A Girl and Her Boat
When I started canoeing, at seven years old (wow, that’s 13 years ago now!), I was able to paddle one of the small collection of boats that the canoe club owned. We were a pretty small club back then, and most of the members were much older than me – there were about eight or nine juniors (and my family accounted for most of them!) and we had to paddle bright coloured plastic boats that could withstand a bit of bashing and crashing. A few years later, and the number of juniors had increased a bit. We had to give up our gaudy plastic boats for the new juniors and we progressed in to some very old (and seemingly very wobbly) carbon kevlar club boats.
More and more people started joining the canoe club, and more and more boats were bought by the club to try and satisfy the demand. However, the club only bought boats that were for a certain standard, and rightly so, in order to encourage people to buy their own boats that they could keep set up for themselves and not worry about other people damaging them by paddling them. It worked well, and lots of people did end up buying their own boat which freed up the club boats for newer members. At this point, though, I was offered a boat to paddle on long term loan. It wasn’t a fancy pants, expensive, lightweight, colourful one like some of my friends had, but it was all mine to paddle for as long as I wanted. And, boy, did I paddle it for a long time! I must have been paddling this boat since I was about 13 or something, and it saw me progress through the canoeing world. It took a few bumps and a few scrapes, and ended up having repairs repaired. I think it’s probably more repair than original boat now!
As I got older, fewer and fewer people were paddling the older style boats like me and lots of people splashed out on the newer, fancier versions. The canoe club bought two of these new, fancy boats called Vajdas in the two person version (a K2) so that people could use the newer style boat when paddling with another person. And I just absolutely fell in love with these boats. They seemed to glide through the water and move so much more easily than other boats that I’d paddled. And that was when a little dream popped up in my head. I wanted one of these boats for myself. A one person boat (K1), that was new and shiny and glided through the water just like these ones. From then on, if anyone asked me what type of boat would be me ideal boat, I would answer without pause for thought – ‘I would LOVE a Vajda K1’. I planned that if I ever won the lottery (which really would be a miracle, considering I don’t buy any tickets…), that’s the first thing I would buy.
As I got my first proper job at the age of 17 as a primary school cleaner, I started saving up all the money I could. And then I learnt to drive. For those of you who don’t know, driving is EX-PEN-SIVE. All of my birthday and Christmas presents were driving lessons, and the money that I was earning slowly started to dwindle away. Once I passed my test, I was left with a very hard decision. I would only really have enough money to buy a car OR a boat. I thought about it, and then came to the conclusion that I already had a boat to paddle, whereas I didn’t have a car, and I would be using my car a lot to drive down to the canoe club to paddle. So I bought a car. And I’m so glad I did, because it really has been invaluable. When you live in a village where it costs £6 for a return bus journey into town and there is NOTHING to do in the village, a car can make a huge difference. For one thing, it allowed me to continue working and earning money at my job, because I had to drive there and back for it.
So I continued to paddle my comfy, old boat, watching it wear through in places and being careful to treat it well, scared that one more bash would be its last. I got my student loan when I went to uni, but that barely covered living expenses. A bit of money came in from various places and a bit more when I started to work at the vegetarian burger van at a few festivals last year. And that was when I made a decision. I decided that I had waited long enough for a nice, new style boat and that if one happened to come up for sale that was less than £1000, then I would buy it. It was a very long shot, as these boats, if bought new, can cost up to £3000 if you design the colours yourself and get it custom made. Second hand ones do come up for about £1000 – £1500 fairly often, but they’re usually heavy in order for people to use them for sprints (where your boat has to be a certain weight). As I mostly paddle marathon races, I wanted a light weight one, so had to keep my patience for a very long time.
And then on Friday morning I saw it. On one of the canoeing Facebook pages, someone was selling their lightweight Vajda K1 for £700. £700!!! It looked in good nick on the photos and so after frantically consulting a few members of my canoe club for their opinion, I decided to travel to the sprints that were up in Nottingham that weekend to try the boat out. Lots of people had shown interest in the boat, as it was such a good deal, so I was worried that it would be gone by the time I got there. Against the odds, though, I was the first one there and jumped in it straight away to try it out. I paddled it up and down the lake several times, asking everyone from my club their opinion on it. It felt SO good to paddle. The fittings were lovely – a nice shiny wooden seat, and just fell in love with it. It is a little big for me, but I figure I’ll just have to eat a lot of biscuits so it fits better. I told the guy I’d buy it, wrote a cheque, and that was that!
It was brought back to the club for me and I drove down from uni the other day to try it out again. It is just the nicest boat, and I still can’t get over the fact that it’s MINE! And I paid for it all by myself (who needs money to eat?!). I’m so looking forward to getting fit over the summer again and learning how my boat works in different situations. I can’t wait to race such a light weight boat too! Although, if anyone gets anywhere near me and my boat, they may just get a swift clip round the head with my paddle.
I am one happy girl! 😀