Our new boats had been sitting in the garage, teasing us all week. Bryan and Mandy have new crossover kayaks and I have a hybrid (a kayak that looks a lot like a canoe). Jarion has a greenish fishing-ready sit-on-top, and Kathy chose an orange sit-on-top that’s now outfitted with a yoga mat trimmed to fit Ivy’s special sitting spot.
Mandy’s had probably seen the most use, since she’d been sitting in it to read books. Jarion’s boat, on the other hand, was so new that it still had tags on it. We decided to try out Lake DeGray for their maiden voyage. We put in at the Alpine boat launch and immediately, despite my best efforts to dissuade him, Hayduke leaped out of the boat to swim.
He took off after the rest of the group, swimming steadily through the wakes of the motorboats that passed. I paddled my kayak near him, just a paddle stroke away. Several times, I asked if he wanted to get back in the boat, but he just chugged along at a sort of steady swimming lope. He swam for nearly a mile, until we stopped at an island.
What a pretty day! The weather was perfect. The dogs wrestled and chased each other while we ate, enjoying the freedom to run and play without being called back to us. After lunch, Bryan took a nap in a hammock on the woodsy island while Jarion fished. Mandy played in her new boat and Kathy practiced recalls with the dogs.
Then we all went out into the lake to practice falling out of our boats, flipping them over, and getting back in. With one person in the water and another in a boat helping, it’s pretty easy to lift an upside-down boat, dump most of the water out, and set it back on top of the water. Most of us can get back in our boats easily by ourselves. It’s a valuable thing to be able to do in the middle of a lake.
The neoprene ‘gasket’ that fits between the person and the kayak is called a ‘skirt.’ Since the person’s pretty much attached to the boat when wearing one, the standard rule is that if you’re using a skirt, you should be wearing a helmet. Mandy and Bryan have skirts already, and their helmets have been ordered, so soon they’ll be learning to roll their kayaks. Mandy brought her skirt along and practiced her first ‘wet exit’ today – she tipped the boat over, then deliberately pulled the skirt off and wriggled out of the tight seat to swim to the surface.
In the afternoon, on the way back to the cars, Hayduke did better. He stayed in the boat, for the most part. He’s figuring out where he likes to ride – all the way in the front – and he’s learning that we’re all heading to the same place and that, if he stays in the kayak, I’ll take him where he wants to go. It’s a slow process and it’s requiring a lot of patience on my part – and a lot of scrapes and bruises – but we’re making progress.