Had a nice trip this morning with Bob B. and his son Tim. We put in at Route 16 in Uxbridge around 8:30, and took out at the Blackstone Gorge around noon - left plenty of time for an afternoon cook-out.
I thought the water below Route 16 might be a little low, but it was actually fine (3.4 ft on the Northbridge Gage; 7 ft, 200 cfs on the Route 122 Bridge Gage). There were a lot of trees down between Route 16 and Route 122, but we were able to paddle around all but two - it made for some tricky paddling for Tim who was out in a kayak for the first time. He did great. The Millville Rapid was low, but still fun.
With the water levels low just about everywhere, I decided to do some poling today. I put in at the Rivers Edge Recreational Complex and poled up to the Woonsocket Falls - about a mile. The river was at a perfect level - 2 ft., 400 cfs. - and I was able to push all the way up to the dam. The only difficult spot was the shallow water just below the dam.
It was another busy weekend, and I knew if I was going to squeeze in any paddling, it would have to be early Saturday morning. So I skipped my usual gym session and went paddling instead. The boat was on the car by 6:00 AM, and I was on the water by 6:30.
I paddled the Blackstone Canal and River from Lonsdale up to Manville and back. The trip is around 10 miles with two dams to portage (twice). It turned out to be a pleasant 3 hour paddle. The level was actually prety good with the Woonsocket gauge at 2 feet, 600 cfs.
There’s a good size tree down in the Canal just before the Martin Street Bridge. It requires getting out of the boat, but is easy to get around otherwise. The take out at the Lonsdale Dam is a little eroded from last month's floods, but still very serviceable.
They posted the official results for the BRWA Race that I did last Saturday. My time was 2:32:56. The average for all boats was 2:33. Here's how it breaks down:
11 Short Kayaks (< 13 ft) - Average 2:36, Fastest 2:11
11 Long Kayaks (>13 ft) - Average 2:23, Fastest 1:54
22 Tandem Canoes (all classes) - Average 2:35, Fastest 1:52
I'm kind of surprised - I thought that two paddlers in a tandem canoe would be a lot faster than a single paddler in a kayak (or canoe). The averages didn't work out that way - maybe because there weren't a lot of real racers due to the low water. The fastest time was a tandem canoe at 1:52, but that team was only a couple of minutes ahead of the fastest kayak at 1:54. Four boats - 2 kayaks, 2 canoes - didn't finish the race.
I had a good time yesterday at the Blackstone River Watershed Association Canoe/Kayak Race. A total of 49 boats entered, and I was surprised to see that half were tandem canoes. I was the only solo canoe. Here I am at the starting line.
It was my intention to paddle my J-200 racing boat, but as I was getting ready to leave for the race, I noticed a large crack in the gunwale. I had time to glue up the gunwale, but decided to take my Bell Yellowstone Solo instead. Not exactly a racing boat, but it turned out to be a good choice considering the conditions.
When I arrived at the put in around 10:00 there was already a good crowd. I saw a few familiar faces, and talked for a little while with Ranger Chuck Arning who was helping out on the safety crew. When I commented that I hadn’t paddled the upper sections of the Blackstone very often, he suggested that the section from Riverlin Street in Millbury down to Grafton is also nice when there is more water. Add that to the list of places to paddle.
Registration went quickly, as did the safety talk. By 11:00, boats were lined up at the starting line. Kayaks started first, followed by canoes. Since I was the only solo boat, I was a division of one – guaranteed a first place finish. I started in the middle of the pack with the Tandem Mixed (men and women) and Tandem Masters (both paddlers over 40) Divisions.
The race starts in Grafton where Main Street (Route 122A, Google Map - 53 Main Street, Grafton, MA) crosses the Blackstone, and ends at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge - 12 miles with lots of twists and turns. Water level was low – about 2’ on the Millbury gauge, 3’ on the Northbridge gauge. The race course can be divided into three sections.
From Grafton down to Plummers Landing is mostly flatwater with two portages. The first is a dam at Depot Street which is protaged on river right. The second is a dam at Riverdale which is protaged on river left. I held my own in this section, and even passed some of the slower kayakers who started before me. I also got passed by several of the faster tandem teams that started after me.
The section from Pummers Landing down to River Bend Farm was extremely scratchy. This turned out to be an advantage for me since I could float over many of the shallow areas that forced the tandem boaters to get out and walk. Even when I had to walk, my small solo was a lot easier to maneuver. It was actually nice to take a break from paddling and stretch the legs.
The loop through River Bend Farm went quickly. My Yellowstone was perfect for the river section. After portaging over to the canal I still felt good, so I did my best to stay in front of a tandem team that was right on my tail. They weren’t able to pass me.
I ended up doing the 12-mile course in 2 hours and 33 minutes. Respectable time, good people, and I won my division - can’t beat that.
Hooked up with Brian P. and Andy yesterday for a run on the lower section of Otter Brook in Keene, NH. Brian brought along Al, Tommy T. hooked us up with Barbara, and another Eric just showed up at the put-in. Turned out to be a nice group – 2 OC1s and 4 yaks.
When we arrived at the put-in, the black flies were terrible, and bug spray didn’t deter them in the least. Fortunately they didn’t bite, so the swarms were just an annoyance, and they disappeared as the sun came out and the day warmed up. It turned out to be a beautiful day – sunny and in the 80’s.
The dam released at 300 cfs as advertised. At this level, the lower section is a nice class II with lots of rocks to dodge, plenty of eddies to catch and some nice surf waves. I understand that at higher levels (+600 cfs) some of the rapids approach class III.
We spent the day catching every eddy and surfing every wave we could find. We let at least two groups pass through and never saw them again. If the last group on the river wins, I’d say that we were the victors.
I think I spent most of the day pointed up stream. The rocks were easy to see, and waves were easy to catch on the fly. By the time we got to the take-out, my neck was sore from turning around to look downstream. It doesn’t feel much better this morning – thank goodness for vitamin I (Ibuprofen).
Only two swims to report – both in the shallow rocky water below the Otter Ledge, and both open boaters. Enough said about that.
Took us 3 ½ hours to run the 3 miles down the take-out. I think we were all pretty tired at the end - I know I was. Another great day.