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Short Tour of Boston Harbor 12-16-04


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For a cold, windy Thursday in December, assembling a group of five paddlers who hail from locations as far flung as Essex to Hanson to Framingham would have been practically a coup. The state of the economy is in large part responsible for this being possible. It did not, however, come off as planned. One unfortunate was unable to join the trip due to physical illness. The rest were merely mentally ill.

We met at Boston's venerable City Point and launched around 10:30 with a ten knot breeze from the southwest making for sub-freezing wind chill conditions. The weather service had promised a steady southwest breeze all day, with an increase in wind speed likely for the afternoon. We decided on a clockwise course that would start with a nice downwind surf out to Long Island Light, and end with another downwind surf back to City Point from the south end of Thompson's Island. We sort of glossed over the middle part.

The wind kicked up some two-foot chop that made for some decent rides on the way out past Spectacle Island to Long Island. We stopped at the old fort on Long Island for a short break and to discuss where to head to next. We decided to round the tip of Long Island and slog back upwind to Rainsford for a lunch break. We made this short trip in a now-steady 15 knot headwind, but found a rocky landing in the lee of Rainsford Island to grab some lunch. (This proved to be the only opportunity for "rock play" all day, unless the concrete abutments of the Long Island bridge qualify.)

At lunch, we discussed testing a new safety/signaling device. None of us were carrying any orange dye, but Mark's sandwich of smoked mackerel and raw onions suggested the possibility of trying a green miasma of fish and onion breath as a distress signal. (Certainly his companions were distressed by it.) The tests were inconclusive as none of the other paddlers would get close enough to the test subject to see him over the horizon.

The paddle back under the Long Island bridge, along Moon Island and then around Thompson's was windy but uneventful. The planned downhill run back to the put-in was less than scintillating as the wind decided we had beaten it and gave up completely just as we were about to mount it and ride it home. Typical!

As we returned to City Point at high tide, two of us paddled into Pleasant Bay, through the sluice-gates in the dam, as the water was high enough to get in. We hit it very near slack, as almost no water was moving through. A relatively rare opportunity, I thought.

Our trip distance was 11.3 miles.

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be careful playing around the outlet next to the "Sugar Bowl." On a dropping tide, the walls on that outlet create the same hydrodynamics of a "low head dam." The recirculation there is a potential keeper. The other outlet is fun one to play around on ferrying and eddying. Even some smaller standing waves to surf at mid ebbing tide.

Boston Harbor Island hopping is the best this time of year.


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Yes. The outlet closest to City Point and next to the The Sugar Bowl. The Bowl is the round concrete area where folks often sit to watch the view, or fish from.

At high tide, you cannot see the low wall that goes across the outlet. On mid ebbing tide, you can see the wall becoming more exposed and the water pours out from Pleasure Bay and drops over the wall. It's very similar to low head dam at that stage. Paddle too close, it's possible to get pull into the recirculation and be stuck there. Come out in a swim, you be may well be recirculating in the hydraulic 'til the tide turns.

The outlet nearest to Castle Island is the "fun" one. Relatively safe. The standing waves are right outside of the outlet. Of course, the waves are created by a couple of big boulders underneath that pushes the water up on the ebbing current. On the later stages of the ebb, it's quite possible to flip and bang your head on those boulders.


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