A Small Adventure

This happened at Ink’s Lake, a small lake in the chain of lakes on the Texas Colorado River. My wife and I were camped in our Casita Travel Trailer at Ink’s Lake State Park. It was a sunny, beautiful December day...except for the wind. We were doing a partial circumnavigation of the small lake in our kayaks. My wife was in her 17’ cedar-strip-built boat and I had my 17’ boat made from 4mm marine plywood. The boats are relatively the same shape and weigh about the same, 35 lbs. However, they are entirely different in the way they handle. The strip-built boat has soft chines (rounded lower edges) and the plywood boat being constructed using the stitch-and-glue method has relatively hard chines (sharp lower edges). The strip-built boat cruises and the plywood boat just adequately moves through the water.

            My wife and I are very experienced paddlers. We have been kayaking for more than 20 years, since I built my first kayak in the mid ‘90’s. We’ve paddled many lakes and streams and enjoy being on the water in our kayaks. A few years ago, with rented kayaks, we had an excellent paddle a few miles on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula. We paddled from the kayak rental to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. Seeing the beautiful wooden boats from the water was a special experience. But that’s another story.

            Normally the differences in our boats is not a consideration. In most conditions they are stable, track well and turn well. That day was not a normal day. It started with 10 to 15 knot winds and slowly built to a good 20 to 25 knots with higher gusts. There is not a long fetch at Ink’s Lake so the waves were not large but that kind of wind makes it very choppy.

            We had planned our trip so that the wind would be to our backs on the way back to camp. I soon learned that even though the wind was to my back my boat was becoming uncontrollable. It was pitching and yawing so much that I couldn’t control it. It was not fun and it felt actually dangerous. If I had capsized, hypothermia would be a real issue. Meanwhile, Dena with some effort was doing fine. Her boat was pitching around but not nearly as much as mine. We were passing some lakefront houses and I felt that I had no choice but to go ashore. My wife was ahead of me but soon realized that I was not following her. She turned around and joined me. She at first couldn’t understand way I had stopped, she was doing fine. When I told her how my boat was handling and how I felt, she understood. We reasoned that the wind would decrease in the late afternoon and we could then continue to our campsite. We had plenty of water and snacks, we could just relax and wait.

            Using my cell phone, we attempted to use uber and then lyft, two rideshare services, but no cars were available in our area. Getting comfortable and waiting seemed to be the only option. After a time, a person from one of the nearby houses came to our rescue. He gave us a ride to our campsite, we got our car and brought our boats back.

            I am now in the process of building my strip-built kayak.