First exposures to new technology are sometimes not very satisfactory, and this was the case for me on my first paddling trip with Donovan Garcia in a kayak. My less that satisfactory experience was not because of improper instruction or because of any defect of the craft, it was because this boat did not fit me and had no practical applications for anything that I regularly do with small boats.
At 5 ft. 7 in. and a present weight of 165 pounds, I am not a huge guy. I use boats for bowfishing, duck hunting and occasionally for transporting camp and/or game to/from my hunting areas. I am not a pleasure boater in any way. If I am going to put a boat in the water it is because I need it to haul something or get me and sometimes considerable gear to a hunting area. Kayaks are, by design, tight one-person crafts with a covered deck that can carry minimal amounts of gear. There are those who can, and do, fish from kayaks, but almost any open boat is more suitable for the task.
The boats that I typically use are an Otter Outdoors Stealth boat which is a small twin-hulled molded plastic boat that is stable enough to stand up in and duck hunt or bowfish from that has a sufficiently shallow draft that I can float it in a few inches of water. It is also light enough that I can haul it in the back of my pick-up and load it by myself. A trailer-transported boat that I use is a 14-ft. Ganeau-style boat called a Satilla that was once made in Douglas, Georgia. This boat used plywood, laid-on fiberglass cloth and has the large side-wall flotation extensions that provides unusual stability for a canoe. Again, this is a very stable boat that I often power with a 4-hp. engine or paddle standing up. The third is an Aluminocraft outboard with a semi-V bow, flat bottom and 40 hp. engine. I run this boat in protected waters such as lakes and the Intercoastal Waterway to go fishing and duck hunting.
Each of these open-boat designs allow me to carry a cooler, various amounts of gear and my hunting and fishing stuff wherever I need to go. The kayak was very seriously lacking in carrying capacity. This particular kayak did not fit my body very well. I could get into the cockpit, had clearance for my hips once inside, but I had to remove my shoes because of the lack of space between the bottom of the hull and the front deck. The worst feature was that the seat offered no back support, and a 5-mile paddle on nearly flat water was all that I wanted to do. This particular kayak did not track well, and I had to paddle constantly to keep it on a straight-line path.
My three companions all used smaller boats, and I had to expend more energy to keep up with this larger boat. Even so, they often pulled ahead and had to wait for me to catch up. While I was in the process of doing so, they rested; but when I caught up they proceeded on. Consequently my arms seldom had a chance to rest. They got a little sore and still are the next day. However, the most uncomfortable part of my trip was caused by a painful back. I could not comfortably paddle the boat sitting up straight or leaning back in the cockpit.
At 72, I have some minor back problems that give me problems with long-distance driving or even when sitting in a chair for long periods. I must sit nearly erect or my back will start to hurt. This is exactly what happened starting at about mile 2 and worsened throughout the 5-mile trip on the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge Paddling Trail. If I only used a boat to transport me from place to place, perhaps I might rig one to fit me and might enjoy using it. However, I already have too much in the way of boats and associated stuffs, and don’t want another item in this category.
On the other hand, if you are younger and want to explore the waterways of the U.S., including hundreds of miles of potential paddling water in Louisiana, and are stout of body and limb, the kayak may be just the boat for you. They don’t take much room to store, there are active clubs all around the country, members of both sexes are participants and you can get closer to wildlife with a kayak than in any other watercraft. Although I have absolutely no intention of experimenting with them, them there are larger sea kayaks for those who want a little salt in their paddling experiences to say nothing of fast-water paddling and competitive kayaking. All of these are interesting and attractive sports for lots of people; but not to me.
My tight-fisted Scottish genes and near-Puritanical upbringing will not allow me to spend my hard-earned cash on transportation items that will only give me pleasure. If I have no useful purpose for it, I have no desire to own it. This is exactly the situation with me and kayaks as practical watercraft.
Donovan Garcia host a variety of kayak activities ranging from part-day paddles to long-distance trips of up to 100 miles. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (337) 923-9718. He is also associated with paddle clubs who have regular activities around the state in near-shore and interior waters. He is extremely knowledgeable about wildlife, plants and local history and provides a running commentary throughout his tours.