Be prepared to wake up early to go kayaking. The morning is often the best time for paddling because the winds tend to be calmer and there’s a better chance of catching some wildlife up close.
“The seals do get close. They’re curious,” said Devon Whitbeck of Aquaterra Adventures in the eastern Hancock County town of Sullivan.
Cadillac and other mountains on Mount Desert Island loom in the far distance from the head of Flanders Bay where the kayak outfitter is based. Kayakers set out from the shore nearby, where they are protected from prevailing winds and greater water action farther out in Frenchman Bay. Or, Aquaterra’s co-founder Dave Legere transports paddlers to another launch site in a red school bus.
Formerly based in Bar Harbor, Aquaterra relocated last year to get away from the crowds and greater boat congestion — cruise ships, sailboats and fishing vessels — in and around Mount Desert Island. Whitbeck and Legere want their clientele to explore by kayak and experience the coastal scenery and sights from a less-traveled approach and angle.
Usually pushing off from a boat landing in Sullivan or a beach in the neighboring town of Sorrento, depending on the wind’s direction, Aquaterra offers either an a.m. paddle from 8 a.m. to noon or afternoon outing from 2 to 6 p.m.
The outfitter welcomes paddlers regardless of skill level as well as children at least 8 years of age. Double kayaks are used to provide more stability on the water.
Whitbeck, a 2013 University of Maine at Machias graduate, leads most of the excursions. A certified Maine Sea Kayak Guide, he also is a CPR instructor and trained in outdoor emergency care.
He advises beginner kayakers to “wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet, because you’re going to get wet.”
Four hours may seem long, but the sights and views will distract kayakers from any soreness in their arms. They are equipped with protective bags for having their phones and cameras at hand in case eagles or osprey soar overhead scoping out food for their nesting chicks. At times, inquisitive seals and porpoises are seen peeking out from beneath the water.
About halfway through a trip, Whitbeck makes sure to give paddlers a break. Sometimes, he will guide them to Bean Island, about a mile west of Sorrento. There, they can go ashore, have a snack, rest and explore the 27-acre island’s woods and rocky shoreline.
Originally from upstate New York, Whitbeck first got into kayaking while studying outdoor recreation at UMaine. One of his favorite things about the activity is how peaceful it feels being out on the water. Paddling eight hours daily can get pretty tiring, so he tries to do yoga to recover in his spare time.
A certified Maine Master Recreation and Coastal Sea Kayak Guide, Legere holds a Bachelor of Science degree in outdoor recreation administration from Unity College. He is trained in marine wilderness first aid and CPR.
After delivering and readying paddlers at a launch site, Legere sometimes lingers and collects any trash littering the beach.
“This is our office,” Legere said. “We should appreciate it.”
Aquaterra Adventures is located at 2695 U.S. Route 1 in Sullivan. For more info, call 422-0303, or visit aquaterra-adventures.com.