There’s an old Styx song I’ve been humming a lot this week:

Nothing ever goes as planned …
It’s a hell of a notion …

I’m on vacation this week and had “plans” — the plans were to paddle every morning, do several hours of paddling on different routes and be off the water by mid-day to spend time with my family. But, as I keep telling my kids when they whine “But you said we were going to …”, plans change.

Errands, a dog needing to go to the vet and a couple late nights have all conspired to make me skip getting on the water several days.

Now, all week long, the boy-child’s been saying that he wants to go kayaking with me and I’ve been putting him off. Because I’ve paddled so little over the last few years, I’ve become a bit jealous of my time on the water. Taking one of the kids means changing the trip to accommodate them — and I had “plans” for this week.

Taking T. has always meant paddling the tandem Pamlico, which I’m not entirely happy with, and keeping the trip short enough so he doesn’t get bored. At nine, hours and hours on a river just doesn’t keep him entertained.

But kitten‘s been reminding me of some things lately (it’s not nagging when it’s the right thing to do), and that’d been percolating through my brain all night, so when the Big Bad Wolf …


… stepped on my gut at dawn to say “Morning! Morning! Morning! Time to do things!” … plans changed.

I still don’t like paddling the Pamlico, though, so I decided it was time for T. to try paddling himself. We loaded up the the Tarpon and my daughter’s Swifty to head for Moss Park where I’d paddled just a couple days before.

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Earlier in the week I’d paddled Lake Hart, on the West side of Moss Park, but that route starts with a 1/2-mile trip down a relatively narrow (20- or 30-foot wide) channel. I figured that would be a bit much to ask of the boy his first time alone in a kayak, so we paddled the Lake Mary Jane side of the park.

080612-MossPark (view this location in Google Earth)
(get Google Earth)

This side of the park has a nice sand beach and swimming area, as well as a grass launching area suitable for kayaks. Just off the beach is an island that’s designated as a bird sanctuary. We put in from this area and started paddling.

I’d almost expected T. to be a bit hesitant about paddling himself, but he took right off, clearing the reeds around the put-in before I was fully in my boat:


I was really impressed by how well he did right from the start. His stroke needs work (so does mine) and his tracking is … creative (I think he paddled two or three feet for every one I did today), but he took to it quickly.


I let him set the pace and direction for a bit, then suggested he head across the lake toward the nearest boathouse we could see. I expected him to tire out and want to turn back before making it, but he kept going and we made it to the target.


The distance to the boathouse from the put-in is about half a mile, but as I said, his paddling paths are interesting, so he probably paddled a full mile on the way over.

Once there, we took a brief rest and he was ready to paddle farther, not the least intimidated by the view back to the beach we’d set off from:


He has a tendency to paddle harder than he needs to, though, so I didn’t want to chance him tiring out and needing a tow back. We drifted for a bit, talking about paddling and then headed back in.

Once everything but the Swifty was back in or on the car, we took the it over to the swimming area. If he’s going to paddle his own boat, he needs to have some knowledge and be prepared, so I stood in waist-deep water with him in the boat and explained some things like primary and secondary stability. Then I tilted the boat so he could get a feel for it and finally I dumped him over a few time so he could practice a wet exit.

Okay, so he’s so short that a wet exit for him mostly consists of falling out of the cockpit as the boat goes over and this was more of an excuse to dump him in the water a few times, but it did give him a feel for it so he won’t freak out if it ever happens.

He also practiced getting back into the boat after going over and saw how, even full of water, the flotation bags keep it at the surface. And how much water he’d have to bail out if he ever went over in the middle of a lake somewhere.

Next time, we’ll work on keeping control of paddle and kayak when going over. This is also an area I neglected with the girl-child, when she started paddling, so I should work on this with her, too.

Isn’t it great when a legitimate safety exercise gives you an excuse to half-drown your children?