First Kayak of 2017

April 7. The ice was off the river. The sun was fighting through veils of stratus. The temperature five centigrade, meant hitting the water was a must. When I’m writing I don’t cut into my day with other activities. However, the old aphorism ‘rules are made …’ tapped at my mind. Rules are made by me, so I can change them at will, I concluded.

I wrote till 12:30. Peeks out my office window showed me the water was as smooth as ice just cleaned by a Zamboni. I couldn’t wait to get on it, but, “I’ll just grab a quick bite of lunch”, seemed sensible. Then I could stay out longer.

By 1:00 pm my darling husband had helped me load, and took me to the marina, the only place to launch at this time of year. The river was low, and mud banks extended for fifty feet before you hit water. No way was I dragging my kayak through mud – been there, didn’t like it.

I readied my kayak, starting through my first of the year checklist: paddle, PFD, gloves, jacket, phone in waterproof pocket, skeg working, sponge, pump, throw bag. Straddling my kayak, I backed it down the cement pad until my heels touched the edge of the water, then pushing back, and dropping in, I launched. It took a few seconds for my bow to clear the pad, so I wobbled precariously, my feet poking out both sides like the halves of a paddle pointing skyward.

A dark band of clouds lay along the horizon in the west. Just as I backed away from the shore, the moving front thrust a tumble of cumulous down the river, pushed by a 40 kph wind. I couldn’t even turn the bow of my kayak, couldn’t aim for the mouth of the marina. I ended up paddling inside the marina, but immediately had a new challenge. For the winter, all the piers had been tied to the shoreline with yellow nylon rope. Either I had to go over them, lifting my skeg each time, or under them pressing my face on my deck. I circled the marina, as the wind whipped up waves, even in that sheltered water. Over, under, under, over. After half an hour of this water dance, I gave up and headed for the launch. I drove my kayak up on the mud and debris, and managed to lift myself up and out, even though I was on a steep grade. I wobbled like a hula doll on a convertible dash. Hefting my body out of a kayak gets harder each year.

Loaded, we started the short drive home. Instantly, the wind dissipated. The black clouds moved past and the water calmed. Yikes! It’s hard not to take it personally, when every time I go out the wind comes up. I decided last year to give up on my pity party thinking and change my attitude. Now I say the wind loves me, and greets me the minute I hit the water. Sometimes it’s like the cousin who’s thrust on you, when you least want them around. But often, it’s content to say hello, chat a few minutes, and move on.


  1. Barbara Thrasher
    May 8, 2017

    Sounds like you have invented a new game of kayak ‘go in and out the windows’ with the yellow rope, or ‘threading the needle’. I still applaud your energy and think you must have been one of the first out this year. Yippee.

    • Madelon
      May 8, 2017

      Yes, I have my own slalom course, and a new way to practice maneuvering against the wind.

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