|By Hank McComas
My buddy Ed said it would be "just a total blast." Although I had never been in a kayak before, Ed made it sound like it would be really easy.
So Saturday night, after the football game, Ed finally talked me into it. I must not have been totally blitzed, because I remember that Ed said to come over to his place around 10:00 AM the next morning. I threw on a shirt and some trousers and got over to Ed's about 10:40.
Ed and two of his buds were deciding where to go. Apparently the two other guys who said they were going to go were too hung over to make it. Stevie was talking about the really "knarly" 7 foot set that he had wired all the way up onto the beach last weekend. He wanted to go back there to see if there was any surf left. Bill, Ed's other friend wanted to take a long paddle across Whitewater Bay. After hearing Stevie's tale, the bay seemed like a good idea to me. The guys decided to go to the bay where they thought there was a park. Stevie looked really bummed about this decision.
We loaded up the four kayaks on the two cars and we were off. By noon we had arrived at the Goose Neck State Park. However, the summer season had just started and there was a $10.00 per person entrance fee. No way. So we drove up the road and finally pulled part way off of the road, carried the boats through the black berry bushes to a muddy shoreline.
By this time, last night's beer was demanding it's final release. I don't think that the lady in the house could actually see me from that window, at least that is what I am going to say in court.
The cut on my leg only bled for about 10 minutes after I slipped down the bank carrying Ed's spare kayak. Ed helped put the boat into the water and I only fell in twice trying to get into it. I was pretty cold by the time I was situated in the boat and had my paddle back. Ed had gone on ahead to try and catch Stevie who had opened up a least a 1/4 mile on him. I did the best I could to try and stay up with them, but I was losing sight of them in the afternoon sun. Fortunately, about then the sun went behind a line of big dark clouds and I could see him just fine.
I was really tired when I caught up with Stevie and Ed, who had been gesturing vehemently and pointing at me. As soon as I got there Stevie took off and Bill, Ed and I started back the way we had come. We paddled for almost twice as long as it took to get out there and we still were not anywhere close to being back. By now that cloud line was right over us and the wind was howling in our faces and the waves coming across the entire bay were getting big. I couldn't make it back to the car, so we landed at the nearest shore with the car a couple of miles away.
Bill and I stayed with the kayaks while Ed tried to hitch back to the car. Bill is a nice guy but GEEZ how he carried on about the mosquitos. Like what did he expect in a god forsaken, barren marsh like this one.
Later we learned that Ed wasn't able to hitch a ride on that desolate road and by the time he walked back to the car, it had been towed away. He didn't know the name of the nearest town, so when he called a cab, it took a while for the cabbie to find him. Since cabs don't have kayak racks, we had to leave the boats behind. I know Ed really misses his.
We got back to Ed's house and had been there a couple of hours when we got a call from Stevie's mother. Seems Stevie was supposed to have driven his grandmother for her hip replacement operation that evening. I guess that must have been what he and Ed were arguing about. Anyway, they still had not seen him and they were wondering if he was with us. Of course we hadn't seen him, so Bill and Ed started arguing about whether they should call 911 or the Coast Guard. 911 patched him to the Coast Guard, who asked a lot of questions about Stevie, his boat, what he was wearing, where he had been and if he had told us where he planned to go. I suppose our guesses were not very good because they never did find poor old Stevie.
What methods and sources of information could be used to ensure a better and safer experience on the next kayak trip?
Establishing Trip Expectations
Finding a location to paddle
Time to paddle
Put in - take out
Points of Interest
Vital Information - Float Plan
Equipment preparation - personal preparations