Whew! It's been an absolute joy of a whirlwind ever since I arrived up here in Minnesota! I've got so much to update you all about, but I'm going to try and do it in different posts to keep different topics organized and more bite-sized.
The first full day I was here, I went with my uncle to pick up a boat I found on craigslist. I couldn't be happier with it! She's a 17' 3" Aquaterra Sea Lion, and she came with a whole bunch of gear: PFD, neoprene hatch covers, greenland paddle, secondary paddle, wheels for portaging, foam roof rack, supports to hang her on the wall, bilge pump, paddle float, 2 types of spray skirts, cockpit cover, magazines, sea kayaking book, rigging. (Hello Stan and Carolina! Thanks for passing her along!).
As soon as I got her to my uncle's house, I brought all the stuff I brought with me, emptied it out of the bags they were in, examined this very helpful diagram about how to pack a kayak, and proceeded to spend more than 2.5 hrs jigsawing everything into a possible location. Much of the time it must have looked like I was doing nothing because I just kept staring at everything that had to fit, and trying to a) figure out how to possibly make it fit, b) give it some sort of logic, c) remember where things were getting stowed and why. But I got it all to fit somehow, with nothing on the decks but the bilge pump, paddle float, paddles, and wheels. Actually, a couple things didn't fit; a laundry detergent bottle that I had brought to hold water to wash dishes and hands with (too bulky), and a dry bag lent to me by a friend (too big!)
All in all, this was an EXCELLENT day. I own a boat, y'all!