Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saturday on the Charles

     Saturday, Mark, two others, and a whole car full of computer gear and related supplies were headed for Cambridge, MA to volunteer at a gathering.  I was recruited to drive because I have a relatively high tolerance for Boston area traffic and Mark knew, from prior experience, that at the end of the long, busy day he and the others were going to be ready to nap.  All I needed was a way to entertain myself during the day.   And I found it at Charles River Canoe & Kayak.  After dropping the guys, the gear and the car at a secret parking lot, I hiked over to the Kendall Square location to rent a kayak.

    Before you can rent a canoe, recreation kayak, or sea kayak you need to complete a multiple choice test, designed to insure you have some minimum information about boat “rules of the road” and staying safe.  I rented a Wilderness System Zephyr (wanted the skeg for the firmer foot pedals.)   It came minimally equipped with a paddle, life jacket and whistle.  To that I added a rope, and small sponge.  The day was warm and wind down, so I didn’t bother with the skirt (available if you confirm you know how to wet exit.)  Charles River Kayak also rents gear for taking their sea kayaks out to the ocean and Harbor.  I’d thought about that, but after looking at all the restricted areas in Boston Harbor, decided that might be more stress than I needed. 

    Instead my goal was to paddle along the Cambridge side down to Charles River Canoe and Kayak’s Boston, Allston location, stop for a break, than paddle back along the Boston side.
    The Charles River is everything you think it will be.  It is at once bucolic and urban, and above all refined.  Beautiful apartments and academic buildings line the Cambridge side, the basin is filled with sailors of all abilities, crews row by regularly followed by their coaches in motor boats.  Along the shore-side are joggers, walkers, bikes, painters and dozens of proud families from around the world, strolling with offspring who are, or one day, will attend these famed universities. 
Putting rowing shells away
    The water is full of life too:  Canada geese, cormorants, several green herons and  turtles.  The animals don't just exist here, they seem to thrive.  Large painted turtles hung out on the docks at the Harvard boathouses.  Canada geese nested below the trees.  This goose nest by Storrow Drive seemed to be abandoned, so I stopped for a photo.  It shows how exposed the other nests are. 
    Near the BU Bridge was a residence for several domestic geese and ducks.   Just beyond these waterfowl, a six foot wide break in the foliage marked the Canoe Launch at Magazine Beach.

    There are several restrooms along the way, but I was leery of abandoning my kayak, and settled for the Portapotties at the Boston, Allston Charles River Canoe and Kayak location.  That location was a little larger than the Kendall Square one, with folks ready help with the kayak anytime I was near it. 
    Heading downstream I had the City of Boston as a backdrop, which was just incredible.  At the Esplanade, where the Boston Pops play on July 4th, there was some sort of outdoor themed event.  Every other rented kayak and I were paddling behind the islands, and every inch of land seemed occupied: by displays, slowly moving crowds and sun worshipers.    Also hidden in the Boat Haven, a gondola, and a dragon boat, for those seeking alternative conveyances. 
    Finally I paddled the last section, over by the lock to Boston Harbor.
A duck boat heading up through the lock.
 behind the Museum of Science with its hidden boat house, and into a channel leading to the Cambridgeside Galleria, fronted by several tie down points.  Imagine a mall you can boat to; some places truly have it all. 
    About the only downside was the amount of stuff floating in the water, especially near the shore.  I took out just two grocery bags worth of trash, leaving enough for pretty much everyone else in the city to do the same. 

    Then it was back to turn in my boat and marvel at the line of customers waiting to get out on the water.  For me it was time to rehydrate, study and maybe even nap a bit before heading home to Maine.  
The line for processing on a beautiful Saturday afternoon; plenty of boats await


  1. I tried to email you, but couldn't locate an email address. I noticed you follow my blog, Recreational kayaking in Maine,, and checked out your blog. It's great! I love the pictures. Thanks for sharing and posting!

  2. Looks like you experienced the Charles at its best (aside from the floating stuff, that is). Thanks for getting some of it out of the river.

  3. The Charles is an impressive river, and I am delighted that I was able to enjoy it on such a beautiful day. I did feel guilty about the trash though.
    And Maine Kayakgirl, I was pleased to see your blog as well. You have some great photos, I was impressed with the moose pictures. I've got a link to your blog over to the side.