Marriage in a Double Kayak

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Being together constantly and working side-by-side in business is like marriage on speed – our 4 years of continuous travel must equal close to 20 years in regular marriage. For the most part, we work extremely well together.

However, that can quickly fall apart when we are put in a competitive environment, or in any situation where we are both focused on completing a specific task. (Ask any of our friends who have participated in board game marathons or on the same curling team with us – not a fun time for anyone.)

We soon discovered that the same happens when we’re trying to propel a boat.

Dalene and Pete

On the first day of our kayak expedition, when the group was divvying up who would be in single or double kayaks, Pete and I both immediately raised our hands for singles (at least we know ourselves well). But then, in the interest of fairness to everyone (who for the most part all wanted singles), we knew we would have to take our turn in a double. So we gave in on that first day for the short paddle to our first camp. We could handle that, right?



It took us no time at all to bicker about who was the cause of our zig-zagging pattern. First, it was the rudder’s fault (says Pete), and then it was my turn to be scolded for steering us all over the north Atlantic. Soon after, another in our group pointed out to Pete that he was holding his paddle upside down and I was vindicated for a brief moment.

But then we still couldn’t get it right. Our first outing on an 8 day trip wasn’t near as fun as it should have been.

Pete and Dalene in Double Kayak

Those are fake smiles.

The next morning however, with some grumbling, we clamoured back into that double kayak to begin our next leg. Despite our penchant to quibble in such situations, we had realized a very important aspect of working the double kayak together.

We could see so much more.

Look Over There

We could take turns paddling – one worked the kayak while the other took photos and video. We would find a strong rhythm and burst ahead of the group such that we could enjoy some solitude with just the two of us. And once we switched up positions and I sat in the back of the kayak with control of the rudder, our path became straighter.

It may have taken us a couple of days, but we soon hit a powerful stride, and spent the majority of our time jointly forging our way through the north Atlantic Ocean. It was still not without quarrel, mind you, but there’s nothing like being surrounded by breathtaking scenery to shut us up as well.

We would find a strong rhythm and burst ahead of the group such that we could enjoy some solitude with just the two of us.

Berg Ahead

Kayak Front View


Our journey in Greenland was courtesy of Greenland Tours. All opinions (and marital spats) are our own. For a review of our entire trip with them, please click here.
45 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • September 11 2013

    I’m so glad you ended up making it into a good thing. The last time Nick & I were in a kayak it didn’t end that pretty. We have avoided kayaks ever since.
    The views from the kayaks are incredible by the way.
    Angela recently posted..Apple & Pear Crumble

    • September 13 2013

      For us, it was a matter of powering through (and biting our tongues a bit). I kind of see it as a bit of a marriage breakthrough! πŸ™‚

  • Fake smiles or not, that is one gorgeous photo! I’m happy you were able to see the positives that came with riding in a double kayak. We’re benefiting from the arrangement too. Everybody wins! πŸ˜‰ Great post.

    Happy travels!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    September 11 2013

    Wow, that penultimate picture with the nose of your kayak peeking into it is really gorgeous! Definitely worth risking marital death by kayak to snap that one! πŸ˜‰ Now we know why shows like The Amazing Race love putting teams into canoes and the likeβ€”it brings the drama!

    • September 13 2013

      I love how when you leave comments, I routinely have to go to Thanks Steph! πŸ™‚

      • September 15 2013

        Me too, Steph has the best vocabulary of anyone I know πŸ™‚ We have had our fair share of kayak-induced fights; Tyrhone once left me to paddle out to sea in Turkey after I screamed at him for trying to help me…Good times… Kinda. Stunning photos.
        Sarah Somewhere recently posted..The Fire That Burns

  • Your caption of “fake smiles” made me laugh out loud! My husband and I recently went on a portage/camping trip and I swear we could not paddle in a straight line to save our lives. Granted, I was in the back steering so it was likely my fault, but considering it was my third time canoeing why was I made the steerer in the first place? Anyway, that’s great that you guys finally hit your rhythm and have stunning pictures to boot. Just beautiful! I’m loving these Greenland posts, keep em coming!

    • September 13 2013

      Thanks Danielle! A kayak tour guide on twitter mentioned that not only does she consider herself a guide, but also a marriage counselor. Apparently we are not alone! πŸ™‚

  • September 12 2013

    Casey and I have struggled in kayaks as well. But once you get the hang of it you can really get moving. Glad you guys found your groove!
    Dan @ A Cruising Couple recently posted..Is Couchsurfing Still Right For Us?

  • September 12 2013

    Holy gorgeous photos!!! I feel like if you guys DIDN’T bicker in a 2 person kayak, that would be weird. I’ve never not got in a fight in a 2 person kayak haha. Amazing scenery to distract you though! Glad you got your rhythm in the end πŸ™‚
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Month 13 Roundup

    • September 13 2013

      Haha! Thanks Rika, I think you are right, it appropriately points out the “normalcy” of our marriage!

  • September 12 2013

    Ha ha, I know how you feel. Chris and I are currently working for the same NGO. My desk is in front of his desk. Not ideal, but at least I have got someone who can make me a cup of tea every now and then. πŸ˜‰
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Capture the colour competition 2013

  • September 12 2013

    Great post! I think that we would likely hit each other the oars/

    • September 13 2013

      Not gonna lie, the thought crossed my mind… πŸ™‚

  • September 12 2013

    Beautiful photos – what a stunning environment up there. Funnily we’ve just been talking about renting a double instead of singles when we visit the Florida Keys next month. I think we can cope for a couple of hours! (??)
    hayley recently posted..Wellyscapes: The beach in any weather

    • September 13 2013

      I hope so, but be prepared!

  • September 12 2013

    AWESOMELY WONDERFUL Photos! Glad you two worked out a rhythm. I think of all your travels this one is the most breathtaking!

  • Hahahah that’s awesome πŸ™‚ Truly, couple adventures are a blast and a true test of faith between the two πŸ™‚ Find a rhythm and bust it out!

    Great post πŸ™‚

  • September 12 2013

    Beautiful photos! You guys sound like us in a kayak. I have shorter arms, therefor shorter strokes. Tim’s always yelling at me. Like it’s my fault!
    Jennifer recently posted..Mission: Moscow Kremlin #gAdvRussia

    • September 13 2013

      Men. I almost wrote in the post (but knew that Pete would make me take it out), that once when we were curling together, Pete told me to “get my head out of my ass.” Yelling and cursing ain’t gonna help things, boys!

  • Kim
    September 12 2013

    Haha. I am so sending this to my friend. She and her husband kayaked with us in Patagonia and they fought the entire time. When they finally got out of their kayak she turned to me and said, “that was a low point of our marriage.” Haha.

  • September 12 2013

    You guys always have amazing photos but these might be the most stunning yet! I’m wowed! Sounds like an adventurous trip by the way…. eight days in a kayak, amazing!
    Alex recently posted..Kicking Back in Kuta

  • September 12 2013

    My husband & I do everything together, but have yet to work a double kayak. I’d be worried about smacking him in the head with the paddle…accidentally πŸ˜‰
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted..Go Glamping in the Center of Africa’s Serengeti

    • September 13 2013

      As long as it happens “accidentally”… πŸ™‚

  • September 13 2013

    Those are great photos, and having a bit of “alone time” ahead of the rest of the group sounds good, too. Now, you’re making it sound like a double kayak isn’t so bad after all.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Strolling down Armenian Street

  • September 13 2013

    There’s just something about kayaks and couples lol…beautiful shots by the way!
    Federico recently posted..A Hammam Experience in Marrakech

  • September 13 2013

    Haha, this post reminds me of when we went kayaking with whales for our honeymoon. The guide called it the “divorce” kayak. We thought we wouldn’t be like the other couples bickering that he had seen, but we totally were. We solved our issues with me in the back as well :). Greenland looks like an incredible place to kayak.

    • September 19 2013

      It’s so funny, since this post I have seen the words “divorce kayak” and “divorce boat” so many times. Apparently it is an epidemic!

  • Beth @ Besudesu Abroad
    September 13 2013

    I love kayaking, but my fiancΓ© has never been. We’ll be trying out first double kayak pretty soon when we visit the Maldives. Can’t wait to see how that goes for us!

    All of your photos of Greenland are absolutely beautiful though. I never really though about visiting, but now I may have to!

  • September 16 2013


  • September 17 2013

    Beautiful pictures! I wish I was there! Any marriage has a chance in such awesome surroundings!

  • September 19 2013

    Ha! My wife and I work terribly together in a kayak as well. Halong Bay in Vietnam comes to mind, me trying to take photos while my wife paddles us around in a circle and splashing me with water πŸ˜‰
    Dean recently posted..Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

    • September 19 2013

      We hope to be there this fall, hopefully we’ll still be able to remember how to get along in a kayak. πŸ™‚

  • September 19 2013

    It’s truly fabulous to read about how the two of you worked out sharing the tandem, but everything pales in comparison to your breathtaking photos of Greenland’s absolutely extraordinary landscape! I am thrilled that you took advantage of every opportunity to document the scenery!

  • September 19 2013

    I’ve only been in a double kayak once, and it was with the guide from our Halong Bay cruise. My husband thought it would be best for all involved if he and I didn’t make the attempt πŸ™‚
    Heather recently posted..Snapshot: Shanghai’s Perilous Carts

    • September 23 2013

      Haha! At least you are “self aware”. πŸ™‚

  • September 20 2013

    Ah, yes, the double kayak has been known to bring even the most solid of relationships to the breaking point. Funny! Beautiful pics though. Glad you made it through.
    Tamara (@Turtlestravel) recently posted..Capture the Color 2013

  • September 20 2013

    Worth the marital bickering to get such awesome pics! Not sure how Mr. TWS and I would do on a kayaking adventure. Would love to find out!

    • September 23 2013

      Yes, sometimes we’ll do anything to get “the” picture. Even man a “divorce boat”!

  • Carmel
    October 2 2013

    I had to laugh out loud at your initial experience because I can totally see us doing the same. I think we would fare much better in single kayaks, as well.

  • Dan
    November 5 2013

    Ha the steering argument sounds exactly like Jade and I when we were kayaking in the Blue Mountians

  • Franca
    February 8 2015

    I’m glad it worked fine at the end, I guess me and Dale must stay away from Kayaks then, not sure if it would have the same ending for us πŸ™‚

    Stunning photos as usual!

  • February 20 2015

    First off, I love that you found some positives in this situation. Eric and I have failed miserably the two times we have been kayaking (Jamaica, on our honeymoon, and Halong Bay). So, we don’t do it anymore. I love that you guys found a way to make it work. We communicate well on so many things, and have a strong marriage. I am convinced a multi-day kayak excursion would most certainly lead to divorce!

  • February 21 2015

    Double kayaking is certainly our exception to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. There won’t be a third attempt.

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