Monday, July 3, 2017

All you need to know about kayaking (part 2)

Second in a one-part series that pretends to be….

…the last word on paddling tips. And it would be if you drown, God forbid. So start by wearing a PFD whenever and wherever you go kayaking. Recently, I encountered a nice  
Paddling on July 4th or any summer weekend: Hit the water early, get off early 
fellow at the Russian River estuary at Jenner, in Sonoma County. He was about to launch a large, fairly stable sit-on-top kayak. It was a mild, warm day, especially by North Coast standards, with barely a breeze. He asked, “Do I really need to wear this life jacket?” I paused and silently thanked the Water Gods for endorsing NorCal Yak’s Third Law, which states: 

The best advice you can give anyone is the advice they ask you for.  Because they might actually listen. Otherwise, you risk just annoying them, despite good intentions. So I replied, in the most undramatic tone possible. “Well, I always wear a PFD because it helped me cheat death a few times.”

He slipped his PFD on, I turned to leave, and about seven seconds later, I heard a noise and he was out in the bay, floundering around next to his overturned boat. When he got back to shore, he admitted he hadn’t been in a kayak in about 20 years. Go figure.

Identical PFDs, but the one on the right is 4 years older 
While we're at it, if your PFD is several years old, take it to your kayak shop and compare it to a new one. If the foam filling has compressed, it's time for a replacement.    

Moving on, in homage to the Third Law, I shall attempt to avoid pontification, but here are a couple more observations in the vein of my first post, “Everything you need to know about kayaking – not”. This is strictly in response to reader demand, so I’d like to thank all three of you for your support. And away we go…

Let's assume this is your first kayaking summer. You may have noticed that on a holiday week, like the Fourth of July -- or any summer weekend when temps are above 80 -- it’s awfully   crowded on many waterways. So go where power-boating is off limits or limited,  paddle early, and get off the water early. “I don’t like to get up before the ass-crack of dawn,” you whine. “I wanna go to Tahoe. Why not go out late in the day?” Because by then, the guy with the 300-hp Evinrude cruiser will be drunk as a skunk and might run over you, that’s why. Also note that “rude” is part of the outboard motor’s name. Which brings us to….
Big boats on big water may equate to big trouble for kayakers (at Lake Tahoe) 
Be nice, on and off the water. There are two kinds of boat people, nice ones and jerks. Not strictly referring to kayakers and power boaters, even if the latter are often in the jerky majority. Empowered or not, people may be jerk-like before they launch or when they return.  Aim for a consistent stroke with both your paddle and your attitude. We can be at our best when we're on the water, so why not take it ashore? 

I was at a very crowded Lake Natoma the other day, and after I came back to the launch, some paddle boarders roared up behind my vehicle in a big fancy SUV and wanted to know if I was leaving. They had pretty well blocked me from loading my kayak. “Why no, this is the only shaded parking spot here and I’m going to hang for a while,” I replied with a smile.

Confessions of a shady character
A short time later, a truck pulled alongside with two couples and their large fishing Hobies. They left me space to load my boat. The new Hobie owners were testing their kayaks out on small water before taking them out to sea.  (Another good tip, in case you missed the boldface print.) We had a friendly chat, and I was happy to offer them my prized, shady parking spot. It’s a pleasure to meet friendly, polite paddlers and throw shade their way.

© Glenn Brank, 2017