Kayaking is an incredible way to experience Alaska’s glacial and marine environments, as you can get up close, and see things from a different perspective closer to the water. The Hobie Cat Tandem Island sailing kayaks used by Alaska Wild Guides are unique among kayak watercraft, as they move with wind power and pedal power, not with paddles. Their sturdy frames provide stability and comfortable seating – both important when you’re out exploring the many wonders of Prince William Sound.
Alaska Wild Guides offers half-day, all-day and multi-day tours, with options that are affordable and safe for the entire family (even with young children). Pedal up close to bird rookeries and eat your lunch in front of a calving glacier. Navigate through ice floes, watch for eagles and otters, or even the occasional black bear or whale. Camp on a beach near a waterfall, enjoying fresh food cooked over the grill and extended time to relax and take in the quiet power of this natural world.
Unique Kayak Design Enhances Your Excursion
When Alaska Wild Guides owner Derek Ruckel first saw this unusual design of the Hobie Cat Tandem Island sailing kayaks, he knew it would be perfect for getting people out on Prince William Sound, where it can be windy with choppy waves. He was right. “I’ve had these out in 30 knot winds in five foot seas with beginners that have never kayaked or sailed before. It was fun!” Rather than being preoccupied by technique or fear of tipping over, his guests felt comfortable enough to enjoy every minute of their wild Alaska adventure.
Stable, safe and comfortable. It’s practically an art form to get settled in a typical sea kayak, and also takes some skill to keep it balanced and upright. On an Alaska Wild Guides excursion you ride on top of a stable base in a padded, recumbant seat. You can even get out and walk around on these kayaks while in the water. One warning: After this super safe and comfortable ride, you may be spoiled for future outings on a typical sea kayak!
Pedal power. Most people have more power in their legs than their arms. These kayaks take advantage of that strength, which means that your arms and shoulders don’t get tired out, and your hands are free to take photos as you cruise along. That makes it easier to capture those compelling moments, when an otter bobs along nearby or as you glide past a dramatic waterfall.
Cover longer distances in shorter time. A slow pedal on one of these kayaks sets you on a brisk 3-4 mile per hour pace. Add the mast on full day trips and the sail can move you along as fast as 13 miles an hour. This is a huge benefit, because you can go a lot further than in a regular kayak. (And for certain destinations this means you can get there on your own pedal power rather than adding on the cost of a water taxi.)
Room for extra stuff. The sailing kayaks have lots of space for coolers, roll-up tables, camp chairs and more. This is especially important for longer trips, when you’re taking food, camping gear, and extra clothing. “It’s like car camping with kayaks,” says Derek.
Cut through ice floes with ease. Prince William Sounds boasts numerous active glaciers that regularly calve into the water, creating ice floes that are tricky to paddle through in a regular kayak. Your guide can stand up on the sailing kayak to find a path through, making it easy for you to follow behind. It’s a surreal experience to be pedaling in front of a huge glacier, completely surrounded by ice!
Get out on the water for just a few hours on this affordable tour perfect for tight schedules or families with children age 5 and up. With morning and afternoon departures, this 3.5-hour trip takes you across Passage Canal to the Kittiwake Rookery. Here, more than 8,000 birds nest on the cliff side every year. A massive waterfall cascades through the middle of the rookery, making for a picturesque scene. Your kayak can approach within a few feet of the black-legged kittiwakes swirling through the air and tending to their nests all along the rock face. For the return trip, you’ll cross back over the Canal, hugging gorgeous coastline along the way. Note: On this tour, sailing masts are not used. It’s all pedal power, so very safe even for young children because the kayak doesn’t get going too fast. Trampolines are put on the sides of the kayak, and this is where kids love to sit, trailing their hands in the cold water and grabbing for seaweed as it passes underneath. Double kayaks can accommodate two adults and up to four small children on the trampolines.
Derek puts the sailing masts on the kayaks for the all-day tours, which increases their speed so you can explore even more of Prince William Sound. Children should be at least 8 or 9 for these trips. Everyone has their own seats on the kayaks, and the kids can go onto the trampolines as conditions allow.
Shotgun Cove Shipwreck
On this tour you’ll leave directly from Whittier, pedaling five miles each way during an 8-hour exploration of Passage Canal, the Kittiwake Rookery, and an historic shipwreck in Shotgun Cove. After checking out the impressive rookery and waterfall, you’ll head east nearly to Poe Bay, and then cross into Shotgun Cove. This is where the Leschi, a steam sidewheeler built in 1913, washed up in 1978. You’ll land on the beach, learn more about the Leschi, and have a tasty lunch. Later, explore more of Shotgun Cove, a mooring buoy that typically hosts seals, and then cruise back along the shoreline to Whittier, watching for more wildlife along the way. Tip: This tour is a great value, offering more time to explore than other kayak tours to Shotgun Cove. Alaska Wild Guides’ kayaks can cover the round-trip distance in a day excursion, rather than needing a water taxi for one leg of the trip.
Blackstone Bay is a favorite among locals for its quick access to several active glaciers, including two tidewater glaciers that flow from the mountains right down to the water. A water taxi will take you to and from the bay, leaving plenty of time to watch and listen for calving glaciers. You’ll get dropped off just three miles from Beloit Glacier, put together the kayaks, and then pedal toward its icy face. Navigate through ice floes, watch for seals and sea otters, and then cruise around to Blackstone Glacier. Pull up on the beach to eat within full view of the calving glacier, a kittiwake rookery and an impressive waterfall.
Spend 3-5 days in Prince William Sound for the full experience – exploring glaciers, watching for wildlife and immersing yourself in the sights and sounds around you. Popular destinations include Blackstone Bay, Harriman Fjord (think tidewater glacier heaven), and Whale Bay (prime whale watching), or ferry over to Valdez and then sail back to Whittier. Derek’s philosophy is if you’re eating and sleeping well, you can handle anything. So he brings along comfy, thick sleeping pads, and spoils you with gourmet meals that will satisfy the appetite you’ll work up from all the fresh air and exercise! He brings along everything you need for a comfortable trip, including camp chairs, tents, dry firewood and a grill. You’ll typically set up a base camp and then kayaking to different locations. Tours can be tailored based on your preferences and needs, so be sure to tell Derek what your dream trip looks like.
About Alaska Wild Guides
Alaska Wild Guides owner Derek Ruckel was born and raised in Alaska, growing up hunting, fishing and recreating in the outdoors. His career began in the commercial fishing industry, and then he turned to guiding in 2000. After working for other companies for several years, and then taking time off to raise his twin daughters, Derek launched Alaska Wild Guides, offering summer sea kayaking and winter snowmachine tours. Whether on the water or a snowy winter trail, he finds satisfaction in taking visitors from cities and helping them connect to nature. “We bring them out and push their comfort zone a little bit, so they have a tremendous experience with a safety net.” Between running his business and raising a family, Derek also finds time to serve on the fire department’s all-season rescue team, where he’s taken outdoor skills to a whole new level.