Rob Casey is the owner of SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle, co-founder for the PSUPA and is the author of two paddling guides.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nautical Term of the Week - Gunkholing

I love the word Gunkholing. Sounds a bit like spelunking. I first came across it after purchasing 'Gunkholing in the San Juan Islands', a classic Pacific Northwest boating guide by Carl Nyberg and Jo Bailey. Now out of print, the couple wrote 3 other guides for our region.  

Definition from Wikipedia...
Gunkholing is a boating term referring to a type of cruising in shallow or shoal water, meandering from place to place, spending the nights in coves. The term refers to the gunk, or mud, typical of the creeks, coves, marshes, sloughs, and rivers that are referred to as gunkholes. While not necessary, gunkholers typically seek out the serenity of isolated anchorages over the crowds of marinas and popular bays, and a minimal draft is preferred, since gunkholers tend to go as far up and into the gunkholes as possible, seeking ever more inaccessible destinations.
Not all boating locales make for good gunkholing. The many inlets, bays, and rivers in places like the San Juan Islands and the Inside Passage can make for ideal gunkholes, as opposed to the relatively inaccessible coastlines of Southern California and Baja. Other locales well-suited to gunkholing include the Intracoastal Waterway, the New York State Canal System, the Chesapeake Bay,[1] the Great Lakes and the many canals and rivers of Ontario.
Carl and Jo used the phrase 'a good gunkhole' to describe an overnight moorage with considerable protection from wind and current.  
One of my favorite gunkholes is Cypress Head on Cypress Island located in the eastern San Juan Islands in Washington State. Others in our region include Mats Mats Bay, Bowman Bay and Cornet Bay.  In the Pacific NW, aside from the Gunkhole book series check out The 2014 Waggoner Cruising Guide.  Marine charts and aerial photos can also help you find protected spots. For paddlers, checking out local Water Trails will be helpful. Water Trails will tell you where to camp especially if you're hoping to keep some distance from boaters.  In WA State, our org is Washington Water Trails, 

Dewatto Bay, a great gunkhole on Hood Canal.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nautical Term of the Week - Clapotis

From Wikipedia - 
In hydrodynamics, the clapotis (from French"lapping of water") is a non-breaking standing wave pattern, caused for example, by the reflection of a traveling surface wave train from a near vertical shoreline like a breakwaterseawall or steep cliff. The resulting clapotic wave does not travel horizontally, but has a fixed pattern of nodes and antinodes. These waves promote erosion at the toe of the wall, and can cause severe damage to shore structures. The term was coined in 1877 by French mathematician and physicist Joseph Valentin Boussinesq who called these waves ‘le clapotis’ meaning ‘standing waves’.

Even More Scientific..
520 Bridge in Seattle.
In the idealized case of "full clapotis" where a purely monotonic incoming wave is completely reflected normal to a solid vertical wall, the standing wave height is twice the height of the incoming waves at a distance of one half wavelength from the wall. In this case, the circular orbits of the water particles in the deep-water wave are converted to purely linear motion, with vertical velocities at the antinodes, and horizontal velocities at the nodes. The standing waves alternately rise and fall in a mirror image pattern, as kinetic energy is converted to potential energy, and vice versa.

Long Story Short - 
Waves hit a wall and bounce back colliding with the incoming waves creating confused waves in all directions. 

How does Clapotis affect paddlers?
The effect creates rough confused water which can be difficult to paddle in but is very good for building your skills in such conditions. Solutions? Use shorter strokes which act as a brace to keep you more stable.  SUPs should in addition keep knees bent to let wave energy pass underneath. 
Advanced paddlers find clapotis fun to paddle in. Scissor waves which are two waves colliding and sending energy upwards has been fun for kayakers for years. The effect can flip or throw a paddler  vertical or even airborne.  

Samples from Seattle's 520 Bridge on Lake Washington - 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Know your Surfing Etiquette

Went surfing yesterday and was surprised by the large volume of folks on the water.  Usually NW surfing in December is a scant bunch of folks willing to brave the 46F water and cold air.  But various factors attributed to the crowd - a bit of sun, the first time in weeks which brought the air temps to a balmy 58 degrees.  This year's ski season is off to a slow start so many who abandon surfing for skiing/snowboarding are still waiting for snow. Then surf forecast sites listed Sunday as a great day to go out. A classic forecast, 12' west swell, 14 seconds. The Seahawks were playing but it was predicted to be an easy win, so folks decided to surf instead or tailgate it in the parking lot.

Everyone knows surfing etiquette, but few take it seriously. At least in my neck of the woods up here in the Pacific Northwest. We rarely have line ups so if they form, many either don't know how to follow the rules or choose not to.

For me, the most important aspects of Surfing Etiquette I use simply are (A.) to not take off on a wave with another at the same time. There's different perspectives on this one.  For example if a bunch of us decide to paddle into a wave at the same time, no worries.  But if the person closest to the foam pile gets it first, the others need to drop off the backside.  If that person doesn't get, then the next down the line gets priority.  If you're out with friends and they are the only ones going for and catching a specific wave then it's ok if they're into it.  I see that all the time.  They know how each person surfs, or calls their direction before dropping in - "I'm going left, you're going right." But if you're going for a wave with strangers and decide to drop in as you would with your friends - think first.  Do you know which way the other person is going? If they have priority but you go anyway, what's the result going to be?

Case in point, a few of us yesterday experienced two SUPs drop in on each other on a steep wave. One went right the other left - but into each other.  A direct collision which surprisingly shocked each person.  It ended well but others around were surprised.  A woman next to me asked "don't they know surfer's etiquette?' Not a good image for SUPs.

A bit earlier one of those involved with that collision decided to drop in on another steep wave directly in front of two surfers paddling out.  Luckily he spotted them just after his take-off and jumped off.  But his board shot forward with the wave and missed the above mentioned women by about two feet. Sketchy.  A friend used to paddle out with me on my side.  If a wave came in he'd swing it around with no warning and paddle for it nearly missing me.  Maybe it's a compulsive trait - the need to get every wave no matter what even though more are coming only a few seconds away.

How to avoid?  Take a look around you before taking off.  Are there surfers on either your left or right wanting to take the same wave?  Are there anyone paddling out from the beach who may be in your path?  If so, can you clear them?  If not, don't go. I see it the same as crossing a busy street.  Do you cross without looking?  Sometimes I've noticed surfers so focused on catching a wave they mentally block out everything around them. And even Eddy may not go.

(B.) Don't jump on a wave which another surfer is already riding.  This happened repeatedly yesterday. I'm the only one taking a specific wave, all's good, then while I'm surfing down the line a surfer paddling out decides to swing it around and catch my wave.  One time it happened in front of me in the direction I was going thus could've be a collision issue. I pulled off the wave to avoid anything.  The other happened behind me.  And behind us were an entire set of waves with no one on them, why not take those?  I think it's a matter of patience - more waves are coming folks!

Learn more about surfing etiquette: (Good pov on not crowding spots).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Don't Get Lost! Location Technology for Paddlers

Around 2004ish, I was on a multi day sea kayaking trip in the Broughton Archipelago north of Vancouver BC with friend Steve Worchester.  On our last day, we woke up to pea soup fog.  Our paddle back to Telegraph Cove would be through a section of many tiny islets and small islands with a few knots of current flowing past. Luckily Steve, a former Air Force F-15 pilot and Alaska Air captain knew what to do. He spread out our marine chart, and using a compass and GPS plotted our route.  Once underway, we hit every islet, rock and island right on the money per Steve's route.

While mariners and paddlers still use those and even simpler techniques for navigation, since then there are technologies developed to make life easier, providing your batteries are fresh.

Marine Traffic - This online site uses boat's AIS data to mark their positions. You can use the site to track shipping if you're planning a crossing. Track ship departure and arrival times and by clicking on the boat symbol, you can get info on the boat itself - what kind, speed, destination, a photo, etc. We use it to track freighters and tugs for surfing near Seattle.  Like anything, it's not always 100% accurate.  So have a backup even it's your own eyes.

Boat Beacon - An app that works with Marine Traffic, Ship Finder and other sites which  allows you to track yourself or have others track you. A great tool for paddling in fog, at night or for loved ones to see how you're doing.

Spot - These nifty devices allow for satellites to track you whether on-water or in the mountains anywhere (or most places) in the world.  You can send regular and emergency messages to friends, mark waypoints etc so folks can track your every move.  The devices are water resistent and float.

Kate Hives Full Sea Kayak Surfing Sequence - See her entire run!

Here's the entire series of Kate Hive's ride from our current Stoke Magazine Facebook page cover shot on the Washington Coast in 2012.

Surfing backwards!

Nice Run Kate!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Layering Options for Winter Paddling

The bummer with a 5/4mm wetsuit is that the shoulders can get really stiff from all that neoprene.  Same goes for wearing several layers of insulation under a dry suit. It's a catch 22, because you need the insulation but then you begin to look and feel like the Michelin Man or an astronaut.

Luckily there are some innovative products which adds insulation but not bulk to important areas such as your shoulders. SeasonFive's Tech Arm Sleeve is just an arm sleeve which can go under your wet or dry suit without chaffing or adding bulk to your shoulder.  The sleeve is windproof and has a touch of insulation so can be added to the exterior as well. I tend to wear out my right elbow on wetsuits so the arm sleeve helps keep water out in that area.

SeasonFive also has a Tech Leg Sleeve as well. You can find the sleeves at REI, surf and SUP shops and some bicycle shops

More Info:

Kate Hives at the 2012 Hobuck Hoedown

Victoria BC paddler Kite Hives getting a bit wet during the 2012 Hobuck Hoedown on the Washington Coast.  Boat: Sterlings Kayaks 'Illusion'.

Paddlers Gift Idea for 12/12

Photographer David Hall has covered the Puget Sound to BC waters beautifully with amazing underwater and semi underwater images showing marine life from sockeye salmon spawning to immense kelp forests.  His use of creative flash is brilliant in lighting many otherwise dark underwater scenes.  Buy the book,

Some of my favorite images..

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recommended Christmas for Paddlers

Someone on your list who's a paddler? Or getting requests for your needs? Here's a few publications I get annually.

Capt'n Jack's Tide & Current Almanac 2014.
This spiral bound guide has been essential in determing when to paddle for tides and currents. I plan my classes around the guide and of course use it for play too, such as determining the right tidal level for freighter wave surfing.  Some prefer online but I like the book format and keep one in the car and one at the office.  The guides are available nationwide but to support my local bookstore, consider purchasing here:

Evergreen Pacific publishes a tide calendar I put on the wall. I use it as my annual office calender and of course to take a quick glance at it for the day's tide levels or to roughly plan a few days ahead. It also lists the sequences of the moon.  The calenders are sold directly through the publisher and are available at most marine stores.  They only do Seattle and one for Port Townsend/San Juan Islands.  If you're not in our area, check to see if there's something available elsewhere.  Check it out here:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Industry Changes...

Technology always creates change and in the last twenty or so years when I've paid attention I've experienced major changes as well.  I got out of college in the late 1980's and began work as a photographer's assistant in Seattle.  Film was still king. By 2005, my stock agencies didn't take film anymore so we all bought digital cameras. A few years later Polaroid went under as digital imaging became commonplace.  Gone were the days of late night film drops, meeting other photogs at the 'Pro Room' of various labs, lab bills, and waiting for our 'roids' to develop in the studio.  Ten or so years later all the photographers I know sit in their home offices staring at the computer while mostly connecting online or via text. The stock photo biz we once thrived on isn't profitable anymore and assignments are few and far between and/or not paying much.  But no worries, I don't miss the lab bills and have always enjoyed the instant digital image thing. Chasing clients down to get paid was getting old anyway.

In other industries, recently NOAA decided to end the printing of marine charts as it's easier for most to find them online, view on our phones, and/or print out at our leisure.  Another company, SeaTrails which made handy waterproofed marine charts for kayakers is apparently gone as well.  The same info can also be found online and many paddlers choose to view charts on their phones while underway.  GPS has changed things where if you're lost, just check your device. No need to pull out a chart and do compass readings unless you're GPS batteries are dead or you're navigating a complicated multi island situation.

From a marketing pov, SeaTrails charts say they're for 'kayakers'. In the world of paddling, people buy only for their specific sport. So if you're a SUP'er, you'll most likely only look for and buy SUP charts, buy SUP magazines, or SUP/surfing booties.  My Kayaking Puget Sound book is a revision of a book by Randel Washburne that has been out for 20 years.  I asked for the new title to be 'Paddling Puget Sound' but that would require selling it all over again to all the stores. They did allow for SUP and canoe pics in the book, so surf/SUP shops feel better about carrying it.  But why buy the book when you can get it on your iPad?

RIP SeaTrails.  I bought a few remaining copies at Seattle's Captain's Nautical Supplies today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

WA AIS Legislation Hits Paddlers Hard in WA State

From Dan Henderson's Cascade PaddleSports Newsletter today:

At $10 per seat in a boat per year, WDFW wants to stop you on the water!

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) is a real threat in Washington State.  It has the potential to foul waterways, clog hydro pipes, fill agriculture irrigation ditches, and sterilize water and kill fish and wildlife. In legislative bill Z-0454.4/13 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) asks for the authority over AIS activities is Washington State. This is the correct department to lead this effort and WDFW should have this important authority.  However, their proposed funding mechanism places the entire burden on recreational boaters - for paddlers, the simple version is that everyone who goes on the water would be required to pay a $10 fee per year. And WDFW would have the authority to stop you while you're out paddling and require you to produce evidence that you paid the fee. I consider this a gross invasion of our privacy and potentially diminish our paddling experience.

Please contact your state legislature and urge them to grant Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife the authority to fight AIS, and urge them to fund this effort from a broad spectrum of the population, particularly the power generation, agriculture and commercial fishing interests that most benefit from this effort, and not on the backs of recreational boaters. Please urge them to resist efforts by WDFW, or any other law enforcement agency, to have the authority to stop paddlers for any reason other than probable cause - observed illegal activity. When we're on the water, we want government to leave us alone.

Here's the link to the bill:

Dan Henderson

Thanks for the heads up Dan!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Problem with Yelp

If you're traveling, or even local, and you're seeking the best coffee houses in a certain neighborhood, you may use Yelp or Trip Advisor to see what others prefer for that listing.  So you type in 'coffee' for let's say my neighborhood in Seattle, 'Ballard'.  Then 47 listings come up.  You begin your search.  The first one to come up is Peet's, which interestingly isn't in Ballard.  Then you notice Peet's listing is in a slightly off colored box and in the upper right corner is 'Yelp Ad'.  The listings below Peet's I've barely heard of. Then the more commonly known coffee houses are listed mid page or below.

If you scroll to the bottom of each listing you'll see in grey letters, "14 other reviews that are not currently recommended"  What's this?  Click on it and you'll notice more reviews no different than those in the main listings.

My business, Salmon Bay Paddle, has 14 'unrecommeded reviews'.  I inquired to Yelp, they said they have a bot that runs through the system looking for untruthful reviews, or those your friends posted.  Problem is, all my 14 filtered reviews are from clients who chose to post on their own without me asking them to. There is one bad one in there, he was nuts anyway.  The only problem with having great lessons and customer service is that to some it may sound too good?  Another shop has mostly bad reviews and their few good ones are too good which interestingly didn't get filtered.

In October a rep from Yelp called me repeatedly to get me to pay for advertising, or rather better ranking for my listing like the Peet's listing/ad.  She didn't answer about the filtered reviews, but I wonder if they release those as well? Anyone know? I turned down the offer since it's impossible to secure regular business in Seattle in winter and Spring despite even the best reviews.  

This summer I had a student who was in Seattle from Alberta, Canada. She mentioned she knew how to read Yelp reviews, and in doing so knew to look for and read the 'not currently recommended' reviews.  Whew!  That's a relief that some travelers are aware of the problem.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guerilla Camping Tips for Trips

Here's a great article about guerilla camping or rather not paying for lodging while on an expedition.  The piece is from bicyclist Tom Allen who paddled from the UK to Turkey and has a great blog about his trip and lessons learned.