Portland Paddle Holiday Gifts - Summer All Year Long!

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The hot days of June, July & August may seem far off, but you can give the gift of summer to your friends and relatives this holiday season with Portland Paddle!  Due to popular demand, we're offering gift certificates in any dollar amount, as well as our unique 10-rental punch cards, for purchase during the winter months.  (Check out the ToursLessons, and Rentals pages to see how the gift certificates could be used).  But wait, there's more:

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We're also offering special holiday combo gift certificates: one lesson and one half-day rental, either kayak or SUP, for 20% off the total price!  A kayak lesson and rental purchased individually cost $88, but with our holiday combo it's only $70 for both.  Regular price for a SUP lesson and rental is $80, but get the gift card now and do both for only $65!  This is a once-a-year opportunity to save on next summer's paddling adventures. 

We're also offering our unique 10-rental punch cards, with new lower prices for 2014.  Buy a card for kayaks only, SUPs only, or combo kayak & SUP.  Punch cards make it easy to get out on the water - we'll even keep track of your preferred boat, pfd size, and paddle size, so that it's all ready to go when you arrive.  Prices as follows:

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Kayak:  $225 (2.5 hrs/rental, tandem = 2 punches)
SUP:  $125 (1 hr/rental)
Kayak/SUP Combo:  $190 (5 kayak, 5 SUP)

To purchase one of these great gifts (for friends, family, or yourself!), email us at portlandpaddle@gmail.com, or give us a call at 207-370-9730.  (Note:  Email is the best way to contact us over the winter.  If you prefer to call, please leave a voicemail and we will call you back ASAP.)  From all of us at Portland Paddle, hope you have an awesome holiday season!

Overnight Trip to Jewell Island on September 14 -- $150 per person

During the next year Portland Paddle will be offering a range of overnight trips throughout Casco Bay and beyond. The first of these, a two-day trip to Jewell Island, is coming right up. Read on for more details, and join our email list to hear more about our other trips.  

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Jewell Island is fairly short paddle from Portland Harbor, but the rugged island that lies on the boundary between the ocean and Casco Bay feels incredibly remote and wild. If you've never been there, you've got to check it out at some point. With its gorgeous rugged coastline, its extensive network of trails and its ample camping spots, the island is one of the best kayak camping destinations in Maine. 

Join Portland Paddle for an two-day trip to Jewell Island on September 14 and 15. This is a great trip for anyone with some minimal kayaking and camping experience. We'll provide all the kayaking gear, a guide who will offer essential paddling tips and lead the group to the island and dinner on the island. We're keeping the cost relatively low for this trip by letting participants provide most of their own food and camping gear. Everyone will need to provide food for meals besides dinner, along with tents, sleeping bags and other camping gear. (We'll give everyone at least two dry bags for packing). 

The itinerary looks like this: We'll meet at our location on the East End Beach at 9:30 AM on Saturday to get outfitted, pack boats, review the route and head out. We'll island hop across the bay towards Jewell Island, stopping on an island for a lunch break. Along the way, we'll have chances to observe wildlife, learn about the history of Casco Bay and work on paddling skills. 

Once we reach Jewell Island, we'll set up camp and explore the island, including its many trails and the old military tower that provides a spectacular view of the bay. Portland Paddle will provide dinner. The next day, after a leisurely morning on the island, we'll aim to hit the water by 10:00 for the paddle back to Portland. We'll take a different route on the way home so that we can explore even more of the exciting waters along the outer islands of Casco Bay. Our plan will be to get back to the East End Beach by 3:00 PM.
 

The cost of the trip is $150 per person, and that includes all the necessary kayaking gear, including two dry bags for packing gear. If you are using your own sea kayak, the cost is $125. Call us at 207-370-9730 for more information or to make a reservation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September Acoustic Paddle Series

Join us for our final two Acoustic Paddles of the season, coming up in September!!  If you haven't made it to one of these very special events yet, now is your chance. 

Sunday, September 22nd, 2:30-6:30pm - Connor Garvey ( www.connorgarveysongs.com) - $55

Sunday, September 29th, 2:30-6:30pm - Sorcha (sorchastudio.com) - $55
We'll be celebrating the end of a successful season!

www.connorgarveymusic.com

www.connorgarveymusic.com

Sorcha and Connor are awesome folks and talented musicians, and we are really excited to have them on board (literally and figuratively).   The details, as usual:   

Fort Gorges is the beautiful granite structure that sits surrounded by water in Casco Bay.  It's the perfect setting for a concert and an ideal kayaking destination!! 

Our special combination of kayaking and music will begin at the East End Beach, where Portland Paddle's knowledgeable Maine Guides will gear everyone up and provide some paddling tips. Then we'll head out into the bay to explore the islands of Portland harbor on our way to Fort Gorges. You might see seals, ospreys, and eider ducks as we make our way across the bay!

sorchastudio.com

sorchastudio.com

After some sea kayaking, we'll arrive at the Fort to settle in for a set of original music.  On September 22nd we'll feature Connor Garvey, whose music has been described as "like placing folk-funk guitar & ukulele, soulful vocals, and paradoxical metaphors in an electric juicer."  He has a unique voice and ability to connect with the listener, making his style perfect for our intimate Acoustic Paddle series.

On September 29th we'll feature Sorcha Cribben-Merrill, whose "sultry and jazzy" vocal style captures blues, jazz, and country influences. Sorcha has been known to wield an acoustic guitar, clawhammer banjo, and ukelele. Lately, you may have seen her around town performing with her five-piece band Sorcha & the Clearing.  This show will be our last special event of 2013 - come celebrate the success of our first year with us. 

 Bring your own picnic to enjoy as evening falls. After the performance and a chance to explore the fort, we'll paddle back to shore as the sun begins to set. Space is limited and reservations are required for this unique kayak tour - call 207-370-9730 now to sign up. Only $55 per person - not too much more than one of our typical half-day tours.  We hope to see you there!!

Fort Gorges is open to the public, so anyone can visit the fort at any time. However, if you plan to paddle out on your own *specifically* to see the music, we request that you stop by the Portland Paddle van before the show to purchase a ticket for a $20 suggested donation (to support the musician!) and to sign a waiver for the event. Please keep in mind that you should only paddle to Fort Gorges on your own if you have a seaworthy vessel and paddling experience. 

 

Portland Paddle's Approach to Safe Paddling

Ever since we first considered opening a sea kayaking outfitter in Portland, our primary concern has been safety. Our business would be a cinch if all we did was simply let people hop in kayaks and paddle off into the islands of Casco Bay. The reality is that the risks that come with paddling in Maine coastal waters require us—and all other serious sea kayaking outfitters—to invest an enormous amount of time, energy and other resources into making sure that we minimize the inherent risks of sea kayaking as much as possible. It's a very safe sport when it's done right, but it can otherwise be very high-risk.

We're proud of the steps that we've taken during our first season to ensure that safety is our top priority. Many of these steps involve simply adopting industry standards, as articulated by organizations such as the American Canoe Association, the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Other steps we've taken are more customized to meet the needs of our unique operations and location. Because we are determined to build the trust and respect of the Portland community, whose public space we rely on for our operations, we want to share just a handful of the safety policies, procedures and practices we've established:

Rental screening process

 As anyone who has rented a kayak from us knows, we don't let anyone go out with our gear before we have a firm grasp on their skill level and their planned route. We often turn away potential renters – or ask them to adjust their planned route – based on our judgment of their preparedness. We havefirmpolicies about who uses our kayaks for rentals. We will not allow anyone to venture far beyond the shoreline and into the islands unless they have experience with kayak rescue skills. At least one paddler in every group must know how to perform an assisted rescue and all solo paddlers must have mastered a self-rescue technique. For those without these skills, we may allow them to paddle in the protected areas near the East End Beach, if conditions are appropriate. We also encourage such paddlers to take our "Rescue Clinic" and/or join a guided tour. We spend a significant amount of our time educating potential renters about the dangers and hazards involved in kayaking in Casco Bay, and we take seriously every decision we make to let a group venture out on their own. We do not allow any children under age 8 to paddle in our kayaks, except in special circumstances, and we generally require that all children under age 13 paddle in a tandem kayak with an adult. All individuals under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult or a guide. 

Staff training

 Each of our staff members bring a wealth of experience from previous jobs, but during our first season we have invested dozens of combined hours of staff training in order to develop their skills and knowledge further. We held a day-long training in the spring and we hold additional staff training sessions every couple weeks. We run through drills – both on land and on water -- that present high-risk scenarios that staff might need to handle. Our goal is to prepare our staff to deal with any potential situation – from paddlers lost in fog to a capsized kayaker with hypothermia adrift in the bay. All of our staff are required to be proficient in kayak assisted rescues and self rescues. They all spend several days assisting other experienced staff before they make any important safety decisions on their own.

All guides working for Portland Paddle are Registered Maine Guides and have undergone multi-day courses with other outfitters to prepare them for the leading groups on coastal waters. They each have extensive sea kayaking and outdoor leadership experience.

Paddler Information Forms and Waivers

Everyone who goes paddling with us is required to fill out a two-sided sheet that serves four purposes: 1) Gather crucial information about the renter, including emergency contact, medical info, cell number; 2) Identify the renter's skill level and which kayaking skills they have developed; 3) Inform the customer about what we require and expect from them in order for them to stay safe; 4) Inform them that they are ultimately responsible for the many inherent risks involved in paddlesports.

 

 

Additionally, every single customer renting a kayak or paddleboard from us must check off each box in the following checklist:

The checklist that every Portland Paddle rent

The checklist that every Portland Paddle rent

First aid preparedness.

All Portland Paddle staff members are required to hold current certifications in First Aid and CPR, and they are encouraged to become certified in Wilderness First Aid. Additionally, two of our staff are Wilderness First Responders. Each guide is required to carry a first aid kit, and we always have a first aid kit on hand in the Paddle Van.

Guide to client ratio.

Maine state law requires that all commercial tours provide one guide for every 12 clients. Portland Paddle prefers to go further, and maintain a ratio that is closer to one guide for every 8 clients. Still, we typically have an even smaller ratio, with an average around 1:6. We believe that this ratio is safer and leads to a overall more enjoyable trip for everyone.

Guide gear requirements

Having the right gear is a big part of ensuring safety when sea kayaking, so all Portland Paddle guides are required to have the following gear in their kayaks at all times when they are on the water:

  •  Rescue Stirrup
  •  Fleece jackets or wool sweaters
  • Tow Belt
  •  Wool Hat
  •  Hypothermia Tarp or Shelter
  • 3 to 5 Flares
  • VHF Radio
  •  Cell Phone
  •  Fog Horn (or another type of loud noisemaker)
  • Strobe
  • Flashlight
  • Matches/lighter
  •  Knife
  •  First Aid Kit
  • Energy Bars or something similar
  •   Water
  •   Chart
  •   Spare Paddle
  • Bilge Pump and Paddle Float
  •   Basic Boat Repair Kit
  •  Leatherman or small tool kit

Weather monitoring

Sea kayaking and paddleboarding are heavily dependent on weather conditions, so we've taken a series of steps to ensure our staff always has a good handle on the weather. When weather conditions become hazardous, we shut down all rentals and cancel tours. The guide scheduled to lead a tour is responsible for deciding whether to cancel that tour due to weather and staff working at our base are responsible for making decisions about when to cut off rentals due to weather. Making judgments about conditions is one major focus of our staff training. Staff must also check the marine forecast at least twice during each day: Once in the morning before opening and once in the early afternoon. We have several weather-monitoring methods readily available at all times. First, our VHF radios are equipped to monitor NOAA weather stations. Secondly, all staff cell phones are equipped with several apps – one to monitor radar, another that provides the latest marine forecast and another conventional weather app. We also regularly survey the current conditions on the bay by eyesight, and often with binoculars, to gain a real-time sense of what it's like on the water. 

Safety-oriented kayaking lessons

We strongly encourage almost everyone who rents kayaks from us to take one of our lessons so that they can develop the skills to paddle more safely without a guide. We believe that having familiarity with kayak rescue skills makes kayaking far more fun and safe. That's why we offer our three-hour "Rescue Clinic" every Saturday for just $45. We believe that the more paddlers there are with rescue skills, the more safe everyone on the water will be.

Customized nautical charts and safety info sheet

 It's easy to get lost anywhere on the Maine coast, and even in Casco Bay, where there are plenty of landmarks. Islands blur together on the horizon and one's sense of distance becomes distorted. Moreover, fog or rain can roll in quickly, making it difficult to see objects just a few feet away. To reduce the chances that our customers will get lost, we created a series of laminated nautical charts. One goes out with every group of paddlers. We also have compasses available for customers who are venturing far from the mainland and can't provide their own. Additionally, on the back of our charts, we added lots of other safety information, including emergency contact info, potential unsafe scenarios and tips for safe paddling on the Maine coast. For example, paddlers can read what to do if thunderstorms are approaching, or if someone capsizes.

Quality Gear

Salt water and sun can be rough on gear, and when gear doesn't work properly, the potential for dangerous situations becomes much higher. That's why we invested in high-quality gear, including PFDs, kayaks, sprayskirts and paddles. It's inevitable that gear will break down occasionally, but we strive to minimize these occurrences by buying excellent products and caring for them diligently.

Staff safety talks

Every group or individual who goes paddling with Portland Paddle's gear is given a "safety talk" that covers the most important considerations when paddling on Casco Bay. Among the topics covered by staff in this talk are the following:

o   Avoiding and coping with boat traffic

o   What to do in the event of a capsize

o   What to do in the event of a thunderstorm, fog or other weather conditions

o   Staying together in a group on the water

o   How to adjust PFDs, sprayskirts and kayak footpegs properly 

Encouraging the use of tandem kayaks

Tandem kayaks are generally much more stable than solo kayaks, so we encourage everyone without significant experience to use tandems. Moreover, if one person in a group of paddlers gets sick, injured or exhausted, it is much easier to deal with the situation if there is one tandem in the group. In such a situation, the paddler having difficulty can be put in the front of the tandem and let the other paddler get them to safety. We persuade many potential renters that they will be better off – and much more safe – paddling a tandem rather than solos.

Communication

Ensuring reliable and quick communication is a crucial aspect of minimizing the risk of sea kayaking. We rely on both cell phones and VHF radios for most of our communication in addition to a series of hand and paddle signals that we use on the water. All guides are required to carry both cell phones and VHFs, and we also have both forms of communication at all times at our base on the mainland. Guides are required to call the base for a check-in on all tours that last more than two hours. Guides also use their VHF radios to communicate with other boaters on Casco Bay and to monitor radio traffic that might affect our operations.

 We also encourage—and often require—renters to carry a cell phone in a dry bag. We record      this number and call them if they are running late or if marine conditions deteriorate.

Emergency action plan

In addition to a thorough range of policies and procedures designed to prevent emergency situations, we have developed an emergency action plan to provide guidance to our staff if a dangerous and/or life-threatening situation were to occur. We have shared this plan with various stakeholders and made changes based on feedback we have received. This plan helps to ensure that we react to emergencies in an efficient, immediate and consistent manner.

Experience and expertise

Portland Paddle strives to have the most thoroughly trained, highly skilled, best-prepared outfitter staff in the state. Currently we have six Registered Maine Guides on its staff, two ACA-certified instructors and three wilderness first responders. Zack Anchors, who co-founded the business with Erin Quigley, has been kayaking – in both whitewater and ocean environments – for 25 years and guiding at outfitters throughout North America for 14 years. Portland Paddle's approach to safety reflects his years of working at different outfitters – some with stellar safety records and others that verge on the irresponsible. Zack has incorporated all the best safety practices he's observed over the years into Portland Paddle's own policies, while also taking steps to avoid the less safe practices he's observed at some outfitters.

Starting a conversation about safety

The policies and practices described above account for just a small part of Portland Paddle's overall approach to ensure safe paddling. If you any questions about anything here, please contact us. We're also happy to field suggestions about how we can further minimize risk and educate the broader public about how to sea kayak safely. We can always be reached at portlandpaddle@gmail.com or 207-370-9730.

 

Acoustic Paddle Series in August!

We've got TWO more Acoustic Paddles coming up in August!! 

Sunday, August 18th - Sorcha (sorchastudio.com) - $55

Sunday, August 25th - Max Garcia Conover (maxgarciaconover.com) - $55

Sorcha and Max are amazingly talented folks and we are really excited to have them on board (literally and figuratively).   The details, as usual:   

Fort Gorges is the beautiful granite structure that sits surrounded by water in Casco Bay.  It's the perfect setting for a concert and an ideal kayaking destination!! 

sorchastudio.com

sorchastudio.com

Our special combination of kayaking and music will begin at the East End Beach, where Portland Paddle's knowledgeable Maine Guides will gear everyone up and provide some paddling tips. Then we'll head out into the bay to explore the islands of Portland harbor on our way to Fort Gorges. You might see seals, ospreys, and eider ducks as we make our way across the bay!

After some sea kayaking, we'll arrive at the Fort to settle in for a set of original music.  On August 18th we'll feature Sorcha Cribben-Merrill, whose "sultry and jazzy" vocal style captures blues, jazz, and country influences. Sorcha has been known to wield an acoustic guitar, clawhammer banjo, and ukelele. Lately, you may have seen her around town performing with her five-piece band Sorcha & the Clearing!  

On August 25th we'll feature Max Garcia Conover, whose quick-fingered, mostly acoustic songs are grounded in natural landscapes and "flicker with revelation."  Max has been touring the country in support of a new album he released this spring, "Burrow."  You can buy it on his website!  Lately we've been into the video for his song "The Wedding Line."

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Bring your own picnic to enjoy as evening falls. After the performance and a chance to explore the fort, we'll paddle back to shore as the sun begins to set. Space is limited and reservations are required for this unique kayak tour - call 207-370-9730 now to sign up!! Only $55 per person - not too much more than one of our typical half-day tours.  We hope to see you there!!

 

Fort Gorges is open to the public, so anyone can show up and listen to the concert. However, we ask that stop by Portland Paddle before the show to purchase a ticket for $20 suggested donation. Please keep in mind that you should only paddle to Fort Gorges on your own if you have a seaworthy vessel and paddling experience. 

Paddleboard Pilates and Yoga coming soon to Portland Paddle!

Photo: Courtney Theberge

Photo: Courtney Theberge

**Paddleboard Pilates every Wednesday at 6pm starting July 24**

 

**Paddleboard Yoga every Tuesday at 9 am starting July 30** 

Paddleboard yoga and paddleboard pilates have been booming in popularity all over the country. Now that we've tried it out, we totally get it. Doing anything on a paddleboard is way more fun than doing it onshore! And paddleboards, with their flat and stable surfaces that allow ease of mobility, are especially well-suited for yoga and pilates.  The motion of the waves adds challenge and focus to the practice!

That's why we're teaming up with Springboard Pilates and Portland Power Yoga to offer weekly classes using our paddleboards at the East End Beach. Both of these studios have amazing instructors and lots of loyal customers, so we're hopeful that the classes will be a big hit. Paddleboard Yoga is already popular in the Portland area, but we're pretty sure we'll be offering the first ever paddleboard pilates classes in Southern Maine. 

Photo: Courtney Theberge

Photo: Courtney Theberge

SUP Pilates is happening every Wednesday at 6 pm, and SUP Yoga is happening every Tuesday at 9 am.  There are limited spots available for each class, so we recommend signing up ahead of time.  Give us a call at 207-370-9730!

The cost of each class is $30/student or $20 if you have your own board. 

 


An Acoustic Paddle with Caroline Cotter!

Photo credit:  Shannon Bryan

Photo credit:  Shannon Bryan

We are SO EXCITED to announce the first of what we hope will be a series of Acoustic Paddle musical outdoor adventures!  Join us on Sunday, July 21st from 3:30 to 7:30 for a special afternoon of music & kayaking on Casco Bay with Portland Paddle and Caroline Cotter.  We'll paddle as a group out to Fort Gorges, off the East End Beach, led by knowledgeable registered Maine guides.  You might see seals, ospreys, and eider ducks as we make our way across the bay!  

Once we get to the Fort we'll settle in for a set of beautiful, original songs in the folk tradition by local artist Caroline Cotter.  Caroline is a singer-songwriter, traveler, artist, teacher and eternal student living in Portland, Maine.  After several years of traveling all over the world, her collected stories come home with her in the form of songs.  She performs original material with influences of americana, bluegrass, jazz, and world music.

Photo Credit:  Caroline Cotter

Photo Credit:  Caroline Cotter


Bring your own picnic to enjoy as evening falls.  After the performance and a chance to explore the fort, we'll paddle back to shore.  Space is limited for this unique kayak tour - call 207-370-9730 now to sign up!!  Don't miss it - we think this one will really catch on!

Wondering what our tours are like? Read this terrific article.

If you've been wondering what it's actually like to go on a kayak tour, read this article that was just published in MaineToday.com. Reporter Shannon Bryan went out on one of our Half-Day Tours a few weeks ago and wrote this terrific account of the trip. Her photos really capture the experience. Thanks, Shannon!

Father's Day Tour!

Looking for something AWESOME to do with Dad on Father's Day?  We've come up with the perfect solution - a special Father's Day Tour!  This tour will be guided by Scott and Zack Anchors, our very own father-son paddling power team.  We'll be launching from the East End Beach on Sunday, 6/16 at 9:30 am (plan to arrive early).  Bring your Dad along on this exciting four-hour tour for only $50/person!  You'll paddle out into the Casco Bay islands, look out for seals and seabirds, learn about the history and natural features of the bay, and stop on an island for a snack!  Give us a call today to sign up - this one might fill up fast.