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Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

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Minneapolis...
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Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Hi everyone,

We are visiting in a few days and would like to rent kayaks to paddle around Lake Union. However, we are not experienced kayakers and would like a rental place where the staff is very helpful and attentive! I wonder if a guided tour would be best for us too (as beginners). I am aware of Agua Verde, Moss Bay, and Northwest Outdoor Center. Are any of these, or other places, one that you could recommend given our beginners status and desire for helpful staff?

Thank you!

Seattle, Washington
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1. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

We took a beginners kayaking class a couple years ago from NWOC. I thought they were pretty helpful ... particularly when I managed to dump myself out of the kayak while showing off my newfound backwards paddling skills. ;-)

I took a quick look to see what other people say about them.

They have about 35 reviews on Yelp. All but two were 4-5*. Looks like there are about 11-12 reviews that refer to friendliness and about 10 citing helpfulness to 2 reviews complaining about what they considered rudeness or unhelpfulness. A couple people mentioned their patience. Looks like at least 4-5 reviews talked about the staff being knowledgeable and professional. Several talked about how they were good with newbies. There was one solid writeup that did mention they could have been a little more explanation of paddling and rules of traffic for a newbie kayaker. yelp.com/biz/northwest-outdoor-center-seattle

On Tripadvisor there are separate listings for NWOC and "Rent a Kayak at NWOC" but the latter is just a review under Lake Union. The reviews specifically on the topic of NWOC were all very good and excellent.

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60878-d22…

Washington
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2. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Agua Verde, Moss Bay and NWOC are all very good and offer quality rentals. If you want to stay on Lake Union I would not hesitate with any of those providers. I have been very pleased with the tours offered at Agua Verde Paddle Club. Our Boy Scout troop always rented from Moss Bay and we found their equipment to be just fine. All kayaks had the proper safety equipment.

Everyone is different on the water, so I would do what is most comfortable for you, and from your post, it sounds like a guided tour with some instruction would best meet your needs. An advantage to Agua Verde is you can enjoy a margarita on their deck after your paddle (not a bad thing!). Agua Verde will also do a custom tour for you. An advantage to Moss Bay is that is closer to downtown on South Lake Union, and a little less crowded. I have not rented from NWOC, but know folks who have. Regarding the staff at any of the facilities, most will be more than helpful, but it can be hit-or-miss, it is just the nature of that type of business, whether they are busy or not, etc.

One other tip. The lake will be less busy on a weekday morning. The boat traffic increases as the day goes on (obviously). My preferred kayak time is early in the morning when possible, when the lake is quiet, winds are low. It is going to be very warm over the next week, so plan on the water/water activities being quite busy.

Renton, WA
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3. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Stay alert for float planes taking off or landing.

Poulsbo, Washington
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4. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

If you stay near shore you will not have. To worry about float planes. Stay by shore! Before you leave leave the dock make sure you are comfortable with your balance in the boat. Getting in and out of the boat and and getting used to your balance in a kayak are the hardest thing for a beginner to get used to. The most interesting things for paddling on Lake Union are paddling around the boat sheds and house boats. If you rent from the University there is some great paddling by the Arboretum . Lots of bird life and beaver hutches. Either option is fun for a visitor.

western WA
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5. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

There are some massive barges that come down the Ship Canal (west outlet going toward the locks). A bit freaky for beginners, so I'd stay on the eastern and northeastern side of the Lake.

You can do stand up paddleboarding out at shilshole just past the locks, if you want to try it.

Minneapolis...
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6. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Thank you all for your great feedback!!! I think I may need monitoring (via a guided tour) as I'm a bit clumsy on the water (or land for that matter). Do all of these companies offer tours, or just Agua Verde? The other decision to make would be whether I should paddle in Lake Union or the Arboretum. With all the bird life, the Arboretum does sound appealing. Is there also less traffic (other kayakers, larger boats, planes) in this area? Before even reading these posts, I was kind of freaked out about getting in the way of planes!

Minneapolis...
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7. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Is kayaking on Lake Union generally safe? It seems like there may be a lot of other traffic from bigger, faster boats, and this seems a little scary to me.

Seattle, Wa
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8. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

There's a ton of boat and plane traffic in Lk Union, but somehow, it all works out. Kayakers aren't ever run over. You do need to be alert; as others said, you can stay by shore. I think most of us, the first time we kayaked, just got in and went--it's pretty intuitive--but you sound nervous enough that I'm going to say, do a tour. Then you won't feel like you need to worry about anything. I believe all the kayak co's in town offer tours. Besides the ones you mentioned, there's one on Alki (if you want sweeping views of the city and Sound) and at Golden Gardens--they do tours through the Locks and also along the shore near Discovery Park. Do Lk Union if you want a bustling city experience, with lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore, and do Golden Gardens or Alki if you want mountains, Sound, seals, etc. (and city views from Alki. But no houseboats or anything like that)

I actually wouldn't recommend the arboretum, because of the highway that runs through it. Also, from Agua Verde you need to paddle through the Montlake Cut to get there, which I find a bit trickier than paddling on Lk Union, because it's narrow and heavily used by large boats.

Edited: 1:26 pm, July 02, 2013
Minneapolis...
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9. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Yes, I am nervous! I have been kayaking a few times but no where with bigger boats. I called Agua Verde, and apparently they don't offer tours (or at least not frequently). I should call the others. I am even wondering if maybe I should go with an Argosy cruise or something along those lines. Any thoughts on this?

Seattle, Wa
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10. Re: Kayaking Lake Union For Beginners

Well, it's a whole different experience. It's not like kayaking. These companies all have websites--you can easily see what tours they offer:

http://www.ballardkayak.com/tours.html

http://kayakalki.com/

www.nwoc.com/classes/pdlseattle.asp…