POSTED: March 1, 2020
For many of us, even the word KAYAK creates a sense of being alone with nature. Kayaks have been part of my life from as early as I can remember. My mom, being from Quebec, had both canoes and Kayaks as part of her heritage and life growing up. I keep two on En Plein Air for the getting out on the water. It may seem a strange notion for a person who lives on the water to want to get “on the water” but there is something very personal about being in a small craft with almost no displacement, sitting on, and in, the water and the freedom to move quietly into little shallow areas without disturbing nature that is very therapeutic.
There are some things that have just become universal in acceptance and we hardly think about their origins or heritage but they just fit in our lifestyle – pizza, the sandwich, bicycle, umbrella and I would put the Kayak in this group as well. Unlike the pizza pie from Naples or the sandwich from the Earl of Sandwich in England, the kayak was not from a specific place but the northern regions of the northern hemisphere and the indigenous peoples of what we know today as Greenland, Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, the Baltics and Alaska. They all used the vessel not really as much as a boat but almost an extension of themselves for hunting and fishing on the water. They were made not to a plan or set dimensions but to the size and shape of the user.
Perhaps that’s why even today they feel so personal and even when made of poly formed materials still create a sense of being a calm extension of ourselves.
Ok, so why are you rambling on about kayaks Django? Well, let me tell you.
Jim is a bit of a kayak nut. No, he is not out on the water every day but he and Janice keep four kayaks in their garage and live about a dozen doors from Lake Ontario so they go often. For him, like a lot of people, it is both the experience as well as the notion of the kayak that is important. In a busy competitive, efficient world it is a simple, calm, activity and one that just slows down the synapses that are usually firing away too quickly. It is also the link to nature that most of us need a regular hit of to keep from drowning in the modern world.
I have put in a couple of pictures Jim took when out kayaking with Janice one day. They live in the east end of Toronto in an area called The Beach and sometimes he goes kayaking there but more often does his kayaking down around the Toronto Islands which sit right off the downtown area. One day when kayaking with his son Jason an otter came up beside Jason’s boat. Now Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America and to be able to be out with the cranes and other birds, the big five-foot carp fish and various water mammals like lake otter, muskrats, and beavers is very special.
In Copenhagen, they have a really neat kayaking programme. You can use a kayak for free for two hours but the kayak comes with a little basket and the deal is that you get to use the kayak for free but are to pick up anything in the water that doesn’t belong there. Damb those Danes have their act together!
So what has triggered my inspiration to post this piece today is that Jade sent me an email with an image of Jim back working on a project he started many years ago but is only back to now.
When they had their cottage up in the Parry Sound area of Georgian Bay, the cottage was a Scandinavian style log building Jim had disassembled and moved a few hundred kilometers and reassembled on a nice waterfront lot on a little lake.
The cottage was really small, particularly on rainy days with the kids, so a few years later they built what they called the barn. And just to digress for a moment it was designed by Jim and built by him and his buddy John who is a contractor from Ottawa. John is the husband of Janice’s cousin Dawn and John is more kayak nutty then Jim. At last count John had about a dozen canoes and kayaks. Now to hear Jim tell it they built the building together and to hear John tell it, he built the place and Jim just got in the way. The same was the case for much of the reassembly of the log cottage according to John.
The barn was a one and a half story building with a little living area above where the kids had their own living room, as well as a pool table, ping pong table, and air hockey table. On the ground floor was the workshop with about a forty foot workbench where they could do crafts and hobbies on rainy days. Janice would work on stained glass, jade would work on various sculptures and painting and Jason would either work on his own woodworking projects or do crafts or help Jim.
The Barn, is where Jim started the kayak project he is back to working on now. It is a scale model kayak he designed that is about 50% of an actual kayak so about two meters long. The chines and struts are all pine and the cladding is pine veneer laminated.
So after a couple decades from starting it he is back at it. The grand plan was that once finished he was going to podge on images of the various trips they took as a family. He has always seen it as a bit of a manifestation of the “life is a journey” metaphor. There have been lots of interruptions in the completion of the project, so perhaps not finishing it is also a metaphor. Naw, Jims not that wise.
So I have been rambling on as I am prone to do but stick with me a bit longer. Janice and others have expressed often to me that there are not enough pictures in these little posts I do so I harassed her and she is tracking down some of a kayaking trip they did when Jade and Jason were visiting a couple of years ago in a conservation area close to their home in Key West. Lemon sharks, and all kinds of fish in the less than meter (39 inches) of water below and lots of cranes, pelicans, cormorants, and Ibis in the trees and skies above.
She also mentioned to let people know that if they are planning a trip to the Florida Keys, and particularly to Key West and want recommendations on where to stay, what to do and the best Kayaking excursion companies just drop me a line at email@example.com and I can send you out some notes from Jim and Janice.