"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kayak-ity Yak

Carol's brother Chris came for a long-awaited visit earlier this month, bringing along his lovely girlfriend Colleen and a stunning amount of booze. Chris and Colleen left after a few days and we remember them fondly each time we sip another craft beer or savor a dram of Glenmorangie (which he gifted in several varieties: port cask, sherry cask, sauterne cask, original and extra-crispy).

Our elevated blood alcohol levels may have led to an incident involving the kayaks. Now, mind you -- we did not drink and paddle; no one wanted to be pulled over by the game warden on boat patrol and fail a Breathalyzer test. But the drinking may have interfered with my normal sleep pattern, leading me to awaken one morning with a thick head and fuzzy perception and likely contributing to an awkward attempt to carry Colleen and myself across the lake in a two-person inflatable kayak. Having only one paddle to use, I placed her unburdened in the front seat (known nautically as, "You sit here"), while I provided 1/3rd horsepower from the back seat (known nautically as, "I'll sit there"). We settled in and I began to propel us away from the shore.

Carol and Chris each took off in a solo craft and so sliced quickly through the water. The inflatable isn't as aero- (hydro-?) dynamic as the singles, so Colleen and I moved at a more stately pace. Since Colleen is tall we gave her plenty of legroom, which placed her center of gravity roughly mid-ship. Therefore with my more... compact self settled toward the aft we were riding with the bow a bit elevated. That really shouldn't have created any issues but as I paddled I kept struggling to keep us heading in the direction I wanted to go. Particularly when the wind picked up, strokes that I thought would keep us on a leeward tack resulted in us spinning slowly but relentlessly in the opposite direction. Our destination was the island in the middle of the lake, normally a fifteen-minute trip. We found ourselves several hundred yards from shore before Carol, who was well ahead of us by then, spun around and determined the dilemma: in my sluggish mindset I'd placed the seats in backwards and was poking along with the stern of the kayak leading us. Considering the stern has two small rudders to maintain direction and stability, and they were now sitting out of the water and at the wrong end of the boat, I was, in nautical terms, still "three sheets to the wind". We were too far out to head back to fix it, and neither of us was willing to dive into the lake to switch the seats around and then struggle to get back in from a submerged position. Therefore, the suggestion was made to paddle backwards. That, however, really didn't help matters -- the rudders were still out of the water and the unnatural motion was tough on my shoulders and biceps. For those of you who have never kayaked on a relatively still body of water, know that the level of athleticism and strength normally required is only slightly more than what's necessary to get off a soft couch. Going backwards was something else entirely.

After what felt like an hour and a half, Colleen and I finally made it to the near shore of the island, where it was shallow enough for us to step out and rectify the seating arrangement. We re-boarded and now, properly aligned, had a much more pleasant remainder of our trip around the lake. We still lagged behind Chris and Carol, but we were in no hurry and enjoyed our leisurely excursion. This was the first time I'd met Colleen, so in between my occasional narrative regarding birds seen and points of reference along the shore, the two of us shared insights into our respective partner's personalities that I won't repeat here. I will say only that Carol and Chris kept turning around in their kayaks to ask, "What are the two of you laughing at?"

It was truly a spectacular day, with bright skies, temperature in the low 80s and a gentle cooling breeze. We spent several hours out on the water and came back clear-headed, refreshed and invigorated by the experience. Then, of course, we got back to the consumption of the beer, wine, scotch, vodka, rum...

Talk about going backwards.

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