Somehow, I had managed to be a born and bred Trini who loves the water…but had never gone kayaking in Trinidad or Tobago. One of my 2008 resolutions was to address some of these gaps in my island-girl identity, which include getting out into our rivers, oceans, forests and open spaces far more often.
Yesterday – my birthday – seemed a perfect day to try something new. A few outdoorsy friends, who also compete in the various outdoor events which have become popular (Coast 2 Coast, the BGTT Energy Challenge, Dragon Boat Racing and more), invited me to start the day early by going kayaking with them out on Williams Bay in Chaguaramas. The entire northwest peninsula is extremely well sheltered, making it perfect for docking yachts, short pleasure cruises, fishing, boating and, of course, kayaking. And this time of year (December-May), sheltered areas are much calmer than they are during the rainy season (June-December).
Unfortunately, most of us couldn’t get up early on Sunday morning, so we ended up at the Kayak Centre, paying our TT$25 each, buckling up our life jackets, and sliding the kayaks into the water just after 1pm. It seemed we were keeping similar time to a new fixture on Williams Bay – Trinidad’s “Silver Surfer” (taken, it seems, from the subtitle of the Fantastic Four movie sequel). His attire is a full silver body suit, silver face paint, and a surf or boogey-board covered entirely in aluminium foil and powered by a motor…
I hadn’t thought to ask how far out they were going, and it’s probably a good thing. I heard two of my companions (we were doubled up, two to a kayak) deciding that we would go out as far as Five Islands, a few miles well offshore. As we paddled out, the sparse and bulky raindrops gave way to a torrential downpour. Though my arms and shoulders were growing wearier and wearier, there was a certain magic of being fairly well out to sea, paddling in glass-like waters broken only by the invigorating shower of raindrops from a thick rain squall. We may even have gotten as far as Five Islands if we hadn’t encroached on the race course for a sailing competition, forcing us to turn back to the Kayak Centre.
There are a couple of pointers I would pass on to other would-be kayakers. The first is about time of day – kayaking is probably best early-mid morning and mid-late afternoon, as midday is the peak time for rain showers and the sun is at its zenith. There are some advantages to the rain, though: as far as I know, unless it’s part of a persistent storm system rather than midday convectional rainfall, the rains pose no increased risk to your paddling, and actually can keep you cooler so that you don’t tire or dehydrate as quickly.
Pointer two: don’t wear anything too bulky, since you’ll need to fit a life jacket on top and will, no doubt, get soaked while you’re out on the water. Make sure to pack a towel to dry off with and wrap up in afterward. If you’re really photo-sensitive, you’ll want to wear a cap with a visor and keep your arms and legs covered, but if sunblock will suffice, you can go down to just your bathing suit – with a tank top, t-shirt or shorts if you’re more modest.
Pointer three: make sure to paddle in time with you partner, or you’ll find yourself going around and around and nowhere fast! As the saying goes, it’s all about the motion in the ocean!
Last point, the waters at Chaguaramas – because of nearby industry and waste from docking yachts and boats – are less than pristine. Make sure to take a good long shower or bath and scrub down well after being in the water. There’s a shower stall to rinse off on site at the Kayak Centre, but nothing will beat the foamy bubbles of soap and shampoo at home.