Back In The Kayak Again

Finally! I was able to kayak for an entire afternoon the other day. No rain. No wild winds. No work or appointments. Just sunshine, calm waters and lake-lady friends. It was wonderful.

I truly love kayaking, but with my busy schedule and the cool, wet, windy weather, I hadn’t had a chance to do much yet this year. So, when Arlene called, I was more than ready to wet my paddle. Arlene was my next door neighbor, and we used to kayak together all the time. But now she lives across the lake in Fluvanna, and our time together on the water has suffered. We made plans to meet at 1 p.m., and I was going to kayak over to her house.

If the lake is calm, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to kayak from Burtis Bay to Fluvanna. As I was paddling along, I couldn’t help but notice the submerged vegetation. The Eurasian water-milfoil was easy to recognize with its long stems and reddish tops. There is a lot of it in Burtis Bay again this year. As I neared the river channel, I noticed that the water looked different. It was completely flat with no ripples. Then I realized that the curly-leaf pondweed was unbelievably thick in that area. The weeds made it very difficult to paddle.

When I reached Arlene’s, she was already in the water and ready to go. As we started paddling down toward the Chadakoin River, two more of our lake-lady friends, Joyce and M.G., yelled to us. They decided to join us, and it made for a fun day.

The Chadakoin River is a beautiful venue to kayak. It is usually calm and there is seldom much motor-boat traffic. Many days you can see osprey or bald eagles, muskrats and beaver, or frogs and turtles. The vegetation is gorgeous and, when you see the wild pink roses and bright red cardinal flowers, you can’t help but smile. On this day, we just paddled along slowly, enjoying the sun, the scenery and the company when we rounded the corner by the old boathouses. Right there in front of us were dozens of kayakers in brightly colored boats. It was great to see so many people out enjoying the river.

It seems like kayaking is becoming more and more popular. A few years ago, my friends and I were about the only ones to paddle around Burtis. Now, on any given day, you can see at least a couple of kayakers out enjoying the bay. It all makes sense, though, since kayaking is a sport both young and old can enjoy. You don’t really need much equipment, and the sport isn’t that hard to master.

Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes and in many price ranges. If you are considering buying one, do some research and talk to people who already own one. Better yet, try one out and see how you like it. I own several kayaks, but my all-time favorite is my Perception Swifty. It’s 9.5 feet long, 29 inches wide and weighs only 39 pounds. It’s “short and sweet.” I can maneuver it easily and can go almost anywhere. Another thing to remember when you are buying your gear is to choose a good paddle. A strong, light-weight paddle is worth its weight in gold. And, don’t forget or scrimp on a decent life-jacket. They make special life jackets for kayaking, and they are definitely worth the investment.

Kayaking is fun but remember to always put safety first. Don’t go into dangerous waters and always wear your life jacket. Try not to kayak alone, and always let someone know where you are headed. Take your cellphone with you, if you have one and carry it in a water-proof bag. Play safe and play hard hope to see you on the water.

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.