Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cochituate to Blackburn Challenge - a hop & a jump

This past week I transitioned from my usual river paddling to first the lakes of Cochituate and then the salty and livelier waters of Cape Ann.
Cochituate is a part of the SUASCO watershed that I had overlooked. I have paddled by the spot where Cochituate Brook enters the Sudbury River, but had never paddled the lakes that the brook's damming created back in the mid 1800s when Boston needed drinking water.
On Wednesday afternoon, I launched my kayak at the State Park and following the advice of a friend, headed through the tunnel under the Mass Pike, and into the North Lake. Following the left side of the lake brought me to the outlet where Cochituate Lake heads towards the river. TFord Co. was performing some construction work at the dam area. The only piece of flotsam I encountered was in this area. An aerosol can of string? With can under a bungee I proceeded to the upper end of the lake and then headed south into the building southwest breeze. This provided me with some wind driven chop to help me prepare for what I might encounter on the ocean waters off Cape Ann. Soon, I had gone back through the tunnel and into the Middle lake, crossed it, and passed through a triangular shaped rock bridge that carries the railroad tracks that ran from Natick to Saxonville. This will soon be the Cochituate Rail Trail. I passed the waterfall at Boston Scientific, which was once the Carling Beer Brewery, and glided under the busy Route 9 and into the South Lake which looks to be the largest of the 3 Lakes. Paddled back to the State Park launch site and was enroute home well before the predicted thunderstorms.
Yesterday, I joined with several hundred paddlers and rowers to accept the Blackburn Challenge and propel my kayak around the 'island' portion of Cape Ann. In this event, hosted by the Cape Ann Rowing Club, one finds themselves paddling or rowing alongside everything from banks dories, to 'state of the art' surf skis. One guy did the approx. 20-mile distance using only his arms while laying on a paddleboard! It included 40' long 6-person outrigger canoes and nearly equally large rowing gigs. It is a true celebration of the human engine! And the scenery isn't bad either!
Near the starting line at the railroad drawbridge, I scooped up 2 empty plastic bottles which came along for the ride. I paddled up the Annisquam River and into Ipswich Bay, past Lanes Cove and Folly Cove to Hailbut Point, then Andrew's Point, whereI took aim at the twin Lighthouses of Thacher's Island on the other side of Sandy Bay. Just past Thacher's is Milk Island and from here to eastern Point is the longest section of the trip. It seemed to take forever to finally round Eastern Point and get a glimpse of the Boston skyline through the haze. At this point, with weary arms, I rounded the Dogbar Breakwater and paddled through the whalewatch boat waked waters of Gloucester Harbor. This last 1.5 miles can be tricky and I was very relieved to safely cross the Finish Line and land my kayak on the beach near the 'Greasy Pole'. All participants then celebrated their making it around with good food, good music, and best of all, good beer on tap. Long live the legend of Howard Blackburn!

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