Friday night my nieces and nephew came home from their 3-week vacation.  After a good night’s sleep, they were up and about Saturday morning, and asked if they could try out my kayak.  Since none of them have ever been in a kayak, and since their parents are — I’ll just say it with italics — safety conscious, I figured the best introduction to kayaking would be to put the kayak in their swimming pool.

Well, the kids astonished me.  They took to it like they were born in a kayak. The 9-year-old did a dock entry and exit as easily as she climbs into bed.  And the 6-year-old — who was terrified of water last year when they moved into the house with the pool — jumped right into the boat without a second thought.  She paddled — with my full-size adult paddle that I swear she could hardly lift — to the end of the pool, did a 180 degree turn using backstrokes and paddled back to me.  I think part of the reason she was able to handle it so easily was that the Oru is so light.

Later that afternoon at a birthday party, one of the neighbors told their mother that she has three kayaks — including one double — that they can borrow any time.  I’ve already mapped out where I want to take the family for their first “real” kayaking trip.  Now the only challenge will be to find a day that isn’t fully scheduled with birthday parties!

For the past few evenings I’ve taken the Oru out on Setauket Harbor at sunset.  These have been my first solo voyages in it, and I am becoming increasingly comfortable in it (though I still occasionally think “I’m paddling around in a mail bin!). I’m getting faster at assembling it.

I’ve been putting in at a little beach on Setauket Harbor along Shore Road.

wpid-imag0023.jpgThe first night I circled around Little Bay.  High tide, perfectly still water gave me some beautiful mirror-like views of the water and shore.  A flock of swans seemed to think I was just one of them in my little white boat.

wpid-imag0048.jpgThe second night I headed in the other direction, and met up with a couple of kids coming back from a long day of paddling. Alex and Bree said they were heading to the launch at Poquot, inside Port Jefferson Harbor, so I accompanied them there to see where it is.  Then I paddled back around the point back to the beach to pick up my car (actually, my sister’s).  They had given me directions to drive to the launch, so I tried them out and found it.  The kids were still there (it was almost an hour later-I was surprised), so I gave them a ride home.  Another great evening of smooth seas, light currents and no wind.  Loving this!

Trip three (last night) was a bit more challenging, with wind out of the SW at about 15 mph while the tide was coming in from the NE – wind against current.  (Too windy to try to take pictures.)  Except for my maiden voyage on the Hudson River a couple of weeks ago, this was the choppiest water I’ve had the boat in, and definitely the stiffest wind.  I was curious to see just how much I would get pushed around by it, given the lightness of the boat and the somewhat flat hull.  But I’ve been getting accustomed to paddling it, using foot pressure with the strokes to keep me traveling straight and it did fine.  I paddled around Setauket Harbor, crossing the narrows where it connects to Port Jefferson.  Along the way I met up with another kayaker in an inflatable boat.  He lives on Little Bay.  As we paddled he offered some info about other put-in points as well as prevailing wind patterns and tides.  As I turned to come back I was paddling straight into the wind.  I feathered the paddle (first time I’ve done that) and headed straight into the wind, then eventually turned at a 45 degree angle to it as I headed toward the southern shore to stay in the lee of the trees. Just before reaching the dock at the point of the cove where my beach is, I saw a pair of swans with a cygnet still in full grey “ugly duckling” feathers.  I’ve never seen one before.

So, I realize that for you experienced kayakers (assuming anyone at all is actually reading this), this must all seem like playing with a toy boat in a bathtub.  But for me, still a pretty new kayaker, this is stretching my wings.  Going solo, in my own (new) boat, every trip is a step into the unknown, a learning experience.  Every outing is an adventure.

What I find most interesting about these little trips is that once I’m back on land it hardly seems like I was on the water at all.  It’s as though paddling is a door into an alternate reality, a dream that I only half remember for just a short time when I wake up.  I wonder if that will change as I do this more often.

I’m in East Setauket, NY for a couple of weeks housesitting my sister’s house, 5 chickens and pool.  Not a bad gig – between sessions of working on my new book I take a dip in the pool (several times a day), go for walks, and take bike rides. If I can stay away from the midnight snacks I might actually be able to drop a few pounds.

I rode my nephew’s bike out to West Meadow Beach last night. (It’s a little on the small side, and I have no idea where the key is to get the lock of the center bar, so all-in-all, so not the most comfortable bike ride I’ve ever taken, but still pleasant.)  It’s on Long Island Sound and the water was clear and calm. I longed to have my kayak and just take off on that beautiful liquid mirror.

This morning I took a look at a map to see the lay of the land and water, and to consider where I might go.  Here’s a proposed route

Hmmm….logistics.  Not having lots of public transit out here (like I do in NYC), and since I don’t know any other kayakers out here (I emailed a couple of clubs but didn’t hear back from either of them) I’m going to have to work out my own shuttle system.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

A – Drive to NYC, pick up bicycle and kayak from my apartment, bring them to East Setauket.

1. Drive Car #1 to Port Jefferson, carry bicycle.

2. Park car in Port Jefferson and bike back home.

3. Drive Car #2 to West Meadow Beach with kayak.

4. Park Car #2 at West Meadow Beach and kayak to Port Jefferson.

5. Drive Car #1 with kayak back home.

6. Bicycle to West Meadow Beach, pick up Car #2, drive home.

Looking at a map of the area, I see that there are lots of interesting-sounding destinations within about 7 miles of West Meadow Beach.  And I found a tidetable for the area here:  So it looks like I could have some significant fun on the water while I’m out here.

If anyone out there knows any kayakers in the Stony Brook-Setauket-Port Jefferson area, I’d appreciate a reply to this with any suggestions / introductions for meeting kayakers in this area.  Thanks!


Later: Found Setauket Canoe & Kayak online, just a couple of miles from here so I biked over there at the end of my writing day.  It was closed, but it’s on Shore Road where I discovered a public beach and a public dock on sEtauket harbor where I can put in the boat.. And I met a woman out walking her dog who has a couple of kayaks and gave me some suggestions about where to explore.  We exchanged numbers so there’s a possibility we’ll get together for a paddle around the harbor and surrounding bays.

I took my Oru Kayak out on its maiden voyage this morning with Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club. (Thank you Gerry for the invitation!) We started in Yonkers – the goal was to paddle down the Hudson River to West Harlem Piers Park and back again.

The boat is very light on the water, and feels more “floaty” than other kayaks I’ve paddled. Fiberglass boats are heavier and cut through the water more. As a result they are faster than this one.  I could see after a couple of miles that this boat was not going to be able to keep up with the group, so I pulled it out at Inwood Canoe Club, where I packed it up.  Here’s the route:

At ICC I met Kevin and Bruce and . . . . Yikes, I don’t remember the other gentleman’s name.  They were just coming back from a paddle up and around the top of Manhattan, and were so kind to carry the boat to the A train station with me.  From there I took a bus that left me just one block from home – a 5-minute walk.  Thank you guys!  At 26 lbs. the boat is light enough to carry myself, but it is a bit awkward and off-center with the shoulder strap.  We all agreed that an inexpensive skateboard strapped under the carrying straps might be ideal for transporting it easily.  And I think a spray skirt will be a definite must, as it sits pretty low in the water.

So bottom line, it’s seaworthy and fun to paddle.  I won’t take it on the Manhattan circumnavigation with the YPRC next month though.