Winter is behind me now. Closed up and squared away. Should'ves and remember-whens. Spilt milk. Time to look forward. Time to finally drag that little inflatable rubber boat out of the closet and sail away on something slightly more adventurous than the living room floor. C'mon, I defy anyone who's bought one of these to admit that they haven't blown it up. sat in it on their floor and dreamt of watery adventure.
But where to begin? With the other Bergen butt-boater recently adding to his family (and something about his wife's birthday) and still without a working drysuit or proper instruction, I shun killing myself on the snow-melt swollen rivers and head to one of the sheltered lakes near Svenningen. Pouring rain is my travelling companion. I remember a small hut that would offer some protection and head there.
Running over the 'Stillwater Basics' check-list in my head, from Roman's bible on such activities, I prep the boat. Tempering the tubes I realise just how fucking cold the water is at this time of year. Once the tubes are topped up I pour myself into my IR fleece onesie, reapply my borrowed Kokatat jacket and pants and christen myself and the boat with a wee tipple. TO THE SEA! TO THE SAILORS BEFORE US! TO GWENDOLYN!
And with that I'm off, slowly spiraling away from the bank as effortless and silently as you can imagine. The sea trials across the living room floor ensure that the new spray deck and skirt marry smoothly. Contrary to Roman's teachings I decline to find the tipping point today and instead progress with learning how she handles. First thing that struck me was how much more stable than a sea kayak she is. She's good for a fair bit of squirming around inside without baptizing you at the first sniff of off-centre. Second, yes, she's got pretty low hull speed. Built for comfort, not for speed I say. Lastly, she can turn on a sixpence! Looking forward to some snicker-snacking on the rivers.
A relaxing, grin-inducing hour skirting the margins of the lake ensues. I glide over fields of aquatic plants, punctuated with rotting timbers. I slowly get a feel for her idiosyncrasies. I get to see the hills and trees from another perspective too, surely one of the packrafts true delights. After a full lap I beach Gwendolyn back at the hut, step into the slush-puppy cold water and reverse the tasks necessary to return her to the rucksack from whence she came. It crazily genius. It's a boat that will disappear into my pack along with my camping gear, opening up all those swathes of blue on the maps that I previously avoided. Thoughts and dreams of a new season play across my mind as I stroll back to civilisation through the worsening weather.
A love affair was started today.