misadventures of a first time kayaker - as told to coworkers in a casual, humorous email
|Think: Abbott and Costello go Kayaking.
Yes, friends, Nitza and I survived kayaking yesterday, but the Weeki Wachee River did not necessarily survive us. (I think this means a lucky coworker won the office betting pool.)
The way I figure it, by Monday there should be about 48 lawsuits pending against us by Weeki Wachee management and a mob of concerned and angry citizens.
I decided to attach to this email a few photos of our adventure - since I obviously have no pride left at this point.
(not included in WDC version)
I'd like to say I'm the pretty gal on the left, but you all must recognize me as the water-logged dirty one on the right. (I understand Lewis and Clark had similar fashion problems on their way to discover the Pacific Ocean from Pittsburgh - a full century before the advent of Clorox.)
Nitza was by far the youngest and prettiest rower of our 30-kayak fleet. Nitza was my guest for this event organized by the singles group I recently joined and now expect to be asked to leave in the coming days. The reasons will soon become clear.
Until Nitza's recent prodding for me to go out and DO things, I had the good sense to sit at home and join club members for an occasional stage play, dance class or cocktail. Now I'm a frontierswoman . . . with a lot of enemies.
In the land-based photos taken at the end of our 2.5 hour excursion, Nitza looks like she just arrived on the set of a Tyra Banks photo shoot. I, on the other hand, look like the losing contestant on Survivor.
In fact, I can sum up my entire experience as a Survivor audition gone bad.
Looking at the photos taken in the one and only wide stretch of river, you can see the panic-stricken looks of our fellow kayakers wondering if we were headed back their way. You can also see the look of relief on some faces of the few who believed we were gone, at least for the time being.
The scene actually depicts the aftermath of a nasty log jam resulting from our recent passage with oars flying everywhere. Not a pretty sight.
So these are photos of club members fleeing for their nautical lives and getting out of our way as fast as they could. Even when we were out of sight, others could hear our warning sounds hundreds of yards away:
SCREAM - CRASH - LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY! *** SCREAM - CRASH- LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY! *** SCREAM - CRASH - LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY! ***
Not standard protocol for members of the Harvard-Yale Sculling Regata to be sure. But our crew pushed on.
I don't know which hurt more from my front seat position in the tandem vessel: Crashing into every tree, kayak and rock in sight or laughing non-stop for the first 90 minutes of our journey.
You know how the front and rear ends of a kayak are tapered to a point? Well after the first 10 minutes, ours were not. And we spent most of our time traveling sideways, not straight ahead.
Looking at the wide expanse of water, you may be wondering how we could possibly create such havoc. But please understand: the rest of the route was very narrow, twisting and turning sharply when we least expected it - which was all the time. Low hanging tree branches and vines were everywhere!
Well . . . at least until our passage.
Most ended up wrapped around my neck and upper torso. (Witness my formerly white tee shirt now covered with bark, leaves, mud and bugs.)
And there were so many big rocks on each side of the river!!! (Yes I KNOW we're not supposed to aim for the rocks.) Just like I know, in theory, we're not supposed to ram into every other stationary object in sight. (Easy for you to say sitting safely at your computer...eh?)
But if the kayak management team was smart, they would equip their boats with thick rubber bumpers, a loud horn, and perhaps an emergency exit. Oh - and brakes! It would really be helpful if there was some way to stop our forward motion as the shoreline came upon us so quickly all the time. But the most natural impulse was to shriek. So shriek we did.
For some reason, this vocal tact was not very effective in stopping our misguided forward momentum. It only served to irritate everyone around us who, for some reason, was expecting to enjoy a relaxing day in the midst of nature, in peace and quiet.
btw - note to lady doctor bitch, club member: Nitza did not mean to hit you in the head with her oar. We politely offered you a tourniquet and you declined. It's just a brain hemorrhage. Get over it.
Now if you're thinking Nitza and I were solely responsible for our raucous behavior, please consider the fact that we had attracted quite an avid audience of gentlemen who thought we were the best entertainment around. They alternately provoked us/saved our lives for 150 solid minutes.
But of all these fearless fans, our favorite by far was Mike (red shirt in photo).
Athletic, hunky-looking Mike was also hysterically funny. So he and I basically served as traveling entertainment for Nitza, who often threw her own one-line zingers into the conversation en route. What an out-of-control giggling group we were! Cannot possibly laugh and row at the same time, though. Sorry Nitza, it can't be done. My sides still hurt from laughing over that long expanse of time.
At one point, someone passed us and mentioned what time it was. In unison, the 3 of us marveled, "You mean we've only been out here 20 minutes?????? " I swear it felt like 20 hours.
Mike suggested the next time we rent a kayak that we get one with a ROLL BAR.
He also suggested crash helmets in lieu of sun visors.
And he predicted that we will receive a call from the park rangers the next time their foliage is in need of pruning - (and on and on and on).
We also compiled a list of famous last words spoken throughout the trip. The most memorable was uttered by Mike, and it involved Horst? (I always put a question mark after this member's name cuz we still don't know if that's what he kept telling us his name was. Fact is, he wasn't cute or otherwise appealing so we really didn't pay attention to him.) On the other hand, we clearly knew the name of Mike.
Back to famous last words: at one point, Mike noticed that he was the only one wearing the life jacket we were given at the start. By law we must receive the flotation devices but don't actually have to wear them. So Mike started to remove the encumbrance as he said aloud, "Why am I wearing a life jacket when no one else is? We don't need these!"
And just as Mike completed his sentence, SPLASH! Horst? capsized into the water!
Yep - completely upsidedown. The area was immediately littered with floating baggies of food, supplies, camera and cell phone. We couldn't help but roar. Then Mike went over to make sure Horst? was alright, and he was indeed, so onward we went - laughing even harder of course.
Now that we were about an hour into our voyage, still lunging headlong into permanently rooted objects, Nitza all of a sudden decided to completely stop rowing, put down her oar and take a picture of me. Picture??!! We were fighting for our lives and she was going to simply drop oar and snap a photo?? Which meant I had to stop as well so I could turn around and face her, which seemed like a horribly bad idea, but Nitza kept prodding me. So I finally turned around to get it over with when Nitza paused another precious moment to ask me why I wasn't smiling???? Take the damn picture and let's get moving already!!! (No, this photo is not attached to my email here today for reasons that should be obvious. Not exactly a Kodak moment.)
Of course, I had to reciprocate by taking a snap of her as well, so it came as no surprise that we found ourselves tangled in branches and roots again after the predictable impact a moment later. Still couldn't help but roar with laughter. Especially since everyone around us looked so upset that we were ruining their Zen time to commune with nature.
But this last episode raised a question:
Why was everyone instructed to bring "snacks" aboard these kayaks?
Given my description of everything we were faced to negotiate along the treacherous 8 mile route, who the hell was ever in any position to open up a dainty picnic basket and partake of snacks?!!!!!!!!
To continue: more screaming, lunging head-first into hard obstacles and more belly laughs ensued.
Several do-gooders (read: who asked you???) passed us and sweetly coached us about the person in back being the one who is supposed to steer. We spoke through gritted teeth as we replied that we knew how it was SUPPOSED to work - but this was a matter of execution, thankyouverymuch.
Eventually, we had to come up with a better plan or we would never complete the course. At least not in one cohesive piece. So we decided to pull over and change seats, placing me aft and Nitza in front. Once done, Nitza only suffered tree impact twice, I think, and to a much milder degree than had I.
And then . . . it happened.
Nitza's miraculous metamorphosis from reluctant rower to Captain Kayak.
So unexpected, it took all of us a while to even realize what was happening:
Nitza was morphing into an Olympic class paddler before our very eyes! The transformation was stunning. A "kayak savant" reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman's emergence as a mathematical genius in Rainman - only wetter.
It was like the climax of the movie Rocky or Chariots of Fire. And there was no stopping her.
A motor boat approached us on the narrowest of tricky turns, so I yelled out: "Every man for himself!" And then as the motor got closer, "Save yourselves!" I warned them. "It's not like we can actually steer this thing!"
But this was Nitza's moment to shine. She deftly handled the situation by ordering me to row left, left again, hard hard left!! "Pay attention!" she barked - "This is serious!"
Sheesh, what a control freak she had become:
"Stop rowing into the trees, Judy!"
"We have to row in the same direction, Judy!"
"Watch out for that poisonous snake, Judy!"
WAH - WAH - WAH . . .
Who did she think she was????
But to my shock and awe - Nitza's strategy actually worked!
Motorboat crisis averted!
From that point on, Nitza was unstoppable. A veritable kayak commando!
We kept telling her there was no prize for finishing the course first, but Nitza was deaf to our pleas for restraint and decreased speed. She was so determined to win the prize that no one was offering: for arriving first at the terminal boat dock.
Nitza was taking this so seriously that I had no choice but to pay very close attention and, as Nitza ordered me, to "Obey!"
We amazingly navigated our way around an actual rapid at one point! Okay so it was one rock in the middle of the river, but still . . . impact could have proved disastrous.
Nitza paddled like crazy, so I paddled like crazy - in the same direction for once. The result was impressive.
Mike and Horst? kept telling us we were going faster than they could possibly travel in their one-man units. Some physics thing about our double kayak having more surface area.
We proceeded to fly past all the fascinating wildlife. No, not the manatees we were looking forward to viewing - just 2 puppy dogs some kids had treated to a dip in the river. But Nitza skillfully avoided kayak contact and we slipped around them like butter. Melted butter.
Apparently, word had slipped out to the manatees, turtles, birds, fish and otters to seek higher ground until Nitza and I had passed. Like when a tsunami occurs. To our disappointment, the promised live scenery was nowhere in sight.
Periodically throughout our expedition, Nitza would say, "Look how beautiful it is here!"
To which I would reply, "The only thing I have seen throughout this entire trip is a large branch perpetually dangling in front of my corneas. That and a few large spiders on my arm. Lovely."
But now that Nitza was in charge, spectators began to take notice, and we even dared to speak in hushed tones of possibly going Pro. A rumor surfaced that an official scout was thinking of recruiting us for Team USA - but someone misunderstood. They had simply called off the scout troop that was preparing to search the wilderness for us at the end of the day.
As we approached the terminal boat dock, we were overcome with the heady feeling of superhuman accomplishment. Perhaps we should take Nascar training next week, we pondered. We were unstoppable!
Stepping onto dry land, we planted the traditional oar in sand to proclaim our victory. It was a very Don Quixote moment, since we were never really in a race and had certainly not won any real prize. Just the privilege of maintaining some iota of respect. So we slapped high fives all around and celebrated amongst ourselves.
Mike and Horst? were so very proud of us. Like gloating parents or teachers - or perhaps simply grateful survivors. I think Horst actually got down on his knees and kissed the ground, even though he insisted he was just looking for sea shells.
Eventually, the van came to pick up our first small group of landed boaters. We climbed aboard and noticed a very different attitude exuding from our fellow boatsmen. An unmistakable air of respect, dare I say admiration, for our incredible performance.
Worthy of "Most Improved Kayaker" status to be sure.
When the courtesy van delivered us to our parking point of origin, Mike hatched a plan for the 4 of us to organize our own adventure in 2 weeks. "How about parasailing?"
In the exuberant, intoxicated rush of the moment, we all agreed that parasailing it shall be!
Mike grabbed my phone number and promised to call next week to make the arrangements. So we all said our goodbyes and took off for home over an hour away, back in Tampa.
Halfway home, the harsh reality of the situation hit me:
There is no way in hell that Mike is going to call about going parasailing.
It was just the dizzy euphoria of the moment that overcame his senses.
Either that or sunstroke.
But I predict he will recover and realize the lunacy of his proposal.
To put it another way:
There is no way that I am actually going to leave the security of dry land, soar 50 feet above shark infested waters, and be attached by a mere string to Nitza or anyone else tethered to a boat and flying over the Gulf of Mexico anytime soon.
Given the day I just described, who in their right mind would???!!!
Now if any of my fellow club members are still talking to me, I'll be happy to meet you at a local pub and gaze out at the beautiful water from a safe distance.
As for a return kayak performance, I'm pretty sure that Nitza and I are banned from Weeki Wachee for at least the rest of this season and part of the next.
By the way, my skin is now on fire because I never had a chance to apply sunscreen as I had planned to do upon our departure from the boatlaunch.
Now if you don't mind, I think I deserve a fairly stiff drink.
Better make it a Dirty Martini - in honor of my condition.
Bottoms up! (in honor of Horst? capsizing of course)
Otherwise, do stay dry, my good friends - and we'll see most of you at work on Monday . .
at least until the subpoenas are served.