Relay: We Go Kayaking: A Saga in Three Parts

Away in a bad way — a speeding-uncontrollably-into-open-water, away-forever bad way

Part I: The Saga of Winter, 2011

Santa Claus managed to get two big red kayaks down our chimney. The grandeur of the boats in front of the fireplace, amid wrappings of varied shapes, was as beautiful as consumerism gets.  

Kayaks are a perfect present, except if it’s winter, when their use seems a little far off. It is actually not so far away, according to my mom, who has read about the wonders of wintertime kayaking online.

It is blustery when we strap the kayaks to the top of the car and drive to Louse Point. Perhaps it is my holier-than-thou, I-went-to-sailing-camp-and-you-didn’t attitude about the dangers of being on the water in high winds, or maybe it is the adults’ we-bought-these-freaking-things-and-we’re-going-to-have-fun mind-set, but either way no one is listening to my safety concerns. The outing proceeds.

It is the day after Christmas, so we are wearing down jackets under our life vests, while my dog wears her doggie life jacket over her natural coat. I get settled in one boat with my mom, while my dad, sister, and dog pile into the other. We struggle to push off, but once we do, we are away.

Away in a bad way — a speeding-uncontrollably-into-open-water, away-forever bad way.

About two minutes in, I hear a splash. Beside their capsized kayak, my 10-year-old sister is struggling in one direction, toward shore, and my dog is sloshing out in the opposite direction. My dad doesn’t actually end up having to demonstrate that the dog is his favorite child. He bides his time, staying in the middle and yelling at both of them till eventually my dog changes course and swims in their direction.

My mom appoints herself to some damage control. She abandons our ship, jumps in the water, and swears when she feels the temperature. It is certain that my mom loves me and would never want to lose me, so I am confused when she then yells, as I am being pulled away in an unmaneuverable kayak, “Stay! There!”

I decide her authority on this mission is terminated, so instead of staying in the boat and starting a new life alone at sea, I jump in the water to join her on the push to get back to shore. I deem it appropriate to swear too when I feel the water, which is painfully pricking my skin as my coat and Wellington boots weigh me down.

After a bit of paddling, I am able to touch bottom, and trudge along. My dad pulls my dog and sister along by the straps of their life jackets. The cold combined with the current makes our approximately 10-minute return to shore feel like the ice age.

The boats are out of sight when we get to the edge of the shore. We are blue-lipped, but have vanquished the water’s wrath, so aren’t feeling too blue. Except that my mom then places her feet in some viscous mud and falls flat on her face. Anyone treading in that mud would meet the same fate, so helping her up and out is a delicate maneuver. My dad eventually saves her with a branch with which she has to grapple and roll around.

My sister and I grapple too, with an effort not to show we have just seen an awkward and funny fall, given that our mom is in a serious situation. We do one thing successfully — we drive home. All take hot showers, including the dog. After our showers, my mom forces my dad to turn around and go back out with her to find the kayaks, and they do. One has washed up on Gerard Drive; the other is back up on Louse Point.

Part II: Reflections

Our kayaking extravaganza is now immortalized in print, for the public embarrassment of my otherwise capable family. It also is in a painting on a big canvas that I did as a present for my mom that year.

In my mind, when the Queen of England was new to the throne, she might have looked to the portraits on the walls of Buckingham Palace for a confidence boost, an affirmation of her royal lineage. Likewise, when the kayaking painting was hung up in our house, my family and I would look to it for a laugh, affirming our nautical ineptitude.

Nowadays, I’d bet the queen doesn’t blink when she passes by those portraits; she knows she’s the queen and nothing less. Neither do we feel the need to reference the kayaking painting and further rehash the story. We know we’re beach-walkers and nothing close to kayakers.
Part III: The Saga Updated

We still try to inch closer to kayaking status though. A few times we’ve had the satisfaction of a sunny day on placid water. If we were swimming it was voluntary. On Saturday, however, we encountered some windiness during our kayaking. The picnic beforehand was the highlight.

Bella Lewis is an editorial intern at The Star. In September she will begin her sophomore year at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.