Have never done any form of kayaking/white water rafting but would like to cross some of the inlets on vancouver island during my cycle tour around the area. I have a lot of questions and was hoping here was the place to get them answered.
What boat would be best to carry a bicycle and camping gear? I was looking at the Alpacka Denali Llama or Unrigged Explorer…
Is it safe to cross open (ocean) water like this solo? I’m concerned about waves flipping/flooding the boat, whales, and having the boat fail on me (i.e getting a puncture half a kilometer from the shore and watching my gear sink to the bottom of the ocean)
What sort of distance is it normal to cover per day?
Best boat is the one that fits you from Alpaca / Yukon Yak / Denali Llama.
Crossing open water solo in a small inflatable boat is never ‘safe’, but there are some things you can do to mitigate the risk;
Practice, practice, practice
Don’t go when the weather is against you
Learn about tides, navigation
Carry a PLB
Make sure your swimming is as good as possible
PFD at all times
Learn how quick you die in cold water, find out the temperature of the water you are going to cross
I’m concerned about waves flipping/flooding the boat, whales, and having the boat fail on me
If you are in a swell big enough to capsize you, then that will me heavy going in any case. May be ok for a 500m dash. It is possible to self rescue, but if the swell / waves are big anyway, it will get progressively harder.
If you pack well and watch out for any sharp bits of bike etc, then you shouldn’t puncture. AFAIAA there hasn’t been a case of this up till now. There’s a first time for everything.
I get nervous further than say 800m out from shore. So that’s a 1.5k crossing. In a small boat, you are really committed. Wind and waves can push you where you don’t want to go, and force you to keep paddling constantly to keep your bearing. It is ok for half an hour, but you need to practice it. If your arms give out with an offshore wind or tide, you could get pushed far out from land.
On flat water or sea, I don’t think a packraft is a full day type thing. They do about 3kph in flat calm. They are not the most efficient things for long paddles, I’d top it at 10k max, but even then, you’d want to practice that and know what you are in for. On a nice day with places to stop and no hurry, no problem. 15 mph offshore wind and 3 foot swell on the open sea? Rethink it.
Not to be negative, but I’d advise you get to know the boat and seek direct knowledge and advice from other paddlers - kayakers - before taking on anything big.
As someone who paddles mostly open waters, I agree with everything McNik has written, and would only like to add a couple of suggestions:
using paddles that can be feathered ( like the sawyers) makes a difference when you are in windy conditions.
i carry a small bilge pump- since despite the fact that the rafts are amazingly capable in swells bigger then you’d think-you’d probably get water in the raft ( think also getting in/ out in waves near shore, the shallows are the hardest and wettest part often…- i have not used the new 2012 whitewater spraydeck which is supposedly much better at keeping you dry in rough weather also- but the small additional weight of the pump, IMHO, is worth it, especially if you are sitting/sloshing in cold water for a while on the way… (check:http://www.backcountry.com/harmony-high-volume-bilge-pump)
i found it is quite possible to go for quite a while ( time wise) and quite a ways( distance) in a raft- and if you work the tides/ currents a good distance can be achieved, but as McNik correctly suggests: practice,practice, then some more- without bike first ( you can put some ‘ballast’ with sand in a stuff sack and tied to the front to ‘simulate’ weight of bike, and get used to how the raft handles waves, swells off shore, winds and currents, and how feathering the paddles helps when the wind has other ideas and destinations for you…you’ll get fitter as you paddle longer, and my bet is you’ll find the wildlife a great bonus and enjoyable company- i regularly have the company of dolphins and seals, and find they are curious, certainly never had and sense of danger at all. Whales would present the same challenge as it does to kayaks, i am pretty sure, just that you can not manoeuvre as fast as a kayak, so best to keep that in mind ( also for other oncoming boat traffic etc)
Hope this helps some.