Volume 6, No. 1

Promoting Cooperation to Maintain and Enhance
Environmental Quality in the Gulf of Maine

Spring 2002
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Gulf-wide kayaking expedition to launch May 1
An ambitious voyage aims to educate at sea and on the Web

By Lee Bumsted

If you are boating in the Gulf of Maine this spring or summer, keep an eye out for a group of hardy sea kayakers with big stacks of nautical charts on their decks. They will be paddling from Provincetown, at the northeastern end of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, all the way to Cape Sable Island, at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. They will start out May 1, and plan to complete their journey of 1,000 nautical miles by early October.

Participants in the Gulf of Maine Expedition hope to raise awareness of the very existence of the Gulf as a distinct bioregion by paddling its entire coast. According to Natalie Springuel, the expedition's leader, "We want to help people understand what the Gulf of Maine is, its oceanography, its shoreline, its watersheds, its habitats, its people and places. This is an ecological and cultural awareness adventure." She hopes that in traveling slowly, by kayak, expedition members will gain and convey to others "a sense of the Gulf that cannot be gained by other means of travelža personal, immediate and intimate sense of time and place."

Dan Earle and Sue Hutchins, from Yarmouth, NS are part of the expedition team.
Photo: Rita d'Angelo

The kayakers will share their on-the-water experiences in public presentations at ten waterfront communities along the way. They will give a slide show that will evolve as their journey progresses and also offer workshops for adults and children tailored to the interests of host organizations. Possible workshop topics include the Gulf of Maine itself, "Leave No Trace" recreational use principles, island stewardship and boating safety.

The expedition will be equipped with a laptop computer and digital still and video cameras, thanks to support from Maine Sea Grant. Participants will use the equipment to update the expedition's Web site three or four times each week. Visitors to the site can follow along with the paddlers' journey. There will be a map showing their route and current location, photographs they have taken and logs of their observations. These logs will include data about wildlife sightings, recreational use of islands, shoreline ecology, plankton counts and water quality. Information about the public programs and how to contact the kayakers en route will also be available on their Web site.

The Gulf of Maine Expedition will have between four and eight kayakers on the water at any given point. Team leader Springuel is a marine educator and longtime sea kayak guide living in Bar Harbor, Maine. Joining her will be other paddlers from Maine, as well as two from Nova Scotia and one from New York. The team members, who range in age from 28 to 64, have a wealth of experience in environmental and outdoor education. Four people will paddle the entire 1,000 miles, while others can join them for segments of the trip. The expedition size is limited to eight to minimize its impact when overnighting on islands. With advance planning, local kayakers can join the group for short stints and there will be a few camp-outs where larger numbers can be accommodated.

The logistics of travelling in 17-foot-long kayaks for up to five months will present some special challenges to the expedition members. By the end of April, they hope to have developed a large network of volunteers and contacts from Cape Cod to Cape Sable Island. They need volunteers to host workshops along their route. They are seeking contacts who can provide local knowledge on topics such as paddling conditions, where to camp, and where to come ashore for supplies. There may be times when they need a ride, a place to store their kayaks, or a spot to spend the night, for instance, and they would like to be prepared with a comprehensive list of local contacts. It is not too late to share your knowledge, or to volunteer to help with a workshop in your area. There may even still be room for you if you would like to be one of the kayakers with a large collection of charts!

To learn more about the Gulf of Maine Expedition or to volunteer to help, visit their Web site, www.geocities.com/gomexpaddler/, or contact one of the following:

Natalie Springuel,
Bar Harbor, Maine,
expedition leader: springuel@acadia.net, (207) 288-4205;


Dan Earle and Sue Hutchins,
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia,
expedition members: chebogue@klis.com, (902) 742-6382.

Lee Bumsted is the author of "Hot Showers! Maine Coast Lodgings for Kayakers and Sailors," a guide to 152 coastal B & B's, inns and similar lodgings and 30 campgrounds. Her book is available from www.biddle-audenreed.com/Kayak.html. She is an avid sea kayaker living in South Portland, Maine.