Up the Creek with a Paddle (and No Clue What to Do)
I could tell you what a kayak is, and that is about where my knowledge of them ends. I was rather scarred by the self-propelled boats after my family, circa 1996, had packed ourselves and belongings into our green Aerostar van with our red kayak strapped to the top.
As we drove down Highway 17, the kayak all of a sudden fell down the side of our van. As my brother and sister opened the windows and tried to grab hold of it before it flew into a car behind us, I, a mere 7-year-old, began to cry. I was terrified the kayak was going to swing into traffic around us. After that, ‘kayaking’ became a term I ran away from.
So this week I decided to face my fears and headed to Kayak Amelia to rent a kayak for the day. For four hours, you can rent a tandem kayak for a $47 or a single one for $32. My sister and I settled for the tandem.
After registration and paying, we were instructed to “head out back and pick up our kayak.” We literally had to pick it up and carry it 100 yards to a small landing on Simpson Creek. We had to readjust our grip several times before we reached the landing.
Once we got in the kayak and took off, we spent the next fifteen minutes attempting to turn the right direction. We would go towards the right when we needed to go left. We would head straight and end up backwards.
Finally getting the hang of the steering and paddling, we were well on our way. Forty-five minutes later we came across a sandbar and decided to run ashore to rest and take pictures. Not really knowing what to expect (only that I would probably get wet) I had worn shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers.
Probably going to get wet proved to be an understatement once we decided to maneuver off the sandbar. The two of us ended up in water to our knees and more than enough water in our kayak.
Once we made it back, we continued on our way using the laminated map Kayak Amelia provided for us. We stopped up the creek, with a paddle, so to speak, to take a few more pictures of some birds we saw.
We heard the humming of a motor in the distance but thought nothing of it. Suddenly, a man on a fishing boat came zooming through the marsh. He headed straight for us. We both became terrified as we thought the man on the boat didn’t see us. He may have, but for whatever reason, he missed us by a few feet and we decided to end our excursion somewhat early.
We turned around (with relative ease this time) and headed back for the “floating dock” the folks at Kayak Amelia informed us would be our end point. The tide had come in and the current was against us. It took all the teamwork; two tired sisters could muster to get back to the dock.
We made it back to the floating dock, where you are responsible for maneuvering yourself and kayak from the water. It took us several tries before we were able to lift the kayak from the water, with paddles.
We carried the kayak up a ramp before putting it down. We found two men who worked there to carry it the rest of the way, our arms were burning from our efforts. We made our way to the hose to rinse off. We had to strip off our shoes and socks and ride home with the windows down.
Gross and tired, we finally got home. Our kayaking adventure had lasted almost the entire four hours, not bad for a couple of amateurs.
Surprisingly, it was a lot of fun. We did not know what to expect going into it but we had a good time trying to figure it out. Our day at Kayak Amelia was worth the pain in my arms the next day.
After my experience, I am ready to go home and try and tie that red kayak to the top of my car and see what kind of adventures it could take me too.
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Mary Elizabeth Robertson is a journalism student spending her summer on the First Coast. She'll be interning for the Jacksonville Observer and writing a twice-weekly column about her experiences called New Girl in Town. Look for it online every Tuesday and Friday.