"There is no life without water"
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (Discovered Vitamin C -- or is that Sea?)
About a month ago, we went to visit Kay's sister and husband down in metro-Orlando. L started kayaking a few months before we did on the beautiful, quiet-water lakes in the area. She has a small, 8' sit-inside kayak and an 8' sit-on-top. She took us for a spin in the northern chain of lakes, launching into Lake Virginia on the Rollins College campus. I took the sit-on-top as it was my first time ever paddling a kayak (I've had some experience in canoes over the years), and I was concerned about getting in and out of the sit-in boat with my bad hip. Kay, who had been out on the lake during a recent previous trip to visit L stayed on shore while the two of us paddled out.
I admit to feeling just a bit nervous at first, but soon found my water-legs and became quite comfortable, quite quickly (despite the tentative appearance of my first launch -- shown below:
After getting some basic paddle stroke instruction and circling around close to the launch site we set off into the lake, heading east a quarter mile or so into the canal between Lakes Virginia and Maitland (to the north). Through the several hundred yards long canal we passed onto Maitland and paddled offshore of its west shore, staying out of the boating lanes occupied by much bigger and faster craft. Then we headed back through the canal where we were caught by a tour pontoon boat -- so I learned to steer quickly to the side under a bridge while they passed. Then it was back through Virginia to the very short canal into Lake Osceola. In Osceola we encountered a group of about 20 paddle boarders having a lesson from an instructor at Orlando Water Sports. We lead the very friendly and talkative bunch back through the canal and into Lake Virginia, then headed back to the launch site. I had a total blast and felt very much at home on the water in L's small, stable kayak.
L then took Kay out for a brief paddle in Lake Virginia. Kay seems to have taken to it as a naturally as well, but doesn't like to press her luck with her back and neck issues, so kept it pretty short -- 10 or 15 minutes before coming back in.
It only took one time to hook me, and I was determined that we would own our own kayaks when we returned home. Since we were both so comfortable as novices on L's 8' Lifetime Daylite kayak we set out looking for a pair, knowing they are very affordable. We found them online at a major internet retailer for about $350 each, then Linda's husband found the identical boat at a Walmart close to our home for $168! So we reserved 2 of the 3 boats they said they had in stock online. The next morning I had an email from the store cancelling one of them because two of the three had been sold before our order was processed. Wanting two, we went to another nearby Walmart where they had two for the taking at $148!! $20 less than the other store. I called the first store and asked them to cancel the one boat at $168, which they did (and refunded the full purchase price) -- so we loaded the two new kayaks in the bed of our pickup, bungie corded them tightly in and headed home.
Yes, these are low-end, inexpensive kayaks with molded plastic seats (we bought two waterproof stadium cushions to help with that -- they work perfectly), but we are delighted with them for now because 1) if we decided that kayaking wasn't for one or both of us we were out very little money and could certainly sell them for close to full purchase price, 2) they are light weight (32 pounds) and easy to transport in the bed of our truck for short, no-highway jumps to the Saint Johns River, and 3) they are very stable, easy to get in and out of (even with my bad hip), and they track well enough for us to learn the basics in. So THINK AGAIN when you read in the kayaking books and forums for beginners when they tell you to buy the most boat you can afford -- you don't need to do that, IMO. Better to go cheap, but sturdy (or rent a time or two) than to spend $500 - $1,000 for a starter yak. We will likely upgrade eventually as skills improve, but these two little kayaks have been a blessing for us here at the start of our 60+ on-the-water adventure.... See you soon!!