apostle islands - appropriate boat

-- Last Updated: Jun-29-10 3:54 PM EST --

Heading to apostle islands this weekend. One potential paddler has a WS Tsunami 135 (13.5'). I've read sea kayaks are recommended, so I was curious what peoples opinions here would be. We are mainly doing day trips from the mainland such as going out to the sea caves on Sand island.
Any thoughts on the suitability of the Tsunami 135?

On a side note any suggestions on where to get water temp & wind/wave conditions for the area?


A few links
Graphical maps of Great Lakes: http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/glcfs/

The Apostle Islands region:

Near Shore Forecast http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/zone/gtlakes/dlhmz.htm

Open Water Forecast http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/zone/gtlakes/lsopen.htm

Weather station on Devil’s Island http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=disw3

I would say no
This of course depends on the skill of the paddler but my guess is that someone paddling a Tsunami 135 is not a particularly skilled paddler. The weather and waves in the Apostles can get pretty dicey, even on day paddles.

About the paddler
I don’t know the Great Lakes for paddling, but one look at the chart gave me pause. If you take a look at the fetch when the wind is coming from the west or NW, the trip to Sand Island looks like it could get quite interesting. Boat or not, can the paddlers involve handle big conditions or sudden squalls?

Why not poke among the islands east of Sand Island, where there is more shelter?

I wonder why
That is? I know many people who start out in much more expensive boats and end up selling them after the first use.

I appreciate the feedback. I personally have not paddled with the individual but I do believe she is a strong paddler. I’m guessing she is limited to the tsunami from a budget and storage standpoint. If the waves are too big we plan to look at other alternatives as this is geared more towards a leisurely beginner paddle for some of the others. We have a ratio of about 1:1 for stronger more experienced paddlers to the less experienced.

I’ve never been to the Apostle Islands, but did go to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore last year and it seemed like a smaller boat would be ok on a calmer day. Granted I’ve not really paddled rec boats, so am not a big authority on the subject.


As a generalization
An experienced sea kayaker with skills to handle difficult situations is almost certainly going to have a quality sea kayak. Someone starting out is more likely to have a rec boat or a transition boat. So it seems quite reasonable to ask the question about paddler skills. The Apostle Island area can become a demanding area to paddle with little or no warning. Having a less than adequate boat or less than adequate skills could easily be dangerous. That there are entry level paddlers with sea kayaks is beside the point. What is important is that people do not get in over their heads.

Its a
Double bulkheaded boat so you should be okay. I personally wouldn’t use a boat of that size up there because it is on the smaller end and at 13’ it’s gonna be slower. But I wouldn’t be overly concerned. With proper safety measures and keeping an eye on the weather, you should be fine.

Yes, weather does whip up in hurry there and the wind at the apostles can create some interesting patterns and sea state around/through the islands and mainland. Just keep your crossings well planned.

As always, Celia is the voice of reason
here. Dr_Disco’s generalizations and assumptions aside, if you have the proper safety gear, charts, compass/GPS, watch the weather, and travel at a pace that is comfortable for you, the boat you’ve mentioned should not be a problem as long as you do not push beyond your limits/knowledge. If the weather is iffy, stay closer to shore. As for the Tsunami, it is not a rec boat and would be up to the journey. It may not be the best choice for the trip, but certainly capable.

a “quality sea kayak”

– Last Updated: Jul-02-10 9:47 AM EST –

What is wrong with a Tsunami 135 that makes it not a "quality" sea kayak? My only concern would be speed. Tsunamis are wide to begin with. And then add to that its length. But I've noticed a trend in California--a number of the better paddlers paddling anything but the "usual suspects". Is it something more than snobbery?

You are missing the point
The question is whether the owner of the Tsunami is skilled enough to handle the difficult conditions that can easily arise in the Apostles. Maybe they are an expert paddler. But I think it is reasonable to ask.

Prepping for multiday trip there
I’ve done extensive research, preparing for a trip there. One of the principal concerns is dressing for the cold water and being practiced for quick rescues in rough water and rocky shores.

The shallows can be cool, but the water temperature drops significantly in the deeper areas. It’s best to be ready for worst case.

weighing the factors
free of kayak snobbery.

A Tsunami is a fine transitional day tourer capable of more than a rec boat - but less than a sea kayak. They are in part popular because they have very reassuring stability, comfortable seats and roomy high decks.

That same stability in Lake Superior waves (or any body of open water) is a liability as the wide flat bottom presents more surface for the wave to hit. The high decks make for more resistance going into the wind. The seat is higher than the coaming making self or assisted rescues more difficult, as does the high rear deck.

A Tsunami can certainly be paddled on Lake Superior on a day when waves are two feet or less - as razor pointed out, it will be slower and require more effort to keep pace w. seakayaks. Being a strong paddler will certainly help, but the woman in question would have a much easier time and expend less energy by renting a seakayak.

The thing is that all the Great Lakes are notoriously moody and weather changes fast. Sometimes so fast and in such relatively small microclimates that there is little warning (even from NOAA on a VHF radio).

Along w. the right clothing, rescue and boathandling skills, and safety gear, I’ll take all the edge I can get on Lake Superior w. its brutually cold water, rocky shoreline and - in some areas - minimal ditch points. So it’s a seakayak for me, no question about it.

Everyone differs physically and in skills, and accepts different margins of safety, but that’s how I weigh factors where I’m concerned.

Good voyage to all.

skills and location

– Last Updated: Jun-30-10 1:38 PM EST –

I wouldn't do the outer island loop, for example, in that boat because you will inevitably be exposed to conditions, and because of the distance, it will be a chore for the paddler (assuming the rest of you are in 17' boats).
I personally would feel comfortable paddling from Sand Bay to Sand Island to see the caves, or sticking to the mainland to paddle the caves on the west facing coast, if I was assured of decent conditions (not necessarily placid). But I'm aware of my skill level and limitations. So I've tried to answer the location part; the skill level part is up to the paddler to be honest about.
If you have the luxury to get that boat and paddler out in similar conditions in a safe place, then take advantage of it.

A Suggestion
Contact Living Adventures. Their website is:


Gail Green and Grant Herman are really nice people and have been guiding in the Apostles for a long time. They can answer questions or rent boats if needed. I would trust their advice.

Thanks for the links too. I had found some info on the NWS site but some of these specific pages I had not come across!


the good doctor
dispenses great advice once again.

I’ve taken a class or two w. Gail - she is great, very wise - has trained a generation of instructors who are now instructor-trainers… she knows her stuff. And she knows the Apostles and Lake Superior.

Listen to her advice. The woman paddler in the Tsunami may well decide to rent a seakayak from them, for all the good reasons given.

What do you mean by stronger paddler?
I was just rereading this thread, and realized that neither I nor anyone else really followed up on a pretty important point. Someone above touched on it but it kinda went by.

How many people in this group are handy with rescues, and/or could manage one in some decent waves or wind? I would like to have a few bucks for every paddler I’ve met with lots of time in the saddle but wasn’t reliable on rescues - and for paddling in this area that can be much more important than how fast they can paddle. This is especially so if you are going to be messing around near rocky shores. In that case, a rescue can easily require one person towing while a second person performs the rescue so that the whole party doesn’t end up crashing into rocks.

So when you say more experienced paddlers - are you including their ability to be really helpful and assist if you get caught out and people start capsizing? Or are you just talking about going fast?

"strong paddler"
yup I saw that too.

What exactly that means - no shot intended at the OP- who knows? esp. as he is honest, saying he doesn’t know the woman nor has he paddled w. her. So the statement lacks context.

Regardless of who is paddling which boat, a pre-trip shakedown cruise that included rescue practice and paddling in waves 3 feet plus would get everyone acquainted w. actual skill levels & strength.

Because Lake Superior, like all the Great Lakes, will throw waves like that - and bigger - at you really quick. Superior in particular due to its fetch tends to build thru the day, by late afternoon totally different than early morning. When waves build is where seakayaks really shine, doing what they were bred to do, so to speak.

And they’ll be waves w. shorter cycles thus more abrupt than ocean waves. Also, in fresh water there is less buoyancy than salt water.

Then she’ll turn around and be glass calm, the kind of water in the tourist pix & outfitter websites :smiley:

So far she’s never shown that side of her to me - the relentless & unpredictable charm of the beautiful crown sapphire jewel atop the Great Lakes.

Be realistic
Get the NOAA forecast before heading out every day. Do not underestimate what the wind will do to you, especially to anyone in a boat like a Tsunami 135. Wilderness Systems will tell you that this boat is not designed for serious conditions. Don’t plan much distance with any boats like that, and resolve in advance to not go out at all unless the weather forecast is low winds and low waves. Do you all have drysuits or wetsuits? The water is killer cold. Contacting the local guide service, and following their advice, is a great idea.