On Drummond Island, an ancient sport is joined by two even older sports.
Who invented kayaking? If memory of my family’s 1959 Encyclopedia Britannica serves correctly, it was the Eskimos, right? They made frames of whale bone and stretched skins of some kind, probably those poor baby harp seals you see posters of, over it to make a boat. Now this boat was going to be used to chase whales, so it had to be pretty seaworthy. So the hole in the boat where they climb in, called the cockpit by kayaking smarties, was just big enough to get legs and butt into. The rest of the Eskimo stuck out so he could use his arms to paddle or throw spears at whales or signal for help in the face of charging polar bears. And to keep out the freezing ocean water, there was a sleeve of some sort that laced close around his middle. The sleeve also kept the him in. If the kayak went bottom up, the Eskimo was stuck hanging upside down underwater which ought to happen often as the whole thing had the stability of a canoe. Both Rhonda and I have had the wonderful experience of dumping into mucky river and lake bottoms from canoes. What would kayaks do to us? Hold us upside down in the muck? These images swamped our psyches at the Drummond Island GeoRendezvous 2013. Well, not immediately upon arriving on the island, but soon after.
The GeoRendezvous is put on each year by Cap’t. Bud and First Mate Marty (these are not their real names as they assume aliases to for liability purposes.) It is headquartered in the Drummond Island Community Campground, right on the shore of Lake Huron. Rustic campsites and pit toilets are the only drawbacks in this otherwise heavenly paradise. In their GC guises, these two intrepid cachers have populated Drummond Island and much of the Upper Peninsula with creative, “old school” caches where the object of your search is most often an ammo can filled with really good items. Treasures of working flashlights and compasses, tools, toys, and trinkets of high quality make the caches worth searching for.
Drummond’s shoreline and inland lakes are prime real estate to place caches. Kayaks are prime vehicles to reach those caches. After two days of caching, and finding nearly everything we sought via overland routes, some newfound friends at the GeoRendezvous urged us to try their Kayaks. Quickly, but politely, declining their offers worked for a while, but around the campfire early one evening, PhotoBug2 and Terry made us an offer we couldn’t resist. And so we met them at the beach where they provided everything we needed, two kayaks, and two life vests. What we really needed was some liquid courage, but neither of us do that sort of thing and so we had to rely on our own.
“Geocaching gets you outdoors, to places you may not have been, doing things you may not have done.” I read that somewhere on the Geocaching website. Yeah. Really. Thanks…
Mounting a kayak the first time is never graceful. Or the second time or the third time or the fourth…Water is introduced to places you least expect. Stability is like balancing an egg on a tightrope. The cockpit actually shrinks when you try to enter.
Here I must mention that using the word “kayak” repeatedly has the same effect on me that saying the word “Voldemort” had on Harry Potter’s friends and cohorts. Therefore I will henceforth use the word “boat” in referring to that-which-shall-not-be-named.
Eskimo boat entry positions are many. And through the course of the next two days each helpful kayaking cacher presented his or her own.
There’s the “straddle the boat while you’re standing on the bottom, move the cockpit under your bottom and drop” method. I have named the this one “Straddling Sam, the Groin Pull Man.” This works if your inseam is 40″ or greater. Personally, my legs are eight inches too short, and I pride myself as a six footer. We’ll not mention my five-foot-two wife.
There’s the “place the paddle at the rear of the boat, across the cockpit, to stabilize the boat and give you three point balance as you place one foot inside.” I call this one the “Double Dip Tipsy Toodle” as I tried this one twice and both times ended head first in a foot of water with the boat toodling merrily about laughing at me.
One miraculous entry has the boater standing with one foot on the bottom, one foot in the boat near the front of the cockpit. With one magical motion and an incantation I could not make out, the boater quickly sat back into the seat, pushed back off the bottom with his wet foot, and rocketed out into the lake. I named this one “No Freaking Way!!!”
After entering the boats as gracelessly as possible, we found the crafts to be sort of comfortable and more stable than a canoe. We each paddled our own happily about, following our fearless leaders across lakes and along shoreline until we came, each time, to the point where we had to get out of the bloody thing. Being the Man and Leader of the Clan for 43 years, I deemed it my duty to exit the boat first, on my own, without help, then pop up and show my Beloved that in fact this Kayaking (ouch) was something we could take up and enjoy.
Exiting has its own positions which are variations on the entry positions. So I paddled ahead getting away from the group, and all their assistance. I gauged the water to be eight to twelve inches deep and deftly attempted my exit. In so doing I created my own position. It is called “The Double Dip Tipsy Toodle Onto A Slippery Rocky Bottom with a Half-Twist Noggin’-Crusher.” And, yes, I did it twice.
The bottom of Lake Huron is pridefully varied. Its most picturesque and least expected bottom configuration is one of rocks, about the size of bowling balls, covered in pale brown algae. On a calm day, with crystal clear blue water, this is absolutely beautiful to behold. Each rock, rounded and smoothed by wave action nestled tightly with thousands of others just like it, demonstrated some elemental property of physics or construction of the cosmos. And never did it occur to me that property might be anything less than friendly…