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Stupid Kayak Tricks: A treatise on the idiocy of not tying things down

14 Jun 2010 9:05 AM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)
You’d think the adrenalin would be pumping with the wet exit itself: throwing yourself sideways to hang upside down in that typically icy cold Halfmoon Pond at Sargent Center, at the end of May when only turtles and other cold-blooded creatures rightfully belong there, water going up your nose, floating around in that murky black with God knows what type of snapping turtles ready to take a bite out of your ass.

But no, no, that didn’t bother me at all—I’d been trailing my hand in the water all day at the recent 2010 Gathering, and it was downright amniotic, temperature-wise. Between the surprisingly pleasant temperature, the hot sun and the fact that I actually enjoy wet exits, it’s not surprising that I was the first to toss myself into the drink.

No, the exit and dousing went fine, nothing evil taking any toes off, smooth as silk, so there I was, bobbing up and down in my appropriately fitting Personal Flotation Device (remember: that thing should fit tight enough that you can’t pull the shoulder straps past your ears. Bear in mind, if we have to haul your dripping corpus out of the pond, we might have to grab you by your PFD. Ain’t gonna keep your fine self breathing if your head is somewhere down where the life jacket zipper starts. Get that sucker TIGHT!).

So yea, the wet exit was no sweat. Pleasant, even. The real terror? That came when Beth hauled my kayak over her bow into the T rescue formation to drain out the water (never done a wet exit or a T rescue? Check out This YouTube video to get a sense of how it goes. For a look at what NOT to do when you fall out of a kayak, check out this video. It’s both very funny but also exhausting to watch a re-entry done wrong, and it makes me exhausted and cold just watching it!).

There I was, bobbing like a cork, watching the underside of my overturned kayak, suspended in the air over Beth’s bow, when, horror of horrors, what did I see but the Tupperware-like lid of my hatch dangling by its rubber strap.

To put it mildly, I started to panic.

“Which hatch is that?! Which hatch??!!” I sputtered at my rescuers.

“The rear hatch,” they said.

Oh &^%$!!!! That was the wrong answer. Why, you may ask? What treasures did I foolishly stow in the rear hatch without tying them down, you may also well ask? Oh, nothing important—just my freakin’ CAR KEYS!!!!

Oh! I so did not want to dive down to the bottom of Lake Scary Crap in the Gooey Muck!!! I so did not want to squeeze my fingers through the primordial goo that was God knows how much deeper down than my dangling feet. I mean, that stuff at the bottom of that pond, that’s just crude oil in the making, you know what I’m saying? I’ll tell you what it is, it’s infant petroleum, that’s what it is.

And just because right now I’m vividly remembering the thought of all that water and muck and depth under my dangling feet, I’ll share with you some facts about Halfmoon Pond. According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, its average depth is 8 feet (check out a map of the pond at their site, www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Fishing/bathy_maps.htm.) Its maximum depth is 15 feet. (My maximum depth is 5’2”, for what it’s worth. Meaning that potentially, between me and my keys, was nearly enough water to cover three of me.) Its residents include largemouth bass, chain pickerel, bluegill, and hornpout. I know it has pumpkinseed also, because I’ve cooked and eaten them. And now it was their turn to suck me down into their aquatic maw.

Oh dear. The pond theoretically does not contain American eel or electric eel. Supposedly. But it certainly contains snakes, since I saw a big one swimming across it a few years ago. And snapping turtles. But primarily its volume is taken up by dark water that you can’t see into and dark mucky stuff that I don’t ever want to put my toes or fingers into.

“Are you sure they fell out?” Reba and Beth and Arlene and Bonna or one of them or all of them asked. I may have been wailing at this point.

Of course they fell out!! How could they have not fallen out?? That would have been insane lottery luck for my keys to not have fallen out. That kind of thing only happens to the type of person who wins a door prize. Not me! Nope, never won a door prize! Didn’t win a high-calorie snack at the Annual Meeting, didn’t win a $10 gift certificate to EMS at the Annual Meeting. Those lucky Women Outdoors members who won those nice prizes, bless their lucky souls, they were all Not Me. (Granted, it’s moot, given that members of the board of directors weren’t supposed to take tickets. But I bet you $5 I wouldn’t have won if I could have taken a ticket.) Won a doll at a carnival game once, but it was the lamest doll and I cried because it didn’t have a 3-foot-wide green satin Spanish flamenco dancer’s dress like the one they used to lure you in to play. How old was I? Forty. What’s your point?

But I peeked in the hatch just to be sure.

Oh my GOD!!!! My wad of keys, perched on the inner lip of the hatch rim!!!


I grabbed them. Somehow I didn’t drop them into Lake Goo. Somehow I transferred them safely to Renie’s keeping. Somehow she didn’t drop them. Somehow everything was fine, and I could hop onto my belly, onto the back of my kayak, swing my legs into the cockpit, stay low, and flip myself over. Badda bing, badda boom, Bob’s your uncle.

“We had a drybag the whole time!” Renie said to me later.

“DUH!!!” I said. “I am an idiot.”

The moral of the story: Don’t ever, ever, ever go out in a kayak without tying down important stuff.

As Debbi Wright famously said upon hearing of the episode: “One word: Carabiners!”

The corollary moral of the story: If you ever see me paddling out in a kayak, ask me where my car keys are. If they’re not tied down, just say the words “Lake Goo.”

Thank you, in advance.

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