Monday, January 26, 2009

It's All Relative...

I've been a bit down lately, 'cause it's cold and gray more often than not in the past few weeks. However, we did have a nice time on the Stono River in the rain the other day. And the weekend is forecast to warm up... a good Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Pod is scheduled to head out to Deveaux Bank on Sunday.

Ask me about how I started sea kayaking sometime... To make a long story shorter I will tell you now that it was in the Spring of 1991, and it started at Billington Sea Watercraft, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Doug Gray, the owner of Billington Sea Watercraft, just sent me some photos of the lake where I first sat in a sea kayak...

Yikes! Spring will be here sooner in Charleston, South Carolina than Plymouth, Massachusetts...

Scott Szczepaniak is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina and a former poster child for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Contact him at with your story of how you first got started kayaking... he'll post it on the blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Navigation Rules for Kayakers

By Scott Szczepaniak

At the last Lowcountry Paddlers meeting, there was some discussion about kayaks and the Rules of the Road. There was some discussion over a recent Sea Kayaker magazine about the same subject. The following is my perspective on the subject…

The “Navigation Rules” are published by the United States Coast Guard. Rule 18 is entitled “Responsibilities Between Vessels.” This rule is often referred to the “pecking order.” Power driven vessels shall give way to sailing vessels, sailing vessels shall keep out of the way of a vessel engaged in fishing (not hook and line recreational fishing but towing a net such as a South Carolina shrimp boat), etc.

There is no mention of kayaks, canoes, vessels under oars in Rule 18.

Rule 25 is entitled “Sailing Vessels Underway and Vessels under Oars.” This is the closest that the Navigation Rules come to addressing kayaks. The Coast Guard Navigation Center has posted on-line a FAQ dealing with the issue:

Where do Kayaks and Canoes fit into the Navigation Rules? Neither the International nor Inland Navigation Rules address "kayaks" or "canoes," per se, except in regard to "vessels under oars" in Rule 25 regarding lights. One could infer that a "vessel under oars" should be treated as a "sailing vessel" since it is permitted to display the same lights as one, but, ultimately the issue of whom "gives way" would fall to what would be "required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case" (Rule 2).”

The experienced kayaker often interprets Rule 2 as the “Big and Ugly Rule” also known as the “Rule of Gross Tonnage.” These unofficial, but eminently sensible rules mean that if it is bigger or uglier than you and your kayak, stay out of the way!

Some additional practical navigation rules for kayakers:

Avoid paddling in marked navigational channels.

When crossing channels, cross as a group, at right angles to the channel to minimize your time in the channel. Look both ways before crossing.

When navigating in windy tidal creeks, get quickly to one side or the other if you hear a boat engine. Better yet, try to keep to on side or the other at all times.

If you capsize in the path of a container ship in Charleston Harbor, it is proper nautical etiquette to pray. Especially when the ship sounds the danger signal – 5 or more short blasts on the horn.

I often ask the question during discussions of kayakers rights of way – “Do you want your tombstone to read: ‘But I had the right of way!’”

Scott is a former Coast Guardsman and commercial boat captain. He is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina and an American Canoe Association Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor. He considers himself an expert in Navigational Rules; what do you think? Email him at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stono River trip today!

Too tired to post anything but photo link... but stay tuned for details on the Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group trip on the Stono River from James Island / Battery Landing to Kiawah Island / Sandy Point. Click here for photo link.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Kayaking in Charleston, S.C.!!

Kayaking in the snow is unusual; kayaking in the snow in Charleston, S.C. may well be historic. The shop is closed on Tuesday’s during the winter so while it was cold outside I decided to go for a paddle. There was a possibility of snow in the forecast but the sun was trying to come out and I didn’t really expect to see any frozen precipitation. So I set out for a solo paddle because no one else was stupid enough to join me in the balmy 39 degree air.

Some people may not consider paddling alone in cold weather very smart but it’s a lot about preparation. I wore a micro-base layer, a wet suit over that, form fitting fleece and finally a semi-dry top and pants. A dry suit would have been best but still I felt confident in this gears ability to protect me. On top of that I didn’t paddle in water that would test my abilities; I have a fairly reliable role and advanced self-rescue training. Finally I had dry clothes with me in a watertight hatch.

Paddling on days like this when it’s just me, my boat, the water and the elements makes me feel close to our kayaking forefathers. I ran into a pod of dolphins that were playing (probably trying to stay warm) and they circled diving in and out of the water while making eye contact with me. They were probably trying to figure what I was doing out there.

Finally it was time to return home and amazingly snow flurries began about a mile from my take-out point. So realizing this was maybe my only chance to paddle in the snow here I told myself if it was still snowing when I got to the take-out I was going to roll my boat in the snow.

As fate would have it the snow continued and I had to decide if I was going to go upside down in 49 degree water. I decided it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So I pulled on my rolling beanie, positioned my boat so if I missed I wouldn’t be but a couple of feet from the bank and went for it. It was like sticking my head in a bucket of ice but I made it and now I can say I’ve rolled my kayak in the snow in Charleston. I just wish I had a picture of it!!

All and all it was an amazing day and I reminds me of why I paddle. See you on the water soon.


Famous author caught by paparazzi!

Best-selling local Author Ralph Earhart caught by the paparazzi at a Daniel Island hotspot! Ralph is the author of Kayak Charleston, the definitive guide to kayak trips in the Charleston area. And what is he wearing? A Sea Kayak Carolina t-shirt!

Ralph Earhart, author of best selling book Kayak Charleston, with an unidentified starlet at a Daniel Island hotspot. Trendsetting Ralph is sporting a Sea Kayak Carolina Turtle t-shirt!

Monday, January 19, 2009

On-line Charleston Sea Kayakers social networking...

Good day! Lot's of opportunities for Charleston Kayakers to connect on-line. (I think this Internet thing might stick around; perhaps it is not just a fad.)

Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group has been active even in the cooler Winter months. Check them out here:

Facebook users - check out the new Charleston Sea Kayakers Group.

Another community of Charleston Paddlers can be found at

Finally, check out the goings on at

But I'd rather see YOU on the water, or at the shop! Scott

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yikes, it's cold out there! I'm just back from Folly Beach - just looking at the ocean from the heated car made me shiver. Good news is that it will be warming up next weekend for some good paddling...

Boys of Summer? Nope, the men of Sea Kayak Carolina! William, Steve and Scott buzzed some summer cuts in hopes of getting a jump on Spring! (Get it, jump on Spring?) Our motto? Hair care, or more time for kayaking!

Stop in this weekend for a free cup of coffee, watch a kayak video, and daydream about next weekend's kayak adventure. Sea Kayak Carolina is located on James Island, between downtown Charleston and Folly Beach in the great state of South Carolina.

Sea Kayak Carolina, a Community of Kayakers, a Place for Paddlers! Sea Kayak Carolina is the proud Gold Sponsor of the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Aaaahhh, ooowhoo, Werewolves of London!

Werewolf? There wolf! (Alright, if I haven't scared you off already, please read on for information on today's Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group trip, and a down and dirty lesson on the moon's impact on our tides.)

It's hard for me to see a full moon without thinking of the late, great Warren Zee Von. It was a full moon at perigee leaving the shop today on James Island headed over the Connector to West Ashley.

The Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group left the shop this morning under the direction of William. About 20 paddlers rode the last of the ebb (outgoing) tide toward Bird Key with a break on the sandy beach on the river just short of the Bird Key/Folly Inlet. A reported great time was had by all; complete with dolphin strand feeding and a spectacular capsize and an equally impressive rescue by Lynn. Click here for a photo link of the trip.

The low tide today was 0.6 feet below the mean (average) low tide. This was due to two lunar factors today. The moon was full - in-line with the sun and earth. So the sun and moon were working together to exert a maximum gravitational pull. A spring tide, which happens twice every month at the times of the new moon and the full moon. But today... a perigean tide. The perigiean tide happens at the time of a new or full moon when the moon is closest to earth in its elliptical orbit. What will you do tonight in recognition of the full moon at perigee?

Sea Kayak Carolina is a Community of Kayakers, a Place for Paddlers, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Surprise visit from a distinguished kayaker...

Tom Nickels graced us with his first visit to Sea Kayak Carolina this week. I had the great pleasure to paddle with Tom, Charlton DuRant, and William Seabrook from the Folly River landing, out around Bird Key into the ocean, and back into the Folly River. It was a beautiful way to start the week! It was a paddle I had often done with Tom, and words cannot express how happy I was to be on the ocean with him, on our old stompin' grounds.

Tom is an American Canoe Association Open Water Instructor Trainer, and a British Canoe Union Sea Assessor, Coach Level 3 A-1. He trained with Nigel Dennis at the Centre in Anglessey, Wales a few years back.

Tom currently is the Sea Kayak Director at Potomac Paddlesports in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. There is some talk about the new administration making Tom the national sea kayak czar, but for now Tom is happy at Potomac Paddlesports and as an occasional traveling kayak instructor.

The gang at Sea Kayak Carolina looks forward to collaborative efforts with Potomac Paddlesports and our good friend Tom Nickels. Contact Tom at to say hello.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Year

Happy New Year! I have a few resolutions for 2009:
#1 - blog more often!
#2 - never paddle without a digital camera!

I have a lot of reflections on 2008: My Father's death; opening Sea Kayak Carolina; hernia surgery and recovery; some spectacular local kayak adventures; a fantastic trip to Key Largo; lots of new friends; and the joy and love from the people around me.

What's in store for 2009? So much, I'm almost overwhelmed! A few upcoming highlights: I'm assisting Karen Knight with an American Canoe Association (ACA) Instructor Development Workshop/Instructor Certification Exam (IDW/ICE) in February at Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo. Sue will be going to help, and some other folks from Sea Kayak Carolina will be attending as candidates.

In April we will hold another IDW/ICE here in Charleston - with Dale Williams. Then, later in April... Sea Kayak Carolina is the Gold Sponsor of the 2009 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival - held just down the road from the shop at the James Island County Park. Charleston becomes the center of the kayak universe every April - Sea Kayak Carolina is excited to be part of it!

Well, that's all for now. We hope to see you at the shop, better yet, in a kayak on the waters in and around Charleston, South Carolina! ~Scott

Scott Szczepaniak (pictured desperately trying to overcome his natural shyness) is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina. The shop is located at 1731 Signal Point Road, Charleston, South Carolina (on James Island). The number at the shop is (843) 225-7969, web site Sea Kayak Carolina is a full service kayak shop, offering kayak tours, kayak classes and retail sales for the Charleston kayaking community. Sea Kayak Carolina, a Place for Paddlers in Charleston!