Sunday, October 28, 2007

When Level Two Trips Go Bad

H wanted to get at least one more paddle in this season, so I posted a level two trip heading from Bay Campus to Rome Point. The distance was pushing the upper limit of a strict level two, but still within the cutoff. Joe, looking for a more adventurous outing decided that he'd run a level three from the Bay Campus as well.
The winds were whipping when we arrived at Bay Campus and they were forecasted to stay steady throughout the day. At the put-in we briefly discussed moving the paddle to Tuckertown Pond to gain shelter from the wind. For a strict level two paddle we should have moved to the pond, because the winds were definitely over the prescribed limit. However, the assembled group (H, CC, BH, PB, LB, TM, and DV) were all capable level three paddlers and voted to stay on the Bay. We would paddle close to the shore to stay as protected from the wind as possible and slowly fight our way into the wind up to Rome Point.
Joe's plan was to cross over to Jamestown and paddle into the wind. He, JS, and Larry set off ahead of the level two group.
As I was gathering my gear, H noticed that I was leaving my tow-belt in the car.
"You really should take that," she pointed out.
"But its just a level two paddle, I'm not going to need to tow anybody," I protested.
"Still," she said with a disappointed look.
I put the tow-belt on. Somehow, the tow-belt incident through me off and it took me forever to get on the water. I could hear the group collectively tapping their toes waiting for me.
I finally got on the water and, along with TM, proceeded to hug the shore going north. The rest of the group paddled outside of the mooring fields. The combination of the wind protection we gained from being near shore and our native paddling speed opened up a wide gap between us and the rest of the group. We held up and the rest of the group caught up and joined us closer to the shore.
As we moved up the coast toward the bridge we had to monitor our individual progress according to the group as a whole. The wind exacerbates the problems of keeping a group together and increases the importance of keeping the group together. The wind makes slower paddlers slower, makes faster paddlers less likely to look behind them, and makes communication even more difficult.
About 3/4 of the way to the Jamestown Bridge, we spotted two kayaks crossing the channel from Jamestown to the mainland shore. It looked like Joe and JS, but we didn't think it could be them. They left the beach as a threesome that included Larry. Once they approached we learned that Larry had turned back and they had let him go it alone. Without knowing any of the details, we all immediately questioned the soundness of the call. It was not how we usually operate and it was definitely out of character for Joe. He typically works very hard to keep the group together.
(As I found out later, the whole thing was the result of a breakdown in communication. Larry had fallen behind and decided to turn back. He told JS, who was fishing, and split. By the time JS had rejoined Joe and communicated Larry's decision, it was too late to do anything. Larry was either safely back on the beach or being blown out to sea.)
I stopped the group just before we reached the bridge to see how people felt. There was a reasonably protected beach for lunch or resting, so if the group was looking to rest it was a perfect spot. I was also thinking that it would be good turn around point instead of going all the way to Rome Point.
Paddling under the bridge is always tricky because things get choppy and the wind is funneled straight under the bridge. Once under the bridge, we'd loose any wind protection until we reached Rome Point. H hadn't been in her kayak much this fall. DV was paddling an unfamiliar kayak. The wind was more than any of us had anticipated.
I could have simply called lunch. This was a level two paddle and we were already beyond level two conditions. I could have also decided that since we were already in level three conditions, we would complete the mission and paddle straight to Rome Point. Instead, I opted for taking a vote. As with the vote on the beach, nobody had a strong opinion, but generally felt like sticking to the original plan.
So, we continued onward.
Once under the bridge, the wind slammed into us. It didn't take long for people to get worn down. About halfway between the bridge and Rome Point, DV asked if we could stop. His back was beginning to bother him and he didn't want to push it much more. Others were happy to oblige. Someone did mention that Rome Point was just a little further. The group, however, stopped for lunch and decided that from lunch we'd head back to Bay Campus.
Joe and JS once again split with the group after lunch. They planned to head up to Rome Point and see if they could find any more fish.
The rest of us got on the water in pods. While people were launching I paddled up to TM and said "lighthouse" and he smiled. From the shore it didn't look like the conditions over by the lighthouse were bad. If either of us had used our brains, we'd have known what it was really like between us and the lighthouse - unpredictable, big chop, and a strong, beamy wind.
H was one of the last people on the water and I rafted up with her to mop some of the water out of the Q-Boat. While we were drying out my cockpit, the rest of the group headed out to the lighthouse....
After I got the water out of the Q-Boat, H and I turned to rejoin the group or what was left of it. I could see a pod of kayaks about halfway to the lighthouse and few other kayaks closer to the lighthouse. Since I thought the group was going to the lighthouse, we pushed down along the bridge. Conditions were what H calls the "washing machine". The chop was big and coming from all directions. It was not ideal, but neither was getting separated from the group. I insisted on rejoining the group since we could manage the chop.
H, on the other hand, wanted to slip under the bridge and get out of the chop. She spotted half of the group on the southern side of the bridge parked near the shore. She repeatedly tried telling me about the others.
I could not hear her, so I continued pushing towards the lighthouse and the kayaks I could see.
Finally, she caught my attention and pointed out the rest the group. Once I saw that there was part of the group in calm water, I knew the right thing to do. We turned and paddled under the bridge.
There was still a scattered group out in the center of the channel, so I wanted to make sure they were OK. My first priority, however, was getting H to the safety of the group. She, however, had also seen the stray group and noticed that one of the kayaks was capsized.
"There is someone in the water," she told me. "I'm fine, you go help."
I raced out the rescue sight. TM was heading over to a nearby fishing boat to ask them for assistance. BH had a hold of DV and his capsized kayak. PB was stabilizing BH. There were paddles floating all over the place.
I collected the paddles while BH attempted to put DV back in his kayak. The conditions were making the rescue hard and DV was making it even harder. He didn't seem to have the strength to get himself back in the kayak. At one point he just quit and wanted to get a ride home in the nearby fishing boat. Eventually, after TM and BH told him it would be harder to get him into the fishing boat, he managed to get back in his kayak.
Since he had so much trouble getting in the kayak, we decided that it would be best if DV was towed for awhile. BH, since he was already stabilizing DV's kayak, would stabilize DV while under tow.
Since I had my tow belt on and was in the best position, I hooked the two kayaks up - I snaked my tow line under the BH's inside dock line, then under the inside of DV's front deck line, and then hooked the tow line together to make a lasso. Towing two kayaks is a bitch. At first I wasn't sure I could get enough power using the mighty stick and considered asking TM to get my spare Lendal off my back deck. However, I didn't relish the idea of starting from a dead stop again. Once I got a rhythm going, things got easier. Then PB, who had borrowed BH's tow belt, hooked onto the front of the Q-Boat. That made towing much easier.
After what seemed like an eternity, we got close to the shore and managed to catch up with the rest of the group. DV was feeling better, so we dismanteled the tow. Once free of the tow, DV took off for home. TM, who may have been the only one capable of matching his pace, followed. H decided to stick with TM as a back-up.
The rest of us wended our way back to Bay Campus and prepared for what promised to be a serious debriefing. CC was upset that we had even tried to paddle to the lighthouse given the conditions. LB was upset that she had been left alone for a period of time in the rough water. H was upset that I had made her attempt to paddle into the middle of the channel. The boys were upset because we had made some bad judgment calls. Everyone was upset that Larry's fate was unknown.
Once safely on the Bay Campus beach, we debriefed. Post-paddle debriefs are one of the best learning experiences and this one was no different. Nothing got solved and no blame was laid. We did learn that communication needs to be better, that level two trips need a strong hand when it comes to making decisions about when to stop, that your group is only as strong as its weakest paddler, and that when conditions are tough everything is harder and more important. Maybe benevolent dictatorship is not always a bad idea...
Fortunately, everyone ended the day healthy and wiser. A bad day on the water is better than a good day at the office....

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Return to Old Stone Bridge

The lunar cycle is 29.53059 days which means that every 30 days the moon is full. For those nautically inclined, it also means the bigger than average tides happen every 30 days. Big tides equals big tidal currents.
The full moon was Friday the 26th, so the currents at Old Stone Bridge promised to be fast on Saturday the 27th. I posted a practice session and bristled with anticipation for the chance to play. As Saturday approached, the weather aligned with the currents to ensure a maelstrom.
It was rainy and windy when I showed up to a flooded put-in. The channel was already looking lumpy and the real action was more than an hour away. I wandered up to Coastal Roasters to get a coffee and wait for the rest of the brave (foolish) paddlers to arrive.
We got an excellent turn-out. There were eight kayaks and eight paddlers. Three of the paddlers were new to the group (Gerry, Rich, and Larry) while the balance of the group were RICKA regulars (TM, PB, PH, CR). The pre-paddle preparations included a talk by TM about being ready to rescue people. It also included TM asking me if I was going to wear a helmet. I was not because I figured there were no rocks around to squish my mellon. TM's question, however, made me rethink my plan and I plopped the helmet on my mellon.
We spent a little time near the beach getting loosened up and sizing up the maelstrom in the channel. It was perfect. The winds was blowing up river as the water rushed down river. Waves boiled up at irregular intervals. The eddy lines were clear and full of whirlpools. The bad weather kept the fisherman to minimum so the area was clear of fishing lines.
It didn't take long before the group drifted into the thick of things. We spread out across area. TM wanted to spend time practicing boat handling skills in the eddies. The Ps wanted to dive right into the standing waves. I wanted to work on boat handling skills in the the maelstrom. The others all found there own spot to work. The area was dynamic. You could be sitting in relatively calm water just on the edge of the really big stuff. It was easy to slip out to get a quick breather. It was easy to slide along the side and slip into the really big stuff. There was a section in the center that would flatten out and offer a rest every so often.
It didn't take long before somebody went in the drink. Larry was playing near the evil bouy and flipped. I was in the center of the channel about 10 yards away, so I turned to make the rescue. I edge the Q-Boat a little too much, however, and also flipped. I set up my roll facing down stream and popped up with too much ease. I went over the other side. I set up my roll on the upstream side and came up just enough to get some air. It felt like the Poseidon grabbed the might stick and pulled it under. I pulled the loop and became a second swimmer.
Gerry was on me in a flash. He made sure I was OK, assessed the situation, and decided to tow me into calmer water before trying to put me back in the kayak. He latched on the Q-Boat's bow and starting towing the upside down kayak closer to the beach. It was a struggle because kayaks are not designed to travel through the water upside down... Once I was in calmer water, TM did a t-rescue to put me back in the kayak. The water was rough enough, the I managed to bounce my helmeted mellon off the Q-Boat's hull and TM's hull a few times.
Hardly shaken, I rushed back into the fray. Before long, I got to repay the rescue. Rich went over and I was in perfect position to rescue him. I decided that the water was calm enough to do the rescue. The boiling water and standing waves made it tough to get a good grip on Rich's kayak, but once I had it firmly in hand the rescue went smoothly. It was not text book, but it was successful.
Paddling in those types of conditions is tiring and we decided to take a break after about an hour. We drank some water, ate some snacks, and drained the water out of our cockpits. We also got a chuckle TM trying to squeeze into Rich's Nordkapp LV. TM's memory of the Devil Boat needed a little refreshing. Fortunately for all of us, TM couldn't squeeze in to the cockpit. We would have spent the rest of the morning pulling TM out of the drink...
After the break, I decided to spend some time experiencing the eddies. They were very clearly defined and pocked with whirlpools. I practiced crossing the eddy line without getting completely turned around. It was a challenge trying to figure out which combination of strokes and edging worked most effectively. I tried sweep strokes to counter the initial punch of on the bow, followed by a stern rudder to straighten out. It was only partially effective. I tried starting with a stern rudder, but that failed completely. The trouble was countering the initial punch to the bow. The force of the current rushing downstream wanted to push the bow downstream with and the stern of the Q-Boat offered little resistance. In the end, all that really seamed to work was finding the best angle to attack the line and digging the edge in to arrest the turn.
The whirlpools were fun. I'd stick my bow into the edge and it would push the nose around and a well timed switch to the other edge of the hull would keep the spin going through the full 360. The centers of the whirlpool looked mean. They dropped a good foot or two, and, while I'm sure they didn't have the force needed to suck the Q-Boat to a watery grave, I was not about to go sticking my bow in their to find out.
After playing in the eddies, I wanted to get back out into the boil. I slipped across the eddy line, go tmy bow pointed back up stream, and let the current suck me down between the cans. Once there I worked on holding my position and playing on the waves. It was fun until I found myself upside down. Disoriented, I set up my roll on the upstream side. It was like moving through gello and I barely got enough air to catch a breath. I slipped back under the water laying on the back deck. I felt a little panicky and just grabbed for the loop.
Needing to be rescued twice in one day didn't sit well with me. I felt like I hadn't kept my center when I most needed to keep it. After a short rest, I set out to practice rolling in the midst of the maelstrom. I was going to master the situation even if mastery meant swimming. I enlisted PB to spot me and headed back up the flow.
Along the way, PH hopped in front of me trying catch a few good rides. I found myself sitting next to him in one of the random calm spots until the boiling started. PH went over and tried to roll. Before I could get over to him, a wave picked me up and shot me forward. Fortunately, PB and several of the other paddlers were right behind us.
A smart paddler would have waited for his support to regroup before attempting to roll in conditions that had resulted in two previous rescues. I'm not always smart. I flipped myself over, made sure I set up downstream, and rolled upright. Not happy with just one, I did it again. And again. Then I set up parallel to the current and rolled up. Still not satisfied, I set up facing upstream and struggled back upright. To prove to myself that it was not a fluke, I went over again and set up facing upstream. When I finished the roll with my head still in the water, I felt the panic start and let it wash through me. Then I switched sides and rolled into the sweet air.
It was time to end the madness and land the kayak. I had regained my confidence. I had pushed my luck enough. I was exhausted. Everyone else was heading in as well.
We'd only been on the water for three hours, according PB's GPS, we'd only traveled about four miles, and we'd gained a incalculable amounts of experience. Getting a feel for confusing conditions, waves, and currents in a controlled area with a good group is a rare pleasure. The rescues made the day even better. Knowing that the others in the group can catch you if you fall boosts your confidence to push the limits and grow.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Banging Around

As summer fades into fall, we all start looking for the last big trip. PB suggested a wilderness get away to cap a great season of paddling and camping. The only constraints put on the plan were:

  • it not be too close to Boston

  • it not be too far from RI

Casco Bay in Maine meets both of those conditions if you can launch from some place in Freeport or Portland. It also offers plenty of island camping and spectacular views for a small group.
The group was going to be pretty small. H was going off with non-kayaking friends for a girl's weekend. RB was camping with an old friend as part of a long standing annual tradition. MA had signed up for an AMC kayaking excursion. So it was only going to be PB, CC, BH, and myself. It was a small, but perfectly formed group.
PB picked me up bright and early Saturday morning. We were going to head up early and find a launch before the RI crew arrived. PB had called about overnight parking at Winslow Park in Freeport early in the week and had not received a return call. We figured it would be wise to check it out before trusting our cars there for the weekend.
Winslow park is a nice place to launch kayaks from. It has a nice boat ramp and is sheltered. At this time of year it was largely deserted. There were some crew races going on and we saw one power boat launching. It also has plenty of parking. PB called the state police to ensure the cars would not get towed if we left them. Once we knew that we were all set, we called CC and BH to inform them of their final destination.
By the time BH's battle box pulled into the park, PB and I had figured out how to stuff most of our gear into our kayaks.
The trick to packing the Q-Boat is still a work in progress. The front compartment is spacious and dry, so it has become the default place for clothing, tent, and sleeping bag. The back hatch is cramped and wet, so it is pretty much useless. I stuffed the stove fuel, the tent poles and the water in the rear hatch. I also tried to cram my kitchen supplies in there, but they would not fit. The kitchen ended up in the cockpit.
While CC and BH packed up their kayaks, PB and I rustled up some tasty sandwiches at a near by country store.
After packing and eating, we got on the water around noon. It was a leisurely trip and our planned camp sites was only six miles away. We were not worried about day light and the forecast was clear for the whole day.
The paddle out to Bangs Island was nice. The islands we passed by were sparsely populated. The sun was shining. The temperature was mild. One could hardly ask for more.
It was the first time in many moons that I navigated. Matching shore line features to a chart is not easy even on a clear day. PB had his GPS as a backup, so I felt better.
Once we found Bangs Island, we had to locate the camp sites. After circumnavigating the island we located the southern camp site. It was too small for our four tents. The middle site was big enough for our tents, but it was wet and didn't offer a good view. The northern site was big enough, had a nice rocky beach, and looked out over the expanse of the Bay.
After unpacking our kayaks and setting up the tents, we set about collecting fire wood and getting dinner ready. BH stoked up a major bonfire out of the collected drift wood. PB cooked up an excellent pasta dish with sausage and meatballs. CC & I helped out where we could.
After dinner, we settled in front of the fire to enjoy marshmallows and other tasty treats. We were also treated to thrilling tales of BH's days as a youngster. PB reportedly saw many shooting stars.
During the night, the weather began to shift. The wind picked up and the temperature cooled down.
BH's kayak grew a blue hand over night. This was the second time his kayak ventured to Maine waters and grew a new appendage. It is freaky.
BH treated the group to a breakfast of strong coffee, oatmeal, and fruit. As we ate, the wind died down and the temperature grew comfortable. We decided to take the long way home. We were going to round Whaleboat Island and check out a number of other islands on the way home. Whaleboat Island has some nice camping spots on it and we wanted to scope it out for future expeditions.
A plan decided on, we broke camp and reloaded the kayaks. I'm always surprised that nothing fits in the kayak the same way twice... While we packed, the wind picked up and shifted to the NW - a perfect headwind for our trip home.
We crossed over to the lee side of Whaleboat to check out the camp sites there. As we paddled and explored, the winds stiffened and the sun retreated behind the clouds. Despite being in the lee of a large island we could feel the wind. Rounding the end of the island and turning homeward was going to expose us to the full force of the wind.
Sure enough, we rounded the northern tip of Whaleboat island and were slammed. We slogged for about half mile before stopping for lunch on Little Whaleboat Island. We plotted out a route that was four short crossings between small islands. We could rest in each of the lees. We all also added to our layering. The wind was kicking up two foot chop that soaked us. The wind and lack of sun meant we chilled quickly.
The return paddle was tough, but fun. The wind and chop made for tough going. However, it also kept things interesting. A little work is good for the soul.
By the time we reached Winslow Park, we were all ready to put on dry clothes and eat some warm food. I, however, wanted to attempt rolling the Q-Boat while it was fully loaded. I managed to nail both my onside and my offside once.
Then it was time to dry off, load up, and chow down. We found an excellent Mediterranean place in Freeport. The food was different and definitely good. It capped off an excellent expedition.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Long Hauling

TM decided to take the week after Columbus Day off and wanted to do at least one long haul paddle. He was thinking of doing either Stone Bridge to Sakonnet Pt., around Jamestown, or both. I'm fortunate enough to work for a company with a liberal vacation package and to have a boss who encourages his workers to use their vacation time, so I was up for at least one of the options.
We decided to paddle out of the Bay Campus, cross over to Jamestown heading north, round the island, and cross back over to Bay Campus. It is a 20-plus mile endeavor. The day dawned rainy. While the rain ended as I drove to RI, the fog and drizzle persisted. At least my coworkers wouldn't suspect I was ditching work to frolic in the sun....
I misjudged the amount of traffic I'd hit and arrived late. TM was waiting patiently. He was surprised that I hadn't decided to bag the whole trip. I hadn't even considered bagging the trip. Kayaking is a wet sport. Drysuits keep the soak off the skin and keep you warm. Besides there is sticker on my desk at work that reads: "I'd rather be upside down in my kayak, than upright at my desk." Unless the conditions are dangerous, I'll take a day of paddling over a day of work.
We launched about 30 minutes later than planned and headed for the north end of Jamestown. The weather kept boat traffic to a minimum, so we were clear to take a long diagonal across the West Passage. Our course took us past the end of Dutch island before we reached the Jamestown coast. The long crossing seemed easy. There was only a mild wind and I couldn't feel much effect from the currents.
However, once we got in closer to the Jamestown shore the paddling got noticeably easier. The current out in the open was deceiving. With no discernible disturbance on the water, visibility suffering from a lack of contrast, and good conversation, I was totally oblivious to what the water was doing to my kayak. While it may not have seemed like much, the extra effort could have wreaked havoc on the pacing for a long paddle.
Paddling north along the western coast of Jamestown, we worked against a northwest wind. It was a nuisance. The wind was just enough to require occasional correcting strokes. I eventually just dropped my skeg to deal with the weather cocking. (For no logical or explainable reason, I loathe using my skeg.) TM's new Explorer's skeg had been removed over the weekend (it has failed twice in the few months he's owned it and the system was out for repair), so he was forced to keep correcting. Fortunately for him, the Explorer tracks well.
After rounding the northern point of Jamestown, the wind became more than a nuisance. It was now working on the Q-Boat's stern which is exceptionally susceptible to wind pressure. While the naked back deck of the Q-Boat doesn't offer much for the wind to grab, the spare paddle and the bilge pump stuck under the bungee cords do. The stern portion of the hull is flat and does not need much encouragement to slide around. Even a little well placed wind pressure will weather cock the kayak. I continually tried to adjust the skeg to neutralize the wind, but I just couldn't find the right amount of skeg to apply. It was frustrating and tiring. I wasn't looking forward to fighting this for 10 miles.
By the time we reached the Newport bridge, I was feeling the strain. My shoulders and obliques were starting to burn a bit. A urinary emergency was building, likely caused by the DD Great One I consumed on the drive down. I was beginning to get a bit fidgety. My stomach was starting to grumble. One foot was asleep. I was feeling wimpy considering we'd only been in the kayaks for three or so hours and had only covered about twelve miles.
To keep from mentally collapsing, I focused on reaching Jamestown center: restroom & lunch break. With a goal in site, the aches subsided and my mind calmed. Tim's presences helped immensely too. It is a great thing to have company.
Long haul paddling, like any endurance activity, is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. I cannot imagine how guys like Chris Duff manage to do major solo expeditions without going batty. Or just quitting.
Lunch at Jamestown was uneventful. We didn't want to linger too long lest we get too chilled. We also didn't want to waste too much day light. Crossing the west passage in the dark, after a twenty mile paddle, was not a happy thought.
After lunch, we continued south towards Beavertail. We were feeling better after eating and walking around for a bit. Sometimes, you need to get out of the cockpit for a spell. It also helped that the wind seemed to have settled down-the island was shielding us from it.
However, we were still feeling a little tired. The air was a little chillier and the fog was thickening.
Mackerel Cove was our point of no return--our safety hatch. We'd either turn into the cove, carry over the beach, and paddle home, or we'd continue around Beavertail. I was prepared to go around Beavertail, but wasn't sure it was the wisest path. TM was also postponing the decision.
We made it about half way across the mouth of the cove before TM made the call. We were turning into Mackerel Cove and taking the short-cut. The fog looked impenetrable at Beaver Tail. It was getting late in the day (3:30pm). We were not at our freshest.
While we wanted to complete the big loop, we'd be taking unnecessary risks. There was likely to be fishermen out at Beavertail. If the fog held, or got denser, we'd have no way to see them or judge the conditions. We'd also be risking the fog moving up the Bay and blinding us as we tried to cross back to Bay Campus. If we were fresh, we may have been more capable of dealing with the adverse conditions. Instead we were well-worn.
Kayaking is fun and a good escape from the pressures of life. It is not a good way to die--at least not yet. I've got too many other good things to want to take stupid risks.
So, we crossed over the beach watched by a couple of kids who were playing in the sand with their grandmother. While, many people would have given us strange looks (two men wearing funny suits and carrying funny looking boats out of the water on a rainy day is pretty strange) the kids waved and went back to playing. The grandmother waved and asked if we were enjoying ourselves. We were.
On our way back to Bay Campus, we lingered a while at the Dutch Island Lighthouse. They are doing some major restoration work on the it. It looks like they are going to put a new light in the tower. I'm psyched to have a new beacon shining over one of my favorite put-ins.
We made the short cross over the Bay Campus and closed our 2o mile loop. Despite the weary burn in my muscles, I had to do a roll before getting out. The roll was surprisingly easy.
It was definitely time to get out of the water. I good roll is a perfect way to finish a solid day of paddling.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Barking Crab

Bridge in the Mist

Today was the annual Barking Crab paddle. I scheduled it early this year hoping to get some better weather and I changed the put-in to add some distance and scenery. I also made sure the Crab knew a group of kayakers was going to show up for lunch.
The changes were a mixed blessing. The weather was warmer than in past years, but the morning was gray and raw. After lunch, the weather cleared up and turned exceptional. The new put-in location resulted in a few people getting lost. The new location, at the CRCK kiosk on Soldier's Field Road, had plenty of safe parking and did offer exceptional views of Cambridge.
With a total of 17 kayaks, it was a large group. I feared that it would get hard to manage that large a group. My worry was unfounded. Most of the paddlers had been on the trip before and knew the drill. (H was one of the few Barking Crab virgins.)
We wended up the Charles, through the canoe lagoon next to the Esplanade, through the old locks, under the Zakim Bridge, through the locks, past the Boston waterfront, and into Four Point Channel. We had a pleasant lunch and actually managed to figure out the bill without fisticuffs. Then we returned home following the same path.
The return journey was the better of the two legs. The ride in the locks was more dramatic. The weather turned warm. The group spread out just far enough so paddlers who wanted quiet could avoid the chatter boxes.
After the paddle H and I had people back to our new abode for cake and coffee. It was a great time. People who usually dash off after paddles came for the after paddle. We were happy that people seemed comfortable and enjoyed themselves.