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By Ben Stookesberry

Hey EJ,
The proverbial large opera singing lady is belting out her last note on this year´s final expedition of Hotel Charley Volume 3: The Lost World. After 9000km of rallying the rental with 5 Jackson creek boats on top through sometimes knee deep mud we were lucky that our poor Fiat Doblo limped in to the car rental agency on it´s own power. It certainly brings to mind the importance of having full coverage so as not to owe them a new car at the end of the trip.

This also brings to mind another major logistical challenge to boating abroad… getting your boat on the plane. Anyone who has tried to bring a kayak as checked luggage and either paid through the nose; or worse yet, been denied getting a boat on the plane understands this all to well. Thus I have compiled a short list of tips for anyone planning on flying across the country or world in search of a whitewater adventure:

1. Weigh the baggage policies of the airlines along with the price of the ticket. For instance a United flight to Ecuador may be $150 dollars cheaper than a US airways itinerary but United will charge $200 for the kayak and US Airways will only charge $50.

2. Some airlines will not allow kayaks as checked baggage (AA, Delta, Continental, Taca…), but this does not necessarily mean that you can´t get your boat on the plane. Some of the airlines accept articles of the same weight and your kayak maybe easily disguised to look like one of these other articles. Remember that 99% of the time airline officials have no idea what a whitewater kayak is and might be easily confused for something like a windsurfer. Make sure that when you arrive at the airport you have a copy of the baggage policy and loophole that you plan to use.

3. Attach your paddles to the boat. The airline will have no problem chalking up an additional piece (or more ) of luggage for loose paddles.

4. Always rap up your boat in a tarp and secure all items inside. Automotive tarps are very cheap ($10) and work well for this. If there is something clanking around in the boat, they might put 2 and 2 together and realize that it may not actually be a windsurfer. This will also dissuade light handed baggage personnel from using your through bag to tow their car how after work.

5. Make a friend that works at the airport. In a perfect world your best friend would work at the check-in counter and would whisk you through process with the wink of an eye. However this is seldom the case so you must make the person that is standing in front of you your friend. Compliment the hair, make chit-chat, smile, and be a nice person that they want to help.

6. But at the end of the day business is business and if they are unwilling to work with you work your way up the chain of command and never take no for an answer… their is always a way to make an exception.

7. Allow an additional hour at the airport so that you are calm and not in the least hurried when you get to the counter.

8. Drag your kayak to a open place near the front of the cue. This is a sign that you know what you are doing, and you will save yourself and fellow pasengers some greif. When it´s your turn in line you can casually drag your boat (windsurfer) over to the counter and begin the process in a business as usual sort of manner. Bon voyage!


Ben Stookesberry