Kayaking in the Arctic Ocean

rnArmy

Adventurer
In August (2019) a group of us plan on driving the Dempster Highway all the way to Inuvik and on to Tuk now that they opened the new road, and put our kayaks in the Arctic Ocean (technically the Beaufort Sea or even more descriptive possibly the Mackenzie Bay, but whatever - saying "The Arctic Ocean" just sounds cooler). So my questions are:

1. Has anybody here been to Tuk and really looked at the water?

2. What is the water like? Is it like the east coast beaches with waves and such, or is it more placid and still? My kayak isn't an ocean kayak.

Thanks.

Check out the trip map below. We'll be taking the gray line up (till it intersects with the blue line), and then the blue line all the way back. Send me a PM if you're interested in going for more info. We leave Bellingham WA 16 Aug, and return 2 Sep.

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Explorerinil

Observer
Very very cool trip! I would give you some kayak advice but I just fish lakes in the Midwest. I got a friend that goes out in the Gulf of Mexico fishing often, he’s got his set up for oceans, he has allot of specialized stuff on it that I am in aware of. I would get one some dedicated forums and give Jackson kayak a call and see what they recommend.
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Just my opinion, but that kayak has no business in the artic ocean.
That's why I'm asking if anyone has any firsthand experience up there around Tuk in the Beaufort Sea. I've seen some pictures of the Beaufort Sea, and it looked pretty placid. We don't plan on doing any extensive kayaking in the Beaufort Sea; I think we're just going to paddle around a little bit just to say we did (kind of like doing a victory lap after winning a race - except this time it is for running the Dempster).

I will google "Jackson Kayak" and see what they have to say. The trip isn't until August (2019), so we have plenty of time to get the kayak thing sorted out. Part of the fun of a trip like this is doing the research.
 

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Low_Sky

Member
For what it’s worth, any time I’ve seen the salt from Prudhoe Bay, it’s been calm.

Bring a dry suit and a PFD. That water is deadly cold and even a lighthearted victory lap paddle can get you killed.

I saltwater kayak in Southcentral Alaska and wouldn’t dare go out without my suit on. Anyone who does is just asking for it.


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ottsville

Observer
Never been in Alaska but have almost 30 years of whitewater experience, good amount of flat/moving water experience, and a bit of open water experience.

IMO/E any thing you plan to paddle in cold open water should have a sprayskirt or be quasi-unflippable, you should have a drysuit, and you should have a bombproof roll in all conditions especially in cold water that will give you an instant ice cream headache.

Seems like a long way to haul a kayak and gear for a short paddle.
 

Lucky j

Explorer
I agree with the cold water gear and inclosed kayak.

But I am sure it can be done. It is worth it to bring a kayak al this way for a victory lap, not sure. The days you hets there, it could be stormy and water could be unaccessible for mutliple days. What about a swin.

Winter kayaking is getting more and more popular here on thethe Saint-Laurence river in quebec. In our are, it is salt water and water temp is like 34F even in summer, so very close from what you will find up there in winter (april will still be winter up there).

Perso, I would contact the town council at Tuk, I am sure they will find or point you in the right direction to help. Since they will be the ones hepling you in case of emergencies, might as well talk to them.
But, I have to add that the cool factor is just wow! :)
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
A quick google search on dry suits shows they are expensive! And what's the difference between "dry" and "semi-dry"? I wonder if anybody rents them up in Tuk. Next thing to google: Spray skirts. Again; I'm hoping for placid water up there - essentially flat and calm.

And we will be on a time schedule on this trip. Either the weather will cooperate once we get to Tuk, or it won't. We'll have one day up there. I guess the unknown is part of the adventure. If the weather sucks, we'll do a polar dunk just to say we did. I'll set up a tent with a heater prior to dunking.

It isn't an adventure if there isn't a bit of nonsense involved - the very fact we're going doesn't make sense to some folks. Lugging kayaks 2500 miles to the Arctic Ocean to possibly be able to go paddling up there... come-on; you know you want to come with us. Admit it. Running part of the Alaska Highway, running the Dempster all the way to Tuk, camping along the way, hanging out a bit in Dawson (& visiting Diamond Tooth Gertie's Saloon); it has major road trip and adventure written all over it. Kayaking the Arctic ocean just puts the icing on the cake.
 

Low_Sky

Member
A quick google search on dry suits shows they are expensive! And what's the difference between "dry" and "semi-dry"? I wonder if anybody rents them up in Tuk. Next thing to google: Spray skirts. Again; I'm hoping for placid water up there - essentially flat and calm.

And we will be on a time schedule on this trip. Either the weather will cooperate once we get to Tuk, or it won't. We'll have one day up there. I guess the unknown is part of the adventure. If the weather sucks, we'll do a polar dunk just to say we did. I'll set up a tent with a heater prior to dunking.

It isn't an adventure if there isn't a bit of nonsense involved - the very fact we're going doesn't make sense to some folks. Lugging kayaks 2500 miles to the Arctic Ocean to possibly be able to go paddling up there... come-on; you know you want to come with us. Admit it. Running part of the Alaska Highway, running the Dempster all the way to Tuk, camping along the way, hanging out a bit in Dawson (& visiting Diamond Tooth Gertie's Saloon); it has major road trip and adventure written all over it. Kayaking the Arctic ocean just puts the icing on the cake.
A semi-dry suit is a diving thing. You want a dry suit or a paddling suit (the neck isn’t water-tight, more comfortable but less dry if you go in). Look at brands like Kokatat or NRS. Yeah, they’re expensive. What’s your life worth?

Kayakers die or nearly die in Alaska from cold water exposure every year. Sometimes it’s inexperienced paddlers like yourself, sometimes it’s experienced paddlers that get complacent.

I can’t state this plainly enough. Don’t f@ck around with cold water unless you’re trained and equipped for it, your life is at stake.

If you aren’t prepared to kayak safely, leave them at home and just run in and take a dip. It’s equally as crazy/extreme/unusual and you won’t be able to get far enough from shore to get yourself in trouble.


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Paddler Ed

Adventurer
Whilst not as cold as the Arctic ocean, I did spend a long time paddling whitewater in the UK... the paddling season there is the winter, so you kind of get used to wearing a number of layers. We did have ice in the eddys at times, and certainly on the rocks.

For the last 4 years I was paddling in the UK, I used either a Reed Drysuit (aka Gimp suit) (used for about 2 years) or a full Typhoon dry suit. I would wear up to 3 layers of fleeces, including one that was a one piece IR suit that you got into via the neck, depending on how cold it was/what I was doing. If I was coaching I'd be a lot more static and often standing in the water, and so I'd wear 3 layers on my top half and 2 on the bottom half. If I was running a river, I'd probably use 1 + 2. My Typhoon dry suit had latex neck and wrists, dry zips on the back and relief zip and booties that fitted in my river boots with a decent pair of walking boot socks on.

The difference between a dry cag + trouser combination and full dry suit was the difference between hypothermic and not... and that was without going in the river for a swim. We had that a few times paddling one January in Wales with experienced paddlers going hypothermic due to inappropriate gear.

The biggest one I would say is also to make sure your head and hands are warm - I used to use a skull cap under my helmet until I changed to a helmet with less holes in it, and in a kayak I'd often use neoprene gloves on whitewater.

If you are going out, make sure you have the following skills:
-Open water navigation and communication
-All in rescue
-H/X rescue
-T rescue
-Roll(s)
-Re-enter and roll
-Self rescue
All of which will require you to be able to use a spray deck compentently and confidently (and probably a neoprene one rather than a nylon one)

My personal recommendation is to book in with a guide up there, and use their gear etc: 60 seconds on Google gave me this list: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/nt/pingo/visit/Facilities-and-Services
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Whilst not as cold as the Arctic ocean, I did spend a long time paddling whitewater in the UK... the paddling season there is the winter, so you kind of get used to wearing a number of layers. We did have ice in the eddys at times, and certainly on the rocks.

For the last 4 years I was paddling in the UK, I used either a Reed Drysuit (aka Gimp suit) (used for about 2 years) or a full Typhoon dry suit. I would wear up to 3 layers of fleeces, including one that was a one piece IR suit that you got into via the neck, depending on how cold it was/what I was doing. If I was coaching I'd be a lot more static and often standing in the water, and so I'd wear 3 layers on my top half and 2 on the bottom half. If I was running a river, I'd probably use 1 + 2. My Typhoon dry suit had latex neck and wrists, dry zips on the back and relief zip and booties that fitted in my river boots with a decent pair of walking boot socks on.

The difference between a dry cag + trouser combination and full dry suit was the difference between hypothermic and not... and that was without going in the river for a swim. We had that a few times paddling one January in Wales with experienced paddlers going hypothermic due to inappropriate gear.

The biggest one I would say is also to make sure your head and hands are warm - I used to use a skull cap under my helmet until I changed to a helmet with less holes in it, and in a kayak I'd often use neoprene gloves on whitewater.

If you are going out, make sure you have the following skills:
-Open water navigation and communication
-All in rescue
-H/X rescue
-T rescue
-Roll(s)
-Re-enter and roll
-Self rescue
All of which will require you to be able to use a spray deck compentently and confidently (and probably a neoprene one rather than a nylon one)

My personal recommendation is to book in with a guide up there, and use their gear etc: 60 seconds on Google gave me this list: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/nt/pingo/visit/Facilities-and-Services
Thank-you so much for the link. I will start emailing some of the guides up there.
 

Explorerinil

Observer
A two piece non roto molded cheap kayak has absolutely no business in those waters.

But since Kayaks were invented there, I say go for it.
Your Right! I would give the folks at Jackson kayak a call tell them the details of the trip and see what they recommend. In my opinion they make the best kayaks you can buy.
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Ok; I'm sold on the dry suit concept. I'm in.

Now what's a good but very reasonably priced dry suit for up in the Arctic Ocean (in August if that makes any difference)? I'm not going scuba diving so I don't need all the valves and such.
 
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