• Roberta Rathert

This Good Boat and Me

The Delta kayak has been in my garage since winter set in. I have felt pleased about having it, but when I walk by, I sense how I am ignorant, basically unknowing how it will work for me on this long trip. I took it out on back channels and the main, time and again before winter freeze, but I positively don’t feel at home in it these days when the river is rock-solid ice.

The Delta is made in Canada, designed as if a bank swallow skimming over the water. Like a musician glides over piano keys, the bird might be showing off just a little for a skill I’ll never have on my own. The Delta can skim like this even over the slightest water. Mine has a skeg which helps me aim straight ahead, resisting the wind when I need to, more like a falcon’s sharpness in flight is the envy of all the other birds. The boat is good, but am I? It takes both of us, I know. This good boat and me, we are heading downstream on an enormous river people call the Mighty Mississippi and Big Muddy – not sure what to think of this.

On one of my trips, I took a picnic bag along for an eight-mile slog. It was this experience, eating lunch out there on the water, that caused me to really love my boat. Neither I nor it can go anywhere without the other, this is clear. Everything will take place with the boat during my river trip, except the night camping at locations unknown, but likely sandbars or islands, or an accessible riverbank or small-town park. Everything I need or want will be in or on my Delta kayak.

So far this winter, I can only wonder how all this will go. Whether it’s a good idea or a bad one, it’s not something I can know today. As my gear load expands, I read over and again the Delta manual, “this performance touring kayak has a 1.8-gallon day hatch, 17-gallon bow hatch, a 27-gallon stern hatch, and a maximum load capacity of 270 pounds.” It’s been plain impossible for me to convert hatch gallons to piles of supplies and equipment of various shapes and sizes, although I have been stewing over it for the three months of cold and snow so far. Minus me from the 270-pound capacity, that does not allow for much extra or any indulgent items.

I decided to spend these months assembling what I think I need, but by spring, I will take the boat off the garage wall and fit in my actual needs. It is the only way for me to eyeball the ratio of gallon equivalence to pieces of gear. It’s just so difficult to know, is it okay to take only one bar of soap, no hairbrush at all, but yes to five pounds of fresh ground coffee and a large sack of Lindt chocolate balls? See what I mean, how tricky a chore it is?

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