Boat ownership? Yeah, it's sweet.

Boat ownership? Yeah, it's sweet.

Someone once said that the best days in a boat owner's life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it. That person wasn't tooling around Alum Creek Reservoir - shades on, shirt off - in a cherry-red Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100.

No, sir.

Since October, when I purchased my beloved one-man kayak, I've learned that the key to having a worry-free watercraft is opting for one powered only by elbow grease.

Thousands of other Ohioans have learned the same. Canoe and kayak registrations jumped to 89,859 last year, more than double the total in 2000, and the increase is inspiring improvements in the Buckeye State's aquatic resources.

Do you peer longingly offshore when hiking a rim trail around a lake? Are you a fisherman whose waders have seen better days? Just need a way to cool off this summer?

You need a kayak. Here are five steps to buying one you'll actually use.

Choose your style. Some boats can handle a bit of everything, but most do one thing well. Fishing kayaks are slower but more stable, while ones built for whitewater are less comfortable but highly maneuverable. Pick the one designed for the way you'll use it.

Try before you buy. Nothing's more important than actually seeing how a boat feels and performs on the water. Both Clintonville Outfitters and The Outdoor Source hold regular demo sessions when the weather's warm.

Count the cost. When budgeting, keep in mind that you'll also need a paddle, Ohio registration ($25 for three years), compression straps to keep the boat on your car, a dry bag to protect your stuff and a life jacket.

Spring for storage. Most kayaks have bungee-cord straps crossed over the bow or stern to stow gear on day trips. Most overnight excursions, though, require dry storage located in a special airtight cavity behind the seat. It ups the cost, but it's totally worth it.

Watch your ass. One of the mottos I've learned the hard way: Comfy seats, long paddle. Don't settle.

Already have a boat and want to use it? Aquatic excursions await on the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.