Painted Turtles

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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

Long Walk

I did something to my back last weekend, and have been hobbling around since. It’s not been too bad during the work week, as sitting itself hasn’t been too painful, though walking after sitting can be a pain. It’s put a distinct crimp in my weekend though; I daren’t use the kayak, I had to cancel a dive with Andrew today, and I don’t really want to use the motorcycle, both because of the back, and for reasons that I’ll relate later.

While yesterday morning was rainy and muggy, yesterday afternoon, the afternoon turned sunny. I wanted to do something, something that wouldn’t make the back worse. That basically left walking, so I drove into Boston with the camera, parked by the river on the Cambridge parkway, and went for a long walk.

The Longfellow Bridge is being reconstructed, so I walked over the bridge to see how it was coming. The bridge affords an awesome view of Boston, and I was particularly fascinated by the reflections off the John Hancock building.

After I crossed the bridge, I continued on through Beacon Hill, doing a little window shopping. Then I decided to visit Ward Maps in Porter Square, because they have a large collection of MBTA signage and maps. I could have hopped on the Red Line at Charles Station, but I was wearing my sunglasses, and wanted to swap them out for my regular glasses. So I walked back to the car, changed glasses, and walked to Kendall Square where I saw this sculpture:

Sculpture/Fountain in Kendall Square

Sculpture/Fountain in Kendall Square

I took the Red Line from Kendall to Porter Square.  Once at Porter, I turned left onto Mass Ave, and started walking toward Ward Maps, only to find them closed due to some sort of electrical problem. They’re a little less than halfway between Porter and Harvard, so I decided to just walk to Harvard Square. I’d never walked this neighborhood before, and it was very interesting — a bunch of small shops, interesting old homes, a colonial cemetery, and a couple of parks. After a quick tour of Harvard Square itself, I got back on the Red Line and took it back to Charles Station. Before I headed back to the car, I got a picture of the bridge reconstruction and the alignment of the temporary tracks the Red Line is running on:

Longfellow Bridge construction

Longfellow Bridge construction

So how was I feeling after all the walking? I was definitely feeling it in my legs last night. My back felt a little better, except a couple of times when I jarred it when I unexpected had to step down over a height difference I didn’t see. This morning I was feeling better — I’m still feeling it, especially after sitting — but better. I’m hoping it’s on the mend.

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.

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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.