“Skiing” Penobscot Bay

photograph and video by Thorfinn Expeditions
text by Thor Emory

This morning I grabbed our Epic V-8 surfski and headed out for an hour and a half. I intended to just travel around my buoy loop off Lincolnville Beach but as I paddled into the freshening NW breeze, I was enticed to run off across Penobscot Bay for the southern end of 700 Acre Island. It was a crisp blue bird morning. The wind was building and white caps were sparkling in the morning light. Soon I was literally “skiing” across the bay. I would catch small wave trains and bounce from one bump to the next. The key was to keep my nose down and my speed up. With the wind at my back it felt effortless. My GPS said that I was averaging 7.8 mph and I was not even paddling all that hard! Eventually I had to turn the corner and head up into Gilkeys Harbor. It was upwind but in flat conditions. The efficiency of the V-8 allowed me to continue to crank along. After a couple of miles I passed Warren Island, leaving it to starboard, and from there I had a savage crossing back across Penobscot Bay. It was blowing 15-25 (knots). It was a tough crosswind crank. The idea of a breakfast sandwich from The Beach Store fueled me to keep the hammer down.

In all it was a 10-mile paddle and it took me an hour and a half. Not bad considering only the first 3-miles were downwind and then I had to fight. The stability of the V-8 was (again) impressive. I never had to brace even in the cross chop. I am really digging paddling a surfski here in Maine (even in winter conditions…drysuit). It is a great combo with SUP. For a ski, the V-8 has the general attributes that suit this area. It is fast in all conditions and it is stable. It could be called the adventure ski. The real fun is blasting downwind but I appreciate its capabilities across the board and I love the simplicity of a ski. No skirt, excess gear, weight etc. I can still carry some basic survival gear, food and water – but I like going light and fast.

Long, narrow, fast seakayaks and surfskis make sense! I have been sea kayaking for 18-years now. I have led a lot of long trips here in Maine and in places like Newfoundland and British Columbia. I used to take pride in the rugged Greenland style boats that I paddled. They felt expeditionary. I swore off rudders for skegs and I wanted the heavy layup. Then something shifted. I began to recognize that in sea kayaking and fitness paddling you spend 99% of your time just going forward. Speed can mean everything. Instead of wallowing in following seas you can just ride from wave train to wave train. The long, narrow, light boats are also incredibly seaworthy and the high performance sea kayaks can pack a lot of gear. Many of the toughest current kayak expeditions are now in boats like the Epic 18s that we carry here at Thorfinn (same hull as the V-8 surfski). They have gone around Australia and more recently Cape Horn.

These days I am not undertaking multi-week expeditions like I used to. My paddling is more day and fitness oriented. Paddling is great exercise and it is fantastic to be driving a machine that is designed to excel through the water.

Check out this article from Epic Kayaks, it talks about the design attributes of these boats. If you have the skills and want to join us for a demo “ski” or kayak out in the Bay, then just give a shout. – Thor