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Keep Exploring: Tales of Tortuga

Colleen Acker, BeWell Activities Program Coordinator

Last year, I decided to treat myself to something I’d always wanted – a kayak. I hadn’t seriously contemplated the purchase in the past because I had no way to store or transport it. I was also worried that if I left it outside, spiders would get in it (I’m very scared of spiders). 

Then, as I was perusing the internet, I found the perfect solution to all the barriers and purchased my first kayak! This foldable kayak is based on the premise of Origami, the art of folding paper into wonderful shapes. It weighs about 22 pounds and I keep it in my closet, not outside where spiders could get in without my knowing. I had to get a paddle, life jacket, and most importantly, a gel seat to complete my gear.

Since this was a package, I also have a backpack that can hold the kayak. I don’t carry the kayak in the backpack as it is a little too big for me to do so. I use it for carrying the other gear and carry the kayak like a suitcase. I have no trouble carrying it though, sometimes, packing it up is a little tough. Regardless, I absolutely love it. It floats beautifully on the water. 

The first time I had it out was Memorial Day of last year and I christened her, Tortuga, the Spanish word for turtle. Slow and steady on the water is how I roll! I had a memorable paddle down the Thornapple River. 

My kayak is really more for lakes, but a slow deep river is fine. Unfortunately, deep does not describe many parts of the Thornapple. There were several times, I had to get out to move my boat and often scraped on the gravelly bottom. Tortuga really took a beating on that 3-hour ride, but it was beautiful. I was eye-to-eye with a bald eagle in one isolated section of the river. 

I navigated my way around fallen trees that stretched nearly bank to bank – very scary because there could have been spiders in there! I felt like I was in a wild and unknown place, though I was still in the town where I had lived for 50 years. As I reached my destination, my husband was waiting to give me a ride home. I cleaned the kayak up and put her away for the winter.  

I look forward to getting Tortuga out soon for another season of “floating my boat” as I’ve grown fond of saying. I am confident that the bumps and scratches from our adventure last season won’t affect her ability to stay afloat. Who knows what stories I will have to tell after these months of water wanderings?

Perhaps, “The Tortuga Adventures” or a demonstration of this Origami inspired kayak would make a good lunch and learn? 

Every Friday at Kool Family Community Center, CareWell Services hosts a Lunch & Learn where you can eat and learn about many interesting topics. Lunch is only $6. 

In June we will be learning about pelvic health, vision, fraud prevention, and First Ladies. Call weekly by Wednesday at 3pm to order your lunch or just let us know that you plan to attend. Check out our calendar online at or find us on Facebook to see what topics are up next. You might even hear tales of Tortuga when you try out a Strong Bones or MoveWell class!  There is sure to be something that floats YOUR boat.

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