Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lost Coast Sea Kayak Trip 2016

The winds blew and blew and blew all summer long.  We would have a couple days of lull and then blowing, blowing, blowing.  Fall has begun and the winds are blowing again.  Liquid Fusion Kayaking had another busy summer season.  Last week we finally saw a couple of days with no tours or classes and the wind stopped blowing.  Our end of summer projects - bookkeeping, paperwork, website updates, and house work took a backseat as we seized the opportunity for a sea kayak trip into the Lost Coast.
All loaded and preparing to launch through the surf. Photo by Jeff Laxier.
Just to the north of the Mendocino Coast is California's Lost Coast.  It is a rugged area that is so steep that CA's Highway 1 routes inland for 80 miles.  For backpackers and kayakers, it is a popular destination but one that is arduous and challenging.  The challenge for sea kayakers is that the Lost Coast is very exposed to wind and swell and also prone to fog.  Launching and landing can be challenging as most of the coast is lined with steep cliffs.  Most of the potential beaches for landing are steep with dumping waves that can be quite powerful and treacherous - even on days when the swell is small.
Jeff Laxier launching through rocks n surf on the Lost Coast. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Food preparation was a bit rushed but fortunately I had been dehydrating veggies from our garden all summer for just an occasion.  Throw in a few Huppybars and some other goodies and we were set.
Nutritious and delicious food for our trip. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Even on small swell days, launching and landing on the Lost Coast always involves surf.  Once we were launched, we were treated to a spectacular paddle with sunny skies and glassy seas.  We enjoyed the presence of numerous pelagic birds (murres, murrelets, aukelets, loons, cormorants, and pelicans) and a couple of humpback whales including a juvenile humpy who seemed to circle around us.
Glass seas and humpback whales.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne
When we landed on our destination beach, we discovered lots of animal tracks including some fresh large bear tracks.  YIKES!
Fresh bear tracks on the beach. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
I am happy to report that we did not have any wildlife issues on our trip.  A highlight was the regular appearance of a Peregrine Falcon.  The beach where we camped seemed to be in their happy hunting grounds.
Peregrine falcon soaring over our camp.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
The weather during our trip was quite varied.  Our first day was sunny and warm.  We enjoyed a spectacular sunset.
Sunset on the Lost Coast. Photo by Jeff Laxier
The full moon rising over the ridge was equally spectacular.
Full moon rising over our camp.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Day 2, the fog rolled in.  At times it was so thick that we couldn't see more than 50 yards.  We took this time to catch up on some reading and rest.
Thick fog is not uncommon on the Lost Coast. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
When the fog lifted in the afternoon, we ventured out to paddle and explore.  Things were a bit sporty.
Cate rock gardening on California's Lost Coast. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Day 3 we enjoyed a leisurely morning then packed up and paddled out.  The skies were overcast but the seas were relatively calm.  Our loads being a bit lighter, we explored and played a bit on our return paddle.
Sea kayaking through a sea cave on California's Lost Coast. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Of course, the sun came out just as we were landing.
Final surf landing of the trip.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
As soon as we got home, we celebrated our trip at our favorite local watering hole - Piaci.  A fresh Old Rasputin and Piaci Pizza was the perfect ending to a great trip.
Old Rasputing and Piaci pizza  - a perfect post trip meal. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Here is a link to more photos from our trip.  For more tales of paddling California's Lost Coast - join us in November at the American Canoe Association's National Paddlesports Conference in Sausalito, CA.
California's Lost Coast. Photo by Cate Hawthorne

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tsunami Ranger

The rumors are true.  Last week, I took my test to become a Tsunami Ranger.  I passed and was awarded the rank of  Lieutenant.

Details of my test will be shared on the Tsunami Ranger blog in October.  For those who are not familiar with the Tsunami Rangers, check out this description.

I am honored to be included in this tribe and look forward to many fun adventures with the Rangers.  A special thanks to Tsunami Ranger and fellow Woman on Water - Deb Volturno for her friendship, encouragement, and mentorship.
Tsunami Rangers' Women on Water - Cate Hawthorne and Deb Volturno
Photo by Nancy Soares

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pure Bliss!

I wish I had my camera today. However, I don't know if photos or video could possibly capture the expressions of pure bliss on my younglings' faces this afternoon as they floated in their kayaks for the first time.

Most days in the summer, I share first kayaking experiences with adults and kids from all walks of life.  Their facial expressions and comments are priceless.  Many come with apprehension and leave trying to figure out how soon they can get on the water again.

Water is my drug and kayaking is the delivery device.

This week has been extra special.  I had a couple return for a Sunset Bird Paddle.  They did one several years ago with me and loved it.  During the paddle, they became fascinated with birds.  This week they returned to share the magic as fully fledged birders.  It was really special for them to share with me their journey of discovering birds and hearing that kayaking with me was a catalyst for their new passion.  I loved hearing them call out many different species on our trip.  Of course they enjoyed expanding their bird IQ as I shared several new species with them.

Today was special as I had a grandmother send her 3 kiddos out for a learn to kayak lesson with me.  Two years ago, her husband got the idea of kayaking and bought a couple of kayaks for them.  They came to me for a lesson.  She was quite apprehensive but once she was floating she became hooked.

Now, she and her husband take their kayaks everywhere with them and have enjoyed paddling many beautiful places.  Their favorites being remote lakes in the Sierras.  They are looking forward to sharing kayaking adventures with their grandchildren.  Today was day one.  Grandmom glowed as her grandchildren paddled and played.  3 more hooked.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


I have to admit that I have gotten hooked on kayak fishing.  Well actually my plan isn't to get hooked but to do the hooking.  
Ling cod hooked on my line.
This summer, the ocean has been really rough so we haven't had many good fishing days.  But when we have made it out, we have caught enough fish for dinner and some to share with friends and neighbors.
Hauling in my limit of ling cod.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
For us kayak fishing is a team sport.  Jeff, Gail, and I head out together and keep an eye one another.  Some of it is the excitement of seeing someone land a nice sized fish, some of it is keeping score, and some of it is out of necessity to help out if needed.  More than once, we have hooked a "big one" who has attempted to drag us into the rocks.  It sure is nice to have a buddy handy to help out with a quick tow.
Gail with a big one on the line.
Most of our kayak fishing is at home on the Mendocino Coast fishing for bottom fish.  On the Mendocino Coast, these are types of rock cod that live among the rocks on the bottom of the ocean.  We typically are in 20 to 80 feet of water and primarily use jigs.
Kayak fishing on the Mendocino Coast.
The ling cod are usually the largest of our catch.  They have to be at least 22 inches long to keep.  Ling cod have large heads with mouths full of sharp teeth and spotted bodies.  Often they are a blueish green and have blue meat when you fillet them.
Jeff about to put a ling cod on his stringer.
Other types that we catch include cabezon, vermilion, black cod, blue cod, sea trout, and china rock fish.  On a good day, our stringers can be quite colorful (and hefty).
Gail with a cabezon.
I try to keep my set up as simple as possible but it still seems to be a bunch of stuff.  My pole is one that I found floating in the ocean several years ago.  Jeff put a new tip on it and a friend gave me her father's old reel.  My pole is short and stiff - about 6 feet long. Regulations require us to have a net.  I find it very handing for landing feisty ling cod.  Some fish identification charts, a beat-good stick, fish grips, a stringer, and needle nose pliers round out my kit.
My set up for bottom fishing from my kayak.
I have to admit that I am more into catching than fishing.  There are times when the bite is slow.  

I am not good at sitting and bobbing in the ocean so I will sometimes wander off in search of other adventures.  This is where I put my rock gardening skills to use swooshing around the rocks, exploring sea caves, and often looking for abalone.

I guess it isn't the fishing that has me hooked but the catching.