The Great Muskoka Adventure


After my wife, the teacher, finished school and the Phenom finished Basketball Camp at Humber College, we headed north to the land of the loon. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had invited us to their cottage for five days of rest and relaxation. Even though it’s a five hour drive to get there, we jumped at the chance to stay in one of the most beautiful parts of Ontario. Their cottage is across the Lake from Port Loring on desolate Highway 522.

I love it there. Getting up at 6am each morning, my usual plan is to grab the canoe and head out on the waters until the rest of the clan crawls out of their slumber sacks. All I hear is the chirping of birds and the gentle lapping of water as the sun rises above the lake – the totally silent moments actually offend my city bred ears. Nature sounds feel that uncomfortable in the beginning.

Nevertheless, as Jimbo has outlined in previous blogs, this would be an appropriate place to add a soundtrack of Neil Young’s, “Helpless!”

“There is a town in North Ontario . . .”

But unfortunately , I mean helpless in a more literal sense than Neil intended. Indeed, my relatives would more likely title my song track, “Hapless!”

You see, my sister-in-law kept chiding me by saying, “Take out the kayak, Jimbo, I think you’ll really like it.”

“Well, maybe?” I’d respond.

After she’d said this for the umpteenth time I decide to take a flyer at kayak navigation. I was a little leery because at 6 am there would be no one to lend me a hand, I’d be on my own and literally “Hapless”.

No matter, that’s why someone invented life-jackets. Right?

Getting aboard was my first objective and, after several tries of trying to mount the beast from the dock, I decided that this “tippy” contraption would have to be entered from water level. I’d step in the knee deep docking area and slither aboard. You see in a kayak you must enter an oval section or cockpit, slip your legs and feet forward and wedge your beer gut somewhere into this nano-space, all the while keeping the craft in stable equilibrium.

I am pleased to report that I did this on the first try. However, forgetting to take the elastic band off the rudder meant I had to dismount and do the dirty deed once more.

Apparently success came in double doses this day, as I once again slid effortlessly into position. However, I did feel a bit uncomfortable seeing as I felt like a square peg in a round hole. No matter, I used the paddle to push off, I flipped the rudder down as the water depth increased and off I went, paddling gently through the pristine water.

The first thing I noticed was that any body movement attempted by me was translated into an equal and opposite movement by the kayak in a rock-and-roll kind of fit of instability. Duly noted, I paddled on with care, with my body as stiff as a bronze statue, save for my arms that were doing he paddling.

My sister-in-law had explained that there were foot pedals I could use to control the rudder. Stretching my legs deeper into the front cavity, I found no such devices. I think I was about ten feet from the dock.

Maybe the those foot pedals are further back from my feet, I thought? I remembered my shorter-than-me niece using the craft most recently. So, being the adventurous mariner that I am, I started to pull my feet back, and feeling as I went, hoped to find those damn peddles.

“Ah, there they are,” I moaned, as my feet caught and locked onto the apparatus. I felt as if my knees were at my chin and my ass was touching my heels. This would not work, my friends.

I felt I had to dislodge my feet and get a more comfortable perch; otherwise my depressed diaphragm was going to put me into hyperventilation. I felt as if I’d become a human’ wedgie, stuck fast in the ass crack of a kayak. My breaths were short and choppy pants.

“Release your feet,” I kept thinking, which was far easier said than done. How would Houdini accomplish this task, I wondered?

As I struggled, I completely forgot what I had learned earlier – to each muscular exertion there would be an equal and opposite swing and sway effect on the craft’s stability. Just as I released one of my feet, I felt the entire kayak’s superstructure dip to my right and with a tremendous splash my melon head hit the water.

KER-SPLASH!

This of course was followed by another 180 pounds of hapless’ adventurer, who slithered out of the cockpit as if the craft was expunging an unwanted toxic suppository.

Gone was my hat. Gone were my prescription sun glasses.

But, I laughed and chortled as my feet touched the bottom in the waist deep water. I was a mere hop, skip and a jump from the dock. I’d travelled about twenty-five feet, I’d say. I’m sure I looked like a drowned rat as I emerged from the icy water. Fortunately, there were no witnesses to this happenstance, save for a few fishes and loon.

Later, my brother-in-law said he heard coughing, which in turn broke his slumber at the moment of my capsizing. He also said you could adjust the seat-back so that your feet fit into the pedals more easily.

Hmmmmmmm!

My sister-in-law felt bad about my misadventure and she and my nephew spend many dives looking for my lost paraphernalia.  I am indebted to here for eventually pulling my Margaretville Jimmy Buffet hat from the drink. That would have been a big loss for me. Thank you, Leslie.

As for the glasses, I’m sure one of my little nieces will land them as a special catch as they fish from the dock this summer. They’ll know exactly what they’ve found because everyone in the family now has heard the tale of how Grumpy tipped they kayak a mere twenty-five feet from the dock.

And by the way, they all asked me the same question. “How do you tip a kayak?”

I find it best to respond in song with, “I am, hapless, hapless, hapless, hapless!”

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