I'm busting with pride to report here that Bernie's niece Erica has now gone kayaking. At eight years old and 52 pounds, she's a sporty little kid who enjoys gymnastics and hockey. She has great balance and good strength.
We were out at Cadboro Bay for a picnic and beach play. My partner and I put the niece in a kid's PFD that fitted well, and she did great sitting up front of Bernie in our hardshell Pamlico 100 kayak with a big coaming. He even took her out to see a moored sailboat some 50 yards offshore. We popped the four-year-old nephew John into another PFD and took him out, first in the Dragonfly, but there was room for only one, so I towed him around in the shallows. He did NOT like this as he wanted to Be In Charge. He liked riding with Unca Bernie much better, when Erica came back to shore.
So I tossed Erica into my Dragonfly solo, and tied the cord I use for a paddle leash to the rear handle. Off she went!
I waded in the shallows holding the leash, she paddled off in all directions, and nobody got too far from shore the first time. The four-year-old tried it but just wasn't big enough and wanted to Do It Alone. (Hide the car keys when he turns ten and can reach the pedals.)
After another try, Erica was paddling the Dragonfly solo from me to Bernie and back. Now that's family loyalty, when a man not only takes his niece and nephew to the beach but stands up to his nads in the 42 F (5 C) ocean water for half an hour, zooming an inflatable boat back and forth.
After that, Bernie's sister Susie took a turn in the Dragonfly, and I shadowed her in the Pamlico. We ended up scooting over to salute the Buddha and circle the rock garden, and coming back to the beach by the playground. Susie's experience dragonboating was a big help to her, but it seemed like just getting out on the water herself was the best part of the outing.
Meanwhile, back on the beach by the playground, both of her kids had their PFDs off and were building sandcastles etc. at the water's edge. Someone else's little guy was sharing his beach toys with four-year-old John, then climbed onto a log and floated on it, causing his Very Pregnant Mother some audible worry. At this point, Bernie brought John's PFD over, buckled it onto the kid, and once again stood up to his etc. etc., making the VPM less worried.
By the time Susie and I got back to shore, so did that kid and Bernie, blue with cold, retreated to bask in the hot sun and try to warm up a little. Erica put her PFD back on and asked for another turn in the kayak.
Guess the niece knows how to take coaching, both at gymnastics class and at the beach. She wanted to go farther, so I got in the Pamlico and we toddled off together to visit the Buddha statue a neighbour keeps by her dock. All along the shore, she paddled with frequent rests, and a seal popping up to inspect us. Success! And we did it again the very next day, when she carried the stern end of the Dragonfly all the way from the Beach House to the water's edge.
I don't want to give the impression that any little kid can paddle a kayak safely. This outing worked with a kid who knows how to swim and also works well with her gymnastics coach. Other kids (like her little brother) wouldn't have this kind of success. Safety first, always -- it's more fun that way, eh?