Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How I Got Started

When my partner and I moved to Vallejo, we made friends with a man named Marc, who has a sea kayak and a canoe. He took us out onto the Napa River, putting in at JFK Park. He showed us what we needed to know, how to get in and out of the kayak, and we took turns paddling it. With two in the canoe, and one in the kayak, we made our way up to downtown Napa for lunch. That was fun. We locked up the canoe and kayak to a tree, then walked up to the restaurant, Downtown Joe's, with our paddles. "Excuse me, but do you have paddle check?" We had a fantastic lunch, then paddled back down the river.

Marc and I were in the canoe, and Kevin was in the kayak. Kevin was some distance ahead, paddling moderately. I suggested to Marc that we paddle as hard as we could, the idea being that we would pick up such speed that we would blow by Kevin, thus showing him up. Marc and I are both very fit and we both paddled as hard as we could, and we could not catch up to the kayak. Even though Kevin didn't know he was in a race, he won the race. It was this that convinced me that the kayak is superior to the canoe. It offers a lot less wind resistance.

One day, when Kevin and I were hiking in Briones Regional Park, we were talking about where we wanted to go on vacation when Kevin suggested that we take the money that we normally spend on airfare, and instead, we buy sea kayaks. I thought this was the best idea I'd ever heard. We chose California Canoe and Kayak in Oakland. They rent kayaks all Summer, then they sell the previous year's rentals at great prices. Then you go in there, and they are like family. The folks working there are experienced kayakers. They have all the equipment you need; new and used. They give classes, and offer a lot of free advice. When you buy a kayak there, you get to take it for a test drive. They have a deal where you can pay a flat fee, then take any kayak you want until you find one you like, then the fee goes toward the purchase price. No, I don't work there, they're not paying me to say this, it's just a great shop.

We bought two Monterey Perceptions. These are 13 feet 6 inches, and I found that it is a great kayak, but my legs are a bit too long. So, I took it back to the shop, and exchanged for the Necky Looksha that I paddle now. It is 14 feet 4 inches, which is just right for me. Both are sit inside kayaks, not sit-on-tops. This is my personal preference, but I won't bad mouth sit-on-tops because I haven't tried them. One nice thing about the Perception is that it has a retractable skeg. It actually has a slot in the hull, and this is a great feature. You can retract it for loading on the truck or storage. Retracted you don't have to worry about the skeg injuring anyone, or getting damaged. The Looksha skeg sticks out, so I remove it before and after every trip. Both of these kayaks have fore and aft storage compartments. We've used them to hold sleeping bags and tents for camping out on Angel Island, but that's another story.

We've gone on numerous of trips since the beginning. I'll tell you about them in other posts. We're lucky to live near so many great waterways. There's Tomales Bay, Petaluma River, Lake Berryessa, and more. I can't wait!

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