Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Kayaking Season That Wasn't

At this time last year I had already taken a couple kayaking trips, this year not so much.  Three weeks ago while trying to install a steel door in my basement, the door fell on my foot.  It shattered my big toe and fractured the middle one.

So no kayaking for me anytime soon,  The doctor says I should be completely healed in three or four months.  I am hoping to get back in the kayak before that but for now I am not supposed to get it wet so Merrimack River water is definitely out of the question.

I probably won't be posting any trip reports anytime soon but will be living vicariously through the other kayaking bloggers out there.

 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boston Harbor Kayaking Trip - Fort Point Channel to Charles River


View Boston Harbor / Charles River in a larger map

My kayaking trips have been few and far between this year due to my wife and my new little bundle of joy.  I thought my kayaking was done for the season until a kayaking buddy called last week to see if I could make it out for a trip to Boston Harbor, through the locks and into the Charles River.  With hurricane Sandy about to blow in and my wife letting me out of the house for the afternoon, I had to jump at the chance.

Fort Point Dock


Our put in for the trip was the new Fort Point Channel dock off Necco Street in South Boston.  I used to work right around the corner form the dock but had not had the opportunity to use it.  To get to the dock you need to enter a pay parking lot but there are some spots near the dock that they let you use for free if you are a kayaker. 

Financial District

Entering the Harbor


The weather was perfect for our trip, sunny, mid 60s and no wind.  We headed out into the channel around noon passing under the Summer, Congress, Seaport and Northern Ave bridges then into the harbor.  There is quite a bit of ferry traffic in the harbor so we hugged the shore past the financial district and the North End.

Coast Guard Station

Just past the North End you will pass the US Coast Guard Base Station.  There were a couple large ships in port with everyone on board undoubtedly preparing for what will be a busy week once Hurricane Sandy arrives.  After admiring the Coast Guard ships we paddled across the mouth of the Charles to admire a ship that is a little older.  The USS Constitution sits behind a large barrier warning you that they will use force if you get too close(see sign).  We decided not to test them and admired from a safe distance.

USS Constitution


Next we headed into the mouth of the Charles river.  In order to get further upstream we needed to pass through the locks.  I am told these locks can be fairly treacherous for kayakers in the Summer months when there is lots of power boat traffic.  Fortunately for us there we no power boats to contend with on this day.  There are a couple locks, I believe the one on the right is for commercial boats, we entered on the left.  In order to get the lock attendant to open the locks you need to signal him with 2 long and 2 short blasts from an air horn or whistle.  The attendant sits in the catwalk above the locks.  Once the doors opened we entered the lock and held on to the side while the water rose.  We were in there at low tide so the water only rose a couple inches, was pretty anti-climatic actually.  Soon the door on the other side of the lock opened and we were out into the Charles River.

Entering the lock

In the lock


I have to say it was pretty cool paddling under the Zakim Bridge.  I worked in Boston though the peak of the Big Dig and watched as the bridge was constructed and have crossed the bridge thousands of times on my way to work.  Nice to see it from a different perspective.  The are a couple more bridges to paddle under before the river opens up to the basin.  The last bridge is just before the Museum of Science which requires you to navigate a narrow channel that you will undoubtedly be sharing with power boats.  In our case it was Duck Boats.  For those who don't know duck boats are WW2 era amphibious vehicles that are now used to ferry tourists around Boston.  They are everywhere in the Charles, luckily they don't move very fast or create much of a wake but in a narrow channel with waves bouncing off the sides it can get a little hairy.  Luckily we made it through unscathed.




We paddled about a a mile further upstream until we got to the DCR Hatch Shell where we pulled up on shore for a break before heading back the way we came.  The wind started to pick up a bit on the way back, with that and the boat traffic I have a couple waves wash over my bow so I was glad to have my spray skirt on.  This trip was about 7 -1/2 miles round trip and we were out for about three hours.  Nice urban paddle to finish up the season with lots to see along the way. 
   

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day on the Spicket River


View Father's Day on the Spicket River in a larger map

I think I may have mentioned on this blog in the past that my wife is an "inside girl".  Kayaking isn't really her thing but on Father's day she grudgingly obliges.  Last year we kayaked the Ipswich river and that was a little long of a paddle for my wife so she pleaded for a shorter paddle this year.  So the Spicket it was.  My daughter, who is now 4, is much more excited about kayaking now that she is a year older and had been looking forward to our special trip. 

Someone posted a comment on this blog that they had used a put-in off Lowell Street in Methuen so I wanted to check it out.  My regular put-in, at the end of Pine Street is pretty good, but it is right behind a private business so I am always worried that my car will get towed.  The Lowell Street put-in is just before the turn for pine street.   There is a large public parking lot and a very short walk to the water.  The only issue with the put in is there is a 3 foot retaining wall that you will need to climb down to get to the water.  It wasn't that bad actually, even with a four year old.  There were some pipes stuck into the ground at the top of the wall giving you something to hold onto while climbing down.

As we were heading out, Joyce Godsey, one of the members of the Methuen Rail Trail came by to take our picture.  They have been working hard to promote the Rail Trail and the River for kayaking so she was excited to see us out there.  After our photo op we headed upstream toward the bird sanctuary.  We were paddling against the current but the Spicket moves so slow it is barely noticeable.  Lots of wildlife on this trip.  We saw Great Blue Heron, red winged blackbirds, turtles and a couple river otters.

When I paddled this section of there river last year there was a large tree across the river just past the heron rookery.  It seems that someone has removed the tree making it possible to now paddle upstream into New Hampshire.   On this trip we paddled a few hundred yards past the Hampshire Road bridge although the map above does not show it since the battery on my iPhone died.  There is another tree across the river at this point.  We paddled up to it today and it looks like I could have easily paddled through, this wasn't the case last year so I have a feeling someone has done some work on this tree as well.  I may have to take a solo trip sometime soon just to see how far upstream I can actually paddle.  Our trip back was slightly faster with the current pushing us along.

Total distance paddled was 4 miles and we are on the water for about an hour and a half.  Not a bad way to celebrate Father's day with my girls.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Seabrook / Hampton Harbor Kayaking Trip


View Seabrook Harbor in a larger map


I took another trip this past Wednesday evening with the NE Seacoast Paddlers Meetup Group.  This was a much smaller group than the last trip I took with these guys.  I don't typically paddle after work but this was a nice short paddle and this was an area that I have been wanting to explore.  The put in for this trip is just south on the drawbridge in Seabrook NH on route 1A.    The plan for the trip was to paddle into Seabrook harbor and into the Blackwater River which flows into Salisbury MA.  The plan was to paddle a few miles up the river and then come back with the out going tide.  


We met at the put-in just before 6:30, weather was overcast and humid with a chance of thunderstorms.  We checked the forecast before we left and determined it was safe to go out as the storms would not pass directly over us.  This put in was pretty good for kayaks.  There is plenty of parking, restroom facilities and a short walk down the beach to the water.  The trip was planned just before high tide as to have the most water for our trip and to ride the outgoing tide back in.

Our group of 7 paddlers headed out just after 6:30.  The first thing you notice upon heading out in the harbor  is the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant lurking in the distance.  A bit ominous to see it sitting out there in the middle of the marsh.  Just a couple hundred yards into our paddle a newbie on the trip somehow capsized his kayak.  Luckily for him the water was fairly warm and the trip leader had some impressive rescue skills.  I have seen an assisted rescue performed in a pool but never in an actual situation.  It was good to see how easy it was for him to get this fairly heavy guy back in his boat.  Definitely a skill I need to work on in the future.

Even at high tide there were some fairly shallow spots in the harbor.  One particular area to watch out for is marked my large wooden poles.  Apparently there are some submerged walls that are used to hold the sand back so that they don't have to keep dredging the harbor.  I assume at low tide you would need to paddle around this section.  After paddling a few hundred yards into the harbor we headed south into the Blackwater river.  About a mile into the river we encounter the bridge at route 286.  This is also the site of the famous Browns and Markeys seafood shacks.  The tide was still pretty high going under the bridge which required either ducking or leaning back on my deck to pass under without hitting my head.  I believe after passing under the bridge we entered Salisbury MA.
Markeys
We followed the river for another mile before we decided to turn back as it was starting to get dark.  I believe we could have paddled another mile down the river if it weren't for our late start.   The tide was still coming in a bit as we were paddling back requiring ducking while paddling to get under the bridge.  I found it easier to just grab hold of the underside of the bridge and pull myself through.  Eventually we all made it through for a quick paddle back to take-out.  One recommendation if paddling in the area is bug spray.  The no-see-ems were pretty bad and I did not have any bug spray.  Definitely something that I will be adding to my kayaking gear.

Total distance of this trip was just under 6 miles and we were on the water for 2 hours.  This was a nice quick little after work paddle.  I think this section can be paddled at any time but it is easier at high tide.  Great trip with a great group of people, looking forward to my next paddle with them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Odiorne Point Kayaking Trip - Little Harbor and Sagamore Creek


View Odiorne Point, Rye NH in a larger map

I have driven by Odiorne Point in Rye, New Hampshire a bunch of times in the Spring and Summer and it always seems to be crawling with kayakers.  Not being familiar with the tides and currents in the area I have always been hesitant to make the trip.  The NE Seacoast Paddlers Meetup Group had a trip planned from Odiorne this past weekend so I couldn''t pass up the opportunity to paddle some new waters.  The plan for the trip was to put in a few hours before high tide, paddle into Little Harbor and the up Sagamore Creek.  There was an option to stop at a restaurant along the river for lunch/dinner and then paddle back out when the tide turned.

The put in at Odiorne Point State Park was pretty good.  There was a large parkhing lot which was pretty full by the time the 40 or so paddlers in our group arrived.  The address of the put in is  505 Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A) Rye NH.  Coming from the south it is just before the small bridge in Rye.  The is actually another informal put in on the other side of the bridge that I saw a few people using.  The ramp itself was a bit muddy, I almost lost a shoe along the edge of the ramp. 
Wentworth by the Sea Hotel

Wentworth Golf Club

We set out around 1pm, I though the initial paddle out into the harbor would be tough with the tide coming in but it was pretty easy paddling,  We paddled north past a nice golf course on the left and toward the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel on New Castle Island.  There is a large Marina on the island but there was not too much boat traffic, a bit surprising being Memorial Day weekend.  The trip leaders directed us to pass under the (Route 1B) bridge on the right.  The current under the bridge was pretty strong, kind of fun to get shot through.
Shooting Under the Bridge

Playing in the waves

Once the group was through we pushed further north toward the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and around a couple small islands.  One area to watch out for is a small ledge that the incoming tide was flowing over.  A couple brave souls from our group paddled over it and had a rough time getting back.  I briefly considered giving it a shot but after watching a couple guys struggle I decided to conserve my energy.
Portmouth Naval Prison

Once around the islands we let the incoming tide push us up the Sagamore Creek.  At the mouth of the Sagamore is the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion.  This structure dates to the 1700s and is the former home of the first Governor of New Hampshire.  The Sagamore itself has a few shallow spots at the mouth but a little speed will push you through.  We paddled about 2 miles upstream where it opens up a bit and the area appears to be surrounded by conservation land. 
Lots of rocky shoreline

Wentworth Coolidge Mansion

We made a brief stop to stretch our legs and then headed back downstream just before high tide.  The trip leaders suggested a stop on the way back down at BG's Boathouse for an early dinner.  We stopped for a quick bite and enjoyed the view of the Sagamore.  The restaurant has a nice little landing area for paddle craft.  I have often wondered why more waterfront restaurants don't offer landing areas.  Maybe with kayaking becoming more popular more places will catch on.  After a finishing dinner we pushed back into little harbor.  A couple highlights of the trip back were the group of kids contemplating jumping off the Route 1A bridge as we were passing by.  We also saw a pair of deer on the opposite shore as we were leaving the Boathouse.  Seeing deer was a first for me on a paddling trip.

Cold Water...Crazy Kids

deer!!!
Quite an enjoyable trip overall.  Total distance was just over 7 miles of easy paddling.   We were out for about 4 and a half hours including a stop for lunch.    Beside paddling right at the put in, if you paddle left, under the bridge, there is a sizable tidal area to explore.  Odiorne Point is a great little area to explore and I hope to get back there again very soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Merrimack River Kayaking Trip - Scruender Park, Methuen to Pines Recreation Area, Groveland


View Methuen to Groveland in a larger map

After the freak snowstorm we had last weekend I thought my kayaking season might be over.  But the weather warmed up enough for me to get out on the Merrimack this morning.   Temperatures were in the high 40s when I put in but quickly warmed up to the mid 50s, pretty comfortable kayaking weather.  Wind was pretty light but picked up a bit toward the end of my trip.

I was looking forward to some foliage paddles this season but I somehow seemed to miss it.  Colors now appear to be varying shades of yellow.  I was hoping with most of the leaves gone from the trees I might see an eagle in the trees but none seemed to be around this weekend.  There was a lone Great Blue Heron, some cormorants and ducks still hanging out.  Water levels are still pretty high with a brisk current I am paddling at an average of 5 mph.

I paddled around the back side of a small island just past the 2nd 495 bridge and found myself in a short narrow little area (below) that reminded me a bit of the Ipswich River.  It was pretty shallow so I am not sure this section could be paddled in the summer but it was nice to get out of the sun and wind for a few minutes.

My destination for this trip was the Pines Recreation Area boat ramp in Groveland.  I stopped here for a break on a trip a few weeks ago and chatted up an older gentleman working there.  I think the ramp is for Groveland residents only but I couldn't find any information on it.  The ramp was gated off for power boats but no problem for someone carrying a kayak.  There is a nice flat ramp and  parking area just a short walk away.  My typical takeout is at Riverside Park in Haverhill.  The problem there is you need to climb a fairly steep flight of stairs to get to the parking lot.  Not always an easy feat after a couple hours of paddlng.  The Pines Recreation Area is just about a mile past the Haverhill and I may try using it again in the future as long as nobody kicks me out as I am not a Groveland resident.

Pines Recreation Area

Total mileage of this trip was just over 10 miles and I completed the trip in 1 hour and 50 minutes.