The first reason for having this fine thing for a favorite is that its word is a fun palindrome. Kayak is kayak no matter which way you look at it. I love words that look quirky too and having those k’s at the beginning and end give it a nice balanced look. Balance is a very good thing for a kayak to have, believe me.
I had a birthday recently and one of my hopes for every birthday is to do something mildly scary (or new) that makes me know I am still alive and meeting challenges. I also love to share my birthday experience with someone, but this year there was no one free to help me out. I had to do something alone, and that was probably the needed scary factor – doing it alone.
I decided that I would go out in my kayak to a new place, Lake Manatee, which is a reservoir on the Manatee River east of the town where I live. I have done a birthday kayak outing once before but at that time I rented a kayak. Having my own now, the first challenge was to get it on top of my car and fastened in place, by myself. Doing something a bit difficult and awkward with someone watching on makes me feel a little like a two-year-old screaming “I do it myself!” but that’s the way it had to be since I had to know if I could do it.
The most difficult thing was figuring out how to work the ratchet straps. I’ve never studied them long enough to really “get it” but now I do. They are very handy things but you have to know how they work.
Since I’m always a nervous driver when something is strapped on to the outside of my car, this process of loading up was very important to me. Can you imagine my kayak laying out in the middle of I-75? That’s not just mildly scary, it’s nightmare material.
I’m happy to say I did it, I enjoyed it and I lived to write about it. In the interest of keeping posts short, I’ll post my picture story and be done.
What do you like to do on your birthday that makes it memorable. Don’t say “eat cake” please…
I have not been pushing myself to write for many months and am feeling the need to challenge myself in some way. I want to see how many days in a row I can find a meaningful thought or experience to write about, starting yesterday.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to buy a boat, a kayak, something that I had wished to do for years. And even better, I had someone who also wanted to buy one, and go on outings with me. We bought our used boats and excitedly brought them home. Mark, my cousin, has gone out in his boat several times. He’s fitted it with ropes for his anchor, so he can fish without drifting. He’s renewed his fishing license. He’s been out enough times that he’s “settled in” to how the boat feels and he’s comfortable. Me? I’ve lent my kayak out to a friend for a month. That’s it.
So, last week we planned to go out on the water. We decided to explore the north end of Longboat Key, Florida since my boat was already out there. On the west of the key is the Gulf of Mexico. On the east side is the Intercoastal Waterway with it’s bridges, bayous and mangrove hammocks, and that was the side we were most interested in. It’s waters are calmer, more protected and have interesting features.
I have a lot of questions about my ability as a kayaker. I know enough about paddling to impress someone who has never done it at all, but I really don’t know how far I can paddle or what challenges there might be when someone starts going out a lot. I wonder if I could get lost (we didn’t). I wonder if I could end up in the wrong place and get run over by a yacht (didn’t happen either). I wonder if I could meet up with dangerous marine life (no). I wonder if I could get stuck in the shallows, capsize, get tangled in brush ( um.. nearly happened). For all these reasons, this first trip in my new (used) boat was a challenge, in it’s own way.
Mark and I started from different points with a plan to meet up in the middle. The first challenge was to time it right and not miss each other. That was actually pretty easy. Longboat Key has a lot of man made canals with houses along them, much like streets in a neighborhood. We paddled south looking at houses and seawalls for a while but that got boring. Boats were everywhere and the water didn’t look very clean, probably because the canals were deep and the bottom was dark. I don’t think I saw anything alive in the water either. I don’t blame the fish for not wanting to hang out there.
We headed out across the boat channel to a more deserted looking island. It was mildly challenging to avoid all the speedboats and yachts navigating the channel, but kind of fun to ride the waves in their wake. The water started looking cleaner with a lot of sand bar area and beach with mangroves on the shore. Very pretty but still not much life in the water or on the shore. We got around the northern point of this little island and had the most fun of our outing.
We spotted a part of the interior of the island that had no trees. As we got closer we saw a narrow inlet – it looked like someone had swept a path about a yard wide through the foliage and mangrove roots. It was calling my name. The path had a current and it kept going further and further into the island. Lots of birds and lots of minnows. I would say it was like an estuary where fish go to be born and hide until they get big enough to make it on the outside. I was a little surprised to see that Mark had been able to follow. He weighs a bit more than I do and has a heavier kayak, and there were places where the water didn’t look more than eight to ten inches deep. We were able to get turned around and back out without having to get out and drag our kayaks, but it was a place where you could imagine that happening. Very interesting.
The second really nice place was a little farther down the shore on this same island. The surface of the water was very calm in a small curved bay so it was easy to see when a school of mullet arrived. The water began to boil with ripples everywhere. Mullet love to jump. They are a very exuberant fish. They are the kind that actually might jump into your boat if you are quiet and stick around long enough. But you don’t catch them with a fishing pole – they don’t have eating on their little fish minds when they are like this. We watched for a while and then started the trip back.
The last task we had set for ourselves was to see if my kayak could be safely carried on the roof of my Mazda 3 (a rather small car). The answer is no, not without a roof rack. We did get it up there and strapped it down before Mark noticed that the roof was denting a bit. These are one person kayaks, but they are 13 feet long and hefty for one person to handle. My goal is to be able to load and unload by myself and I think I’ll be able to do it after I get a rack for my car. Now we know.
Having made an investment in this form of recreation, and I absolutely love it, I am challenging myself to get out there and get some good experience. And I love taking friends out with me if anyone wants to come – Mark and I agreed to share our kayaks if we had need for two. And I need to pick a name for my boat… what should it be?