We finally set aside the excuses and lugged our “new” three-seater kayak down to the river for its maiden voyage – almost a year after Santa brought it to us.
The day was perfect – 80 degrees, sunshine, slight breeze – and the river was as calm and low as it ever gets. I hadn’t been down to the edge of the water for a few weeks and, as is so often the case, the Brazos River had changed on me again. For years “our” section of the river has been about 4 feet deep most of the way across, with a channel on the far (south) side that’s 8 to 12 feet deep when the river’s running at normal depth.
Not now. Now the river is less than 2 feet deep right off of our shore, and about 30 feet out, there’s a huge sandbar only about 4 inches below the water. For a quarter-mile or more up river, the giant sandbar now separates us from the main channel, creating a shallow back channel with much less current.
Perfect for the beginning kayakers. We have what they call a sit-upon craft, molded plastic, much bigger than the average kayak, extremely stable, and you sit in seats on top of it, instead of down inside it. It’s almost like rafting, except this is a pretty high-tech raft, and my wife and I moved it along pretty well for our first try, even with our girl sitting in the middle seat during one stretch.
However, it has a keel you can lower to keep you on course – but not when the water’s as shallow as it was in our back channel. Without the keel, we had to work some to keep the current from turning the boat broadside, which is what the river wanted to do, especially when we were heading upstream.
We didn’t go far, just a few hundred yards upstream to a place where the underwater sandbar grows and becomes a big sand island in the middle of the river. We pulled the boat up in the sand and explored, disturbing several large fish we were unable to see well enough to identify. That portion of the river has become quite beautiful, although I can’t show you because we weren’t confident enough of our kayaking skills to risk taking along cameras or cell phones on the first trip. I do have so-called dry bags just for that purpose, though, and the craft is so stable that we’ll give the camera thing a try next outting.
The kayak supposedly only weighs 70 pounds, but with attached seats and a little gear, it feels a lot heavier. Still, it has a wheel mounted below the stern, which allowed me to drag it down our back hill and then slide it over the steeper 15-foot river bank to the edge of the water without much difficulty.
Getting the kayak back up that 15-foot bank, which seemed more like a cliff by then, was a completely different matter. To be polite, it was a bear, requiring all the strength and cunning my wife and I and a medium-weight bungi cord could manage – which was just bearly enough. With the help of my son (who didn’t participate yesterday) I think we could haul the boat up the bank assuming we had a stout rope. Still, we’re probably going to investigate the idea of mounting a crank winch onto one of the trees down there. Because damn.