MIKco Blog

August 15, 2012

Rock n Row w Paul Mazonson, Stonington archipelago and Isle au Haut

Posted by Tom Bergh

Last week brought a new style of guiding work for me. As some of you know, I've been lucky to have paddled around Isle au Haut off Eastern Penobscot Bay dozens of times with many different styles of groups. Last week found me helping the Marblehead Mass rowing club Rock n Row circumnavigate Isle au Haut in their racing ocean shells.

These craft stroke along easily at 6 knots, weigh 30 lbs and carry a wingspan of 19', not exactly specs for rock gardening or weaving amongst the foggy, breaking ledges off Western Ear. Their forward vision is limited like us paddling in a lumpy sea.

Tides were going to be against them all day; luck of the dates. A solid fog socked in the southern end requiring compass headings and seeing shapes by sounds. Roaring Bull ledge was going off a mile away! Swells were 8-10 seconds so meaty enough to be interesting, especially in those craft.

We choose clockwise from our sweet little island site to the North and flew down the Eastern side. As we piloted through the flooding tide off Eastern Ear compounded with reflecting swell, I began to again second guess this attempt. When the fog lifted enough for some of them to see one large green wall break clean and clear, they all quickly agreed with a course of ‘270', and we stroked WSW to Western Ear's roaring ledges before threading our way through the breaks and North up into Duck Trap Harbor. We made it! The rest was easy history. Thanks Paul, Jean, Chris, Terrie and Charlie for a fresh adventure. I agree with the words ‘exquisite, awesome, unforgettable, inspiring'. It was a great journey.

June 10, 2012

The Four Stages of Cold-Water Immersion

(Reprinted from "ON SCENE - The Journal of U. S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue" Fall 2006)

By RADM Alan Steinman, USPHS (Ret) and Gordon Giesbrecht, Ph.D.

Falling into cold water can be life-threatening. There are four stages of cold-water survival, and each presents the survivor with a different challenge. The stages are: 1) cold-shock; 2) functional disability; 3) hypothermia; and 4) post-rescue collapse. It is important to understand the risks of each stage in order to be properly prepared to survive a cold- water emergency.

Stage 1: Cold-shock (0-2 minutes): Sudden immersion in cold water causes an immediate fall in skin temperature which triggers several body reflexes. These reflexes are collectively known as the "cold-shock" response, and they last for just the first few minutes after falling in. The cold-shock responses are: 1) instantaneous gasping for air; 2) sudden increase in breathing rate; 3) sudden increase in heart rate; 4) sudden increase in blood pressure; and 4) dramatic decrease in breath-holding time. If your head is under- water and the cold-shock reflex causes you to gasp and inhale (and simultaneously decreases your ability to hold your breath), you may breathe in water and drown. This has happened often enough in the past that the Coast Guard had a term for it: "sudden drowning syndrome." It's one reason why a personal flotation device (PFD) can be life-saving - it helps keep your head out of the water during the first few minutes the cold-shock reflexes are active.

The increase in blood pressure and heart rate from sudden im- mersion into cold water can also be fatal. These rapid changes in the cardiovascular system can trigger irregular heart beats or even cardiac arrest in susceptible individuals. But even aside from the potential for cardiac arrest, the irregular heart beats and rapid breathing rate can be incapacitating for someone struggling to keep his head above the waves. This is yet another good reason why a PFD can be life-saving in this situation: it helps you stay afloat until your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate return to more normal levels when the cold-shock reflexes diminish.

Sudden immersion in cold water also drastically reduces your ability to hold your breath. For the average person who can hold his breath for 60 seconds in air, breath-holding time is reduced to 20-25 seconds or less when submerged in water colder than about 50°F. This would obviously be a problem for someone trying to escape from a submerged automobile, vessel or aircraft. Finally, the rapid breathing that occurs during the first few minutes of cold-water immersion can lead to a drop in blood levels of carbon dioxide with subsequent mental confusion or even unconscious- ness; both can significantly increase your chances of drowning, particularly if you're not wearing a PFD.

Stage 2: Functional Disability (2-30 minutes): If you survive the cold-shock reflexes after falling overboard, cold water can still affect you in other ways. It is much harder to swim in cold water than it is in warm water. Your muscles get cold, making it harder to use your arms and legs to stay afloat. And cold water is a bit more viscous than is warm water, requiring you to work harder to swim or stay afloat. Your hands get cold quickly and you lose manual dexterity and grip strength. This can affect your ability to grasp a rescue line or life ring or even to help pull yourself back aboard your vessel. Both swimming failure and loss of manual dexterity can occur during the first 30 minutes after falling into cold water. Again, a PFD would be life-saving during this period, as it would dramatically decrease your need to swim to keep your head up.

Stage 3: Hypothermia (> 30 minutes): Hypothermia is a decrease in the body's core temperature (i.e., a drop in the temperature of the body's vital organs below 95°F) resulting from excessive heat loss to the cold water. Hypothermia is not really a threat until you have been immersed in cold water for at least 30 minutes. The body cools relatively slowly, even in extremely cold water. When the body's temperature falls to around 86-90°F, you will lose consciousness and likely drown. But even in ice-water, this could take an hour or more to occur. In warmer water, the time to unconsciousness could be much longer, depending on your body size and weight (large and/or obese people survive much longer than small, skinny people), your clothing, your state of health, the sea-state, and particularly on whether you're wearing a PFD or some other means of flotation. But without a PFD or supplemental flotation, unconsciousness in the water usually means immediate drowning. Survival times for the average sized person wearing an insulated worksuit with inherent buoyancy (e.g., an insulated exposure coverall and medium-weight undergarments - not a survival suit) in 45°F water, even in heavy seas, could be as long as 5-8 hours. For the same person wearing a survival suit, properly donned before entering the water, the survival time could be as long as 36 hours!

Stage 4: Post-Rescue Collapse (> 30 minutes): A survivor is still at significant risk even after removal from the water. Significant levels of hypothermia can slow the body's normal defenses against a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can occur when the survivor is removed from the water, particularly if he/she is rescued in a vertical posture and not promptly placed in a horizontal posture in the rescue vessel or aircraft. The hypothermic heart and arteries cannot adjust fast enough to the drop in blood pressure, which may cause loss of consciousness, irregular heart beats or even cardiac arrest. Furthermore, the body's core temperature continues to fall even after a survivor is removed from the water, a phenomenon known as "afterdrop." If the afterdrop lowers the heart temperature too far (e.g. below about 77°F), cardiac arrest may occur. Finally, metabolic changes in the body caused by prolonged immersion hypothermia can contribute to potentially fatal cardiovascular ef- fects even after a survivor is rescued. For all of the above reasons, rescuers should be particularly mindful of the ABC's of first aid, handle a hypothermic victim gently, begin gentle rewarming ef- forts in the rescue vehicle, and transport the survivor to a site of definitive medical care.

June 10, 2012

It Doesn't Look Like They're Drowning
How To Recognize the Instinctive Drowning Response

(Reprinted from "ON SCENE - The Journal of U. S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue" Fall 2006)

By Aviation Survival Technician First Class Mario Vittone and Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D

In the summer of 2002 at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, a young aircrewman had just returned with his crew from Lake Maurepas, west of Lake Pontchartrain. A boat with a family of five aboard had capsized during a squall, and he had deployed to assist the survivors. He began telling his story:

"We arrived on scene and all five of them were in the water; some clinging to debris, some not. As we hovered above the scene, two of the victims appeared to be looking up at us, treading water. I hurriedly changed into my wetsuit when I heard the pilot say, 'They don't look like they are in any immediate danger. They can wait for the boat.' I said, 'No Sir, they look like they are drowning!'"

Good crew resource management prevailed. The pilot put the swim- mer in the water to gather all the victims together and to make sure they were all safe until the sheriff's boat arrived. It was a successful rescue and everyone did a great job. But why was there such a dif- ference between the two assessments? Why does one person think that there is no immediate danger, and another think that danger is imminent? Doesn't everyone who works on (or above) the water as rescue professionals know what drowning looks like?

Most people assume that a drowning person will splash, yell, and wave for help; and why wouldn't they? That's what we see on televi- sion. Without training, we are conditioned first to think of drown- ing as a violent struggle that is noisy and physical. It is not.

Coast Guard rescue crews are less likely to see a person drowning than nearly every other water rescue professional (beach and pool lifeguards). Our relative distance to the accidents and distress calls to which we respond usually puts us on-scene well after persons who may experience problems have done so. However, if you play this game long enough you will see a victim in the water. You may even be the one directing him or her to get in the water. Extenuat- ing factors such as increased levels of stress, secondary injuries, and environmental factors can increase the likelihood of distress and/or drowning in the victims we find. It is important that we learn to recognize the behaviors associated with aquatic distress and drown- ing, so we can make informed decisions during emergencies.

The Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person's attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The suffoca- tion in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements that are easily recognizable by trained rescue crews.

In the case of our aircrew above, the victims outside the rotor wash, looking "up" (at the helicopter) appears from the pilot's view to be doing fine and able to wait the five minutes for the boat to arrive. When in fact, they may be 30 seconds from going down for the last time. The splashing and waving that one expects from false training or dramatic conditioning (television) was not there.

This is not to say that a person in the water that is shouting and waving is fine and doesn't need assistance. They are in what is known as aquatic distress. They are not drowning, but realize they are in trouble and still have the mental capacity (and lung capacity) to call for help.

Our rescue crews must know what drowning looks like. Recogniz- ing panic and distress in the water is something that they must learn and train for in order to perform their jobs effectively.

Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response:

  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physi- ologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people's mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people's mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water's surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physi- ologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people's bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

March 18, 2012

A look at the fractal nature of the Ocean's dynamic currents.

Posted by Tom Bergh

Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio: A silent visualization of the ocean's surface currents around the globe during the period June 2005 to December 2007. You can see the strong equatorial flows that bring hurricanes into our Caribbean basin, powerful Gulf stream pumping all that heat into the North Atlantic, the East West Pacific flows that set up El Nino and La Nina, rich waters off of Japan.

March 6, 2012

Whales and dolphins 'should have legal rights'

Posted by Tom Bergh

Campaign for intelligent marine mammals to have right to life, which would protect them from hunters and captivity.
The Guardian: Whales and dolphins 'should have legal rights'

February 9, 2012

Eric Soares, co-founder Tsunami Ranger. Deceased 2012

Posted by Tom Bergh

"We're not afraid of nothing... it's something we're afraid of"
Eric Soares and the Tsunami Rangers

Early in my exposure to sea kayaking, Eric Soares and the Tsunami Rangers offered an inspired means of structuring rough water paddling. So many of us have enjoyed their tribal-like antics along the glorious California coast. Every time I read, watched or thought of the Tsunami Ranger form of serious play in the rock gardens, I learned new skills and ways of thinking about my paddling. But more importantly, Eric's work in our coastal zones still offers us a passionate, fresh, action-based angle of perceiving our watery world.

From Eric's first public videos of 'regimented training', the Rangers well thought out equipment choices for ocean play, or wild pranks inside the surf line, Eric's ways with the Tsunami Rangers gave us all a wonderful way to approach the white water world, to dance with the sea while remaining intact air-breathing mammals.

I am certain Eric would remind us all -
"When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice."
Native saying

To Eric and his remaining team members, we give thanks for your spirit and your path.

For more. tsunamirangers.com

January 25, 2012

Aleutians 2012 Expedition

Posted by Tom Bergh

A year after crossing from Isle of Man to Scotland to buy shortbread, Keirron Tastagh and George Shaw are are embarking on a more adventurous expedition.

They'll be kayaking the Aleutian Islands -- more than 300 small volcanic islands extending about 1,200 mi (1,900 km) westward from Alaska including the remote Commander Islands of Russia.

Their goal is to discover and record the Aleuts way of life by journeying and learning by practical experience, studying local wild and marine life along the way.

The trip will run form May through July. We wish them well. Read more about the expedition here:
Aleutians 2012 Expedition at Adventurous Experiences

January 10, 2012

Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium, February 17, 18, 19, 2012

Posted by Tom Bergh

Paddlers, one of the best symposiums I've attended is the Golden Gate Sea Kayaking Symposium launching out of Marin County, CA below the Golden Gate Bridge. Solid coaches, strong currents, long deep swells, warmish water near a gorgeous city. Sean Morley and crew do a great job with the community building aspect of our sport as well. Strongly recommend.
For more info on a great event go here: www.ggsks.com

September 23-25, 2011

Isle of Mann Sea Kayak Symposium - International Training w Adventurous Experiences

by Tom Bergh

My bet with Dale Williams, founder of Sea Kayak Georgia on Sunday September 25th: can I get a smile from even one of the paddlers from Finland. We are headed down toward the Isle of Calf off the south end of Isle of Mann. Southerly winds blew hard last night and are expected to go to force 6 this afternoon. Yesterday, Dale and I took our 16 students surfing in two different groups with the help of local Isle of Mann guides. They've sure been paddling and training with Keirron and George as their idea of beginner/novice surf instruction had us in longish swell with some seriously noisy break. Nervous students don't learn well; as the Finns mostly paddle in the Baltic Sea with no real swell or current, Dale and I quickly paddle a retreat to a more protected smooth spilling beach break. We best remember that our local Manx guides operate on a pretty crazy standard if they think that last ledge was a proper instructional area for novice/intermediate surfing.

Dale and I are visiting coaches at Keirron Tastagh's Isle of Mann Symposium, now in its 9th year. Keirron is a totally fun, mad Manx who's actually even tougher and stronger than he looks - and as with the 3 legged Manx symbol, just won't be knocked down till he's dead. We're centered out of his family farm base where generations of strong, friendly folks serve great homemade food from this ag based area. Seems odd to be the 'visiting coaches' since for over 20 years Dale and I have both imported U.K. paddlers to the states to provide the buzz and coaching expertise at our symposia and trainings. I mean really, you want to listen to me? Or Nigel Dennis, Phil Clegg, Pete Jones, Nico Middelkoop, Jukka Linnonmaa, Dale…or the indomitable spirit of Keirron Tasgah and his waves of strong, eager Manx paddlers.

My Finn group has clearly trained for several years under Jukka, who brought 13 Finns down to this event. My primary job is introducing them to the seamanship of tidal streams and swells, rocks and ledges. They are adept, interested and want to do it all….and will be with Keirron for four days after Dale and I fly down to Holyhead. Our pod travels south along the Westerly cliffs down toward The Calf. Weather started Irish Sea warm, sea state decent. Grey seals frolic just feet from our boats. We back into a few caves, work paddling as close to the cliff walls as our skills allow, try to solve rock garden moves with minimal elegant strokes. Occasionally I need to stop and ask one Finn to translate the lesson or the risks as the swell lumps up, winds increase, and the small tidal race comes into view. We establish a last safety or retreat spot before the last corner into the swift water. Ah now I've got their attention! Swells climb up the race and add a dimension to the rapids that allows us to drop below the increasing winds. We practice surfing the race, holding position, moving across the eddy lines, watching the wave shapes change, positioning ourselves depending on our various fun/fear indicators. On a ferry glide across to the protection of an island, one of the Finns is flipped by a refracting swell. He emerges out of the biggish white water with a developing lump above his right eye. Was it something in the water as he thinks? Or the bow of his rescuer? He'll be a one-eye tomorrow! So will his story be of the hungry wave that ate him, or some rugby or pub brawl that anyone would believe coming from Manx country.

The race is proving achievable to the Finns, I can see them starting to loosen up, to feel out the steeper breaks, to reflexively brace into the refracting angles..maybe I will win the bet. At least they are experiencing that their skills work in real conditions!

On the way back North along the no-landing-zone-cliffs to our protected put-in, the swells are increasingly speeding up behind making the timing of the attempted rock moves crucial to avoid more lumps on the head. 'Don't turn your back on the sea' gets them studying the incoming swell energy. And with a bit of extra help on positioning and timing, I start to see all of them laughing nervously at their success in the rock gardens, in living for another day paddling! Yes I even heard that triumphant laugh as a bigger swell projected one through the narrow gap. I believe I win this bet, Dale.

Paddlers, Pilgrims and Adventurers, consider attending next September's Isle of Mann Symposium. You'll enjoy a wild and lively time amongst a great group of supportive and fun loving staff! Write Keirron at:

Adventurous Experiences.
Isle of Mann Sea Kayak Symposium 2010. International Training.

PS: Keirron and his paddling mate, George are attempting an aggressive paddle this summer all the way out to the end of the Aleutians. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Most Important Stroke In Sea Kayaking "The Forward Stroke."

Here's a link to the very informative guide to the forward stroke, writen by Nigel Denis, The Most Important Stroke In Sea Kayaking "The Forward Stroke." for Lendal Paddles.

Nigel was the first to circumnavigate Scotland, Wales & England in 1980, and is the founder of Nigel Dennis Kayaks and Sea Kayaking UK and the man behind some of MIKco's favorite boats.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Japanese Sendai Tsunami 2011

The recent Japanese Sendai earthquake was massive at 9.0 which means it is approximately 10 times as strong as an 8.0. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, the Sendai being one of the strongest recorded. This tsunami apparently had some extremely tall wave heights; I've read some reports of 112', a local event due to the ocean's bottom topography. Though I've not been able to determine the 'thickness' of the wave, I have read reports that it was moving around 600 mph which would be a period of 200 seconds. So it would have been a very thick wave, probably greater than 1 kilomater! I offer the following small collection of videos for your education; the power of the tsunami over the ground is largely due to the crest's thickness.

Wave's Height Over Houses Seen From Ground Level

Wave Flowing Through Housing

Flowing Far Inland

Before and After Photos

Tom Bergh MIKCo Ocean School Peaks Island, ME
Posted by Tom Bergh at 1:39 PM

Sunday, July 18, 2010

RWS 2010 Thank you!

RWS joe
2010 NE Intermediate Rough Water Symposium July 1st , 2010

We had a great group of paddlers join us this year - excited, interested, friendly and fun. Overall the skill level was higher, and the commitment to try new things made it more fun for the coaches. The coach/paddler ratios were solid and the smaller numbers allowed us to adjust each days’ most appropriate venues and courses in our morning meetings. We saw the advantage of Camp Fuller with all coaches and paddlers living together in a peaceful place, re-living each day over great meals on beautiful evenings while watching pictures from the day….and Saturday nite - what a lightning storm!

So the RWS photos team has pics available for you all:

See Carl Tjerandsen’s site: http://ct-pov.smugmug.com

and Ron Gautreau’s site: http://www.ronster.2010rws.photoshare.co.nz

Note that you can choose the size of the image to view.

I’d suggest you keep your eye on Lendal NA in the future as it returns to the front of the wave with new materials, fresh designs and state-of-the-art construction methods. Nigel Dennis has brought Lendal back to the UK and its tradition of powerful, expedition paddling. His crew is re-vamping the old website over the next month or so. The link will remain http://www.lendal.com. I am confident in saying that “Lendal Will Be Back” as one of the leading paddle manufacturers by this Fall.

So here’s the list of our great team that offered their time for our paddlers development in 2010.

Fishers Race Team
Rick Stoehrer, Greg Paquin, Paula Riegel, Nick Schade, Carl Tjerandsen, Ciro de la Vega

Coaches and Guides
Jen Kleck, Peter Casson, Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson, Fiona Whitehead, Phil Eccles, Peter Jones, Phil Clegg, Simon Osborne, Harry Whelan, Jeff Brent, Jim Rasmus, Jon Tobiassen, and the Fishers Race Team

Photo Team
Carl Tjerandsen, Ron Gautreau, Nick Schade

Bill Hinderer, the One and Only

RWS 2010 Presenters
Nigel Dennis on his purchase of Lendal Paddles and slides on Expeditioning
Pete Jones and Phil Clegg on East Greenland
Simon Osborne and Phil Clegg on Madagascar
Jake Stachouak and Glenn Charles on their East Coast of US expeditions.
Jake is exiting the Erie Canal and heading across the Great Lakes. http://www.portagetoportage.com.
Glenn Charles paddled off Peaks Island two days ago on his way Northeast. http://www.oneoceanproject.com

Maine Island Kayak Co
Nigel Dennis Kayaks
Lendal NA

Finally, please know that the coveted Annual Denzo Tape Award is currently held by Harry Whelan of London UK… but that’s a story on its own.
Posted by Maine Island Kayak at 4:30 PM

Monday, May 17, 2010

Irena McEntee lost off Peaks

Paddlers and Friends
Monday, May 17, 2010

This morning we awoke to the sad story of lost kayakers off of Peaks. Irena McEntee was a fierce, sweet, strong young lady, and am sure her friend must have been the same. Its hard to get my head around this loss as I knew her personally, and loved to see those flashing bright eyes.

Meanwhile I began receiving phone calls while out on Jewell studying in the punch bowl tide pool - about these girls supposedly being on my trip with St Joseph’s college. As most of you know, MIKCo doesn’t rent kayaks, we take out paddlers only with our guides and instructors. In fact yesterday we moved our group out to Jewell by power boat because of the wind and the group’s abilities. So some uninformed reporter gets ahold of a story, and without calling ANY OF US to verify, published last night his form of journalism concerning these girls paddling with my college group to Jewell – which was patently untrue.

So this morning we had our St Joseph’s college paddlers call their parents, several of whom were extremely agitated because of the Portland Press Heralds form of journalism. Our students our fine, their parents are now relieved, meanwhile the McEntee’s move into their horrible loss.

We choose to participate in a risky sport, yes. But its too bad that professional journalists don’t verify facts before harming others unrelated to this tragedy. Facts are often hard enough.

Tom Bergh
Maine Island Kayak Co
Peaks Island, ME 04108

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What do the following coaches and paddlers all have in common?

rough water symposium 10
Nigel Dennis, Jen Kleck, Fiona Whitehead, Phil Eccles, Phil Clegg, Simon Osborne, Billy Stark, Peter Casson, Cheri & Turner, Harry Whelan, Greg Paquin, Rick Stoehrer, Paula Riegel, Ciro de la Vega, Carl Tjerandsen, Nick Schade, and Tom Bergh?

We are all meeting at the NE Intermediate Rough Water Symposium in Pt Judith, RI on Thurs, June 10th for 3 days of on-water workshops & instruction in tidal streams, rock gardens and surfing with a bit of new BCU 4 and 5 Star. See NE Intermediate Rough Water Symposium 2010 http://www.maineislandkayak.com/symposium.html

So come get a paddle wet with us. Three days of intermediate, bumpy & lumpy water coaching, catered meals together in the dining hall, tenting and cabins next to group showers, quiet walks along relaxing fields, evening gatherings around a beach fire on the warm shores of Camp Fuller in RI, awards ceremony and product drawings, paddling shows. Come learn with these pros, help build our paddling community, Share Tall Tales.

We are seeking to help put friendly, supportive, encouraging, positive into our paddling community, which is why we ask for a 3 day commitment from you all. This is not some foolish, cowboy, testosterone-poisoned event for the Big Dogs, they should go follow these coaches through Penryn Mahr on Springs. Instead the RWS is for the committed paddler, looking to get better with a solid group of first rate coaches and guides.

Until then…
Tom & June Bergh, Maine Island Kayak Co, Nigel Dennis Kayaks, and the Fishers Race Team,
tom@maineislandkayak.com 207-766-2373 office.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Paddle Smart 2010 South Portland, ME

This is a great free event for anyone interested in spending time in small boats in coastal waters. It's very rare to have the opportunity to tour this base and to talk with the folks who are the ones we count on when the worst happens. Demos ,exhibits and perhaps an SAR demo including a USCG helicopter make this a must - see event for any coastal boater!

Host: USCG Sector Northern New England

When: Saturday, April 17th 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Where: Coast Guard Base, 259 High Street, South Portland, ME 04106

View: Exhibits of kayaks and canoes, safety gear, weather protective clothing, in-the-water demonstrations of self and assisted rescue techniques, flare demonstration, and a Search and Rescue demonstration by a Coast Guard helicopter if operations permit.

Learn: Trip planning strategies from Coast Guard Recreational Boating Safety Specialists, the US Power Squadron, the CG Auxiliary, Maine Marine Patrol, professional kayak instructors, professional guides and other experts. Bring your kayak and receive a FREE voluntary paddle craft inspection from the CG Auxiliary outside the base perimeter.

Tour: USCG Cutters, CG Rescue Boats, CG work boats, Maine Marine Patrol vessel.
Posted by Joe DuPont at 7:24 PM

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium Report

It’s the first day of the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium’s BCU 4 Star Sea Leader Training. The tsunami from the massive Chilean 8.8 Richter earthquake is scheduled to arrive at the Golden Gate Bridge at 1326 today. Its amplitude has been raised from 2.5 to 3.5 feet at 1100. There’s no report on its period but one of the 4 Star Leader Training candidates has computed a wave propagation of hundreds of miles per hour based on the latitude differences from mid coast Chili to San Fran.

Our 10 paddlers were nervous about going outside the Golden Gate Bridge this morning, mostly because of reading last year’s article about the challenges those students experienced trying to return back up under the Bridge against a strong ebb tide; it took over an hour to get the whole group up 100 ft to slower waters. Now we are bouncing around under the Bridge as this year’s candidates are guiding an eyes-closed paddler through the bumpy water off Lime Point using only voice and sound.

Today the seas outside are a mild 9’ every 13 seconds, winds forecast SE 19-25 kn, water temp a comfy 58 F. Max ebb today will be at 1651 @ 5.9 kn – several hours from now. The sun has broken out which helps with the decision-making. Yesterday afternoon was punctuated with a 15 minute blow that obliterated all views with a driving hail and created the most extreme conditions organizer, Sean Morley, had seen at the small Yellow Bluff race around the corner. So our paddlers are edgy even without the demands of this course.

Gordon Brown from the Island of Skye in Scotland, and I are overseeing this year’s 4 Star Sea Leader training. We’ve asked the group of sea kayak leader trainees to decide what we should do about this Tsunami warning. As a first step the group has decided to return into the relative safety of San Francisco Bay with plenty of time before the Tsunami is scheduled to hit. It’s only a 10 minute paddle from the tidal streams of the North tower to the GGSKS headquarters at Fort Baker beach so we paddle over for lunch. We land at 1240 and spend 10+ minutes wondering what to do. The 4 Star Team, hungry, needing to pee, and under serious time pressure from the approaching Tsunami shuffles around, not sure what to do, even how to decide what to do. It’s a solid group of folks but few know each other. We notice that the neighboring USCG station has launched all 3 of their 47’ boats. The VHF radio is surprisingly quiet about any great danger. Other Symposium paddlers are sitting on the beach apparently without any worry. Our paddlers figure that the risk of a large wave is probably low, but that the exposure if a large tsunami rolled in would be very high. Some of our paddlers express concern.

None of us has any direct Tsunami experience. Gordon’s brother suffered through the 2004 Indonesian Tsunami on the island of Sri Lanka. Gordon and I would both like to be out in deep water in our kayaks. But the trainees don’t agree with this option and decide to carry all boats up onto the flat parade grounds of Fort Baker, a mere 10’ above the ebbing sea level. Do we tie the boats up? One paddler wants to climb high into the hills, another notes the heights of the old WW II fortifications. Some plot their running route if we see any big wave come up under the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s now 1330. No huge tsunami has roared up under the bridge, we think we see some largish standing waves, but otherwise nothing happens! Nada. Later we hear that three 8 ft swells traveled well up inside against the ebb to Angel Island. Actually a lot happened, but it was personal to each of our 4 Star candidates. The best trainings have real challenges, people and conditions. Over this two day course in the wonderful swirling, coursing and breaking waves of this second GGSKS, all our paddlers are visibly maturing into more responsible paddlers. Several recite that the focus on guiding others improves their personal paddling performance. As the mind engages outside oneself, our spontaneous, creative, effective performance improves. It was rewarding for us, and invaluable to this 4 Star Team.

The whole GGSKS event offers this level of real world paddling. It’s not for beginners, but a superb training ground for the intermediate. The last two events have had outside swell ranges from five to nineteen feet, periods thirteen to eighteen seconds, tidal streams up to nearly six knots, warm rains, rich fogs and gorgeous sunny days. It’s a great group of paddlers out here, charged up and ready for the first rate set of coaches.

Courses include Rock Gardens, Combat Rescues, Riding the Tides, Advanced Boat Control, Practical Navigation, Coastal Nav and Tidal Planning, Traditional Paddling, Incident Management, Surf Zone, Forward Stroke and a smattering of ACA and BCU offerings. On Saturday night we all moved to San Fran’s Fishermans Wharf to listen to Freya Hoffmeister’s presentation of her 11 month, 8500 mile solo paddle around Australia, completed in December; she’s a force to be reckoned with. Other evening shows included Paddling California rivers and coast, a new surf video, Colorado’s Grey and Desolation Canyons by kayak, and the wonders of Newfoundland and Scotland.

You should seriously consider attending this first rate event in the future. Of all the Symposia I’ve attended, the GGSKS is one of the best in fun, beauty, conditions, coaches and community. The venue and sea state keep a paddler alive and aware. All paddlers and coaches bunk at the Marin Headlands National Park hostel, converted from a War II barracks. Coyotes cried and turkeys gobbled each evening from the redwood covered hills above the beautiful meadow-ed valley. The put-in is protected, basic and just feet from real tidal currents….and all the while we gaze out at majestic San Francisco perched on its hills. Alcatraz is a short paddle away. Pt Bonita with its booming rock gardens has plenty of action even for the Big Bad Dogs amongst us. Sign up early or you will miss out as the event hosted 100 paddlers. Next year is scheduled for Feb 18-20 with later ebb so we can spend more time outside the Golden Gate Bridge. Come paddle the beauty of San Francisco Bay next winter; it is the real deal.

Links for your interest:

San Francisco Bay Entrance chart http://sailvector.com/1823/San-Francisco-Entrance

San Fran Bay entrance Buoy 46026 http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=46026

Golden Gate Bridge tidal chart http://www.mobilegeographics.com:81/locations/5545.html?y=2010&m=2&d=27

Tom Bergh founded Maine Island Kayak Co in 1986, lives on Peaks Island off Portland, ME, is a L4Sea coach, and been able to paddle many boats in many seas. He organizes the NE Intermediate Rough Water Symposium.

Posted by Maine Island Kayak at 7:22 PM

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From the New York Times
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD Published: February 15, 2010

Early humans, possibly even prehuman ancestors, appear to have been going to sea much longer than anyone had ever suspected.

That is the startling implication of discoveries made the last two summers on the Greek island of Crete. Stone tools found there, archaeologists say, are at least 130,000 years old, which is considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the Mediterranean and cause for rethinking the maritime capabilities of prehuman cultures.


Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat. So this seems to push the history of Mediterranean voyaging back more than 100,000 years, specialists in Stone Age archaeology say. Previous artifact discoveries had shown people reaching Cyprus, a few other Greek islands and possibly Sardinia no earlier than 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.


The oldest established early marine travel anywhere was the sea-crossing migration of anatomically modern Homo sapiens to Australia, beginning about 60,000 years ago. There is also a suggestive trickle of evidence, notably the skeletons and artifacts on the Indonesian island of Flores, of more ancient hominids making their way by water to new habitats.Even more intriguing, the archaeologists who found the tools on Crete noted that the style of the hand axes suggested that they could be up to 700,000 years old....

Read More

Posted by Maine Island Kayak at 6:08 PM

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Toxins Found in Maine Osprey Eggs


Posted by Joe DuPont at 6:01 PM

Monday, November 9, 2009

from The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

A duck hunter who rolled his kayak near Jewell Island in Casco Bay on Saturday night set off a chain of events that caused three rescue boats to run aground, including Portland's new $3.2 million fireboat.

There were no injuries, and the hunter who called for emergency help complaining of hypothermia was expected to be OK.

Less certain were the conditions of the boats.

Portland Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne said late Saturday that the 65-foot MV City of Portland IV likely would be pulled from the water for an inspection.

"We had a full-moon tide, an astronomically low tide. During the rescue effort it appears the fireboat struck something on its way back in. It gets very shallow out there, and there are a lot of ledge outcroppings. The lower end of the rudder shaft possibly struck something."

The events began unfolding around 5:30 p.m. during the outgoing tide. The 62-year-old hunter, whose name was not released, apparently flipped his kayak, scrambled to shore and called for help. His wife was with him, though it was not clear whether she was in the kayak with him or in another vessel.

The Fire Department responded with the 65-foot fireboat and launched a smaller rescue skiff when the big boat began running out of water. Rescuers purposely beached the skiff, knowing the tide would leave it high and dry, and assisted the hunter on the island.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard was in the area on a training mission with a 25-foot response boat. While motoring over to Jewell to offer assistance, the Coast Guard boat ran aground.

From its station in South Portland, the Coast Guard launched a second boat. By then, the Portland fireboat was on its way back in to the harbor.

It was during its voyage back to port that it struck a ledge, or some other object, around Whitehead Passage. The second Coast Guard boat assisted the Portland fireboat at that time.

"They were taking on a little bit of water," said Paul Painter, search-and-rescue controller for the Coast Guard. "They were able to keep up with it, but we brought them gas and a pump, just in case."

Late Saturday, the hunter, his wife and their rescuers were still on the island, awaiting an incoming tide that would allow enough water to float the beached inflatable and a small vessel dispatched by Maine Marine Patrol.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Swell Rating System

Ocean physics nerdiness! Estimating the size of breaking waves from data buoy swell info: http://www.stormsurf.com/page2/papers/ca tegory.html

Swell Rating System (SRS) Source: www.stormsurf.com
According to this system, Sunday's peak swell of 9.5 feet at 17 seconds should have translated into category 4, or 10-15'. Throw in the occasional 18 footer, and that sounds about right to us.
Posted by Joe DuPont at 3:40 PM

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The hurricane passed east of the Gulf of Maine today leaving us with water temps in the high 60s and buoy readings of 8-9' at 16 to 17 seconds. Day trips were canceled and some local paddlers went out to enjoy the sunshine under the skeptical eye of the local harbormaster.

Lumpy waves and bouncy conditions on the North and east end of Cushing were counterposed against some very large breaking waves on the south side of Cushing near the shipping channel. The tide was coming in, it's tough to imagine what it will be like when the tide is on the way out tonight.

The Rocks and Ledges course on Saturday was treated to 4 to 5' conditions with the same long dominant period.

The pictures don't do it justice, partly as I was too scared to take pictures during the bigger sets.

Posted by Joe DuPont at 1:49 PM

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peaks Island and Outer Green Race Cancelled

race day 09

Status of Peaks and Outer Green Races scheduled for this Sat, June 20th.

Due to scheduling mixups along with the rain, fog and swell, we are canceling both races scheduled for this Sat. We hate to do so, but it got listed on several different dates by error.

Until we get a paddle wet,

Tom Bergh

Maine Island Kayak Co

70 Luther St

Peaks Island, ME 04108


Thursday, April 23, 2009

NOAA Vessel Injures Right Whale

In a sad case of irony, or what one fisherman commenter described as "poetic justice," a NOAA vessel carrying researchers to study humpback whales feeding in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary hit an endangered Right Whale.

The vessel had posted lookouts and was travelling at approximately 22mph at the time of the collision. The whale's fluke was damaged by the propeller, but it appeared to be otherwise uninjured.

Read the full story at the Portland Press Herald
Posted by Joe DuPont at 7:08 PM

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Operation Paddle Smart

From the Coast Guard News:

PORTLAND, Maine – The public is invited to attend a one-day kayak and canoeing safety seminar at the South Portland, Maine, Coast Guard base, located at 259 High Street, April 25, 2009, from 10 a.m., till 3 p.m.

The event is in support of Operation Paddle Smart, which is a multi-agency initiative to promote recreational paddle sport safety, and will include an in-water demonstration of self and assisted rescue techniques as well as a Coast Guard search and rescue demonstration.

Other activities available during the seminar include:

* A press conference at 12 p.m., during which representatives from the Coast Guard, state and local authorities and kayaking guides and instructors will be available to discuss Operation Paddle Smart and boating safety.

* Scheduled tours of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, Station South Portland, Aids to Navigation Team Portland, and Coast Guard cutters will be available from 10 a.m., until 3 pm.

* From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., the public can bring expired flares to either expend under Coast Guard supervision or turn in for proper destruction.

* Experts will provide presentations on trip planning strategies, required and recommended gear and other recreational boating skills.

* The Coast Guard Auxiliary will also offer free voluntary paddle craft inspections outside of the base for members of the public who bring their kayak or canoe to the event.

Additionally, kayak and canoe safety packets, including boat identification stickers, will be available.

“The sticker includes a space for the name of the owner and for other contact information,” said Lt. Bryan Hollis, the sector’s Operation Paddle Smart liaison.

“When we find an unoccupied kayak or canoe, we often can’t be immediately certain if we have an actual search and rescue case for a missing person, or if the vessel simply drifted off the beach with a changing tide,” Hollis said. “Having the owner’s contact sticker on the boat can help us render necessary aid more quickly and effectively, or it can help us and our partners resolve the issue before beginning a costly air and sea search.”

The event is a collaborative effort of the U.S Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron, state and local partners, kayak instructors and guides from Maine, and area retailers.

The New England region suffered the loss of 58 recreational boaters and paddlers in 2007. Eight kayak and 15 canoe fatalities accounted for 40 percent of the total.

Posted by Maine Island Kayak at 11:16 AM

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Epic Men

photo by Doug Jones/Staff Photographer Portland Press Herald

From Peaks Island to Boston. Two men are actually making the Boston Marathon the end of their adventure, after a kayak trip and bicycle ride.

By GLENN JORDAN, April 18, 2009
See the full story here
Posted by Joe DuPont at 5:29 PM

Managment Plans for the Everglades National Park

This was sent to us by the folks at Sea Kayak Chesapeake Bay

Everglades National Park is accepting public comment on 4 management plan alternatives. Alternative 3 and 4 would create an alternative wilderness waterway allowing much greater solitude. 3 and 4 also curtail the use of motorboats in parts of the park for solitude and to protect resources that they have been destroying. The motorboaters are commenting in great numbers, something like 5 to 1 over paddlers, asking for alternative 1 which has almost no changes from the old plan. Please get the word out to your paddling friends and clubs. Don't let the power boaters decide this. Check out the plans here, and comment here, Posted by Joe DuPont at 5:24 PM

Friday, January 23, 2009

Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium Report, Jan 2009



by Tom Bergh, MIKCo, Peaks Island, ME
Sunday, Jan 11:
High Tide 7.2 ft at 1051
Low Tide -1.6 ft at 1742
Max Flood 3.0 kn at 0942
Max Ebb 4.3 kn at 1600

Conditions at San Francisco Bar (46237) at 0700:
Water temp: 50.7F
Swells: 5.6' at 17 seconds – yes, really
Winds: Easterly 5-10 knots

High pressure continues to dominate w clear skies and freshening breeze. Wind waves 2’. Air temperature in SF Bay to reach 65F! Yesterday’s high of 60.3F.

Its 0830 on day 3 at the new Golden Gates Sea Kayak Symposium in glorious San Francisco Bay. Sean Morley is standing on the walkway of the Presidio Yacht Club a ½ mile from the North tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, presenting the 70-80 coaches and paddlers with our morning safety briefing. The Symposium’s day paddles are heading deeper on the solid tidal flow into the bay toward the historic Alcatraz and Angel Islands (don’t you want to go?). The Rock Gardeners are headed out around Pt Bonito and north past Rodeo Beach. The BCU 5 Star Leader Assessment run by Nigel Dennis and Steve Maynard has the candidates taking their ‘students’ out toward the San Francisco Bar. Ben Lawry with others are presenting a series of Tidal Trainings based on the San Fran experience of moderate tidal currents. Many professional local coaches and guides have offered their time to help with strokes, Greenland paddling (well represented), and an array of ACA IT’s are providing their take on sea paddling. Nige Robinson and Tom Bergh, along with Jen Kleck, Tom Pogson are on the final day of the new BCU 4 Star Sea Leader Training with our 12 committed paddlers. Our developing ‘leaders’ float plan for the day is to paddle down under the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and out towards the sea to scope out Pt Bonito. Figuring that NW facing Rodeo Beach may well be dumping, the 4 Star group leaders’ feel they’ll probably need to return up into the Bay. Only problem is that the the return back up under the Golden Gate Bridge should be soon after slack water at 1228 to miss the 4 + knot ebb that will be even faster when its compressed at the North tower.

But oh those best laid plans… it’s hard to stick to a well developed trip/route plan when the coaches set up ‘incidents’ involving dislocated shoulders, lost paddlers and rock garden rescues… Then there’s the delay of surf landing on the gorgeous, primitive and empty Black Beach across from San Fran. So our developing 4 Star Sea Leaders nix rounding Pt Bonito with the 25’ spray booming off the rocks. Instead they consensually decide to head back up against the Spring tide to The Bridge. The group is getting edgy about the slough upstream now that its already 1345. The leaders ably use the eddies to place us at the foot of the North Tower in short order. But already the current speed looks 3+kn and the group is remembering that 50-90 rule of current speeds. Time is spent studying the onrushing currents. A few paddlers enter and are quickly blown back to the eddy. Time is increasing the speed. All paddlers are clear they must line up very tight and true to the current’s flow, can’t lose their bow even for an instant, and must be able to sprint while staying within 3 feet of the limestone rocks. Upstream about 30 feet there’s a tiny eddy for a boat or two. Ten feet further and there’s a deep hole created by a pour over that pulses from 1-3’ deep. Some of the group has talked about using the tanker wakes to surf up the pour over. Lets see how they do.

Every few minutes the climb up stream steepens. Those with longer or deeper bows are often caught by the current, and while being swept downstream clean out those sprinting behind them, back down to the big bottom eddy. Things really start going pear shaped when some of the ‘leaders’ experiment with towing others for bow control. Soon we have several spaghetti contests with tow lines hooking boats together in fast current. Swimmers begin looked increasingly worried as they are swept out toward the center of the Golden Gate channel - regularly filled with container ships and tankers. Soon the knowledgeable captain of the GGSKS Safety boat stands off to help with the more tired ones. A few continue to thrash themselves against the powerful ebb flow. Finally by 1600 our 4 Star Sea ‘leaders’ got the whole group back to the Presidio beach. All 4 Star Trainee’s are tired, smarter, and appear exhilarated by their day on these magical waters. Too bad we have to meet in the upstairs pub to debrief…

Readers, you missed a great weekend. I’ve had the pleasure of many symposiums over my 20+ years of sea paddling. The organizers, Sean Morley, Jen Kleck and Matt Palmariello, delivered a valuable and fun weekend in an extraordinary venue on Spring tides with first rate land support. Paddlers and Coaches all stayed in an attractive old army house – now an International Hostel – in a secret undeveloped valley in the Marin Headlands portion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We regularly saw coyotes and birds of prey; while on the water seals played with us in the tide races and dolphins cruised quietly in the kettles rounding up the fish. Various sailors tested their crews in the currents. Our waterfront beach at the Presidio Yacht Club next to Sausalito was nestled below the Bridge and looked across the tidal entrance to San Fran and its hills. The PYC bar located upstairs had local color matching the sunsets.

And always the red hued Golden Gate Bridge connecting the San Fran with the preserved lands of the Marin County Headlands Park, just begged to be paddled under. Everywhere are empty beaches, beautiful surf, warm weather, great people, committed paddlers, new friends…it just doesn’t get much better. This is one of the best symposium sites I’ve had a chance to savor.

Personally, I enjoyed the chance to catch up with the following maturing coach types – Jen Kleck, Sean Morley, Nigel Dennis, Nige Robinson, Steve Maynard, Ben Lawry, Jim Kennedy, Tom Pogson. Additionally there several pods of strong locals who are key assets for these events, as well as a committed set of ACA trainers to round off the GGSKS’s solid team of coaches and guides. A large number of specialty outfitters and local schools showed to support the event; in particular Sea Trek, which has pioneered so many aspects of the modern guiding industry, provided the all important safety back up in these moderate tidal waters.

The course mix emphasized practical paddle-oriented trainings: Tidal Trainings of several levels, Practical Navigation and the BCU’s new Coastal Nav I, Boat Control in Conditions, Rock Gardens in the Pacific swells, many levels of day trips out to the superb local sites. And the BCU’s new (and excellent) Four Star Sea Leader Training were great offerings (thanks for the chance to spread the word). The ACA offered Level 3 and 4 Trainings…and there were a few masochists who signed up for their first 5 Star Assessment in realistic conditions. I understand they’ll be back again.

As many of you know, my wife June and I have run Maine Island Kayak Co’s programming for two decades. We were involved in delivering the Gulf of Maine Sea Kayak Symposium in Castine, ME. We’ve attended the Sweetwater Sea Kayak Symposium and the Sea Kayak Georgia Symposium from their beginnings. We helped bring the BCU to the NE, helped bring MASKGI to northern New England, pioneered many training methods in Gulf of Maine waters, and currently offer the NE Intermediate Rough Water Symposium each Fall in Pt Judith, RI. With that background - it is my strongest recommendation for those who like Symposiums to consider the 2009 Golden Gate Sea Kayaking Symposium. Check it out.

…Now I’m back in Maine;
Wind’s been blowing upwards of 28 knots
Air temp may reach a high of 6F today.
More snow to be added to the foot already on the ground.
Water temp 37.2F

I definitely am hoping to return next January … to the second Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. Come join us.

Tom Bergh

Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium

Nautical Chart 18649 – San Francisco Entrance

Photos by Mike Bode from BCU 4 Star Leader Training:

Other photos by symposium photographer Dominick Lemarie:

Google Maps of Marin Headlands Park

BCU 4 Star Sea Leader literature

San Francisco Bay Entrance Current

gg seakyaking

Friday, January 9, 2009

Trivia by Rick Stoehrer

Pick #  people at random and have them around a table.  Ask the question and then have them put their hands down in the middle as if playing slap jack…so you’ll end up with 5 people hands on top of one another….have the person with the bottom hand slide their hand out and then ask them to answer….if they get it right, the question is closed and they get a point.  If they get it wrong, they then lose a point and the next person gets to slide their hand out and try…if your hand is on the table, you must answer.


Boat and Paddler Trivia

1.The Norkapp with the integrated rudder built in with the keel line is called this model?

2. Who was first woman to circumnavigate Great Britain?

3. Who presently holds the record for the circumnavigation of England?

4. Nigel Dennis has a daughter named….

5. Who designed the production Anas Acuta?

6. What boat is a DIRECT descendant of the Anas Acuta?

7. If we weren’t talking about boats and someone said that’s a lovely Anas Acuta, what is he or she talking about?

8. What is weathercocking?

9. How would you counter weathercocking?


Navigational Trivia

1. When do Spring Tides occur?

2. When do Neap Tides occur?

3. What is MLLW and what is its significance?.

4. What is Latitude?

5. What is Longitude?.

6. What is the difference between a True heading and a Compass Heading?

7. Define Variation and Deviation and their respective causes

8. What is a common mnemonic for converting True headings to Compass Headings and back again?

9. What is the significance of Greenwich England?

10. How far is 1 degree of Latitude?

11. How far is 1 minute of Latitude?

12. Along the Equator, how far is 1 minute of Longitude?


General Sea related Historical Trivia

1. Who was the creator of the first reliable sea worthy time piece and what is its significance?

2. What was the name of the ship that was the real life story of Moby Dick?

3. Is the story of the Bounty of Mutiny on the Bounty fame based on fact or is it fiction a la Treasure Island?
4. On Captain Cooks 3rd and last voyage, who aboard HMS Resolution chose Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii as the landing site where ultimately James Cook was killed by angry natives?

5. How many men died on Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic?





1. HM

2. Fiona Whitehead

3. Harry Whelan, Barry Shaw and Phil Clegg – 80 days and countless pints

4.Romany.  His other daughter’s name is Greenlander Pro.

5. Frank Goodman
6. Pintail
7. Pintail Duck.  Anas Acuta is the latin name for a pintail duck
8. Weathercocking is a boats tendency to turn into the wind.
9. Acceptable answers include skeg, altering stroke, or cocking your hip.


Navigational Trivia answers:
1 When the Sun and Moon are in a relatively straight line to Earth, we have a Spring Tide.  This is a Tide that is Higher than the norm.
2. When the Sun and Moon and Earth create a Right angle, we have a Neap Tide.  This is a tide that is Lower than the norm
3. Charted depths are recoded in Mean Low, Low, Water.  This is a mean # of the lower low water heights of a mixed tide observed over a specific 19 year cycle.  Only the lower low water of each pair of low waters, or the only low water of a tidal day is included in the mean. It’s significance is that the depth on the chart is the mean of this average so we have a pretty good idea of what the shallowest water is we can expect in a location
4. Lattude is the distance N or S of the equator expressed in degrees from 0 to  90 N or S
5. Longitude is the distance E or W of the prime meridian expressed in degrees from 0 to 180 E or W.
6. Variation and Deviation.
7. Variation is the angular difference between the geographic meridian and the magnetic meridian at a particular location.  This is caused by variances in local geography.  Deviation is the effect a vessels magnetic field has on a compass.  In our case it’s often something like the cook pot being stored too close to the compass.
8. Timid Virgins Make Dull Company, Add Whisky
And Can Dead Men Vote Twice, At Elections.
9. Greenwich England is the location of the observatory marking the present Prime Meridian.
10. 60 nautical miles.
11.. 1 nautical mile
12.  1 nautical mile

General Sea related Historical Trivia

1. John Harrison.  The significance is that for every 15 degrees E or W of the prime meridian you travel, the local time differs from the time at the prime meridian by an hour.  Consequently if you have an accurate chronometer set to Greenwich time and then compare that to a reading at noon Local, you can establish your longitude by calculating the difference.  Combined with existing technologies to determine Latitude, you could then establish where you were on earth.  So next time you use your GPS or google earth think about all those cool things starting with a watchmaker in a little shop.
2. The whaling ship Essex out of Nantucket sank by a sperm whale November 20, 1820
3. True.  Once Bligh was released from the Bounty in an open boat he managed to make one of the epic open boat crossings in Brit Naval history – 3,618 NM from Tofua to Timor in an open 21 foot boat with only a pocket watch and a sextant.

4. William Bligh was the sailing master of HMS Resolution+

5.  Nobody died!




Friday, December 19, 2008

More on the intermediate sea paddler

Richard Magill had some commentary on the last post. It seems to add to the conversation. We're not doing comments, but we'll gladly post any well reasoned posts you may have if you email us

Richard Magill wrote:

These seem to be very good definitions, but would you say that all have to be completed before you could consider yourself and intermediate paddler? Or could the paddler just get 51%, or 75% and say he is intermediate?

I suspect that somehow paddlers are going to have to come up with an agreeable set of definitions (these look as good as any, although I think maybe force 4 winds is a little low), figure out which ones are an absolute necessity (I'd say good forward stroke, sweeps, and rudders; rescues in moderate conditions; and at least a descent side landing in moderate surf), then take a look at the rest and assign a pt value at each one. Once a paddler achieves all of the necassary ones, plus achieves a certain pt value on the rest, he/she can be considered an intermediate paddler.

One last thought: I absolutely love to roll my boat, and agree that it is an invaluable tool. However, I'd have to say that I know some really good paddlers out there that don't, for what ever reason, have a roll. When I lived in SC, I knew a guy who I suspect could paddle with any of the big guys
- the Nigel's, Derek, me (okay, so maybe I don't fit in that list, but hey, I guy can dream can't he) - any of them - but he had a bad hip and refused to roll. I'm not even sure he ever learned a roll. He just didn't go upside down. Of all the times I've seen him in halacious soups, surf conditions, and force 6 winds; even in stuff that was kicking my butt left and right (man, those were fun times), he never once spilled, or swam. Would he be held back from being called an advanced paddler becuase of his roll? ACA would probably say yes, but they haven't seen him paddle.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Is the Intermediate Sea Paddler

The following is offered for discussion and reflection on defining the adequacy of our paddling skills and abilities. The Intermediate Rough Water Symposium’s Fishers Race Team has taken a few early beads on this definition. Your thoughts, ideas, critique would be appreciated. FYI you may want to review MIKCo’s 10 plus year old paper, Proposed Goals for Coaches and Guides for a discussion on leadership levels of performance. Also you may want to review the new BCU 4 StarSea Leader award for its latest overview of beginning sea leaders which most of us act us when paddling with our friends.  


----- Original Message -----
Tom Bergh

Subject: The Intermediate Paddler 
 “Race Team,
 “Paula gave us all a good shot here (below). Please review, refine and return so we
 can move this whole descriptive level thing forward. Its easy to be
 hard-core, its hard to be honest and firm. Paula's got some great concepts

“This is a real deal, challenging exercise. Boys... I believe The Race Team
 Blonde Wonder (Paula Riegel) has thrown down the gauntlet here. You got anything to say or
 you just leaving it to The Gal - who some of us might think has a clearer
 image of other paddlers than some newer 5 Stars I've heard about????
----- Original Message -----
Paula Reigel
Subject: Re: Who is an intermediate, novice or ???

 “Hiya Tom
 “Here's some thoughts regarding skill level of an intemediate. Kind of random
 as was just brain-storming....

  • Comfortable edging their boat well off balance while using support strokes.
  • Sweeps, draws, ruddering (bow & stern), bracing unconsciously competent
  • Knows what to do when hit on the beam by a moderate breaking wave
  • Land forwards, backward and sideways in moderate surf.
  • Comfortably handles their sea kayak in Force 4 winds, and is able to proceed up, down and across such wind.
  • Able to take advantage of following seas by using the slopes and speed
  • Has performed rescues in moderate sea conditions (winds Force 4, swells 4-6 ft)
  • Has multiple methods for both self and assisted rescues and knows when to use which one. Rescues are quick and effective.
  • Is ready, willing and able to tow others in moderate conditions, towing techniques are in their “tool box”. Knows there isn't a "one size fits all" tow line length
  • Constant rocking/bouncing of boat doesn’t make you think “I shouldn’t have had those beers last night.”
  • Dependable roll in moderate conditions
  • Able to kick forward stroke into high gear on demand for powering through surf or getting on a wave
  • Knows what torso rotation is and incorporates it into strokes
  • Kit is just right.  Not too much, not too little.  Knows the importance of keeping a clean deck.
  • Considers boat a tool not a jewel
  • When group paddling, able to look out for others if conditions start to deteriorate.
  • Isn’t in a self imposed“danger zone”
  • OK being upside down for 15-20 seconds while waiting for wave to release boat.
  • Can paddle at a constant 3 knots and can sprint to 5 kn
  • On a beach launch, knows how to read waves to determine most opportune time for punching through the surf break
  • By looking at a chart and knowing tide times and marine forecast, is developing knowledge of where are danger zones and safety spots
  • Comfortable doing longer crossings in fog
  • Developing ability to read water to find eddies
  • Has been thrown about in surf before and not afraid to get thrashed again
  • Has swam through a rough surf break
  • Shoulder to over-head high waves brings smile to face


The following definitions are the product of the NSPN, NorthShore Paddlers Network, www.nspn.org.

Trip Level Ratings

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Paddling will be on very sheltered water with easy access to the shore.

Paddling will be on lakes, sheltered rivers, harbors, tidal estuaries, etc.

Paddling may involve limited exposure to open ocean with access to sheltered water or landing near at hand (less than one mile).

Paddling may involve significant exposure to open ocean with limited access to shelter. May require paddling in open ocean for several miles to reach shelter.

Maximum Conditions


Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4



10 knots

15 knots

25 knots



1 foot

2 feet

4 feet



1 foot

2 feet

4 feet



1 knot

2 knots

4 knots


2 miles

10 miles

15 miles

20+ miles



Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4



Forward, reverse, sweep

Level 2 skills.
Correcting and boat handling strokes.
Solid bracing.

Level 3 skills.
Strong bracing skills. Surf skills.
Tidal current skills.



Wet exit

Wet exit, paddle float self rescue, partner rescue

Level 3 skills
Rescues and tows.
Reliable roll or very strong bracing.




2-3 knots

4 knots




Basic trip safety
Basic navigation
Trip planning Environmental conditions

Charts, navigation, VHF, environmental conditions, trip planning and emergency procedures

Desirable Experience


Basic class in kayak safety and paddle strokes

Level 2 trips or equivalent.
Class in rescues and tows

Level 3 trips or equivalent.
Level 3 classes.
Classes in trip planning, safety, and navigation.



----- Original Message -----
Nick Schade
Subject: Re: Who is an intermediate, novice or ???

“People are very good at overestimating wave height. The typical error factor in my experience is 3. I.e. if the waves are 6" they say 18", and if the waves are 3' they say 9'. I think this is because people judge by the length of the wave face, instead of the vertical distance from peak to trough, but regardless the error is pretty common.

“Instead of talking about wave height in terms of feet and inches I would put it in terms of "elbow high", "shoulder height", "head high", "over head", "double overhead" and "oh my God". I think you will find a lot of people who will think they have paddled in 4' surf, but far fewer who will admit to surfing in "overhead" surf - i.e. 4 foot. Eight foot surf looks like you are being swallowed by a box car, but many people will mistake waves under 3' as being 8 footers.

In other words, asking a question like "have you ever had a wave break on top of your head" will provide more accurate information than "have you ever surfed in 4 foot waves"

Also questions like "What is the hardest upwind trip you have ever done, how far did you go and how long did it take you and how did you feel when you finished?" can reveal a lot. Someone who says "a five mile slog that took 2 hours and required two days to recover" will probably be less experienced than someone who say "one mile in 2 hours, but the run back was awesome" 

Nick Schade
Guillemot Kayaks


----- Original Message -----
Richard Stoehrer
Subject: Re: Who is an intermediate, novice or ???


“if we're the ones defining it then yup, that all sounds about right - maybe a skosh on the plus side (4-8 ft breaking seas...closer to the 4 than the 8...i think it might be ambitious to say that intermed are comfortable on long fog crossings and i think that the reading water / eddy skill are still developing.)

“i might tone down the 8 foot thing and then say that they understand the forces at work in a long fog crossing (and maybe even have sense to use a shore handrail or aim off to a LARGE target as opposed to something specific) and then depending on whether or not they have a ww background may have less of a competency in reading water/eddy's.


“On the other hand if you take the sampling of who attended last year and were to try to sort out the mean, i think it falls short of that definition.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Maine tidal anomaly

On 28 October unusual tidal fluctuations were observed in the Boothbay, Maine and Cundys Harbor areas. Massive amounts of water flushed into and then drained the bay. There appear to be two general theories as to the cause of the phenomenon. Meteorologists aren't sure but suggest that seismic forces were at work, while the Coast Guard has posited that the area experienced a seiche generated by an offshore storm.

Boston.com reports:

"BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine—Meteorologists are baffled by rapid tidal changes along the Maine coast, which damaged some boats and piers.

Witnesses say low tide turned and became high within a matter of minutes on Tuesday afternoon. The changes occurred six or seven times. The National Weather Service says reports from several locations indicated that water levels fell and rose from 4 feet to as much as 12 feet during the event.
In a public information statement, the weather service says the cause "remains a mystery and may never be known."
It said significant rapid rises and falls in tide levels were observed around 3 p.m. in Boothbay Harbor, Southport and Bristol. The statement said rapid surges can be caused by the underwater movement of land, most often due to an earthquake, or due to slumping of sediments along a steep canyon or shelf, but no earthquakes were reported in the area Tuesday.
A similar event occurred on Jan. 9, 1926, in Bass Harbor, the statement said."

While WCSH reports:

"BOOTHBAY HARBOR (NEWS CENTER) -- Some boats were scratched and docks damaged Tuesday afternoon when low tide became high within a matter of minutes.

The Coast Guard is calling it a storm surge. As the water was flowing out for low tide, a storm off-shore pushed it back in bringing the water level back almost near the high water mark.

Locals in the area say it happened about 6 or 7 times throughout the afternoon. They say it surged in within a matter of 5 minutes, then flowed back out just as quickly.

A similar surge was also reported in Cundy's Harbor.

Officials say they want to remind coastal residents to keep their boats securely tied to their docks when they know a storm is happening off the coast."

Those must have been some currents!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Island of Ghosts

Those who claim to know about such things say that most of the islands in Casco Bay are haunted to one degree or another. Today we were out to one which certainly seemed spooky. Fittingly enough no-one lives on Little Chebeague today, but it's had a long history.

The Abenakis left shell middens here dating back thousands of years. More recently there was a large hotel and small community lasting from the mid 1800s until it was taken over by the Navy for use as an R&R facility and firefighting training. Once the Navy left in the 1940s, no one else came. Now the once proud "clamshell walk" is getting taken over by the bittersweet, the structures are uninhabitable and the only footfalls are made by the deer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Freddy's Big Swim

North Atlantic Fishermen Rescue 14-Year-Old Terrier 1 Mile at Sea.

Jean Brigstock, 73 was walking her cairn terrier, Freddy, in a thick fog along a coastal section of Amble, Northumberland when the two became separated.

It seems as if Freddy ran into trouble as he was next seen a mile out to sea swimming against the tide. Trawlermen Jimmy and Alan Thompson from Red Row, Northumberland thought they had seen an otter, but on closer inspection they realized Freddie had no business being in the North Atlantic. They plucked the dog out of the water and called for a lifeboat to come and retrieve the terrier.

Brigstock was amazed that her dog was found so far away from land. 'I knew he hated water so I thought he'd head for the dunes rather than the sea. It really didn't enter my head that he would swim.

"He rarely goes through a puddle and has an aversion to baths."

Read more at the Telegraph

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The above acronym is used by the BCU to express an idea important to the future of the sport of kayaking: Long Term Paddler Development.

A quote from the BCU website: “The Long Term Paddler Development model supports paddlers from the day they first get into a boat over a span of many years, providing a logical progression of programme planning and skill development from the young paddler to the experienced performer.”

While some folks are only interested in training “adults,” I think that it is vital to paddlesports to encourage youngsters to get involved. It’s rare that you see kids in boats and that’s a shame

I’m constantly amazed by the youngsters I see at ski areas who have highly advanced skills by ages 8 or 9. Imagine how it would push the sport if kids got into paddling in the same way. Quite often when our trips pull up to a beach, kids run up to the kayaks to have a look. With parents' permission I usually let them have a little float time (with a guide holding onto the boat if they don’t have a PFD). It’s a blast to see the fun they have exploring a new world.

There’s a lot of factors that get in the way of kids in kayaks, from the lack of easily available appropriate kayaks and expensive gear to the short summer season we have in Maine, but as in all things in life, if we don’t make the effort nothing will get done.

Above is 6 year old Zeke challenging his Dad to work on some new skills. Below the kids are trying out some kayaks from very different disciplines.

Even if you don’t normally hang out with kids I bet at some point you’ll be with your kayak when kids are around. Let them hop in and check it out. You never know – you might be creating the future of kayaking.


For older posts, please see maineislandkayakco.blogspot.com