My wife and I once tried a canoe at Big Bear Lake, but the craft wobbled, threatening to capsize, with the slightest ripple of water. As we live near the Pacific Ocean, more than likely we would have to brave stronger currents, even in a sheltered bay. A kayak, with its flatter bottom, suggested more stability. We often thought of renting one, but never got around to doing so. We’ve also thought of making a kayak out of wood, but that hardly made sense. Building a kayak would take a great deal of time, energy, and the sacrifice of many other activities. While they might look beautiful, building a wooden kayak would remain a dream project, right up there with finishing our Arts & Crafts-style chair.
For just a little more than the normal admission price, Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida offers the visitor a unique experience: to take a guided kayak tour of their Expedition Africa section. Frankly, this seemed like the opportunity we had been waiting for. We arrived shortly after the zoo opened, and once through the entryway, headed for the kayak launch. Our guide assured us that we had nothing to fear: kayaks were easy to operate. So we strapped on our life jackets, grabbed our oars, sat in the boat, and let him push us out into the dark, still water.
As we had surmised, our kayak proved more stable than a canoe. I sat in the back, taking on the responsibility to navigate. This I did by dipping my oar into the water periodically, and holding the blade perpendicular to the craft. As we were his only customers on this tour, the guide took his time, keeping a watchful eye on our progress. The kayak slid easily through the still water, freeing me up to periodically rest the oar on the top of the kayak, pull out my camera, and take a few photos.
“Yes, Honey, of course I’m rowing too.”
Along the way, we passed a small alligator sunning on the bank. A blue heron looked for fish along the river’s edge. Giraffes towered above us (more than usual) as we passed. First one, and then another Impala stuck its head above some rocks, watching us as it chewed a mouthful of grass. Marabou Storks huddled beside a wire fence, waiting for their coffee. But the West African Crowned Cranes strutted their stuff like Billy Idol dancing with himself, even if they lacked a peacock’s abundant plumage.
Too quickly, we neared the launch area. The guide told us to wait while he grounded his craft. Then, propelling the craft forward, we slid ashore between two empty kayaks. Our guide pulled us higher onto the sand, and we left the kayak to divest ourselves of our life jackets and oars. Then we looked at our watches. Half an hour had passed!
Suddenly, the idea of building a kayak seemed like more than a dream project. Perhaps it’s just the prompt we need, to get us back into woodworking.
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