KAYAKING 2,300 MILES on the MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI — They boated every inch of America’s most famous river

Modern day Huckleberry Finn-style adventurers on the Mississippi, Ryan (left) and Phillip take a break from their 2,300 mile kayak trip to snack on watermelon just north of Memphis. Mark Twain’s famous book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” tells of Huck stealing a watermelon – Ryan and Phillip were given theirs by a farmer who lives on the river.

Modern day Huckleberry Finn-style adventurers on the Mississippi, Ryan (left) and Phillip take a break from their 2,300 mile kayak trip to snack on watermelon just north of Memphis. Mark Twain’s famous book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” tells of Huck stealing a watermelon – Ryan and Phillip were given theirs by a farmer who lives on the river.

“Hey, Phillip, let’s take a boat trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River!” So began a remarkable Huck Finn-style river voyage by two self- described adventurers, travelers, and videographers.

Ryan Jeanes’ casual remark to his business partner, Phillip Hullquist, planted the seed that grew into the duo’s three month odyssey from one end of America’s most iconic river to the other — a 2,300 mile river adventure from the Mississippi’s headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico…and resulted in their full length documentary movie, “The River is Life”.

Ryan paddles while Phillip (not shown) shoots video on their first day on the Mississippi River about two miles from its headwaters. The water's only six inches deep there - nothing like what you expect in the Mighty Mississippi.

Ryan paddles while Phillip (not shown) shoots video on their first day on the Mississippi River about two miles from its headwaters. The water's only six inches deep there - nothing like what you expect in the Mighty Mississippi.

“What’s stopping YOU?”

Many people may dream of being adventurous enough to drop everything and do something like travel the length of the Mississippi for three months. Some may talk about their plan for years. But few will actually do it. And that is the whole point film makers Jeanes and Hullquist drive home in their documentary, “The River is Life.”

“Dream it. Live it. Film it” is the slogan the duo has pinned to their video company, 11 Visions. Phillip sums up their philosophy with a poignant question. “What’s stopping you,” he asks, “from doing the things you really want to do?”

Ryan and Phillip have made a boating adventure film that’s an engaging, watchable,  and very interesting film about America. “It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t enjoy this sweet, terrifically amiable documentary,” writes Mike Schulz in the River Cities’ Reader, a newspaper serving five cities along the upper Mississippi.

Passion for adventure

“When we started our film company, says Phillip, “we wanted to do and document the things we’re passionate about.” Adventure is their passion, and they did it on a shoestring. “Kayaking down the Mississippi is a fairly inexpensive venture although you’ll need to commit a significant period of time to complete such a journey.”

Business-and-adventure partners Phillip (left) and Ryan (right) at the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota about to embark on a 2,300 mile journey in Sea Eagle kayaks.

Business-and-adventure partners Phillip (left) and Ryan (right) at the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota about to embark on a 2,300 mile journey in Sea Eagle kayaks.

Boating for weeks on end, and camping nightly at the water’s edge, meant they had to pack all the camping gear any adventurer would need for an extended trip, plus all their cameras and video gear. Ryan and Phillip chose twin Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayaks. “We took a test run in a Sea Eagle,” says Phillip, “and decided we really needed two boats to carry us and all our gear.”

Experimenting with various loading arrangements, they found their best plan was to ride and paddle in tandem in one 380x while towing their boatload of gear behind them in the second kayak.

“The 380x can carry a lot of gear,” says Ryan. “It can carry 300 lbs. of stuff, gear, tents, cook stoves, computers, video gear, backpacks, food, clothes, even solar panels to charge our cell phones.”

The choice of serious adventure boaters

Sea Eagle’s Explorer Kayaks are the kayak-of-choice for serious adventurers. Watch Sea Eagle owner, Ted Pasternak, navigate white water rapids in his Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak.

Phillip and Ryan were serious boaters, but not experienced ones. They gained their boating experience along the way. “We didn’t have that much boating experience,” says Phillip. “We didn’t know what conditions we were going to encounter. But we made the decision early to err on side of safety. People advised us to get longest boat we could. They told us they’re the fastest and had the most space for our gear.”

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? You have to be ready for anything on an extended kayaking trip. The 380x's stability was much appreciated by Phillip and Ryan when storms hit near Natchez, Mississippi.

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? You have to be ready for anything on an extended kayaking trip. The 380x's stability was much appreciated by Phillip and Ryan when storms hit near Natchez, Mississippi.

Ryan agrees, “We’re certainly long haul boaters but not professional boaters at all. The 380x is the perfect boat for all kinds of conditions” from bottoming out in shallow waters up north to crossing Lake Winnibegashish — a 67,000 acre Minnesota lake the Mississippi flows through. If we’d been in hard hull kayaks, I don’t know if we’d have made it. The performance and stability of the 380x are incredible. I love that boat.”

“I’ve always wanted to do X”

“Lots of people have great ideas for adventures,” says Phillip. “They’ll say, ‘I’ve always wanted to do X.’ Most peoples’ dreams are usually doable – but they haven’t done them yet. It’s basically a matter of really wanting to do something and going out and doing it.”

“There’s a spiritual pull to adventuring,” Ryan told us. “Human beings look for experiences to learn about ourselves. We like being challenged; we want to see how we’ll react to see what we’re made of. The idea of journeying is part of every culture in the world.”

Adventure a week at a time

Not all adventurers can clear their calendars several weeks or months at a time to live their dreams. But dreams are still doable. “We ran into a three- generation family boating the entire Mississippi as we were,” says Phillip. “But they couldn’t take three months off; they did it one week at a time. They boat to a certain point in a week’s time, then start from that point a year later. “They’re living their dream a week at a time and will eventually navigate the whole river.”

What’s next for this pair of video camera-toting adventurers? “I want to try white water kayaking,” said Ryan. His passing comment, like “Let’s boat the Mississippi,” may be the start of a new adventure documentary film. Watch for it at a movie theater near you!

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STALKING THE 30-LB. SALMON — STEELHEAD & SALMON FISHING on the Columbia River

One of George’s fishing buddies, Scott Morgan, was skeptical about George’s FoldCat until he reeled in his first Chinook salmon – a 38-inch beauty. Now he can’t wait to go out in the FoldCat again.

One of George’s fishing buddies, Scott Morgan, was skeptical about George’s FoldCat until he reeled in his first Chinook salmon – a 38-inch beauty. Now he can’t wait to go out in the FoldCat again.

Imagine for a moment you’re a farmer in a fertile, temperate valley and your crop is cherries. Your orchard commands all your time and attention from March to August, but things slow down from September to February. And imagine your farm is a stone’s throw from one of America’s greatest fishing rivers. What would you do in the winter?

If you were cherry farmer, George Davis, of The Dalles, Oregon, you’d go fishing in the nearby Columbia River. And you wouldn’t go just once in awhile. You’d toss back bass other fishermen would prize. You’d go fishing almost every day in your Sea Eagle FoldCat fc375, and you’d haul in what many consider the world’s finest salmon and steelhead measuring over three feet and weighing 30 lbs. and more!

“I’m addicted to the outdoors.”

“I’m an avid outdoorsman,” says George. He’s living full time the life other outdoorsmen have to squeeze into an occasional weekend. “You could say I’m addicted to the outdoors.” All summer, he’s out in the cherry orchards. And all winter, he’s fishing and whitewater rafting on the Columbia and Deschutes rivers, river rafting on the John Day River, trout fishing in high mountain waters like Badger Lake, fly fishing, camping, rock hunting, crabbing, clamming, as well as “exploring and watching peaceful sunsets.”

Two boats in one

“I do a wide variety of boating and fishing,” George told us. “I especially go after steelhead and salmon. I catch bass, too, but I release them.” He chose a Sea Eagle FoldCat fc375 and says, “I got two boats in one with the FoldCat – a boat for fishing and for river rafting.”

One of George’s favorite river rafting spots is the John Day River, named for one of the Oregon’s early explorers. He floats 10 or 11 miles a day for a week at a time, camping on shore in the evenings. “It’s an undammed, scenic river,” says George. “No houses or power lines, just Nature.”

George is ready for just about any outdoor adventure in what he calls his “Pacific Northwest Weekend Package.” He carries his FoldCat on his truck rack and tows a popup camper with his mountain bike on top. Oregon’s Fall Creek Lake, Willamette National Forest in the background.

George is ready for just about any outdoor adventure in what he calls his “Pacific Northwest Weekend Package.” He carries his FoldCat on his truck rack and tows a popup camper with his mountain bike on top. Oregon’s Fall Creek Lake, Willamette National Forest in the background.

George leaves his FoldCat inflated most of the time and heads for the backcountry in a rig he calls “My Pacific Northwest Weekend Package” – a truck with FoldCat on top, towing a camping trailer with a mountain bike on top. Still, “I like the FoldCat’s foldability. When I don’t want to take my truck, I can break the FoldCat down and put it in the back of my wife’s Ford Focus. It fits great.”

When camping overnight, George often brings firewood to his campsite strapped down on his FoldCat.

When camping overnight, George often brings firewood to his campsite strapped down on his FoldCat.

10’ sturgeon

“It’s stable and the fabric is outstandingly durable. I was jigging for salmon,” George told us, “and hooked a 10’ sturgeon.” These bony fish are covered with plates and have distinctive barbles.  “It kept running, I ran all around the boat trying to land it. I had it up alongside the boat twice. I wanted my jig back,” he says, “but my fishing buddy cut the line.” That’s one that got away, jig and all.

More than paid for itself in memories

George’s 11-year old son, Zain, snagged his first steelhead – all 32-inches – with his dad on a recent fishing trip to Prineville Lake, nestled near the headwaters of the Crooked River in the Ochoco Mountains.

George’s 11-year old son, Zain, snagged his first steelhead – all 32-inches – with his dad on a recent fishing trip to Prineville Lake, nestled near the headwaters of the Crooked River in the Ochoco Mountains.

George has introduced several others to salmon and steelhead fishing. “My friend Scott caught his first salmon from my FoldCat,” says George. “He was skeptical about this boat at first but now he can’t wait to go back for more.” And George’s 11-year old son, Zain, is well on his way to becoming an avid outdoorsman like his dad, having landed impressive bass and steelhead of his own.

Coming up, George and Zain are going after salmon on the Columbia and fly fishing on the upper part of the Deschutes River. “What this boat allows me to do is remarkable. In terms of memories, I’ve made more than I paid for it.”

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A TORN ROTATOR CUFF meant no more boating — then she started ROWING.

The rowing's great on northern Vermont's beautiful Lake Seymour. Great rehabilitation, great scenery, great fun, too, in a Sea Eagle PaddleSki set up for rowing.

Rose Mini went from injured ex-boater to happy and healthy recreational boater. She credits rowing with her ability to regain shoulder strength and functionality.

Funny how life’s negative experiences can lead to very positive ones. Rose Mini’s story is a great example of turning lemons into lemonade.

“I’ve been a boater since 1985,” Rose told us. “I’d always loved water, the ocean, and fishing.” Getting out on the water was easy for Rose. She owned a 20’ center console fishing boat and lives “right across the street from the Atlantic ocean” in Massachusetts.

“I had no strength, couldn’t handle my big boat.”

Then she suffered a shoulder injury – a torn rotator cuff. “I had no strength and couldn’t really handle my big boat by myself anymore.” That might have been the end of Ms. Mini’s boating adventures. But in a roundabout way, her injury opened the door for her to new and different boating experiences and a whole lot more.

Surgeries, physical therapy…then she started ROWING

“I basically couldn’t function with my injured shoulder,” Rose said. “I had surgery in 2008 and 2009. Then I did a lot of physical therapy and found that rowing is the best rehab exercise I could do for a rotator cuff.”

Rose joined a strength and conditioning program utilized by athletes, police, martial artists, and others who’re serious about fitness. “They have a rowing group and I joined it,” says Rose. “Rowing is high intensity functional movement; it’s metabolic conditioning training. Rowing helped my shoulder. It also helped me lose weight and become more fit.”

Beat half the competitors after just three months of rowing rehab

Rose got hooked on rowing during her rehabilitation from a torn rotator cuff. Here she's in competition in Boston. "Okay, encouragement is over...I'm about 1700 meters into it and Jane is now ordering me to do another power 10. I give a slight shake of my head and she responds..."Don't you shake you head at me....GIVE ME A POWER 10!"

ROSE GOT HOOKED ON ROWING during her rehabilitation from a torn rotator cuff. Here she's participating in indoor rowing competition in Boston. "Okay, encouragement is over...I'm about 1700 meters into it and Jane is now ordering me to do another power 10. I give a slight shake of my head and she responds..."Don't you shake you head at me....GIVE ME A POWER 10!"

Rose’s group doesn’t just row for exercise — they compete with teams from all over the world on indoor, stationary rowing machines. “I participated in competitive rowing in the World Indoor Rowing Championship at Boston University’s Agganis Arena last February,” said Rose. How’d she do? “I did 2,000 meters in 8 minutes and 50 seconds. I came in 16th in a field of 27.” And that’s after only three months of rehab rowing.

She got hooked on rowing

“I ended up loving rowing,” says Rose. “I got into it then discovered the Sea Eagle PaddleSki.” The PaddleSki is a 5-in-1, multi-functional Sea Eagle boat. It can be set up with a sail, with paddles, with a motor, or with rowing oars.

“I googled ‘kayaking’ and found the Sea Eagle website. I was very interested that I could roll up a Sea Eagle inflatable boat and take it anywhere, blow it up and throw it in the water anywhere.”

Then she discovered the Sea Eagle PaddleSki. “I got interested because it wasn’t limited to just one function. I wanted to row, but I liked that it’s big enough I could take people out. I thought ahead to wanting a motor, too.”

“I like that the PaddleSki’s inflatable,” she said. “I can go boating anyplace. The Sea Eagle is a one-time expense, then no more expenses. I inflate and deflate it each time I use it. I don’t have a place to keep a big boat – the PaddleSki deflates and I store it in my house.”

She’d recommend rowing

We asked Rose what she’d tell others who may have the same kind of injury she had. “I’d tell them about my PaddleSki because it’s so easy to do,” she replied. “Kayaking is easy and a great way to rehabilitate.” Of course, with any injury, consult your doctor before beginning any kind of treatment or rehabilitation.

What’s next for Rose, now that she’s strengthened her shoulder, gotten in shape, and has competitive rowing under her belt? “The next thing I want is a paddleboard!”

Do YOU have Sea Eagle stories and photos to share? Please email them!

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Nick & Yvonne discovered, “RV CAMPING & SEA EAGLE FISHING ARE SIMPLY MADE FOR EACH OTHER!”

Nick readies for a day of fishing adventures with his Sea Eagle FoldCat. In the background -- the breathtaking Grand Tetons.

Nick readies for a day of fishing adventures with his Sea Eagle FoldCat. In the background -- the breathtaking Grand Tetons.

Nick knows how to reel in the big ones like this prize rainbow trout

Going to Colorado any time soon? Whether you’re out on a lake fly fishing, or on heading down the highway, you might just cross paths with Nick and Yvonne Bledsoe with their pickup truck, RV, and their Sea Eagle FoldCat. “The Sea Eagle FoldCat is great for RV campers,” Nick told us.

You could find the Bledsoes at an RV campsite beside a mountain lake in the middle of nowhere. “Yvonne and I like to go RV camping. We’ll set up in some remote area where we can get away from crowds and stay a week at a time.” It’s relaxing and a lot of fun. And Nick adds, “RV camping is cheaper than motels.”

You got your dually, your RV, and your FoldCat

Here's the Bledsoe's camping setup -- dually, fifth wheel, and FoldCat. Fun, adventure, and relaxation all in one.

And Nick and Yvonne have discovered what thousands of others have: Sea Eagle boating, fishing, and RV camping are simply made for each other. “We have a Ford 350 dually diesel truck and a 33-foot fifth wheel RV. The RV has storage compartments built in and our Sea Eagle slides in neatly when it’s deflated. We leave it ‘aired up’ while camping. The truck’s big enough that the FoldCat will fit in the back.”

Trailering a hard-hull fishing boat gets expensive in these days of high gas prices. “I’ve had regular bass boats in the past but when I saw the Sea Eagle FoldCat advertised in Trailer Life magazine, I decided to give it a try instead of dragging around a big bass boat on a trailer.”

A lot of fun on a fly rod

“We catch brown and rainbow trout in Antero and Spinney Reservoirs near Fairplay, Colorado, also in the South Platte river, a Gold Medal river.” Nick says, “We catch 3 to 4 lb. rainbow trout. They’re lots of fun on a fly rod.” Yvonne adds, “Our Lake Jackson/Grand Tetons trip was our first big outing with the Sea Eagle. We’ve also taken it to Henry’s Lake in Idaho and Lake Hebgen in Montana.”

Nick’s tried lots of different ways to go after those elusive beauties. “We used to have float tubes, like an inner tube with waders hanging down and flippers. You’d kind of paddle around, kicking your feet but you get tired and they’re hard to get out of. We wanted to have something we could get in together that you didn’t have to drag behind the truck on a trailer.”

Simple assembly

The FoldCat’s simple assembly appealed to Nick. “Other inflatable boats seemed hard to assemble. They have an exterior framework with lots of parts that you have to put together before you inflate it. It takes an hour to get that kind of boat together with all the bolts and tools you need. And most are one-man boats with just one seat.

(Editor’s Note: click here to see a Sea Eagle video that compares the assembly of exterior-frame inflatables and the simple ”unroll & inflate” assembly of the Sea Eagle FoldCat.)

Love RV camping? Love fishing?

Nick shares his experience. “If you’re thinking about a FoldCat, it would be a good idea to get one. It’s real handy to take on trips. Storage is easy and that makes traveling easy. Our Minn-Kota  30-lb thrust trolling motor works well with the FoldCat. I’d definitely recommend the FoldCat – it’s great for RV campers.”

What’s next for Nick and Yvonne? “Our next trip will be RV camping and boating at Antero and Spinney Reservoirs. We’ll send photos!”

Do YOU have Sea Eagle STORIES to tell and PHOTOS to share? Our blog readers want to see! Simply click here to Email us your STORIES and PHOTOS today. It’s easy!

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SHE LEARNED TO SAIL in about 3 minutes – amazing what you can do when you HAVE to

“Now, I don’t recommend teaching your wife to sail when she’s in the boat and you’re in the water in the middle of the lake and the wind comes up and carries her a couple hundred yards away,” Jim Hansen told us recently. The good news is, “The SailCat is so easy to sail, she figured it out right away.”

“Now, I don’t recommend teaching your wife to sail when she’s in the boat and you’re in the water in the middle of the lake and the wind comes up and carries her a couple hundred yards away,” Jim Hansen told us recently. The good news is, “The SailCat is so easy to sail, she figured it out right away.”

Jim Hansen had canoed a bit when he was a Boy Scout. And when he and his wife, Gail, got married, they sailed a little on their honeymoon in a sail-rigged catamaran. Those brief but happy experiences led the Salt Lake City area couple to purchase a Sea Eagle SailCat, Sea Eagle’s new sail-rigged, twin-hulled, inflatable catamaran.

Jim and Gail learned how EASY it is to operate the SailCat…and they learned it more QUICKLY than they anticipated.

Instant sailing lesson

Jim takes the helm on a beautiful day in their Sea Eagle FoldCat

Jim takes the helm on a beautiful day in their Sea Eagle FoldCat

“We took our 14’ SailCat down to Sand Hollow Reservoir in southern Utah,” says Jim. “As we were sailing around, I saw what would make a great picture: our SailCat with beautiful red rock cliffs in the background. With my life jacket on, I got in the water with our waterproof camera. Just then the wind kicked up and off sailed my wife and dog, Abby, our miniature schnauzer.”

“While Gail was still within shouting distance,” Jim told us, “I gave her sailing instructions and she was able to come about. In just three passes, she was able to pick me up. We were laughing too hard to remember to get the picture I originally went in after so these will have to do.”

Doesn’t take up any space

The Hansens work in the healthcare industry. They live in a condo and own a small motorhome “the size of an airport shuttlebus,” says Jim. “We really enjoy it and have taken it all over the state. We put a luggage rack in the receiver hitch to carry our SailCat. That way it doesn’t take up any space inside the motorhome.” Between trips, “the boat folds up and goes in a closet with the golf clubs,” says Jim.

Jim and Gail have taken their Sea Eagle SailCat to nearby Bear Lake and have sailed in the very salty Great Salt Lake. Future motoring-and-boating trips may include a trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, often called Rocky Point, south of Phoenix.

Easy to transport, easy to sail

Like so many folks these days, Jim shopped online and chose an inflatable Sea Eagle for convenience. “There’s no trailering,” he says, “and no hassle with launching. I put it together right on the beach and launch it easily.”

“We’d sailed a catamaran on our honeymoon,” Jim said, “so we knew a catamaran is a good, stable sailing platform. We got the SailCat Comfort Package with two seats. We love the SailCat’s size. It’s large enough that it commands respect from other boaters. It’s good and stable when power boats are zooming by and throwing wakes.

“If a friend was interested in a SailCat, I’d tell them to do it, says Jim. “In fact my brother’s looking into getting one right now.” Thanks for your story and photos, Jim. See you on the water!

— Do YOU have Sea Eagle stories and photos to share? Please email us today. Our blog visitors want to see!

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ECO-ADVENTURE BY BIKE & KAYAK – An Unstoppable Combination

His kayak carries his BIKE across water, then his bike carries his KAYAK across the land!

Gary carries his BIKE in his BOAT. "Lake Asnen was our favorite lake in Sweden’s Smaland province, filled with trout, perch, and pike for sustainable fishing, great bike tracks to explore the wild and scenic waterways to enjoy crossing in the 465. We used a BBQ cover to protect the base and sides of the kayak from all our bikes and luggage. "

Gary carries his collapsible BIKE in his inglatable Sea Eagle BOAT. "Lake Asnen was our favorite lake in Sweden’s Smaland province, filled with trout, perch, and pike for sustainable fishing, great bike tracks to explore the wild and scenic waterways to enjoy crossing in the 465. We used a BBQ cover to protect the base and sides of the kayak from all our bikes and luggage. "

Gary carries his BOAT on his BIKE. "Touring across Sweden with the ultimate setup – Birdy Bike, Oxtail trailer and Sea eagle FastTrack 465 in tow.  It's easy to pack this bike-and-boat combination and it's comfortable to ride."

Gary carries his inflatable BOAT on his collapsible BIKE. "Touring across Sweden with the ultimate setup – Birdy Bike, Oxtail trailer and Sea eagle FastTrack 465 in tow. It's easy to pack this bike-and-boat combination and it's comfortable to ride."

The ingenuity and innovation of many people came together to make possible it possible for Australian adventurer, Gary Muir, to take a memorable trip across parts of Scandinavia on his Bikes & Kayak Expedition. This is a story of how his go-anywhere boat-and-bike combination came to be.

“In 1994 I had been involved as Project Leader in the planning of the remarkable Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk situated in the fragile Tingle Forest of Walpole, Western Australia. This 40-meter high walkway through an ancient forest soon became an internationally recognized ecotourism icon allowing people a unique way to enjoy and protect some of the largest diameter trees in the world.  This attracted some planners from America who were impressed with the walks’ eco-engineering and became inspired to plan for one in their own forest – home to the greatest trees in the world – the might coastal redwoods.

A bright idea: boat and bike combo

I was honored to be invited to America from Walpole to consult on the planning of a Tree Top Walk near Brookings, Oregon by the Curry County Canopy Walk Team in 1998.  It was on this trip that the idea of traveling using both a bicycle and a kayak in combination as mode of travel first came to me.

I offered to look for potential sites for a walk in the coastal redwoods and I was given a mountain bike to explore with. I rode through the wilderness from Cape Blanco in Oregon into northern California. To do this, I needed to cross and explore a number of rivers including the Rogue, Chetko, and Klamath. At the Klamath I met some new American friends who offered me the use of a canoe. Boating was a great way to travel – but as I went down the river I worried about my bike being left back at the launch area and wished I could bring it with me.

I then started to dream of a way to link the two modes of travel together – biking and boating – so I could explore land and water together on the same trip!  I bought a cheap orange canoe to put my mountain bike and gear in, and raced down the river with very little room to spare. It was very unsteady and I nearly lost everything. The bike-and-boat combination was a good idea but I had the wrong bike and the wrong boat.

Right bike, right boat

The bike was far too big for the boat, and trying to carry the canoe on the bike was even worse. It was unstable, far too heavy, uncomfortable, and dangerous. After falling down on a misty road in the redwoods I abandoned the canoe and gave up the idea, but with every yearly trip I did, I wished I could work out the dream set up – the right bike and the right boat.

I needed a sturdy stable kayak that could be folded or deflated down small enough to fit on a bike, and a bike small and strong enough that would, in turn, fit in the kayak. The revelation finally came when a friend and I tried to be the first to cross the harsh Mongolian Gobi Desert on a tandem bike. Customs fees to get the tandem into China proved far too expensive for us but inspiration struck when we saw everyone in that area on folding bikes.  We bought a couple and tried them in Mongolia. Fantastic! Don’t ever underestimate the performance of a folding bike.

Mongolian inspiration

As I was going across the Mongolian steppe and having to cross rivers, my American dream came back to me – I could see that a folding bike would easily fit into a kayak. But one issue was still nagging me: could a folding bike carry a kayak?

I began to search for the perfect kayak-and -folding-bike combination. Another issue with the folding bikes was the lack of suspension but I found the ultimate – a front and back suspended Birdy folding bike from Germany. Now I needed a kayak! Inspired by folding bikes, I wondered if anyone makes a folding kayak.

It doesn't get any better than this -- a beautiful sunset and a great adventure in a Sea Eagle FastTrack.

It doesn't get any better than this -- day's end and a beautiful sunset in a Sea Eagle FastTrack.

Chatting online around the world, I found the most highly recommended inflatable kayak was the Sea Eagle. When I went on the Sea Eagle website it just jumped out at me – the new FastTrack. I first thought of getting a couple of the smaller 385 FT’s for my next adventure – crossing the Scandinavian wild with a friend. And then I saw the 14′ 2″ Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack – Crickey! We could both fit in along with two bikes and gear, all in the same kayak instead of needing two. The online reviews of the 465 were all great. I noted Sea Eagle delivered to Australia and ordered a Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack straight away.

My dream was coming together as long as I could find the right bike trailers that could carry the kayak behind one bike and another trailer that could take the camping gear behind the other bike!  The Sea Eagleʼs weight would be around 25 kg with paddles. There are heaps of bike trailers out there – most of them connect onto the bicycle’s rear axle. I tried the Wilderbeast trailer from our Mongolian trip but it was too wobbly when riding, especially downhill. Undaunted, I kept looking for something better.

Trailer, too

Finally, I found the Oxtail trailer from Portugal. Instead of attaching to the bikeʼs axle, it attaches to the seat post and has the capability to take the kayak’s weight and more.  Reviewing the online videos of its performance, I knew it was the one, especially as it, too, could be folded small and would fit in the kayak with the bikes and camping gear.

The exciting day arrived in our little town of Walpole, Australia – the post office rang to say my Sea Eagle kayak had arrived. That night I set it up in my coastal shack with some Swedish and Belgian friends and tested it at night in the bioluminescent waters on the Nornalup Inlet – a perfect vessel!

Gary's biking-and-boating expedition was very challenging at times. "The storm shot from my iPhone was while Steven and I were crossing Lake Immein in southern Sweden."

Gary's biking-and-boating expedition was very challenging at times. "The storm shot from my iPhone was while Steven and I were crossing Lake Immein in southern Sweden."

The 465 would easily fit our gear and folding bikes. I bought another Sea Eagle FastTrack kayak and had it sent across to Europe where I was to pick it up with the two trailers and join my two best Dutch friends – Yashna and Steven. Yashy had come across Mongolia with me. We first tested the kayak without the bike.  We kayked in our 465 following most of the watercourse used during the Elfstedentocht – a famous 200km, 11 city speed skating course in north Netherlands’ Friesland. The Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack kayak was the perfect, comfortable vessel and performed well though we got very cold in the wild wind and rain.

Over a decade after the idea first sprang to mind back in northern California, Steven and I were ready now to test the ultimate bike-and-boat setup exploring the Scandinavian wilderness and lakes using our German and Chinese bikes, Portuguese trailers, and the legendary American Sea Eagle 465 Fast Track inflatable kayak!

Folding bike, folding boat, folding trailer

The bikes handled the weight of the kayak and luggage with ease even up hill. Best of all though was rocking up to a Scandinavian lake, pumping up the SeaEagle in no time, whacking in the bikes and trailers with our camping gear and be kayaking across the spectacular waterways in minutes, trawling a lure behind for dinner.

The international ingenuity that made this trip possible was due to the passion of inventors and engineers who were dedicated to produce unique bikes, trailers and kayaks that would ultimately work together as one allowing adventurers to experience the world’s wilderness by water and land.  This parallels the team who planned and built our Tree Top Walk which, like the Bike and Kayak together, allows eco-tourists new means to appreciate the wild that promotes interaction without impaction on our environment.

Though the American Canopy Walk is still to be built, I look forward to coming back over to the US and doing my dream tour with my folding bike and SeaEagle 465 Kayak combination to explore the  wild Redwood forests and rivers and one day enjoy a tree top walk there.  That really would be the ultimate eco-tourism experience.

— Gary Muir, Sea Eagle owner & outdoor adventurer.

Gary Muir currently runs his own ecotourism company, WOW Wilderness EcoCruises,   in Walpole, Western Australia. He was nationally recognised in 2002 as Australia’s top EcoGuide. He worked as an environmental manager for 12 years specializing in Nature Conservation and Recreation Tourism and Planning. He held the world record for running the 1000 km Bibbulmun Track  raising money for an invertebrate biodiversity project, researching ways to manage fire in the environment. Gary continues to combine his eco-projects and outdoor adventures around the world with his international team of friends.  

Do YOU have Sea Eagle stories and photos to share? Please email us — our readers want to know!

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They SAIL & KAYAK the WORLD’S LARGEST LAKE

Inspired by the Backs, their friend, Dave, uses his Sea Eagle Sport Kayak as a yacht tender and for pleasure kayaking.

Inspired by the Backs, their friend, Dave, uses his Sea Eagle Sport Kayak as a yacht tender and for pleasure kayaking.

The Back’s friend Melanie, her daughter Lilka, and canine companion Zeus enjoy Sea Eagle kayking in Julian Bay off Stockton Island in Lake Superior. Daughter, Helena, swims.

The Back’s friend Melanie, her daughter Lilka, and canine companion Zeus enjoy Sea Eagle kayking in Julian Bay off Stockton Island in Lake Superior. Daughter, Helena, swims.

Marge and David Back, of Brule, Wisconsin, live what many boaters would consider the ideal lifestyle. They moved to northern Wisconsin to be minutes from the shores of the world’s largest freshwater lake (largest in terms of surface area); they sail regularly and for extended periods in their 28-foot sailboat; and they have a Sea Eagle 330 Sport Kayak to explore nearby sea caves…and to use as a yacht tender, too.

What’s a yacht tender? It’s the small boat the owners of a large boat use to go from shore to their larger craft and back again. Or as Marge puts it, “We sail on Lake Superior for weeks at a time in our 28-foot sailboat. Our Sea Eagle 330 is our main transportation when we’re at anchor.”

Many yacht and sailboat owners choose a larger, wider yacht tender specifically designed for hauling tons of gear, groceries, and guests between ship an shore – like the Sea Eagle Yacht Tender. But Marge and David, like their 330 just fine.  “We love our Sea Eagle kayak,” says Marge. “It tracks well, it is light enough for me to handle, and is easy for us to carry. We can tie it on board inside the bow rail. When we’re at anchor, just put it over the side and go.”

Marge explained further. “A bigger yacht tender can require ‘dinghy davits,’ she said. Dinghy davits are a hoist system that lift your dinghy out of the water and secure it while you’re underway. Marge and David don’t need that hardware: they simply lift their 26-lb. 330 on board and lash it down.

Sea cave exploring

There’s another plus, says Marge. “We explore the shoreline of Lake Superior and the sea caves on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in our kayak.”

There are 22 islands in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands group — the “Jewels of Lake Superior.” All but one are part of the National Park Service. The islands, particularly Sand and Devil’s Islands, are famed for their outstanding sea caves.

Marge and her friends own 3 sailboats and 4 Sea Eagle Sport Kayaks. The Sea Eagles double as yacht tenders and kayaks for exploring sea caves and shorelines along Lake Superior.

Marge and her friends own 3 sailboats and 4 Sea Eagle Sport Kayaks. The Sea Eagles double as yacht tenders and kayaks for exploring sea caves and shorelines along Lake Superior.

Sailboating friends got Sport Kayaks, too

Picking up on the Back’s yacht tender-and-sport kayak idea, their friends John and Melanie went the Sea Eagle route, too. “We encouraged them to come up to Northern Wisconsin to sail with us in their 35-foot sailboat,” Marge told us. “They thought our Sea Eagle solution worked so well that they bought two of them – a 330 and a 370 Sport Kayak.”

More sailboating friends – Dave and Leslie – joined the crowd with a 330 of their own to go to-and-from their 30-foot sailboat….and to go exploring, too.

The Back’s Sea Eagle is 10 years old and “looks pretty much like new,” she says. Marge knows boats. She’s sailed for over 30 years and runs a boating-related home business in Brule, Wisconsin. “Brule Acres Sewing Loft” manufactures sail covers, docking covers, and boat upholstery.

David and Marge frequently sail on Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota to Knife River, Minnesota; and from Cornucopia, Wisconsin to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. “Weather permitting,” says Marge.

Only five months ‘til boating season!

David and Marge Back enjoy exploring Lake Superior. Their Sea Eagle 330 Sport Kayak is their “full time transportation” while their sailboat is at anchor. Other times, it’s their “exploration kayak” as they kayak into sea caves. In the background is Lake Superior’s Sand Island Lighthouse.

David and Marge Back enjoy exploring Lake Superior. Their Sea Eagle 330 Sport Kayak is their “full time transportation” while their sailboat is at anchor. Other times, it’s their “exploration kayak” as they kayak into sea caves. In the background is Lake Superior’s Sand Island Lighthouse.

You’ll find the Backs farther afield in boating seasons to come. “Next year, we want to explore more of Lake Superior,” says Marge. “We may go to Canada and around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

At this writing, winter’s closing in. But Marge, like all avid boaters, looks at the bright side. “Boating season’s only five months away!”

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