Joe Laird has been kayaking since he was eight years old. Now a retired mechanical engineer, he's turned his interest into a seasonal business. He'll take groups of up to ten people out in the bay near the Lahave islands for short or day long tours.
Our afternoon adventure began with some basic instruction on paddling and safety. Joe seemed to favor the ''just get out there and start paddling'' approach so we were outfitted with life-jackets, skirts and paddles and ten of us were soon bobbing in our ruddered kayaks.
As we worked on technique in a very shallow bay we progressed to more interesting shoreline just beyond one of the inlets, still very shallow and an easy swim to shore. Getting used to the rudders was frustrating at times...just when it seemed correct, either a gust of wind, a wave or just not having a brain connected to feet would mess up the rhythm and forward direction. Then again, that rudder sure came in handy for collision avoidance!
If you stayed within talking distance of Joe, you'd get to hear his many points of interest along our route. He'd point out an eagle, an osprey, details about the tide, an island or vegitation. He's the answer man on this area and it's history.
We paddled through tiny coves and inlets that should be photographed for the ultimate maritime postcard or calendar. Problem is, the photographer would have to get wet for the ultimate view. We saw some of the best of the South shore. Places not available to those on foot or wheel.
Our turn-around point was a once inhabited island- only cellarholes remain on this teeny rock and scrub bump out of the water. Once a pension plan was made available to retirement-age fishermen, many moved inland; no longer needing to work until death under hard conditions. It sure was some hard paddling a lightweight kayak facing a stiff breeze, couldn't imagine getting to the place blowin' a gale.
Joe led us back another way. The tide was with us even when the wind was not. We bantered with the other kayakers, most of whom were beginners, occasionally soaking themselves with a mis-handled stroke. All in good fun.
We will add that although kayaking is easy, it is physical work,especially upper body, and you should expect to get wet. A little wind and chop add to the challenge. Joe keeps an eye out for anyone having trouble.
Joe and his wife, Mary, were attentive to special needs and seem to enjoy people. (Mary stays behind to keep an eye on things and no doubt make the hearty Scottish meals needed to give Joe the stamina of a 30 year old!)