Paddling: Extreme Upstream!
I absolutely love kayaking except for two things: getting in and getting out.
It’s a problem. Not that it deters me.
I’ve had several experiences where I wound up with bruised body parts, not to mention ovations from observers.
One time Bonnie and I dropped our vessels into a bay and my kayak started to leave without me. When I hurriedly stepped into the boat with one leg, it launched the vessel downriver, pitching me backwards, and slamming me down into the kayak cubby like Whack-a-Mole. By the time all of me was in the boat, I realized my paddle was still on shore. Yes, I was literally up the creek without one.
On another kayak trip an instructor described a maneuver to exit the boat called the Eskimo Roll. When I tried it, I went head first into the water with the fish, making it more like a sushi roll.
Down in Florida at the Resort at Carefree, we were given little square seat cushions with sturdy handles on two sides. “We’ll use them later to help get you up out of the kayaks,” our guide said. “They’re called Lady Lifters.”
Not only did it help my exit strategy, but it gave me a padded seat for my plummet into the boat.
After our journey, two muscular women waded ankle deep in the water, to either side of my kayak. They each grabbed a seat cushion handle and on a count of three lifted this lady up and toward shore like Queen Victoria in a sedan chair. Success!
But I didn’t have one of those a couple of weeks ago when I accompanied two friends on a kayak adventure in Lewes. The rental boats awaited us at Canalfront Park, in the water, off the dock. It took a platoon of people to hold the kayak up against the pier while I fell into it. UBE…ugly but effective.
Off we went, paddling up the canal, a gentle breeze blowing atop glassy, waveless water. Lovely.
I noticed that only one side of my kayak paddle had that little rubber gasket ring above the paddle part to keep water from dripping down at me. On the other side, with each stroke, water cascaded directly into Trafalgar Square. It was like throwing cold water on an idea I wasn’t even having.
As we traveled the canal and waved at other boaters, we enjoyed the scenery and stopped for lunch. Dining at a waterside restaurant would require docking, somehow ejecting me from the kayak and perhaps hiring a crane to get me the six feet up from the water to the pier. So we packed peanut butter and jelly. I ate mine with one hand, the other hugging a wooden piling so I wouldn’t float off toward Philly.
It was after lunch the trouble started. As we rounded the mouth of the Roosevelt Canal into Delaware Bay, the wind and waves cranked up. Paddling harder but making less forward progress, we could see our Lewes Beach destination up ahead. It was supposed to take about an hour to get there.
The three of us paddled mightily, barely making headway. Pretty soon I started to hear loud grunts on each downstroke, making me think Monica Seles was sneaking up behind me. I was astounded to discover the grunter was me. And the soundtrack didn’t even help me get anywhere.
As I stared at the scenery on shore, it was clear that the same brown shingled cottage, with the same wafting rainbow flag, was staying constant in my field of vision. We were making absolutely no headway.
Like the Last of the Mohicans, we paddled our three boats with gusto, staying in place, or worse, when we stopped for a breath, going backwards. Finally, we advanced, creeping forward enough until we were in front of the Children’s Beach House. My god that is a long building. I think we were in front of that property for forty five minutes, paddling and cursing. Finally, the wind died down a bit and we could inch along towards Lewes Beach. My arms felt like a rubber Gumby, my ass was asleep, and I was sitting in so much dripped water it was a complimentary sitz bath.
Our simple one hour kayak trip became the quintessential three-hour tour. If I felt like Ginger or Mary Ann when I started out, when I finally hit the beach I looked like Thurston Howell III. At his wake. So much for a restful day on the water.
But I have to admit, I loved it. As my pals hauled me out of my kayak, I staggered up the beach to the parking lot and wondered how I could go about hiring a tailor to make me a lady lifter. Of course, then I will need to recruit two young sporty dykes to, as Joe Cocker sang, lift me up where I belong. I’ll be all set. It’s a plan. Any volunteers?
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach, For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries, and her newest book Time Fries—Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach.