Some paddles in the United States

These are some further images of kayaking in the 1990’s which, I have scanned in from some of the thousands slides I accumulated over about 35 years.  These are a selection taken in the United States in the mid 1990’s.  Sea kayaking on the west coast and canoeing in the north east.  Some great memories.

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One of the real highlights was a couple of visits to the Port Townsend Symposium in Washington. At the time I had organized a couple of Symposiums in Jersey and was just stunned by the scale of the event. This was the view of the waterfront in 1996.
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In contrast to the Sympoiums in Europe, where there were numerous small classes, with paddlers being coached on the water things were different at Port Townsend. Here Nigel Foster is running a skills session, what is not shown is the crowd of approximately 100 spectators, Nigel was the only person on the water.
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Sea kayaking legend Derek Hutchinson, just completing one of his sessions. A couple of days later we spent a memorable few hours sailing to Vancouver Island, where we were both heading.  When Derek passed away in 2012 he warranted an obituary in the New York Times.
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The classic image of Easyrider kayaks. A similar photograph was used as the advert for a number of years in, the sadly missed, Sea Kayaker Magazine.
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There was some “interesting” developments. The white canister on the front deck was called the “Rolling Aid”. Capsize, pull the lever and it explodes in a rather large air bag which it is possible to push up on. It was a great demo and certainly drew the crowds, but I am not sure how useful it would be in a difficult situation, it might be easier and cheaper to learn to roll with a paddle.
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As we had young children but wanted to continue with multi-day paddling trips we went canoeing. Not really something that we could do in Jersey, so for a number of years we went to Maine and paddled some of the rivers in the northern part of the State.
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There were plenty of new techniques to learn, such as portaging. This is the path around Allagash Falls in the north of Maine. I have run this river several times but the last time was too long ago.
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One of the camp sites on the West Branch of the Penobscot. They were clearings cut out of the dense forest allowing easy egress from the river. A couple of tables, fire pit, somewhere to tie the tarp etc.
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Little did we realize what we were experiencing here. This was our first ever paddle on a sit on top. Nicky is on Megunticook Lake in Maine in 1995. For many involved in kayaking this was to be the future and the sit on top has changed the face of paddlesport for many people.

Lopez Island – San Juans

The view north to Mt Baker, just one of a number of volcanic peaks in the area. On clear days the massive bulk of Mt Rainier is visible to the south.
The San Juans are the US equivalent of the Canadian Gulf Islands are have some great kayaking opportunities. We were on Lopez Island, which is easily accessed from the Anacortes in Washington State. Most people we spoke to moaned about the Washington State Ferries but compared to what is on offer in the UK and the Channel Islands they are a revelation.
Compared to some of the exorbitant fares charged on Channel Island routes they are amazingly cheap and efficient. Turn up minutes before and you are on, contrast this with generally having to book weeks in advance in Britain. We paid $38 for two passengers and a car for a 40 minute return crossing.
We spent a few days on Lopez Island, the third largest island in the group, both Orcas and San Juan being larger. It is the first stop on the ferry route and covers an area of about 30 square miles with a year round population of about 2,200. Giving a population density of about 73 per square mile, contrast this with Jersey’s of at least 2,000 per square mile.


This Rufus Hummingbird appeared whilst we were packing the kayaks. A pleasant surprise.
Our paddle was going to take us along the south coast of Lopez Island, into the small inlet of Watmough Bay, a return journey of 16 nautical miles through a variety of coastal scenery and encounters with wildlife.
Harbour Seals were numerous along this stretch of coast and there were some Californian Sea Lions close to where we launched. Although pods of Orca’s had been seen in the vicinity were didn’t see any on this particular paddle.
There were numerous species of birds along the coast including these particularly confiding Harlequin Ducks. A species which is rarely encountered in Europe outside of Iceland.
Paddling along the south shore of Lopez Island. The Olympic Mountains are visible across the other side of the Juan de Fuca Straits.
The appropriately named Castle Island. The tides run with considerable speed in this area and although we didn’t paddle in the main tidal flows the energy is still visible in this photograph.
Iceberg Point Lighthouse.
Entering Watmough Bay. A kayak is just visible on the left. As we sat on the beach having lunch we watched a number of Bald Eagles gliding along the cliff face.
We really only scratched the surface of the kayaking potential of the San Juans, it was clear that the paddling possibilities are huge. With a daughter who is now living on the west coast of Canada it is likely that we will be visiting the area on a more regular basis and I am sure that we will be seeing more of the San Juans from sea level!