By David Kennard
I watched in horror as my teenage son struggled to escape his kayak in the fast moving water. He got sideways going around a bridge piling, and the powerful current folded the wood framed boat in half.
The boat that we spent several weeks building together in the garage was lost in a matter of minutes. For the first few seconds, he worked to free his craft, but it quickly became obvious that if he didn’t get out, the river would swallow both him and his boat together.
Sam pushed himself free of the cockpit and swam to safety just as I landed my own kayak and ran along the rocky river’s edge to help.
Together we saw the brightly painted boat sink deeper against the bridge standard until it became only a red blur under the torrent of the clear mountain water.
We put that frightening moment in the past and quickly vowed to build a new kayak, but school, work and life got in the way and a new boat never got started.
When we moved to South Carolina a little more than a year ago, we decided my surviving kayak would not come with us, but when we discovered the inventory of navigable waterways throughout the Lowcountry, we soon made plans to build two more boats.
Sam left for college last spring; and so the task fell to me to carry out the project we once planned to build together.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to paddle a section of the Edisto River as part of a press junket touting the new ercktrail.org web site. More on that in a minute.
After that short paddle, I came home inspired to get going on recreating the kayaks lost out West.
A craftsman I am not, but after spending a week of vacation recently turning a few 2-by-6s and a sheet of canvas into a working kayak, I ended up with a serviceable boat ready to tackle any of the backwater rivers and swamps in the area.
I missed Sam. Working alone this time, I found it a more challenging project -- drawing the canvas tight with my left hand and stapling with my right. I made mistakes that my son would never have made had we been working together.
The plan now is to find a sunny day to put the new boat in the water for its maiden voyage. I’ll likely have a look at the ercktrail.org site for some ideas.
If you haven’t been there yet, you really need to have a look. It’s got many, many resources designed to help paddlers enjoy their trip.
One of the best features is a section-by-section description of the Edisto River that provides details important to boaters or floaters. It’s also got an interactive “Report It” section that allows river users to report any river hazards, significant changes or good ideas related to using the waterway.
The site was created in partnership with a number of public and private organizations with the purpose of attracting more visitors to the area. More visitors means more tourist dollars for the region.
The Edisto is a much different river than the mountain stream that ate my son’s kayak; its black water moves along at what seems slow, but its power is deceiving. Boaters that find themselves in the strainers of overhanging branches or the eddies on the river’s edge understand that they are little different than a small stick pushed along by the mighty Edisto’s migration to the sea.
I look forward to putting it in sometime in the next few weeks. And I look forward to getting back on the water with my youngest son soon.