Posts Tagged paddle
No wonder I was so stressed out all those years before I first sat down in the seat of a kayak and by pushing myself away from the safety of the dock, friends, home, work, bills, more bills, and the million and one small niggling items that take away from the real, the bigger picture I became free. It is harder to be on land than it is to be on the water especially when you have discovered the joys of kayaking. If you have ever had the experience of paddling once the foreign nature of the vehicle, and the perhaps precarious tippiness subsides you begin the fall back in time, fall back to nature to a place in our collective forgotten neglected memories of living in the natural world, not attempting to lord over it.
In a kayak I have had the time during those inevitable longer days in the saddle to delve into those thoughts that there isn’t much time for when I am on land, at home distracted by life. The closest to this comes on long hiking days, but they are somehow not the same. Perhaps it is the method of paddling, the repetition of the strokes, the breathing the wind and water and a slow-moving along distant shores as a meditation? All I know is what I have seen and felt and experienced in over a decade of being a paddler. The title of this blog post says it all. For me, being on land is much more a dream than when I am in the reality of kayaking.
The small stuff, bills, work, and a million and one small niggling items are pushed away in the back of the junk drawer and replaced with real stuff. The weather, what will the weather be like tomorrow when I peek out of the door of my tent in the early hours of the morning like some drunken squirrel. Will the wind be up? Will the tide be favorable for an easy day. Will there be rain. Oh how I hate packing wet gear in the morning. The small stuff is a list of items mainly concerning what the irrationally off-her-meds bad parent Mother Nature will conjure for me, mixed with the small comforts of a good camping experience, if I can find a good camp that day. My worries are not of the bills to be paid, taxes due or the price of rice (though I do pay attention to that as it is a mainstay of my camping menu). My worries are simple, less to do with underlying anxieties about daily life as they are more of the just staying warm, dry and alive concerns.
I am at my best on the water and as the months drag on over winter and my paddling days diminish to ‘now and then’, I do feel I regress to a sullen state. To my salvation this spring, it has been mild and the conditions have been truly inviting to be on the water even if the skies are gray and dour. The hardness of land has been easier to take, if by a small measure this year. However, I do have to be careful of other dangers of land living. Where a rogue wave may threaten to capsize my mere speck of a kayak in the big ocean, a day of hauling heavy wood from one pile to the other on the weekend has left me feeling in worse shape than the days after my recent around Salt Spring Island marathon. I can blame the land, yes I can! It is not that I am out of condition for a full day of heavy-ish labour. No, it is the fact that being in a kayak even on a rough day is easier to take than whatever being on land may dish out. So I nurse my pulled hamstring and hope that by Sunday I can get back into the relative safety of a kayak for a good long paddle around the islands just north of here.
Is there anything better to a person with a paddling passion than to have an opportunity to sit in a brand new-never-before paddled kayak? Let alone a kayak that has been hand-built meticulously cedar strip by cedar strip? Well, this paddler can honestly say that there is in fact, nothing quite like it.
I was offered just such a chance, my ride pictured here for this overcast Sunday afternoon was a new kayak built with its sister side by side in the spacious workshop of my kayaking friend Gus. He had built an 18 ft. cedar strip racing kayak last fall, and it is a stunning piece of craftsmanship in itself, but he wanted to recreate it in smaller 14 ft. versions for his two kids. Very lucky kayak kids indeed! They were given the task of designing the patterning that would appear on the decks of each kayak and a peek at the original drawings would tell you that they had wide ideas. None of which would work with the materials at hand. A scaled down set of artwork was drawn up and with some negotiation both of parent and of wood they now appear in stark contrasts of red and yellow woods, grains mirrored and under layers of fibreglass, epoxy and coats of marine varnish on the narrow decks.
The hatches held in place by a bungee cord system allows for the decking to be virtually clean with the exception of the necessary safety deck lines and bungee. There is an Epic kayaks seat system that allows the paddler to adjust the distance to the rudder peddles as well as the seat position. I liked this feature.
Once I had sat on shore in the kayak to get it fitted properly I lifted the lightweight craft (a whopping 36lbs) and gently lowered it to the water. I was keen to get going and slipped my legs in the cockpit and sat only to feel the immediate nature of how playful the boat was and had the urge to brace with the paddle to save from tipping over. It was lively!
When Gus joined me on the water, he too experiencing the newness of the kayak feel and we laughed at how cautiously we dibbled away from shore. The initial awkwardness subsided as our bodies, naturally wanting to stay upright and centered did just that. Within a few short minutes we were paddling like we had paddled these kayaks a hundred times before. I lowered the rudder right from the start thinking a shorter kayak will not handle well without the aid of a rudder. My own, now ancient Current Designs Pachena, the 13 ft. wonder kayak that took me miles upon miles of coastal shoreline on kayaking trips much longer that the weekender it was designed as, will not go straight without the rudder down. It is like a curled leaf on a breezy pond and fishtail this way and that unguided by that strip of metal hanging from the stern point. Would this narrow, short and playful little kayak let loose willy-nilly (I cannot abide willy-nilly anything) if I lifted her rudder out of the water for a second. I gave it a try on our way back in the harbour into a wind and against the tidal current. This little woodie stayed straight. I had to switch my brain to paddle-steering mode after struggling to turn it off before as my own kayak is rudderless. A few hard strokes and I picked up speed. We sprinted and the GPS indicated we were running at about 10km/h. Not bad! Later in no current or wind we tried another sprint to much the same result.
Upon returning to the boat launch I reluctantly handed over my little kayak with the arrowhead design on the decking created with a rainbow effect of coloured woods. I kicked some seawater in, and a few blobs of shore mud but I managed not to sink or scratch it. Buzzing from the fun we had it was measured by the sudden realization that a set of car keys had gone missing. A mad search of the area and the wayward key was found in his pocket, and so it goes. tragedy averted we drove off, he with kayaks and me, oddly with nothing on the roof rack.
If these were a commercially made kayaks I could sit here this afternoon and write a long review that is both glowing and filled with starbursts. I would post hyperlinks to the kayak website and rave about the new era of small kayaks. Alas, these were a labour of love and not for sale, although I am sure Gus could be persuaded to build another for the right price.
Tested to float, safe for the kids it will be they who get all the fun next time. What lucky kayaking kids they will be and maybe they will let me paddle in one again sometime.