“There are a million special memories, laughing and sharing with groups, telling jokes and talent shows around campfires, stargazing, night paddling in bioluminescence, dolphins leaping suddenly into the air, the bellowing blow of a whale nearby….it goes on and on” says Nancy Mertz, owner of Sea Kayak Adventures.
Long time world travelers, Terry Prichard and Nancy Mertz met while working as guides in 1991 and started Sea Kayak Adventures in 1993 while continuing to guide for other tour operators. Terry has graduate work in geology, is a long distance cyclist and has been a river and sea kayak guide since 1989. Nancy has a Masters of Social Work and has been a river rafting and sea kayak guide since 1982. They ran 1 trip with 13 guests in Feb 1993 and now run 55 trips with 600 people a year average. They are located in Coeur d’Alene with property in Loreto in Baja where they operate Baja tours October through April each year, and in northern Vancouver Island, BC Canada each June-September.
“One story that stands out was exactly a year after Sept 11, 2001, we sat on a beach in Johnstone Strait, BC Canada, in the dead calm of a starry night. We had several New Yorkers who were on our trip to get away from it all, and it was the stillest, clearest night we’ve ever seen in BC. We sat together in the absolute stillness, and one by one we each set a candle onto a little cedar bark “boat” and sent them out on to the barely perceptible current; we saw a trail of 15 little candles heading out. When they disappeared, the northern lights came out and covered the sky. I’ve never seen the northern lights there before or since. Magic truly happens out there on our trips. “
The vast majority of clients attracted to our active and whale watching tours are in their late thirties to late sixties looking for adventure. We design our tours for novices but we run 4 tours a year out of 48 that are geared only to those who have prior sea kayaking experience or are quite athletic. We are experts in our destinations and work tirelessly to make sure all details are taken care of so our clients can relax on their vacations. We are friends with our competitors, which is quite unique in business, and refer folks to each other to help out in this economy. We are working right now with Grupo Tortuguero in Baja to develop tours for 2011 for guests to come down and help sea turtle researchers tag sea turtles in Baja.
Worried about their business since travel might be the first item cut from most people’s budgets in a downturn, Nancy and co-owner, Terry Prichard, took a 9-month Entrepreneurial Leadership Training offered by the Idaho SBDC with personal coaching as well as classroom sessions. “Bill Jhung offered an encouraging calm wisdom which steadied our hand on the tiller of our business during a very dark time for our business”, said Nancy. “A shorter course would not have been effective. This way you could really learn to focus and change your thinking and behavior and practice while still under the tutelage of a phenomenal instructor. The steady and focused encouragement coupled with tools for business cost analysis really helped us. Bill helped us be confident about when and how to raise prices, etc. for example we’d been too soft hearted in many cases allowing emotion to trump logic and numbers.”
We just did our 2009 year analysis and after taking Bill’s course, the first 9 months of 2009 following his advice to constantly weigh each penny spent, each discount given, while adding extra value to our product and doubling our marketing efforts, guess what, we went from 2008, our worst year in the last 10 years, to on par with our best ever years. Not that we went into this business for money we do it mostly for the pure love of sharing nature’s wonders with others.
Sea Kayak Adventures was the recipient of 2009 National Geographic Adventure Magazine’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” and 2009 National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s “50 Best Trips of a Lifetime”. For more information about Sea Kayak Adventure visit www.seakayakadventures.com.