I’m not new to kayaking but I don’t claim to be an expert either. However, when we decided to take an afternoon off to rent a couple of local kayaks, I was in for a much more challenging adventure than the leisurely paddle I had been envisioning.
When we arrived at the rental dock, my trusty two-for-one coupon in hand (perhaps that should have been a clue?), we were greeted by a very small, but very cute boy who appeared to be about 10 or 11 years old. He claimed to be in charge. Yikes.
He informed us how much he made per week as an employee, not as a family member, and I quickly did the math. He made more in a week than I had made in a year when I worked for money at his age. Okay. Progress. I’m good with that. And he did seem to know his way around the place.
Said child hooked us up with life jackets and paddles and I instantly noticed my particular PFD (personal flotation device) appeared to be on loan from the local marine museum whereas my husband’s was shiny, new and half the weight of mine. I was not worried. I can swim.
As our appointed vessels were dragged to the loading dock, I looked around, wondering where the child was that was going to be taking the baby-sized kayak out. And where was MY kayak? Was the boy/employee going with us even though I hadn’t booked a guided trip? No, he informs us – that little one is for you, lady.
I looked on with horror as he pointed to the very skinny kayak with the very tiny hole, known as a cockpit, in which I was supposed to lower my middle-aged booty. I’m not gargantuan but I’m a long way from the hip-less, skinny 20 year old I once was. As I was protesting the size of the cockpit in the kayak, I thankfully noticed a full-sized human being approaching us, asking if we needed help.
Yes, I said. This kayak is way too small for me and I don’t see a rudder? I need a rudder I think. It’s getting kind of choppy out there. But the first issue is that there is NO WAY I’m going to fit into that kayak……unless you happen to have some axle grease with you for my hips, perhaps?
I was answered with a tolerant, although pained smile as he assured me I’d be fine. I was to “hop in” (yeah, right), open the skeg and he would push me off…..into the cold, shark-infested waters, embraced by a darkening sky and increasingly wind-swept surface. I’m not exaggerating.
“What’s a skeg? I’d prefer a rudder,” I grunted as I tried to gracefully lower myself into the cockpit/boa constrictor’s hold. No way was this─in any way, shape or form─going to be graceful. I hoped the bulky, archaic life jacket I was wearing would provide me with some camouflage as my hips protested against the unforgiving confines of the minute circle they were supposed to pass through. Honestly, it was like squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom. The bulk kept moving up until my legs felt like bloodless, skinny chicken appendages in the dark confines of the bottom of the kayak. Suddenly there was an audible swishing/snapping sound as the waterproof material on my pants surrounding my hips was finally forced through. My butt hit the bottom of the seat with a resounding smack and the little kayak rocked in protest.
The grown up on the dock was barely concealing his amusement. Were they doing this to me on purpose? Isn’t that considered bullying? I made a mental note to call my therapist – should I actually manage to return from this trip alive. Mr. Amused-Kayak-Rental-Guy adjusted my skeg, quickly giving me some vague idea of how it worked, and pushed me off into what I was sure would be my final resting place. If I did manage to do a tip-over out there in the drink, there was no way this kayak was going to release me from its stronghold. My surviving loved ones would need to arrange for an extra large coffin to accommodate my permanent appendage.
My husband was happily paddling his way out into the chuck (in his rudder-equipped, brand new model of course) as I tried to figure out how to get circulation back into my legs, turn the kayak with what was already proving to be a dysfunctional, un-moveable skeg and recover somewhat from my bruised dignity. I had figured out enough to come to terms that the skeg was going to be my worst enemy as it appeared to be half way down which would turn me crosswind – not a good place to be for stability as the skinny piece of fiberglass on which I was basing my survival repeatedly attempted to tip me into the water. Now I know, in my heart of hearts, the Amused-Kayak-Rental-Guy, his tiny employee and this skeg-dysfunctional death trap I was in were in cahoots. What had I ever done to them?
I was determined to make the best of it and valiantly paddled after my husband, not exactly as the crow flies mind you, but more like a drunken cowboy who can’t decide whether to stay on his horse or fall off. I fought the growing waves, throwing out all kinds of prayers to my Higher Presence, and we finally managed to find a quiet inlet to rest my aching shoulders. I examined the skeg adjustment on the side of the kayak and determined it was definitely jammed – there was no making the return trip any easier. So I put up another plea for calmer seas on the way home.
After a lovely hour of surveying nature, counting jellyfish and negotiating with a seal that looked like he knew I would be an easy target for some mid-afternoon dunking, we made our way back. My prayers were answered. As we rounded the corner, we caught a break in the wind and I put my back, shoulders and forearms into a pace akin to pirate ship ramming-speed before the storm picked up again.
As I wiggle-waggled across the sea water, a character in a small fishing boat, wearing a ludicrous hat, waved gaily at me as I paddled furiously past him. I don’t think he was smiling just to be friendly. He was obviously as amused as his dog who was sitting at the front of his boat……who was actually grinning at me in a sneaky canine kind of way – dogs can be so smug. I soldiered on.
Just as I thought my day of frustration and humiliation was behind me, we arrived back at the dock to discover I was NOT getting out of this kayak without a cherry-picker or crane of some kind. My lack of blood flow to my legs and my wet butt securely wedged in the obviously shrinking cockpit ensured I was stuck. My husband tried to stifle his amusement (and embarrassment I’m sure), when I haughtily asked for his assistance in prying me out of this sardine can. As my paralyzed bottom and extremities struggled out of the python’s….I mean the kayak’s…..grasp, my feet slipped. I unceremoniously did a sideways, triple lutz, loop jump (a term from my figure skating days), landed on my frozen, middle-aged butt and stared up at the sky. Where the sun was just coming out. Thanks.
It was one of those moments when you hope no one is looking. No such luck. After I painfully hoisted myself back onto my feet, I glanced up and saw the upper dock lined with tourists, silly grins on all…at you know whose expense. I mustered a brave grin, waved at them and hobbled slowly up the ramp. I was going home to make sure the clothes in my closet had not mysteriously shrank like the kayak. There was obviously a conspiracy afoot.
Duck In Kayak: Zazzle.com
Constrictor Snake: Free Clip Art