New Kayak

I first went kayaking in 2004, on a rainy day in Bonaire, on a guided trip through the mangroves of Lac Bay (which, according to our guide, was not a swamp. Despite appearances).

I started paddling the Charles around 2007, through Charles River Canoe and Kayak. I’d been using their winter business, the Weston Ski Track, and decided to give kayaking on the Charles a try. I liked it, especially in the Newton/Auburndale region, and have been a season pass holder for the past couple of years, and have been thinking about getting my own for a couple of years, but have been holding off due to the uncertainty at work.

Unfortunately, Charles River Canoe and Kayak lost the concession to the Newton Boathouse in 2013, and have been operating the boathouse for the new concessionaire, Boating In Boston. Apparently, that relationship is ending, and they’re closing the paddling store with a going out of business sale*, with equipment 30 – 50% off. I got a boat, life jacket, paddle, and some foam blocks and straps to get the boat home for around $1,200, saving $500.

The boat I got is a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145. Most of my paddling has been, and probably will be on the Charles, but I wanted something I can take out on the ocean, or at least Cape Cod Bay in the future. I was a little hesitant–I’d had a very unpleasant experience with a Tsunami 140 on one of the shuttled river trips, but the 145 is a designed for paddlers who are (ahem) slightly larger. I tried it out a couple of times, and found it to be comfortable.

I’ve had the boat for two weeks now, but only really got to take it out yesterday. I was busy last Saturday, and it took me a good chunk of of last Sunday getting the roof rack set up – don’t get me started on multilingual instruction sheets that are all diagrams with little explanatory text, so I only had enough time to whet my appetite for it. Yesterday, I took it for a nice long paddle through the Charles in Dedham.

Due to the drought, the water levels are noticeably low. I put in at the boat launch off Great Plain Avenue, and the river bank at the water’s edge is actually river bottom, which I found out the hard way when I sank into the mud up to my knees, and got stuck. My flip flops are now stuck there until some future archeologist finds them. I paddled upstream to the put in at Charles River Park, intending to go further, but there wasn’t enough water. So I turned around, and continued back downstream until I got to Motley Pond, where I turned around.

The boat is comfortable –my two concerns had been a tight cockpit, and back support. The cockpit is small, but not too tight. I was able to adjust the seat back so I was able to sit up comfortably, and used the leg raisers to bring my legs up to the roll pads. The boat has a rudder, but the water was shallow enough in several places that I had to flip it up. The boat tracks well even with the rudder up, but obviously steers better with the rudder down.

The boat definitely is more “tippy” than a recreational kayak. I got so that I was comfortable taking my Nikon D80 on the rental kayaks I was using, which was great since it allows for longer lenses and a polarizer. I think that for a while anyway, I’ll be back to my Canon G12 inside the waterproof housing – just in case.

About the only thing I don’t like so far is the color – I bought it on clearance, and the “dusk” color was the only one available. It’s really ugly, with a base color of a kind of tomato orange with oversprayed areas of gray. Having my own boat vs. renting definitely has tradeoffs: I had to pick up a roof rack, it takes time to get it up there and snugged down, and it takes up a lot of space in the garage. On the other hand, I’m no longer limited to rental locations, and I’m really looking forward to exploring the waterways around me.

*After a couple of weeks the message changed, and the sale was now billed as a “moving” sale. They’ve found a new location for the store – 132 Charles Street in Newton.

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