Folks often ask me how come I paddle a canoe, and not a kayak.
Just think of all the places you could go, all the more gnarly rivers you can run. Why use a boring canoe when you could paddle an exciting kayak in the really big stuff?
These folks are usually shorter and more nimble than I am, and believe they're more immortal than most other folks. At least they think they're immortal, and paddle like it too. Oh oh, am I sounding like a curmudgeon? Did I mention that these people are invariably younger than I?
Don't get me wrong, I've tried kayaking. I remember it like it was yesterday.
My aunt, who is now reaching the century mark, once won a day's rental of a red kayak from a local sports shop. I remember it was the right size and shape that would be sweet on a calm wide river or lake. Maybe not the ocean, though.
She wisely declined to straddle the beast herself, as she felt her thrill-seeking kayaking days were long past. She gracefully gave the rental for a day to me, and off on the broad Saint John River I went, on a warm mid-summer's afternoon.
From the get-go. I was in trouble. I set the boat at the water's edge, and proceeded to climb in. But when I got to that crucial point --- when my knees were bent and my butt was pointed toward the seat --- an irresistable force stole my balance and launched me up and out into the river, and I came down with a splash and sputter on my back. I guess it would have been better if someone else held the boat steady while I clambered in.
After several repeated attempts with the same result repeated each time, I somehow settled into the seat. Immediately I felt cramped and claustrophobic.
Sure, I enjoyed the easy glide and serenity as I set out from shore and double-bladed into the current, but I realized that the kayak was meant for just this, a short amble on a sweet sunny afternoon. What pleasures could the kayak afford me that my canoe could not?
There was no room, no place for gear, provisions or treats to sustain a tripper like me. Also, I missed the space to regularly fidget and squirm for the sake of comfort. I couldn't even move my legs in that confined coffin.
So I climbed out, with one more launch into the wet, and held the kayak steady so my daughter Monika could try it out. I accompanied her in my canoe. She fared much better than I, except for one consideration. The hot summer sun burnt the tops of her legs where they were not covered by the deck. Momma was not pleased when I brought her home after our outing.
So don't bother offering to let me take your kayak for a spin. Nice of you, but no thanks. Kayaks are wonderful, but not for me. Enjoy!
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