Travelling 'yaks: Getting afloat on tour
Are kayaks the easiest way for travellers to get on the water? Steve Farmer weighs up the pros and cons.
HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU pulled into a waterfront caravan park, or stopped somewhere for lunch, and thought how nice it would be to explore the nearby waterway?
Chances are you either don’t have a boat, or you have one, but it’s a major effort to get it off the roof racks and fitted with the outboard motor.
Well, there is an alternative, and it seems that every second RV is packing one these days.
I'm exaggerating slightly, but I’m sure you’ve noticed the increasing number of kayaks –
or "yaks" as they are also known –
strapped to travellers’ roof bars.
KAYAKS FOR TRAVELLLERS
While they do have a few limitations, kayaks offer many advantages for the travelling boatie. To start with, they
facilitate so many on-water activities.
They can be paddled for fun, exercise, wildlife watching, fishing or simply exploring what’s around the next bend in the river.
Another advantage, especially for travellers, is that they are lightweight, compact and streamlined, offering less wind resistance than even the smallest of dinghies.
These characteristics also make kayaks ideal for cartopping down rough tracks to the most remote of waterways.
Two reasonably fit people easily lift most kayaks onto the roof bars or, with the aid of one of the loading gadgets now on the market, you can load your kayak alone.
Another major plus is the minimal investment you’ll need to get on the water.
Depending on the kayak you choose (and the choice is vast), the cost of buying new could be as little as $400, while the top end of the market runs into the thousands of dollars.
Of course, you get what you pay for. The cheaper kayaks are no-frills, fun models, while the more expensive craft will be fitted with features suited to the specialist or serious paddler.
The trick is to do your homework and choose a model that suits you.
You can also save money by buying one of the increasing number of second-hand kayaks on the market these days. To carry
your kayak, you’ll need a set of good quality roof bars, perhaps a kayak cradle and some suitable tie-down straps.
Kayaks are also cheaper to run than most dinghies.
There’s no registrations and no outboard motor.
Essential accessories for kayaking consist of a floatation vest and a paddle, although further safety gear may be advisable or required by law, depending on the waters you are exploring and the duration of your planned paddle.
Check the boating regulations of the state in which you are paddling.
The disadvantages of hauling a kayak are few, but worth considering.
It goes without saying that you’ll need a reasonable degree of fitness to load and paddle your kayak.
If in doubt, consult your medical practitioner before you hit the water.
You should also be aware that these small craft may not be suited to open or rough waters, especially in inexperienced hands.
You can get wet when paddling a kayak, so it’s best not to paddle in cold conditions.
The relative instability of kayaks can be a concern for some people, although the design of most modern hulls has greatly increased stability.
Finally, crocodiles and kayaks aren’t a good mix, so choose your tropical kayaking waters with care.
Listen to the locals and always heed warning signs.
Paddling your own kayak is a cheap, hassle-free way for travellers to get afloat.
This simple craft will provide access to scenic country and exciting activities you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced.
Are you a travelling 'yakker?
Share your experience and tips for paddling
WORDS AND PICS Steve Farmer
Written exclusively for Caravan World online