Somehow, despite living near a great big lake since 2001, it’s taken me fourteen years to get some kind of boat. The cost of motor boats – to say nothing of mooring fees and renting a space in one of the full-to-busting marinas around here – has always been prohibitive, and renting one can be a pretty expensive business.
We had our first experience of boating on the lake last summer, when we rented a pedalo from the local tourist office and splashed around for an hour or so. Even this costs a reasonable amount and wouldn’t want to be something we’d want to do on a regular basis; and besides, when there’s so much to see on the lake, travelling by pedalo would hardly be the most suitable means.
My first experiences of “boating” were on childhood beach holidays in Pembrokeshire, when we had tractor tyre inner tubes to play on, and later, an inflatable dinghy. Dad used to blow them up for us and then let us go mad in the surf, and it was much to my dismay that the dinghy was eventually blown away by a strengthening offshore wind… almost taking me with it. It was only when I realised that we couldn’t paddle hard enough against the current, that we abandoned it and swam back the couple of hundred metres to shore.
On the same holidays, a friend’s family had proper kayaks with them, and I got to sea kayak for the first time. I’d already had some experience of kayaking and canoeing with the Scouts, but the experience of being on the sea was a good deal more fun than paddling about on the Basingstoke Canal at Odiham. The latter experience always brings back memories of failing to successfully execute a canoe roll, and having to drag my squelchy way up a very muddy canal bank.
Last year also saw two boating trips as work days out: once on the river Aare from Bern to Wohlen and once here on Lake Thun, when we rented kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to make our way from Spiez to Faulensee.
These two outings were probably a nudge to me that I should look into options for inexpensive boating options: boating on the Aare is a very popular summer past-time and many hundreds of people make their way from Uttigen to Bern on fine summer weekends, using little more than inexpensive dinghies from the nearest supermarket sports department.
And Jo found that because we’d saved so many points on our supermarket card, that we could “afford” a kayak using points alone. A few days later, and a large and heavy cardboard box arrived on the post woman’s scooter trailer and we had our dinghy: an Intex Challenger K2.
Since then, we’ve been out four times on the lake. Near our home in Faulensee, where the boat ramp next to the tourist information office makes it exceptionally easy to get onto the water; at Wallrain park in Spiez, behind the castle; and (today) a little further afield, at Sundlauenen.
The boat is pretty good, considering that it’s inexpensive to buy (even if you don’t have Coop Supercard points!): it’s better than I’d expected and very easy to use. A hand pump is delivered with the boat, with which it takes less than 5 minutes to fully inflate both main chambers and the removable seats. Two double-bladed aluminium/plastic paddles are included and at 3½ metres long, the boat is plenty big enough for two adults and very spacious indeed – but still easily manageable – if you’re on your own.
The only down side we’ve had so far is that the clips with which you can affix and adjust the seat backs are hopeless, so you can’t fix the back-rest on the forward seat. That means that the person sitting in the front has no back support, which might cause a problem for longer trips.
As the boat folds up into a large holdall-sized bag, we’re planning to take it with us when we travel further afield, and explore parts of lakes and rivers which are only accessible by boat, both here in Switzerland and abroad. Here’s hoping that, despite the low expense, the kayak will do us well for a good time to come.