It’s all been a little too quiet lately, what with the heat, the flies and the over-exposure to sightings of Donald Trump’s hair. My cycling mileage is down, my enthusiasm for outdoor activity has dwindled, so to try and kickstart my shit I went out and bought a used Kayak.
This idea was a remnant left over from last year which I thought I’d purged myself of, but it slipped back into my consciousness and thanks to Craig and his wretched list I went and pulled the trigger.
The purchase of the Kayak has opened the flood gates (no pun) and has also destabilized (no pun) my summer investment program - I don’t know whether to buy new pedals or paddles. First off, from the financial perspective, unless you live on the water, and I do not, you cannot underestimate the task of getting said Kayak to the water and, hopefully, back again.
I have a vague recollection left over from last years’ paddling ruminations that attaching a Kayak to one’s car, in this case a small 3-series BMW, is no simple task.
So I trundled innocently into my local bike shop to chew the fat about racks. I knew Nor Door Sports and Cyclery to be a Yakima dealer so I had the boy price up the bits needed to attach my new boat to the naked roof of my BMW 328i, the 4-door model. “Oh, and while you’re at it, I also want to put my bike up there”.
Imagine the horror and the ensuing giddiness when he quoted me a price a little north of $1600, without installation and without some specific kit that would be needed to fit my particular roof. I don’t think so.
It was starting to feel like another one of my trademark blunders and I became grimly aware of history repeating itself.
My first venture aboard a Kayak happened over twenty years ago off the coast of the Turkish town of Kusadasi, on the Aegean sea. My girlfriend of the era and I rented a couple of cheap plastic boats from a beach-vendor and took to the water with gusto.
There were no life-vests, instructions or directions to delay our merrymaking or to curb our enthusiasm. The cash was handed one way and a pair of paddles the other, along with a shrug and a gesture towards the water - “Look Mister, over there, the sea…. just get in it and paddle like hell” were the words inferred by the simple raising and lowering of a shoulder-line.
And so we did. I could see a landmass off in the distance which I assumed to be Greek, and it seemed both doable and reasonable at some level. So we set off for Greece and I could hear my partner yelling something in Turkish as she fought to keep up.
Perhaps a half mile or so out from the Turkish coast the waves became a little too choppy and my Kayak capsized. My GF seemed to be doing OK so I blamed my demise on having a higher center of gravity.
I was able to right the boat after some flailing, but of course I couldn’t manage to maneuver my sorry ass back into it without it capsizing again. I’m sure there’s some technique to reacquainting one’s self with a plastic boat at sea and I could think of several, but each involved being able to place one’s feet firmly on the ground at some stage during the process, as had been the case when we launched. So I spent a grueling couple of hours at sea holding onto the kayak and swimming the boat and I back to the shore. My GF was waiting for me at the tiki bar, obviously full of concern.
That was it for Kayaking until around twenty years or so later, when in 2009 I found myself living in the Wisconsin City of Green Lake. I’m not sure what happened exactly but I became the owner of a 12′ sports Kayak, purchased on-sale from Dick’s Sporting Goods for the princely sum of $200.
The launch site was carefully selected after reconnoitering the area and I loaded the boat into the back of the SUV by dropping the passenger seat, sliding the kayak inside the car and closing the tailgate on the six feet or so of protruding bulkhead (holding it shut with a bunjee cord). It wasn’t a long drive to the launch area and I wasn’t too concerned about collecting a ticket en route. Both of the Green Lake cops knew me well by this time and knew that I was generally harmless to other members of the public.
My previous kayaking experience was etched on my mind but I was convinced that a capsize wasn’t going to be in my future, not on the tranquil waters of Green Lake. (which happens to be the State’s deepest lake, apparently). So convinced was I of avoiding a repeat of the Kusadasi incident that I wore my baggy shorts, T-Shirt, socks and tennis shoes - fully expecting to return to the lake-shore quite dry.
I was able to put into the water from a rocky area just off the beach without even getting my feet wet. I’d given no consideration to how I might get out of the water and remain dry, and as it turned out there was really no need. As I was launching, a power-boat raced by perhaps 300 yards or so out into the lake. I remember the look of bewilderment on the driver’s face so it couldn’t have been much further than that. As I began to rock to and fro in the wash from the powerboat I had a flashback to the Aegean and recalled the fear of being capsized at sea and the vast depth of ocean disappearing blackly under my frantically paddling feet. Not a worry in Green Lake. As I capsized I banged my head on a rock in the two feet of water I’d been afloat in, and thanked my lucky stars that the shoreline was only six feet away.
Peculiarly enough the kayak actually sank. I mean it literally took in water and sank below the surface. I hadn’t thought that was even possible?
I tried to upright the boat but it was water-filled now and far too heavy. So all I could do was drag it the few feet back to the shore and begin the slow and laborious process of emptying it out until it became light enough for me to handle back into the car.
Back home I plonked the boat atop an old lean-to shed in the parking lot behind our retail store.
My kayaking days were over and I bore no real ill-will towards the thieving fucker who stole the boat a few weeks later, he probably saved my life.
To complete this particular loop: I was sitting in a bar a few weeks after losing my boat, shooting the breeze with one of the yokels, when the subject of kayaks came up in the conversation. When I mentioned that I’d had a kayak stolen from the roof of my lean-to the guy says: “Oh, you’re the one who owns that shop at the end of Mill St. It was me! I took your Kayak, I borrowed it initially then forgot to put it back”.
I know how unlikely this sounds but it’s absolutely how it happened. He offered to pay me at the earliest opportunity and we agreed on $100, but I didn’t see a penny of it, nor did I really expect to.
We moved away from Green Lake a few months later before further damage was done.
My new boat is a 14′ Prijon Calabria. That measurement and the name means nothing of use to me. I don’t know anything about Prijon, or how long a good Kayak should be. I do know that this is one heavy son of a bitch.
I didn’t go with the $1600+ BMW roof kit, I bought a $90 universal rack from Walmart and attached it to the rails on my wife’s Ford Freestyle. Getting the SOB on to the rack is quite the workout. By the time I’m done lifting and shoving and strapping it down with an assortment of different sized bunjee cords I have little enthusiasm left for paddling.
But I did finally take the boat out onto the Big Lake after about a week of it sitting in the driveway collecting ants.
I got the boat up to Europe Bay in one piece and set loose on a breezy day into the fairly choppy waters. It felt more stable than my old Dunham’s boat and I didn’t capsize, but it was touch and go. The boat came with an inflatable thing designed to consume space inside the boat’s cabin, or whatever that closet at the front of the boat is called; space which would otherwise become occupied with water when the boat capsizes - clever, eh?
It also has a ‘skirt’, but I don’t know how or when to use that, nor do I care to know.
I purchased a life vest, a bright yellow contraption that should be noticeable on the water from the shore to a distance of around two miles, I think. Hopefully it will help the authorities locate and collect my bobbing carcass and return it to my loved-one for a respectable disposal.
So it went OK, my first sail in a new craft. I didn’t sink, the boat stayed upright, I wasn’t entirely comfortable and I had a ‘moment’ when trying to get out of the boat at the end of the ride, but I made it back to land in one piece and somewhat dry.
It occurred to me later that I’ve been kayaking for over 25 years now and this was the first time I’ve had a controlled exit from a boat.
That’s quite an achievement right there that is, and surely a sign of progress.