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Sea Kayaking

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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Friday, June 20, 2014

New Brunswick Week—A Day of Adventure in St. Andrews

You know it’s a special day when you spot a bald eagle sea kayaking in the morning and then go biking with a kilt on in the afternoon. It was a perfect morning to go out kayaking with Eastern Outdoors, even with the slight wind we had in the beginning. I followed my guide Jess as we circumnavigated Navy Island, the massive fir-studded isle that sits just across St. Andrews in Passamaquoddy Bay. We passed lobster boats picking up their traps, a herring weir whose posts were coated with seaweed, and numerous cormorants flying overhead. As we turned the corner and started heading back I spotted a bird with a white head. It didn’t move and Jess thought it was just a piece of driftwood. Then as we drew close the graceful bald eagle took flight, gliding effortlessly with its wide wingspan. Jess mentioned that her favorite time to paddle was during high tide because you can kayak straight to the storefront. Unfortunately, we were smack dab in the middle of low tide, a 20-foot tidal difference, and had to walk the kayaks the length of a football field to get back to the kayak shop.
 
After lunch of salmon banh mi at the snazzy new Braxton’s Pub at the Algonquin Resort, I high-stepped it over to one of my favorite spots in the entire province, Kingsbrae Garden. In fact, in 2010, I named it one of my Top 5 Destinations of the year. After revisiting the garden, I don’t regret my decision one bit. The mix of whimsy and beauty make it an enchanting outing for all ages. This time of year, the rhododendrons and irises are all in bloom. I love the Scents & Sensitivity Garden, where you can rub the soft velvety lambs ear and smell the sweet lemon scented geranium. Other highlights are the alpacas, including a one-month old, and the Sculpture Garden, a juried show each year that features the rising artistic talent in Canada. 
 
Then it was time to bike, Scottish-style, with Kurt Gumushel. An elementary school gym teacher by day, Kurt runs Off Kilter Bike at nights and in summer. Kurt's dad moved to Canada in the 60s from Turkey and set up shop in St. Andrews as a tailor. It wasn’t long before he was making kilts for the locals and developed a reputation as a master kilt maker. A few years ago, he designed a kilt for some of the local mountain bikers and Off Kilter Bike was born. Kurt tossed me a kilt to wear and we were off. First we biked along the shoreline of Chamcook Lake on a wide level doubletrack. Then Kurt took me downtown to try the Van Horne Heritage Trail, a sweet ride though forest and along saltwater marsh. One km of the ride is freshly paved, a mere week old, so it was fun to try. Since Kurt grew up here, he knows everything about the history, architecture, and people of St. Andrews. He’s happy to design half or full-day rides based on your interest, be it serious off-road biking or a chilled ride on roads through town to learn about the architecture. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/20/14 at 09:00 AM
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Adventures in the Florida Keys, Sea Kayaking with Big Pine Kayak Adventures

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 18 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 my stepmom, Ginny, and I paddling on the calm waters, we would spot the swift frigate birds, tricolored 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 upside-down jellyfish in the clear waters. It was just us and the great white egrets 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 12/19/13 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Adventure in Quebec’s Charlevoix Region

The train from Quebec City northeast to the Charlevoix region not only leaves day-trippers at the ski resort, Le Massif. You can continue on to Baie-Saint-Paul, where the outfitter, Katabatik, will take you on a 3-hour snowshoeing trek along the St. Lawrence Seaway in winter, and sea kayaking the calm Gouffre River in summer. Yet, if you arrive here in the warm weather months, it would be best if you can spend at least two nights in the region. That way, you can continue northeast along the St. Lawrence Seaway past La Malbaie to the magnificent Baie-des-Rochers municipal park. It is here in summer that you have the rare opportunity to sea kayak next to beluga and humpback whales. The playful belugas often swim right next to the kayaks offering a thrilling experience. Katabatik offers sea kayaking jaunts all along the St. Lawrence in Charlevoix, so ask about an outing that would suit your experience. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/12/13 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Nova Scotia Week, An Exceptional Day on the Eastern Shores of Cape Breton

My perfect day starts with hiking shoes and ends with a pair of water shoes. Yesterday morning began with a hike on Middle Head, a sliver of a peninsula jutting out into the sea. Even if you’re not staying at the Keltic Lodge, where the trailhead is located, take this hour-long round-trip hike, part of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Across the waters to your right are the towering bluffs of Cape Stormy, an apt name for this ominous spit of land. Perched atop your own headland, the cliffs of Middle Head plunge straight down to a boulder-strewn coastline. Waves crash against the rocks, spewing foam into the air. As I reached the tip of the peninsula, where numerous signs were posted warning folks to avoid getting too close to the edge, a bald eagle flew overhead. 

 
In the afternoon, I sea kayaked with Mary-Claire, a guide from North River Kayak Tours. We paddled on the North River past cormorants standing atop the wooden posts of a long retired wharf. The river leads to the wide-open waters of St. Ann’s Bay, surrounded by short summits on all sides. We stopped at a rocky beach for a snack of banana bread and chocolate chai, and then wandered over to see a waterfall. On the return paddle, we spotted a kingfisher and what I thought was a blue heron in flight. As it flew over our heads, we realized that this massive bird was no heron, but a peregrine falcon. Let me revise that lead sentence. My perfect day starts with a bald eagle and ends with a peregrine falcon. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/04/12 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, September 07, 2012

Vermont Week, Paddling Lake Champlain

If you live on the shores of 120-mile long Lake Champlain, you better love to play in water. On any day during early fall, you can find sailboats tacking back and forth, sea kayakers heading out to the Lake Champlain islands, ferries crossing over to the Adirondack Mountains in New York state, and scuba divers. That’s right, scuba divers. The cool waters of New England’s largest lake contain one of the finest collections of wooden shipwrecks in North America. The list includes the Revolutionary War boat, Philadelphia, pulled from the waters in 1935 to sit in the Smithsonian Institute, and the Eagle, Allen, and Linnet, three naval craft that participated in the War of 1812. In September, the water on Lake Champlain is still warm enough to go swimming, sailing, and sea kayaking. If you want to kayak with a local guide, go with Abenaki Outfitters in Shoreham

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/07/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sea Kayaking the Bay of Fundy

On my last day in New Brunswick, I headed an hour drive southwest of Moncton to Fundy National Park. The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest recorded tides in the world, often in excess of 40 feet, so I’ve always wanted to check out the current on a sea kayak. In Alma, I met up with Fresh Air Adventures for a half-day jaunt along the rugged coast. We had to paddle against the winds on the way out to open water, looking at Nova Scotia across the bay. The big of body of water was quiet, no fishermen, no other sea kayakers, as we made our way along the shoreline. Tall spruce and firs stood tall atop the craggy rock. When we stopped at a deserted beach, we spotted deer. After a snack, we cruised with the current, practically surfing atop the waves back to town. Even with the strong current, the long sea kayaks were sturdy and I never felt like I was going to go for a dip in the frigid waters. For an encore, we stopped at Hopewell Rocks on the drive back to Moncton. The iconic image of the Bay of Fundy, the tall rocks are carved by the perennial surf and are always evolving. Often referred to as “flowerpot rocks,” many of the formations have trees sprouting out of the top, thus resembling flowerpots. We can check this one off the bucket list. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/21/12 at 12:00 PM
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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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