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In the age of the coronavirus, my favorite way to practice social distancing during my free time involves taking long, mostly off-trail walks in the woods in places I’ve not previously ventured just to see what’s out there — besides ticks.

But spending a day in the great outdoors during the tsunami of a heat wave that’s apparently decided to spend the month of July in West Virginia makes a walk in the woods feel more like a slog through a sauna.

After cutting the grass on a recent twilight evening, when the temperatures plummeted into the high 80s, I put my mower in its shed and in the fading light took note of my kayak resting on the Compound’s side deck. Unmoved for three years, it appeared to be growing a new coat of mold to complement the fading scrapes on its hull while it nurtured a new generation of spiders in its musty cockpit and storage hatch.

Maybe the time had come to get reacquainted with this watercraft — a newspaper reporter’s version of a yacht. I could practice social distancing and get outdoors without having to poach in the heat and humidity. When things got uncomfortably hot, I would have the ability to cool off by leaning sharply to the left or right at the next shaded pool.

Having recently been enlisted to come up with names for two homeless dogs that were joining the Compound’s menagerie of mutts, I tried thinking up a name for the aging, one-person vessel.

I had come across some great boat names last summer during a stop at a marina on Lake Michigan to add to a collection I’d read on transoms across the country over the years.

I’m a sucker for puns, so I had no trouble remembering names like “Pier Pressure,” “Yeah, Buoy,” “Never Again IV,” or on the side of a skiff, “Row vs. Wade.” Then there were drinking-themed boats, like “Beeracuda,” “Cirrhosis of the River” and “Ship Faced.”

I thought long and hard about what to name my boat, coming up with nothing, until I stopped thinking about it and came up with a beauty, borrowed from an actress whose work and, well, looks, I’ve long admired.

So if you see a sun-bleached red kayak operated by an aging, sun-burned skipper leisurely paddling through a backwater near you, it might well be me.

Along with Salma Kayak.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.