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LOCAL BETTY FIELD TRIP: Kayaking The Weir River Estuary

These early days of summer compel you to be outside. Urge you to ignore the laundry, leave the bills and recycling in a teetering stack, and let the screen door slam behind you. You need to soak up summer- save the sounds, the smells, and the feel of the sun on your skin, and release them memories when February takes its toll. So heeding Mr. Good's advice I packed a Bloomy Rinds sandwich and this> and went paddling.  

I braved Nantasket Beach Rotary traffic {7 minutes of circling} and rented a kayak here>.  

Betty Tip
: Ask them for a dry bag for the stuff you want to keep from getting wet. There's a small one to hang around your neck for your phone.   

The only style kayak they had left was a "sit on top" version. I'm used to the kind you hunker down in, below the waterline.  This type had a shallower hull and sat up on the water. I liked it. Lazy-easy to paddle, and a lot simpler to navigate in shallows and drag out on to beaches. I think I recommend it for casual paddlers. Grab one of the Weir River Estuary Park maps available at Nantasket Kayak or download it here> and get started.

Head into The Inner Estuary {which sounds very Da Vinci Code to me} towards the Hull windmill.  Immediately replace your "own a small clean farm in Vermont" fantasy with an "own a summer house in Hull" fantasy complete with a rack of kayaks, an outdoor brick oven, and a hammock. Yes, along with a core workout, kayaking gives you the ability to check out homes on the water without feeling like a complete stalker. Feel stealth.

Paddle past the east side of World's End to get into Porter's Cove.  You'll go through "The Narrows" where World's End and Hull are close together and the water currents can be strong.  I guess here I should say it helps to have a tide map or know when the tides are doing their tide thing…but anyone who knows me well knows that I can't read a roadmap much less interpret those crazy tide charts.  Stay near the shore, watch for rocks, you'll be fine.  Explore the two little islands you can see from the east trails at World's End, catch striped bass {evidently Porter's Cove is a very good place to do that- who knew?} drink your iced tea, apply a little more sunscreen. Feel carefree.

Betty Tip: Get a kayak with a bit of rope on the bow {I'm so nautical sounding, right?} so you can get out and tie up your kayak when you feel like it.

Now head towards the bridge into Hull, paddling under.  You are paddling along an ancient geological fault line. Admire the granite rock of Hingham on your right meeting the volcanic rock of Hull on your left.  Feel intelligent.  Paddle a little more, and on the left you'll see a gigantic pile of sticks on top of an old electrical pole.  It's an osprey nest.  Love how they incorporated a black plastic bag, fishing line, and a length of marine rope into their nest.  Make a mental note to look up osprey on Wikipedia so you know how endangered they are. Feel intelligent and touch with nature. Those old electrical poles {wood and old glass transformer tubes} mark the path of the first electric train in America. Feel intelligent and patriotic. Really, you could end the tour right here all impressed with your own damn self.  But you have a choice to make, paddle one, two or four hours:

1 hour: Inner Estuary.  Keep on paddling around here, watch heron, tiny silvery fish, soaring hawks, kelp…it's spectacular. Really.

2 hours, Choice #1: Weir River Channel
Head up the Weir River Channel, where the Weir River runs into the ocean. Paddle past other fantasy houses, this time big California-style architecture ones with infinity pools and cabanas.  Glam. As you paddle up river it gets very leafy and quiet with marsh grass on either side.  Modern California style is replaced by Maine saltbox and farmhouse style.  Feel time-travelerish.  


There is a narrow spot where you have to carry your kayak if it's low tide.  Again with the tide thing.  Don't let this deter you.  It's actually an old sluice lined with rock.  Up river from this spot was an iron ore bog.  Evidently they'd wash the iron from the sludge in this narrow sluice of faster running water.  Feel very first settler-like.  The water moves a little faster through these narrows, and I mean only a little faster.  It's not difficult to paddle going against the water, and on your way back when you're going with the tiny tiny "rapids" it provides a Suburban-Mom frisson of adrenaline.  Feel all extreme-sporty and keep going.  

Now it's getting narrower and twisty- and the fun really begins.  Head under Rockland Street via a very low bridge with a mossy pipe you must duck and paddle under {really, you have to be flat-ass on your back to get under it}.  Keep paddling past marsh grass, osprey calling out, herons diving away from you.  Do you hear trickling water?  turn the last bend and come to the Weir River dam at Foundry Pond.  Feel like the love child of Ponce de Leon and Magellan.  Really.

2 hours, Choice #2: Straits Pond
Head straight when you pass under the bridge into Hull farther into the Inner Estuary.  Pass a stretch of homes that make you feel as though you're in Maine, not following along Rockland Street.  Paddle past a tiny, hidden neighborhood street-access beach with a grassy lawn and a swimming pad.  Make a mental note to crash it on a hot day.  Feel insidery.  You're now going through the narrow Lyford's Lyking where there was once a herring trap.  Feel nostalgic for your Swedish/Scottish Nana who fed you pickled herring. Didn't have one of those?  Feel relieved. Pickled herring breath- blurg.

Paddle past those trails in the marsh grass that you see in the plein air paintings of Connie Cummings and Nancy Colella. Vow to see more shows at the South Shore Art Center. Feel cultured. Follow these narrow watery paths to their end, like a rainbow, to see what happens. Feel adventurous.  

Keep paddling and you'll eventually find yourself at West Corner, yes the one near Victoria's Sub Shop, Tedeschi and the antique shop.  You'll see several Dangerous! signs at this point. This is where a tide gate separates Straits Pond from the Estuary.  The water runs fast enough to have powered a grist mill back in gristy olden days, and here's where you really need to use caution.  The water rushes, there's a bridge, and it all looks more intimidating.  Run it, and you're dumped out into Straits Pond with swans and additional summer-home fantasy houses, heart beating fast with more than a little Suburban-Mom jolt of adrenaline.  Feel like you did something that scared you today.  Drink more iced tea, apply more sunscreen.

Now do it all in reverse, back to Steamboat Wharf Marina. Get a lobster roll at Lobster Express, or a piece of swordfish from Jake's for Chuck's Swordfish with Grapefruit Glaze and serve it with Katie's Perfect Paloma and Brown Rice with Sesame an Scallion.

Feel lucky to live here. I do.