Archive for the sea kayaking Category

My job

Posted in alaska, antarctica, icebergs, photography, sea kayaking, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2013 by polarguide

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I have a unique set of skills that don’t lend themselves to consistent employment.  As a result my life is diverse and adventurous. I can’t always predict what will come next and I like it that way. I flow from one season, one country, one job, to the next. Like the tide rushing in to meet land again, then retreating slowly, floating away every stick or stump that has been ditched on the beach by the tide before, for the sake of memory, then abandoning them again on some other distant shore.

Sometimes it feels very insecure.  I don’t make much money and I travel often. This strains my relationships and sometimes makes finding work more difficult. People are less willing to commit to me personally and professionally because they know within a few months I will be leaving. That lack of commitment goes both ways.

I have been a massage therapist for fifteen years.  Massage makes up at least fifty percent of my annual income.  I have worked at sports clubs, fitness centers and chiropractic offices from philadelphia to Alaska. I’ve done massage while sailing through Beaufort 9 storms on ships in the Norwegian Arctic, through the legendary northwest passage of the Canadian Arctic and Antarctica.  Surprisingly, massage has carried me across the sea to some of the most remote parts of the world.

I have been a wilderness expedition guide for almost as long as I have been a massage therapist. In the summer I guide mainly sea kayak expeditions into remote parts of south east Alaska.  Guiding has allowed me to experience and learn things about the natural world that I always dreamed of as a child and gives me the opportunity to share and teach. It allows me  to follow another one of my passions, wildlife photography.

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Paddling below Mt. St. Elias. Wrangell St. Elias national park, Alaska

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Wrangell St. Elias national park, Alaska

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Me and co-guide Ken with our guests in front of the Guyot glacier.

I recently received my captains license. In between sea kayak expeditions  I captain a thirty foot aluminum boat named Taurus, that acts as a water taxi, delivering people to remote parts of south east Alaska.

The Taurus, loaded with kayaks and ready for a water taxi run.

The Taurus, loaded with kayaks and ready for a water taxi run.

My job working on a ship in Antarctica is the only place where all of my random skills, Massage therapist, kayak guide and boat captain, are unified. I suppose you could say I become complete, in a very narrow sense.

It takes two days for our ship to sail from Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica. During those days at sea I’m the massage therapist on board the ship.  I offer a variety of massage modalities to the passengers to meet their relaxation or pain therapy needs.   Arriving in Antarctica we offer two excursions off the ship each day to view amazing landscapes and exotic wildlife.  Passengers have the option of  going to shore via inflatable zodiac or going on a sea kayak excursion through the icebergs.  On these days I split my time between kayak guiding and zodiac pilot.

The Akademik Ioffee in Antarctica

The Akademik Ioffee in Antarctica

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Kayaking through a snow storm in Antarctica

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Zodiac cruising among giant ice bergs in Antarctica

Intertwined with all of this work and travel I am slowly building a home.  for years it’s been my dream to buy a piece of land and build a small home, myself.  Paid for out of pocket, no debt.  I have begun to realize that dream, all my spare time and money is dedicated to seeing it become a reality.

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I’m feeling the need to consolidate my skills and contain them geographically. This gives me sense of peace and anxiety.  The thought of being less diverse and less mobile is unappealing.  Continuing on my current course seems unsustainable.  I’m at a cross road.

More than once in my life I’ve steered into what felt like a dead end, then navigated ninety degrees from everything and everyone in my life.  Its hard to do, but it has its rewards.    Im not looking for anything that drastic now.  Its time for a change, but not a sea change.

I have never been fully conscious of  exactly what motivates me, only that I am motivated.  My best  perspective of the past is found by exploring where I am today.  The consequence of my motivation is in league with coincidence.

I need to meditate on the genesis of my motivation. Distill all of this experience and crystalize it into what comes next.

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Antarctica, early season

Posted in antarctica, penguins, photography, sea kayaking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by polarguide

I Just flew in from Argentina.  I made it home to Juneau, Alaska around 10 pm November 22nd, thanksgiving evening, after completing the first voyage of the season to Antarctica.  The voyage ended on the 20th of November but Argentina was in the midst of a national strike and all the airports were shut down.  I finally made it to the airport on the afternoon of the 21st. After twenty five hours of flying and over thirty five hours of travel (including layovers) I was blown into Juneau by the seasonal Taku winds at 10 pm, late for thanks giving dinner.

Our Voyage began on November 8th with a two day crossing of the Drake passage. The Drake passage is a five hundred mile wide body of ocean that separates Antarctica from south america, it is famous for foul weather.  The Drake lived up to her name on our two day sail south.  We encounted winds in access of thirty five knots and seas over five meters high. Not the most comfortable of crossings but it does make for some great birding and bird photography as the petrels and albatross love to surf the wind over the swells. Capturing birds in flight over a stormy Drake passage has become one of my photographic obsessions.

Pintado Petrel over the Drake passage

It is early spring in Antarctica and the weather was a dominating factor in deciding our itinerary.  Temperatures remained well below freezing for the entire journey and we had to dig our Zodiacs out from beneath several inches of snow each morning.

Regardless of the weather we were able to complete all but one of our excursions off the ship. In fact it was the perfect weather for skiing and snow shoeing given the amount of fresh snow that fell each day, although it did make kayaking a-lot more challenging. Fortunately we had a hearty group of adventures on board who were ready and willing to face the elements.  They didn’t travel to Antarctica expecting sun and palm trees, after all.

The ocean temperature was so cold that the falling snow failed to melt and accumulated on the surface of the water.  The kayakers were paddling through two inches of slush while snow piled up on the decks of their kayaks.

The continent of antarctica is beutifull this time of year.  The penguins are just retuning and havn’t had time to foul the pure white snow to a muddy shade of guano red.  They are coming home after a long winter at sea and its facinating to watch them exit the ocean and climb the steep snow banks of the beach to return to their nesting sites. Once there mates greet each other with ritual dancing and braying, they squabble over nesting sites and then mating begins.

Copulating Gentoo penguins

The weather conditions didn’t allow much opportunity for photography.  I shot less than five hundred photos on the entire trip, most are not worthy of sharing.

I will be home in Juneau until December 2oth, I will return to Argentina on December 28th to board the ship again for more Antarctic adventure. I will remain on-board the ship until March 27th.