When I was a kid I found an easy portable means of water transportation; the two-man inflatable life raft. It was supposed to fit two people, but they only safely fit one passenger at a time.
These crafts were big yellow with two air valves for floatation and one for the bottom where one would sit. Once deflated you could fold them up really well and tie them on top of a seat cushion with a paddle and stick them on a bicycle rack and go anywhere.
A few of my friends got rafts, too and our summers were spent floating down the Ramapo River and walking back home when our trips were finished. Drifting was very quiet and we would see some of the coolest wild life on the banks. It was the only time I had ever seen a coral snake, and yes, there are coral snakes in New Jersey.
As with all rivers; there are rapids. Though any rapids we descended were not by any means considered white water, they did quicken the pulse when shooting through them. We would always take on some water, but once there was a little more water in the river after a rain. I misjudged the aqua dynamics and watched as a pointed rock sliced through port side instantly deflating my raft joining me with the current to swim to shore dragging the useless rubber craft back to shore.
I continued using rafts through many of my adult years. I had a deflated raft strapped to my bicycle when I toured the Adirondacks every summer along with a telescopic fishing rod. I got into some really secluded lakes and rivers. I kept a raft in the trunk of my car and I’d often find an interesting spot to explore by water.
After moving to Oregon I found that I missed being on the water. An inflatable didn’t seem appropriate for the waters of this area so I got kayaks instead. Though they are more problematic to transport, I feel safer in the water with them. I’ve been in kayaks with a vinyl skin and never felt secure in them. There are pilings just below the surface of many of the murky waters here that could rip a skinned kayak open in a second. The waters here are much colder then the warm summer waters of New Jersey rivers.
Any time I am in a kayak, I immediately think back to the joys of my life back then and those bright yellow inflatables, floating on the surface of the waterways of my youth.