Canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding offer a great way to experience the beauty of Buzzards Bay up close. Glide across the still surface of a freshwater pond, navigate the hidden byways of a salt marsh, position yourself over a great fishing spot or slice through the waves for an epic journey along the coast. Paddling on the Bay can offer quiet leisure, intense excitement, or a path to exploration and adventure. Best of all, it is easy to get started and discover what you enjoy the most.
Paddling on the Bay can offer quiet leisure, intense excitement, or a path to exploration and adventure. Best of all, it is easy to get started and discover what you enjoy the most.
Paddling offers lots of options, where you go and what you do out on the water. Before you tackle those decisions, though, you will want to decide what you plan to paddle—a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP). That may be easy to answer (or not), depending upon how much background knowledge and experience you already have in paddling.
In many ways, canoes and kayaks are quite similar. Given the wide variety of styles and specialized designs, both types of watercraft allow you to do many—though not all—of the same things. Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the two is that kayaks tend to be lighter and thus easier to store, load on top of a car and carry to the water’s edge. And while both can be operated by one person, kayaks lend themselves to solo travel more easily, and they move through water more quickly. In exchange for the greater weight, of course, canoes tend to be wider, more stable and able to transport multiple people and more gear. In addition, you are more likely to get wet in a kayak because you sit lower and closer to the water.
If you are interested in venturing beyond placid ponds and sheltered bays, you will want to consider acquiring a sea kayak—sometimes referred to as a touring kayak. These watercraft are built for rougher conditions and longer journeys. They are noticeably longer and narrower than recreational kayaks. Most important, sea kayaks feature a rudder or skeg to help the boat track consistently through wind and waves. They also include features to keep water out of the kayak, such as multiple bulkheads to resist filling the entire boat with water when capsized and a cockpit designed to accommodate a skirt.
By contrast, standup paddleboards offer a wholly different experience. Standing up provides a different view of the Bay than you will get from sitting in either canoes or kayaks. And operating a SUP guarantees a good workout. In addition to being an aerobic activity, using a SUP builds strength. Paddling from a standing position engages the core and leg muscles as well as chest, shoulders and arms. While you can learn to ride the waves and rougher waters on a SUP, it takes even more practice than in a canoe or kayak and a willingness to take a spill.
Safety and education
Paddling is great fun, but it does require some knowledge to get started and skill and experience for more advanced activities. Local shops and outdoor outfitters offer guided instruction on general paddling as well as specific activities, such as navigating whitewater or taking a long-distance journey by paddle. You also can find a good deal of information online, including an online safety course. You also will find a wide range of resources from the American Canoe Association, which actually embraces all forms of paddling.
Regardless of whether you choose to seek out some instruction, you will want to keep a few general safety tips in mind for any on-the-water paddling excursion.
Wear a life jacket. It’s the most important thing you can do. A properly fitted life jacket can spell the difference between an accident that leads merely to your getting wet and one that endangers lives. Federal law requires children under 12 to wear a life Jacket aboard a vessel.
Be prepared with the right equipment. Beyond a personal flotation device, you should bring a whistle or airhorn, something that can create a loud sound as an alert should you need help. Attach it to your PFD. A bilge pump, a towline and a water bottle are also must-haves. If you are on a SUP, make sure you have a leash to ensure you don’t inadvertently get separated from your board.
Dress for comfort and safety. You will want to wear clothing that allows you to move easily and be seen as well. Equally important, be prepared to get wet and bring enough clothing to adjust to changing weather conditions. Quick-drying technical clothing in bright colors, and a layered approach to dressing, are ideal.
Know before you go. A little time spent gathering relevant information about where you are headed will help you to be prepared for any obstacles or hazards that you might encounter. Don’t choose an adventure that requires greater skills, stamina and experience than you have. You also will want to check the local weather forecast to be sure you bring the right clothing layers with you.
Don’t go solo. No matter your level of experience, it’s always safer to paddle with a buddy whenever possible. It’s hard to rescue yourself, if you run into trouble or get injured. At the very least, make sure others know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
Local shops and rentals
At the end of the day, canoes, kayaks and SUPs are all great vehicles for getting out on the water for fun, adventure and relaxation. If you are not sure what you would like best, you can always try out a variety of craft by renting from one of the half-dozen local shops and outfitters. And if you have something already, you can always try something different.
Cape Cod Kayak in Bourne (https://www.capecodkayak.com/) with deliveries to Monument Beach, Picture Lake, Monk’s Cove, Pocasset River, Megansett Harbor in North Falmouth and West Falmouth Harbor
Nemasket Kayak Center in Onset at the Onset Bathhouse, which serves as the Coalition’s base of operations for Onset Bay Center; in Wareham and in Plymouth near Myles Standish (https://nemasketkayak.com)
To buy your own canoe, kayak or SUP, you have many options beyond the shops listed above. You can purchase a perfectly decent SUP, canoe or kayak from a major retailer, but you may want the guidance and expertise that a local specialty shop provides.