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Donald D. Yackel was born under the water sign: Aquarius. Maybe that explains his lifelong affinity for water and boats. He spent his summers on Oneida Lake near Syracuse, New York, sharing long hours with his grandfather, learning about the natural world. Over the years he progressed from playing in power boats to sailing Lake Ontario; a move to Albany, New York, near the Adirondack Mountains introduced him to canoe camping and finally, kayaking. Along the way he built a sailboat and a kayak, before learning that his great, great, grandfather was a boat builder too, who built boats and barges for the Erie Canal.