Frequently Asked Questions
GUIDED TOURS FAQS
Q: Where do the tours start and when should I arrive?
All of our tours begin at the East End Beach unless we state otherwise. Please arrive 10 minutes before your tour is scheduled to begin. Give yourself extra time if you need to park, although on most days it is not difficult to find a space.
Q: What's the parking situation?
There is free all-day parking in the lot halfway up the hill on Cutter Street, as well as on most streets in the residential neighborhoods nearby. All parking spaces on Cutter Street are free of charge and are within a fairly short walk of our site. Most of the spaces right next to the beach are limited to 5 minutes or two hours and cars are ticketed regularly.
Q: What should I bring?
- Water bottle
- Footwear that you don’t mind getting wet
- Extra layer to keep you warm. It’s often cooler on the water than on land, so it’s smart to have a fleece or light jacket even on sweltering hot days. It’s also best to wear synthetic materials (not cotton) that will keep you warm even when wet.
- Sun protection.
- Anything else you’d like to have with you (camera, snack, gloves, etc). We’ll provide a dry bag.
Q: Where will we go on our tour?
Your guide will choose a route for your trip based on the group and the weather conditions, though we always try to minimize paddling into strong wind and currents. Every tour is slightly different. There are dozens of beautiful islands to explore within a short paddle of our location, and it's also fun to paddle through the working waterfront of Portland Harbor.
Q: How fast do you paddle? Will I be able to keep up? Will I get bored moving too slowly?
A: Our pace depends on the group, but we generally take our time. We almost always have plenty of time to get where we're going, so there's no need to rush. We'll keep things moving, but we won't leave anyone behind.
Q: How many people go on your tours?
We prefer fairly small groups, so we usually have between 3 and 10 people on a trip, and occasionally up to 12 on the Sunset Tour and Fort Gorges Tour. We allow slightly larger groups for some of our special trips, such as our Acoustic Paddle tour.
Q: Can I bring my own kayak?
Absolutely. Just let us know ahead of time and have your boat ready to go on the beach before the tour starts. You can receive $15 off the cost of the trip if you enter the code "MYBOAT" when booking online. The discount is $50 for multi-day trips. Please keep in mind that your kayak should be a sea worthy boat.
Q: What is your cancellation policy?
We understand that your plans may change and that you may need to cancel your reservation. As long as you give us 48 hours advance notice, we will offer a full refund on any amount that you have paid (with the exception of multi-day trips and private group trips, which must be canceled 14 days in advance for a full refund). If you need to cancel within 48 hours of our reservation we generally cannot offer any refund, though it may be possible to reschedule your booking for another day. Please do not make a reservation if you think it is likely you will need to cancel.
Q: When do you cancel tours for weather?
We usually do not cancel tours due to overcast skies or scattered showers (the seas are often especially calm and pleasant during light rain), but we do cancel trips for steady rain, especially strong winds and thunderstorms. If you have reserved a tour, we will call you if we are canceling the trip due to weather and give you a choice of either rescheduling or receiving a full refund.
Q: Do you use double or solo kayaks on your trips?
We typically use tandem (two-person) sea kayaks on our shorter tours, but you may request a solo kayak if you have previous experience using one. We find that tandems are best for most people because they are more stable and spacious. Plus, if you get tired, your partner can pick up the slack! If you are joining a tour on your own, you will either be given a solo kayak or paired up with another person in the group.
Q: What brand or style of kayaks do you use?
We have a diverse mix of sea kayaks made by Necky, Current Designs and Wilderness Systems. All of our kayaks have rudders or skegs. We have kayaks for all skill levels and most body sizes. Most of our boats are rotomolded (plastic) and a few are fiberglass. Let us know if you have a boat preference; it's likely we can assign you the boat you'd like to use.
Q: Do I need to tip my guide?
No, only if you want to and feel that it's deserved. Tips are never expected, but always appreciated.
KAYAK AND SUP RENTALS FAQS
Q: What skills are required to rent kayaks?
If you are planning to paddle beyond the most protected areas in Casco Bay with our kayaks, one person in your group must have knowledge of some basic kayak rescue techniques. This means you need to know how to get back in your kayak if you capsize and end up in the water. Anyone without this experience can paddle to the West of the East End Beach, where waters are more protected on most days.
If you are paddling alone, you must be familiar with a paddle float rescue. If you are with a group, one person in your group must be familiar with an assisted rescue (most commonly, the "T Rescue"). These rescues are specific to kayaking, and any other skills you may have (life-guarding, first aid, whitewater rafting, search and rescue, superhuman strength, long-distance swimming, etc.) do not count as a substitute.
Q: What skills are required to rent SUPs?
None! On days when the waters are calm you are welcome to try out paddleboarding for the first time with a rental board. Our staff will give you some pointers. However, we recommend that you first take our Intro to Paddleboarding lesson if possible. You'll enjoy paddleboarding more if you learn some of the essential skills and have a greater understanding of proper technique.
Q: Can I take my young child kayaking on Casco Bay?
Only children ages 7 and up can kayak with Portland Paddle, and in some circumstances we only allow children age 10 and up. For example, most of our guided trips (with the exception of the Family Paddle) are only for children ages 10 and up. We also may not allow young children to go kayaking when seas are especially choppy. In general, kayaking on protected lakes and rivers is often a better option than paddling on the ocean if you have young children. Safety is our top priority and we are always especially cautious and conservative when it comes to sending out young children onto the ocean.
Q: Do I need a reservation?
Reservations for rentals are not required, but on busy days we often run out of boats or SUPs. If you are sure you are going paddling, it's a good idea to make a reservation. It's especially important if you have a large group or a preference for a particular boat or board.
Q: I have kayaked many times before and am very athletic and outdoorsy. Do I really need to learn kayak rescue skills before renting?
If you are venturing out to the islands, yes. It is unlikely you could re-enter a kayak after a capsize in ocean conditions without any knowledge of kayak rescues and without assistance. If you capsized in Casco Bay, you would probably get hypothermia and need to be rescued by other boaters.
Q: I don't have the skills you require for rentals. Does that mean I can't kayak with Portland Paddle?
No! We want everyone to have a chance to kayak Casco Bay, so you have a few options:
1) We recommend you take our "Kayak Rescue Clinic" that will give you the skills you need to rent kayaks. After this course, you will be WAY more prepared to paddle safely. If you have very little kayaking experience, you might start with the "Introduction to Sea Kayaking" course.
2) Anyone can go on our guided tours. Paddling with a guide cost just a little more than renting a kayak and going out on your own.
3) Rent a stand-up paddleboard! It is relatively easy to get back on top of a SUP if you fall off, so anyone can use one.
4) You can rent a kayak and paddle along the shoreline near the East End Beach.
5) You can rent our kayaks and drive them to a lake or river that offers more protected paddling conditions than Casco Bay.
Q: Why are you so worried about people having rescue skills?
Sea kayaking is a very safe sport when paddlers learn some basic skills and prepare appropriately. Unfortunately, too many people go out unprepared, leading to incidents like the tragic death of two kayakers in Casco Bay in 2010.