No photographs remain of my first, epic paddle in the gorge waterway. Okay well none were taken. I'd been in a canoe and a row boat a few times in scouts, but this was my first time out in a kayak. I waited anxiously for my friends to show up at Go! Rowing and paddling at the bottom of Jutland on a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon. I had no experience at all and looking back just a few months ago I'm thinking.. "what was a I thinking?"

I was thinking.. this is going to be awesome.

We had a big group of about 8 people and we ran them out of rental boats. Two people in our team were more experienced paddlers and took a double, which was a huge benefit (more on that later). We geared up and went down to the docks and wathed the helpful guide to show us how to get in and how to hold the paddle. They brought the boats up and we got in shakily. Right away I knew something was up, I needed a shoehorn to fit in the boat. My feet were planted firmly against the bulkhead. I started to pull away from the dock and my kayak just went in circles.

The rudder on the back had not been stowed and wouldn't stay in it's seat. I got one of my friends to paddle around behind and got them to put up the rudder - there was no way of deploying or retracting it from the cockpit :P This boat was just awful. even with the rudder up it still turned in circles (I found out later from one of the guides that that kayak had a warped hull - wonderful). Nonetheless, I just paddled hard forward and stroked mostly on one side to keep the boat tracking straight.

We went under the old tressel where the galloping goose trail crosses the water, and I promptly smashed the boat into the pilings. Hoping no one had seen me wrecking rented equipment, I followed my friends as fast as I could with virtually no corrective strokes and maneuvering by paddle resistance only. The scenery through the gorge was totally making up for the boat issues, though my ass was falling asleep. a little ways up the water, a harbour seal popped up about 5 feet from my boat. I think that was the point where I started to forget about the kayak. I took the feather out of the paddle so I didn't have to keep rotating it. The tide was just out of slack and had started to flood as we headed merrily under the tillicum narrows bridge.

We a little ways out to just before Portage inlet and we realized we had to turn around because of the rental period and the parking time limit. So we admired the views and the beautiful houses and parks along the gorge and set to getting back to land. by this time, my butt was pretty sore and my feet couldn't move at all. We got back to the narrows and it was flooding with more and more speed. as we got closer is was getting more and more unruly to control my kayak. It was cocking and turning every which way, and the current was not helping one bit. There was very little wind that day. My friends had all gotten through the narrows, but I was fighting that boat tooth and nail - come on bessy - come on, and just as I was about to escape it, two people (unrelated to our group) in a double kayak came through the narrows within about a foot of my boat. I had nowhere to plant my paddle and no strokes in my inventory to fix the situation. The current grabbed the kayak broadside and dumped me into the sea. I had enough sense to hold onto the boat and the paddle, so I just swam to the sea wall.

The more experienced paddlers in my group came back through to help me get back in. At that point I told them, there's probably no way, so let's not repeat the experiment. They towed it through the passage and I walked over the bridge to the other side. There was a small dock there and we emptied the boat of water, but we didn't relaize the hatches had leaked practically the entire ocean into the hull. I got back into the yak and started paddling. Weighed down with water, the boat was just a miserable 4 ton weight and had no tracking ability at all. Every stroke would just kick out the bow or stern. Just as I was getting caught up with the people up front, my friend turned around to look and instantly capsized.

No one had any clue how to get him back in the boat, and it was a bit far to swim. So they improvised and told us to go on and feed the meter on their cars. so my friends proceeded to lift him out of the water somehow and they were back on their way. Luckily the water and air were both warm, so basically we laughed it off. We had no immersion gear, no spray skirt, no paddle float... oye. Guess i'm glad it was summer.

My boat was moving like it was on a turntable, so I threw my tow line to my friends in the double just to keep my nose pointing ahead. Once that was rigged up, it paddled well enough to get back in good time. My ass was about ready to turn black and fall off. Once back at the rental center, I sheepishly struggled out of the boat and onto the dock, then took the boat out of the water. I told the girl on the dock that it all went great except it has a "steering" problem. She took one look at it and said, yeah the hull's a "bit funny" on that, and it's not the ideal boat for larger paddlers since the center of balance will be way off. At least I didn't feel as bad about messing up the maneuvers after that.

Relfecting back on it, it's easy to see this as a really negative situation, but I think back when I was doing it, I felt amazed at what I'd been missing outside. I was busting my cycle. When I wasn't messing with the kayak, and just looked around, I remember feeling pretty psyched to be out there.

We all start somewhere, right?