Gently Down the Stream

Dear Reader,

They say, “the best things in life are free.” And, when they say the “best things” they are probably referring to health, love, family, friends, etc. — which are great, but there are very many other beautiful free things out there!

I’m a bit of a scavenger (more here), finding free clothes and other household appliances that people are literally giving away on the street brings me so much joy. When I moved into my former apartment a few years ago, I acquired a medley of useful devices including, a vacuum cleaner, dresser, and even a leather couch (among other items) without spending a dime. Similarly, people in my apartment building have a habit of “donating” their no-longer-needed kitchen appliances and clothing by leaving them in open boxes in the trash room — one lady’s trash is another’s lucky find!

In addition to free “products,” I am also very much a fan of free “services,” which is how I scored two spots in a group kayaking lesson at the Boston Harbor.

You know L.L. Bean, the outdoors store? Well, they do more than just sell monogrammed backpacks and camping equipment. Additionally, they also offer outdoor adventure courses. Through L.L. Bean’s “Outdoor Discovery Programs,” one can participate in fun courses like archery or stand-up paddle boarding, partake in backcountry excursions, or even learn valuable skills like wilderness first aid. While one must pay for these courses, every once in a while a free opportunity will crop up in select locations. With such a promotion, my boyfriend and I were able to join a 90-minute beginner’s kayaking class that took off in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood.

With us, there were only two other parties — two 20-something-year-old female friends and a small family comprising a mother, a father, and a teenaged son. When we went around in a circle and introduced ourselves, we learned that we have all kayaked before, but not recently.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. I’m pretty sure this proposition does not apply to kayaks. Biking is easy because to go forward, you pump the peddles forward, to turn right, you turn the handlebars right — simple! However, with kayaking, we re-learned how to use the paddle by lining up on the dock and following the instructor as she explained the basics.

Hold out the paddle so that the writing on each end is right-side up. You should be able to read the text on each side — if you can’t, then you need to flip your paddle 180 degrees. Great! Now, hold the paddle so that your hands are spread just greater than shoulder-width apart. Next, you want to center the paddle by holding it out in front of you and then bringing it to rest against your forehead.  Remove the paddle from your forehead and bring your arms down — this is the position in which you want to hold your paddle.

To go forward, sweep the paddle from front to back in a “C” curve alternating sides. To turn left, sweep the paddle from front to back on the right side and to turn right do the reverse. To turn left quickly, sweep the paddle once from front to back on the right side and then once from back to front on the left side.

Paddling takes some getting used to, but you’ll surely get the hang of it with just 10 or so minutes on the water. While kayaking, you’re probably not going to capsize (the boats are sturdier than they look), but you will get a little wet, as your paddles will inadvertently splash you as you plunge and release them into the water.

Overall, kayaking in the harbor was mostly a pleasant experience (especially considering that we were out of the way from the bigger boats, which can make for a rocky ride).

As much as I like free “things,” I think I have a slightly stronger preference for free “experiences.”



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