tofino kayaking - don't be a speedbump

Tofino Seakayaking: Don't be a Speedbump!

by Dan Lewis, Tofino


When I get in my little kayak inn Tofino and head off into the great beyond, I am rarely alone. I find myself in the company of powerboats, from run-abouts to water-taxis, to huge fish farm freighters. Trying not to get run over becomes a prime goal.

There is one simple way to avoid getting run over-stay close to shore! Usually the water is shallow there, so boats would run aground before they could hit a kayak. Even if it's deep, most power-boaters don't go too fast when they're five feet or less from shore. Ten feet from shore, in deep water-yes. I've seen boaters who know the area zoom through deep, confined channels at full bore, scattering kayakers and seabirds alike.

So when I say stay close to shore, I mean really hug the shore. This is the place you'll see the most-it's the place where sea, sky, and land meet. You can relax, let the rhythm of paddling lull you into an alpha state, shift into your right brain, let your mind run wild, and think about a lot of things.

Kayakers are not really popular with powerboaters here in Tofino and Clayoquot Sound – they call us "speed-bumps". No wonder – we show up every summer in hordes like clockwork, and then paddle about as if we're in la-la land, like a bunch of people on holiday. And it really annoys some people who are just trying to make a living driving a boat in Tofino in order that they, too, can take off somewhere else and act like a tourist!

I know, when I started paddling, it was to get away from rules, regulations, all that stuff. I was in a little world of my own, out in my own canoe, so to speak. And that kind of approach works just fine, if you always paddle within 5 feet of shore.

Of course, there comes a time when you want to leave the shore-maybe you're late for the ferry or work, or you want to cross to that island over there. And that is fine. I would urge you, at those times, to be conscious of why you are leaving shore, and to choose the style of travel which is most appropriate. As soon as you leave shore, wake up, snap out of la-la land, and conduct yourself as if you were skipper of a vessel on the sea-because you are!

Another style of travel is "point-to-point". This is used when you realise that you've been paddling all day, and are only one mile from your last campsite. Point-to-point travel keeps you relatively close to shore, but you can cover a bit more distance. Basically, when you get to the entrance of a bay, head for the point on the far side. If you're travelling in an area with tidal currents of 2-3 knots, and the tide is going with you, it can be advantageous to skirt along the edge of the channel, rather than going deep into every bay, fighting against the back-eddies you'll find there.

Travelling point-to-point, you do need to keep an eye out for traffic. Because you're on a line connecting the two points of a bay, you are essentially still hugging the edge of the channel or coast from the perspective of a power-boater, and thus will still be out of their way, especially the larger vessels such as cruise ships or freighters. The main thing to watch for is boats leaving the bay you're crossing – especially if there's a marina or village at the head of the bay.

Sometimes you'll find you have to use a third style of travel, which is a "crossing". All things being equal, it's usually best to make all crossings as short as possible, by travelling on a straight line between the two closest points. If there is boat traffic, cross perpendicular to the flow of traffic. Big boats in the distance will arrive much faster than you would think – wait and let them pass. It's hard for power-boaters to avoid something they can't see, and by some ancient law of the sea, kayakers are invisible – at least it's safest to assume so – no matter how brightly coloured our gear.

The final style is offshore travel, that is, cruising right down the channel as if you were a mighty vessel, with all the rights and responsibilities of a BC Ferry. This is your right, but if you're going to do it, be aware of other boaters, and learn the 'rules of the road'. Stay out of shipping lanes, which are marked on charts.

Most boats tend to drive like cars do in North America-pass to the right of on-coming vessels. Try to stay on the right side of the channel. Watch out for boats bigger than you, and assume they haven't seen you. Use your VHF radio to hail other skippers on Channel 16 if you're uncertain (the emergency channel so keep it brief). And make the responsibility for not getting run over yours.

One final note on boating etiquette-when boats are getting close, make eye contact with the driver, then nod or wave. There's a certain style when waving to boat drivers-watch how they return your wave and you'll catch on. Do not wave your hand back and forth over your head, as if someone is fixing to die-unless someone is! Just raise your hand up beside your face, and do a little back-and-forth motion, from the wrist. If the skipper returns your wave, chances are she or he has actually seen you, and realises that you're awake and aware of them, too. Anxiety is decreased; and both parties sigh in relief.

Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck operate Rainforest Kayak Adventures, a Tofino sea kayak company in Tofino and Clayoquot Sound. Visit their website or call them at 1-877-422-WILD

Tofino Kayaking Articles

tofino | tofino time | activities | accommodation | events | directory
maps | travel | food | art & artists | photos | horoscope | tides
search | magazine | issues | articles | advertising | contact us

hosted in tofino by & studio tofino
© 2002-2014 copyright Tofino Time Magazine in Tofino Canada
© 2002-2011 Tofino Time Magazine & ThinkTank Design Inc.

Tofino sea kayaking maven Dan Lewis writes about safety precaution in this article about seakayak etiquette in Tofino and Clayoquot Sound.

tofino time july 2002

quick links:
tofino accomodations
tofino calendar

tofino surf report
tofino horoscope
september horoscope
tofino map
tofino fishing report
tofino tides
tofino weddings

tofino events:
tofino concerts
tofino events
tofino movies
tofino festivals
tofino yoga classes

tofino time magazine:
tofino time september 2012
captain vincente tofino
readers choice: the best of tofino
floating gardens at freedom cove
tofino event listings for september 2012
tofino concerts in september 2012
tofino movies in september 2012
tofino tide table for september 2012
tofino surf reports for september 2012
cox bay | wickaninnish beach
chesterman beach
tonquin beach
tofino brewing co.
horoscope for april 2013
tofino wedding guide

tofino accommodation:
tofino cabin
tofino camping
bed & breakfasts in Tofino
tofino hostels
tofino motels
tofino hotels
tofino vacation rentals
petfriendly accommodation

tofino bike rentals
tofino bear watching
tofino bird watching
tofino boat charters & cruises
tofino fishing
hot springs cove
sea kayaking in tofino
tofino storm watching
tofino surfing
tofino whale watching
tofino yoga

tofino art galleries
tofino books
tofino boutiques & gift shops
food stores in tofino
tofino outfitters

tofino yoga, spa & wellness
tofino restaurants
tofino internet cafes
tofino travel & transportation
tofino real estate
tofino vacation rentals
tofino weddings

tofino events
tofino concerts
tofino movies
tofino calendar
tofino cabins
tofino maps
tofino jobs
tofino media