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Kayaking on the South Shore


Kayaking: What's all the yakking about?

by Roger Good

There you are, driving down Route 3.  It’s July – hot and sticky - the kids are cranky and want to stop for ice cream. Coming at you from the opposite direction is an increasingly common summer sight, about every fourth car has a kayak on the roof. "What’s up with that? Should we be kayaking?  

The simple answer is “you bettcha!” Why? Because the sport is loaded with very appealing features: First, it’s a great workout, paddling builds tremendous core and upper body strength. Second,  it's healthy for mind and body, it's seductively meditative. Had a stressful day? Go out and paddle, enjoy nature from the water. It can renew, refresh, and provide time for personal reflection in a serene environment. All you’ll hear are birds, the rush of the water and your own thoughts...we all need that, right?

Kayaking is also very economical. Buy a boat, paddle, PFD {a personal floatation device- formerly known as a life vest} and a car rack - and you’re good to go! No expensive fuel, maintenance, dock slip, club membership, insurance, blah, blah, blah {OK .. you do need to put gas in your car to get to the put-in, but that's it}.  Also, it’s good for the environment – no exhaust, burning fossil fuels  – just paddle power.

Finally, the South Shore is a great location for taking up the sport of kayaking. According to National Geographic Adventure, Boston has been named one of the top ten urban kayaking cities in the country {read about it here>}. So, the only remaining question is: Where do I start?*

Like other sports there are many options, so here’s a quick overview:

Recreational Kayaks:
Known within the industry as ‘‘sit-on-tops” or ‘funyaks’, they’re probably the best boats for sampling the sport either on a lake or right in Hingham Harbor.  Recreational kayaks are inexpensive, starting as low as $230 {look for the sales} at places like Sports Authority in Braintree. They’re made of plastic, so if the kids drop one from the roof rack, mercifully nothing breaks. Some brands worth considering in the recreational market include Wilderness Systems, Necky and Ocean Kayak.

Betty Tip: Try before you buy!  There is nothing more frustrating than purchasing family kayaks and have them languish in the corner of the garage- because the kids would rather go biking.  Try a demo at Nantasket Kayak at Steamboat Wharf Marina  www.nantasketkayaks.com in Hull. They offer rentals and paddle trips for kids and grown-ups alike in sheltered waters around World’s End or in Hingham Harbor.

Touring kayaks:
Ok, you’re bored with the recreational boats – but  hooked on the sport - and ready to trade up for more:  Ocean kayak touring is the answer. These larger and more sophisticated kayaks reach 16’ to 17 feet and are designed with more tapered hulls, front and rear sealed hatches and an enclosed cockpit. Participants wear a ‘spray skirt’ for keeping water out of the boat and carry a paddle float and bilge pump - should one tip over.

These boats are designed to efficiently negotiate a variety of wind and wave conditions over long distances. The models and features of touring kayaks are extensive and like skiing or golf, dictate personal taste and usage. Prices for a good plastic touring kayak start at approximately $700 and can reach up to $3500 for composite models.

A great place to demo a full range of touring boats is Charles River Canoe and Kayak which is headquartered in Newton, MA and 5 other locations. CRCK features a very good paddle school, large inventory of new and used high-end kayaks for sale or rent, along with group outings and instruction in Cohasset and other South Shore locations. Another local kayak outfitter is Billington Sea Kayaks in the cranberry bog area of Plymouth. Doug, the affable owner, offers on-water demos and rentals, plus some great looking touring boats from Surge and Warren Light Craft.

Betty Tip: Pack a lunch, put-in at the Hingham town beach, and paddle over to World’s End for a picnic. Feeling adventurous? Try a longer paddle over and back to Steamboat Wharf in Hull for lobster rolls at Jakes or The Red Parrot.

White Water Kayaking:
Want a new adrenaline rush? Have we got a sport for you!  As the name implies, this is kayaking on a river, in a little stubby boat, with tame to raging currents depositing you downstream. Zoar Outdoor Adventures, probably one of the best outfitters in the area, offers a one-day novice white water kayak experience for the “I want to try, but may not buy” crowd. It’s on the Deerfield River in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.

Want your rush a little closer to home? AMC {Appalachian Mountain Club’s Boston Chapter} offers “pond socials” in Concord, MA. They’re defined as informal practices, socializing, and fun on a local pond. Read ‘non-threatening’ for the newly initiated.

Betty Tip: Curious, but not sold on white river kayaking? On a weekend, check the tide charts and when it’s going out, various white water groups meet at the Border Street bridge in Cohasset Harbor for practice. Taking a look at the action and talking to the various participants may make up your mind.

Kayak Fishing:
KF is one of the fastest growing sports on the water {technically it's a subspecies of recreational kayaking, only here you actually have something to take home other than a sunburn.} Check-out a good resource here>. Typically, they’re sit-on-top kayaks with outriggers to hold fishing rods, bait boxes and equipment. Some serious kayak fisher-people ‘trick out’ their boats with radios, night lites, electronic fish finders and beverage coolers. The appeal of kayak fishing is to stealthily approach fish without the threat of an outboard engine and hook the big ones. A good place to shop for one is R n' R Marine Supply on Lincoln Street in Hingham.  Abundant are the ‘fish stories’ of kayaks being dragged around ‘Nantucket slay ride’ style - while trying to wrestle a monster striped bass off Quincy Bay - when suddenly and suspiciously the line happens to break. The truth to these stories depends on who you talk to!

Stand Up Paddle Boards
Ok, they’re not kayaks, but worth mentioning here.  SUP’s are one of the hottest products in the water sports industry. You can see people paddling in Hingham harbor, Duxbury and all over the South Shore. Expect to see more. Stand up paddling is a wonderful cross-training workout because while you’re balancing on the board, you’re exercising your legs. Additionally, paddling works your arms and the core of your body. SUP’s also improve reaction time. Stand up paddlers have said that thirty minutes of SUP works your body better than several hours of surfing.

Betty Tip: Charles River Canoe and Kayak offers a 90 minute introductory session at Lake Cochituate in Natick and the Newton Boathouse all for $59…you can’t beat that!

OK, GO!  {A Short Attention Span Reference Guide}

Where to take Recreational Kayak Lessons:
Nantasket Kayak at Steamboat Wharf Marina  www.nantasketkayaks.com in Hull
REI holds seasonal lessons at World's End

Where to Rent Recreational Kayaks:
Nantasket Kayak at Steamboat Wharf Marina  www.nantasketkayaks.com in Hull

Where to Rent Fishing Kayaks:
Nantasket Kayak at Steamboat Wharf Marina  www.nantasketkayaks.com in Hull {you have to bring fishing gear, but there's a tackle shop down the block}

Put-In Your Rented Boat:
Hingham Harbor access: Hingham Bathing Beach on Rt 3A near the Hingham Rotary. Free parking.
Cohasset Harbor access:
Parker Avenue Town Boat Ramp. Go past Atlantica restaurant on Cohasset Harbor and proceed over the Border Street bridge. Parker Avenue will be your second left. Free on street parking  near Atlantica.
Cochituate State Park {freshwater lake kayaking} : Located in Natick, it is easily accessible by taking the Mass Pike to exit 13, Route 30 east and the park entrance is on the right. It is a great regional day use park that offers accessible beach, restrooms and kayak put-in. http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/coch.htm

Call for A Guided Tour
Nantasket Kayak at Steamboat Wharf Marina  www.nantasketkayaks.com in Hull
REI and World's End Trustees of the Reservation

Get a downloadable map of the Weir River Estuary here>

Get a Lobster Roll:
Lobster Express: End of Steamboat Wharf, Hull
Jake's: Marina Hull

* It should be cautioned here that kayaking does pose some inherent dangers, after all you're  out on the water. It is absolutely critical to always wear a PFD and take a lesson from a qualified instructor.