Course & Trip Descriptions

Penobscot Bay

COURSES

The following are descriptions of instructional courses we have offered. Choose one of these, or combine elements for your one-of-a-kind course.

FastTrack 1

Designed for athletic beginner, novice, and intermediate paddlers, MIKCo’s FastTrack courses have been highly effective at quickly tuning aspirants into paddlers on the sea. The FastTracks will push you farther, faster. FastTrack 1: INTENSIVE covers the fundamental building blocks of most sea paddling skills and rescues, with an equal emphasis on developing your seamanship: your judgmental skills of navigating, expeditioning, and appropriate bumpy water practice experience. Course-specific teaching methods are geared toward the quicker-learning paddlers willing to work for their skills and decision making. FastTrack I is a 3-day or 2-day course. You’ll leave with exercises and tasks to continue your development, and have a basic mental framework for making wiser decisions on the sea.

See the FastTrack course outline here.

FastTrack 2

Designed for paddlers ready to paddle on their own, to accept the challenge of being Captain of their ship, to push their limits, OR maybe just to see if you are prepared to think and act as a self-contained paddler. Most structured teaching provides the lesson before the test, but as we all know life often gives us the test before we learn our lesson. This scenario based experiential course builds upon this later method; much of our on-water activities will be based on our real world experiences over our decades of paddling on the sea. We will work on your navigation and piloting skill sets in lighter tidal waters. We will hone our rescues in conditions, while figuring out how to lessen the environmental effects. You will increase your confidence and seamanship paddling our modern sea kayaks.

FastTrack 2 is appropriate for those ready to expand their on-water hard skills, judgment,  and applied seamanship. This can be a serious fun course for the committed paddler, and is our recommendation for all those who believe they are ready to paddle in Gulf of Maine waters on their own.

You’ll have a chance to review and practice your skills and seamanship in moderate conditions, and will gain fresh insight into the Four Cornerstones of Success: your Judgment, Skill, Knowledge and Experience. FastTrack II is a usually a 2-day course.You will leave with more clarity on what to focus on next in your sea training. These exercises - and the sea - will help you expand your toolbox.

Accelerated Fundamentals 1: BLADE, BODY, BOAT (The Three B’s)

This full day course provides beginning and novice kayakers with a foundation in the “Three B’s” – connecting your Blade through your Body to your Boat. By day’s end you should be paddling more like an intermediate paddler, able to transfer the forces from your paddle to obtain results in your boat. We will cover basic strokes, wet exits, assisted rescues, kayak and equipment options and design, their fit and use, and overall safety practices for paddling on the sea’s protected waters.

We’ll work on strokes for propulsion, maneuvering, support and recovery, and introduce the strokes to increase control of our bow, along with edging and leaning. We’ll work on linking strokes in light conditions while paddling in, down, and across (on the beam) wind, waves and quartering seas. And we’ll practice assisted rescues as well as basic self-rescues for those who are ready.

See the Fundamentals I course outline here.

Accelerated Fundamentals 2: PRACTICAL NAVIGATION, SEAMANSHIP & ROUTE SELECTION (The Fourth B: the Brain)

Building upon Fundamentals 1, Day 2 emphasizes the “Fourth B” (the Brain), making wise decisions on the sea. Our seamanship involves gathering, evaluating, and applying our equipment, paddling and environmental variables. We’ll develop a plan for the day by layering in the weather and sea states, tides and currents, wind and anticipated wave shapes, safety zones and exposure areas. We want you to begin thinking like the Captain of your ship as we plan, prepare and then go paddle and expand our experiences.

Our day journey will likely take us out of the harbor to develop observation and understanding of sea states, waves, and tidal flows. We aim to layer in the ‘experience’ cornerstone necessary for you to choose the conditions you and your group are comfortable paddling in. You will develop a working outline for on-water decision-making in ‘light to moderate’ sea conditions, and you’ll experience paddling in or near breaking waves. Seamanship essentially is the route a Captain makes after summing up skills, environment and equipment; it encompasses navigation, rescues, strokes in conditions, trip planning, communications, rules of the road, island ethics and the environmental factors.

See the Fundamentals II course outline here.

Rocks & Rescues

Some of our best Maine paddling is along beautiful rocky coasts, underwater ledges, and reflecting waves. Learn that rocks can be your friend…and your puzzle! This often challenging - and sometimes wet - day is for those seeking the thrill of sliding, carving, edging, and generally bouncing about in the rocking and rolling environment of our rock gardens. The rocks and ledges of Maine help us train our dynamic, effective strokes, in bumpy water and breaking waves. While rivers and tidal streams are generally linear energy, rock garden wave energy is made up of reflections and refractions, ebbs and flows, from many directions. We’ll start out with smaller waves, and progress to [email protected]#%$!?  This day is exhilarating and edgy - fun and challenging. You’ll begin to tune in as you study confused surf zones and practice real life rescues. Your confidence and excitement will expand, as this venue demands us to deliver effective strokes. We recommend this training for most paddlers given appropriate conditions. Some bracing skills are a minimum requirement; but equally important is your enthusiasm. This is a helmet sport for those with basic bracing, wet exits and assisted rescue experience.

See the Rough Water Paddling course outline here.


MULTI-DAY TRIPS & EXPEDITIONS

MIKCO's multi-day trip destinations are designed for athletic beginner to intermediate paddlers under the watchful eye and seamanship choices of our Registered Maine Sea Kayak Guides and BCU Coaches. Maine’s tiered islands allow the capable to explore the outside along the edge of the Gulf of Maine.

Our thousands of islands are in unique archipelagos protected from the full tempest of the sea. With tides from 10’-25’, summer air temps of 50’s-70’s F, water brisk in 50’s F, and three distinct ecosystems, MIKCo’s trips cover a wide variety of 3-5 day experiences.

If you are going on your own, then you need to be clear of your own abilities on the sea. We can help your planning if you review materials in our Ocean School section of the website, such as our general suggestions in Before You Go.

Paddling Casco Bay

Paddling from our base on Peaks Island, we wander past lighthouses, through protected passages, along rocky cliffs, beneath Civil War era forts, past seal covered ledges to island retreats. We land in hidden pocket beaches, maybe stop at an island ice cream store before adventuring out to explore the old forts on Jewell Island's varied shores. Perhaps you’ll paddle across the stronger tidal flow of Broad Sound to visit Admiral Peary's island hideout.

With over 200 islands, a rich geological and human history, and tremendous variety of paddling, Casco Bay is a great area for experimenting with your readiness and skill set before adventuring further Downeast.

Wendameen in Whitehead Passage
Eastern Penobscot Bay - Stonington to Acadia National Park's Isle au Haut

Launch near the historical fishing port of Stonington, once a granite quarrying center for public buildings from Boston to D.C. Paddle out through the protection of magnificent dome shaped and pastured islands sprinkled with delicate white shell beaches. Maybe hear seals barking, porpoises breathing, and loons cooing. If you are confident and experienced, with favorable weather and tides, maybe you’ll paddle the bold cliffs and booming ledges of the unknown part of Acadia National Park, Isle au Haut, a year round home to a few dozen committed souls.

kayaks on beach in Penobscot Bay
Jonesport Archipelago

Come paddle the pristine, cold, magnificent waters on this edge of Downeast Maine where the tides are greater, the water cooler, the people friendlier, and the birds are thick as the fog. This 100-island archipelago is mostly conservancy land, protecting exotic flora and fauna. It is stunning down here, though often damp and foggy. Paddle out beyond the madding crowd through Pig Gut to Mistake Island Light,; we’ll see if we can paddle along the wonders of The Nature Conservancy's Great Wass Island. Notice the large elephants marching along the ebbing tide out to sea. Be prepared for more rugged camping, we often sleep on the ledges down here.

Halifax Island
Best of Penobscot Bay

Sample Maine's grandest body of water with its beautiful ports and channels offering weeks of exploring: sculpted rock forms, meadowy islands, old lighthouses and intimate pocket beaches. Penobscot Bay is genteel and special with its graceful schooners, old island communities and open spaces. Old island communities still survive offshore in this marine world. Perhaps we’ll cross from Muscle Ridge, circumnavigate Vinalhaven, paddle to Isle au Haut or head East toward Swan's Island. Many different routes are possible here so let us know your goals and interests.

Penobscot Bay
Prospect Harbor to Machias

One of our more demanding journeys along Maine's coast, this one-way expedition traverses some of the wilder coastline of Maine, crosses several major headlands and passes large brawny outer island environs. This is one of Tom’s favorite trips on the eastern seaboard. We'll cross Maine's famous Atlantic Salmon rivers, old fish weirs, large nesting colonies, and dozens of varieties of pelagic birds. The coastal ecosystems approach sub arctic with blueberry barrens interspersed with larch, tamarack swamps and rare peat bogs sprinkled with rare Arctic flowers.

Surrealistic sand beaches sometimes contrast with the fractured needle shaped volcanic rocks and sea caves of Machias Bay. Nature Conservancy preserves...outer island lighthouses...grassy barrens with wild sheep and berries galore. The area can be foggy, but is beyond the normal tourist traffic. It's basic down here - stronger tides, rougher weather...and a kayaker's heaven. Some of our campsites will be very minimal - tiny barren rocky islands, sleeping on the rocks...but offering access to some of the most magnificent paddling on the eastern seaboard. Other campsites will be basic primitive camping on larger islands once we carry ashore across the 15-20 foot tidal range. Due to the large sea bird populations, we will focus on the many U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nature Conservancy island properties set aside to protect local and unique

colonial birds and flora. Total trip distance will be over 50 miles. Please note that one way trips are both psychologically and physically demanding; we don’t usually take a rest day on this trip.

No Landing for a Bit
Jonesport or Machias via Lubec to Gran Manan

This area on the Maine – New Brunswick border is a true BCU 4 Star level trip: from 4 to 10 days in some of the Gulf of Maine’s strongest tidal conditions. Paddlers need to be solid intermediates and comfortable with basic camping, though some nights we’ll bunk up in a camp or boarding house. Crossings out to Grand Manan are well over 10 miles, fog can be thick as butter, and the wildlife is mostly pelagic species of birds and mammals.

Beginning in the wonders of Jonesport with its tight archipelago of islands, we’ll wander down along the edge of the Nature Conservancy’s Great Wass Island, to stick our bows out into the swells and currents of the Gulf of Maine. We’ll wander by Mistake Island, rock garden along volcanic shores, pull into pristine, secluded beaches, and marvel at our good fortune to be paddling in this magical area. Let's cross to the Rogue Island archipelago, settled 400 years ago by the same family that still owns it, and then paddle out into a set of moor covered treeless islands, before paddling near the shipwrecks of Libby Island Light to Cross Island with its Native American petroglyphs and wilds. Now we’re ready to run the 20-mile Bold Coast from Cutler to Lubec: often foggy, always gorgeous, with the 3 knots of flooding tide squeezed between Maine and Grand Manan. Along the Maine Public Reserve Lands, past Bailey’s Mistake, beneath West Quoddy Head light and then up the last miles to tiny Lubec, the entrance to Campobello, and a night at a boarding house with its own Irish Pub looking out over Cobscook Bay.

If we’re moving on today toward Grand Manan, we’ll check through Canadian Customs, then stay in Canadian waters on our long day ebbing SE along the high cliffs of Grand Manan, hoping to turn the southern corner to its developed Eastern slope – and the tide turns and pushes us up to our camp site amidst these strong tidal streams. There’s something about our Canadian neighbors that keeps us coming back. We’ll explore around before returning the next day or two back toward the mainland.

The islands of Cobscook and Passamaquoddy bays are underplayed with Canadian Shield, some of the most ancient rock on my planet. Everywhere we can see the effects of the near mile thick glaciers of 15,000 years ago. These islands remain carefree and mostly undeveloped, except for the fishermen and their equipment. This area is known for its thick pods of finbacks, humpbacks and other pelagic; keep your eyes and ears open.

We’ll eventually wander up the bay, try to time our arrival at the Reversing Falls so we can get through its class 4 rapids, and settle in for our last night together.

End of the Trip

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."  Rumi