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Last Saturday, I spent the morning in my kayak at the Kingston waterfront, dutifully watching as swimmers churned through the water in the city’s first triathlon.
Excitement was in the air as people cheered from the shore and other volunteer kayakers and a Jet Ski operator made sure all were safe.
On Sunday morning, I was back in the kayak and on the water again — this time a couple of hours away.
I had spent the night on my brother’s houseboat on Cumberland Lake – the lake I’d spent many a summer weekend on as a child growing up in Kentucky.
In those earlier days, there was never a boat involved.
My parents simply rounded up the five of their children, tossed swimsuits and lifejackets in the station wagon and made enough peanut-butter-and-jelly or egg-salad sandwiches to feed us all. Then they headed to one of the public beaches on the massive lake, which has an estimated thousand-mile shoreline.
We splashed and played until exhausted and then headed back, the children usually falling asleep in the car.
Life was a little more luxurious on my brother’s houseboat.
We’d taken it out to a quiet cove the afternoon before, tied off on some shoreline stumps and made ourselves at home.
We swam, climbed to the roof and went off the steep slide, then fixed dinner on the grill on the boat’s bow.
Later, with full bellies, the five of us on the boat listened to mellow music, talked, then headed for our bunks.
The night was blissfully cool, dropping into the high 50s, and like those children who fell asleep in the station wagon after a day of swimming, we drifted off quickly.
I awoke well before dawn and lay in bed listening to the gentle swish of fish feeding in lake and a pair of whippoorwills calling.
Finally, as dawn broke, I rose, pulled on a long-sleeved shirt against the chill and climbed into my kayak, which was tied against the stern of the houseboat.
Mist rose from the water as I quietly paddled to an area we had dubbed “Clown-Car Cove” the night before. We called it that because, one by one, about 15 boats exited from around the hill shielding what we had assumed was a small cove like ours.
Every time we thought the boat traffic was done, another boat or two came around the bend.
I paddled to check out the size of the cove, which was much bigger than we had imagined.
The silence that now emanated from what must have been a party cove the night before was soothing. The only sound that punctuated the quiet was the dip of my paddle and the call of a few passing kingfishers.
I stayed closed to the steep, rounded shale banks, feeling an intimacy with the water and the land that only comes from sitting low on the water and moving through it by your own hand.
I heard the clatter of loose rock and initially ignored it until I heard it again. Then I saw a blur of motion and looked up. At nearly eye level on the bank was a troop of four hen turkeys. They were foraging for breakfast and seemed undisturbed at my presence on the water.
I stopped paddling and watched as they strolled higher and higher until they disapppeared into the woods at the top.
At this point, my own thoughts turned to breakfast, and I eased the kayak out of the cove and onto more open waters heading to the houseboat.
When I got in range, I saw family members stirring on the deck and knew the morning meal would not be far away.
My favorite waters are clear-running streams, but I am developing a new appreciation for bigger bodies of water these days.
It’s all in how you use them.