Monday, March 31, 2008

I Canoe, Can U? And Then There's Kayaking Too

Though I will probably never have that little place on the lake that I dream of, I seem to be putting together a little flotilla of water toys. We have a 20 yo little boat with just enough oomph to pull me on skis, a sailboat that I ought to turtle one day soon just to get over the fear of it, and now I'm thinking of a kayak (or two, so the whole family can go). My parents have a pontoon boat and a jetski and a canoe. I love them all.

I was a canoe instructor at summer camp ages ago. Any of you who were camp counselors in that era probably know that my qualifications for the post were that I could swim and hold a paddle. In today's climate I doubt you can call yourself an instructor without having 40 hours of class time under your pfd. In fact, the canoe that my folks have is a leftover from the same summer camp. I often wonder if it's the same one that girl peed in because she couldn't wait to get to shore, or the one I, close to drowning from exhaustion, made the most rapid and acrobatic water entry into after a really large fish touched my foot. (A good story for another day).

Those canoes are awful. I'm amazed we never lost a camper because if you lift a cheek to fart you've nearly swamped. Ben hates that canoe and so does the 4 yo. Me and the 7 yo are good paddling partners. That's why we are thinking it might be fun to have kayaks. She could go out under her own power. How cool would that be? A solo trip for me might be more fun in a kayak than a canoe. It's no fun in left-over-camp-canoe.

Fortunately, there's a great canoe and kayak store in Madison. We stopped there yesterday for some advice and I've begun asking people that I know for their thoughts. I can take a class when the weather gets warmer to see if I actually like the sport. (It dawned on me last night that I haven't got the first idea of what kayaking is like. Ben's aunt, who canoes the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota told me she doesn't like to kayak at all. The reason? Kayaking is paddling left-right-left-right-left-right. Canoeing is left, left, left, left then switch with your partner. You are afforded a little rest on your weak side). 7yo can take a class too, as long as we lie and say she's eight. She's as tall as a 9 yo so no problems there.

Here's what I know: a 10 foot kayak should be okay for my daughter. There are kids' kayaks, but do I want that? I should not get anything less than a 12' kayak. Would I want an inflatable? Are certain materials worth the extra price tag if I'll only be a casual user? (Something called duralite comes to mind. Sounds like a condom.)

Any one have any ideas?


Dean Wormer said...

Something with a motor, a captain's cabin and gunwhales?

I'm just trying to think outside of the box here.

Sorghum Crow said...

Check out this guy's page, he's made some cool boats.

Dr. Zaius said...

I actually hate boating. I used to go sailing every weekend on the San Francisco bay when I was a kid on my parent's sailboat. I also used to race other teenagers in smaller sailboats. After all of that sailing in my youth, I now look back on it as just so much drudgery. "Why Knot?", indeed.

I have been in Kayaks, and they are certainly a lot more work than canoes.

Ed said...

I've done a lot of canoeing and a little kayaking, and here are my thoughts, since you asked. If you're going out with a group and it's more a social activity, a canoe is the way to go. If it's a solo outing, or you want speed and/or maneuverability, then a kayak might be called for. With either one, understanding of the safety requirements is important, but depending on the type of kayak, you may need more extensive training than in a canoe. It would be pretty easy to drown in a kayak if you haven't learned (and practiced), at the very least, how to get out of it when it's upside down. Knowing how to get back in can be helpful, too. With a kayak you also have to fit it properly or it can be pretty uncomfortable. I also found them to be a little hard on the lower back. Of course, there are many different types of kayaks and all that may be more of an issue with some types than others.

Fran said...

I know nothing about either canoeing or kayaking.

When I was a kid, I did do a lot of canoeing -but it has been many years. I have never kayaked.

However the thought of such activities delight me, so please keep writing about them so I might experience them vicariously!

Jess Wundrun said...

dean, I think you left out the drink mixer aka 'Isaac'. Yeah, that'd be good. Do I have to become a republican?

sorghum fascinating. and I am green with envy. But I think after all that work I'd be too pooped to take the boat out.

dr. zaius did you race smaller teens using your parents big boat? Meanie. My own dad would never actually pilot anything that didn't have a motor on it, which I'm not a big fan of because it seems like you need to keep a hammer handy for intermittent whacking of engine while chanting "youdirty**!ckerrats@#@^%*itbagsonuvabi**ch!"
I just couldn't keep track of the magical incantations.

ed thank you for the advice. I might have been tempted to skip the classes but now I most definately won't. I was going to buy a basic model through REI because 5% of the money spent there would go to my kids' school. But they don't stock kayaks anymore, so we went to Rutabaga. I'll stick with them, since it sounds like buying a kayak that you can't sit in first would be a pretty bad idea.

franiam There is still a slight amount of snow in the form of not yet melted drifts outside, but believe you me when the summer comes I will fill you in.

Joe said...

Boy I love canoeing. I've never taken to kayaking though, there's something about sitting in that hole with your legs stretched out in front of you that makes me uneasy.

I was heartbroken when I realized I couldn't restore the hulk of the 1937 Old Town HW that I had. I sold it last year.

Wasn't that big Canoecopia event held this week in Madison?

M.Yu said...

I've fished and surfed in a kayak. I need the bi-lateral movement to keep me dry.

Canoes are best for drifting down stream. I need more skill to do other than that with them.

Birch bark canoes always fascinated me.

Crayons said...

Hi Jess,
I love those photos! Open water, warm blue sky. I can't give any advice, but I can say that kids I know just loooooove kayaks. I grew up in a canoe family, so there is a real nostalgic value in it for me. Yay for being a sporty mom.

Jess Wundrun said...

bubs *sigh* I hope your Old Town went to a good home. It sounds beautiful. Canoecopia was here but we couldn't go. Our local canoe store is on a little inlet so you can try out your kayak before you buy it.

m.yu thanks, things were certainly drifting canoeward here, glad to hear you speak up for the kayak.

crayons um, sporty doesn't really seem to describe me, but I like the ring of it. If you ever want to go (canoeing or kayaking, depending on which we go with) I'll meet you at Vilas! You can buy the coffee at Barriques after.

Dr. Zaius said...

We used to call boats that used motors as their sole source of power "stink pots."

The captains of sailboats make use of magical incantations, as well.

Ed said...

"Canoes are best for drifting down stream."

They're also good for lakes (although I wouldn't take one out on Lake Superior or Lake Michigan unless the weather is calm.) Take one out on Lake Mendota some time, it's a great way to see it from a different perspective. There's also a rental place on Lake Wingra where you can rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boats for a small fee. The Wisconsin River also offers some great canoeing. Bring a cooler with some brewskies and a picnic lunch and drift or paddle as you like. Stop on a sandbar or two for a swim. It's a pretty amazing river, undeveloped for quite a stretch.

Unknown said...

My wife and I own both a canoe and kayaks. In the canoe, we found ourselves always argueing about who was going to drive. Now we use the canoe as a cargo vehicle or for fishing.

For the exploring and Kayak Photography that we enjoy, the kayaks work best. We don't always get the chance to float downstream, but our kayaks allow us to easily paddle up or down stream in most conditions.

We tried an inflatable kayak, but abandoned it for two hard shell kayaks right away. I love our rugged little plastic boats that are ready to go anywhere anytime. The inflatable was just too much hassle here in Oklahoma.