6.02.2012 Beyond Chuck E. Cheese, Part 2

While I’ve loved a gzillion or so parts of our visit, one of my favorite activities so far has been motor kayaking.

Noel (who lives by the horses we rode on) was our guide. He was running on Irish time on Wednesday morning, so the five of us (Lindsey, Joe, Elysabethe, Molly, and I) lounged on the hotel dock for 45 minutes or so, drinking in the sun and talking about forty lovely shades of nothing, while Noel prepped the kayaks.

After a time, Noel gave us blue seafaring jackets and life vests, and he showed us how to start the motors and steer the boats. Then off we went, rowing out a wee bit before stowing our oars and letting the motors do all the work.

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prepping for kayaking (photo credit: Christine Holtz/Robert Morris University)

As we each practiced jetting around, accelerating and piloting in command of our own rolling paths, the hotel inlet opened up to wide bays and winding waterways. I stayed a bit close to our guide for fear of going the wrong way–I’m bad with my sense of direction on land, and I’m even less likely to remember my way on water. I looked around regularly, making sure we didn’t lose anyone, but mostly I didn’t look so much as take in. I was breathing in the kayaks’ roars, the green coastlines rising on all sides, the mountains reaching into clouded skies. The power of movement.

Noel had warned us to avoid seaweed, so in places we steered our kayaks carefully, and we also went through a couple narrow passages lined with rocks. We went single file in these areas, wary of possible danger. Even though we didn’t encounter a single problem, it reminded me slightly of a Wii Fit game that involves navigating a bubble down a river without bumping against anything. I completely wanted my kids–my Wii playmates–to be with us on these kayaks, imagining our simple voyage as a grand adventure fraught with danger and ultimate victory.

At one point, Noel had me pull my boat alongside his. He gave me a choice: “We can go back the way we came, or we an go around the island and you’ll get quite wet.”

Elysabethe was just behind me, so I looked to her for an opinion: “Shall we get wet?”

Me and Elysabethe–not in our kayaks! (photo credit: Lindsey Wotanis/Marywood University)

She didn’t hesitate. “I don’t mind getting wet.”

Noel led us around the island by way of more open water, with waves rollercoaster-ing us along. I sat up straighter, guided my rudder more firmly, and stretched up my left arm with a big “Yeeee-haw!” Salty wet air sprayed my face each time the boat plummeted, only to arc up again and repeat the process with the next swell.

In the midst of our kayak dance on the waves, Joe signaled that his oar had come loose from its rings and was lost somewhere in the water. Noel said they’d find it, and he and Joe went off in the direction we had come from, searching the black waves. The rest of us decelerated and bobbed up and down while circling and waiting. After a few minutes, we decided we should go find the lads and help them search, so we sped back to the bend where they had disappeared.

While I was speeding along with the tarp over my legs and wind crusting my face with damp salt, my oar went flying without me noticing. When I slowed at the sight of Joe and Noel, I realized it was gone, and I signaled to Noel about what had happened. He drew close enough to say we’d have trouble finding a black oar so we would just move on without it.

A moment later, Elysabethe jetted over, waving my oar in her hand. She had seen it fly into the air and rescued it for me. My hero!

We continued on our way without further mishaps. As we rounded the island and entered calmer waters, Noel pointed. I looked and saw bumpy

rocks and jagged land masses. Could it be? Yes! The land started moving, giving shape to seal after seal, sliding into the water. We let our motors slow as we moved among them, one slick head after another bobbing up, crinkly eyes staring at us for a moment before diving into the sea beneath us again.

I saw the other kayakers around me, shining with delight, tall and still in their bobbing boats. As we puttered in lazy circles, the seals watched, playing peek-a-boo with us, popping up and disappearing in a reverse kind of Wac-A-Mole game, never losing sight of their non-aquatic visitors. I was brought back to the movie The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) and the scene depicting a toddler having tea with the seals. Here, in this moment, it is completely believable.

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