Moseying Down The Coast – Sea Kayaking In The Slow Lane

by Nancy Soares on April 16, 2012

“Tuning in to the Beauty and Magic of Sea and Land”
by Steve King

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Tsunami Rangers’ annual retreats or any quest (see #9 in Eric’s previous post “10 Commandments of Sea Kayaking”) is meandering along the coasts of Northern California, Oregon, Washington or anywhere. One cannot truly explore, discover, or smell, taste and touch the beauty of the sea and land interface in any other way. Hiking can be a part of the process but you need to be on the water in kayaks to fully “grok” the gorgeousness of our Western coastal environment. We hope the photos in this article will communicate some of the wonders of moseying down the coast.

Salvador Beach - A Great Place to Mosey

Salvador Beach - A Great Place to Mosey

Many of us today are wired into data, driving or paddling with GPS and personal mobile devices that enable us to know where we are, where we are going, how to get there, when we will arrive and what to expect along the way.  In many ways we are missing the essence of the journey. As Tsunami Ranger Dave Whalen has said, “If you are only paddling to get from point A to B you can totally miss the C!”

Moseying Through a Kelp Garden

Moseying Through a Kelp Garden

In fact there is book called “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”, which helps guide people toward the Zen of moseying down the coast or wandering in a forest, desert or any natural environment.  When we slow down on the water we see the subtle changes in the rocks and landscape; when we stop paddling and observe the seascape, we see the way clouds drift, how cormorants dive, and we can sense where abalone may be and how the sea ebbs and flows through the rock gardens. When we hang out for a while and surf a nice set of waves we become part of the tapestry or fabric of that spot.

Pausing to Harvest Some Abs

Pausing to Harvest Some Abs

Moseying means not really thinking about the destination. Sure if the sky starts to darken and the air begins to feel and smell like rain it may be time to look for a suitable place to camp. Or maybe not.  Letting your curiosity lead you to seal land on a small island may reveal a place like Dreamer Island.  Slipping into a sea cave can reveal sounds, sights and smells that occur only in that place, at that tide in that season at that moment.

Moseying Into a Sea Cave

Moseying Into a Sea Cave

Opening up to this way of paddling provided me with one of my peak experiences on the water. On a Tsunami retreat to the magical realm of the Olympic National Peninsula, I was a meandering straggler, arriving at the campsite beach with Jim Kakuk, Captain of the Tsunami Rangers, well after our fellow Rangers had already selected the cherry sites. As we were standing on the beach still in our gear (but boats mostly unloaded), we looked out to sea and saw two young grey whales surfacing close to shore. We both quickly hauled our kayaks over the kelp and exposed rocks and paddled out. We joined these young whales for a few minutes gliding alongside them at a respectful distance. If we had made a point to get to the campsite sooner we would have missed the chance to commune with these magical marine mammals. Moseying paid off.

Stellar Sea Lions off Cape Flattery, WA

Stellar Sea Lions off Cape Flattery, WA

On another trip we all decided to wander on foot for the day along the forests and cliffs of the exposed coast. After several hours of hiking we headed down a trail toward a secluded cove. Just as we started down the last pitch to the rocky beach a large black otter, 10 yards down the trail, looked up at us and trotted down the trail ahead of us into the cove. One of us took that as a totem name, Black Otter, later in the trip.

Tsunami Ranger Steve King Moseys the Oregon Coast by Land

Tsunami Ranger Steve King Moseys the Oregon Coast by Land

Moseying down the coast is a metaphor for life. To be in tune and in love with a partner we often need to open up to their subtle energy, whether stormy, lazy or mysterious, just like the sea. To channel our creativity into any process, work, design or collaborative project we can tap the same state of mind.

The Tsunami Rangers Play in a Rock Garden

The Tsunami Rangers Play in a Rock Garden

To mosey is not to become oblivious to the reality of kayaking on the exposed open coast, but rather to be deeply present and aware by not always following the map, the plan or the objective.  Sharing this way of being on the water is one of the elixirs, the absinthe of the Tsunami tribe but can be part of any sea kayaking journey by anyone, anytime.

Moseying down the coast is of course not unique to the Tsunami Rangers. Most ocean kayakers have had a unique, spontaneous experience of their own when they slowed down. Share your magical moseying moments below.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Becklund April 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

Well said El Rey! One of my favorite paddles that comes to mind was our paddle down the Sonoma Coast on my 50th. Four close friend with no time constraints (read, no watches) phones or electronic clutter. The day was spent exploring ,diving , BBQing and. napping.
As life gets more and more full with busy noise those days and moments are true gems.

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Bill Vonnegut April 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

What a great article!
Though I don’t get out on many multi day trips. This style of paddling is what I love the most about kayaking. Just heading along the coast and poking into every little (C!) along the way. And if I come across a fun spot I can just sit and play around there for long while.

You brought up electronics and that reminds me of a personal debate I have with the SPOT system. I have thought sometimes that it would be a good idea to have something like this while playing in coastal rocks or paddling alone. And while I never leave home without my radio, to me this extra satellite safety step would take away from some of the adventure of coastal paddling. So personally I have chose not to head this far into electronic safety. But am curious as to what others think about this.

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Nancy Soares April 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Glad you enjoyed the article, Bill. Re SPOT – check out the article titled “Gizmos and Gadgets” under “Sea Kayaking Equipment” in the sidebar. There is some comment regarding that technology.

My personal take on the subject of electronic gadgets, and I know Eric would agree with me, is that people have been on the water successfully for millenia without all that crap and what makes us less capable than they? We kayak to get away from civilization, not to bring it with us. If anything, I’d bet more people get into trouble nowadays that they tend to rely on their technology instead of skill and common sense. (More on that in the “Gizmos” article.) Plus, technology has a tendency to fail when you most need it. I was recently alone in a remote desert area, and guess what? My cell phone didn’t work for 5 days. It made me more cautious about what I was doing and I paid real close attention to my surrounding environment.

I also remember backpacking with Eric back in the 70’s. We had topo maps, but we never used a compass. We just paid attention to where we were and where we were going, talked it over, and found our way cross country. Of course, that’s the whole idea of a team, or at least a buddy, probably the most important piece of “equipment” you can bring on a trip. Plus sharing the experience with like-minded people is generally more fun.

Actually, I think going without technology can enhance our experience of the wild and hone our inherent abilities as survivors and pathfinders. However, I know there are many arguments on both sides of this issue. For moseying, I don’t see the point of a lot of gizmos. But for Antarctic expeditions and crossings where you’re out of sight of land, sure.

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John Lull April 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Nice article, Steve! Moseying is by far and away my favorite type of sea kayaking. This is what it’s all about. Exploring and checking out every nook and cranny along a coastline.

Every Tsunami Ranger trip I’ve been on has been heavily focused on moseying, but I also have fond memories of a multi-day kayaking trip many years ago with my wife, June, Penny Wells, and a few other friends up on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We were paddling along the north side of the Brooks Peninsula, which is a very wild and beautiful place. We spent 7 or 8 days, camping and exploring about 30 miles (at most) of coastline. We’d camp for 3 or 4 nights in one place, then day paddle into every cove and rock garden in the area.

Then one evening, just before sunset, a group of four paddlers landed on the beach near our camp. As they set up camp, we talked to them and found out they were on a marathon paddle all the way down the west coast of Vancouver Island. That day they had traveled about 25 miles, in a straight line half a mile offshore. They were exhausted, but the next morning they were up at the break of day, loading their kayaks in preparation for another 20+ mile day at sea. Meanwhile, we took off for a short meander along the coast and then out to Solander Island. On our way, as we explored a beautiful semi-hidden cove in the rocks, I looked out and there was the other group paddling full-bore well offshore. I remember thinking at the time how much more we were seeing in our close-to-shore exploration, and how much they were missing. I’m very sure they had a fantastic and memorable trip, and they covered many more miles than we did. But we saw a lot more.

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Nancy Soares April 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Love your story, John. It just goes to show how people view sea kayaking differently. And that’s a good thing, otherwise the pocket beaches would be clogged with campers and the rock gardens would suffer from traffic jams. As for me, the very word marathon, whether applied to kayaking, running, biking, or any other sport, makes me cringe. I’m just a lollygagger at heart:)

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John Lull April 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Yeah, to be fair, they didn’t call it a marathon, but that’s what I’d call it. One of them told me he wished they had more time to spend along the way, but they were very goal-oriented. They planned a 150-mile trip (or whatever it was) for a given time span, from point A to point B and that was it. They looked really tired to me, and needless to say they weren’t sitting around the campfire at night with a bottle of brandy or anything like that!

Each to their own, and I agree with you. I’m glad everyone doesn’t want to mosey in the rock gardens. That’s started to happen in the calmest and most accessible areas of Mendocino, and on summer weekends I think it might resemble a kayak traffic jam.

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Anne Demma April 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Great article and photos! I also enjoyed reading the comments! I agrre that the buddy system is the most important piece of safety equipment in seakayaming and many outdoors sports. I always paddle with at least one friend. Your equipment can fail, you can feel sick, you can be knocked inconcious by hitting something; but if you paddle with friends, they will help you out! If you have time, meandering is the time, but sometimes you do need to go from point a to b in a crossing or because conditions deteroriate. Although even during crossings, there can be magic and I remember feing so happy and in awe of the moment when dolphins were swimming in front and under my kayak during a crossing of the shipping channels on the way to Anacapa island! It is not about the destination, but about the journey! One of my favorite thing about kayaking is that they are many ways to enjoy the sport: expeditions, day trips, surfing, racing, for fitness, with sails, paddling in singles or doubles, with kids, family or friends! There is something for everyone: either distance driven or nook exploring driven!

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Anne Demma April 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Sorry for the misspellings in previous comments, but I am typing from my iPhone while watching one of my girls and trying to put her to sleep! Story time now… maybe it will be a story about the sea!

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Rainer Lang April 17, 2012 at 12:14 am

I’ve always enjoyed this quote:
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Meandering, going with the flow, and exploring are the most enjoyable approaches.

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Nancy Soares April 17, 2012 at 7:10 am

Love your quote, Rainer! Lao Tzu is one of my faves. That one is going up on the fridge – it’s a good guideline for me right now:)

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Cindy Scherrer April 18, 2012 at 10:41 am

another fun quote –
“the use of travel is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” Samuel Johnson

Speaking of moseying – we were sitting at camp on a primitive island at the mouth of the Columbia River when Mr. Coyote went strolling by about 10 feet in front of us. I believe he didn’t know we were there but was intent on seeing what had washed up from high tide. It’s equally fun to observe the moseying of wild creatures!

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Nancy Soares April 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

Thanks, Cindy! Samuel Johnson is always good for a pithy comment. Love your story about the coyote too. I know many American Indians think of him as a trickster, but I always think of him as a good omen as well. And it’s true you generally have to be still to be able to observe wild animals going about their business.

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Moulton Avery May 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm

A great & thought-provoking essay, Steve, and it really spoke to me. In my normal haunts, I find it exceptionally difficult to find and sustain a quiet state of mind; too many noisy things clamoring for attention inside my own head.

Moseying along in the wild, however, I find my senses heightened and my mind clear and open to each passing moment; out there, it’s not a struggle, it’s effortless and smooth as silk.

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