Monday, February 13, 2017

Kayaking the Nemasket River in Winter

With fond memories of an earlier winter river trip, I've been planning and gearing-up for a two-night paddle down the Nemasket  and Taunton Rivers.  I am fussy about the weather though (temps not much below freezing, no rain in the daytime, light to no winds), and I haven't been able to make it work so far.  Then a good snowfall put it in my mind that a day-trip would be almost as much fun, and could include the whole lower Nemasket River from a very nice launch site at Oliver Mill Park down to its confluence with the big Taunton. 

I'd been down the Nemasket once before, with son Stephen several summers ago.  It was a very nice stream, though with a good number of obstacles in the form of fallen trees and shallows.  Recent precipitation would make the river pretty high and shallows few.  Fallen trees, and maybe ice, would be the wild cards.  In summer, any obstacle we could not get around meant wading, and hauling the kayaks over or around.  In winter, wading in water over galoshes-depth would mean dangerously cold, wet feet.  This, I decided, could be dealt with by having dry clothes in a dry bag--already a given in case the kayak upset for any reason.  Any problem beyond that would mean walking out: perfectly reasonable in populous southeastern Massachusetts.

I was also eager to try taking video with a head-mounted camera I jerried from my regular point-and-shoot camera and some aluminum strap.  I had a good time playing with the resulting videos, and will inflict them all here. 

The trip begins.  Beatrice helped me launch, and later rescued me from the roadside.


The last video.  (I stopped shooting due to inadequate light well before I ran into real trouble.)  I spotted a swimming muskrat, and several muskrat trails in the ice.  The video ends with the kayak wedged among rocks, but I eventually got free and recovered my paddle.

The trip began later than it should have.  I was able to maneuver around (or over) the trees and through some of the thinner, slushier ice, but more solid ice finally defeated me.  As darkness began to fall, I did finally walk out after completing about three-quarters of the trip, leaving my beloved home-built kayak Serendipity on the bank.  It was a quarter-mile slog through shin- to knee-deep snow in brush, swamp, meadow and woods in darkness to get to the nearest road: it turns out there are out-of-the-way places even here!  When it warms enough to melt the ice, I'll walk back in and finish the trip.

Postscript: boat rescued!  My son and I walked back to the river; he found the boat where someone else had carried it.  We paddled about three more miles, past the confluence with the Taunton River, and then to an overpass, where we pulled it out on the upstream side to avoid rapids below.

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