Observations of a Southern Kayaker in the Northern Latitudes
The physical and emotional transition from living and sea-kayaking in a sub-tropical climate (the southwest coast of Florida) to the waters and winters of Southern Ontario was and continues to be a difficult one. Potentially the sea kayaking wasn’t so hard after all since the Inuit do it at a much higher Northern latitude. With this in mind and the help of modern equipment, I knew I could make the transition from kayaking in the south to the north.
One of the big differences I found was the terrain for launching and landing. In southwest Florida you can launch a kayak and land on almost any beach (the Gulf of Mexico has typically calm turquoise waters with very little wind and waves). In fact, I have found myself on pristine white beaches with no other traveler or boat for miles around (locating camping spots from Cape Romano down to Flamingo without any problems).
Another one of the big differences I found was the water itself. When I first moved to Canada I spent some time sea kayaking in Georgian Bay – talk about clean water and certainly no need for detergents, soap or washing machines in fact, I could have everything hung up to dry in 15 minutes including the kayak. However, in the south the water is obviously much different since you have to deal with salt and its harshness on you and your equipment. Every time I kayaked it would take an hour and a half of cleaning myself, the boat and the equipment (and not necessarily in that order).
Over the years I’ve noted some personal comparisons:
-In the North the water is always cold to me so I dress for it year round. I always have a full kit of extra clothing from socks to the hat on the top of my head (located in a secure hatch inside a dry bag even if it is a local hour long trip). [Note: year round I always carry a wet suit or dry suit.]
-In the South it is usually very sunny and hot and the water is quite warm so I don’t paddle without sunblock, a wide brimmed hat and long sleeved shirts. I always carry water on me not just in the kayak. In this kind of climate drinking water is right up there with wearing a PFD (you can float and survive days in the Gulf of Mexico but you can’t drink it)
Now here’s a few simple sayings I use to keep myself in check:
- When at sea no fewer than 3 (for example if I were to cross LakeOntario I would want 3 boats at minimum)
- PFD use it or lose it (your life that is)
- Plan, prepare, paddle – self explanatory
- Wind and waves (dictate to go or no go)
- In reference to the water in Florida – when you’re drinking water isdone so is your fun
- In reference to the water in Canada – it’s not what’s in the water that can kill you IT IS THE WATER
I feel very fortunate to sea kayak and live in both countries. Around March I usually try to go back home and do some sea kayaking since it’s typically not too hot at that time of year and the weather patterns are good.
By David Stumbo