Paddleboat Family Adventure
Spring is here, bring out the boats! While the water is still a bit nippy for a family swim, it’s perfect for a paddleboat family adventure. My girls are die-hard paddleboat fans and are even willing to contribute some major legwork to go for a ride. Safe, slow and stable, paddleboats are the ultimate family boat if you have absolutely zero boating skills like we do. It’s not exactly the great outdoors, but it’s outdoors and in big cities, that’s a pretty good choice. Come the warm spring days, we hit the boathouse and get in line to grab a boat. This, to us, really means that nice days are back. Welcome, spring!
Heading Out On a Sunny Day
The funny thing is that most of the time, we’re not even out looking to go on the water. We’re just out in the park on a sunny day. The swans are out and we feel like enjoying the day.
Our go-to-fleet lives in Hyde Park in London and we know exactly where to find them – gently floating on the Serpentine, next to the lido cafe that makes delicious pizzas and cookies. Sometimes we grab a bite, sometimes we don’t, but kids are always hungry and the cafe’s tables have killer views on the lake.
From afar, we also have great views on recreational boaters who row or paddle toward this end of the lake.
Whether (Or Not) To Paddleboat
At that point, my girls never fail to ask.
“Can we go? Please, Maman?”
Since paddleboats don’t require any prep work or gear, it’s usually conducive to last-minute impulse decisions. If we have a couple hours ahead of us, I’m all for it. If we have less, chances of boating are significantly lower. Last time we went, the boathouse guys were taking down names on a waiting list and we were told to wait 30 minutes. Fortunately for the gods of lakes and rivers, we had enough flexible time ahead of us and I signed up. My girls were only too happy to kill the wait time browsing the shop’s shelves of rubber duckies and boat-related paraphernalia.
When finally our name is called, my girls are borderline hyper. Anticipation does that to kids! We head out lakeside to the boathouse terrace and wait to be assigned a boat. My girls hate that they still have to wear life vests but at least, now they’ve graduated to the older kids version (no crotch strap). All the paddleboats look the same and yet, my girls always have a preference for this or that paddleboat. Go figure.
Hop on board!
I’m usually part of the outgoing crew and get evicted from the back seat about halfway through the lake, so that more competent lake-faring boaters take over control of the steering handle. That’s my girls. They think that paddleboats are like toy boats and just get a kick out out of steering the handle, yelling orders and pedaling their heart out.
As for me, it’s easy. As a spectator, all I have to do is enjoy the scenery, give out vague directions (to the bridge! to the Serpentine swimming club! to the island!) and snap pictures. Tough work but somebody’s got to do it.
Eventually, after 30 minutes or so, my girls get tired. Little legs get tired fast. They plot a route back to the Boathouse and discuss possible snacks, that last prospect sounding more appealing by the minute. On the way back, we admire the valiant efforts of departing rowboats, whispering that we would never hop on a rowboat because it’s such hard work and it requires such good coordination.
When the trees finally do their coat of green leaves, the Serpentine is a wonderful lake to explore via paddleboat. It’s also a fun way to navigate the most famous Victorian lake in London and get your dose of vitamin D while exercising your legs.
How about your kids, are they interested in boat outings when the sun is out? What’s their favorite type of boat? Doesn’t have to be on a lake, it could be on the sea or in a river too.