July 4th on the Charles

I spent Fourth of July watching the Boston fireworks on the Charles from my kayak. Without a doubt, it’s the best way to see the fireworks.

I’ve done this a couple of times now; Charles River Canoe and Kayak rents boats from their Brighton and Kendall Square locations for the event. The first time couple of times I did it, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and there was a lot less security. I remember one year seeing a couple of guys on on a raft made up of office water cooler bottles, and people on floating rafts; after the marathon bombing, security was tightened up. The last time I did it, in 2013, all boats had to be anchored by 7 and there was a Coast Guard boat with a big black machine gun on the front deck patrolling the river.

This was the first year I did it in my own boat. I put in from Herter Park, just downstream from Charles River Canoe and Kayak, around five-thirty-ish, and got to the Mass Ave bridge a little past 7. There were already a bunch of boats there, some of them fairly large. Boats were required to anchor by 8:15, but I felt like a motorcyclist among a bunch of SUVs with all the boat traffic, so I waited until nearly 8 to anchor. I wanted to be able to move if a boat did something stupid.

Once I was anchored, there was nothing to do but wait. Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous: clear, not humid, not too warm. There was enough wind to raise a little chop, but it kept the bugs away. It was really nice just sitting there in the boat. We were treated to a spectacular sunset:

Sunset, July 4th

Sunset, July 4th

This year, the concert and fireworks were carried on network television. I’ve been to years both with and without the network, and I much prefer it when network TV isn’t calling the shots. This year, they played the 1812 Overture fairly early, with a small display of fireworks, and then there were 90 minutes of filler country music until the main show at 10:30, timed to end just before the 11:00 news.

But, oh, what a show it was. It made the wait worthwhile. Not only did they shoot them from the barge, but they launched sprays of fireworks from the Mass Ave bridge itself, and I was close enough to the bridge to feel the heat from the fireworks. There were jets of fireworks flying up from the length of the bridge, with sprays of light in the sky beyond. It was magnificent.

Finally, though, came the finale, and then it was time to up-anchor and head back. It was kind of cool kayaking in the dark, part of a stream of boats heading upstream. Each boat had at least a light, and several of us were adorned with a number of glow sticks. I’d been worried about pulling out of the river, but I found the exit pretty easily, and was able to get out without a problem. All in all, a wonderful night.

Foggy Morning Paddle

The one good thing about the rapidly shortening days in September and October is that it you can be up for the sunrise without having to wake up at some ungodly hour, like you do in the summer. With that in mind, this morning I took the kayak out for an early morning trip. I was hoping for either a sunrise or early morning fog; I got fog.

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Paddling in Clear Currents

One of the things I miss about not working in Providence anymore is WaterFire, an art installation running down the rivers in the heart of the city. Over 80 braziers installed in the river are filled with firewood, lit, and stoked over the course of the night, accompanied by music playing along the river. WaterFire runs every couple of weekends over the summer, depending on the tides and funding, and is something you shouldn’t miss.

I was looking at their site a couple of weeks ago, and noticed that they were running a Clear Currents event this weekend, which involves illuminated koi fish mounted over canoes and kayaks paddled throughout the installation. I first saw this a couple of years ago, and envied them then. When I saw the announcement now, I was interested, but balked at the price — $50. Then I remembered the times I’ve thrown a $20 bill into the donation bucket at past Waterfires, and signed up.

It was totally worth it. Continue reading

Paddling to Pomham

When I was working in Providence, I often rode the East Bay Bike Path after work. It was close by, relatively flat (except for one killer hill) and scenic. One of my favorite pieces of scenery is the the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, which sits on an outcropping of rock quite visible from the path. I’ve been wanting to see it up close for a long time, and now that I have my own kayak, I can. Saturday, I finally made the trip.

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The Day of Egrets and Turtles

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Yesterday, I did Charles River Canoe and Kayak’s Shuttled River Trip down the Charles again, this time with my sister and brother. The weather was wonderful — beautiful and clear, dry and comfortable. The way the trip works, they drive … Continue reading

First Paddle of the Season

I took the kayak out for the first time of the season this afternoon. I’d put the roof racks on the car a week ago, but hadn’t actually loaded the boat onto the cradles, meaning I had to spend a fair amount of time centering them up yesterday. I also discovered how out of shape I am, and how heavy the kayak is.

I’d originally wanted to leave very early in the morning, but ended up going mid-day instead. I decided to go back to the landing in Auburndale, opposite the Newton Boathouse. I headed upstream, and stopped just short of the Route 16 dam; where there are shoals.

Once past the golf course footbridge, the current picked up noticeably; and going past the old railroad bridge, it felt like I was paddling as hard as I could just to stay in place. The payoff came when I turned around and the river grabbed the boat and I flew downriver.

Everywhere I looked, trees and shrubs were leafing out; their brand new foliage contrasting with the dead, leftover branches from the year before.

Near the Park Ave bridge, I saw this swan.

Swan

Swan

Swans can be aggressive and territorial, but this one didn’t seem too much bothered by me.

I’m still learning the ways of this boat. I must have accidentally shifted the pedal positions for the rudder pedals; with the rudder down, I kept recurving to the right. It’s nigh impossible to adjust them while in the boat, so I ended up flipping up the rudder and paddle steering. I’m getting a little better at getting in and out of the boat, but feel that I still have a ways to go.

I’m realizing that the Thule Glide and Set carrier I got to mount the kayak to the roof is not a great match for a Honda Element. The premise of the carrier is that the rear cradle is relatively slippery; you get the bow of the boat into the rear cradle, and then slide it forward. There are two problems using it with the Element: first, the car has factory mounting points, and the rear points are about three feet forward of the end of the car and secondly, it’s a tall car. It’s hard getting the boat up that high, and the kayak ends up resting on the roof until I can get onto the tailgate, lift the rear of the kayak up, and slide it forward. Last fall, I managed to put some fairly deep scratches into the roof paint trying to load the kayak; I’ve since picked up a cheap mat that I lay on top of the roof while loading and unloading. Fortunately, the Element is roomy enough inside that I can take along a small bench to use as a step stool to help me get the kayak on and off. I’m hoping to get faster with the loading and unloading process.