Monday, July 06, 2009

Tillerman's Review of Something He Knows Nothing About

Jenny left a comment on my post inviting you (and her) to Write a Review. Jenny asked, "What if you know nothing about boating?"


My knee-jerk reaction was to be a jerk (regular jerk as opposed to knee jerk), and ask her why she's lurking on a boating blog if she knows nothing about boating. But then my true nature took over. (That's the polite, thoughtful, kind, tactful me that I do such a good job of hiding most of the time.)

It's actually a good question. Can you write a review of a product or service in a field about which you know nothing? Well, sure you can... assuming you are interested in that subject and want to learn something about it. You just write a review from the perspective of a newcomer or a beginner in the field.

Jennifer, maybe you could take a boating lesson and write a review of the school or the instructor. Perhaps you could borrow a book about learning to sail from your local library and review that. Geeze, you could even write a review of Proper Course from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about sailing.

So, to demonstrate, I will now write a review of something about which I know nothing: kayaking. I've been following bonnie's frogma blog about kayaking for some years now, and have even promised here from time to time that I'm going to have a go at the sport. It seems that for someone who now lives by the sea, owning a kayak would be the perfect compliment to owning a Laser. Good wind days go sailing; no wind days go kayaking.

One of my sons is an excellent kayaker. He learned the sport as a teenager on some adventure trip around the islands off the coast of Maine, and has had his own sea kayak for years. So, for my birthday this year he offered to take me (along with his fiancee and his brother) on a kayaking trip. (Note to anyone who struggles to find the perfect birthday present for one of those old dudes who already owns all the toys he needs: a shared experience - as opposed to more objects to clutter his life - makes a superb present for aforementioned old dude.)

So, on Sunday morning the four of us went off to Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures in nearby Westport to rent three more kayaks and spend a few hours on the East Branch of the Wesport River.

Here is the review part. I can't rate OSKA on their courses; we didn't take one. I can't rate them on their tours; we didn't take one. But judging by their website they provide a good range of kayaking instruction, and an interesting variety of tours "from tranquil sunset sojourns to exciting open water paddles, to multi-day overseas adventures in Greece, the Bahamas, and more." I especially like the sound of their Winery Tour. (More on that later.)

However, as an outfitter who provides a safe, welcoming, kayaking experience to a complete kayaking bozo know-nothing like me, I give them 5 stars. They were friendly, efficient and informative. The formalities were quickly completed and our kayaks and associated equipment were organized. A helpful young man gave us instruction on how to set up our kayaks and demonstrated how to do a basic kayak stroke as we all tried to imitate him on land ...

"Hands further apart."

"Keep your arms more straight."

"Make a more vertical stroke."

"Use your upper body not your arms."

Geeze, this kayaking thing is more complicated than I thought...

The helpful young man held the kayaks steady as we clambered in and we were off.

We headed south on the Westport River. The first section was quite narrow and it broadened out as we headed downstream. Various obstacles presented themselves and were successfully avoided. Sunken trees. Rocks. Gusts of wind (yikes). Swans. Do swans ever attack kayakers?

Before leaving OSKA I had asked the helpful young man how far we could reasonably paddle (and return) in our allotted three hours. "You can make it to Hix Bridge and back if you paddle hard," he told me.

Hmmm. Not sure if we want to paddle hard.

After about an hour we could see the bridge. "It's further than it looks," explained my expert kayaking son. Other son and I ignored him and paddled ever onwards to the distant bridge. Fiancee (soon-to-be wife) and expert son took a break and turned back before the bridge. Non-expert son and I made the bridge. Hmmm. Interesting. Just like a bridge.

The wind had built up over the morning which made the trip back a little more challenging. It was more of a side wind than a head wind and it had the tendency to turn my kayak into the wind, which seemed strange. Non-expert son propounded various theories as to why this might be as I tried to ignore him and keep the kayak going straight. Now what did Helpful Young Man say again?

The East Branch of the Westport River really is idyllic. If I was any good at writing about nature and stuff I could tell you why. But I'm not so I can't. Just take my word for it.

We arrived back at OSKA around lunch time. Non-expert son and I both confessed to numb bums and stiff legs. This kayaking business sure stresses some different muscles than Laser sailing.

So what to do next? Did someone say there's a winery nearby? Expert son and fiancee are wine buffs so we just had to head off to a tasting at Westport Rivers Vineyard. I know nothing about wine so I can't write a review of that. But I do know what I like...

Seriously, I think I'll be going back to OSKA to see if I can learn how to do this kayaking thing properly.

See Jenny. That's how to write a review of something you know nothing about. Now it's your turn. Write a review on a subject related to boating by July 13, post it on your blog, and send me an email at to let me know about it.


jbushkey said...

"Note to anyone who struggles to find the perfect birthday present for one of those old dudes who already owns all the toys he needs: a shared experience - as opposed to more objects to clutter his life - makes a superb present for aforementioned old dude."

This is a fine example of why I read the blog. The little gems that find their way into the blog. (that and arrives is in my morning email) This is one of those completely obvious things that I do not realize until someone else points them out.

bonnie said...

Nice review!

OK, that got me all inspired-like.

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