Kayaking on the Hudson

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Paddling Clubs, Groups, etc.

So you have realized that it is safer to paddle with other people than to paddle alone.  How do you find other paddlers?  There are two types of paddling groups: clubs and meet-up groups.  Clubs can be either a kayaking club or a general outdoor club like the ADK (Adirondack Mtn. Club) or AMC (Appalachian Mtn. Club).  Kayak and outdoor clubs share some similarities.  Both will have a schedule of upcoming paddles with difficulty ratings and both will have some kind of vetting process for trip leaders.  General outdoor clubs also have the advantage that they offer hiking, and other trips as well as paddles.  The key points with either type of club are that you usually have to join and pay a membership fee, and they have rules that apply to the outings.  When you go out with a club you will have a trip leader who knows the area and you will have to follow the rules of the club.

A meet-up group is a much less formal arrangement.  Meet-up groups are just what the name implies.  Someone posts a “meet-up” on a website and anyone who wants to go shows up for the paddle.  Usually the person posting the paddle will also list some details about skill level and conditions you may encounter.  These trips do not have to conform to the rules of a formal club, but remember, you are on your own as far as safety is concerned.  

To summarize, clubs have rules, and trip leaders.  Meet-up groups have no formal leaders, but no restrictions or cost.  Most paddlers I know will go out with both clubs and groups depending on where the trip is going.  Clubs tend to be more popular with beginners who like having a designated trip leader, while meet-ups are more popular with experienced paddlers who do not need the guidance a trip leader provides.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trip Report - YakJam - Norwalk, Ct.

Ron's Pirate ship greeted us at the launch
Paddling among the islands off Norwalk, Ct.
Anyone who lives within driving distance of Norwalk, Ct. should check out this awesome, grassroots event.  It takes place every August on the weekend that is closest to the full moon.  It is hosted by the Stamford Kayak meet-up group and is a truly grassroots effort.  Individuals show up along with groups of paddlers from area clubs.
Dramatic sunset over Norwalk
I went along with five other paddlers from the Mid-Hudson chapter of the ADK.  We met up Friday at the public beach in East Norwalk and launched around 4pm.  The paddle out to Shea Island took about 30 minutes.  Once on the island, we set up our tents, and then went for a late day paddle around some of the islands.  After dinner, we went out for a moonlight paddle and witnessed the coolest sunset I have ever seen while paddling.  What struck me the most was that behind us was a brilliant sunset, while in front of us; it was dark with a full moon reflecting off the water.
Kayaking the full moon, Norwalk, Ct.
Saturday is the main day of YakJam and many paddlers show up just for the day.  During the day, there were various paddles along with talks and clinics.  I went for a morning paddle, and then caught the discussion on wave physics.  After that, I participated in the rescue practice and the Coast Guard flare demonstration.  There was also a paddle led by a naturalist, a hands-on talk about the intertidal zone, and several clean-up paddles to nearby islands.
Tom Galvin with Peter (YakJam organizer)
The forecast called for rain Saturday night and all day Sunday, so we broke camp and headed out before it got dark.  There are normally paddles and clean-ups scheduled for Sunday as well.
Throughout the weekend, I met many nice people, got to check out some fantastic kayaks and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the area.  Although donations are welcomed, the event is completely free and open to anyone who wants to attend.   One note- the bugs on the island are horrific.  During the day, you can get away with some bug spray, but only if you stay away from the plants inland.  At night, you will get eaten alive if you are not wearing a bug screen suit or head cover.
Bug headnet and bodysuit

For more info:

See you on the water,
Don Urmston

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trip Report - Seal Cove, Maine

Kayak launch in Seal Cove

Paddling the quiet waters of Seal Cove
Seal Cove is on “the quiet side” of Mt. Desert Island.  This is a small working harbor that sees a few guided tour groups, but is much less crowded than Bar Harbor.  Again, we waited for a calm day with winds predicted to be 5mph or less.  We launched from the town ramp on Cape Rd.  The conditions were perfect.  The water was like glass and the only waves came from boat wake.  We were greeted in the harbor by a harbor seal.  I guess the place lives up to its name.
View of Seal Cove from our kayaks
We paddled out around Moose Island and watched a local lobster boat, Jenny G. II,  pulling traps.  The lobster boats do not motor in a straight line; they turn all over to get to the next trap.  To watch the boat swerving around, you would think the captain was drunk.  It is fun to watch, but presents a real problem for kayakers as you never know where they are going next.  The key is to look on the boat for a buoy.  Once you know the color of the buoy, you can look around in the water and find them.  Avoid the buoys, and you avoid the boats.  Be warned, lobster boats are working boats and have no patience for kayaks.  They will not turn to avoid you and they will not slow down to avoid creating a wake.  It is your responsibility to avoid them.
We had planned to venture up to Hardwood Island and make a landing, but our trip got delayed.  We spent so much time watching the pod of porpoises breach and come up for air that we never made it to Hardwood Island.  No matter, the show was amazing and we returned happy as two little clams.  We tried to get pictures and video of the porpoises, but as usual, all we got was footage of water and some great memories.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trip Report - Bar Harbor, Maine

Conditions among the Porcupines were perfect

Kayaking along the "bar" to Bar Island
View of Bar Harbor with Cadillac Mtn. in background
The Force was with us
"Cottages" along the shore
Upon our arrival in Bar Harbor, we were greeted with the news that two kayakers had drowned in the past month.  When we read the newspaper articles, we learned that in both cases, the kayakers were paddling boats that were not suited to the local conditions (one was not wearing a pfd).  Here in Maine, the water is 55 degrees and the weather can turn nasty in an instant.  There is no room for error.  Having paddled here for many years, we know that the best weapon you can use against Mother Nature is patience.  If conditions look questionable, paddle another day.
When we got a nice day, we paddled out from the town pier and took in the sights of Bar Harbor.  This is a working harbor, so you must look out for lobster boats, sail boats, sightseeing boats, etc.  We made our way around Bar Island, then back around Sheep Porcupine Island.  We watched the lobster boats zigging, zagging and pulling traps.  We dreamed what it would be like to own one of the vacation “cottages” from days or yore.  The water was calm and so was the wind--another beautiful paddle in Bar Harbor.
Thunder Bay a.k.a. Old Rusty
If you go… Watch the forecast for winds.  Pay attention to the tides—the “bar” connecting Bar Island is under a good 5-6 feet of water at high tide!  Stay clear of lobster boats and remember they do not keep a straight line.  Get a good nautical chart so you know where the ships will go.  Stay close to the islands to avoid the boats.  The Porcupine Islands are much farther out and apart than they appear.   
Be sure you know your limits.  It may be a harbor, but conditions can get pretty rough.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Erie Canal - Lockport to Rochester Part 3

July 6 – We started our day with a newsman from a Buffalo TV station who took some film of us launching and paddling about, and interviewed two of us kayakers.  When we finally got started for real, we paddled to Brockport for our lunch stop.

Unloading Phebe the Erie Canal Mule
While we were walking into town, we came across and old man, Jack, unloading a full-sized mule statue off of a trailer.  He was attempting this alone so we offered our assistance.  It turns out that the statue – Phebe- was in for repairs and needed to get back to her perch overlooking the marina.  So we pushed and pulled and finally got the mule back where she belonged.  As a thank-you, Jack told us to go to 58 Main Street for lunch.  No one there knew who Jack was, but it was really good food.  
Jack & Phebe

Our "campsite" in Adam's Basin
Paddling on, we arrived at Adam’s Basin and took out at another B&B whose owners had graciously allowed us to camp on their lawn.  Once again, a few of us availed ourselves of the comfy rooms.  We drove into Spencerport and had great BBQ at the Taste of Texas.  The next morning, we once again had an amazing breakfast buffet.

Where the Erie Canal meets the Genesee River
July 7 – Our lunch stop this day was Henpeck Park in the town of Greece.  It was a nice spot to stop, relax and eat lunch while we reflected on this year’s trip. 

Our final destination for this trip
After lunch, it was off to the finish line- the Genesee Waterways Park in Rochester.  The landing here was a paddler’s dream.  The center has over 100 feet of low docks and nice wide ramps that lead to the parking lot.  It was good to be back to where we started this trip four years ago.  At this point, we have paddled from the Niagara River to the Cayuga-Seneca Canal—about half of the total canal.

Observations – I have read a couple of travel logs written by people who have kayaked the Erie Canal.  They listed this section as very boring and said that there was nowhere to get out of the canal.  I found it very scenic.  It is true that several sections are walled in by the ubiquitous broken rocks found all along the canal and much of the way you can only see the trees that line the canal, but I found it very green and peaceful.  There is a stretch of a few miles leading into Rochester where the canal walls are very high, but even here we found the occasional flat rock on the side where we could get out and stretch.  I think because we paddled as a group and took time to walk around the towns; the trip was much more interesting.  If you were paddling alone and focused only about covering as many miles as possible in a day, then I suppose it would be boring. 

The other thing we noticed is that many of the towns have added low docks or ramps.  Approximately half of the landings we used this trip did not exist 4 years ago.