As most of you know, I met Sandy while preparing for an Appalachian Trail hike. Between our AT adventure and all the hiking for Florida Hikes, I never returned to what I was doing prior to all these miles on foot: I was spending once a week in my kayak, or learning how to paddle a stand-up paddle board.
I’ve canoed and kayaked for years. But it wasn’t until I met a retired school teacher from Michigan that I took it seriously.
I was in a barbershop. Looking at me now, it may be hard to believe that I used to get my hair cut once a month and kept my beard neatly trimmed. But if it weren’t for that haircut, I would have never met my good friend Lew, and then his long time diving and paddling buddy, Dale.
When I met them for our first trip I started to worry just a little bit. There I was with my little 14 foot plastic kayak and they were unloading sixteen and eighteen footers. And they weren’t the roto-molded models like mine. They were sleek, light, and looked fast before we even got in the water. As I’ve been heard to say, “when you’re dumb, you gotta be tough.” So off we headed across the open water of the Banana River.
The waves were a little more that I had ever been in. For that matter, it was the first time I had been in open water in about fifteen years.
Not wanting to jeopardize any future trips with them, I just kept on paddling until we reached our planned destination, the Thousand Islands.
I’d paddled this park before, launching from a well protected ramp between houses and a school. But this time I arrived the “hard way.”
We paddled, watching manatees and dolphins – a common sight in this place. After a couple of hours, it was back to the open water and back to the cars parked along the far off shore.
As the bow of my kayak dipped in the waves, I watched the water run along the top of the deck and then splash me. Still being “tough,” I just kept on paddling.
After we arrived back at the cars, Lew and Dale helped me lift by boat to the roof rack. My arms were so tired, I don’t think I could have loaded it myself.
Following them in the car to lunch, I thought about the trip. It was great and I loved going out with two experienced paddlers. I remembered seeing them stop paddling often, drifting along with out any effort. Stroke, stroke, and coast.
This was something I never did. It was stroke, stroke, and stroke some more. My fat, short kayak required a lot more effort to keep going.