Best Foot Forward – A Review of Eight new Kayaking Shoes

You know those stories where sea kayakers describe landing spots using phrases like “waves sweeping smoothly up a gently sloping white sand beach”? That never happens to me.

My paddling trips always seem to skirt gnarly coasts where the rubble on the beach is still several geologic epochs short of “sand.” Perhaps that’s because my main stomping grounds are in the Sea of Cortéz—a toddler, as coasts go. With Baja California still in the process of being ripped asunder from the Mexican mainland, the shore here is rarely described as “smooth” or “gentle.”

If there is any sand, it’s usually just a tenuous strip between water and the barely cooled volcanic substrate under the desert scrub.

For this reason, I’ve always steered away from sandals and wetsuit booties toward more substantial paddling footwear. I want something that will protect my feet during a landing but also while scouting camp sites and just looking around spontaneously.

For years, I’ve worn a pair of U.K.-made Hunter Wellington boots during winter (to the delight of several groups of English paddling clients who believed that I might have the only Wellies in the world with cactus-spine scars).

During the hot months, I used to switch to cheap, high-top Keds, which worked great in terms of traction and abrasion protection above the anklebones, but not so great in that they held water and tended to rot quickly. Then someone invented water shoes, and my life got much easier.

Designed to Get Wet

Broadly speaking, a water shoe is simply a shoe designed to get wet. Most are constructed of neoprene or nylon mesh with synthetic leather reinforcement. With these materials, neoprene is warmer, but nylon dries more quickly.

Soles can range from stippled rubber to fairly stout lugs, and uppers can be low or high cut. (Stout lugs offer better protection on rough surfaces and more support for walking but are clunkier in the boat. High uppers are warmer and protect your ankle bones.)

Some water shoes simply pull on, and others lace up and look from a distance like typical athletic shoes.

Rugged coasts aren’t the only reason to consider wearing water shoes. They are designed to hold up to the chafing of your heels or the sides of your feet against the hull of the kayak.

In my opinion, they offer firmer control of rudder pedals than any sandal. Some models offer fair protection against immersion hypothermia, whether worn alone or, even better, over a light pair of insulating booties.

Virtually all are surefooted while you’re clambering over a wide variety of shoreline terrain, from Pacific Northwest logjams to Baja volcanoes.

TechAmphibian $85

The Salomons might be the best hot-weather kayaking shoes I’ve used. The entire upper is constructed of nylon mesh just tight enough to keep out sand grains that would be large enough to chafe, with synthetic leather reinforcements.

The result is an airy shoe that never feels stuffy and empties itself of water instantly. The heel strap makes it easy to adjust the fit of the shoe to wear over neoprene booties, making the TechAmphibians viable as a cold-water choice too.

The sole is broad, shallow-lugged and quite stiff, very similar to that on a standard light hiking shoe. It has an expanded vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole for shock absorption and a thermoplastic footplate for protection and rigidity. As a result, it offered the best performance in the group of shoes reviewed, for scrambling over coquina reefs, sharp-edged rocks and other desert terrain.
The uppers, however, are susceptible to thorns and aren’t high enough to protect your ankle bones from scrapes.

In the boat, they worked just fine too. My only reservation has to do with the small diameter Kevlar laces, which, while they make tensioning the shoes a cinch, could theoretically snag on a rudder pedal or something during a wet exit.

I say theoretically because, try as I did, I couldn’t make such a thing happen. But you know how that goes—the car never makes that noise when your mechanic drives it.

Still, it’s a very small concern. If you worry about such things, leave the heel strap loose, and you can easily slide out of the shoes. I would also cut off the Velcro tabs at the ends of the laces and singe the ends to prevent them from fraying.

COLUMBIA Hell’s Canyon $70

The Hell’s Canyon shoes wouldn’t draw a second glance if you wore them shopping or to the health club—they look just like a generic athletic shoe. The upper doesn’t drain as quickly as the Salomon shoes (hold the latter sideways up to the light, and you can see right through them; not so the Columbias), but mesh and drains in the forefoot pump water out within a few yards of walking. Likewise, the sole of the Hell’s Canyon doesn’t have the same protection plate under the arch as the Salomon.

On the other hand, its ribbed carbon rubber sole sticks better to wet rock, and an EVA mid-sole cushions your stride on smooth surfaces. There’s a row of thick stitching around the perimeter of the sole, the function of which I’m unclear about since the sole is glued to the upper, but the stitching looks vulnerable to abrasion, so let’s hope it’s just for fashion. A bead of seam sealer would help protect it.

The Hell’s Canyon was among the most comfortable shoes in the boat, due in part to the supportive nylon and synthetic nubuck upper. That, combined with the sticky sole, seemed to give me a little more control over the rudder pedals than any of the other shoes.

They were also noticeably warmer than the Salomons, which I expected, considering their solid upper, and when paired with neoprene socks felt very warm indeed. Combined with their ability to serve as perfectly normal-feeling walking shoes, this made Columbia’s Hell’s Canyon one of my top choices as an all-around boating shoe. Just tuck in those lace ends—they have a lot of extra length to them.

FIVE TEN Splash $49

The Splash is an update of (and a significant improvement on) the already excellent Five Ten Hydraulic. Like its predecessor, the Splash is a high-topped, pull-on shoe, but its upper is made from 3mm neoprene instead of the Hydraulic’s 4mm.

Nevertheless, it’s still a warm shoe and a good choice for cold-weather wear. With a neoprene sock, it would be even warmer. That said, the Splash shoes never became clammy during my trial runs in mild conditions. And the bright red of the sample provided brought back fond memories of my old Keds.
The soles are a non-marking gray rubber with sort of an octopus sucker arrangement minus the sucker holes. Whatever the structure, the result is that they stick just like an octopus to wet rocks.

The forefoot is flexible enough to allow your feet to mold around rocks, but there’s noticeably more stiffness under the heel and arch than in the Hydraulic to help guard against sharp-edged rocks.

The best addition to the Splash is a whole bunch of vulcanized reinforcing rubber in high-wear spots, with a double thickness of it around the heel and toe box. These shoes should be immune to abrasion, whether from rough fiberglass inside the kayak or rough rocks outside of it. The perfectly cupped heel pocket will make long paddling days a numbness-free cinch.

The Five Tens wouldn’t be as suitable for long hikes as the Salomons or the Teva Rodiums (see following Teva reviews), but for messing about in boats, they’re unbeatable.

TEVA Proton $35

The Protons, which are available in both men’s and women’s sizes, are the climbing slippers of the water shoe world: a low-cut, slip-on wisp of a shoe for those who would really rather go barefoot but need a little protection and traction.

The crosshatched, thin rubber sole sticks well to wet or dry surfaces, although it offers scant impact protection or armoring against protruding rock edges. However, it does wrap just high enough on the upper to prevent chafe on your heel and the side of your foot in the boat.

I worry about the many lines of stitching joining the synthetic nubuck and nylon mesh in the upper, but I didn’t notice any incipient problems, such as chafe, during testing.

Since the Protons add very little bulk to your foot, they’d be ideal in tight quarters like a skinny, Greenland-style kayak. They’re great in hot weather, but if they were sized so a neoprene sock would fit inside, they would work in chilly conditions, too.

Rodium S.O. $69.95

Also from Teva, the Rodiums look more like water clogs than water shoes. They’re big and blocky and the heaviest in the review by a couple of ounces, despite a low-cut, slip-on upper. It’s all due to the sole, which is thick and stiff and makes the Rodiums the most comfortable walking shoe reviewed (except perhaps for the Salomons).

A shock pad in the heel and a synthetic shank across the arch isolate your feet from virtually any ground nastiness or from sharp rudder pedal edges. The sole itself is only lightly scored, thus its traction on wet and dry rock is excellent, but on sand-covered rock, it felt much less secure than a sole with deep lugs.

In the kayak, the Rodium’s thick heel cup made for notably comfortable long passages, and there were no protruding interior seams to annoy. After immersion, two grommets in the bottom of the synthetic leather and nylon upper drain the bilges dry within a few steps. For a low-cut shoe, these seemed very warm, but the knit nylon mesh took a long time to dry.

ADIDAS Water Moc $65

The stylish Water Mocs have the look of a track racing shoe, with red accents and a bright, coated stretch-fabric lace cover that snaps over two plastic hooks.

The cover is supposed to protect the laces from snagging, but it actually seems that it is itself something that can snag. In fact, one cover developed a small tear, suggesting that it might have snagged on something during testing.
Lacing aside, the Water Mocs performed well. The uppers are a blend of perforated synthetic leather and a very fine mesh that kept out everything except silty sand but drained in a second.

Three small, screened holes so far under the arch as to be in the sole, and several more under the heel, actively pump out any remaining water. Of course, with all the mesh and holes, the Water Mocs ventilate fabulously and are comfortable in hot weather.

If you buy them sized to give you a slightly loose fit, you can have room inside for neoprene socks in cold weather.

The sole is a thin rubber, but with fairly aggressive lugs, so traction was good on almost anything. An EVA mid-sole provides surprising cushioning for the thickness but not much resistance to gouging edges.

There’s a smidgen of arch support, so walking on smooth surfaces was comfortable for long distances. Although I think Adidas could remove the lace cover, and perhaps even replace the laces with a Velcro strap, the Water Moc is a good kayaking shoe.

Hydrology $65

You’ve heard the old joke about screen doors on a submarine?

It popped into my head when I examined the second Adidas water shoe reviewed, which sports a half-dozen comparatively huge metal screen ports right in the bottom of the sole.

Like screen doors on a submarine, they let water in or out with equal facility. I thought they would clog quickly in sand, but that never happened. Only when I took them on a fresh-water excursion to a lake with muddy banks did they plug tight—after pumping a bunch of silt inside.

But for most seashore substrates—sand, cobble or rock—they worked just fine, and made the Hydrology one of the quickest draining shoes I tried.

Otherwise, they look and perform very similarly to the Water Mocs, except that the lace cover is sewn all the way up one side of the shoe, so it can’t snag in that direction at least (a big improvement from the Water Mocs).

The rubber reinforcing on the outside of the sole is also a little thicker, and the perforated synthetic nubuck uppers protect whatever part of your foot they cover (which doesn’t extend above the ankle bone) from abrasion. In fact, especially in light of their reasonable price, these shoes are a very good choice.


A draw cord around the low ankle opening plus a fat Velcro instep strap means there’s no way the Kickers will come off unintentionally—nice if you play in surf or other situations where capsizes and thrashing wet exits are frequent. The flexible rubber sole wraps around the 2mm neoprene uppers at the heel, instep and toe to protect the foot and add abrasion resistance.

NRS built a thin plastic shim into the mid-sole of the Kickers, which helps a bit when hopping over jagged rocks, but there’s still very little protection in such circumstances. Best to keep the speed down and let the sticky soles cling where you put them. If you paddle along shores where slick rocks are the norm, consider the optional felt soles, which act like the soles on fly-fishing waders to grip right through slime.

The Kickers have a business-like appearance, as if fashion had been well below function on the design brief. And that’s just how they performed. I’d rate these as perfect for high-energy paddling, where a bit of warmth, protection and traction and a lot of security are important.

Normally somewhat of a marketing skeptic, I admit to being impressed at how well manufacturers have addressed the needs of boaters with these shoes. I was also pleased at the range of function and features, which should satisfy paddlers from Beringia to Baja. I know I’ll find a use for them—at least until I stumble across one of those gentle, white sand beaches.

DRY FEET, WARM HEART: Waterproof Socks
by Jonathan Hanson

An interesting alternative to the traditional means of keeping your feet warm while paddling—some sort of neoprene sock or bootie, which stays warm when wet—is to keep them dry and warm, by wearing waterproof socks. I tried out a couple of varieties with the water shoes from this review.

The first thing I learned was that only tall stretchy socks work for kayaking. I tried a pair of Gore-Tex oversock, designed for hikers to wear over regular socks.

They use a non-stretch nylon outer fabric with stretch panel in front and a Gore-Tex laminate inside, lined with tricot. The top was only about 10 inches high and kept my feet dry as long as the water stayed below the tops, which just have a loose-fitting hem—nothing to prevent water entry.

Once dunked, I was left with soaked feet and socks full of water that wouldn’t drain. Gore-Tex is permeable to water as a vapor, not as a liquid. These might work great under hiking boots for fording shallow streams, but they’re not for situations where a full dunking is not uncommon.


The stretchy socks from Sealskinz, on the other hand, worked well even when fully immersed. Their WaterBlocker Socks (15″ high) and All-Season Socks (11″ high) are both very comfortable worn over bare feet because they incorporate a soft lining of wicking material under a waterproof, breathable membrane. The stretch construction of both SealSkinz socks provided a snug fit and prevented much water from getting into either model.

I tried each pair under all the paddling shoes I tested and never found them unpleasant or clammy in 70-75° weather and 65° water. The difference between the two is that the WaterBlocker socks have a cuff designed to keep out most water even when completely immersed.

And it worked: I waded around in knee-deep water for 15 minutes and got barely a drop or two inside the sock. One swimming session produced the same results. But here’s the key: Even when I deliberately pulled the cuff open and let them fill with water, it quickly warmed to body temperature, and I stayed as comfortable as I would have with a thin neoprene sock.

I was sold. However, because the WaterBlocker cuff was no less comfortable than the cuffs on the All-Season version, I’d give them my highest recommendation.

I still need to try them in hot weather, when they might be too stuffy. But for cool or cold conditions, worn alone in the former or under a standard neoprene bootie in the latter, I think these waterproof socks could be a valuable extra line of defense against immersion hypothermia and an excellent way to keep your feet more comfortable at other times.

Pestilence in Paradise – Kayaking in South New Zealand

According to my first-aid manual, I could afford to lose about five liters of blood before my blood pressure bottomed out, the shutters came down and I lost consciousness. I’d already lost quite a bit, so I did a few hurried calculations: If a thousand sand-fly bites sucked up a milliliter of my blood, after five million sand-fly bites, I’d be history.

Only five million! Considering I had about ten thousand flying around me right at that moment, it occurred to me that not just my sanity, but my very life, was only as secure as my defenses against these nasty little blackflies. Not that I really felt endangered. With only my hands exposed, I was just impressed that Mother Nature could deliver shock and awe in such small packages. Impressed and annoyed, but mostly itchy. That’s the trouble with fine weather in Fiordland—the sand flies love it too. They especially love fine weather at dusk, in damp, cool tidal creek beds where there is no wind, and Lumaluma Creek, at the head of Fiordland’s Edwardson Sound, in late summer is just that—sand-fly paradise.

Like most rivers in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Lumaluma Creek runs dark brown with tannins leached from the soil by the extravagant rainfall. Just beyond its banks, small flat areas are mostly waterlogged and dotted with stumpy crown ferns.

From our kayaks, it looked like you could pitch a tent anywhere, but closer inspection revealed the soggy truth. The lower reaches of the creek are tidal, and with the tide out, the small, rounded boulders along the shore reveal their cloak of slippery algae that confine your feet to the awkward clefts between them when carrying a laden kayak.

The late afternoon sun lit up the far hills through the canopy of beech trees, but our campsite had lost any sunlight it had been blessed with hours ago. Soon enough we had set up camp, and the place started to feel like home rather than a damp, sunless gully.

Unfortunately, it was just as good a home for clouds of tiny biting flies, and they welcomed us with the same enthusiasm that they have shown visitors for hundreds of years:

nor in short did we see any living thing on shore except birds and a small sand fly, but this annoy’d us more than perhaps fifty animals would, for no sooner did we set our feet on shore than we were covered with these flys, and their sting is as painful as that of a Musquitto, and made us scratch as if he had got the itch; indeed one of my legs became so much swell’d by this means that I was forced to apply a poultice to it, and was lame for two or three days.—Captain George Vancouver of HMS Chatham. Dusky Bay, 1791.

Mesh bug veils are de rigueur in Fiordland, and Brent, Peter and Ian had retreated behind theirs with desperate haste, while Anthony walked in brisk circles, applying insect repellent recklessly to his bare face and hands. His torment was only slightly reduced, as the writhing sand flies now stuck to his skin and were almost as annoying as when they were biting.

It was my turn to cook, and as I tended the small stove on the gravel riverbed among the densest aggregation of sand flies, I admitted aloud that this was a stupid place to camp. There was no dissent from my companions, but I think I detected a glare or two, for I had chosen the campsite on account of its proximity to a lake we wanted to visit the next day.

It’s hard to imagine any human activity more suited to satisfying the sand flies’ blood lust than camping. Tasks that require staying in one place, such as cooking, are particularly challenging.

An unattended bite escalates in seconds from a tiny speck of sensitivity impossible to ignore to a maddening itch way out of proportion to the insects’ size. They show little aversion to insect repellent, but they die in your dinner. They crawl through your eyebrows, bite your eyelids and get tangled in your eyelashes.

Cooking dinner is a trial, and eating it is equally challenging. While cooking, you can wear a mesh veil and constantly wave your exposed hands around. But eating necessitates removing your veil and exposing your face and neck to the onslaught.

You move about constantly—one hand holds your dinner while the other hand, clutching your spoon, is engaged in fending off hundreds of biting flies from your face and protecting the hand that holds your food.

Meals are consumed in seconds, but not before they are garnished with tiny black corpses like coarsely ground pepper. Sand flies, steamed to death, float in your coffee. Too numerous to remove, they add a curious texture—like unfiltered grounds, but softer. After dinner, hands return to pockets and the incessant buzz of the little flies continues about your face until nightfall. Finally, after dark, you get some peace. The forest seems to sigh with relief, and the noises of the night—a distant kiwi or the melancholy call of the native owl (morepork)—seem more peaceful than usual after a day’s battle with the flies.

At daybreak, what sounds like rain on the tent is just the noise of hundreds of sand flies bouncing between the tent and the tent fly. They have homed in on your body heat and exhaled carbon dioxide, and they are hungry.

The only respite from sand flies on a calm day is when you put to sea. The last thing you do before pushing off from shore is rip off your long overtrousers and leap frantically into the cockpit to seal your spray skirt in a frenzy of activity, trying to simultaneously shoo them from your bare legs. Then you paddle like hell, pursued by a cloud of sand flies. You have to keep them airborne until they run out of energy. Paddle, paddle, flail, brush, paddle, paddle.…

When you get bitten—on your leg—under your spray skirt—you can only make a quick contortion to kill the beast beneath, then off comes the spray skirt—scratch, scratch, flail (don’t lose the paddle!), fumble to re-seal it, and paddle, paddle furiously again. This goes on for about 15 minutes. Where’s the wind when you want it?

When the onslaught has finally subsided, and you no longer have flies buzzing about your ears and in front of your face, you can appreciate that Fiordland is not just a paradise for sand flies, but for sea kayakers too. That’s what keeps bringing my friends and me back to New Zealand’s southern fiords in spite of its endless hordes of insatiable sand flies.

Sand flies (Australosimulium spp.) have been tormenting people in Fiordland since its first inhabitants ventured there. As much as 800 years ago, feather cloaks and a layer of animal grease gave the early Maori some protection on their sealing forays into the region, but they never established a permanent presence there.

At the end of the 18th century, sealers slept in the same smoky caves that had been used by the Maori. Nineteenth-century mariners were among the first to record their impressions of Fiordland’s sand flies:

The hold full of flies and the whole of us much distressed by them, they fasten on us with such fury and fly into the nose mouth and ears; the itching they leave is positively enough to drive one mad.
—John Balleny, Captain of the Eliza Scott. Chalky Sound, 1839.

One hermit who lived for many years in Fiordland’s Milford Sound used to keep a 44-gallon drum by the front door of his hut. A small kerosene burner kept the drum as warm as a live body, and the outside of the drum was smeared with grease to trap the sand flies attracted to the warm surface.

Modern sand-fly defenses are both physical and chemical. Covering up is still the best method of protection. Uncovered skin can be liberally irrigated with DEET (diethyl toluamide). This stuff can melt plastic, so you don’t want any near your eyes. Sand flies know this, so they target your eyelids.

Contrary to common belief, DEET is not a repellent—it just inhibits biting. It works by blocking receptor sites in the sensory organs of biting insects so they cannot recognize you as a food source.

This, you understand, is no academic distinction. Even with liberal quantities of DEET on your hands, you’ll still have 30 or so insects crawling around on the back of each hand as you cook dinner.

They get stuck in a mire of DEET and sweat and crawl around among the hairs, dragging their sodden wings. You can squash them, but wiping the bodies away is not a good idea, as it thins the DEET film. So the carnage accumulates on the grisly battlefield of your skin.

Maori folklore has it that sand flies were created to ensure that the most beautiful of places, no matter how bountiful and benign, would still fall short of perfection. If that is so, then the creation of this annoying little biting blackfly is a triumph of economy. That such a small fly can have such a big impact on such a vast place is indeed a wonder.

On a calm day, if you come across a seal in a sheltered part of Fiordland, it’s unlikely to be reclining on the shore. Without a good breeze, sand flies dictate that Fiordland seals spend their daytime resting hours in the sea, slowly rotating at a pace that is just adequate to prevent sand flies biting.

This behavior can affect the seals’ energy budget and therefore their food requirements. The heat loss from spending more time in the water likely means that they have to eat more. Thus the sand flies have an impact on fish and squid populations far offshore. Little sods.

There is a theory that credits sand flies with making the kiwi and kakapo (a large endangered parrot) nocturnal, and after a few days paddling in Fiordland, anybody can see the sense in living in darkness.

Sand flies, mosquitoes and other annoying insects are a part of wilderness travel there’s no escaping. There is no bug-free option to be selected by ticking the box on a booking form. You pay your dues in blood when you visit Fiordland—it’s part of the deal. Just as you can’t experience a tropical rainforest without sitting out a wet-season thunderstorm, so it is with Fiord-land’s sand flies. They’re just as much part of our wilderness heritage as the pristine forest, the imposing mountains and the sheltered inlets. Our paddling paradise, too easily attained, would be devalued without them. And besides, as Maori legend suggests, paradise is intended only for the afterlife.

This was the argument I advanced to mitigate my earlier enthusiasm for our Lumaluma Creek campsite—an enthusiasm that had long since dissipated. About the only thing Brent, Peter, Ian and I agreed upon was that the sand flies were sure to protect our privacy, as most sensible people would stay well away from our campsite.

Sand flies are wilderness guardians of global significance. Captain Balleny thought so:

I do not think either natives or settlers could live any great time in this part from the myriads of poisonous flies…” Without them, who knows what sordid development might have grown from the timber- and gold-mining townships of Cromarty and Te Oneroa, which now lie decaying beneath a carpet of moss in Preservation Inlet (Fiordland’s southernmost inlet). When the gold ran out, nobody stayed behind to raise their children in these towns.

Australosimulium spp. may have played a major role in preserving the land that now has World Heritage Site status. Humankind may have laid claim to a benevolent custodianship of Fiordland, but in truth, we have merely surrendered the land to a very, very small predator with a thirst for our blood. Not bad for a little fly.

The Loss of a Novice (A Kayak Training Misfortune)

On Saturday, May 26, 2001 , 51-year-old Robert Beauvais participated in a sea-kayaking course for beginning paddlers—a six-hour class listed as Essential Skills I, run by a New England–based kayak school. The participants included four students and Carla, a British Canoe Union (BCU)–trained (Four Star) instructor. (Names of the staff and other students have been changed.)

Paul, an unpaid volunteer, helped with instruction during the morning session. Class started at about 10:15 A.M.

The kayak school provided boats and equipment for the students, including a wetsuit, spray skirt, paddling jacket and PFD for Robert, 5′ 11″ and of average build.

The day was partly sunny with a light southeast wind at approximately five knots, which strengthened later in the day. The air temperature was 75˚F, and water temperature was about 58˚F. The water in the area was well protected from the southeast wind and waves.

The initial instruction was carried out on shore. Instructor Carla showed the students how to get in and out of their boats and how to get the spray skirts on and off the cockpit rims of their boats.

Under her direction, the students each went through this exercise twice on shore before launching. Carla asked the students if they understood the maneuver and confirmed that they all felt comfortable with their ability to perform it.

She told the students they would do wet-exit training in the water at the end of the day, as she didn’t want them to start the session by getting wet and risk having them become hypothermic during the course of the outing. Before launching, the students also were instructed on how to hold the paddle, perform various paddling strokes and do a deep-water rescue.

They launched their boats at about 10:45 A.M.

Once on the water, Carla taught forward, reverse and turning strokes. Shortly after launching, while working on a forward sweep stroke, Leslie, one of the students, capsized.

Initially, she tried to struggle to the surface while still in the boat but then remembered she had to first remove her spray skirt from the rim of the cockpit.

As she reported later, her first attempt to get it off failed, and in spite of the wetsuit she was wearing, the cold water made her want to gasp for air. She continued to hold her breath and made a second effort to free the spray skirt. Simply pulling on the grab loop failed to remove it from the cockpit rim, but she remembered to punch it forward and up.

The skirt came free of the cockpit rim, and Leslie bailed out successfully. She estimated that it took her about five seconds to get out of the kayak.

Carla then pulled Leslie’s boat across her own boat to dump out the water (a T-X rescue) and helped her reenter it from the water. Carla used the capsize as an opportunity to review the wet-exit procedure and to demonstrate a deep-water rescue.

The students continued working on strokes, and Carla spoke about other marine subjects while they paddled south along the shore. George, Mary and Leslie stayed up front with Carla, while Robert moved a bit slower in the company of the assistant, Paul.

About noon, Paul headed back to the launch site. Carla kept the group together, and they usually stayed within 10 or 15 yards of each other. They crossed the boating channel to have lunch on a small island. During the lunch break ashore, Carla assisted Robert in adjusting the position of his foot braces.

They launched again at about 12:45 and paddled around to the lee side of the island to work on more paddling skills. These included the draw stroke and more paddling forward and backward.

The students also worked on paddle bracing. They were to lean to one side until starting to fall, then recover by slapping the surface of the water with the paddle blade in the low brace -position.

To avoid the wind, Carla lined the students up near shore for more practice doing the low brace, but the wind carried the group about 100 yards away from shore as they practiced. Leslie’s boat was parallel to Robert’s and about 25 feet to his left.

At about 1:45 P.M. , Robert capsized toward Leslie while trying to practice the low brace. According to Leslie, “when he tipped, he almost immediately began splashing the water on his left side facing me. He was flailing his arms, and I think he was trying to yell for help.”

Carla started paddling toward him noting that Robert hadn’t exited the kayak. George called out that Robert wasn’t getting out of his boat. Carla paddled to the right side of Robert’s boat and reached across it to pull him upright. Robert clutched at Carla and tried to pull himself up. She noticed that Robert’s hips were apparently outside of the cockpit, but his spray skirt was still attached to the rim of the cockpit coaming.

Carla got to Robert’s kayak in about five seconds (according to Leslie’s estimate) and was able to get Robert partially upright after he had been underwater for 10-15 seconds (according to estimates later provided by her and the students).

Mary got out of her boat, released Robert’s spray skirt and got him out of his boat. She then held Robert’s head out of the water while holding onto his boat. Carla attached her towline to Robert’s boat and both she and George blew their emergency whistles in an effort to attract the attention of passing boat traffic. At this point, both Robert and Mary were still in the water with Mary holding Robert’s head out of the water while still holding onto Robert’s boat.

During the first five minutes after being brought to the surface, Robert was conscious but had difficulty breathing.

Mary said he was able to talk a little bit. In another three to four minutes, he lost consciousness. Mary, a professional nurse, began rescue breathing, while Carla towed them (both still in the water) to shore. One powerboat passed them without stopping.

Leslie started paddling toward a marina about 0.4 miles distant, where she saw a sailboat maneuvering near the docks. She repeatedly yelled out the boat’s name and waved her paddle in the air. In the course of this effort, she capsized. This time she was able to remember the proper technique for a wet exit and immediately bailed out. Momentarily, two men in a powerboat arrived and offered her their assistance. She told them she would be fine and directed them to Carla, Mary and Robert.

The boat’s owner, Thomas Guard, took Robert and Mary aboard. Mary and passenger Gregory Haley immediately began CPR on Robert. At the marina, police officer Macy Joseph (also an EMT) assisted Mary with the CPR effort. Off-duty police officer Bouvier arrived and provided them with 100% oxygen and a defibrillator.

They were not successful in reviving Robert. CPR was continued during transport to the emergency room at a hospital about seven miles away.

In the course of his capsize, Robert had inhaled water to a degree that compromised further lung function even after Carla and Mary got him up and out of his boat. He was declared dead at 2:51 that afternoon. An autopsy, carried out the next day, determined that he died from asphyxia due to drowning and that the manner of death was accidental.

Robert capsized unintentionally in cold water. He was not mentally prepared for the unexpected capsize, and he panicked.

At the moment he capsized, about three hours after doing the wet-exit drill on shore, he was unable to compose himself, release his spray skirt and exit his boat. When he went over, there was no one near enough to his boat to lift him up immediately.

In his panic, he inhaled water to a degree that could not be reversed by subsequent rescue efforts.

Leslie capsized at about 11:00 A.M. , some 15-20 minutes after launching. Although she had just reviewed the wet-exit drill on shore, Leslie did not immediately remember what to do.

The cold water on her head and up her nose made her want to gasp. She composed herself after two false starts and finally succeeded in getting the spray skirt off and herself out of the boat. After doing an actual wet exit, the lesson stuck with her: When she capsized later in the day, she had no further difficulty bailing out of her boat.

The fiberglass kayaks provided to Leslie and Robert had keyhole cockpits that required them to follow a specific routine to exit their boats if they capsized. Once over, they had to tuck forward, grab the spray skirt grab loop, and push it forward, up, and away from the deck to get it off the cockpit coaming. Then, with legs straight, they had to push off the cockpit rim at their hips and somersault forward out of their boats.

The British Canoe Union Handbook, Second Edition, which was current at the time of the accident, had various recommendations for wet-exit practice, and conceded the following:

“To capsize your group, especially at the beginning of the session, puts people off and creates other problems. We therefore have to content ourselves with an explanation, or perhaps a dry land demonstration, and then be prepared to come quickly to the assistance of a capsized person.”

At later points in this edition, the BCU authors recommend the use of large-cockpit boats without spray skirts to assure an easy exit in the event of capsizes.

Although the spray skirts used by Robert and Leslie had plastic balls attached to the grab loops and were one size larger than recommended for the boats, their capsizes demonstrated that these skirts would not slip off of the coaming if the paddlers just came out of their seats.

The abrupt edge of the cockpit rim on the composite boats combined with the design of the neoprene spray skirts prevents them from coming off the rim by accident. This can provide a measure of safety by keeping the skirt in place in rough sea conditions.

The consequence, however, is that the paddler must be trained to remove the skirt in order to do a wet exit. The mastery of this skill requires practice in the water.

The British Canoe Union Handbook, Third Edition , published after this incident, addresses the issue of novices doing their first wet-exit drills with a more consistent recommendation that the drills be carried out in a swimming pool with an instructor or informed friend standing in the pool adjacent to the boat.

The first try should be carried out without the spray skirt in place on the cockpit rim. For comfort, the student should use nose clips. They even recommend that students practice somersaulting into and out of the cockpit of the capsized boat several times before trying the drill with a loose-fitting nylon spray skirt in place.

The student’s first wet exit is discussed in this more recent edition as follows:

“When people are practicing [the] capsize drill for the first time, particularly if it is the first time with the spray deck, they should be closely supervised. Stand next to the kayak and when they go upside down watch the boater carefully. Problems are rare but to be on the safe side you are looking for:

1.) Signs of panic (undirected, futile movements), or

2.) Signs of counter panic (no movement), i.e., the paddler freezing.” In such cases, the instructor is told to immediately turn the capsized boat upright.

Many of the introductory paddling courses I have taught for the American Canoe Association (ACA) or private groups have been in situations not satisfactory for working on wet exits.

These included insufficient time for the specific program, as well as cold water, high river levels and dirty water. In such situations, I have given the students or guests stable, large-cockpit boats without spray skirts. It is the practice of other instructors I know not to provide spray skirts to students who haven’t demonstrated skill at doing the wet-exit drill.

Students or guests were always required to wear PFDs. Although I instructed them on how to get out if they capsized and how to do a deep-water assisted rescue, I had a high level of confidence that they would not be trapped in their boats even if they panicked after capsizing.

On one occasion, a student in one of my classes was attempting a low brace for the first time and threw all his weight onto the paddle and instantly capsized. He leaped from the boat even as it was going over and ran for the shoreline through the waist-deep water.

After a few minutes, he agreed that he had totally panicked. He was more cautious after that, but his momentary panic was something that can happen to any novice.

In the lowest level BCU assessment for paddlers, the One-Star Performance test, candidates must successfully perform the capsize-and-wet-exit drill along with other paddling skills.

Even though candidates are supposed to be well practiced and entirely comfortable doing the wet exit before taking the performance test, they are allowed to release the spray skirt from the cockpit coaming before capsizing.

What alternatives are available to sea-kayaking instructors?

If it is impossible to start a class with the wet exit drills, the students should be given kayaks with medium to large cockpits that will assure an effortless exit in the event of a capsize. The students should not be given spray skirts. The BCU recommends that introductory classes be held on calm waters where spray skirts aren’t really necessary.

If an instructor thinks that spray skirts must be used, they should be ones that will fall off easily if a capsized student simply pushes out of the cockpit. Many of the plastic boats on the market work well for beginning paddlers because their coamings do not grip spray skirts as tightly as do those of composite kayaks.

It is not possible to predict whether a student will panic on a first wet-exit attempt. Some may panic even if they’re prepared for the capsize, are wearing nose clips and have practiced getting in and out of the boat under the water.

Even in instructor-supervised situations where the student has reviewed exactly what to do after capsizing, has taken a full breath and capsized when ready with no paddle in hand, some students still require immediate assistance by the instructor.

Instructors must accept that any student might become confused, disoriented or panicked on their first try at the capsize drill. The instructor must be prepared to act immediately to get that student upright or out of the boat.


Robert Beauvais is survived by his wife and two teenage daughters. The house he bought in Mattapoisett , Massachusetts , had a backyard opening onto a saltwater cove and marsh.

He thought paddling a double kayak with his wife, Diane, through the marshes, coves and bays bordering Buzzards Bay would be a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the marine environment available from his backyard.

I greatly appreciate the interest of Mrs. Beauvais in putting this unfortunate incident into the public record.

Cornwall Commitment

“Cornwall,” Marion said.

“Sure,” I said. “Sounds good.”

It is worth noting that at the time I was lying in the sun at the Renclusa alpine hut in the Spanish Pyrenees. I was deep in some endorphin-induced delirium on account of having survived the telemarking experience down Pico de Aneto, the highest summit in the Pyrenees.

It is also not beyond the realm of possibility that I was subject to some biochemical alteration in the brain owing to high altitude. Whatever the contributing factors, I maintain that I was not fully myself when I agreed to the sea-kayaking trip.

Foul-Weather Friend

Marion is about the finest friend you could hope for—an über-friend, even. There is nothing on this earth that she would not do for you. There is also nothing on this earth that she would not do, and she prefers to have company to do most things. Which is how I found myself lying in a tent somewhere near Land’s End, England, listening to the rain lashing down and cursing myself.

We were five: There was Marion, her partner Ken, Paul, Denise and me. We convened in the drizzle for a soggy breakfast, then made the first of what would be many phone calls that week to the British Coast Guard.

Stripped of meteorological euphemisms, the essence of the forecast was nasty. I have lived in Britain quite a long time now, and I feel qualified to state that, while the forecast is usually a variation on this theme, the reality is often worse.

The Coast Guard alleged that the rain would abate in the afternoon, and while this prediction stood a good chance of being typically inaccurate, our fearless leader nevertheless directed the movement of people, craft and sundry gear to a beach east of Penzance for an early afternoon launch.

The surfers were there too and looking enthusiastic, which I did not take to be a good sign. As Paul and I dragged our loaded kayaks down to the water’s edge, we passed a windsurfing board torn in two, with the sail still attached and no sign of a passenger.

We looked at one another. I tightened my life jacket, and made sure my whistle was firmly attached to it. Some good a whistle was going to be underwater.

“If you capsize while you’re launching…” Marion said to me. The way she’d stated it, as if it were a foregone conclusion, made me want to go back to the snack bar and call a taxi.

It’s worth pointing out that Marion was five months pregnant as we set out on this adventure.

At a stage when most women are already taking advantage of being in the family way to recline at every available opportunity, Marion, with her noticeable bulge, was securing my spray skirt and pushing me out into the choppy sea.

I made it through the breakers without capsizing. So did everyone else, although they seemed less amazed by their success. We rounded St. Michael’s Mount, which I know from photos is a breathtaking spectacle: a fairy-tale church on an island.

Despite our proximity to this much-photographed landmark, I didn’t see it because I didn’t dare lift my eyes from the immediate surroundings of my kayak.

By way of background, I should mention that I grew up on the Canadian prairie, that I saw Jaws before I first saw the ocean, and that anything ocean-related I have done in my life has been a fight against type.

While I have kayaked and canoed on rivers, lakes and calm stretches of the sea, I have a healthy respect for the sea that some might call terror.

Although I harbored no delusions that this adventure would find me out on the water, splashing and laughing, doing Eskimo rolls, having a big aquatic love-in like some beer commercial bon vivant, I still had an ambition.

I was there to conquer my fear of the sea. By the time we were on the water, however, I’d seen the folly of my ways and had made a Faustian pact that, should I live, I would swear off nautical activities ’til kingdom come.

I did not smile; I did not laugh. I scowled when my paddling partners shouted a tip or other information at me and refused to look at them. Occasionally I glanced at the horizon, but only to make sure the land was still there.

Obviously, I had not given due thought to this misadventure before signing up, but the most striking thing that hadn’t occurred to me was how difficult it would be to land anywhere along the coast of Cornwall. Before the trip, I had soothed myself with the thought that, if the going got rough and I felt uneasy, I could always just head for shore. Wrong.

It simply hadn’t dawned on me that I couldn’t land anywhere at any time by simply heading for the beach. Cornwall, I was coming to realize, has hardly any beaches, and half the beaches it has disappear at high tide.

The whole of western Cornwall appeared to be one big sea cliff, against which it was all too easy to imagine my kayak and skull crashing. In sea-kayaker parlance, such circumstances are known as “committing.” Committing what?

After what seemed like 300 miles (but which I later learned was eight), Marion shouted that we would land at a nearby beach. I snatched a quick glance at her.

She had her paddle out of the water, lying across her boat, and was looking at the laminated map she had strapped to her kayak. She lifted her head to smile widely at me.

That isn’t just sangfroid; it’s nothing short of reptilian. She came up right beside me and told me that the beach was called Praa Sands, and we would land there and either eat our lunch and carry on down the coast or stay there for the night.

In the end, it wasn’t our decision to make.

As we neared the coast, we could see the big waves breaking onto the broad, empty beach.

“If you capsize…” Marion said again. I didn’t want to prolong the agony. Ken had gone first, and I hadn’t watched to see where he wound up.

Denise had caught the wave before me, and as a huge wave hefted my kayak up to an impossibly high vantage point, I saw Denise below, in the water beside her capsized kayak.

The bow of my kayak was progressing toward Denise’s head at a terrific velocity, and I was powerless to slow down or alter my course, or do anything except plummet toward her head.

What happened I can’t say exactly, but I do know that I wound up underwater and quite instinctively pulled off my spray skirt, got out of my kayak and surfaced.

There were no bits of brain floating on the water. Instead, a frantic-looking but intact Denise was dog-paddling toward me. I felt like weeping with relief that I hadn’t killed her.

I pulled her to my capsized boat, put her hand on the bow toggle and told her to stay with the kayak. Then I swam out into the waves and gathered together the detritus: paddles, Denise’s boat, a cap, sunglasses, bandanna. I swam back to shore hauling these things, and together we pulled our waterlogged boats up onto the beach.

Everyone had capsized.

We phoned the Coast Guard to tell him of our heroic landing. I realize it’s delusional to speak of the Coast Guard as if he’s one guy—a bit like the Great and Powerful Oz, keeping a round-the-clock vigil.

Still, it’s a comforting fiction. In my mind, the Coast Guard looked a bit like Neptune dressed up as Captain Stubing from The Love Boat, skippering a giant white yacht with HM Coast Guard written on it in red letters.

The Coast Guard of reality had to look over his list twice before he figured out which party we were. “Oh, the kayakers,” he said. He told us the next day’s forecast was for Force 6 or 7 and occasionally Gale Force 8 winds.

I had no idea what Gale Force 8 meant, but if the wave scale was anything like the Richter scale, I’d decided I would remain at Praa Sands, sleep in a homemade hammock and drink out of coconut shells à la Gilligan for the rest of my days, rather than brave those freaking waves again. The sea was no friend of mine, and it was over between us.

I have no explanation for how it came to be that a day and a half later, after two nights at Praa Sands, I had this déjà vu experience of heading out into the churning sea in my ever-loving kayak.

My upper body was completely soaked within minutes. The swells were even higher than they had been previously. The sensation was something akin to watching your friends atop rapidly moving buildings. At one moment they’re towering above you, and the next moment, you’re the equivalent of four stories above them.

At times, you’re in a deep trough, unable to see anyone else, and it’s easy to gain the impression that you’re utterly alone.

I assumed my don’t-talk-to-me-except-in-an-emergency scowl and paddled determinedly along. Again, the continuous wall of sea cliff was to our left. We loomed as close as we dared to the two beaches we saw en route, only to discover that they were peopled by surfers, and an encore performance of the collective capsize-o-rama was guaranteed if we tried landing.

Marion shouted that there was a small harbor at a place called Mullion Cove, and if we made for it, we could land safely and perhaps even with grace. We had to get very close to it before the small opening in a sea wall revealed itself. In we went. Instant calm; profound relief. Better still, the place had a little café that served cream teas.

It was decided that we’d stay put for the rest of the day in view of the choppy seas and the difficulty of landing between Mullion Cove and Lizard Point. We would do the Lizard Point passage the following day, and with any luck the sea would calm down.

This expedition was not noted for its luck, nor the sea for its calmness, and my heart was heavy with trepidation as I slathered a scone with cream. Might as well enjoy myself, I thought. It could be my last scone for life. Considering that the swells had the entire distance between the east coast of Canada and Cornwall to work up a head of steam, it seemed improbable that they would calm down somehow.

Early the next morning found us schlepping back to Mullion Cove from our campground. According to Marion, we had to start off at 6:30 to hit Lizard Point at the right time, with respect to currents and tides.

When we got to the harbor, the sea was whipped up white and frothy, looking more forbidding than it had to date. The Coast Guard certainly had nothing good to say.

Denise and I convened an emergency meeting and decided that whatever the inconvenience or expense in terms of cash or dignity, we were willing to suffer same rather than go out there.

We presented our proposal as decorously as possible to meet the balance of the party farther along the route, but it wasn’t necessary. They had also decided it was too risky. Even Marion.

Marion and Ken brainstormed a complex arrangement that involved public transportation and a lot of time, but the upshot was that we were going to do a car portage to cheat Lizard Point and drive to Kennack Sands, which would hopefully be more sheltered and calm. I was ecstatic. Perhaps the sea would not have me after all.

True to prediction, the sea at Kennack Sands was millpond still. The only churning was the human activity on the busy beach, where even toddlers were venturing into the water with just limited supervision. I launched without incident or even fear, which made it a bit of an event.

We paddled along the coast, the topography of which had become much less dramatic: beaches all along and no sea cliffs. I could land anywhere. I could laugh and splash and make conversation. I could be a beer commercial bon vivant. This was the kind of committing I could get into.

It was nice. The sun shone, and we chatted as we paddled. Ken got out a fishing line and caught a few mackerel that he and Paul later cooked over a campfire on the beach.

After Lizard Point, the Coast Guard’s forecast never predicted winds of more than Force 4. We went up Helford Estuary and Frenchman’s Creek, of Daphne du Maurier fame, where smugglers and other lawless types once hid out. At high tide, we paddled all the way up the estuary to a pub at Gweek. It was all incredibly pleasant.

It was also a bit boring. Which goes some small way to explaining how the following exchange happened after we’d paddled back out the estuary and were spending our final night at a campground near Falmouth:

“What do you think of paddling around Corsica next?” Marion asked, sitting cross-legged beside the camp stove, with her tummy protruding into her lap.

“Sure,” I heard myself say. “I’ve never been to Corsica.”

I could put it down to sunstroke or water on the brain, or blame Marion for transforming me into an adrenaline junkie. But a girl doesn’t make an über-friend everyday, and one like Marion is probably more of a once-in-a-lifetime offer, however abridged that lifetime might turn out to be.

An Interview with Audrey Sutherland

I met Audrey Sutherland aboard a kayak mothership in Sitka, AK. It was her 23rd year of kayaking in Southeast Alaska. We motored south along the west side of Baranof Island and anchored in protected, fjord-like bays to go paddling.

Audrey is a brilliantly focused woman. From the mothership’s wheelhouse, she used binoculars to study the shoreline for campsites. At times she would forego launching a kayak and hop in the skiff to expedite a shore visit. She insisted on starting and operating the skiff’s outboard herself. When ashore, Audrey would duck under the spruce and cedar canopy and quickly assess a spot’s camping potential.

She knows the Latin names of countless plants and animals, and she peppered captain Jim Kyle and chef/kayak guide Tana DeSilva with countless questions. Audrey’s a do-it-yourselfer who loves a good hardware store. She’s also very visual: Sitting in the galley, she would often grab a napkin and draw a simple diagram to illustrate a concept.

She has a tremendous store of memories and can describe beach scenes and bear encounters in great detail. She has, arguably, the brightest eyes on the planet. People talk about sunset years. Audrey is full-on 10AM sunshine.

I interviewed her by phone after she returned to her home in Hawaii.

Gary Luhm: When I was invited to spend a week with Audrey Sutherland, I thought, “Wow, a week with the grandmother of sea kayaking.” At least that’s how I perceived it. How and when did you get started?
Audrey Sutherland: Many people were kayaking before I started. After twice swimming the 20-mile north shore of Molokai, towing my gear, I bought a six-foot inflatable kayak, then a nine-foot, and paddled that coast 18 times.

 What were those early days like, compared to today?
AS: The same. I’m always discovering new places and learning more each year.

GL: The self-sufficiency of those early trips must have been a great boost to your self-esteem. Today paddlers can buy everything they need to outfit themselves. I wonder if that degrades the end experience?
AS: I buy maybe 10 percent of my gear. The rest I make from scratch or redesign and adapt. Cheaper that way, and fits the need.

GL: You paddled in Hawaii for a long time and then shifted to Alaska, from warm water to cold. What drew you to Alaska? Why didn’t you head for Tahiti or Baja?
AS: I’d been to Tahiti and to Baja. Tahiti is too civilized, and in Baja I always felt I needed a desalinator so as not to use the local meager supply of water.

GL: Southeast Alaska is a challenging place to paddle. What adjustments did you make for paddling there?
AS: I started small; short trips of two hundred miles in sheltered waters, and worked up to 500-mile trips in open seas.

GL: How do you re-supply on longer trips?
AS: I can carry enough for three weeks. Beyond that I send a box of food, charts, film to a post office along the route. On the 900-mile trip from Skagway into BC, I sent five boxes.

GL: You’ve had a number of bear encounters.
AS: Yes, I’ve had 30 bears within 100 yards of me: 17 grizzlies, 13 black bears. One grizzly was five feet away with only a thin sheet of plastic between us. I talk to them. The human voice, more than scent, seems to let them know that I’m an unknown and not to be tested.

GL: How else do you keep yourself safe?
AS: I always wear a lifeline. It’s an eight-foot cord with one end looped and fastened over my left shoulder, the other end clipped with a snap hook to the boat by my right hip.

GL: Chris Duff, who has circumnavigated Ireland, New Zealand, and most recently Iceland, says he trains in the worst conditions, then paddles well below his skill level. Good advice?
AS: His skill level is higher than mine. He has paddled the west coast of Ireland and around Cape Wrath in Scotland. I wouldn’t try either one.

 You’ve written extensively about paddling solo. Paddling organizations like the BCU, ACA, and kayak clubs all advocate paddling in groups for safety. Don’t you think it you would be safer paddling in a group? Why do you choose to paddle solo?
AS: I’m safer alone. I prepare in detail. I don’t follow a group schedule. I don’t have to rescue anyone else. I know what I can do and I don’t exceed my abilities.

GL: You’ve paddled or owned a dozen inflatable kayaks. They’re great for portability, but they’re also slow and have a lot of windage. Other portables, like the folders, would seem to me to be a better option for long trips. If you had the technology of today 40 years ago, do you think you would still have paddled an inflatable?
AS: Yes, they are safer boats. For carrying a kayak up and down a beach at low tide my limit is 30 lbs. Folding boats large enough to carry three weeks of gear weigh too much. Inflatable boats vary greatly in speed but I once paddled 22 miles once in 4 hours to catch a ferry.

GL: Do you own a hardshell kayak?
AS: Yes, a nine-foot, 35-pound sit-on-top for my grandson. My son James also has four big hardshells that he keeps in my yard.

GL: You mentioned a number of times that you don’t like surf. But surf is common in Hawaii, and on the outside in southeast Alaska. How do you deal with it?
AS: In Hawaii or in Alaska it is almost always possible to find a cove or a corner of a bay with no surf.

GL: Looking at your paddling accomplishments and reading about your early coastal swims in Hawaii I’d say you’re tough as nails. Yet you say you’re not strong. Why and how does a “not-strong” person take on these types of challenges?
AS: Stamina and ingenuity take the place of strength. I can’t carry a kayak that weighs more than 30 pounds, but I cut rollers from bull kelp and haul the kayak up the shore.

GL: In Paddle My Own Canoe, you state that, “pre-trip conditioning must improve each year to offset the aging process.” You also wrote “when I’m 71, I’ll have to be able to do 71 push-ups.” How do you manage to keep on paddling?
AS: No, I can’t do 71 push-ups. When I get too old and feeble, I’ll make day trips from a base camp or from a cabin.

GL: There’s a passage in the book that reveals some of your motivation. You say, “I come back from these trips feeling like a skinned-up kid, feeling like a renewed, recreated adult, feeling like a tiger.” They must be terrific confidence builders.
AS: More than confidence. Exaltation!

GL: You seem, too, to thrive on problem solving, as you say “the smug satisfaction of finding an ingenious solution to a problem caused by (your) own inadequacy or stupidity.”
AS: That is still part of the fun.

GL: What have you learned from the experiences described in Paddling My Own Canoe?
AS: I learned the basics, and kept on going. There is still a lot to learn.

GL: Has your motivation for paddling changed in any way, as you’ve grown older?
AS: It has stayed the same. Going solo in a wilderness is still my main motivation.

GL: So seeking solitude is a big factor for you. On a recent trip to Cape Scott I carried a satellite phone. I could call my wife every night. What do you think of taking all this technology aboard—the sat phone, the cell phone, the GPS, even a digital camera and laptop or PDA—so you can send a day-by-day trip report, or, God help us, surf the internet.
AS: Why not just stay home?

GL: I’ve heard you say: “Keep it simple.” Would you give that advice to a mainland paddler who doesn’t intend to fly to Tahiti for a paddling trip, but sticks close to home with a high-volume hardshell?
AS: Set a goal for each trip. Ask yourself how light you can go and still stay warm and dry. Will you see more if you go only 5 miles a day? Are you happier going solo? Do you really know this area, its wildlife, its wild food, and its history?

GL: One of your favorite activities is foraging food from the sea. This can be the key to real self-sufficiency. Any comments?
AS: I’m still learning. Yesterday I tried eating a sea cucumber. Definitely not successful—yet.

GL: In our previous conversations you frequently mentioned John Dowd, the founding editor of Sea Kayaker. I had the good fortune of hearing John speak at the 2003 West Coast Sea Kayaking Symposium. He talked at length about the differences between information and knowledge. A lot of information taught to kayakers isn’t useful, he said. What’s required is experience—experiential learning. In other words, information plus the right experience equals knowledge. You seem to have drawn similar conclusions. Comments?
AS: At home I have two sea-kayaking manuals that were supposedly written by experts. In each I’ve tagged more than twenty notes about what won’t work and why. I revere John and his practicality.

GL: Dowd also talked about real and perceived risk. Some would say your solo adventures in Alaska are foolhardy. What is the real risk, and what do you think others perceive the risk to be?
AS: Others think the risk is bears. Read and follow Dave Smith’s book Bear Basics. The real risk is getting into a situation without knowledge of the real dangers. Read your large-scale charts. Try to imagine what circumstances could kill you. Each morning, go through the what-ifs.

GL: How should a novice or one who dreams about expeditionary paddling get started?
AS: Go with a professional group. Paddle with one of the best outfits in your territory.

GL: Say I’m an intermediate-to-advanced paddler, with a few years of experience, a couple of weeklong trips under my belt, and a good pool roll. I’m thinking: Now’s the time to plan a week or two in southeast Alaska. Where should I go for a first trip?
AS: Before you go, make sure you can get back in your boat after a wet exit in 50-degree water. How long does it take? More than 30 seconds and you’ll be too numb to function. For first trips I’d recommend the western Behm Canal out of Ketchikan, or Sitka Sound. Petersburg to Duncan Canal, or Juneau around Douglas Island, and Wrangell to Anan Bay are all good trips too.

GL: I think many paddlers, women especially, regard you as a role model. How do you think you may have inspired others?
AS: Inspiration without nuts and bolts practicality and bit-by-bit efficiency is futile.

GL: Many women often struggle to find a life of their own, with competing demands as mothers, employees and as daughters of aging parents. How did you find time for your adventures? Why was making this time to adventure important to you? What effect did this have on your family?
AS: Before I retired from my full-time job, all of my adventures were for less than ten days each. Each of my four children learned self-sufficiency. We made a list of 25 things they should be able to do by age 16. I could write a whole story on that.

GL: Are you dreaming about padding anywhere new?
AS: The Cook Islands, and new places in Southeast Alaska: around Kuiu, Elfin Cove to Tenakee, around the south end of Prince of Wales Island.

GL: I’m sure you’ll make it happen.

Mexican Therapy

It’s funny how things happen in slow motion once they become irreversible, like falling off your bike or knocking over a glass of red wine onto a white tablecloth.

This is especially so when the event that starts to unfold in painstaking detail is something that you know you’ll regret later—the result of some ill-considered act that will return to haunt you.

Like throwing my mobile phone across the office because it had just cut out in the same infuriating way that it had done ever since I bought it.

A mobile phone in flight is not especially graceful—just a piece of low-altitude space junk, really. My office is small too, so that it hardly completed a single spin before its flight was arrested by the arm of a chair.

The hard, unyielding, cold steel arm of a chair that’s as unaccommodating of flying mobile phones as my own temperament is of disobedient ones. Somehow during its flight, I’d had time to wonder if it would survive. I almost hoped that it would.

Almost. And then it became so many pieces that any hope I had imploded as the infernal thing did the opposite on that chair arm. For a moment, it continued its flight, but in different directions, and it bounced and scattered like the contents of a bag of peanuts dropped from a balcony.

Then life resumed its normal pace. As I gathered the shattered pieces from the carpet, I asked myself—did I just lose control, or was that a reasonable act of retribution? Either way, one thing was certain—it was time to go sea kayaking.

I sent an email telling my friends and associates that my mobile phone was no longer operational. Then I opened my drawer, took out a small folder, unfolded the airline ticket inside and glanced at the list of stops on my itinerary—Wellington, Auckland, Los Angeles, Loreto—and then the date. I had only four more days to go.

Six thousand miles, 11 hours’ flying time and four airline meals later, my companions, Brent and Paul, and I had crossed the Pacific Ocean and had reached our departure point for another kayak journey.

Arrival in the Mexican town of Loreto was sweet—but not for long. Having been groped by half a dozen airport security officers on the way to Mexico, it was a final insult to discover on arrival at our hotel that the security process had also relieved me of my camera and sunglasses.

Loreto is a very nice town, full of Mexican charm and friendly folk, but alas, it’s not a place where you can purchase a weatherproof 35-mm camera. My missing camera was the one I had always carried in my kayak, and now it was gone.

It was great to be there, but it would have been better to have my on-the-water camera too. That vacation feeling of leaving all my cares at home was eluding me. “Una mas margarita, por favor.”

A few hours later, we woke up in paradise. Just over the back wall of our hotel, across a narrow white strip of sand, the Sea of Cortez was smooth and the sun hung low over Isla Carmen, the light softened by the thinnest veil of high cirrus clouds.

A solitary dog sniffed its way along the tide line searching for morsels, while a crow loudly scoffed at the dog’s chances. A committee of pelicans stood about on a short rocky breakwater, as if waiting for the morning papers to be delivered. The palm trees had no reason to sway, and the smell of fresh coffee lured us to breakfast.

We examined our newly acquired maps, seeing for the first time some detail of the route we planned from Loreto to La Paz—a distance of about 200 miles. The outdoor dining area was attended to by Juan, a Mexican with a ready smile and a talent for making margaritas.

When we told Juan what we were planning, he looked at us as if we’d completely missed the point of visiting Baja. He explained that it would be much more fun to just hang out at the resort for a week rather than paddle all the way to La Paz.

John Steinbeck explored this region in 1940 and chronicled his adventures in The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

His was a trip to collect marine animals for classification against the backdrop of World War I and was an escape, in a sense, from a dark world-political climate into the bright sun of Baja California. Our own excursion was also something of an escape from the Southern Hemisphere winter and the complexities and pressures of our professional lives.

After a day in Loreto, we had gathered the food and other supplies we needed for our trip and had it packed in dry bags to load in the morning. That night, Brent assembled his new cooker, which, with its ability to burn white gasoline, propane, kerosene, petrol and just about any other fuel you can name, promised to be a remarkable device.

Reading the instructions, always a good last resort, revealed the fact that the cooker is supplied with three jets, each for different fuels. Somehow, Brent had managed to misplace two of the little jets, leaving us with—you guessed it, the wrong one for the only fuel we had. Luckily, the cooker still worked, although its performance was adequate rather than spectacular. At full throttle, the small blue flame purred rather than roaring reassuringly.

We pushed off from the beach in a fresh northeasterly wind and headed across to Isla Carmen in a moderate sea. We soon found our rhythm despite our kayaks’ being laden with containers full of fresh water.

As we made progress across the channel, waves slopped over our foredecks and spray skirts, washing leaves, sand and other terrestrial detritus away, leaving our decks shiny and wet. It was like a ritual cleansing, and I could sense a similar cleansing in my mind as we left urban life in our wake. I reveled in the prospect of a new voyage unfolding before me.

A few hours later, we made landfall on a small rocky beach backed by a dry creek (arroyo). As we ate lunch, a carpet of big isopods emerged from among the stones and moved across the beach like hundreds of huge cockroaches. Any movement from us and they instantly vanished into the spaces between the rocks.

Sally Lightfoots—large, agile, red rock crabs that I’d only seen previously on documentaries about the Galapagos Islands—inhabited the rocky beach and avoided us with a calculated nonchalance as we walked along the shore.

They countered any attempt to encroach on their personal space with equally determined avoidance. With excellent eyesight and an erect alertness, they convey an intelligence not usually associated with crustaceans.

Steinbeck described his efforts to capture some specimens—going to extraordinary lengths, even lying in ambush behind rocks while the crabs were approached by others from another direction—with a remarkable lack of success:

“Eventually we did catch a few Sallys, but we think they were the halt, the lame and the blind—the simpletons of their species. With the healthy Lightfoots, we stood no chance.”

As we made our way south, we were soon absorbed by the simplicity of the place: the vast sea and the vaulted blue sky overhead, three dimensional with its ever changing pattern of high clouds, and between them, a parched landscape of a thousand shades of earth.

Yet for all the stark inhospitality of the place, it positively pulsed with life. At sea, the drama of predator and prey played out before us.

Schools of mullet exploded from the water without warning as unseen predators tried their luck. We could hear the labored breathing of whales much of the time, and huge aggregations of krill that we could actually smell darkened the sea a short distance offshore.

Frigate birds, agile and athletic, were always on the lookout for morsels and would nonchalantly pluck them from the sea surface as they passed.

On land, the struggle seemed to be with the rugged, dry climate. The sparse vegetation of the Sonora Desert revealed the land’s stark form beneath, like a diaphanous garment.

Desert plants are ruthless in their defenses, and life seemed harsh compared to the prolific excesses of the sea. But at night, once the sun had relaxed its grip, the air filled with sounds of the desert.

Crickets chirped, and there was scuttling in the dry leaf litter at the base of cactuses. Coyotes yelped in the distance, accompanied offshore by the deeply resonant exhalations of passing whales.

Cactus spines littered the ground. One night, I stepped on a cactus spine that penetrated the sole of my footwear and didn’t stop until it hit my heel bone. The pain was excruciating, but when I extracted the spine, I was relieved to see it emerge intact.

There was no indication of where it had penetrated, and even a good application of iodine failed to reveal the broken skin. I limped around for a while, trying not to think of the consequences of an infection, but in the morning, it felt fine and, apart from a bruise, didn’t bother me again.

We concerned ourselves with nothing more than the tides, the rhythm of waves and the daily routine of camping and paddling. Each dawn was a drama of light that started with a deep crimson glow spreading across the eastern sky, gradually replaced with gold.

Then a tiny bright dot of yellow appeared on the horizon that grew in about four minutes into the sun’s bright disk, bringing with it the heat of a new day.

After a couple of days, my disappointment at losing my camera had subsided. Without it, I became an observer rather than a recorder. Weaned from the reflex action of trying to get a picture every time we saw something of note, I found a sense of freedom in savoring the sights, sounds and smells.

Near Punta Trabillas, we were lucky to witness the drama of hundreds of pelicans

feeding on bait fish that had taken refuge from the diving birds in shallow water. The shoal of bait fish was beneath us for nearly an hour as we headed south, in water little more than a meter deep.

The school parted as our shadows passed over it and re-formed as if it were a single moving, pulsating organism. Occasionally, the presence of a predatory fish would spread panic, and the entire school would flash silver in the sunlight.

Pelicans resting on a rocky headland are awkward in a self-conscious way and almost reluctant to move. But once in the air, they settle their heads back so their necks are hidden, and they’re transformed into graceful masters of flight with an uncanny ability to glide just over the surface of the water with no apparent effort.

When hunting, they fly higher and, in an instant, plummet into the water for their next meal with necks extended and wings folded back. The significance of the dive is not lost on the gulls, either, who zero in on any surfacing pelican in an attempt to rob it of its catch.

Before swallowing its catch, a pelican has to drain the water from its throat sac, which sometimes presents an opportunity for the gulls to snatch up a stray fish.

There were ospreys, too, which peered down from extravagant nests in cliffs. Hauling ashore under the cliffs meant sharing the beach with dozens of huge wasps—big, in-your-face insects with the slow, deliberate movements of creatures with nothing to fear.

On our last evening, Brent and I visited a fisherman in his shanty on the beach. We had seen him as we made landfall and wanted to make sure we could share his beach for the night.

For a few pesos, he happily sold us a couple of beautiful fish—a sierra and a mackerel. As he prepared them for us, he told us of the problems he was having with sea lions robbing his nets and tearing them to shreds.

Back at camp, we made a salsa with fresh chilies, tomato, onion and some herbs. After frying the fish in a little olive oil, we wrapped the whole lot up in burritos and ate them on the beach, sipping the last of our tequila as the light drained from the sky.

The warm wind that had pushed us along all day had died, and the low surf crashed lazily onto our little beach in the still evening air. The sky gradually filled with stars, and the bushes were alive with chirping crickets. Just then I realized that I had found what I had sought here.

We’d come a long way in the time allocated, but more important, the journey had allowed us to shed the chaotic load that so often accompanies our working lives. Away from project deadlines, help-desk calls and the constant interruptions of our daily routines, we had shouldered out the chaos by the rhythm of tides and waves.

Steinbeck experienced a similar thing here: “The matters of great importance we had left were not important. There must be an infective quality in these things. We had lost the virus, or it had been eaten by the antibodies of quiet. Our pace had slowed greatly; the hundred thousand small reactions of our daily world were reduced to very few.”

Even now, I occasionally think of that cactus spine in my foot. I like to imagine it was a kind of inoculación de Baja—a vaccination against the stress that, left untreated, can result in the sudden short flights of mobile phones.

Where to Find Books on Kayaking (Finding the Rare Gems )

Many of the great kayaking yarns are no longer in print, but if you are willing to search a bit, you should be able to find a few gems, many of which are well worth tracking down.

For some, owning the original edition of a book is nirvana. While it is fun to browse in your local antique bookstore for these books, finding original editions is a rare occurrence. The Internet provides a quick and easy, although not always cheap, way to find a particular book.

There are a number of online “book aggregators” that offer easy-to-use, customizable, fast and searchable interfaces for finding books for sale from multiple booksellers. Thus you can then decide whether you want that pristine copy with a dust jacket for $100 or whether you’ll settle for that well-worn ex-library edition for $10.

Abebooks ( includes a simple search engine that allows you to input the author, the title of the book and/or a keyword. It’s best to jump directly to the “Advanced Search,” which provides greater search flexibility. The Abebooks search engine is streamlined with features permitting flexibility of search results.

For example, use “Trailing Wildcards”—the asterisk symbol (*)—when you’re not sure of the spelling or the exact name of an author or a book, and use the tilde symbol (~) as a “not” to refine your search results.

For example, typing “kayak” in the title screen will return all titles that have the word “kayak” in them (approximately 728 titles) while typing “kayak*” in the title screen will return all titles with a form of the word in the title (approx. 2,206), including kayak, kayaker, kayaking, etc. The search engine can sort the results by price, binding, attributes, author, etc.

Bookfinder ( offers a simple search engine that lets you input the author and/or title of the book. It’s best to jump directly to “Show more options…”, which provides greater search flexibility. One key difference between Bookfinder and Abebooks is that Bookfinder doesn’t support wildcard searches (*); however, I haven’t found that to be a significant drawback.

Alibris ( is a search engine similar to Abebooks and Book-finder. Click on “Advanced Search” and follow directions much like those for the other sites.

eBay ( lets you search using broad categories such kayak* book*. You can either use the simple search screen or go to “Refine Search” and narrow the scope of your choice.

eBay requires more work and more time because you need to run your search criteria every few days or set up automatic e-mail notification if an item matching your search criteria is listed.

Buyer beware! Many of the kayaking books listed on eBay are purchased from book closeouts at a deep discount, then the buyers re-list them on eBay at double the price!

Always check to see if the same book has been closed out and is therefore available for a better price (use the “Keyword Search” feature with kayak*, paddle* or canoe*).

Reprinted Editions

Several publishing houses have started to publish facsimile versions of out-of-print books:

The Long Riders’ Guild Press ( as started republishing adventure books, including Enchanted Vagabonds and The Rob Roy on the Jordan, which are available for sale at

The press’ web site provides a detailed description of each book with links to While the quality of the text in these reprinted editions is clear and easy to read and the books are reasonably priced, I found the quality of the photographic reproductions poor.

D. N. Goodchild ( is a gem for the kayaking and small-boat community and provides a high-quality and reasonably priced alternative to first edition kayaking adventures. Their web site provides a list of reasonably priced books (usually around $20), which includes A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, The Rob Roy on the Jordan, The Rob Roy on the Baltic, Canoe Errant, Canoe Errant on the Nile, Canoe Errant on the Mississippi, Kingfisher Abroad, An Inland Journey, plus many more canoeing and small boat voyaging books. Of the two copies I purchased, the quality of the illustrations in A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe was excellent, and the watercolors in An Inland Journey were exquisite.

Elibron ( is another good source of facsimile reprints. You can find The Rob Roy on the Jordan there, as well as many of Fridtjof Nansen’s books, including Eskimo Life and Farthest North.

Kayking Books Online

There are full-text electronic versions of many old books available on the Internet, usually those that are well beyond copyright -protection. The Gutenberg Project ( offers a free downloadable copy of Stevenson’s An Inland Voyage. Another site ( features a free downloadable copy of MacGregor’s A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Rivers and Lakes of Europe. Some of these online books are text only; others are presented with their original illustrations.

Library System

Most states now provide online browsing of their entire state library system, which includes local libraries, state university libraries and any libraries that receive state funding.

Many library sites allow library card-holders to reserve books online. If the book is not available from your local branch, you can often request it from other libraries in the same system.

If the book isn’t available through your library system, contact your local librarian about obtaining a copy from another library system.

Other Sources

A few titles are -offered only by a few sources. There are also some great and hard-to-find books available from Folbot and KlepperUSA.

Even if you don’t use a folding kayak from Folbot, Klepper or Feathercraft, one book that should grace your bedside table is Folbot Holidays, which is available for $5.00 (plus shipping and handling) from Folbot (800-533-5099). Finally, don’t forget the benefits of the web.’s U.K. site ( has Brian Wilson’s Blazing Paddles, while Boat Books in New Zealand ( carries Paul Caffyn’s Cresting the Restless Waves and The Dreamtime Voyage. The U.S. site of ( also carries used books, which automatically come up now when you search the site.

Rescue in Alaska – A Rising Wind Overpowers two Visiting Kayakers


I had been thinking about paddling in Alaska for a long time. Many kayakers I know have paddled there, most of them in organized groups, and almost all of them in Prince William Sound. My friend and fellow kayaker, Albert, instantly accepted the idea of paddling in Alaska, but proposed a different Alaskan destination, the Kenai Fjords.

We both are committed kayakers. I’d been kayaking for six years year-round, along the Mediterranean coasts of Tel Aviv and Herzlia. I made a few kayak trips in Greece, visited Wales during summer and winter for the intense BCU Five-star training, and joined the three-man Ireland expedition, paddling 400 miles clockwise from Dublin to Galway. I feel quite comfortable in tidal races and in surf zone and have a good roll.

Albert had been paddling for four years. He has never taken serious advanced kayak training; he can roll but his roll is weak. He has done a couple of kayak trips in Greece and paddled for two weeks in Alaska with a strong group, both in Prince William Sound and in the open sea.

Our plan was to explore the Kenai Fjords launching in Seward, rounding the Kenai Peninsula and taking out after roughly 300 miles at Homer.


On the bus from Anchorage to Seward, our driver updated us on the weather situation: “We’ve had a very dry summer this year, very unusual, but now, at last, we’re getting the first real rain.” We could see the dark clouds from the bus window.

At Seward it was already raining heavily and we were informed that the wind outside Resurrection Bay was southeast at 45 knots. Alan, the local kayaker who helped us with the kayaks, commented on that:

“You wouldn’t believe what beautiful weather we’ve had all this summer, but we always knew that when the storm would come, it would come big.”

We decided that even in this weather we could start our trip if we kept to the sheltered water inside the fjords and bays. We left on the next day, knowing that we would stay in Resurrection Bay, until the conditions improved.

We were paddling rented NDK Explorers, the same model that both of us own and paddle at home. Both of us carried NOAA nautical charts of the area on our kayak decks.

We each had a compass mounted on our kayak fore decks. Albert carried a simple waterproof Magellan GPS in his day hatch. He carried a backup GPS, this one a Garmin, packed below deck. I had an Icon waterproof marine radio, kept in a waterproof bag that was attached to my deck.

I also had a Macmurdo PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) with GPS in a pocket on the back of my PFD. In a dry bag deep in my day hatch, I had two aerial flash rockets.

While on the water we both wore drysuits with one layer of fleece and a hat. Each of us used a paddle leash and had a spare paddle on deck.

The constant rain stayed with us for the next eight days, usually accompanied by wind and fog.

We continued our trip, cautiously passing from one fjord to another, always having escape plans ready and usually using them. On one occasion we had high and rising choppy seas and strong wind just before the narrow McArthur passage, but we found shelter safely in Chance Cove that was one of a few escape places that we prepared for that day.

On another occasion we were surprised by the enormous strength of the tidal race at the entrance of the Northwestern Fjord—it was clearly impassable so we camped on the western side of the upper Harris Bay. It was the only place that day without big surf and suitable for landing. We didn’t have a day without a new challenge.

By July 29 we had covered 155 nautical miles and more than half of the distance to Homer.

On that day we camped at Berger Bay on Nuka Island. It was a beautiful gravel beach with a place for the tent and a natural place for our kitchen. We had a fresh salmon that I caught and it was our first camp almost without rain. What else does a kayaker need?


We knew that Gore Point is often a difficult place. It has high cliffs, unpredictable currents and rocks all around. But Gore Point was not our main concern. We worried more about the day following our rounding of the point. On that day we would have to leave very early to catch the flood.

It was the only way to continue west from Gore Peninsula and cover the long distance to reach the first landing spot. To set ourselves up properly for the following day our objective was to pass Gore Point as quickly as possible and to camp at the first place that presented itself.

We knew of one potential campsite, Ranger Beach, located on the west side of the base of the Gore Peninsula. It is a sandy beach and the landing should not be a problem with the usual SW winds. Ranger Beach was located 15 miles from our camping site on Nuka Island.

At that point in the trip we were in good shape and could easily paddle at 4 knots, so the entire way with the favorable wind and current should take less than five hours. That was the good news. The bad news was that the last 11 miles, everything west of Tonsina Bay, offered absolutely no place to land.

It is all high cliffs and we knew very well from the previous days that even in a moderate swell we would do well to stay at least one mile away from the land. We hardly had any rain that evening and our weather forecast, for a change, was not bad.

The last forecast that we got by satellite-phone text message from our weather support man in Israel was for wind ESE at Beaufort Force 3 to 5, and waves at one to two meters coming from SSW.

The VHF reception was very bad at our campsite, but from what we were able to make out seemed to be a forecast that was no different from our satellite-phone forecast.

Before we retreated to our tent that night we watched the northern lights on the horizon. We felt encouraged by our prospects for the following day.


We left our camp on Nuka Island at 1 P.M. The sea was very quiet and there was almost no wind. It was foggy but not too bad; the visibility was about two miles.

We decided to go in the same manner as we did on the previous days—keeping within sight of land. It made navigation easy and we could quickly determine our location based on the shoreline shape and the mountain relief. We headed west and then southwest to Tonsina Bay.

Very soon after we left, we started to feel some wind. It was NNE at Beaufort Force 3 to 4. This direction was unusual and not the forecast. The wind was, however, ideal for us, and I had nothing to complain about having it help push us along.

In about one hour we could see Tonsina Bay on our right side. Our speed was very good, the weather was great and we continued south to Front Point.

On our way to Front Point the wind changed to northeast but still was at Beaufort Force 4. There were only the occasional whitecaps. The only thing that worried us was that the fog was becoming worse.

We could still see the land from about one mile’s distance, but it was behind a hardly transparent screen of fog. We worried that our view of the land could disappear in a few minutes. But the sea conditions were not bad at all at Front Point and we continued to Gore Bight.

The three miles from Front Point to Gore Bight took about one hour and within that span of time everything changed. The wind grew stronger with frightening persistence. In one hour the wind had changed from a friendly Force 4 to a challenging Force 7. The direction of the wind changed as well, shifting from northeast to east.

At 3:30 P.M. we were two miles northeast of Gore Point in a rapidly strengthening wind and in waves reaching eight feet and coming from all directions. We still could see some shape of the land to the north, but the fog obscured any hint of the Gore Peninsula. (The log kept by the captain aboard the nearby fishing vessel Vigilant noted “15:30 … Gore Point, Winds 45 miles per hour, Seas 10 Feet.”)

I had to brace constantly just to stay upright. Albert was much less experienced in a sea like this, and I knew his situation had to be much worse. We were pushed by the wind toward the most intimidating place on the whole Kenai Peninsula. The locals know it as the best location to find interesting debris that has been driven ashore by wind and waves.

It was absolutely clear to me that we were in serious trouble. I called out to Albert, “I think we should call for help.” He quickly agreed.

We brought our kayaks alongside one another. Albert held my cockpit with both hands and I took the VHF radio from my deck and attached it by the wrist strap to the clips in my PFD’s right pocket. Then I switched the VHF on, put it on Channel 16 and pressed the transmit button.

“MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. We are two kayakers two miles northeast of Gore Point. We are still in the kayaks but cannot paddle and we are drifting in the strong wind.”

I had very little hope that anyone would receive our message as we hadn’t seen any other boats since we left Aialik Bay five days ago. We hadn’t seen anyone onshore either.

To my surprise, the call was answered. The blowing wind and the fact that English is not one of my native languages didn’t help. I could understand only part of what came across the radio. I heard: “This is … Star, … specify your position.” I didn’t know who had responded to my call. I replied “Please wait.”

In the strong wind and high waves Albert and I concentrated on keeping the kayaks rafted together. I put the VHF into my pocket, then held Albert’s cockpit while he retrieved the GPS from his day hatch. We couldn’t make any mistakes.

He switched the GPS on and held my cockpit as the coordinates appeared on the GPS screen. I took the VHF out and relayed our coordinates using numbers as well as the words “degrees, minutes, seconds, north, west.” (It was explained to me later that I was expected to use only digits, everything else only made the reception more difficult.)

The VHF came back: “… sending the boat … will come in one hour and fifteen minutes. It is a big black boat; you will see it.” I was not so sure that we would see it in the fog. The hour we would have to wait seemed like a very long time, too long a time.

I looked at Albert: “Let’s activate the PLB.” Albert took the PLB out of the pocket on the back of my PFD, and opened the safety. “The lights are on,” said Albert.

We were so focused on operating our electronics that we didn’t look around even though we knew we were drifting. Albert glanced up, “Gadi, look!”

I looked and saw the landscape looming over the fog. The land wasn’t the coast we’d been seeing to the north. It was to the west. It was the Gore Peninsula. We were drifting very fast in a very bad direction. There was very little chance we would survive being washed ashore on the peninsula. The only solution was to paddle away very fast. We needed to move about one mile south, to avoid getting washed ashore.

I called on the VHF: “This is the two kayaks; we will try to paddle south and get around Gore Point.”

We started to paddle again, bearing ESE to make sure our real progress was to the south. Our effort was mostly against the wind now, and it helped our stability to have the waves coming over the bow. But the farther south we moved, the worse the sea conditions became. It wasn’t surprising. The sea around the end of a headland is always the worst.

It is hard to say how much time passed, but at some point we had the Gore Peninsula behind us. Now, without the danger of being thrown on the rocks, we could try to go to the peninsula’s west side where we would probably be protected from the strong wind and waves.

We continued to paddle west, but the sea was the worst we had met that day. The 11-foot waves coming from the SSE were constantly breaking in the strong east wind. One cresting wave hit me from the left and turned me over. The water wasn’t as cold as I expected.

I noticed it wasn’t as salty to my tongue as the Mediterranean; I felt like I was turned over on a river. My roll is quite reliable, but when I was nearly upright, another blow turned me over once again. I made a much more aggressive attempt and came up expressing my feelings in my native Russian language. I realized that if the waves could capsize me, they could do the same to Albert, and he probably wouldn’t be able to recover by rolling. Albert was on my left and I reduced the distance between us to about 30 feet.

In a few minutes one wave crushed violently on both of us. I did a high brace and survived. Then I looked to my left after the wave passed and saw the white bottom of Albert’s kayak. Albert had bailed out and was holding onto a deck line. The strong wind made it difficult to maneuver alongside him, but I eventually reached his kayak.

I didn’t dare try to empty the kayak, so I just made the rescue and got Albert back into a cockpit full of water. We had a hand pump on my deck and I hoped to use it to empty the cockpit. We rafted up and started to pump. Our success was only partial. We took some water out but the process was very slow, and we had to protect the cockpit from the waves.

I asked Albert if he thought we should try to paddle toward land. He said that he preferred to stay rafted together and wait for rescue. It was quite understandable. The water remaining in his cockpit made his kayak less stable.

The wave that had capsized Albert had washed away his hat and glasses, despite the fact that they were tethered. Albert’s glasses are a very strong prescription and he had never even tried to paddle without them. I looked around and couldn’t see any hint of the land—the fog was obviously stronger than before and, besides that, at the time of the rescue we were drifting out. I looked on the GPS—it was dead, just a black screen. I agreed that the best thing right now was to keep our raft upright and to wait for the rescue.

As we were moving away from Gore Point, the wind remained strong but the seas became more regular. The waves were still big, but now they came from only one direction. A strong rain had started, making the visibility even worse.

We couldn’t put our paddles at 90 degrees to the kayaks. The wind was shaking our raft structure and threatened to take our paddles away. So we had no other choice but to put the paddles under the deck lines. They were not so vulnerable to the wind there, but they were not in the best start position for us if we failed to keep the kayaks rafted and needed the paddles to roll.

We had to pay attention to every wave. It was all about having the right angle of the kayak to meet the wave. All the waves came from Albert’s side. My left hand was on Albert’s kayak and on each wave I pushed the far side of his kayak down.

It was a kind of low brace edging without a paddle that gave us some control of our stability. While we were rafted up we maintained contact with rescuers over the VHF.

“This is two kayaks; we are drifting in strong wind.”

Rescue Ship: “Do you see any land around?”

“Negative, we are in fog; we don’t see any land.”

I later learned that the captain of the rescue ship was not confident that we had actually succeeded in getting beyond Gore Point and was searching for us in the worst place, on the east side of the point. This is why the question about land was asked more than once.

“We activated our PLB. Do you have our position?”

No answer. Some time after, the rescue ship responded: “We turned on our searchlights. Do you see us?”

“Negative, we see nothing. We activated our PLB; do you have our position?”

Rescue ship: “Do you have any flares?”

Deep inside my day hatch I had a dry bag that we got with the kayaks. I knew that we had flares in there but I didn’t think it was worth the risk for one of us to let go of the deck to open the day compartment and grope for the flares. Even if we had been able to find flares, I didn’t believe that they would have been able to see them when we hadn’t been able to see their searchlights.

I replied on VHF: “Negative, we don’t have flares. We activated our PLB; do you have our position?”

The search by the ship continued quite a long time, but they couldn’t find us. Then we got a new message. “A helicopter is coming for you. It will direct us.”

Then after some time we heard a transmission from the rescue helicopter. It was hard for me to understand every word: “… radio … count … ten …“

What I got was enough. “One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. Should I do it again?”

Rescue Helicopter: “… count …”

“Should I count again?”

Rescue Helicopter: “Yes, please count.”

“One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. Should I do it again! Rescue Helicopter: “Yes.”

This back and forth continued for some time.

It was explained to me later that I had been asked to count repeatedly to provide a continuous radio transmission.

Rescue Helicopter: “Great! The signal is stronger now!”

In one minute we saw a big red helicopter coming out of the fog just above us. It was a moment that I will never forget.

“We are in good condition. We can wait for the ship.”

A few minutes later the helicopter dispatched a rescue swimmer.

He approached us with a huge smile on his face: “Hi! I’m Chuck.” It seemed he would jump on our kayaks and shake our hands. “How are you?”

“Albert lost his hat and glasses but we are well.”

“What are you doing here?”

“We are paddling nine days from Seward to Homer. The weather changed suddenly.”

“Where you from?”

“We are from Israel.”

“Israel? Really?! You are quite far away!”

In a few minutes we spotted the Vigilant with all of the searchlights on. It was bouncing up and down on the waves and our first attempt to come to the ship with the kayaks didn’t go well.

But Chuck was very cool and very efficient. We were told to leave the kayaks and climb up using the ship’s tethered life ring. The ship’s crew pulled us aboard. Chuck held on to our kayaks and helped the Vigilant crew haul our boats aboard. In short time we were safely aboard with all of our gear.

It was 6:00 P.M. Two and half hours had passed from the moment we had transmitted our first Mayday.

The fishing boat Vigilant, a 58-foot fish tender, was handled by captain Dennis Magnuson and the deckhand Quinn Tavfer. We couldn’t imagine a better welcome than what we got on the Vigilant.

Fortunately for us, the Vigilant had been nearby in Port Dick Bay collecting salmon from three smaller fishing vessels. We stayed aboard the ship for two days, and when it was full of salmon and ready to head home, we were dropped off at Homer.



We allowed ourselves to be distracted from our safety procedures. Our routine was to get a weather forecast via the satellite phone text message, and listen to the weather radio twice a day to get the regular updates at 4 A.M. and 4 P.M.

Even when we didn’t have reception for the weather radio at our campsite, we still could paddle out from shore and probably have reception out on the water. With the good weather around us, the forecast for fair weather we had gotten a day before and the general feeling that conditions would likely improve after the eight days of rain we’d been through, blunted our senses, and we didn’t maintain the necessary level of alertness.

The radio forecast was drastically changed that day. If we had received it, we would have heard the gale warning. We did ultimately receive the SMS message announcing the change in the weather forecast, but it was received by our satellite phone—when we were already on the fishing boat—after a delay of more than twelve hours.


Both the PLB and waterproof VHF radio were necessary. If we had had only the PLB and not the VHF, we would have had no knowledge about a rescue being launched until it got to us. At least two hours could have passed while we waited and wondered. I can say that it would have been highly unpleasant.

According to the Coast Guard, the location of a transmitting 406 PLB beacon like we had can be determined within approximately three miles by the first satellite pass, and to within one mile after three satellite passes. In our case of very poor visibility and fast drifting in the wind, it would be very difficult not only for ships but also for the Coast Guard helicopter to find us without the radio signal.

The fact that our VHF radio call was heard by the fishermen was just good luck. The annual salmon season in Port Dick Bay lasts only twenty days in a year. Without large vessels around, our PLB would have been the only means to call for help.

We had flares, but they were stowed deep in the day hatch. In the fog they might not have done much good but, as a rule, safety flares should be kept handy and ready for use.


Albert is a good kayaker, strong both physically and mentally. However, I knew that he didn’t have much experience in rough seas and that he didn’t have a combat roll. As compensation for that we allowed extra days for our itinerary and decided not to paddle if we were not sure of the conditions. As it turned out, we had bad weather for all nine days and still paddled.

You cannot make any assumptions about the conditions in which you will be in the sea. Even if you listen to the weather radio five times a day, sometimes the forecast still will be terribly wrong. You should be prepared for the worst. For our trip, the solid Five-star training would have been essential for both of us.

A 100-mile river race

The California 100, California’s first Paddle Sport ultra-marathon, is a 100-mile paddle race on the Sacramento River from Redding to near Chico.

For me, it was an epic journey that began well before the starting gun sounded on Saturday morning, the 25th of May. The training and preparations necessary for such a race require intense focus and discipline.

As an outdoor professional, I’d been a guide and instructor and had a long history of outdoor pursuits that include climbing Himalayan peaks, Nordic ski marathons, river trips and an extensive resume of sea kayak expeditions. I felt well suited for an endurance race.

During the winter months, I trained regularly with core strength and cardio workouts and

logged 400 paddling miles in preparation for the upcoming outrigger canoe race season. I did a nine-day solo paddling trip in Baja in April and covered 110 miles in a loaded expedition sea kayak.

A week after I returned from Baja, I attended one of the Cal 100 pre-race clinics led by Carter Johnson, expert ultra-distance paddler. I was quite surprised and comforted to see that most of the clinic attendees were women, many of whom were established local surf-ski competitors.

Everyones boats were longer and faster than mine, even those in sea kayaks had 19-foot boats. When we hit the water for interval training, I had to work hard just to stay near the back of the pack.

I started to feel insecure about my short sixteen-foot sea kayak; it was designed for ocean rough water paddling and designed not for speed. I had no illusions about winning.

I signed up for this race as a personal challenge and entered the race in the Adventure Class, not the Competitive Class.

At the pre-race clinic, I reconnected with other local sea kayakers, among them Liz Hymans, a pioneer—the first woman to work as a Grand Canyon Guide. She planned to paddle the last 50 miles of the racecourse, from Red Bluff to Chico but needed someone to accompany her in her tandem.

Gregg Berman, her paddling partner, was unavailable for that training run. I volunteered to fill in. The next day after the clinic we put on the river by 10am just below the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

The lower half of the racecourse was very friendly, a wide and winding lazy river with slow-moving current.

We calculated it would take us between six and seven hours to arrive at our take out near Chico. I was grateful to have Liz steering us downriver. I knew I’d have to work hard on race day to make good time covering these miles in my short sea kayak.

Two weeks later, I returned to paddle the upper section of the course, the more technical section with class-2 rapids.

Amy Byer, another woman I’d met at a pre-race clinic, paddled the section with me. Amy and I had been doing interval training together and she’s a very strong and technical paddler.

A three-time Yukon River Quest competitor, she always kicked my butt in her 19 foot by 20 inch Kevlar sea kayak during our recent interval training on the bay. I expected she’d beat me easily in the Cal 100, though our different kayak designs landed us in separate classes for the race.

Upon our arrival in Redding, Amy and I met up with Jason Montelongo, a local paddler who knew the river well.

He was also training for the Cal 100 and he would be paddling a coed tandem in the competitive division. We launched and the current soon swept us toward the Sundial Bridge.

I was in my sea kayak and with the increased river flow, the current was moving along at a speedy clip. Once I relaxed, the short rapids provided fun wave trains and kept me focused.

I had enough river paddling experience to read the water and work with the waves to my advantage. I quickly appreciated my sea kayak design as an ocean playboat and skipped along contently, but once we were back in the flat water, I worked hard to keep up.

After a long stretch of flat water, I looked forward to China rapids, the most technical section of the racecourse, to break the monotony. We began to paddle through whirlpools where the river narrowed.

I could see a gradual drop ahead but not any real whitewater. The water moved quickly with the high river level, but the rapids were inundated. However, the whirlpools intensified and challenged me to keep the bow pointed downriver and to stay upright.

I paddled hard through the continuous eddies to avoid being grabbed and flipped. Amy and Jason lagged behind me, but not for long. I noticed Amy had been paddling the rapids timidly, slowing her down.

She didn’t have the powerful style I’d seen when she was paddling on the familiar waters of San Francisco Bay. She and Jason passed me during the next 15 miles of flat water.

We arrived at Red Bluff, a city about half way between Redding and Chico, having covered 55 miles in seven hours.

Race Check In

By race day, I felt ready, mentally and physically. I’d paddled the entire racecourse and returned one more time to review a few short cuts along the initial 15 miles. I’d maintained my cross-training routine and kept up interval training. I had a plan for food, hydration and self-care. I believed I could finish the race in between 12 and 13 hours.

That evening after the safety briefing, I finalized my food prep. I was a little obsessed with food. I don’t like sweets but I had to have lots of calories. I had made a variety of bite sized snack items: quinoa-bacon protein muffins, salted boiled potatoes with olive oil and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I tested some ready-made performance foods and found I could stomach Stingers and one kind of protein bar.

I decided on the food I would carry and packed the food for checkpoints. My partner, Andrea, would bring the packages of food to me at two of three checkpoints. We went over her role at the checkpoints so my stop time would be used efficiently.

The start time for the Adventure Class was 6 A.M., an hour earlier from the competitive class race start.

As I paddled across the river to the start line, I was pleased to see the current had picked up because of a dam release just above Redding. The weather forecast called for reasonable temperatures in the high 70s, a blessing since it could hit the 90s in May.

It was a little nerve wracking at the starting line as we all grouped up inside the eddy line and kept out of the current while we waited for the starting gun. My strategy was to avoid the bunching up at the start buoy upstream and stay slightly upstream of the pack to avoid collisions.

The gun went off and I rounded the start buoy and headed downriver. I kept my eye on John Dye, one of the top contenders in the Adventure Class, and followed his line to the Sundial Bridge, but there I peeled off to river right and caught my first sneaky shortcut line.

Nobody followed me. I picked up speed, relaxed and found my rhythm. As I re-entered the main channel, to my surprise, I was ahead of the pack, even ahead of John. He quickly caught up, commented that he wished he’d have followed me and then passed me by.

The second shortcut came up fast and John and a few others preceded me through the wave train and sped ahead.

I double-checked the laminated river race map I had tucked under my deck bungees.

The third shortcut was coming up but I had seen a paddler flip on the corner a week ago, so I bypassed it and took a more conservative line. Everyone who took the shortcut distanced themselves from me. The currents merged where the river took an abrupt bend to the left.

I just didn’t want to risk getting caught up there with other boaters. I quickly made peace with my decision and refocused on paddling efficiently: engaging my abs, relaxing my shoulders, maintaining good posture and smiling.

Checkpoint One

The two short cuts I took helped me stay near the front of the pack for the first 20 miles. I knew I was on target for my personal goal as I arrived at the first checkpoint at 8:43 A.M. The checkpoint was a hub of activity. John Dye was leaving as I arrived. I glided into shore where a volunteer quickly assisted me.

Once I regained function in my legs, I sauntered off to register my number at the checkpoint and take a quick pee. I drank the last of my protein smoothie. Ten minutes quickly went by.

My friend Matt Palmariello, racing on a stand-up paddle board, had come and gone in a few minutes. I quickly got into my boat. I trailed Steph Siaris and Samantha Pinney, who paddled a tandem outrigger, and I kept them in sight for a few more miles before they disappeared.

Liz and Gregg, paddling their tandem kayak in the Adventure Class, were slightly ahead of me. About an hour into this second leg, I started seeing paddlers from the Competitive Class making up the staggered start. Most of these fast paddlers were using surf skis. As they sped by me, I passed Matt on his paddleboard.

We exchanged a few friendly words but both returned to our focus. I frequently glanced at the GPS on my deck, tracking my mileage and speed for a good diversion. It also helped me find the faster moving water. I knew China Rapids were coming soon.

One other sea kayaker, #196, was tailing me just before China Rapids. We exchanged greetings and he mentioned he had just capsized from a strong whirlpool. I asked if he had paddled China Rapids before and replied that he hadn’t. I shared my strategy for paddling through the strong whirlpools. I was a little worried that he would pull in front of me before the rapids, capsize and slow me down.

He was grateful for my advice and humbly said he would follow me down China Rapids. The familiar lava formations began to appear and the whirlpools intensified. I stayed relaxed and loose as I powered up to paddle through the whirlpools, picking up speeds of up to 12 miles per hour for just a few minutes. After the rapids, I went back to my rhythm for flatter water and kept Liz and Gregg ahead in sight until Checkpoint Two.

Checkpoint Two

I arrived at the second checkpoint at 12:40 P.M. I was still making good time 55 miles into the race.. Andrea filled my water, a hydration bladder clipped onto my foredeck.

I didn’t have an appetite but knew I needed the calories so I forced down a couple quinoa protein muffins and stuffed a peanut butter-banana sandwich in the pocket of my PDF. I hopped back in my kayak and pushed off. I figured I would eat while I was back on the river.

After passing the Diversion dam, I just floated along and ate my pocketed PB-banana bites and a few bites of a protein bar. I had a headache, so I rehydrated. I knew I would lose steam if I didn’t refuel and stay hydrated. I could feel my hands getting a little sore so I put on my thin fingerless gloves to avoid blisters.

I had outfitted my seat with a thin nylon pad velcroed in place to prevent chaffing. I also lathered up with diaper rash cream before race start. I was holding up well and just needed to take care of the basics—food and water.

The third leg of the race was 25 miles, the longest stretch, with transitions from fun little rapids to flat water and slower moving current. I had to work hard for the miles in my short boat.

My left shoulder ached so I popped a couple of Aleves. I stopped paddling every hour to stretch and rest for just a few minutes. The pain would ease up and I’d recover enough for another hour of paddling.

I was very familiar with pain management from my years of mountaineering, where suffering comes with sport. I have also lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years.

I checked myself from head to toe to bring awareness to my paddling technique and how I was using my body: good sitting posture, relax shoulders, engage the abs, rotate, keep the catch upfront and hands low. For most of the race, I had been trailing #126, a woman paddling a surf ski equipped with a gull wing—small outriggers to add stability to an otherwise tippy vessel. #126.

I tried to get ahead of her, more as a distraction from the monotony of the lazy river than a competitive impulse, but I just didn’t have it in me to pass her. At every river bend, I hoped to see that Woodson Bridge checkpoint. There was still no sign of Amy.

Checkpoint Three

At the end of 82 miles I was relieved to land at the third and last checkpoint. I arrived at 4:09 P.M., still making good time. I was grateful to see Andrea along the riverside beach.

She offered potatoes, protein muffins and the complete menu that I had prepared the night before. I still had no appetite, and felt a bit of nausea just at the thought of food. I stashed another peanut butter–banana bite into my pocket to eat later.

I saw Liz and Gregg take off just as I arrived. I did my checkpoint routine efficiently to waste no time and get on the water to complete the final 18 miles. The pack had become quite spread out.

A light afternoon wind started to blow upriver, but I plugged away without much notice of the wind. Paddling San Francisco Bay had inured me to headwinds. I finally managed to pull ahead of the woman in the surf ski, #126. She appeared competitive with me, and earlier, had playfully gloated that she had kept her lead on me thus far in the race.

I smiled as I drew even with her and we had a friendly exchange about the wind. I pulled ahead of her and maintained my pace and focus as the next few miles passed by.

For a while I couldn’t see anyone behind or ahead of me, then I heard music playing and the sound of conversation in the distance behind me. As I stopped for a short break, two surf ski paddlers passed me, chatting away as though on a leisure paddle.

One of the paddlers had a music system mounted on his deck. I had been in my zone for so long, I didn’t have the energy to muster a conversation with anyone.

They sped along ahead and became a speck before disappearing around the river bend. The river straightened out and I could see the two paddle boarders –just black and white dots- battling it out. I was on the home stretch to the finish.

The Finish

I recognized the finish from afar. I could see the bridge and a small crowd gathered on the riverbank above looking down for racers making their final strokes to the finish.

I powered up to finish strong and smiled as I crossed that finish line at 6:47 P.M. Carter’s voice resounded through the bullhorn and cheers came from above. I exited my boat and volunteers helped carry my boat up to the grass. I had met my goal and completed the 100-mile race in 12 hours, 47 minutes and 8 seconds.

I took first place in the women’s Adventure Kayak solo division. Overall, in the Adventure Kayak solo division, I placed second. I cheered for Amy as she finished in 13 hours, 13 minutes and 31 seconds.

We hugged in celebration of our accomplishment and she complimented me on taking advantage of the shortcuts and the rapids and managing my time at the checkpoints: “You paddled a smart race.”

The Optimist Kayaking Festival

Optimist Kayaking’s Symposium (Israel) 2013

For many of us, summer days of bathing suits and sun hats are over for the season. Our shorts have been stashed away for a couple of months, and rain boots and sweatshirts have become a part of our daily attire… but not in Israel. Kayaking season is still in full force, and this year’s Optimist Kayaking’s Symposium was full. Mark, Ben Lawry and myself were this year’s guest coaches and we were thrilled to be there.

Participants gathered at the Club every morning to hear announcements.

This was my fourth year at this fun event, and it’s always great to be back. I love Israel. It’s as simple as that. Sunny days, the warm Mediterranean Sea, fantastic food and incredible people make me want to return to Israel again and again.

Scenarios were presented during the Rescues and Emergencies class.

Throughout the four-day event I instructed Developing Greenland Skills, and Mark instructed Rescues and Emergencies, Towing and Sea Survival and he ran a BCU 3 Star Sea Training and Assessment. We also did an evening presentation on an East Greenland expedition.

Mornings were typically calm, and in the afternoon the wind picked up.

Evenings were spent socializing and eating tasty food at people’s houses or in restaurants. It was great to catch up with all of my Israel friends and for Mark to meet them.

Avigail dishes up a tasty chicken and rice dish.

After the event we had a full day to spare, and Hadas and Zviki took us exploring. First we went to Jerusalem and played in the old part of the city. Jerusalem is one of my favorite cities and it was wonderful to be back. While we were there we visited the Western Wall. No matter what your religion, I don’t think that anyone could deny the incredible energy that comes off that wall.

Hadas and I were given coverings at the Western Wall. Bare shoulders and knees are not permitted.

After leaving Jerusalem we headed to the Dead Sea. On the way we stopped so I could make friends with, and ride, a roadside camel. The Dead Sea is 1/3 salt, which provides an unusual amount of floatation. When I attempted to swim in it, it felt similar to swimming around in a slightly inflated drysuit. We played around for awhile, floating in the water and smearing Dead Sea mud on our bodies. Then we rinsed off in a nearby fresh water pool.

This friendly camel was happy to say hello.

Then it was off to the airport, with a quick stop at the store so I could load up on tahini for the year.

Floating in the Dead Sea is an unusual (and very relaxing) experience.

Special thanks to Ehud and Avigail for having us at their event, and to Hadas and Zviki for showing us around. We miss you all already! On another note, a few days after leaving Israel we bought some hummus at the store, it just wasn’t the same…