first sea kayak trip advice

Questions about water transportation and fishing on the island.

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first sea kayak trip advice

Post by chad9477 » Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:16 am

hi everyone, first post. been lurking off and on for the better part of two yrs while i've considered IR as a sea kayaking destination but up till now it's been too remote a possibility to dive into researching it in detail. just learned there's an outside chance i could swing it in august/early september so wanted to spend the next few weeks productively.

a bit about me: occasional deep woods solo tripper. cut my teeth years ago in the apostle islands and gained a healthy respect for how superior can turn with little warning. dug the north ever since, paddling a 17' prijon seayak. i've mostly done quebec, incl. two complete circuits of manicouagan crater.

this trip i may be able to manage two weeks total, so i'm studying ferry schedules and reading trip reports ... gotten some idea of the logistics, the rough paddle distances, the parts of the coast where there's fewer landing options available, etc. hope you won't mind answering a few q's as i'm trying to figure out how realistic three rough ideas would be: whole island, half island, or a section.

-once i factor in travel (from maryland, 17-20 hrs drive on each end) i've got probably 9 days to spend on the water, give or take, depending on road & ferry hiccups. so after factoring in weather delays, would 9 days be too tight to attempt a circumnavigation of the island? if i wanted to consider that, how many days would i realistically want? (not an olympic athlete or anything but i'm a fairly strong paddler)

-if it's unreasonable to go all the way around, i'm thinking it might be fun to start at one end and finish at the other (windigo <-> rock harbor) while leaving and returning from the same mainland port. has anyone done this sort of half-island trip and got advice for a good logistical approach? how dependable are the ferry (esp. voyager 2) schedules? i see from other trip reports there are stretches without good landing options on both sides (huginnin - little todd; malone - caribou exc. chippewa harbor), and i've also seen people saying the prevailing winds tend to blow differently at different times of the year, so trying to factor these in.

-maybe should i blow off this whole half-island thinking and instead do rock harbor, up and around to the northeast section, and back? or some other section? (tbh i'd prefer to portage as little as possible, even avoid it altogether)

-how easy is it to find space at the waterside campsites? are they big open sites, or sectioned off into one-tent sites like in the apostles, etc? it'll just be me in my one-man, but how likely is it i'll roll into a designated campground and find the spots all taken?

...ok i'll stop unloading on you kind folks :) but p.s., if anyone has advice on vhf radios/small barometers, i'm all ears.


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Re: first sea kayak trip advice

Post by treeplanter » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:53 pm

I’ve been kayaking Isle Royale since 1990, all in a Klepper double and single. I’ve kayaked with my kayak buddies back in the 1990’s, and mostly alone the past several years. Over the years, I’ve probably kayaked around 60% of the island’s coast.

Personally, I prefer to dawdle while I paddle. I’m in no hurry to go from point A to point B. And once I’m at point B, I usually spend a few days at the campsite exploring, both kayaking and hiking.

I won’t even try to give you any advice on what parts of the island to explore or how long to say there. We had big plans of kayaking from Rock Harbor to Siskiwit Bay one year, but we got as far as Malone Bay, fell in love with the place, and spent the majority of our time there. Another year we spent a few days at Duncan Bay when our original plan was to paddle to McCargoe Cove.

Most campgrounds on Lake Superior have shelters and one or two campsites. While they’re usually clustered in one location, you do have privacy. I’ve never had any problems finding an open shelter or campsite on any of the Lake Superior campgrounds, but the closer you are to Rock Harbor, the greater the chance that the campgrounds will be full.

Do remember to factor in poor weather days. A constant rain or unfavorable winds will guarantee to change your plans. And do respect Lake Superior. There are stretches of the coastline from Malone to Saginaw Point that can only be described as hostile to paddlers. Solid bedrock with no place to put in, if you have to. We were forced to delay our trip back to Rock Harbor from Chippewa Harbor one year because of strong SW winds.

But, IR is a great place to paddle. Enjoy your trip.

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Re: first sea kayak trip advice

Post by Midwest Ed » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:27 am

chad9477 wrote:
Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:16 am
p.s., if anyone has advice on vhf radios/small barometers, i'm all ears.
There is a thread here devoted to marine handheld transceivers. It is a bit old but most of the information is still valid. I purchased a Standard Horizon HX300. It seemed a decent compromise between features important to me (5 watt output, weather channels, "waterproof", floating with water activated light, adapter available to operate on AA batteries) and price. Standard Horizon always runs an annual rebate and this year it ends July 31st.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013

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Re: first sea kayak trip advice

Post by RockRiver » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:39 am

It depends on how skilled and strong a paddler you are and how much of the island you actually want to see as opposed to just being able to say that you have circumnavigated IR. We don't like to do more than 20 miles or so in a day. We like to explore the coast, not just paddle by it. In our trip report from May 2016 we went 100 miles paddled per the gps. Farthest on the north side was Birch Island and on the south side we got as far as Chippewa Harbor. I doubt that many of the people who circumnavigate IR have actually been in Conglomerate Bay. We think that CB is some of the best scenery on the island, yet most will just paddle by it. I spent quite a bit of time planning a circumnavigation this winter and decided that I wanted at least 10 days and would probably try to have 12 for the trip. You can easily paddle around the island in six or seven days if the weather is just right and the winds aren't against you, but how much that you would actually see of the island, I'm not sure. Even after three trips to the NE part of IR, there is so much to see that I would have no problem using up unused weather days (eg a trip to Passage Island) waiting for the ferry ride back. The Prijon Seayak is a pretty good choice of boats as it has high volume for gear, good seakeeping ability and poly as many landings on IR are on rocks.

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Re: first sea kayak trip advice

Post by RockRiver » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:02 am

I have an Icom M-73 VHF and it has worked out well. Securite calls in the fog, especially in Rock Harbor are a great idea. My impression of most power boats is that they operate at full throttle even in the fog. My garmin gps has a barometer which while good, is not too useful on the water as I generally have the gps on the map or trip computer pages. My Suunto Core wristwatch has a graphing barometer view with time also visible. It has an audible alert if there is a big pressure change. I like it a lot. Atmospherics and terrain can make the weather radio reports reception vary a lot. I have found that the Isle Royale recreational forecast from the Marquette NOAA weather station to be the most useful. You can also get Copper Harbor , Grand Marais MN, and Thunder Bat Ont. NOAA marine forecasts in this area are at the top of the hour and at the half hour. I find the Canadian forecast to be the least useful, but better than nothing as they are all you can get in some spots at some times.

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Re: first sea kayak trip advice

Post by JavaHiker » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:22 pm

Having transitioned from backpacks to kayaks several years ago, we have found that flexibility is important. We used to schedule our hiking trips for September: fewer people and bugs. While the lake is always unpredictable, by September you can expect conditions for kayaking to definitely require more caution and planning. From experience and conversations with some long-term staff on the island, Superior does tend to be less volatile from late July to mid-August. However, on one recent seven day mid-August trip we were planning to paddle five nights from Windigo to Atwood beach and then back, camping with a crosscountry permit. The NWS forecast changed drastically when we arrived, from light winds and rain to a gale watch for day three, then finally a gale warning. Needless to say we shortened the length of our trip to just Rainbow Cove, then stayed at Grace and Beaver Islands for a few days. While not the trip we had hoped for, it was the safest and still a very delightful experience.

Remember: the lake is the boss...
"Observe. Absorb. Create. Share."

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Re: first sea kayak trip advice

Post by teddy12b » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:35 am

This is a good read. I'm going on a kayak/hike there in Sept and we're coming into Rock Harbor then around the northeast corner hoping to make it to Todd Harbor or McCargo Cove. Any suggestions or things to look out for there?

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