I waited all summer for the arrival of my new kayak. …Okay maybe not all summer but six weeks through July and August, which in Nova Scotia–an area known for short summers–can be a major portion and often the best part of the season depending on the weather. Delivery was delayed of course. Delivery of everything is delayed these days giving the circumstances. I waited patiently and continued to paddle JT’s old kayak protecting my butt from its hard plastic seat with an Obusform inflatable cushion covered with a piece of sheep skin.
There were specific features that I was looking for in a new kayak and a comfortable seat was one of them. It also had to be lightweight so I could carry it to the water by myself and it needed to track better than the flat bottom one I had been using for the past three years. The one I ordered weighed only 38 pounds and had a keel, which hopefully would work better than the bent rubber skeg that constantly caused JT’s old model to drift to the right.
Anticipation was high and we purchased a double kayak roof rack so that we could bring my new kayak home when it arrived at Old Creel Canoe & Kayak. We envisioned day trips where we strapped two kayaks up on the roof of my Subaru and headed off to explore a new lake, perhaps packing a picnic lunch and some wine. Our summers were going to take on a whole new meaning. I also had visions of me popping the kayak on the roof and visiting kayaking friends to paddle in their waters. To say that I was excited was an understatement.
First the kayak rack was broken so we couldn’t put it on in advance but instead had to wait until Old Creel got more in stock in order to exchange it. This coincided with the arrival of my kayak. Figuring out and installing the rack in the parking lot before we could load the kayak was tedious and took a good 45 minutes. Then came the moment that burst my visiting-friends-to-kayak bubble. The moment when the kayak had to be placed on the rack. Mike from Old Creel is tall. The Doc and I are not. I am five-four and The Doc only a few of inches taller. Getting the kayak into the J-shaped rack would not have happened if not for Mike. Strapping it down was another adventure. We certainly didn’t look like the couple who used to canoe in Algonquin Park and other Northern Ontario areas when we were younger. Upon arriving home, we needed two stepladders to get the kayak down off the car roof. Our kayak exploring days appeared doomed before they had a chance to begin. This, we decided, will be a conundrum for another year.
Anxious to try it, I set out in my new light-weight kayak shortly after dinner. The lake was calming down and it was a beautiful evening. Shortly after I started, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t paddle very well. My arms immediately began to hurt. My paddle felt too short. My back started to pain. My legs felt cramped. Everything was off. I was used to a continuous relaxing momentum where my arms moved with ease and the kayak slid through calm waters with little effort. After about thirty minutes I returned home feeling pretty dejected.
That night my brain and my pain kept me awake. My back refused to relax as I tossed and turned and worried that I had made a huge mistake. It wasn’t like this was a Costco or a Canadian Tire kayak. This was a Canadian-made Delta mid-range kayak from British Columbia. This had traveled across the country for me. This was a bit more of an investment. Not a bank-breaking investment but something that came with high expectations. I was suffering from buyer’s remorse and had no recourse. This was non-returnable. I needed to make this work or else. By morning, I was exhausted and if not determined, hopeful. Something needed to be adjusted.
Lucky for me, that morning I had a scheduled appointment with my trusty Osteopath for a long-over-due adjustment and opening up of my compressed right ribs. They had been bothering me and causing additional discomfort in my shoulder blades and lower back ever since I drove for two hours (my car is lacking lumbar support) and sat for an another four hours in an uncomfortable wooden chair while visiting my elderly aunt and uncle. This new kayak seemed to exasperate the condition. But Bradley, the Osteopath extraordinaire, did some of his magic and by the following morning, I was in much better shape.
Before paddling a second time, I moved the seat towards the rear as far as it would go and raised the seatback as high as it could go. I considered adjusting the foot rests but decided against it wanting room to stretch my legs if they got stiff. This time Sue and I headed out on the breezy lake for our weekly paddle. The difference was immediate. My relief was also immediate. We paddled for about an hour and a half and everything fell into place. The kayak tracking was fairly good considering the wind. The seat was comfortable. My arms moved the way they were supposed to and more importantly didn’t hurt. I went again the next morning with The Doc on a very windy lake, and again was pleased with how comfortable I felt. Damn that seat is nice. By the end of this paddle, my buyer’s remorse had dissipated. I don’t know whether it was the adjustment made by my Osteopath to my compressed ribs or the seating adjustments I made in my kayak or a combination of both. Honestly I don’t care. I am just happy it all worked out.
The Doc was also impressed with my new kayak. After taking it for a spin, he mentioned that he may have to get a new one next year. The only downside I can think of is that this new kayak doesn’t feel as fast as JT’s old kayak, which was bare-bones, a bit narrower and very streamlined. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a bit of a lead foot when I drive. You can extrapolate from there. I never paddled hard. I just seemed to paddle exactly right to make that old thing go, and I enjoyed making it go. What I didn’t enjoy was the hard seat and the bent skeg. On the plus side, when paddling my new kayak, which isn’t really that slow, it should be easier for Sue and The Doc to keep up with me.
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Photo: Jenn Stone