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Two Incidents Kayaking on Kootenay Lake

“I had no way of bailing the water out of the kayak, and I was nearly a kilometer from shore.”

I am a master of pushing my luck. I get bored when everything goes right, and a get a strange satisfaction from pushing my little expeditions farther and farther until something finally goes wrong.

When things go really badly, I curse myself for my stupidity and vow never to do it again.

And then I do it again.

It’s kind of like a game.

I’ve been staying in my family’s cabin on Kootenay Lake, a large and sparsely populated lake in the Canadian Rockies. My dad bought a couple of kayaks last year. I’ve wanted to try kayaking for a long time, so, the first chance I got, I took one out for a long paddle.

I followed the shoreline south for about forty minutes, and then came back. It was scenic and peaceful, and much too uneventful.

My ride

The next day I paddled down the shore in the other direction to the general store where I bought a drink. I wasn’t wearing a lifejacket because I had planned to stay close to shore, but I wasn’t ready to go home yet, so I decided to paddle across the bay, a distance of about 1.5 km. I didn’t think that it was dangerous to do so. I had swum across the bay several times before. I could do it again if something went wrong.

Besides, the lake was calm and the kayak was sound. What could possibly go wrong?

I paddled across the bay and followed the cliffs along the shore. Then the wind began to pick up and I decided to go home. To get back across the bay to our cabin, I had to paddle diagonally into the wind and waves.  By this time I had been kayaking for over an hour and was getting tired. It was very hard to keep the kayak on course, because it naturally wanted to turn itself into the waves. I was using a lot of energy just trying to keep straight and my strokes were becoming sloppy. Then, one particularly large wave came and I, tired and off-balance, leaned too far over as I reached forward with the paddle. The kayak tipped and I fell in the lake.

My sunglasses fell off. I dove quickly to catch them before they disappeared. Then I flipped the kayak right side up and tried to climb into it, but I couldn’t. There was too much water in it. When I tried to lift myself into it, it would nearly submerge. I had no way of bailing the water out of the kayak, and I was nearly a kilometer from shore.

“Well, I guess I asked for this.” I thought and began swimming towards shore, pushing the waterlogged kayak ahead of me.

It took me almost an hour to get to shore.

After such a mishap, most people would probably wear a life jacket, at least put a bailing can in the kayak so that they could bail out the water if the kayak flipped again.

The next day when I went kayaking again I, of course, did neither.

Beautiful, but boring.

In fact, I decided to up the ante, and brought my Nikon D80 DSLR camera.  I hung it around my neck and put my father’s semi-waterproof kayaking jacket on over top of it so shield it from splashes.

I kayaked for 30 minutes directly towards the middle of the lake where I shot a 360-degree panorama. It was sunny and the lake was like glass. I turned around and began paddling back.

The weather turned quickly. Clouds moved across the sun and I the wind began howling through the mountain pass behind me. The waves grew quickly and I began to paddle faster.

I was in exactly the same position that I had been in the day before, kayaking diagonally through the waves, except this time the waves were bigger and I had my very expensive DSLR camera around my neck.

And I totally deserved it.

Cursing under each grunt, I paddled as fast as I could. When I was about a half a kilometer from shore, the waves began to whitecap.

Paddle, paddle, “sh*t”.

Paddle, paddle, “sh*t”.

The waves broke on the side of the kayak, splashing into it and onto my kayaking jacket. I didn’t know how waterproof the jacket actually was, and whether or not some of the water was leaking through onto my camera.

Paddle, paddle, “sh*t”.

Paddle, paddle, “sh*t”.

Finally, arms exhausted, I made it to shore. I tore off the kayaking jacket to check my camera.

It was dry.

Whew.

And, it contained this picture, which made it totally worth it.

When I was out there, I also got a good look at a section of the far shore that I hadn’t seen before.  I can’t wait to go and photograph some of the coves over there.

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7 Responses to Two Incidents Kayaking on Kootenay Lake

  1. Joshywashington July 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Keep pushing that luck my friend, makes for great blog fodder!

    • Matt Gibson July 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

      Thanks Josh! My entire editorial is pretty much based on doing foolish things and writing about the consequences. Glad ya liked it!

  2. Lorna - the roamantics July 26, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    ooooh! i play that game too matt! makes life so much more exciting, right?? and what gorgeous shots you got out of it, not to mention the thrill 🙂

    • Matt Gibson July 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      Ha ha. Yep, sure does keep things interesting. Looking forward to hearing more about your trips!

  3. Megan Kennedy September 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    You have more guts then me. Every time I go kayaking, my DSLR is a dry bag and I just use a point and shoot and IPhone in a waterproof case.

  4. Matt Gibson September 30, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Whether I have more guts or less brains is debatable 😉

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