Kayaker In The
Allow me to set the stage. My kayak is a Chesapeake
Light Craft Chesapeake 18 that I just completed last spring-I
finished her bright and I have to say she looks great (or did,
anyway). Some friends and I planned a kayak trip from the Hanover,
MA canoe launch down to Couch Beach in Marshfield, MA along the
Indian Head and North Rivers, about a two-hour leisurely trip.
They were camping there for the night, but I could only stay for
dinner and then had to get home. I planned on kayaking back up
the river on the incoming tide back to the Hanover launch. The
tide had begun to flood just after dinner and right around sunset
(the picture is of me beginning the return voyage) I began the
trip back to my truck. I wrote the following email to my friends
to let them know how my evening trip back to the Hanover launch
Sunset off Couch Beach, Marshfield
Okay, so I leave you guys in the midst of a spectacular sunset.
Really, you ought to have come along for a while. I've never been
on the river when it was so beautiful. The moon made the river
a ribbon of silver. Current gently pulling me along. Birds flying
overhead in the darkening sky. Wind just a slight warm breeze.
Peaceful, soothing, just lovely. Until the Washington Street bridge.
Then all hell broke loose.
How can the rapids be flowing against me when the tide is coming
in? And where did all those damn rocks come from. My guess would
be the current coming down the river actually is faster than the
flood until some time at mid tide. I had to fight like crazy to
get through the rapids under the bridge- all the while grinding
the bottom of my precious wood boat on the rocky bottom. I finally
got through, sweating my ass off and the current settled into
something I could easily overcome. Then the bottom kept on shoaling
up. Not rocks but lots of weed that slowed me down some.
Getting near the bend into the mouth of the Indian Head River
I got a little bit turned around and ended up floating in one
of those dead end cul de sacs until I realized that the river
was behind me. Remember- all this is happening in the dark. I
was surrounded by tall reeds and could not tell which way to turn.
I went to refer to my trusty GPS to point the way. Note to self:
replace batteries in GPS before trip. Dug around in my deck bag
looking for the replacement batteries that I am sure I threw in
there earlier. Second note to self: make sure you actually throw
the batteries into the deck bag. Scavenged batteries out of one
of the flashlights. No good, not enough juice. Finally I decide
I am fairly certain the turn is just ahead, so just forge onwards
without the benefits of modern technology. Hell, if the Indians
did it, so can I.
Turned the corner and scared up two geese resting on the riverbank.
In turn, they scared the crap out of me. Just as my heart is recovering,
a bass gets scared out of the reeds on the bank and does a kamikaze
run on the kayak. He actually rammed the boat trying to get away.
Then, thankfully, I finally found the entrance to the Indian Head
Everything goes smoothly for about 5 minutes until the weeds
in the middle of the river make it almost impossible to discern
what's river and what are blind leads that go to no where. Couple
of minor mis-directions, but I am going in the right direction.
When I finally think I've got it all licked, I run out of water.
Hard aground. I shine my headlight around to see what's about.
Two beady eyes light up in the reeds then scamper away. I figure
raccoon. Then I hear a coyote bay not to far away. Now I'm thinking
I may have some more serious issues. Then some bird starts making
wacky noises in the reeds on the other side of the river. I'm
feeling like Jim in one of those Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom
shows. You know- the guy that was always down with the wild animals
while Marlon Perkins rode safely above in the helicopter. Great!
News headline: "Man found eaten in beached kayak- investigation
into why he thought it was a good idea to paddle up a river he
doesn't know in the dark to follow."
Anyway, although the current is flowing briskly against me, the
tide is rising. While aground, I get out of the boat to get the
batteries out of the rear hatch (I KNOW I have extra batteries
in the rear compartment!). Without my weight in the boat, she
now floats... and floats away from me! I have to grab the painter
before the boat gets swept down stream into a particularly nasty
stump sticking out of the water. Boat now in hand, GPS now functioning,
I get back in and low and behold there's enough water to get over
the shallow spot I was stuck on. I get over this skinny stretch
and back into the "deep" water (in reality I'm poling,
not paddling, since the water is so low I hit bottom on every
stroke). GPS now shows me 100 feet from the goddamned pull out.
It's 9:00. I'm tired. I'm dirty. I'm fed up. I'm aground once
more. Dammit! Looking ahead there's a wall of rocks that won't
go under for hours. I figure the only way I'm getting home is
to walk it. So I get out of the boat (which will now float) and
tow her in. The boat will just fit through a channel between two
of the bog rocks in my way. Unfortunately, I don't notice that
the current has spun the boat into one of these big rocks, so
she has a nice long, deep scratch up her side. The side I spent
4 weeks finishing with spar varnish to a mirror like, cabinet
grade finish. Ugh! Finally, I win the landing and celebrate my
efforts with a big gulp of cold coffee from my to-go cup that
unbeknownst to me has some peculiar weedy thing stuck in the mouthpiece.
Yuk! What an altogether fitting end to an ill-conceived adventure.