If you ask a kayaker when they are likely to be coming home from a trip, the answer will usually be: “It depends on the weather, and the tides....”

Or they may get bitten by the curiosity bug and find a river or inlet ripe for exploring.

Indeed, a ‘half-day paddle’ often turns into a much longer event – for all the right reasons – as I discovered when I set out with Simon Rham of South Coast Canoes.

Together with my friend Karin we launched from the dappled shadows of Iford Bridge near Christchurch with little fanfare. I was surprised that we needed little training (and no Eskimo rolls!) to be in sole charge of a kayak.

But then the sit-on-tops we had are notoriously stable and, let’s face it, the river Stour is hardly the boiling and churning Zambezi.

Buoyancy aids were still the order of the day, however, together with wet bags to keep our lunch and belongings dry from the occasional wet slap of the Stour. A pair of swans and their cygnets bade us godspeed as we set off downstream in our candy coloured craft.

No sooner had I dug my oar into the river for the first time I could see why people get hooked on this outdoor pursuit.

With the sun on our faces, the river carried us on a peaceful meander through a glorious summer day. Dragonflies danced for us. Birds skitted around the reeds. Fishermen raised a friendly forefinger as we passed.

When my arms began to feel the burn of paddling, Simon suggested I put my whole body into the movement and to press my feet against the craft as I paddled. Ahh, much better.

Simon’s a qualified instructor, yet his method largely allows students to get their own feel for a kayak. Where other instructors drum perfect techniques into their charges, Simon will soon tell you if you are going wrong.

He’s also one of those rare people who knows a lot about a subject, but doesn’t bamboozle you with jargon. Simon has ridden the water since the age of eight when he picked up a love of the sport from the cub scouts.

He’s been an outdoor activities instructor, a local canoe shop manager and has designed and introduced new products to the current market.

Now he is owner/director of South Coast Canoes which has just opened its doors for trading on the Woolsbridge Industrial Estate at Three Legged Cross.

The new venture offers kayaks and canoes for sale, inflatables, clothing, British Canoe Union Courses and tours as we were enjoying.

“Kayaks are solo craft, while open canoes can fit more people in them so they are good for families,” Simon explained. “It also means that canoes are ideal for absolutely any age while kayaks can be paddled by people aged eight years and over.”

He also talked about how different craft are suitable for different circumstances. A pointed hull will make you go faster, while our sit-on-tops were a good all-rounder: stable and user-friendly, ideal for rivers and the sea. You can take one home for about £299, and it will sit happily atop a large car.

“You can get cheaper but the density of the plastic won’t be as good. And a decent kayak will last you about 20 years,” said Simon.

That’s an awful lot of exploring to be had!

While thrill-seekers need to head to Devon, Wales and Scotland for anything ‘white water’, there are some lovely coastal adventures to be had in Dorset.

Or if, like me, you prefer something gentler, then this particular route is ideal for novices.

We were flanked by a slowly changing landscape. The up-market houses with their private moorings were worth slowing down for to take a lingering peek. The backs of industrial units honed into view.

The air tasted saltier as we neared Christchurch Harbour – past Wick Ferry and the Captain’s Club, then around to the Quay where many, many more swans were our companions.

We decided to moor here for a picnic in the sunshine before paddling up to the town itself, rather than turn right into the harbour.

We were now in the River Avon, passing Rossiters Quay, cooling off under the road at Bridge street and ending up at the Stony Lane roundabout.

It was lovely to choose where to point our craft. Simon couldn’t resist ducking up a part of the Avon where part of the river had been completely blocked by a massive tree felled by the recent storms. It would have been so easy to carry on nosing up the river.

But head back we must, and I couldn’t believe it when we returned back to the Iford Bridge SIX HOURS after we had launched.

Just where the time went, I’m not sure. But when I next go out on a trip (and I definitely will) and someone asks me when I’ll be home, I’ll know exactly what to say.