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. 


  1. Hi,
    Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Kayaking Community? Our members will appreciate it.
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    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Articles, Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like.
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  2. Hello
    Great Post!
    Can we re-publish your article on Fort Point Channel Boston-
    We feel as though it would be a great resource value to those coming to the area for water sport activities.
    Naturally we will provide credit and supporting back links to your blog!
    Thank you
    Media Crush

  3. Hi BG,

    Yes, feel free to republish my blog post.


  4. Hi Steve,

    I know this post's an old one, but I was just curious -- roughly how long did the whole lock process take from start-to-finish? Did you have to wait in line or anything?
    I'm a Mainer moving to Boston and have been considering the viability of kayak-commuting to work every once in a while...



    1. From what I can remember it only took about 10 minutes or so to get through, although we didn't have to wait. This was in October on a weekend though so there was very little traffic. I would assume on a weekday in the summer you might need to wait a bit longer if there happens to be traffic coming the other way.