the first solo voyage with my new boat

I had butterflies this afternoon in anticipation of my first true solo voyage in my own boat: No help getting the kayak loaded and into the water. No help getting into or out of the boat!  The ability to get in and out of your kayak on your own would seem like a prerequisite for buying one, but we don’t always proceed logically in Tinytown. My legs felt rubbery as I strapped my kayak onto the roof of our car. Moving the boat around won’t be as big an issue as I feared, I’ve figured out that by shouldering it with the cockpit I don’t have to pretend I’m the Russian Bear.  Still, it’s hefty. I chose to launch down at Montlake, on the edge of a grassy field next to the western opening of “the Cut” (the Montlake Cut), the narrow channel of the Ship Canal that connects Portage Bay to Lake Washington. I can’t remember the name of the park. For years I’ve observed kayakers using the shore there as a resting area and envied them for having enough guts to get out and then relaunch. The park is five minutes from our house, which clearly is a big bonus. From Portage Bay, I can paddle through the Cut to Marsh Island or Lake Washington. In the other direction, I can make my way west through the Ship Canal to Lake Union, Fremont, Ballard and out the Ballard Locks to Elliott Bay and Puget Sound.

Your choice of a launch here is a hundred feet of waterfront with two short concrete steps into the water. The lower step shelves nearly level into the water. The only wrinkle is the lower step is very narrow, so using your paddle as an outrigger during your entry is mildly awkward because while one end is attached to your hand and the coaming on your cockpit, the other is pointing up at a 30 degree angle on the edge of the upper concrete step. I know I must sound like a complete joke, but when you weigh more than 200 pounds, every mistake getting into a kayak is magnified in spectacularity. Getting into my kayak is like a cow trying to get inside a phone booth, but I did succeed without dunking myself. Diana and Adam stood on the bank above me holding my camera as a precautionary measure, hahaha! They handed my personal affects to me and waved goodbye and I was on my way.

It was sunny all day long, until evening when thick clouds moved over the city so my test paddle was a gloomy gray one. On the bright side, the Ship Canal was quieter than usual. I hung out in Portage Bay for awhile because I had issues with my feet falling asleep. This has been a recurrent problem lately when I’m in a single kayak (but never when I’m in the tandem with Adam). Last month I found myself in the middle of Lake Union with no sensation below the knees, that was a rough excursion, hahaha! I’m doing my best to stretch daily, and in the meantime I’ll continue to fart around with the ergonomics of my seat. My boat is comfortable, but something is getting pinched or squeezed someplace because I’m such a lard-butt and I have to figure out how to keep the blood supply and nervous system working properly.

After practically hanging out of my boat like it was a Lazy Boy chair, I finally got sensation back in my feet. I was feeling gutsy and decided to mosey down the Montlake Cut. My passage coincided with several large vessels which caused so much bouncing and swirly-whirly upsy-downsy, I thought I was a goner for sure if my feet went back to sleep. I headed to Marsh Island, where I rested against one of the floating docks to improve circulation. I watched someone in their sailboat get cited by the harbor police for boating while boozing. I thought in the interest of safety I should get away from their boat so I headed across the water to the UW Waterfront Activities Center. That’s where I took the pictures below. My picture taking session doubled as time-to-get-pressure-off-one-butt-cheek-and-restore-circulation. That’s the UW Shellhouse in the background. UW is perennially one of the top intercollegiate rowing teams in the nation.

This family had minor issues getting their boat to the dock, the dad smashed his fingers between the boat and the dock and the mother was too afraid to get out of the canoe. I took these pictures while I was floating by the edge of my dock in my kayak. The UW Waterfront Activities Center is pretty close to the east opening of the Montlake Cut, so swells tend to make their way over here and splash the dock. So yes, timing was very key to shooting here, hahaha! A few times I thought I’d be lifted onto the dock. A cool thing about the dock here: When the swells are big enough from the Cut, the water underneath shoots up between the slats of the boards like a bunch of mini-geysers!

It wasn’t a spectacular first outing in my kayak, but it was a quiet night on the Ship Canal and I managed to do a little shutterbugging, so I’m satisfied. My feet fell asleep again, but it was a moral victory that I managed to stay in the water and restore blood flow (i aim high). I mainly wanted to prove to myself that I really could get in and out of my own boat without falling in the water, and by that measure the evening was a success.

One thought on “the first solo voyage with my new boat

  1. Congrats on the kayak! There is something soothing about being out on the water… I have been on a couple of canoe floats down the mighty Kankakee River and thought about getting a canoe or kayak. The funny thing is the last time I rented a canoe I had convinced myself during the first hour of the paddle I was going out to get one but by the end of the day my back hurt so bad from being hunched over I never thought about it again! Ha! BTW, love the photos from the UW Shellhouse—the contrast and reflections from the wet dock is really sweet.

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