Ocean Playground: Kayaking in Southern Maine

I enjoy kayaking but I wouldn’t consider myself anything close to an expert. Hiking is more my forte. Anyway, there IS a difference between kayaking on calm, still water and kayaking in the rough waters with crazy tides and currents.  I learned that lesson the hard way.  I am always up for a challenge even if I end up looking like a fool. The last time I went real kayaking in big bad ocean water was in Costa Rica in 2014.

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Kayaking to Isla Chora in Samara, Costa Rica

But it was a short kayak trip  and not too intense. I didn’t get the whole “core” message back then. I just did what came naturally to me. But kayaking well means engaging your core. A LOT. Think more core, less shoulders.

Back in July, I spent a weekend kayaking along the coastal islands in Georgetown, Maine. It was a weekend well spent with a group of diverse, funny people from New York City and around. Fun fact – Maine has over 3400 miles of coastline to explore and enjoy. Our group spent the weekend at a beautiful remote cabin Knubble Bay Camp. Its literally steps away from the vast water playground perfect for some ocean kayaking. The camp had no running water or electricity. Lights inside the cabin were powered exclusively by solar energy. The only source of water was a water hand pump located outside the cabin. So no showers for two days, unless you count swimming or falling into the water! There’s a great joy and sense of relief in showering after two days. As the saying goes, you appreciate the little things in life when you’re away from them.

Day 1 consisted of a long drive from NYC to Maine with a couple of pit stops, the most notable in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In Portsmouth (don’t pronounce it Ports-Mouth as a joke or else the locals will come after you) we stopped for a quick lunch break at Bennett’s Sandwich Shop. Its a famous sandwich shop and for good reason. Fresh veggies, soft fresh bread and cheese and no frills. I wish they had more veggie options but the fresh yet simple veggie sandwich was very fulfilling.

Apart from being a passenger in a vehicle, there was still some adventure to be had once we arrived in Maine! Our crew had the opportunity to learn the basics of ocean kayaking and applying that “education” hands on. We kayaked around the secluded and serene (for now) coastal waters of Maine for about an hour that evening.  It was beautiful to see vast amounts of water encircled by what seems like an endless amount of woodland. The blue/green combination of ocean water and trees sure was something. Mother nature in its finest form.

Day 2 was interesting.If I get up early, its due to work, a scheduled long run or because I got paged in the middle of the night for a support issue. I rarely get up early just for the sack of it. But in Maine, I did get up just for the sake of it. A couple of us woke up at 5:15 AM to watch the sunrise. It was every bit worth the early alarm and the swath of bugs. As someone works in Manhattan, life tends to move at 5x the speed so it was nice to

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The beautiful sun rising over the coastal islands of Maine

simply stand there and watch the sun rise slowly.  Beautiful. But all the natural beauty resulted in another major “wake up” call. We were in a for a surprise! A lot of the kayaks left outside the night before were gone! Missing! It seemed like a high tide had arrived overnight and “taken away” some of the kayaks. They were floating somewhere in the water. Who knows where? We alerted and notified our guides immediately. A rescue mission was set up to locate the missing kayaks. Sounds like something far fetched you’d read in a book but never actually experience. To cut a long story short, some of the kayaks were found and replacements were provided for the few missing ones. So life went on. It was kind of ironic since one of the local  guides had specifically talked about low tide versus high tide the night before and cautioned against the possibility missing kayaks.

 

Now for the actual adventures on the water. After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes and sausages (both vegan and not vegan) we ventured onto the water. We spent the day kayaking, exploring and sightseeing around the many different islands. I spotted some nice islands homes I’d like to own in the future. Just kidding. We also made extended stops at a few islands for much needed fuel and rest breaks. The “core” thanks you. Our lunch time island was Hendricks Head Light. It stood out (literally) because it had a a big lighthouse.

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What I refer to as the lighthouse island

We couldn’t really venture much around Hendricks as some of it seemed like private property. But it was a sweet spot to eat and enjoy the fresh air and breeze. It was quite rocky so it took some skill to find the perfect spot to sit and eat.

 

We had a post lunch picnic of sweet cakes, lemonade and fruit at one of the lesser known islands. This island in particular was a great one for sunbathing as it had less trees and shade.

Now for the blooper moments. I fell out of my kayak once. It when I was trying to get out of my kayak at one of the islands. I had the wrong technique. You put your legs out first and then pull yourself out, using the glutes. I just tried to get up all in one piece. I got pretty wet but the water was shallow so it was funny but not a true capsize. So I did not capsize but a brave kayaker in my team did unintentionally. We were far away but close enough to hear him yell “Help me! Help me!” after he capsized. It was a terrifying moment for us kayaking newbies. One of the certified and qualified kayaking guides ended up saving him. It resulted in an interesting rescue mission. The kayaker claimed he was really close (so close as to be scared) to a seal under the water. This particular kayaker definitely won the award of “bravest kayaker of the day.” He also did the right thing by waiting for someone and holding onto the kayak for support. I can’t imagine it being me. I would have totally freaked out. I don’t even want to think about the outcome.

The most memorable moment came when we were strategically kayaking against some currents and tides as a group (talk about a supportive group environment) and came across an island of full of seals! It was an adorable sight! As we approached the island, we started making that seal sound effect to attract the seals. We wanted to make some new friends. It didn’t seem to work that well as some of the seals ended up going back in the water. Luckily, some still stayed on the island, looking at the odd strangers (us) approaching their area. It was also very cute to see a  large group of them making sounds in unison. Oh and we were making the same sounds as well. It was a total seal-human bonding moment in harmony. It was a difficult kayaking moment for us against the rough waters but personally I felt like I was exerting less energy when I saw the seals. It was definitely a good distraction. I’m sorry but I have no photos and videos for proof. I was afraid to take my phone out of the dry bag on the water.

All in all, we were out on the water for about six hours. It was a very different experience for me to explore and sightsee by water. I personally strive on trying new things and kayaking in Maine is certainly one such experience.

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We probably covered a fraction of this map

I also understand why kayaking is a lot about using your core and not so much your shoulders. The more shoulders you use, the more sore you’ll be. You won’t be as powerful and strong or cover as much water if you’re not engaging your core. To kayak properly, its a must to engage your core. I finally got the hang of the whole core thing towards the end of the trip. So people who are all about the core, core and core – Kayaking is a core sport! So it could be your ticket to those dream abs! Or you’ll just have fun on the water and enjoy every moment of it due to your strong and powerful technique!

 

And remember – use your core so you won’t be sore. Happy Kayaking!

 

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