Monday, September 5, 2011


When I joined a group of kayakers for a sunset paddle on Lake Davidson last week I asked if it was BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat.) I left mine behind when I moved from New York last summer. I got a few messages back on the meetup board, offering to lend boats, PFD's and paddles.

Charlotte Kayak Club. I'm first row, far left.

Kayakers in Charlotte, NC have the same friendly and open personality that I enjoyed up north. In Long Island City, the non profit boathouse was run by volunteers and we focused on educating folks about the waterways and giving (mostly) underserved youths a chance to paddle on Sundays in a protected cove. Our reward? The  "Friday Night Chill Paddles" from Queens to Brooklyn and around Roosevelt Island.  We also did longer paddles on weekends down to Governor's Island and up to the Bronx. More experienced paddlers did overnight trips circling Manhattan Island, or escorted swimmers during long races.

The NYC skyline is a pretty amazing backdrop and the evening paddles were nice and calm. The buddy system, flashlights and walkie talkies were key, because kayakers have to share the river with tugboats, ferries and barges.

We were careful of the tides, the currents and to avoid flotsam and jetsam...large pieces of dock pilings and various types of debris. Bacteria counts were high after rainstorms so it was best to skip the paddle if you had an open cut. (I made sure I never fell in and I tried to keep from licking my lips. I can't imagine swimming in the East River on purpose!) Sure, a one-eyed seagull with really dirty feathers would fly overhead, but then a little family of ducklings would float by, and it made me feel pretty good about New York. The downsides were offset by the surreal feeling I experienced paddling with the city skyline and billboards looming.

Lake Davidson is a bit calmer than the East River!

Parking and 'putting in' are no problem here! In NY, it took years to get approval to access the East River and putting in involved rigging up a household ladder to a broken down sea wall, and raising and lowering the boats 10 or more feet. Major teamwork!

The view from my borrowed Old Town 12'

Fishing rigs and some paddle boarders rounded out the group.

We stopped to share a little picnic, and some stayed after dark to see the International Space Station zoom overhead.

Heading in.

What a nice night, and a good group of people! I heard there's a used 14' for sale...

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