Pavilion Beach (Ipswich MA) to Sandy Point (Newburyport MA) kayak trip log

23 08 2009

Paddle a lot or a little, and check out the house boats and boat scene while spending some time hanging out on Sandy Point.

When:

August 1, 2009

Launch point:

Pavilion Beach, Ipswich

Tide/Current:

Between low and high (isn’t too strong in that location)

Trip length:

About 3 hours – but it’s a very short paddle across (like 10 – 15 minutes) to Sandy Point to Pavilion Beach – then explored for about 1 hour, hung on the beach for an hour and paddled back.

Log:

We wanted a low key paddle – so we decided to take our bocce balls on board on a rec paddle from Pavilion Beach to Sandy Point at Plum Island. After leaving the beach, we headed diagonally left – north, then east to the opposite coast. There are many houseboats out there (check them out in later photos) — but notably, there’s a residential house on Plum Island that we never knew was there (because there are no other houses out there):

Dream house location - wow!

Later that week, in a wine-fueled, late-night history session with longtime Newburyport residents/real estate experts (who we’ll keep anonymous so we can do it again soon!) – we learned that houses out on Plum Island (where once were many) must stay in the original family, and once those people pass on, the houses are destroyed and the land becomes part of the Refuge. Or something like that. There are probably more details about all that, but for some reason, we don’t remember them.

Anyway, we followed a picturesque channel past that lone house. The channel was super shallow – but we’re used to that, due to our habit of paddling around low tide. Well, to be clear, our habit is more about paddling in the afternoon, so on a regular basis, that means we’re paddling at low tide.

Sing it with us: "Low tide-er don't move too fast now..." (Like Low Rider? Get it? Get it?)

Sing it with us: "Low tide-er don't move too fast now..." (Like Low Rider? Get it? Get it?)

As soon as we got into the channel, the noise of the boats in Plum Island Sound faded away and it was quiet and idyllic.

Wildlife taking refuge from annoying kayakers.

Wildlife taking refuge from annoying kayakers.

We thought we might make it through the channel to this big pond we saw on the map. The funny thing about looking at maps vs. actually going somewhere is that sometimes, bodies of water that you think might connect…don’t. And you find this:

No admittance.

No admittance.

We got out and explored a little. Here’s the pond we were trying to reach:

The pond at the south end of Plum Island.

The pond at the south end of Plum Island.

And we looked around a bit more — Patrick had some of his own ideas about where the exploring expedition should go.

Hint: Don't take listen to men wearing life jackets in fields.

Hint: Don't listen to men wearing life jackets in fields.

We found the road that leads to the house we saw. There was a sign saying “area beyond this sign closed” — but as Hannah, the daughter of a folk-music-maven, knows – we had to check the other side. Sure enough, on the other side, it didn’t say nothing.

This side was made for you and me.

This side was made for you and me. (or H & P, in this case.)

Have no fear though, law-abiding readers – our trespassing ended shortly after taking this picture. We made our way back to the kayaks and headed out.

At the end of the channel, we veered left along the shore of Sandy Point, aka boat world. Many boats were anchored, full of responsible families and groups of jolly friends who were definitely not drinking and boating. No, not them. We pulled up, unloaded our bocce balls, slathered on some Skin-So-Soft to keep away the greenhead flies (totally works), took out our very responsibly-mixed adult lemonade (with just a touch of spice), and set up camp for awhile….before beelining back across to Pavilion Beach (a short paddle, thankfully) at the end of the day.

Camp NKR (Newburyport Kayak Report) on Sandy Point. Check out the houseboats offshore, too!

Camp NKR (Newburyport Kayak Report) on Sandy Point. Check out the houseboats offshore, too!

Sandy Point essentials: Skin So Soft (for greenhead protection - it really works too!) and "lemonade" so we can keep up with the other boaters.

Sandy Point essentials: Skin So Soft (for greenhead protection - it really works too!) and "lemonade" (so we can keep up with the other boaters.)

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Up the Merrimack River, jumping rock and eagle’s nest with Jamie! (Newburyport MA) kayak trip log

15 08 2009

Hannah’s friend Jamie came out to play in the kayaks (Patrick was off playing softball.) We went up the Merrimack, where we discovered a jumping rock, an eagle’s nest and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Route map

When:

July 26, 2009

Launch point:

Cashman Park, Newburyport MA

Tide/Current:

We left about an hour before high tide, headed up river, and rode the tide back out.

Trip Length:

About 2.5 hours

Trip Log:

We launched from Cashman Park in Newburyport. We ended up awkwardly launching from the park wall, which I’m not sure I’d do that way again (though it worked out fine.) There’s a busy pay boat launch and parking lot here too (the highly un-enthused teenage boys minding the ramp didn’t have any information to offer about the best place to launch kayaks there.) However, after our awkward launch, we noted another ramp to the far left of the paid boat launch that is probably worth investigating.

Awkward launching at Cashman Park (I'm sure there's a better way.)

Awkward launching at Cashman Park (I'm sure there's a better way.)

Anyway – we headed up river, bearing to the right to go into the back channels behind Ram Island and Carr Island. I’ve paddled through here before – but had never seen a crowd at the big rocks. This day, there were maybe 4 speedboats anchored and 15-20 people of all ages jumping and diving off the rock. We were going to pass it by, but Jamie suggested stopping. I was all for it. We pulled our boats up – and just then, it started to rain. (The forecast had warned of that, but Meteorologist Hannah had determined that we had a few hours  before things got dicey.) The rain passed pretty quickly though, thank goodness.

The jumping rock rocks! It’s about a 12 – 15′ drop and there’s a handy painted arrow showing where to jump. I would imagine it’s best done around high tide (that’s when we were there) — and like all times jumping off high things into bodies of water…be careful (and we assume no liability for telling you about the jumping rock.) We both jumped and the rush was thoroughly enjoyable!

Jamie jumps off the rock!

Jamie jumps off the rock!

Hannah jumps off the rock (note the attention to form).

Hannah jumps off the rock (note the attention to form).

We also learned that there’s an eagle’s nest just across from the jumping rock! Bonus! With an eagle and baby eagles in it! That was very exciting for Jamie…and for Hannah, who, without glasses on, was willing to believe that the fuzzy dark shape in the tree was an eagle.

The eagle family enjoying it's 5th story open-concept nest with surrounded by nature, with a fabulous view of frolicking humans in the Merrimack River.

The eagle family enjoying it's 5th story open-concept nest with a fabulous view of humans frolicking in the Merrimack River.

The kind of view the eagle's get to "enjoy." Surprisingly, they seem fine with it.

The kind of view the eagles get to "enjoy." Surprisingly, they seem fine with it.

As we left the rock, we paddled up the Merrimack, circling around Deer Island, under the “chain bridge” and gawking at the awesome house there. We came back down through the back channel again — passing by the rock — this time arriving around the same time as an “eco tour” boat full of tourists came to look at the eagle. Lucky them also got to experience Jamie and Hannah taking silly pictures with the camera.

Is this what people mean by "lost in the weeds"?

Is this what people mean by "lost in the weeds"?

We headed back for Cashman park – enjoying the Newburyport skyline and landing just as it started to thunder. Another great trip!

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Joppa Flats (Newburyport MA) to Salisbury State Reservation (Salisbury MA) and Tall Ships!!!!

27 07 2009

We went from Joppa Flats to the Salisbury State Reservation, where three tall ships were visiting the Maritime Festival! We got up close and personal with a tall ship (though had left our wallets behind, so couldn’t take the actual ship tour.)

Route Map

When:

July 25

Launch Point:

Joppa Flats on Water Street – 7 to 10 free public parking spaces (hard to tell with a few of them whether they’re public or belong to the house)

Tide/Current:

We weren’t really paddling with the tides — but it all worked out (I think due to a more slack tide around high tide.) We left 1.5 hours before high tide at 1:20,  arrived at Tall Ships at 2:30, left shortly after high tide (3ish), back by a little after 4.

Trip Length:

About 2.5 hours – paddle was a bit over an hour (1:10?) each way

Trip Log:

We left from Joppa Flats, a popular spot that we’ve never tried. There was a little parking spot shuffle when we got there, with folks coming and going, but it all worked out well. In general, around that ramp, there were many kayakers and the mood was friendly with a feeling of camaraderie.  We headed out into the Merrimack – where you definitely need to be careful due to the water, weird waves, currents, rips and significant boat traffic. We wouldn’t really recommend this paddle for beginners…though some days it’s totally calm out there and would be fine. It really varies by day! Just watch for boats. You can see the channel markers and the boat traffic makes the “road” into Newburyport harbor pretty clear.

So, we paddled right (kind of northeast) at a diagonal, then looked for a break in the boat action and took a quick direct line across the main channel.  Then we paddled along the Salisbury coast up toward the beach. We passed a semi-psychedelic red triangle thingy that Patrick wants on the front of his future rock album cover.

Pyramid on Salisbury coast.

Pyramid on Salisbury coast.

We were able to see the Tall Ships before we even started. As we paddled toward them, they got closer and closer — and traffic increased significantly. There were planes flying ad banners overhead and so many boats that it was actually a touch loud and fumey. Actually scratch “a touch” – it was loud and fumey.

But worth it as we got closer and closer to the ships. (That’s an airplane banner in the left corner.)

On the approach to the Tall Ships.There were boats of all sizes – and tour boats produce a big wake, even traveling slowly. More than we’ve ever seen it (apparently, we weren’t the only ones who thought the water approach to the tall ships might be cool.)

Patrick keepin' up with the speed boat traffic in the Merrimack.

Patrick keepin' up with the speed boat traffic in the Merrimack.

The tall ships were moored to a dock, close to the beach. We were able to get right up close and check them out (we stayed to the front due to the dicey waves that the mouth of the Merrimack is known for). Check out the cool figureheads!

Check out the anchor and two figureheads (or maybe they're not both called figureheads?)

Check out the anchor and two figureheads (or maybe they're not both called figureheads?)

Two other kayaks had landed on the beach, so we pulled in next to them. They had Tarpon 120s similar to Patrick’s and we chatted for a while with Scott and Debby (hi!) Debby took this photo of us:

Hannah & Patrick by the Tall Ships

Hannah & Patrick's tall ship pose.

They were offering tours of the ships (all three for $5!) — except that neither of us had thought to bring any cash. So, we just looked at them from the outside.  We figured, hey, we both went on grade school field trips to old Ironsides…ya seen one old ship, ya seen ’em all, right? Just kidding, mom. (Hannah’s mom is a tall ship aficionado.)

There were some pirates walking around, and we’d apparently missed an earlier “pirate battle” demonstration. There seemed to be a significant number of people in costumes — mostly pirate and lady pirate type getups — maybe that’s the norm at Maritime Festivals? (The ships were part of the Salisbury Maritime Festival.)

After chatting for a while, taking pictures and wolfing down granola bars (for strength) — we headed back out on a route similar to how we came in, along the Salisbury edge, then skirting back across to Joppa Flats.

A great kayak with a very unique view!

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Plum Island Bridge to Riverfront Festival at Waterfront Park (Newburyport MA) kayak trip log

12 07 2009

The Riverfront Fest is a free outdoor multi-band annual event in Newburyport, put on by our adult contemporary alternative station formatted for the reluctantly aging North Shore 30+ set. We only occasionally listen to WXRV, so usually manage to miss the build up to the event until the actual day, when we’re clued in by all the people walking around with coolers and jockeying for parking in front of our house….or when one of our adult contemporary friends asks us if we’re going. Anyway, this year, we managed to kayak in.

Route Map

When:

July 11

Launch Point:

Plum Island Bridge, free parking (a good spot around high tide…notsomuch at low.)

Tide/Current:

We left 1 hour before high tide, riding the current in. We were in Newburyport Harbor area around high tide for about 30 minutes hearing music, then paddled back out…in theory going back with the outgoing tide, but the wind ensured that it didn’t feel like a free (current) ride at all. The last end under the bridge (against outgoing tide) requires fighting a quick current, but it’s a short stretch…

Trip length:

2 hours, 40 minutes (with about 20ish minutes of floatin’ time downtown)

Trip log:

We were in the mood for a short trip — and since it was Riverfest Day, wanted to get behind the stage area. Given the high tide at 3:07, we planned to follow the tide in and back out. We launched from a lot by the Plum Island bridge, where there were probably 10-15 cars with kayak roof racks. Nice launch spot at higher tides:

Patrick pulling away from the Plum Island bridge launch.

Patrick pulling away from the Plum Island bridge launch.

We headed left out of the river, toward the Newburyport harbor area. On the way, we saw a plane take off from Plum Island Airport and do a few unexpected dips and turns:

A small plane taking off from Plum Island airport surprised us with some moves.

A small plane taking off from Plum Island airport surprised us with some moves.

It was a little choppy as we made our way into Newburyport, heading straight in to stay with the current. As we got toward the park, people and boats lined the River walk area. There were many boats trolling around. Around high tide, we passed an outgoing Plum Island kayak tour. We floated by waterfront park for a few songs from the Sam Roberts Band. It turned out to be really good, sunny day music!

Patrick floats behind the stage at River Fest (note the drummer's arm up in the air behind Patrick.)

Patrick floats behind the stage at River Fest (for perspective, note the drummer's arm up in the air behind Patrick.)

We headed back out of Newburyport harbor, past the yacht club and checking out the homes near the water. We spent the minutes leading up to this shot figuring out what the hell we were approaching. Then, as usual, Patrick went in to investigate:

Patrick communes with the Newburyport penguins

Patrick communes with the Newburyport penguins

We continued to hug the coast by the Joppa flats, back behind Plumbush Downs toward the bridge. It was windy and it felt like we were in a little but of a current, but nothing too strong. As we rounded the coast right to go back under the Plum Island bridge, a few boats roared through. We saw oncoming jet skis and approached with caution:

Jet skis coming through the Plum Island bridge...politely (for once.)

Jet skis coming through the Plum Island bridge...approach with caution.

We pushed back through the current under the bridge to the launch. As Patrick was ramming his boat into the shore for the second time (he didn’t like his landing angle the first time) – he caught air and flipped the boat and fell out in a foot of muddy water. I could not stop laughing and so wish I could run my mental video of that moment.

Patrick collects himself after crash landing his kayak.

Patrick collects himself after crash landing his kayak.

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Lowell MA Fireworks Paddle – kayak trip log

12 07 2009

Patrick, Hannah, Conor and Mary (Hannah & Conor’s mom) went on Plum Island Kayak’s fireworks padde out of their new location in Lowell.

Route Map

This was just hours after our epic Crane’s Beach circumnavigation (we were late because of that trip!), so we were glad that this was a mellow paddle. We gently looped around the Rourke Bridge, then hugged the shore and drifted toward the fireworks. The hardest part was that we had to keep back-paddling and looping around, as we kept drifting too far down river. It was also a a fairly sizeable group of 40 or so people, so drifting into others was a common occurrence, too. In all, just a beautiful night of paddling with lit up boats sparkling across the water and hanging on Plum Island Kayak’s sweet deck afterward.
Mary&ConorWatchFireworks





Castle Neck (Crane Beach) Circumnavigation (Ipswich, Essex MA area) kayak trip log

12 07 2009

Great route, though next time, we’ll time it much differently. We thought we knew better than to fight the tide, but apparently we didn’t. Well, ok, it seemed to make sense at the time. This whole trip was tough slog – amid gorgeous-ness, though. As Patrick said for the next week or so “The seas were angry that day, my friend.”

Route Map

When

July 5, 2009

Launch Point

Pavilion Beach, Ipswich MA (directions)

Goal

Go around Castle Neck, aka Crane’s Beach

Tide/Current

Not ideal. We left at about 1 hour after high tide. (See below for gory details.)

Trip length

5 hours (generally estimated around 3 though, if you plan with the tides better)

Trip log

First, let’s talk about how you SHOULD time this (props to this Trail.com guide, BTW) : This trip in this direction is best if you do it at few hours before high tide…so you paddle along Crane’s Beach and go into the Essex Bay on the incoming tide — riding it up to Fox Creek. The currents change somewhere in Fox Creek, so I think it’s ideal to be in it around high tide, to ride out with the outgoing tide.

If you go the other direction, the word is to go down Fox Creek first, so when you get to Castle Neck River, you’re riding the tide out. Then you’re coming back up along Crane’s Beach (where the current is less strong) and only have to fight it a little bit to get back to Pavilion Beach. This was our plan. However, when we went right out of Pavilion’s Beach toward Fox Creek – the current was REALLY strong against us. We were basically paddling and not moving. Apparently, we should have fought through this to get over to Fox Creek (the first left after you get into the Ipswich River mouth). But instead, we decided to turn around and just go south in front of Crane’s Beach. We figured maybe we’d go down to the tip of Crane’s and just come back north through the ocean, skipping the circumnavigation thing.

First, there’s a lot of boat traffic around there. A lot. And it’s a river mouth, which means waves and weird currents. So everything was a little crazy – with waves, boats and lots to pay attention to. Once we started going south in front of Crane’s, the waves were pretty big, it was very windy and it was choppy. This picture is taken during a more calm moment:

Patrick kayaking by a very crowded Crane's Beac\h

Patrick kayaking by a very crowded Crane's Beach

…but in general, it was really choppy. When we stopped at the tip of Crane’s Beach, which is stunningly gorgeous, it seemed like heaven. Just to drive home that “choppy point” – check out the crazed look in Patrick’s eyes right after we stopped:

Patrick contemplates the angry sea from a heavenly Cranes Beach vantage point.

Patrick contemplates the angry sea from a heavenly Cranes Beach vantage point.

We were a little adrenaline rushed to really stop and linger (plus we had limited time to hang)…but we’ll get back there. It’s just amazing.

Cranes Beach at the uncrowded end. Stunning.

Cranes Beach at the uncrowded end. Stunning.

We really did not want to go back through the crazy sea. It was seriously rough out there. So, knowing that we’d need to fight the current on the other side, we decided to press on with the circumnavigation.

When we rounded the corner up Castle Neck, it was about 2 hours after high tide – so we were going against the outgoing tide. Not ideal. It was not just a little tough. It was really hard. It was epic. We ended up getting out of our kayaks and walking through the increasingly shallow edges of the river. We passed by the Long Island dock, around to the left toward Fox Creek. The bonus was a lack of boat traffic, due to the low tide. Going around Choate (Hog) Island was sooo beautiful — quiet, birds, sandy beaches, picturesque structure that must have something to do with the whole Choate Island scene:

Structure on Choate/Hog Island.

Structure on Choate/Hog Island.

I guess this is technically on Round Island or Long Island. I still don’t know a lot about the island..except that you can stop at the wharf at Long Island and explore (wish we’d had time to) and it was used in the 1996 movie version of The Crucible (shout out to sophomore year reading requirements!)  I don’t know much more as I didn’t get a chance to read any plaques that might enlighten me. Fighting the current and the time…which was getting disturbingly late…we couldn’t stop.

We made it around to Fox Creek and into the right channel. This is key! There are some decoy channels before it. Look for the No Wake Strictly Enforced Sign.

Dream sign: Kayakers only!

Dream sign: Kayakers only!

You’ll also come to a cement bridge pretty quickly:

Patrick on the approach to Fox Creek bridge (which means you're in the right creek.)

Patrick on the approach to Fox Creek bridge (which means you're in the right creek.)

We were in Fox Creek maybe 2 hours before low tide. That was not close enough to high tide. So, Fox Creek involved intervals of very shallow creek paddling along with dragging our kayaks through muddy channels.

Fox Creek bridge 2ish hours before low tide. Mmmm...rocky kayaking ahead, kids.

Fox Creek bridge 2ish hours before low tide. Singalong with us: Just like a bridge over nooo water....

Just generally not the pleasant ride it would be with water. Those guidebooks aren’t kidding when they recommend being in it a few hours on either side of high tide.

The end was nice (maybe because we could almost taste the end of our journey). shallow and sandy, with some picturesque pilings:

Shallow Fox Creek with things to take pictures of.

Shallow Fox Creek with things to take pictures of.

We finally made it around to the other tip of Crane’s Beach (north), where we stopped amoung speedboats full of families, with screaming kids, sunning moms and self-medicating dads with cans of beer perma-melded to their hands. We washed off our very muddy and scratched up boats (fiberglass boaters would have cried), took a quick dip to wash the mud off ourselves and blasted for Pavilion Beach.

This was an excellent route, but our decision to go against the tide definitely was not good. The windy weather made for a crazy leg along the beach and that whole area is definitely not for beginners. Many lessons learned — as if we needed further reinforcement about never fighting the tide!!

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Coastal play kayak, Pavilion Beach to sand bar, big waves…ruined electronics (Ipswich, MA)

3 07 2009

When I (Hannah) bought my sit on top kayak ’round…2001 or so, it was labeled as being designed for “coastal play.” I think the kid at Kittery Trading Post mentioned surfing on it. I haven’t had much success with the “surfing” per se, but it’s great in the waves. Thank goodness! This kayak trip was full of waves.

Route Map

When

July 3, 2009

Launch Point

Pavilion Beach, Ipswich MA

Goal

Check out Pavilion Beach area, paddle around Sandy Point (since we hadn’t quite made it the other day.)

Tide/Current

We launched about midtide, maybe 3 hours before high tide.

Trip Length

About 2 hardcore hours

Log

Pavilion Beach is great. You can launch at the north (far left) side of the beach and it’s a chill scene. We headed out, being careful of the significant boat traffic in the Ipswich River. We headed to this sand bar off of Crane’s Beach, got out and had fun taking cool yoga pics. Wish I could show you them…but…well, let me continue. We left the sand bar heading out to sea, which was exciting, with biggish swells and some fun waves around the sand bar. Actually, beautiful waves…if you’re into that sort of thing.

From the sand bar, we headed toward Sandy Point, staying to the outside of the beach around Lot 7 and 6 area. There were some pretty big waves and the beach looked really inviting. (I’m not even certain that you’re allowed to land on that beach and/or be careful if you do given the swimmers.) Let’s just say getting in on the waves was not for the faint of heart. We both capsized — Patrick a bit further out, testing that whole “if you fall off a sit on top you can just climb back on theory” — which is true! It’s not a total walk in the park in biggish waves (maybe 4′?) – but he climbed back on and kept going toward the beach. I was doing great until the final wave, when I got rolled and tumbled ass over tea kettle crash landing onto the beach at Plum Island. Way to make an entrance. Thank GOODNESS we stowed the day pack (with iPhone, map, water, etc.) in Patrick’s Tarpon 120’s watertight kayak cargo space (in the hull) – some of our stuff stayed totally dry and safe. Other stuff <sniff> didn’t. Patrick waterlogged his phone and my camera also went.

Our kayaks are pretty good in waves, but that whole experience makes me not want to try any real extreme kayak surfing. My kayak is 15 feet long and kinda heavy (60-65 lbs), which makes it hard to control on the waves. Depending on what you’re into…be careful out there!

Getting back out from the Sandy Point/Lot 6 area was no picnic either — going straight back out through the waves was intimidating (strong waves), so we went over rocks, to launch off Sandy Point (not facing the open ocean so less intense waves). I don’t recommend going over the rocks near the water, like we did. We shoulda portaged up on the beach across to Sandy Point…or better yet, not even landed on the beach with those waves.

Anyway – we made it off the Southeast corner of Plum Island and started back toward Pavilion Beach. We were wet, tired and a little done with adrenaline rushes for the day…then the thunder started. We knew we had to get in due to incoming weather, but actually hearing thunder was a little off-putting. I consoled myself by noting the many other, much taller boats than us in the harbor. Anyway – all was fine, we made it back (and it didn’t storm for hours, in fact.)

All in all, a wet, ride that was some serious “coastal play.” If we’d just stuck with the sand bar and omitted the whole crazy wave capsizing beach landing, it would have been a pretty mellow, easy, rewarding short trip from Pavilion Beach a bit before low tide (or even the mellow side of Sandy Point.) The sand bar rocks!

Moment of sadness for hundreds of dollars of electronics:

Sad Electronics

Sad Electronics