Sunday Morning, Charles River

One of the things the fall brings is shorter days. The earlier sunsets are the most noticeable, but sunrise is getting later too. In June, sunrise was around 4:30-ish, now it’s around 6:30, and will be getting later still over the next six weeks, until Daylight Savings Time ends.

This later sunrise makes it easier to haul my sorry behind out of bed to see the sunrise. I tend to wake up early anyway — 3:30 – 4:00 is not uncommon, but usually I just roll over and try to go back to sleep.

I decided this weekend to see if I could get up early enough to be on the Charles River for sunrise. It’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a long time. Since downstream faces East, I figured I could get some decent pictures.

The forecast Saturday morning called for temperatures around dawn of around 49°, so I decided to see if I could do it this morning. I put the kayak on top of the car last evening, and loaded the paddle, PFD, and wet socks into the back of the car and charged up the camera battery. I decided not to set an alarm. I figured if I was tired enough to sleep late, fine, I had the day to go paddling, but if I woke up early, I could decide then whether to get up and get in gear.

I woke up at 5:19 this morning — just early enough to give me a few moments to figure out if I really wanted to do this, or should I roll over and go back to bed. At first, rolliing over was mighty tempting — I’d been up late the night before, and I knew I had the whole day to go paddling. Then visions of the pictures I could take started dancing in my head, and I grumbled, got up, slurped down some yogurt, put some coffee in the travel mug, and headed into Cambridge.

The closest put-in to downtown Boston is Magazine Beach in Cambridge. Driving in, there was just the faintest blush of pink in the Eastern sky, and I had the sinking feeling this was all for naught — that there was too much haze overhead for there to be a sunrise.

Sunrise this morning was at 6:29. I got to Magazine Beach at around 6:20, and the sky did not look very impressive. But I figured I was there, so I might as well go for it. It takes about 10-15 to get the boat off the top of the car and into the water. I put the drybag with my camera and phone in the kayak, and did my usual oh-so-graceful entrance, and I was off.

By this point, it was around 6:45, and I figured I was probably too late, but then I cleared the rushes at the edge of the river, got into the middle, and there, behind both the BU and railroad bridges, was the sun, rising over Boston. I didn’t want to include the bridges in my photos, so after a couple of minutes of semi-frantic paddling, I was in position to take some pictures. The masthead picture at the top was taken with my iPhone; the rest below were taken with the Nikon.

Even past sunrise, I figured the earliness of the hour had advantages. While the sun was still low, it was warm in color, and I got some nice picture of the sun shining on the granite piers holding up the Mass Ave bridge.

Passing MIT, I could see the sun glinting on the water in front of the MIT dock with all its sailboats. And I got a picture of the sunlit side of the Hancock tower glowing in the morning sun.

Continuing on, with the sun in the east, there were several structures, like the ornamentation of the Longfellow Bridge and the downstream side of the Green Line’s Charles River viaduct that were in direct sunlight, that I had been used to seeing in the shade.

I finally turned around under the Zakim Bridge. The supports for the bridge are massive.

The supports of the Zakim Bridge

On the way back, I got a picture of the railroad drawbridge I’d paddled under, and then a number of pilings between the drawbridge and the Viaduct:

As usual, it was choppy between the Museum of Science and the Longfellow Bridge, so I was happy to duck into the calmer water of the Esplanade lagoon by Community Boating. As I passed through the first lagoon, the Arthur Fieldler head came into view.

By this point, I was anxious to finish up the trip. I’d been in the boat for nearly three hours, so I was taking fewer pictures. One of the last one was this monstrosity going up on the BU campus.

I have since learned it’s the BU Data Science building. What a self-indulgent piece of crap. When I think of all the engineering wasted on making this “statement”, it makes me angry. Buildings are public artifacts, and they should not detract from their environment.

I continued on, heading upstream into the wind, passing the BU Boathouse, and then the railroad bridge and BU Bridge. There’s a small campsite nestled under the BU Bridge; unnoticeable from the road, but quite visible from the water. The the Magazine Beach dock came into view, and it was time pull out, pack up, and head home.

Leaf Peeping on the Charles

Fall foliage is such an ephemeral thing; one moment all the leaves are green; then in August, the first “traitor trees” start turning color, then one day, most of the trees are in full color – they still have most of their leaves, but they’ve turned color. Then, a few days later, the bonds holding the leaves to the trees start to break, and the leaves start to fall, leaving the trees barer and barer, until nothing is left except the oaks, grimly holding onto their dry brown leaves.

This weekend was pretty much peak season around here, and the weather was pleasant, so I took the kayak out for a trip along the Charles in Dedham – I didn’t have time for a longer trip as I had to get home to make supper. It was gorgeous.

I put in at the landing by the Dedham Recreation Center, and paddled downstream through Motley Pond, down past the Route 109 bridge to just short of the Bridge Street bridge. Along the way I saw a bunch of young mallards; the heads of the males were a deep rich green. Judging by their size, I’d guess this was their first time in adult plumage. On the way back, I spotted a snowy egret and a bunch of painted turtles by the entrance to Motley Pond.

Motley Pond is a bit of a misnomer; it’s more like a spot where the river spreads out a bit. Unlike the Basin, between Boston and Cambridge, the Charles is pretty narrow here, no more than 15 feet in some spots. At Motley, the river widens out; there is also a sandbar island in the middle, and you can often spot waterfowl there.

I haven’t been on the kayak much the past year. It was great to take the boat and the camera out for a few hours.

Brickyard Pond, Barrington, RI

Near the midpoint of the East Bay Bike Path you pass a large pond, Brickyard Pond. The pond is large, about 84 acres, and, from the bike way seems quite wild, as it’s ringed by marsh grasses and has several small islands covered with marsh grass and trees. In fact, it’s man-made – it was the site of a clay quarry used to make bricks that eventually filled with water.

Continue reading

Painted Turtles


I took the kayak for a 7.48 mile round trip from Dover to Natick and back today. I started off by Bridge Street in Dover — fortunately grabbing the last parking spot — and took the boat downriver to just short of the Natick Dam. Along the way, in several spots, I saw painted turtles basking on logs and boulders in the river. Usually, they would slip into the water as soon as I got close-ish, but these little guys stayed put just long enough for me to get their picture:

Painted Turtles on log

Painted Turtles on log

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 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 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 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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading