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Maine Guide-Sea kayaking


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Hi Gary,

Bob Levine and I took part in a 6 day prep course at Stonington ME with Nate Hansen of Pinniped Kayak. I don't think I would have been able to pass without his coaching and his approach to trip leadership took on a whole new perspective. I believe he will hold his next course in the Spring. Heck of the way to start the paddling season.


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Gary, if you were interested, you could just go and take the exam. Your experience and background would probably suffice. I didn't take the class and just took the exam. I did have to retake the oral portion as I was nervous and made an error in my calculation but was consistently off - basically I forgot to give magnetic. I did the written that same day and just had to retake the oral without my error.

I wouldn't recommend that approach to someone who wasn't a true kayaker and couldn't navigate...

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i took a prep class upta beans. waste of time, really.

once the instructor started to present nav to the class pete casson and i quietly took him aside at a break and then subsequently took over the instruction - the instructor had little grasp of it and sure couldn't explain it. that worked out better for all - the class had almost no experience and would never have sorted out what the heck was going on from the incoherent and sometimes incorrect information being presented....so we did that.

read a few book on the critters - seals, birds, shellfish....read some stuff on weather...know your rules of thumb (tide/current/weather), know your nav COLD. remember safe, legal and fun and you'll get through the written.

as far as the oral....the ONLY tool at hand for the state is the intimidating, hairy eyeball of the folks giving you the exam....they are there to rattle you....if you can get rattled in a room with nothing "real" at stake, what are you going to do if/when you have a situation? that's what they're doing. you KNOW more than them in regards to sea kayaking....be slow, be methodical, be thorough. challenge them right back.

they give you a scenario where you've done a bunch of things wrong and then tell you to find the missing kayaker that you wouldn't have lost in the first place if you'd approached the journey correctly without some of their crazy scenarios....so tell them that....and then search in an expanding grid and never separate the group. first contain, control and then search. you may find the missing paddler, you may not....just don't make it any worse and go about it methodically.

the hiccup with the maine guides test is that there is no on-water component....the state hasn't ever taken that step. and they're probably not qualified to suss it anyway....i've suggested for a long time that the state partner with the aca/pna and leave it to the paddlers to come up with an on-water skills assessment/certification. once that's in hand, the candidate submits copy and schedules the MG test for the written/oral. this would close the gaping hole in the process....a test for an on-water activity that has NO on-water component.

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Not everyone approached this certification as a 5 star paddler or at least an aspiring one at the time as you most likely did. It also sounds like you picked from the bottom of the barrel of instructor when taking your course. It's true that there is a gaping hole in this process given that there is no on water cert included in the testing. This allows many non water qualified individuals to pass the test and get hired by guide companies opening up a whole new set of safety and liability issues.

I felt fortunate to receive training from someone very reputable that included 6 days of on water guide leadership training. I was taken back that there was a newbie with 1 month kayaking experience taking the class for a local guide company to become a guide this summer. All I can say is "yikes!" The positive part of that was we had a newbie to lead on the water.

I got a lot out of my course and wouldn't have passed without it. I have posted and led to a degree hundreds of trips over the past 5-10 years giving me some in site as to what I needed to work on, on the water during training. I must admit, my approach now to trips has become much more controlled and many safety measures are now regularly implemented. The group I post most of my trips on now is becoming an ACA PAC group and will carry insurance.

Yes, you can polish up on navigation, birds, whales etiquette etc in an attempt to pass the Maine Guide test but the more qualified training you get by Maine instructors "in the know", the better your chances of passing.


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