Question about sea kayaking out of Homer and Seward—guided or unguided?
Hi. Please excuse my ignorance if this is a dumb question—some friends and I will be traveling to the Kenai this June and want to do some sea kayaking. Ideally, we'd love the chance to see whales, orcas, otters, glaciers, etc. We have some kayaking experience, but mostly recreationally on lakes, as well as some sea kayaking in Hawaii. We're in our thirties and in decent shape. So here's what I'm hoping to get some advice on: are there any cool areas that would be safe enough to just rent kayaks and go out on our own as opposed to taking a 200-400 dollar day tour? I know some of the tours take a water taxi to places that we couldn't reach, but are there any somewhat protected coves or anything where we could do this without having to deal with unsafe currents, etc? If so, are there any particular areas that you would recommend?
Thanks in advance for any advice you may have. I really appreciate it.
Both Homer and Seward offer rentals for sea kayaking and both are fairly protected. Given the right weather, both places can be safe for anyone with some experience.
Water taxi's aren't super cheap but in both places will get you out to better and more secluded scenery. In Homer, it's a 2 mile crossing from the spit to the southern portion of the bay which is fairly sheltered and more diverse in wildlife.
One more option in the area that I really enjoy from a scenery and diversity point of view is a kayak trip down the upper Kenai River.
I fish out of my kayak and I can't say I am much into scenery. But I have been told by other folks the background of some of my fishing shots are pretty nice! lol.
Here's a photo album from Sadie Cove which is South of Homer. We took a water taxi so we could have time to fish but I think its relatively speaking in range for an all day outing. Maybe a tad far. But areas like this are available closer to Homer.
Photos from out trip to Fox Island via water taxi from Seward the end of May. Maybe 30 minute ride. Fairly cheap per person.
95% of the fishing I do is in the Southcentral Alaska Area from Anchorage to Homer. Though its fishing and not really sea kayaking, I have a few videos of the surrounding areas that you can look at to see what it generally is like immediately near Homer or Seward in terms of scenery and ocean conditions. I have only used a water taxi only once other than the trip I listed above. The rest of the fishing pics and videos are road accessible (except the Kodiak segment!)
You can find my yearly highlight videos at http://AlaskaKayakFisher.com
I think that you can rent Kayaks from Millers Landing for $50/day and they will probably want you to do their sea kayaking class for $80. I haven't taken their class. You can also rent kayaks from REI in Anchorage, if you are driving to Seward from Anchorage.
Resurrection Bay is pretty protected and generally has safe landing spots on the west shore all the way out to Bear Glacier, which might take you 3 hours or so from Millers Landing. It's common to camp at Caines head (there are two beaches, the southern beach sees much less traffic, you can hike up to an old WWII era gunnery site from either beach). In my opinion, if you carry survival gear, wear life vestsand are basically competent in the water, paddling that portion of the Bay out to Bear Glacier isn't any more dangerous than paddling on a large lake, such as the Great Lakes. You can stay close to the shore so that if something goes wrong you don't have far to go to get to shore, and the surf is generally small enough that nothing should go wrong. All proper disclaimers are appropriate. My risk tolerance is probably greater than a lot of peoples.
Self rescuing in a sea kayak is really, really difficult. It's probably smart to take Miller Landings sea kayaking course, but even after taking it, don't plan on being able to self rescue in your kayak. You have to remember that whatever conditions turned you upside down are the same conditions that are present when you are trying to get back into your boat. Travelling in two single kayaks is safer than one double, both because the second kayak can assist you in your self rescue, but also because the second kayak can tow you and your boat to shore. In a double kayak, stay close to the shore, and don't spend too much time in parts of the Bay that don't have a beach.
You will like this trip well enough, but you aren't going to be blown away by the marine wildlife you see, or the remote beauty. Too many people. Not so many people that you won't enjoy yourself, but if you really want the experience that I think you want, you need to get your Kayak into Kenai Fjords National Park, which realistically means a water taxi. I paddled from Seward to Aialik Bay the first time I was ever in a Kayak, with a friend in a foldable double sea kayak, and I lived to tell about it. But, I have to warn you that there is an 8 mile stretch where there is basically no beach, when the weather comes up you can easily have 3 foot surf, which isn't a big wave for a surfboard but makes it really tricky to land your kayak on a rocky beach, and you are exposed directly to the open ocean for approximately 1 mile. This isn't small stuff. On a calm day it's risky. On a weather day it's really stupid for most people to be paddling from one bay to the other. Basically, a beginner kayaker has no business doing that trip.
However, Aialik Bay is phenomenal. I've seen Orcas, puffins, sea lions, dolphins, mountain goats and much more. You kayak next to ice bergs and watch the glaciers calve. You investigate hidden little coves and if you bring a fishing rod you have a decent chance of catching fish to eat. There are a couple NPS cabins back in the bay that you can stay in. And, it's generally even more protected than Resurrection Bay. They ocean can be churning at the head of the Bay, but back in the Bay where you are it will still be relatively calm.
But, don't paddle there. Take a water taxi. It's a little bit expensive. You might be able to negotiate with them to drop you off and pick you up for the price of one trip, but they will probably charge you for two trips (one for pick up, one for drop off). It's worth the expense. This will be the highlight of your Alaska vacation. Spend a couple days or a week in Aialik Bay, you won't be disappointed. And, if you take the water taxi, you won't die. I can't offer you that guarantee if you paddle around the cape.
There is a lot of neat water to explore on the east side of Resurrection Bay as well. I'd probably just paddle directly across the bay from Caines Head to Fox Island on a calm day, but you end up going quite a ways offshore. After paddling around Caines Head for a while you can decide whether or not you are comfortable crossing the Bay. If not, you can always paddle back to Millers Landing and drive your vehicle to the East Side and put the kayak back in the water over there.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a waterproof Marine VHF radio, so that when your Kayak is upside down, in the middle of the Bay, too far to swim to shore, you have a decent chance of getting ahold of a nearby boat who can help you out.
Seriously consider getting a dry suit. I wear a relatively inexpensive two piece Dry Suit when I paddle. If the weather is really warm and water is calm I'll take the top half off, but if I was to go for a swim very far offshore, I would be very happy to have my dry suit on.
Thanks a lot for the response. And those photos are amazing. It's going to be a long wait until June.
Thanks so much for all of the information. It's great getting advice that's more detailed and useful than the general overviews in the guidebooks. We'll be sure to hit Aialik Bay. It sounds amazing--can't wait to come check it all out in person.