Kayak Elba – Your Next Destination?

by Nancy Soares on November 23, 2015

By Barbara Kossy

Editor’s Note: Barbara Kossy has been kayaking the Mediterranean since 1996. She has been to Elba a number of times and it’s one of her favorite kayak destinations.

Find the end of your rainbow in Elba!

Find the end of your rainbow in Elba!

I set up my life so I could travel, and when I travel to paddle I kayak in Italy, paddling the Island of Elba since 1996.

Barbara in Elba, 2006

Barbara in Elba, 2006

Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy. It is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It is also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park. Elba has a total population of around 30,000, which increases considerably in summer. It is the largest remaining stretch of land from the ancient tract that once connected the Italian peninsula to Corsica.

They have caves!

They have caves!

The north coast faces the Ligurian Sea, the east coast the Piombino Channel, the south coast the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Corsica Channel divides the western tip of the island from neighboring Corsica. Elba has warm temperatures during the months from May to September, from the mid 60’s to the low 80’s.

 think I could be exiled to Elba for 300 days...

I think I could be exiled to Elba for 300 days…

One of the best known facts about Elba is that it was used as the “prison” for French Emperor Napoleon I. Following the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon was exiled there after his forced abdication in 1814. He remained on the island for 300 days, guarded by the British Royal Navy.

Adventure beckons the kayaker in Elba

Adventure beckons the kayaker in Elba

In September I stepped from the stout metal of the ferry to the cement of the dock and Harriet and Gaudenzio stood smiling and waving, the late afternoon sun lighting them from behind, white shirts fluttering in the breeze, sunglasses glinting. I’d known Harriet since 1980 in Berkeley and Gau since 1996.

Gaudenzio Cotelli 1997

Gaudenzio Cotelli, 1997

The sea air smelled warm and sunny. Terra cotta roofs, and dark asphalt heat the shimmering blue sky.

Terra cotta roofs...

Terra cotta roofs…

Then Sea Kayak Italy had been named Sea Kayak Adventures. It was a group of avid kayakers starting Italy’s first kayak touring company and school.
During that first visit they asked me if I could bring American kayakers to Italy, to Elba Island, to kayak with them. Yes, of course I can.  At least I can try because at that time Italy was known for food and art and architecture, not as a kayak destination.

Barbara has been bringing kayakers to Elba for years

Barbara has been bringing kayakers to Elba for years

The kayaks were there, lined up on the beach. I chose my familiar favorite the 516 by Sea Kayak Design. On our second day the winds were coming up. We did a bit of skill building in the marina. Learning to scull and roll with the Greenland paddles.

Skill building with competent instructors

Skill building with competent instructors

To stretch out a bit a few of us paddled the length of the harbor. Just below the red brick Pisan watch tower were a few red and blue painted fishing boats docked by the rough cement boat ramp. It was here we landed after my first Elba paddle in 1996. My first view of Marciana Marina had been by sea. The ramp, the fishing boats. And the watchtower. The church bells ringing at noon. Intoxicating. Addicting.

Kayaks for your pleasure at Marciana Marina

Kayaks for your pleasure at Marciana Marina

Here’s the webcam for a view of the Marciana Marina harbor from the Marinella Hotel:

Marciana Marina complete with crenellated battlements

Marciana Marina complete with battlements

In June I’ll be returning to kayak and explore the north east and northwest coastal areas. You can join me. See www.barbarakossy.com for more information.

Questions? Comments? Want to set up a trip? Contact Barbara at the web address above!

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Sea Kayakers, We Are “Seekers of the Horizon”

by Nancy Soares on November 2, 2015

Editor’s note: Will Nordby, the author of Seekers of the Horizon, began sea kayaking in 1971. He has written for Oceans, Explore, Canoe, Sea Kayaker, River Runner, Small Boat Journal, and Ocean Sports International. He was also the originator of the Sea Trek Paddle Float, a sea kayaking self-rescue device. He worked for KRON-TV in San Francisco as a videotape editor and cameraman and he served as the safety chairman for the Bay Area Sea Kayakers Club (BASK). He died on July 9, 2014.

Will Nordby at Telegraph Cove

Will Nordby at Telegraph Cove

I’ve been catching up on my reading lately, and what a great book! Every sea kayaker will love it – why wouldn’t you? Editor Will Nordby compiled ten stories by ten sea kayakers and added a story of his own, and they are fabulous. Why fabulous? I looked up the word to see why I was moved to use it to describe Nordby’s book. It’s from the Latin fabulosus, “celebrated in fable”. That certainly describes the adventures in this book. But it can also mean legendary, or exceedingly great. These kayakers’ experiences definitely qualify. This is the stuff of legend.

This is actually the second time I read Seekers of the Horizon. I remembered thinking it was a super fun read and wanted to share it with readers, so I read it again. Maybe too I’m thinking a little about Will because he died recently and he was an important part of the Tsunami Ranger video editing team. Without Will, many of our videos may never have seen the light of day.

In Seekers of the Horizon there are excerpts from other sea kayaking books, such as Paul Kaufmann’s Paddling the Gate, a lyrical description of paddling in the San Francisco Bay and out the Golden Gate bridge. Paul was one of the first. Also, Hannes Lindemann’s “An Impossible Voyage” is from his book Alone at Sea, in which he describes his crossing from the Canaries to the Virgin Islands. Wow! If you want to know what it’s like out in the middle of the Atlantic in a folding kayak in an epic storm that lasts for days, you’ve got to read that one.

What’s so good about this book is the variety. A circumnavigation of Iceland by John Bauman, a quickie expedition to the Molokai cliffs by Audrey Sutherland that turns gnarly, and the rounding of Cape Horn by Frank Goodman are just some of the cool adventures you get to experience through the eyes of the authors. I also really enjoyed reading about Susan Meredith’s introduction to sea kayaking as a result of her two years aboard the health-ship Hygeine which brought medical care to coastal villages in Alaska.

Here are two of the vicarious adventures you get to experience: John Bauman visits Surtsey, an island in the Westmann archipelago, which erupted from the sea in 1963 and is now a unique laboratory for geologists and biologists. Will Nordby visits Glacier Bay, where inclement weather and the presence of tourist boats triggers a psychological study: imagining the tourists being warm and drinking coffee versus welcoming the challenge of the environment because of its testing of Will’s commitment to the trip and his self-discovery.

Along the way you get to be inside of these people’s heads – why do they do what they do? They ask themselves that same question, and so often it boils down to “What the fuck am I doing out here?” I’m sure we can all relate. They all answer that question differently. For example, Chris Duff writes that he came to kayaking from a “point of need rather than recreational desire”. Oppressed by his successful yet stressful military career he sought and found a life of deeper meaning and value  in an 8,000 mile solo journey from the Hudson River to Florida and back up the Mississippi to the Illinois, the Great Lakes, and back down the Eastern seaboard to New York which took him a year and a half. That’s a long way to go to get away but it’s worth it for he rekindles his life: “The changes in me, and the experiences I had encountered were too awesome to comprehend. I was very different from the individual who had left that promising military career not so very long ago.”

“Why am I here?” muses Greg Blanchette as he begins his paddle around Hawaii. He points out that offshore paddling is very different from inshore paddling, with all the activity of waves and rock gardens, the “ready-made entertainment…the continuous procession of things to watch”. It’s on those long slogs that one can find philosophizing a useful time filler: ” ‘Why do I exist?’ ‘What is the purpose of the cosmos?’… My inquiries are conducted in a wondering, as opposed to analytical, frame of mind. My brain is off the hook – not actively searching for answers but considering them one by one as they percolate up through my consciousness.”  Eric used to call this “deep philosophizing”, and he meant it both seriously and ironically. Is it really deep? Yes and no. When you put your brain on autopilot you allow all the random thoughts about life and the universe to well up from your mind and I think it’s a little like emptying the recycle bin on the laptop. It’s a form of cleaning out your mental closets, and you never know what treasure you might find. In fact, I’ve heard that all knowledge is actually within each one of us but it’s only available when you can deconstruct your mind by giving it space and time to open.

It was also fascinating to read about Hannes Lindemann’s preparation for his crossing of the Atlantic, how he relied heavily on prayer. Prayer had a profound influence in Lindemann’s life and on his kayaking: “My first step was prayer, the invisible weapon of man, which brings him healing power and relaxation, recovery and renewed energy. True prayer penetrates the unconscious, bringing peace to the individual and thereby helping him to overcome disturbing traits in his character. Without self-mastery, achieved through prayer, and through concentration, I knew my voyage would fail.” That’s one of the most interesting and useful descriptions of prayer I have ever encountered. He also utilized a system of self-hypnosis called autogenic training to allow him to survive on very little sleep without compromising his physical and emotional strength.

Frank Goodman offers seven vignettes of sea kayaking, which give the reader a beautiful menu of some of the many different ways one can experience paddling: working with troubled youth; a sweet, fun little picnic on a local river; a meditation on courage when someone bags out of a trip due to fear; not to mention the epic paddle around the Horn. And in Larry Rice’s Rocks, Ice, and White Whales you get to follow his and Judy’s discovery of the Thule people on Baffin Island, predecessors of the modern Inuit. Looking at a grave site and peering through a chink in a grave they see a section of skull with braided golden hair, giving rise to speculation about blonde-haired Vikings discovering a country west of Greenland long ago.

Speaking of long ago, one of the nice things about this book is that the authors are all pioneers of sorts. Paul Kaufmann, Will Norby, Audrey Sutherland, Christopher Cunningham, and Frank Goodman were kayaking in the 60’s and ’70’s. Susan Meredith was born in 1918 and started kayaking in the ’40’s. Hannes Lindemann made his legendary Atlantic crossings (yes he did two, one in a dugout canoe) in the ’50’s. All of these journeys took place at a time that may seem like ancient history to today’s kayakers. But this is our history, the history of modern kayaking. This is where we came from. Everything we do rests on the backs of these people and others like them who broke new kayaking ground with their dreams, their plans, and their adventures. These are our ancestors, and they did some really cool stuff.

You can buy Seekers of the Horizon on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Seekers-Horizon-Kayaking-Voyages-Around/dp/0871066343/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1446056377&sr=1-3&keywords=seekers+of+the+horizon

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Rangers’ Retreat – 30 Years On

October 12, 2015

Share By: Captain Jim Kakuk and Dandy Don Kiesling FIRST RETREAT In 1985 Eric and I were on our way to the Port Townsend Sea Kayaking Symposium to do our first presentation, ‘Ocean Survival Swimming‘. On the way we stopped in Southern Oregon at Boardman State Park, and went on a mini expedition to explore […]

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Spring Waters 2015 – A Sea Kayak in the Desert

September 21, 2015

ShareEditor’s note: Thanks to Rebekah Kakuk and Robert Kendall for being my travel buddies and helping with the photos. Sometimes we deviate from sea kayaking and wander into the desert. As Tsunami Ranger Capt. Jim Kakuk heads off to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada and the smoke from thousands of acres […]

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A Paddler’s Journey by Bryant Burkhardt – Review

August 31, 2015

ShareAn adventure is an outing where the outcome is uncertain. – Bryant Burkhardt This book does not disappoint. Bryant has done it all, from dodging icebergs in Alaska and exploring the Channel Islands to creeking in L.A. and captaining the U.S. National Kayak Polo Team. His kayaking resume is truly amazing. It’s a testament to […]

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Kayak Fitness – Core Strength and Stability

August 3, 2015

ShareEditor’s note: Thanks to Robert Kendall for the photos and Medford Judo Academy for sharing the mat. Core stability is crucial to kayaking. We use our core muscles to stay upright in the boat, to flex forward when surfing, to keep our backs pain-free during extended time in the cockpit, and perhaps most importantly, to […]

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Tsunami Rangers Go Inflatable

July 13, 2015

Shareby Tsunami Ranger Commander Michael Powers Editor’s note: Thanks to photographers Rob Cala and Dave Norket, as well as our own Michael Powers, for the photos! TRs Steve “El Rey” King and Tim Sullivan breaking the wave barrier On a day with moderate winter surf conditions, three of the senior Rangers – Steven King, Tim […]

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Reef Madness 2015 – The Madness Continues!

June 22, 2015

Shareby Tsunami Ranger Commander Michael Powers Editor’s note: Thanks to TRs Michael Powers and Jim Kakuk for the great photos! Winter storms pretty much destroyed our beloved kayak ramp and access to Miramar Beach out front – so for a while a race this year seemed impossible… But by popular demand, the ramp was rebuilt […]

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Ocean Survival Swimming – Part 4

April 20, 2015

ShareEditor’s note: Well, we’re back to subject of ocean swimming. This is the final part of our four part series on Ocean Survival Swimming. Eric wrote this a long time ago (witness the references to the “common” practice of paddling solo and also to buoyancy compensators) but he never deviated from his opinions on this […]

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Opportunities Open Whenever You’re Ready -Kayak Touring the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia

March 16, 2015

Shareby Joanne and Doug Schwartz Editor’s note: Always understanding kayaking as a place to be and a way to go, not a transport from here to there, Joanne and her husband Doug have paddled since the mid-1980’s and are still exploring the world, sometimes by kayak. They paddled with Eric, Jim and the Rangers a […]

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