Water Closet for June 5, 2015
[pullquote]”Except for the going and coming in cars, thousands can now enjoy our waters at little cost without leaving sound and exhaust fumes in their wakes.”[/pullquote] On drives around the watershed from March to November small, colorful, boats are seen riding on the roofs of cars. In the last three decades sightings have increased ten fold. Kayaks once the practical and very beautiful works of Eskimos are now the cheapest and most democratic of little vessels.* No yacht club mooring or state registration fees are required. Kayaks are not “holes in the water to throw money in”, to use the tired old joke about other warm weather boats. You might buy a used one of molded plastic for a half-day’s pay at minimum wage. If you don’t have a car ask a friend to get it to the water for you. Or do as Mark Jacques here in Middleton famously did as a lad. He caught the fishing bug early in life probably from his father Tom. People would see young Mark at all hours pulling a canoe around town on a light two wheel trailer with his bicycle. Those were the canoe days before kayaks became the vessels of choice. In the early 1990s groups paddling on the Ipswich River saw kayaks outnumbered two or three to one. On an IRWA trip three years ago on the tidal Ipswich the old Closeteer and partner and another crew in canoes were outnumbered nineteen to two.
Plastic kayaks come in all colors and dozens of shapes and sizes. Some makers have copied the lines of those made by Eskimos, works of art of bone, shaped driftwood and hide. Now you need not go on the water to see these diverse hues and shapes. Sporting goods and other stores have them leaning on walls and hanging from ceilings. There will be thousands on cars this May-ending weekend going to and fro. Stream Teamers are happy to say they have never seen a kayak powered by a motor. A few lazy canoers have outboards. Person powered vessels are silent without exhaust fumes. They leave just natural gasses from sweating skin and occasionally spurts from other orifices. Otherwise friendly and hospitable Closeteers won’t allow motor boats of any type moored near their Water Closet shack’s supporting raft.
Some old Stream Teamers still prefer canoes because one can sit down on thwarts with bended legs that won’t cramp up. Others have learned the wet way that entering and leaving kayaks isn’t easy. One old Stream Teamer tipped in upon launching at the start of a group paddle in early spring when the water was still cold. A toughie, he didn’t let wet clothing stop him once his kayak was righted and water free. On another trip a woman got into her hand-steadied-kayak all right but at the end of the voyage two or three hours later couldn’t get out. Chivalry is not dead. Fellow voyagers helped get her and kayak back in and onto her car. Canoes on the other hand are relatively easy to board and depart from. Sometimes it is too easy. They tip over more readily because occupants are seated higher. Trice on annual Patriots Day paddles this past decade old timers in their eighties, cocky about their canoe skills and experience, went over into still cold water. Another advantage, and perhaps disadvantage, of canoes is they easily hold lots of cargo not always neatly stowed. Kayakers must plan more carefully due to limited space. They don’t, like many canoers, bring along as much unneeded stuff.
Another advantage kayaks have is less freeboard sticking up in the wind. At times of stiff breezes on the river canoe paddlers struggle to keep from falling off course. Kayaks with low profiles can flit around the larger craft like Somali pirates in speed boats around a planned victim. Canoers don’t be fearful. We’ve heard of no attacks by kayakers on our gentle Ipswich.
The obvious advantage of kayaks in a society, in which almost everyone owns a car and has access to a vast network of free roads, is their light weight. We’ve often seen smaller ones lugged easily by one person. At the end of some work days, Sandy, our Stream Team leader throws her kayak on the car and drives down to Pavilion Beach, Ipswich, and is soon out on Plum Island Sound alone paddling any blues away. She returns a few hours later a new woman. Often Stream Team photographer Judy and artist daughter Rachel in unobtrusive kayaks quietly check out sections of our Ipswich River where they surprise wildlife. Over the years Water Closet readers have enjoyed dozens of fine photos from their paddles.
In Water Closet shack discussions we sometimes marvel at the new kayak phenomenon. Except for the going and coming in cars, thousands can now enjoy our waters at little cost without leaving sound and exhaust fumes in their wakes. Maybe in the future when bike lanes are along all roads and cheap public transport is everywhere this won’t be a problem. Folks of all ages can do as young Mark did with his bicycle and trailer or can ask light-rail and solar-bus conductors to secure their vessels to kayak racks on roofs or in storage bins beneath. Our waters, salt and fresh, will be then available to almost all. There will be, however, a couple strict rules. No motors or boom boxes allowed. Singing paddlers, wood wind and stringed instruments without amplification are welcome.
* Bob Hicks, young in his eighties, should have been asked to write this article about kayaks. Bob has long been a kayaker in fresh and ocean waters. He is editor, owner, and commentary page writer, of a very democratic monthly magazine, “Messing About in BOATS” (MAIB). (See Kenneth Grahame’s delightful classic Wind in the Willows in which Water Rat discuses messing around in boats with a shy mole.) MAIB, printed on plain paper with many black and white pics, is not a slick yachting magazine for the ostentatious-big-plastic-boat class. It includes owner written articles about boats ranging from homemade box like craft on ponds to larger sea going boats of novel design. Many are built or restored by owners and friends. Enthusiastic, often funny accounts of short voyages from around this hemisphere and beyond are sent to Bob. He has been doing this for the very diverse small boating community for over three decades. If you ”mess about” in such vessels from rafts to houseboats we think you’ll like this good one-of-kind magazine which includes book reviews, salty cartoons and poems. If you have a noteworthy voyage in your kayak or canoe send your ship’s log jazzed up a bit to MAIB, 29 Burley Street, Wenham, MA 01984. If you would like a sample copy issue email request to: email@example.com
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches
|2015 Central Watershed Actual
|2.5 as of 6/2**
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For June 2, 2015 Normal . . . 43 CFS Current Rate . . . 82 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru April.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for May and June.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584