Paddling coastal New England

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 11-18, 1996
Trekking in Idaho's Sawtooths
Paddling coastal New England
A short course in mountain sickness
Inns and trails on Vancouver Island
The big sticky: Louisiana in the summer

Paddling coastal New England
Question: My wife and I are interested in learning to kayak. We are fit runners, bikers, swimmers, and hikers. What resources are available in our area for a beginner's tour for up to a week?

Jerry Blaine
Winchester, MA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Geographically speaking, you're in great shape. You can either make the short drive north to the Essex/Gloucester area on Cape Ann, a fast-growing playground for novice and veteran paddlers that's perfect for day trips or overnighters, or head farther afield to the Maine coast, home to a virtual sea-kayaking explosion in recent years and plenty of outfitter-run multiday trips.

In Essex, the folks at Essex River Basin Adventures run full-day guided paddles for $75 per person, including all equipment and shuttle service. Most of their trips head out toward Hog Island and northeast to Crane's Beach and Plum Island, an 11-mile stretch of barrier-beach dunescape that's one of the East Coast's best spots to see migratory shore birds. To the southeast is Thacher Island, a 52-acre patch of dry land one-third of which has been designated a national wildlife refuge.

Even if you opt for a longer paddle farther north, keep Cape Ann in mind for an overnight trip. Stay at the Cape Ann Campground on the Annisquam River estuary in Gloucester ($15 per night, 508-283-8683) once you've learned the basics and are ready to strike out on your own. The Cape Ann Sea Kayak Company in Gloucester rents kayaks for $37 a day, but only to qualified paddlers who know the ropes when it comes to personal rescue and navigation techniques. Call 508-356-5264 for more info.

If you don't mind the drive, consider signing on with the Maine Island Kayak Company. Based on Peaks Island in Casco Bay, they offer a whole slew of multiday tours and clinics, including a $250, two-day fundamentals course that covers equipment, strokes, safety and rescues, wind and waves, tides and currents, weather analysis, route selection, and chart and compass reading. Or, get the basics down while paddling a five-day circle route through Downeast's Jonesport Archipelego ($850 per person, including all meals and equipment). Keep in mind that they've got plenty more to choose from, so call them at 800-796-2373 for a detailed trip itinerary.

And, finally, before you don the spray skirts and life jackets, check out our write-up of kayaking Cape Ann in the Destinations section of our October 1995 issue.

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