paddling experience necessary. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/10/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Top 5 Travel Days of 2015, Sea Kayaking Lobster Bay, Nova Scotia

This past June, I took the Portland ferry to Nova Scotia with my sister, Fawn. This would be my fifth trip to the province and I wanted to focus on the southern half of Nova Scotia, south of Halifax. Over a week, we would stop in the charming seaside community of Lunenburg, one of only two cities in North America chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, go clamming on Digby Flats, oyster farming at Eel Lake, stand-up paddleboard at the White Point Beach Resort, and spend a night at a quintessential Canadian property deep in the woods, Trout Point Lodge. But as I wrote in my original blog, the last day in Nova Scotia was downright dreamy.

 
A mere 30 minutes from where the Portland ferry arrives in Yarmouth is the 6-bedroom Argyler Lodge. The small inn sits on the shores of the vast Lobster Bay with spectacular views of the sea and islands. I would spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the wide open water with my sea kayaking guide, Matt Delong. Paddling a loop around the numerous islands—Nanny, Camp, Birch, Bonds, Potato, Gordons—we spotted ospreys in their nest, a loon plunging into the water, and cormorants drying their wings on their rocks. The most spectacular part of the whole adventure was the fact that there was not one boat in this mammoth-sized bay. Not even another kayaker. Lobster fishermen finish the season in late May so their traps and boats were long gone by the time we arrived in mid-June. 
 
3 hours later, we returned to shore where Chef Jonathan, owner of the inn, was already busy boiling water over an open fire for our night’s lobster bake. A picnic table was set for my sister and I, Nova Scotian wine on ice. Jonathan soon dumped everything into the pot including corn, potatoes, clams, mussels, and lobsters. The sun set behinds Gordons Island as we roasted marshmallows for our s’mores. Then the bright night sky lit up with stars. Yes, dreamy and memorable. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Sea Kayaking No Name Key

The Florida Keys are basically small spits of land connected by bridges on the Overseas Highway. Surrounding you is the water of ocean and bay, but it’s hard to get too far off the beaten track on land. No Name Key off of Big Pine Key is arguably the most remote section of the Upper Keys. The best to way to see the island is from the seat of a sea kayak with Bill Keogh as your guide. For 20 years, Keogh, owner of Big Pine Kayak Adventures, has led paddlers across the channel and into the mangroves of No Name Key. Within moments of paddling on the calm water, we spotted the swift frigate birds, tricolor and green herons, and kingfishers. Then we were following Bill and his dog Scudder through a narrow tunnel of mangroves, pulling roots to move us forward. We would soon reach a large salt pond where we would spot numerous jellyfish in the clear waters. It was just the great white egrets and us in this serene locale. After breathing in our fair share of salty air, we would go back through the sinuous waterway in the mangroves, flowing with the current, and wishing it would never end. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/15/15 at 06:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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