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Solo Sea Kayaking

Updated on May 5, 2013

Here I am setting off on my 79 day, 1,300 mile, solo, Inside Passage sea kayaking adventure.

Here I am, 37 days into my trip, paddling in the rain in Seaforth Channel just north of Shearwater, BC.

Kayaking Alone

Whether you are kayaking, backpacking, or traveling around the world, you never truly discover who you are until you travel alone. When you travel with others there is always that unspoken sense of wanting to accommodate the wishes of the other person while your desires may go unfulfilled. When you travel alone, you are free to act on any impulse without having to consider the needs of a companion. If you want to stop and take a picture of a waterfall or spend the day sitting on a beach reading a book, there is no one else around whose permission needs to be granted.

Some people prefer to paddle solo and others have no choice. If they want to paddle, and do not know anyone else that shares their ambitions, they either go it alone or stay home. If you are not lucky enough to live in a sea kayaking “Mecca” like Washington or British Columbia, there may be no one else in your hometown who shares your love of the sport.

Solo kayaking does has some advantages over paddling as a pair or with a group. Groups tend to travel more slowly than a solo paddler. This is no big deal if you are out for an afternoon paddle with a bunch of friends, but it can quickly become tiresome if you are forced to stop or slow down repeatedly on a long trip. Losing a few miles every day over the course of a trip can make the difference between successfully completing the trip and packing it in earlier than expected.

Group dynamics, particularly among members who are not close friends, can quickly become strained. Ad in being cold, tired, and hungry for days on end and even strong friendships can dissolve. A minor event to one person can be blown out of proportion by another, leading to friction among the group at best. This problem is amplified when the experience levels of individual group members are widely divergent. The old pro may want to launch into rough seas while the less experienced paddler would prefer to wait for calmer weather.

On the other hand, paddling in a group is usually safer and can be more fun if everyone gets along well. Having someone around to watch your back both while paddling and while on shore can eliminate a lot of the stress that a solo paddler has to deal with. Having someone else around to help make critical decisions can benefit all paddlers involved by knowing that they are most probably doing the right thing.

Decisions

The string of tens of thousands of individual decisions that a person makes on any solo wilderness trip will determine the success or failure of their adventure. Just one wrong decision can bring the expedition to a halt. Decisions are like the links in a chain. One bad decision, like one weak link, and the chain will fail, usually at the worst possible time.

When you are by yourself, you make every decision by yourself. There is no one around to bounce ideas off, or discuss alternatives. If you make the correct decision, the trip continues forward, with the next decision just minutes or seconds away.

Here are some examples of the type of decisions that have to be made every day while long distance kayaking. The first one has to be made well before any planning starts.

Should I attempt a long kayak trip through a remote wilderness area alone?

Should I try to paddle today, or is the weather too bad?

Is that beach high enough to keep my campsite above tonight's high tide?

Should I stop paddling now, or try to reach that next campsite four hours away?

Is that water safe to drink, or will it make me sick?

Is this campsite safe, even though there are signs of bear activity in the area?

Should I launch before dawn to take advantage of favorable conditions?

Should I try to paddle in bad conditions because my food supply is running low?

Should I take the scenic route or the safe route?

Having to make all your own decisions, with no one else to offer any input, can be a big self-confidence builder or destroyer. If the decision you make turns out to be wrong, it is your fault, and there is no one else to blame but yourself. On the other hand, decisions that turn out to be right are yours alone and you can take full credit.

For more information on Sea Kayaking visit my website at https://sites.google.com/site/seakayakingtheinsidepassage/

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    • Denis Dwyer profile image
      Author

      Denis Dwyer 3 years ago from Metairie, Louisiana

      Neil

      I would say the second day north of Ketchikan in 2014 when I was making a five mile open water crossing and the wind was blowing opposed to the current. This combination produced large waves that were hitting me broadside. I was VERY happy to reach shore while still in my boat.

      Denis

    • profile image

      Neal 3 years ago

      Hi Denis,

      I'm curious: what's been your most terrifying experience when paddling up the Inside Passage?