My first ever sea kayak trip

June 12, 2006

Saturday 5 November 2005

I organised a day trip with 3 friends with a tour group in Onagawa (literally translated as Ladyriver) in Miyagi prefecture. The group that provides tours is called earthquest and you can see their website here . Earthquest is a husband and wife team who provide training, tours and even a kayak shop. They are based in Onagawa but also provide tours in other places including my home town of Matsushima. They speak very good English and instruction for us beginners was in English.

I arrived not really knowing what to expect but very expectant. I had been thinking about buying a sea kayak and had been to many shops. At one I found a leaflet on this tour company and decided to try before I bought.

Prior to the day I had been checking the weather and tides and the worrying prediction of 7m/s winds meant we might not get far. On the day however the weather was beautiful and sunny with light winds, so far so good.

We were supplied with a boat, wet suit, spray deck and paddle. After some very basic instruction – getting in, holding the paddle, emergency things, we headed out past the breakwaters hugging the coast. The water was very blue and very clear – one the great attractions of this area – and looked very tempting for a swim. But it was cold maybe 14 or 15degrees C.

On the tour were two other Japanese men, the husband and wife tour operators and another kayaker who was 'assisting'. The two Japanese men were planning to buy sea kayaks and were here for practice and instruction.
After paddling for only 45 minutes we stopped at a beach 'for a rest'. After standing around for 15 minutes we got back in and headed further along the coast. At the time I found this quite strange but 20 minutes later we were informed by the tour that we wouldn't be going any further because the winds were picking up and they were worried that we might end up stranded in open water. I think the reasons were our group's level was quite low. I had done some lake kayaking as a teenager and been on two school canoe trips to the white water Ardeche river in southern France. While these were 15 years ago I felt like I would be okay. For a couple of others this was their first time on the water. Hence I think the tour was being very cautious.

We paddled back to the breakwater for lunch. And one of our group, the Japanese man who was planning to get his own kayak, capsized. I didn't sea the capsize (maybe deliberate) but I watched him perform a self rescue following the instructions of the tour leader. He righted the kayak then climbed on the kayak from the rear, bellied along the kayak from the rear then rolled into the cockpit. I don't recall if there was any assistance but it looked relatively easy.

After lunch we paddled along the other side of the inlet staying within 30m of shore. The wind had picked up and I had to deploy the rudder to stop my kayak weather cocking (although I didn't know this was the name for this 'turning into the wind' at the time). I didn't like the rudder although it was a great help and hence resolved that I would not get one. However my experience with this weather cocking made me feel that a skeg might be an option.

We took some photos on the clear water, enjoyed getting rocked by the wake from passing fishing boats and had a few races with each other. We also saw the salmon 'running' on a small river. We paddled up the concreted river mouth (unfortunately Japan has concreted much of its coastline and rivers ) where hundreds of huge salmon were right below our boats, resting before jumping the artificial weir ahead. I resisted the urge to do some 'tickling' (that ones for Neil) and eat one sashimied on the boat!

The day was beautiful with blue skies and warm sunshine and the water clear and beautiful but I was disappointed with my first sea kayaking experience. In total we were on the water for only 3 hours. We didn't get further than 50m from shore or 1km from our starting point. I also didn't like going with a group – waiting or following didn't seem that cool. . .

Here is a map of our planned destination: 出島

 

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One Response to “My first ever sea kayak trip”


  1. […] When the tsunami hit Onagawa (link), Japan, almost 22 hours after the quake, the wave height was 3 m above high tide. In Matsushima the tsunami washed up the Takagi River and totally inundated the area where I live – near Matsushima Station on the Tohoku train line. This area is very low lying, perhaps less than 1m above sea level and at the time was mostly covered in rice fields. It sounded from Miura-san’s description to be more like a huge swell than a very powerful and destructive tsunami although this may be the result of the islands that afford Matsushima town some protection. You can see the map of the bay here. […]


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