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Boat Poor Alys Culhane I involuntarily touch the back of my nose, my head. Yes, nose plugs and glasses strap are in place. I take a deep breath, lean forward, then shift my weight to the left. For a quarter of a second, I reconsider. To think about roUing a sea kayak is one thing. But to actuaUy do it is quite another. Over I go. Upside down, I can think about nothing except how good it wiU feel to again be rightside up. It's late May, too early in the season to be thrashing about in the numbing waters ofNew Hampshire's Stinson Lake. I slap the flat ofmy paddle blade on the water's surface, then, in a single motion, move the blade from bow to stern. Midway through the sweep, I lean back on the rear deck. A weU-timed hip snap brings me back into an upright position. "Nice roU!" remarks my partner Pete. "My paddle dove," I sputter. "HeU, you came back up. That's what's important." "Spot me. I want to do it again." For the next three hours Pete and I take turns critiquing one another's roUs.When the sun disappears behind the hüls, we reluctantly point our bows in the direction ofthe pubUc landing. On shore, we toss Ufe preservers, paddles , paddle jackets, and sprayskirts into the kayak cockpits. When aU gear is accounted for, Pete grabs the boat bows and I grab the sterns. Cold, tired, wet, we begin our eighth-of-a-rmle trek back up to our storage shed. Boats in place, I run my eyes over our growing flotilla. Our current inventory consists offour sea kayaks, one sprint kayak, and a wood canvas canoe. If four years previously I'd been told that a single impulse purchase was going to lead to aU this, I would not have been surprised. I'd always yearned for aU the equipment that went hand-in-hand with being an outdoors enthusiast. If, however, I'd been told that my growing stockpile ofkayaking equipment would begin to dictate my Ufestyle choices, I would have been 94 Alys Culhane95 aghast. I'd pretty much decided that I didn't want to be like the majority of Americans, most of whom work long hours in order to pay for toys that they think they absolutely must have. I'd kept my Ufe simple by limiting my possessions to two bicycles, six boxes ofbooks, a computer, and a knapsack fuU of clothes. My forays into the vast, inviting spaces ofmateriaUsm began shortly after Pete and I moved to Central, South Carolina. There we took up residence on Lake HartweU, a large dammed lake located in the state's northwest corner . One afternoon, after a rather intense rainstorm, I walked to the edge of our dock. Scanning the muddy-brown water, I noticed an unusual sight on the far side of the cove. One of my neighbors was paddling a smaU, darkgreen kayak. I haüed down the woman, who identified herselfas FeUcity. She told me that she'd purchased her kayak two weeks previously, at a local outdoor store sale. This was her first outing. "You having a good time?" I asked. "Incredible," she replied. "I just paddled about five miles, up to Twelve Mile Creek. I saw an otter. And look what I found!" She held the battered orange object aloft. Although the gasoline container was missing a cap and had two puncture holes, it was a perfectly serviceable item. Looking down at FeUcity, sitting smug in her new boat, I felt envious. I too wanted to spend my free time checking out the wildUfe and retrieving abandoned boater booty. Felicity added that Sunrift Sports, the store where she'd purchased her kayak, was going to have a rental sale at the end ofthe month. "You should buy a boat. Then we can go paddling," she said. When I mentioned this possibüity to Pete, he balked. The voice of reason noted that we didn't have the money or the time. And I had to concede that he was right. In order to save money, we'd moved into...


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