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Dalmatian Odyssey

June 15 2015

Six-weeks, 900km by sea kayak and the bluest sea on earth!

June 15 2015


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Preparation Stage

Here we go! Wheeeee!


Super cool! What an apt fortune cookie :)

Being ultralight backpackers, camping while kayaking is pure luxury. It feels like we can carry so much gear!

Over our spring break, we spent five days kayaking through Labyrinth Canyon on the lower Green River to shake out our kayak camping gear and unplug for a while. We’ve been trading out some of our beloved down items for synthetic ones since we are literally surrounded by water most of the time. We wanted to make sure that this gear met our needs and to organize our kayak camping system. This involves making sure that we can stow everything well in our boats and figuring out where we want to our various gear to live while we paddle.

With backpacking, figuring out how we will split jobs and divide our gear was a lot of fun. We now have a tried and true system that we always use and that works well for us. We wanted to establish this for kayak camping as well.

Our trip through Labyrinth Canyon was sublime! Our new gear was, for the most part, great. We learned a lot about how we like to kayak camp together. Most of all, we returned to canyon country after a number of years and rediscovered its splendor. This was made even better by the fact that the Green is quiet in early April. We had long stretches of river and whole side canyons to ourselves to explore.

The trip was wonderful and the perfect shake-out for Croatia! Here’s some of our favorite gear picks:

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent
  • Mountain Hardwear Hyper Lamina 32F Sleeping Bag
  • The
  • Alite Mayfly chair (a chair, can you believe it!)
  • Easton Sundial UL shade shelter

Crossings are a part of life on a long sea-kayaking journey. A crossing is a time when we must paddle across open water between islands or between an island and the mainland. During a crossing we will be far from shore and exposed to the more powerful open sea.

On the route that we are planning along the Croatian coast, we can expect crossings up to about 10km long. On these longer jumps we will try to time them so that we are paddling through the calmest seas possible. Still, shorter crossings will happen daily during the trip. We need to be prepared to make these crossings even when there is wind and chop to contend with.

Fortunately, living next to the San Francisco Bay gives us the perfect practice playground for making crossings. The bay is known for its strong tidal currents and westerly winds. We set out to make a crossing from Emeryville to Treasure Island (6.5km) on a lovely Saturday afternoon. There was a decent breeze blowing that was whipping up wind waves and on the return trip a solid ebb current had set up. Everything went well. We had a nice break and snack at the Treasure Island harbor and then paddled back to Emeryville. It was interesting seeing the new Bay Bridge from the water at close range and also paddling between the huge barges that are used as staging areas for the bridge construction.

We’re looking forward to making some more crossings in the bay to prepare for our trip. A paddle from Berkeley to Angel Island is on our list!


The idea of throwing our boats on our backs and hauling them through villages when we come ashore in Croatia has become the source of a good chuckle once we got to experience the fit of the Folbot backpacks. The hip belt is so far below the shoulder straps that it cinches around my thighs when I’m wearing the pack. Just ok for a short jaunt. Besides, with our camping and traveling gear in tow, we could use an easier system to transport our 40lb. boats.

We have adapted the backpacks with a removable wheel assembly so that we can roll our boats along and carry our other gear in a lighter backpack. Our kayaks’ cockpit frames attach firmly to the inside of the backpacks, providing a strong, stable base that can sit on an exterior axle. Since the packs themselves have no frames or supports, they are easy to modify with a normal sewing machine.

The wheel assembly is simple with a stainless steel tube and plastic wheels and wing nuts for quick assembly. The axle slides through tabs sewn into the backpack and sticks to a Velcro band to minimize side sliding. So far, tests on the streets in our neighborhood have been good and our neighbors are rightly amused.


This is a great adaptation! This past weekend we held a hackathon for expeditions like yours. We gathered to create for our Instructables contest:

This backpack adaptation would be a great entry for other people traveling with Folbots. Let me know if you want to know more about putting up an instructables. There are cool explorer prizes too :) you could take a drone to Croatia!

Thanks, Erika. I made solar hats that would be a good project for the contest. If I have a chance, I'll try to put the instructions together.

Tomales Bay is a sweet place to float a kayak!

We’ve been having some exceptionally good weather out here in the San Francisco Bay Area this January. Our little “second summer” has give us the opportunity to head out to Tomales Bay in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore to shake out our new folding kayaks. The bay is really fantastic. It’s full of beaches that are only accessible by boat. The conditions have been calm. There have been birds, seals and sea lions abound. It’s a little training paradise in our back yard!

Expedition Background

Melody and Sati Shah are a husband-and-wife adventure team focusing on long-distance, human-powered explorations by land, sea and air. We are ultralight backpackers, paraglider pilots, and backcountry snowboarders with a love for hiking, flying, floating, and wilderness. We are enthusiastically embracing sea kayaking as our next pursuit.

During more than a decade of joint expeditions, we have completed two long-distance backpacking trips each greater than 600 miles, a 1000km vol-bivouac trip, explorations of over 100 technical canyons in California and Utah including a number of first known descents, endless ski tours and a multitude of paragliding adventures around the world.

Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is an ideal place for our next exploration, a long-distance sea kayaking adventure. For six weeks this summer we will travel by sea in folding kayaks from Rijeka in northern Croatia to the walled city of Dubrovnik in the south, an approximately 900-kilometer journey. The Adriatic Sea is relatively protected and Dalmatia even more so by a chain of a thousand islands. The region is karst, with towering limestone cliffs, mysterious caves and the water is said to be the bluest in the world when viewed from space. The area is steeped in European history that dates before the Romans.

For this adventure we will paddle our luggage, our Cooper folding kayaks manufactured by FolBot. Each breaks down and fits into a large backpack that can make sections of independent land travel (portages, travel into a village to explore) possible. These kayaks are sleek and high performance, allowing us to travel at high speed (for a kayak). We chose Greenland paddles for their efficiency for long-distance paddling.

We have both spent our lives around the sea but have not explored extensively by sea kayak until recently. We are looking forward to learning the ins and outs of these incredible vehicles, the nature of human-powered sea travel and sharing what we find as we prepare for our journey through the Dalmatian Sea.


I am so inspired by your partnership! Thanks for sharing some of your expeditions with us! Teamwork is an invaluable and often difficult to describe part of exploration, looking forward to following you through Croatia!