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Sea Kayaking

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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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

St. Lucia Week: A Magical Day Sea Kayaking and Snorkeling Ti Kaye

Take it from a travel writer who’s been penning stories since 1990—rarely is a day on the road seamless. I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, just realistic. There always seems to be some problem, whether it’s traffic congestion, the lodging not living up to those over-hyped TripAdvisor reviews, the adventure a bit too touristy and not feeling authentic. Then there’s days like yesterday where everything is perfect and this job is sheer bliss. 

My driver Vaughn is a delight, passionate about the history and people of this island. So much, in fact, that he left Brooklyn after 6 years and returned to St. Lucia to make his mark. He picked me up and drove me to the lush western side of the island, home to the largest banana plantation on the island, a rum distillery, and fishing villages like Anse La Raye, known for its seafood street festival held every Friday. At an overlook peering down at picturesque Marigot Bay, where Mick Jagger and Oprah both own homes along the waterfront, we walked into a nearby store to sample banana ketchup, hot pepper spices, and spiced rum with grenadine. 

Less than an hour later we made it to Ti Kaye, a boutique resort nestled into a hillside above a glorious strip of secluded beachfront. I would soon find out that the best part of the resort is the bay next to that beach called Anse Cochon. I threw my bags down in my room, changed into a swimsuit and practically flew down the 165 steps to the gray colored beach, a mix of volcanic black sand and the usual white sand from the coral. I grabbed an ocean kayak and was soon paddling down the western shoreline past cliffs where vines clung precariously to the top, deserted beaches which I’m sure honeymooners staying at Ti Kaye have taken full advantage of, and a green velvety hillside that led to jagged mountainous ridges. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to grab a kayak and take a paddle just by your lonesome down this unpopulated stretch of coastline. The only person who passed me during the 2-hour paddle was one fisherman.

Back at Ti Kaye’s beachfront bar, Ti Manje, I ordered the smoked marlin salad, slices of fish topped with mixed greens, tomatoes, corn, and a chipotle dressing, washed down with freshly made ice tea. Waves pounded the restaurant as I watched scuba divers take the plunge into Anse Cochon. You want to know one of the most cherished spots for all those scuba diving and snorkeling boats? Yes, this exact spot, which is a preserved marine sanctuary. Avoid the boat traffic in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon and the place is yours. I grabbed snorkeling gear, walked to the far end of the beach and soon was swimming in a natural aquarium of neon-colored fish including parrotfish, the multi-colored queen angelfish, and the bright blue chromis. I also loved seeing fan, organ pipe, and brain coral that was very much alive.

Afterwards I washed off in my outdoor shower and relaxed in the hammock on my porch, where I now relax after another hard day of work. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/17/15 at 05:00 AM
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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Acadia National Park Week: Sea Kayaking Frenchman Bay

The first time I ever stepped into a sea skirt and tried a sport I now cherish called sea kayaking, I was in Bar Harbor researching my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England. Learning to sea kayak at Acadia National Park is like learning to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Give it a try here and you’ll be hooked for life like I was. One of the finest ways to see Acadia’s mountains is from a distance, with your head and feet only inches away from the water line. 20 years later, I returned to the same outfitter, Coastal Kayaking, for another paddle on Frenchman Bay. 
 
Our guide, Jared, fit us for life jackets and sea skirts at their store on Cottage Street and then drove us to the bar of Bar Harbor, a sand spit that juts out of town and connects to an adjacent island, Bar Island, at low tide. When we returned after our 4-hour paddle, people were actually driving on that spit of sand all the way over to the island. Jared unloaded the kayaks and passed out paddles, teaching us some basic strokes. We then got acclimated to our cubby holes, threw on our gear, and set off on the wild blue yonder. In a double kayak, Jeff and I found our rhythm as we made our way around the northern shores of Bar Island on soft rolling swells. As we continued around the rock ledges of Sheep Porcupine Island, we spotted the unmistakable white head of a bald eagle atop a tall pine. Minutes later we would find a seal in the wake of a lobster boat picking up traps and then porpoises gliding through the unusually calm waters of the bay.  
 
We stopped for a 20-minute break on a sandy section of Long Porcupine Island, just enough time to eat the incredibly addictive kale salad from our favorite pitstop in town, A&B Naturals. On our return trip, we would spot loons and black guillemots, a cross between a puffin and a duck, divebombing their plump bodies into the waters around us.  Jared pointed to a speck of an island called Rum Key and told us how Canadian rum runners provided the Rockefellers and their affluent friends with scotch and rum during prohibition and used this island as their holdout. The ridge of mountains—Champlain, Dorr, and Cadillac—rose above the town of Bar Harbor, inspiring awe. Yes, the paddle was just as memorable as the first time. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/10/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Sea Kayak Sheepscot Bay, Georgetown, Maine

North of Freeport, Maine, fingers of land dangle down from coastal Route 1 to create miles of sheltered bays to paddle. One of my favorite spots is Georgetown, where I rented a room at Coveside B&B and had Seaspray Kayaking deliver an oceanworthy kayak to their docks. Careful not to start or end near low tide (or I’ll be digging for clams in the muck), I paddled south past the lobster boats to the Five Islands Lobster Company wharf. On the way, I spotted ospreys sitting atop their oversized nests, seals popping their heads out of the water like periscopes, and the distinctive orange beak of the American Oystercatcher. Then I turned around and headed north on Little Sheepscot River, sheltered from the surf by MacMahan Island. The boulder-strewn shoreline was draped in seaweed and topped with velvety moss, creating a soothing, shady retreat in the late afternoon hours. An image I hope to remember vividly come winter. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/03/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 15, 2015

Nova Scotia Week Bonus: Kayaking Lobster Bay with Lobster Bake at Argyler Lodge

 

My last day in Nova Scotia was downright dreamy. Clouds and the early morning mist were swept away by blue skies by the time I arrived at the 6-bedroom Argyler Lodge. What a glorious locale! A mere 25 minute drive from where the Nova Star ferry arrives in Nova Scotia at Yarmouth, the Argyler sits on the shores of the vast Lobster Bay with spectacular views of the sea and islands. My sea kayaking guide, Matt Delong, soon arrived with two kayaks for us to explore the wide open water. Matt spent 5 years paddling in BC before returning back to his native Nova Scotia to take the fortunate few to treasured spots like this one. We spent the next three hours paddling a loop around the numerous islands—Nanny, Camp, Birch, Bonds, Potato, Gordons—viewing 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. 

 
3 hours later, we returned to shore where Chef Jonathan 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, Luckett’s L’acadie Blanc 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. A perfect ending to a perfect week of travel around Nova Scotia. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/15/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sea Kayak with Beluga Whales at Quebec’s Saguenay Fjord

On my last trip to the province of Quebec, I was fortunate to make it to Baie-Saint-Paul in the Charlevoix region, just north of Quebec City along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Charlevoix has become a foodie destination, cherished by residents of Montreal and Quebec City for its cheeses, breads, fresh salmon, microbrews, and local produce. Now I want to continue my journey up the St. Lawrence to La Malbaie, home to the classic Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. The old-style château dates back to the late 19th century and was originally built as a playground for the affluent of the Eastern Seaboard. President William Taft owned a home in the area and opened the original golf course here in 1925. The Fairmont continues to be one of Quebec’s most glamorous getaways, rising above the ocean-like expanse of the St. Lawrence River. Just north of La Malbaie is the mouth of the Saguenay fjord, where beluga whales like to play in the summer months. It’s always been on my wish list to kayak the 60-mile long fjord, then bike a portion of the 256-kilometer “Véloroute des Bleuets” or Blueberry Trail cycling path around Lac-Saint-Jean. The perfect Quebec adventure!  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/15 at 06:00 AM
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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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