Saturday, August 16, 2008

Adventures in Kayaking

Somewhere along the lines, I developed an odd fear of the water. I say it's an odd fear because I was born in Florida and to hear my mom tell it, I could swim before I could walk. I loved swimming in the Gulf of Mexico or Lower Herring Lake or Lake Michigan at Watervale or the pool or the Atlantic Ocean while in the Bahamas. I had no fears at all back then. Water above my head? No problem. Dive into the deep end of the pool? Easy. Nothing bothered me. Just stick me in the water and I was a happy child.

But at some point, that stopped. I still loved swimming in pools, but I suddenly wanted nothing to do with the ocean or lakes at Watervale. And so I didn't. I don't know if it started when I started having problems seeing and needed glasses as a teenager, except I know the summer I worked at Watervale I spent a great deal of free time in the lakes. I just don't know.

So yesterday morning, when Dave suggested at breakfast that we go kayaking since it was my last day at Watervale, my initial answer was a firm no. Part of my resistance I'm certain came from my belief that I couldn't do it. Dave is super athletic and I'm not. And although I used to be a very strong swimmer, I'm not anymore. But Dave continued to pester me about it.

Finally, I asked "Will I end up in the lake?" thinking this would get him off my back because the obvious answer was "of course!" and that would be the end of it. But Dave, knowing when it's better to simply tell me what I want to hear, said "No, of course not. You'll be fine." And off we went.

All settled into my kayak with a life jacket secure around me, we were off to the Boo-Hoo sand dune and then to the Outlet and maybe Lake Michigan. About 1/3 of the way to Boo-Hoo, I lost my balance in the kayak and flipped into the water. At that point, the lake is about 25 feet deep and all I cared about was not losing my sunglasses, contacts, or the oar. I swallowed a bunch of water and came up coughing and struggling to catch my breath. Dave was within inches of me in his kayak and I had my life preserver on, so I was pretty safe, despite my flailing around as though I was drowning.

Once I calmed down and caught my breath, I realized my oar was less than 6 inches away from me and it floats and my sunglasses had remained on my face. I wasn't so certain about my contacts, however, as one seemed to be missing. I asked Dave if he would hop in the lake and find it, but he said no. Luckily, it had simply moved in my eye and quickly rearranged itself so I could see.

After about 5 minutes of futile attempts at getting back in the kayak that only resulted in numerous bruises all over my calves, Dave agreed to tow me back to shore, where I could easily get back in my kayak because I could stand.

Without further incident, we made it to Boo Hoo and then around to the Outlet, where I discovered a dam I had long ago forgotten. Dave soared right over the dam with ease and with his instruction, I was certain I could too. Recalling that the water rides at Great America were my favorite (and only ones I would go on), I figured this would be no more difficult.

I centered my kayak to aim for the deepest point of the dam, but ended up beached just to one side. Dave walked out and helped me get unstuck and realigned, and over the dam I went. Except that my kayak and I separated and I ended up back in the water. But I was determined.

I dragged my kayak to shore, walked it around the dam, got back in, centered myself for the deepest point and off I went. This time, I wound up stuck just to the left, but with Dave's help, I was easily realigned. Over the dam I went and again flipped my kayak. Take three. This time, Dave is laughing hysterically as I again got lined up and again flipped the kayak. But I was insistent that I would not return to Watervale until I had conquered this dam, which was all of about an 18 inch drop.

Dave had a different idea. He suggested that I give it a rest and we head out to Lake Michigan, kayak there for a little while and upon our return, I give the dam another try. So off we went.

We got about 20 feet out into Lake Michigan, when we discovered, much to our surprise, the air temperature on Lake Michigan was easily 15 degrees cooler than on Lower Herring and the water was probably in the low 50s. Dave suggested we head back (before I end up in the water) because it was too cold. As we arrived back at the Lake Michigan shore, I got caught in a wave and got dumped in the water. Luckily, the water was only about 6 inches deep, but the ground was very rocky and as I was standing up, I got pushed over by another wave and bloodied up my knees.

We made our way back through the Outlet toward the dam, which I was hell-bent on defeating. On my 4th and final try, I made it over successfully and then we kayaked back to Watervale where I laid in the sun for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, once I walked my kayak back around the dam and got in on Lower Herring Lake, rather than sitting in the seat, my butt landed on the side of the kayak and I now have a huge bruise on my ass.

I've never thought of myself as a rough and tumble girl because I've always been very girly and feminine. But I'm proud of all my bruises and scrapes. I wear them with honor. I also learned that kayaking is a blast, not nearly as difficult as I'd imagined, and the worst that can happen is I get a little wet. Once I was acclimated to the water, it actually felt good to be a fish again. Maybe I should start swimming laps at my local pool. I only wish I'd discovered all this earlier in the week. The good news is there's only 52 more weeks until Watervale 2009 and I will kayak everyday next year.


  1. Yea, Jessica! I'm so glad you've taken on kyaking. Sounds like it was a fun time. Would have loved to have seen you fly into the water.

  2. Yes, I'm sure you would have enjoyed seeing me fly into the water. It was entertaining for all. My saving grace is that my dad DID NOT have his camera.


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