Monday, May 5, 2014

Boston Harbor

Last year I joined a sea kayaking Meetup group, but I wasn't able to get to any of their trips, most of which take place a good bit south of here. Last week I got a message that one member was organizing a trip in Boston Harbor. I was planning on being in the area, so, along with a few other tentative paddlers, I pressed the "accept invitation" button. By the time I met Matt, the organizer, at City Point in Boston, we were down to two paddlers.

Two paddlers is probably my favorite group size anyway (my other favorites are one and three). I guess it depends on who that paddler is, but Matt and I quickly found some common ground and we  established what we had for safety gear and how to manage our "group." Matt is originally from Boston, and he'd recently moved back east from San Francisco where he'd developed his paddling skills, and was now busy re-discovering his former backyard. It was an excellent chance for me to get shown around by someone with a lot of knowledge of the area.

I'd arrived a bit early and took a walk around Pleasure Bay, among countless others out for their Saturday morning exercise. Being in Boston is a bit overwhelming for me: a different sort of sensory overload than I experience in less-developed places. Jets from Logan rumbled into the sky every few minutes, and everywhere the air just hums with the coalesced background drumming of the city. I started my walk feeling obviously out of place, and finished, almost an hour later, feeling like I'd found a new favorite place. That feeling continued after we launched and made our way out among the islands.

We passed the green slopes of Spectacle Island, which was used as the dumping ground for fill from the Big Dig, and is now a park and the highest point in the harbor. To the north, the wastewater treatment plant on Deer Island looked about as industrial as it gets, with its huge weird orbs and wind turbines. A tanker lay at anchor just off of the plant. We kept a sharp eye out for boat traffic, especially the high-speed ferries, but there wasn't much- one advantage of being here early in the season.

We stopped for lunch on Great Brewster Island, where we made our way to the top of an eroding bluff for a spectacular view of the harbor and the city beyond. The other paddlers who'd opted not to join us had joined a different group that left from Hull (a shorter trip to the same area) and we kept an eye out for them. After we ate, we spotted their kayaks on nearby Calf Island, and we went to say hello. I'd met a couple of the other paddlers before, and we chatted for a few moments as the others paddled away.

We made our way out to The Graves, a group of ledges where a tall lighthouse guards the entrance to Boston Harbor, and began our trek back.

There's so much to see in Boston Harbor: lighthouses, the ruins of old fortifications and places with layers upon layers of history. We made a big loop that gave us a bit of everything- the perfect introduction to Boston Harbor, but I can imagine shorter trips with more time to investigate on shore.

We rounded Little Brewster Island, where Boston Harbor Lighthouse marks the entrance to Nantasket Roads. We waved to the lightkeeper, who stood in the doorway of the house; I think that's the first manned lighthouse I've paddled past, and I felt a little regret that we didn't have time to stop. By now though, the day was waning and whatever current that ran against us was taking its toll. Over on Deer Island, brilliant end of the day light lit the wastewater treatment plant vividly. The last miles went slowly, and it felt good to get back to the car.

We got out of our gear and packed up, and some people asked us about our trip (no one seemed shy) but the comings and goings at City Point continued. A woman parked her BMW and put on her Rollerblades, and a guy whined past on a stripped-down moped. A group of corporate co-workers on a team-building exercise were marched past in formation, carrying logs and grunting. A couple former Special Forces guys handed-out business cards to anyone who seemed interested or curious, explaining, "we basically beat the crap out of 'em" before asking Matt if he knew the water temperature (41) since they were soon marched into the chilly water of Pleasure Bay. Saturday night in Boston was well underway

1 comment:

George Pardi said...

Fort Point Channel is a nice spot from which to launch. I've been to Spectacle Island, but I much prefer paddling north towards Charlestown to see the U.S.S. Constitution and through the locks and into the Charles River, which runs through downtown Boston. Meet-Ups are great for discovering new put-ins. I've pre-ordered your book. You old article in Sea Kayaker magazine turned me and my buddies on to paddling in Stonington. We stay at Old Quarry ever year the week after Labor Day.