Archive for sea kayak

going on a bear [and a whale] hunt

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2018 by xi'an

Among many and diverse outdoor activities during our vacations on Vancouver Island, a rather unique trip was to go kayaking near Tofino to try to watch black bears. In a group of three sea kayaks, at dusk, with a fantastic guide. Bears foraging for crabs on the shore at low tide are not unusual but, as it happened, we were quite lucky to spot five different bears over the two hours we paddle along the fjord, including a big one standing on its back legs to catch berries. From a few meters away, this was an incredible sight! [About the title: We’re going on a bear hunt is a classic of children books.]
We were less lucky when whaling out at sea, only spotting a blow on the trip, even though we spotted many seals and a few sea otters. The most exhilarating wildlife experience of the Van trip was however swimming with seals on the northern coast of the island, where on several days one or two seals came to check on me while I was swimming in the ocean in the early morning. (Managing to avoid cold shock and hypothermia by only staying less than 20 minutes in the 17⁰ water.)

Hell’s ride down Ardèche

Posted in Kids, Mountains, Travel with tags , , , , on May 1, 2010 by xi'an

Being in vacation in Ardèche, south east of France, we went for a “white water” canoe trip along the Ardèche canyon. The river sounded peaceful enough for a 25km family trip down the river and the company who rented us the three (sea) kayaks dumped us at Pont d’Arc with the boats and waterproof barrels without any explanation about handling the boats or managing the 30 or so rapids along the way. We had used sea-kayaks in Australia for turtle watching near Mission Beach with no other damages than sunburned feet, but this trip almost ended up dramatically! After passing the first half of the way most pleasantly (or in blissful ignorance), we ended up hitting a huge rock in a naughty passage that made our boat capsize. I hit the rock as well while my wife had a difficult time getting from under the boat and it is only thanks to the other kayaks in the group that we managed to recover our boat! I lost my glasses in the event and spent the rest of the descent in a colourful fog. And experienced a fit of hypothermia from spending five minutes swimming in the 10C water. (We capsized a second time in a milder passage with no further consequence and another boat in our group also capsized, hitting a rock that cut deeply my brother-in-law’s hand…)

We came back to the kayak bases with those few cuts and no further accident, but I am fairly unhappy with the whole trip! In restrospect, the potential dangers of the trip were too important to be ignored and the lack of warning from the companies renting the kayak is appaling in that they present the trip as fun and thrilling, while omitting to mention the high accident rate (that we discovered a posteriori). This irresponsible attitude is equivalent to providing beginners with ropes and harnesses and letting them rappel a 10m cliff on their own! Especially when kids above 7 can take part in the trip with only a life jacket and an helmet. (When the boat capsizes in a strong and swirling current, it is impossible to get hold of anyone else: I got separated from my wife by a distance of twenty meters within a few seconds!) On the positive side, the views were terrific, the weather very nice, and I even avoided the usual blisters! But I am not considering repeating the experiment without first pairing with an experienced kayaker.

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