Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Paddle Trip: Back to the Concord River

As the temperature drops, I look to take my touring kayak to rivers (read my posts 5 Tips for Paddling in the Bumper Seasons and 5 Tips for Touring a River in a Kayak ). I hadn't paddled the Concord River in Bedford and Concord, MA in a few years, so Tim (read my post An Unexpected Adventure) and I took a trip down Rt. 128 to Rt. 4 and put in across from the Bedford Boat Landing at the Carlisle Road (Rt. 225) bridge. The day was bright and crisp with a westerly breeze that made for a head wind, which added to the current (we paddled upstream) as a drag on our progress. We weren't in any hurry, though, and as I've stated in past posts, paddling upstream first on a river sure makes the return trip a lot easier. The river is wide just upstream of the bridge, and the breeze blew up a small chop in the middle. Progress was good, though, as we cruised along enjoying the waning color of the late autumn leaves on the banks.

The Concord River is formed by the merging of the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers at Egg Rock near the Concord Battleground and the Minute Man statue. It winds downstream (east/northeast) through Concord, Bedford, Billerica, North Billerica, and Lowell, and empties, ultimately, into the Merrimack. It's a substantial river - wide in most places, which is what you want if you're paddling a touring kayak as we were. 'Yaks in the 14-17' range can be difficult to maneuver on narrow rivers and streams - especially if they have hard bends and currents around obstacles. As we moved farther upstream, we ran into some of these types of narrower sections, but largely, the Concord is well suited to accommodate longer craft. 

Wildlife was mostly quiet, save for a few ducks and geese along the way. I was hoping to spot some deer in the woods on the banks, but had no such luck. The big surprise was seeing painted turtles basking on logs on the north bank, taking advantage of the south westerly sun arc to catch some late October rays. I was surprised to see turtles still active that late in the season with ambient air temperatures in the mid 50's℉, and dropping rapidly when the sun descends in the late afternoon. 

The banks of the river on our route upstream toward Concord are largely uninhabited, with trails on the north bank, and much of the south bank lying within the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge . As we approached Concord, however, some large private properties with expansive lawns can be viewed on the north bank. Great Meadows has landings for kayaks and canoes. We didn't stop there, but a trail hike in the refuge could be added to a river paddle for a stretch of the legs and some additional interest. We did stop at one point on the north bank for a quick stretch beside one of the riverside trails.

Boat traffic was sporadic, with some small motor craft traveling along. They kept their speeds low , so safety was not a concern - although one two-boat group of fishermen had lines in the water - which is always a hazard to keep wide of, especially when other obstacles are present - like logs and tree limbs, as were in this case. I often find it better to wait in an eddy and time a burst of hard paddling to get clear of other boat traffic. 

There are a couple of interesting bridges to pass under on the way upstream. The stone bridge at Monument Street was built in the late 1800's and the The Old North Bridge at Liberty Street harkens back to colonial days. As we approached the Old North Bridge, rented kayaks were plentiful on the water, with inexperienced paddlers aboard - so a measure of caution passing through this area was warranted.
The Old North Bridge, Concord, MA

We turned south on to the Sudbury at Egg Rock and paddled for another half mile before deciding to turn around and head back toward Bedford. As expected, the current at our sterns was a welcome push and a reward for enduring the same current while paddling upstream. We made great time as we glided with the flow, and we discussed a possible future trip up the Sudbury from the boat launch just upstream form The Old North Bridge.

By the time we got back to the our landing, the sun was already getting low in the west, and the temperature drop was noticeable. I was glad to be off the water. We used Google to find a local pub, and drove over to nearby Acton for some tasty appetizers and a couple of well earned draft beers.

The return trip to the Concord River was a fine paddle in crisp air, with a couple of sites along the way - roughly 4 hours round trip. I'd do it again, and I look forward to heading further up the Sudbury in the future.

TB on the Water          


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Catching Up: What's New with CWK

2019 has thus far been a year sadly lacking in new CWK blog posts. Other priorities have pulled me away from posting, and unfortunately, from as much kayaking and waveski surfing as I'd like. Additionally, the purchase of a new vehicle (I swapped out my short bed truck for a small SUV with roof top crossbars) has resulted in a bit of a learning curve to define the best loading/carrying options for my gear. In light of those realities, I decided to post a quick update on 3 topics in development, and to give some insight into what I hope will become more detailed future posts:

1. Attending the New England Paddle Show 2019. I attended the New England Paddle Show at the University of NH this year - for the first time in several years. I was accompanied by my friend Gary, with whom I reconnected recently after many years of taking separate paths. Gary was researching what turned out to be the purchase of his first kayak, and I hope to post in more detail my thoughts on these shows; what to consider when attending one, what gear you might want to purchase there vs. what you might research for a later purchase, what information can be obtained from manufacturer's reps, etc. This topic warrants a full post and will require some due consideration on my part. Look for it soon.

2. Adjusting to Rooftop Carry on a Shorter Vehicle. I learned the hard way that my tie down system was insufficient for my touring kayak when a bungee broke and the front end of my 'yak lifted out of the J-cradle and slid down the side of my Subaru Forester - on the highway at 65 mph! Fortunately, some additional securing held it onto the vehicle, and I was able to safely pull into the breakdown lane and re-secure the 'yak to the cradles (with one minor scratch to my paint). It was unnerving, to say the least, and forced a reconsideration of what anchor points I need to safely secure 2 kayaks for highway travel. I am learning quite a bit about what works and what doesn't, and this adjustment deserves to be fully described in a post of its own - also on the project list.

3. A New Addition Has Been Welcomed to My Kayak Collection. In keeping with my penchant for procuring vintage kayaks for specific uses (clearly an illness at this point), I finally got my hands on a much heralded surf kayak I have yearned to obtain for several years: a Cobra Strike SOT. This is a plastic SOT model that surfers speak of in high regard, and I had the opportunity to surf one years ago (thanks Mike from Jenness Beach, NH if you ever read this). A very rare used model (nobody ever sells these boats) became available  close to my location, and I picked it up at a bargain price. It did need some TLC, however, and I am in the process of getting it serviceable and making some minor upgrades. It should be ready to surf within the next couple of weeks, so I will be due for more than one post on this subject. It will be interesting to contrast my 2 vintage surf craft (the Walden Milo Waveksi vs. the Cobra Strike), and to see how they operate in different conditions. I'm looking forward to the adventure.

3 VIEWS OF MY NEW (used) COBRA STRIKE (stripped down):

If you've been checking this blog for new posts, I apologize for being absent for a while - but it looks like I have some some valuable topics lined up, and maybe some useful insights to offer.


TB on the Water                             

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Curated Post: 2018 Tips Learned (video)

Occasionally, I use this blog to post something I run across that I think is of great interest and/or value. I really like this brief video from "Kayak Hipster" on Youtube, discussing the valuable tips he picked up in 2018. Some of these are advanced, but many are useful even to kayakers with little experience:

I'll continue to keep an eye out for good content like this. Let me know what you think in the comments.

TB on the Water