Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunset Cruise Trouble

The last days of summer are passing quickly and so is the opportunity to just hop in the kayak during the daytime.  Today was just so lovely, but we weren't able to break away midday to play on the river.

My brother, who recently received a kayak for his birthday from his wife, called me at 6:00 p.m. and said he could go out for a paddle.  A sunset paddle would be a first for both of us! Yes!

By the time we met up and put our boats in at the West St. area it was around 7:00 p.m.  There was a gentleman fishing who asked us if we had our life vests (which we did have but tucked inside our kayak).  It seemed odd that he would mention it, but we went on our merry way without too much thought.

The view was spectacular.  There were some stratus clouds hovering around the sun which seemed to magnify the beauty.  We came upon a great blue heron who was not really happy we were in his territory. He was sure to let us know with his loud and menacing squawk.  Many fish were jumping at the water bugs that were scurrying atop the water.

We came upon a couple of fishermen in a motor boat who were enjoying the peacefulness too.  At one point we heard a paddler coming up behind us who was heading downstream with great speed.  It seemed others were enjoying their sunset cruises as well.

Well, we got caught up in the beauty of the marshy area of the Charles River.  The evening got away from us when we realized it was starting to get dark.  (It seemed like we had paddled for only 15 minutes when it was actually around 45 minutes.)

It was getting dark and I left my flashlight in the car.  (I'm the experienced kayaker and I should have known better!) We assured ourselves that there would still be some light till 8:45ish.  How wrong we were!  It seemed like a dimmer switch had been instantly lowered and the sun along with it!

Our restful paddling turned into a more steady, more urgent, more powerful paddle.  All of a sudden our senses were more in tune to our surroundings as we could no longer depend on our sight.   Woosh, woosh, woosh.....coming from behind we could hear a fellow paddler moving rapidly - no doubt trying to return to the same area as us.  As it turns out, it was the kayaker who had been headed downstream.

Affixed to the top of his boat was a huge spot light (not yet turned on).  "Do you have a light?  No?  Is this your first time out here???"  We must have seemed like country bumpkins to him.  He offered to show us the way with his light.  "We're fine, we're fine - we are almost back," I said (almost to reassure myself).  "Okay-You should be okay but watch the rocks near the end," he shouted as he rounded the bend.   The rocks-hadn't given them a thought.  Sure would be scary to bump into one of those in the dark!

After that, the two of us got rather quiet and focused on our paddling.  We were only about 15 minutes away from our destination.  Secretly, I was admonishing myself because I truly knew better than to be out that late on the river without proper equipment.   I'll admit I was a bit nervous (Dad, it reminded me of our hike in the White Mountains).

Around 8:30 we pulled into the landing.  "Are you alright? Do you want me to shine my headlights on you?" we heard the now familiar voice in the parking lot say.  It was our friend.  We politely declined his offer (mostly because we felt silly about the whole thing).  With a little effort, we exited our boats and loaded them onto the car.

Next time we will carry flashlights, life vests strapped to the top of the canoe (not stowed away), a whistle and a charged phone.  Being on the river in the dark is not something I would like to repeat as there are too many potential pitfalls.  Planning ahead and making sure we have the right equipment will ensure a safe, fun trip.

Our adventure will be remembered for it's beauty and lesson learned!

View West Street, Medfield, MA in a larger map

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

River Rescue

Well, it wasn't quite the 'river rescue' you might picture in your mind...it was more of a 'rescue to allow us to GET on the river'.  Here's what happened.

It was a sweltering Sunday (July 31st) and three of us decided to head out to one of our favorite areas on the Charles River, called Peter's Point (see map below).  We arrived with our boats in the back of our trusty red truck.  As we were getting ready to take the boats out of the truck, one of us, I'll not name her (okay it was me), closed the truck door with keys, credit cards, wallets and gloves on the front seat.  Although we trust our fellow kayakers, we were uncomfortable at the thought of leaving for a 2 hour paddle with that in plain sight.  A call was made to bring the spare key so we could collect our things and begin.

Not to worry, Dave M. was on his way (after he finished his grocery shopping!).  Luckily, we had packed some cold beverages in the back of the truck.  We unloaded the boats - set them up at the edge of the river, then sat in the shade with a cool drink.

What happened next, made the inconvenience of locking ourselves out pass quickly.  Pulling up along the river bank was an orange-topped, 17 foot long, sleek-looking kayak.  It approached the shore with ease and it's owner hopped out.  What a different kayak from ours! The owner, a young man from the Netherlands, was more than happy to give us a tour of his kayak.  The water-tight hatches can fit a week's worth of camping gear. The rudder, which folded up for transporting, is operated by foot-peddles inside the cockpit.  He surprised us all by asking us if we wanted to try it out.  Dee, the outgoing, kayaker of the bunch, jumped right in a started paddling around the area.  What a treat!

Not too much later, David came to the 'rescue'. We opened the doors, got our gear and off we went for a lovely paddle.  Never a dull moment on the Charles!   

Next time you're looking for a great place to paddle, try Peter's Point out of Dover, MA

View Peter's Point, Dover, MA in a larger map