Saturday, November 28, 2020

Portsmouth Packraft Paddling

Piscataqua River- New Castle Island to west of Rt 95 Bridge, then back to circumnavigate New Castle, with stops to stretch my legs on Leaches Island, Fort Stark, and the point near the power plant west of Rt 95 bridge.


A little cargo ship was pushed into the pier right in my path. Don't I have the right of way!? 


I have fun riding the tugboats backwash as I go around.

11 miles, 8 hours, (about 6 hours paddling). Timed to paddle with the tidal flow in both directions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Walking on Fish

11/7 to 11/10  4 Days, 3 Islands- Shelter, Block, Fire, with Josh.









The fish were so thick to the horizon it looked like I could walk across the water on their backs. This was a massive school of Manhaden in Gardiners Bay, Long Island. It was a stunning sight to be boating through these riches of  the sea.

Fins protruding through the water for as far as I can see   


A closer look at the fish


Sat- We launch both boats from the Conn River and cross to Gardiners Bay on glassy water. We catch some small stripers, reveling in the warm, sunny, Indian Summer weather. Then we anchor in Cedar Cove on Shelter Island for the night.


Bonito Dinner
Sun- Block Island on Josh's boat. Josh pulls in 1 nice Bonito, 3 Black Sea Bass, 1 Scup.

On the return trip to Shelter Island we encounter a large pod of dolphins that swim and jump all around us. I can almost reach down from the bow to touch two of them as they jump gracefully in tandem. They clearly are a superior species to us clumsy humans.






Sun night dinner is Bonito cooked over a driftwood fire on Cedar Cove Spit. This is a kind of heaven.




Dusky Smooth Hound Shark
Mon- Both boats to Shinnecock Locks. When we go through the lock, the keeper says that they're only open from 5 to 11 am. What?!! That's a small time window to get back through on the return trip tomorrow!

We head to Fire Island, catch some small sharks just outside of the inlet to the island.

Mon Night- We get back to Shinnecock Bay at Sunset and struggle to find a secluded beach for a fire in the dark. We end up on a small tidal beach at the mouth of Middle Pond, not too far from some houses.

Just as our fish dinner is almost cooked on our small beach fire a boat pulls up with flashing lights and a Fire Dept stencil on the side. Officials in waders jump out and storm the beach. We're caught! Just like our fish dinner. But these guys aren't here to cook us. They got a report of 2 boats on the beach and wanted to make sure we weren't stranded. We're not stranded! As they leave one of them says, "you two are really living the life." Yes we are.


Tues- We head back to Connecticut River early while the wind is absent. We fish, no luck. I do some exploring and paddling around Griswold Cove. Is this November? I'm warm in just my bathing suit and sandals. What an extraordinarily warm, sunny, glassy, perfect 4 days! 

I racked up 145 miles, Josh did a little over 300.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

3 Boys Fishing

Boston Harbor- Josh takes me and Ben out on his boat for some fishing and sunsetting. Everybody lands at least 1 fish then we catch a spectacular sunset over Boston. It's a deep pleasure having the three of us out on the water together.


This trip is possible because we are all living together right now. We have a full household- Me, Barbara, Josh, Ben, and Josh's two dogs Georgie, Willow. We haven't lived together as a family since Josh was 16. He's 29. 

It's been a surprise how nice it is to live together as an adult family! No bickering, teasing, and infighting. Cooking together, watching favorite movies, boating. Who would have thought?

In a year of ups and downs I really want to savor these good times. You never know what life is going to throw your way next.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Fruit of the Sea

Columbus Day Weekend, Kennebec River and Maine Coast, with Josh, 10/9 - 10/12

Friday Night- Josh's trailer blows a tire on the drive north. Oh no! We're super lucky to find a mounted replacement tire on a Friday night at TSC co. We get to the ramp at 8:30, anchor our boats for the night near Lines Island, north of Bath on the Kennebec River and settle in for a calm peaceful sleep after a challenging start.

Saturday- We move my boat north to Swan Island, (unorganized territory of Perkins), then take Josh's boat to Boothbay Harbor to explore. Fun day! 


We end up with both boats anchored further north up the Kennebec at The Sands Island. We find a beautiful spot with a fire ring, stump seats, plywood table, and a sandy beach. Dinner, cooked over a fire, is steak, crab cakes, yams, and raw oysters for the appetizer. It was all bought that morning at a farmers market at the Bath Town Docks, where we stopped for our morning coffee/ breakfast. Serendipity.

The Sands Island

Sat Night- Thunderstorms! Josh has pitched a tent in the middle of his boat. He's zipped in with his 2 dogs watching a river of water flowing into the tent and back out. Somehow he stays dry enough to get some sleep. Who's crazy idea was this to sleep in our open boats? My homemade plastic canopy is actually pretty dry.


Sunday Morning Temp Around 32F   


Sunday- We fish in Josh's boat at the mouth of the river, just outside of the islands, landing 16 Pollock, very easy to catch with mackerel jigs. We stop at the Perkins Island Dock so Josh can try to find a creative fix for a cracked shift bracket. He kinda fixes it with no parts and almost no tools but the motor will no longer shift into reverse. I let the dogs run, leash free, on the island trails. Wow! It's great to see Georgie and Willow running free and wild, chasing the many small squirrels!


Perkins Island Dock










Sun Night- We're back at The Sands Island. Our Pollack catch makes for a big fish feast for us and 2 happy dogs. 


Collecting Ticks on The Sands Island


Monday- We go back to the ocean for another big catch of Pollack to take home. It's been a very special trip, eating the fruit of the ocean, with Josh and his 2 dogs! I cover 102 miles, Josh does just over 200 miles.

Plentiful Pollock!

Monday, September 7, 2020


Moosehead Lake, Labor Day Weekend, 9/3 - 9/7

A massive moose gives me a scare on my drive up! The monster comes out of the dark and lumbers across the highway directly in front of me. I don't have time to hit the brakes before I fly past him at 55 MPH, just inches away. That really gets my adrenaline going!

Thurs Night- I launch in the dark and tie up for the night at the Rockwood town dock, right at the boat ramp, not far from the sign that says NO OVERNIGHT DOCKING. Luckily I didn't see the sign in the dark.

Rockwood Dock, Mt Kineo 


Fri- I hike Mt Kineo, 1700 ft, Indian Trail. Nice views going up but it activates my fear of heights. I climb the lookout tower on the summit. It activates my fear of heights. North trail going down. No fears. Total 7 or 8 miles. Very nice hike.

Fri Night- Cowen Cove, super protected spot, pretty. Saw 2 bald eagles, heard the beautiful, eerie calls of loons.

Cowen Cove











Sat- I paddle Moose Creek, near Squaw Mtn. It's all about the Moose up here! Then very carefully motor through the, "HAZARD AREA", of Lily's Cove to anchor among the numerous rocks and shallows of Laker Cove. Another serene, secluded spot.

Breakfast on the Packraft










Sun- More paddling. This is the highlight of the trip. Glassy water, sunrise, winding my way through the sculpture garden of rocks, twisted stumps, and drift logs. I snorkle over piles of drift logs to immerse myself further. Then off to Lily's Cove State Park boat ramp for a 4 mile hike. Nice facility here with docks where they don't seem to care about overnight docking. 

Laker Cove Area


Sun Night- Back to Rockwood town dock because the forecast is for 30 to 40 MPH winds tomorrow and I don't want to be on the open lake. A steep chop kicks up very quickly here and the wind often seems a lot stronger than forecast. Now I have to knowingly ignore the overnight sign. No excuses.



Mon- I pull my boat early and admire the 30 to 40 MPH winds and blowing chop from the shore. Nice trip! 48 miles, 5.5 gallons gas, I saw less than half of the lake.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Kennebec Serenity

4 Days on the Kennebec River, Maine, 7/30-8/2

Thurs- Launch in Bath, boat to Fort Popham, walk Popham Beach. Get caught in a brief squall on the beach but no rain! Want to go for a paddle but the beach is closed to water use due to a fatal Great White attack. Overnight anchorage- in the cove near the fort.

Fri- A beautiful day hiking all around Swan Island, 10 or 11 miles. I paddle and swim before dinner. Overnight off Swan.

Swan Island Back Woods










Sat- I hike 4 or 5 miles around the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, walking all the fantastic gardens, mask worn for Covid danger. Overnight near Webber Island on Sasanoa River. Fullish moon, stunning night!

Don't let your boat look like this!


This looks better











Sun- Morning paddle around Webber and neighboring islands. Low tide here is particularly scenic. Feeling happy, immersed in sea, salt and sun. I want to keep this serenity with me wherever I go.   91 miles, 9 gallons gas.




Sunday, July 19, 2020

Block Island or Bust

7/19/20 Pt Judith to Block Island, Bucket List trip in my little boat!

Fri Night- Boat ramp at head of Pt Judith Pond to overnight anchorage 1/2 mile out behind the sea wall in Refuge Harbor. I kinda like that smell of seagull droppings on the rocks. It makes me feel alive.

Sat- Cross to BI in fog. Start at 4:45 with lights on. I keep my speed around 8 MPH when the fog is dense. This crossing might be a little reckless. If the BI Ferry comes out of the grey emptiness directly in front of me I'm probably done. It's very eerie entering the narrow opening to New Harbor on BI by GPS with no visual confirmation. I think the island is there somewhere. I'll know it if I hit it.

The fog lifts late morning. The Great Salt Pond is a mooring field of visiting yachts as far as far can be. So many boats! I unicycle and walk around the island. It's super crowded. So many people! Where does one go to find solitude around here?

Sat Night- I enter Harbor Pond on the mid tide to anchor for the night. Aint no big boats getting in here! It takes a little boat to own a secluded pond.

Sun Morning- Early return to Pt Judith in a gathering wind. At sunrise it's already 10-15 with light fog. Slow 2 hour crossing. The wind jumps to 20 plus and heavy fog moves in a little after I return. Yikes, close call! I really pushed my limits on this trip. I got lucky. Some day my limits might push back.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Nantucket by Bike

Sconset Light

10/19 to 10/21  Nantucket 3 day weekend with Barbara

Nantucket by bike. No car. This worked out really well. The island is just the right size to be explored by pedal power. There are scenic bike paths all over the island.

We had to avoid biking in the historic town. Cobblestones are not pedal friendly. Most restaurants were in hoofing distance from the B&B anyway.

Sat- Biked to 'Sconset Bluff Walk, nice walk. 25 miles of riding. Fun day.

Sun- Biked to Madaket. This had one of the nicest sections of path that I've been on, interesting Fall scenery. We curled up behind a deserted dune on Madaket Beach and meditated/napped to the call of seagulls and the whisper of waves.

The Chestnut House
We stayed at a charming B&B, the Chestnut House. Very nostalgic. We stayed here in our first year of Marriage, almost 100 years ago.

Mon- Whaling Museum for a rainy morning, headed home early. We wanted to do a beautiful 6 mile hike at Sanford Farm/Ram pasture but we got rained out. Beautiful weekend overall.

Brant Point Lighthouse

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Nantucket Dinghy Ride

Sept 13-15

A few other boaters told me not to even consider taking my 12' dinghy across the 10 miles of open ocean from Chatham to Nantucket. I took that as an invitation.

This was my furthest Island crossing and the first time that I couldn't see any land when I was in the middle of a crossing. It was a nice way to get in touch with a feeling of true insignificance in this vast world. I loved it.

Fri- Wind 10-15 MPH, ENE, gave me a following sea off my rear quarter for the crossing. I cruised at about 5 to 8 MPH. One piece of chop broke over my rear quarter from behind and got me a little wet but wasn't big enough to flood the boat. After that I kept one eye forward and one eye back. No problem. Anchored for night near Millbrook Creek, nice spot!

Kite spot near Pokomo, one boat for company
Sat- Kited near Pocomo, hiked to Alter Rock. I enjoyed the hike but not super scenic. Anchored for night in entrance to Coskata Pond, tide dependent.

Sun- W wind 5-10 for return, dropping to no wind, foggy. Easy crossing.

Entrance to Coskata Pond

I can take Nantucket off my boating bucket list! It's still a pretty long list.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Travels with Martha

Memorial Day Weekend- What a beautiful 3 days for boating and exploring Martha's Vineyard! How did I love the long weekend? Let me count the ways.

Had a super easy light wind crossing from Falmouth Sat Morning.
Visited Mytoi Japanese Garden on Chappaquiddick.
Kited at Katama Bay.
Anchored and took the Chappaquiddick ferry to Edgartown for a hot shower and supplies.
Walked most of the Joseph Sylvia State Beach looking for kite launches, found some.
Explored Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary by packraft and on foot.
Tied up at the Dinghy dock in Oak Bluffs for a Lobster Roll.
Had a super easy light wind crossing back to Falmouth Monday evening.

Mytoi Japanese Garden
  Friday Night- Falmouth, Eel Pond, off Waquiot Bay, N wind.
  Saturday Night- Edgartown, Chappaquiddick Point, in no wake zone, SW wind.
  Sunday Night- Sengakontacket Pond, Bran Point cove, SW, NW, NE wind.
    Next time- Anywhere around Felix Neck in Sengakontacket Pond, very quiet, pretty.
    Next time- Caleb Pond, off Katama Bay, a few houses but very scenic, not official anchorage?

Shear Pin Rd, Lighthouse Rd, and a fish. This must be Chappaquiddick.
Low Bridges
  Kennedy Bridge on Chappaquiddick- I fit under at dead low only.
  Sengakontacket Pond, Center bridge, (Jaws bridge)- I fit under at dead high or low.
  Sengakontacket Pond, North Bridge- I fit under at dead low only.
    I used to fit under all these bridges but my boat keeps growing, (windshield, roll bar).

Packraft on my roof. Now I don't fit under any bridges.
Motor trouble?
Yeah, it's still not running right.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Congrats Ben!!!

5/19/19  Ben- It seems like just a few minutes ago you were helping wooly bears cross the street. You were catching tadpoles and falling into vernal ponds. You were a tadpole yourself.

Now you're measuring the electrical potential of stem cells as they differentiate into bone or muscle cells. I don't know exactly what that means but I know that I've loved watching you grow into the miraculous adult version of yourself. Much love to a budding scientist!

Ben Cooper, Bachelors of Science in Biology, Summa Cum Laude, Highest Honers Thesis.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Chatham, Ups and Downs

4/27/19 Anchored in Stage Harbor- Winds blowing to 30, temp down to 42, no moonlight, patchy clouds and some drizzle. Yay, first night on the water this season.

After the clouds clear, the stars seem to burn extra fiercely in the black night sky. My winter sleeping bag is soft and toasty, perfect for these temps. I had almost forgotten how much I love sleeping on the boat. I'm in one of those, just happy to be alive moments.

Stage Harbor Sunset

That feeling lingers until the next day when I take the motor up to full throttle. It only hits 4400 rpm. The entire top end is gone. Along with my vacation plans to go to Nantucket for a week starting next weekend. I'm not making that trip with an unpredictable motor.

I also discover that the weepy leak on a seam I thought I fixed last year is still crying. Yeah, that about sums up boat ownership. A rapture of stars at night and tears in the morning.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hemlock Gorge

Paddling: Charles River, Newton at Needham St to Lower Falls pedestrian bridge.

Water was pretty high and fast. It was fun to paddle through the Hemlock Gorge! I just had to be careful to pull out before the falls. Those drops don't have a soft landing.

3.5 miles. 4 waterfalls to portage around. 2.5 hours including short walk back to my house from the river.

Waterflow was 650 CFS on Charles in Waltham.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

To My Packraft

12/9/18  This trip is to welcome you, my new Alpacka Raft, into my family of outdoor toys. I bought you to be a dinghy to my dinghy but that doesn't sound very flattering. I want you to feel appreciated for who you are. You weigh less than nothing, pack down to the size of almost nothing, but you're as tough as toenails. Your special! Welcome.

Groton, Ma- I paddle about 3 miles downstream on the Squannacook River then 2 miles downstream on the Nashua River. These 2 rivers make a big U. Then I deflate the raft, break down the paddle, throw the whole mess in a backpack and walk back 1.5 miles to my starting point. Definitely a fun way to ride the rivers!

Put in- Squannacook River below dam on Rt 225. Take out- Nashua River at Rt 225 bridge. 4 hours including walk back. Plenty of rapids and downed trees on Squanna. Current flow was roughly 200 CF/second, about double normal for Dec. Temp was just above to just below freezing.

My next fun adventure is cataract surgery.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Snow Boating

11/16/18 - 11/18/18   A weekend exploring the Connecticut River- Old Saybrook, Essex, Gillette Castle.  2 nights, 2 days. 
I drove thru a snow flurry on my way to the boat ramp on Friday. Hey you can't scare me away that easily.

Snowy Anchorage near Gillette Castle
Friday Evening- I left the boat ramp at sunset, headed north, pulled into the Essex Yacht Club as the last light was fading from the sky. I just wanted to ask for directions to the town dock but the manager, Bob, was fascinated by my "floating tent". 

We had a friendly chat and he offered to let me tie up there for the night. Wow, does that make my boat a yacht?! I walked into town for dinner and I was careful to mention to anyone in earshot that my powerboat was docked at the Essex Yacht Club. Just saying that seemed to add roughly 20' to the length of my boat in my mind. I was very impressed with myself for owning such a big boat.

Essex Buoys
Saturday- Northbound, I took Selden creek, the scenic route around Selden Island. I had plenty of water at mid tide. This narrow, secluded channel felt like a secret passage through a beautiful landscape painting.

Selden Creek
Further north, I hiked all the hilly trails around Gillete Castle in the new snow. It must be beautiful here in the Fall foliage season. It would be fun to see the inside of this funky eccentric castle when it's open to the public. 

North again, I stopped at East Haddam, before the bridge, and got some ice cream, perfect refreshment for a cold Autumn day. There isn't much else here in the tiny hamlet of East Haddam.

North, the Salmon River was pretty shallow on mid tide. This is when I started having motor trouble. It wouldn't run over 3000 rpm. I turned south to Deep River Marina and tied up to a small floating dock in Pratt Creek. 

During the night I noticed that the view had changed. I knew my boat was firmly tied to the dock so that shouldn't happen. Then I saw that the entire dock had pivoted 180 degrees around it's single anchor pole! Probably due to a change in the tidal flow. My boat was now up against the shallows. I raised the motor, checked the tide chart, which showed high water in the the morning, and slid back into my sleeping bag. If I got beached overnight, no problem, I'd be floating when I woke up. Life is good.

Frosty the Windshield, Sunrise on Pratt Creek
The temp was down to 30F overnight with zero wind. I was cozy and happy in my synthetic mummy bag with long underwear and hat and my heavy winter jacket thrown over the foot of the bag. In the morning it took about 1 hour of motoring before the thick layer of frost melted and dried off the windshield enough for me to see through it.

Sunday- I headed south to the mouth of the Conn river mostly keeping my motor under 3000 rpm to keep it running. I checked out almost all of the Lieutenant River, paddled the marsh in the Great Island Wildlife Area in my new packraft, and found a nice kiting beach in Griswold Cove for a west wind day. The small channels in this area were deep enough for my boat on the mid tide but getting in and out of the channels was scratchy. The connection of the Back River to the Conn River was especially challenging to navigate even on shallow water drive where I draw less then 1 foot of water.

A Dinghy for my Dinghy
Packraft- This super lightweight inflatable raft worked great as a dinghy to get to shore or I can add a home made rudder and use it to go exploring. I found that I could half deflate it and put it behind my seat or leave it fully inflated, tied to the side of the boat and flipped up, if no wind.

My tiny boat is getting better and better for this kind of cruising and gunkholing but this was probably near my limit for having fun in cold temps in a boat with no heater. Now I have to get my almost new motor to run like an almost new motor.

Gillette Castle
40 miles, 5 gallons gas.