THIS YEAR WE HAVE CREATED AN ONLINE RESERVATION SYSTEM FOR THIS PADDLE. THE WEB SITE IS SHOWN BELOW. Since we are the first ones to use it, it may have some glitches, so let me know if it does not work.
This will be a special adventure, as we should have the place to ourselves after our kayak trip. We do this event every year, and it fills up fast. Last summer we got 60 paddlers. Please note that the 2014 prices just got finalized, and for us they are $25 per person for 2 hours. That is, the rental for a single kayak is $25; if you want a tandem kayak it is $34, but you will have to call and reserve that on your own as it is not a part of the reserved fleet. If you bring your own kayak, you will pay a $5 dock put-in fee. Bring your own meal and plenty of water.
Peak rentals are 10 AM to 5 PM, thus we are going in when most people are getting out.
Here is the site where you sign up and reserve your kayak:
Please be advised that now, since the government runs it rather than an old mariner, there are no refunds for weather-related cancellations but rather a rain date is offered.
The plan is as follows:
5 PM: Arrive, park your car, and meet the members of our group
6 PM - 8 PM: Two-hour paddle
8 PM - 9 PM: Picnic on the dock
9 PM: Clean the area and take the trash with us; and then we will walk to the famous Exorcist steps
For parking, please come down VERY EARLY and bring your cooler at the outfitter and then park your car.
The two upper photos show our members paddling towards the Kennedy Center, and the lower picture shows how dark it will be at dusk as we watched the Kennedy Center lit up in all its splendor. The sunset is set to take place at 8:31 PM on this date. Remember that dusk and sunset are two different times that affect visibility in different ways.
I think we spend as much time photographing as we do paddling!
We will learn the many uses of duct tape in kayak expeditions.
Years past, Jackie Kennedy would to come down to this boathouse with her security detail, and the owners would row them across the river so that she could have a picnic on Roosevelt Island. While a different set of people now run the place, the memory lives on. Girls nowadays just love to be photographed in that same old row boat that Jack Baxter once built:
This flatwater, scenic paddle will be about four miles round-trip, and we will paddle in the evening. We will start at the boathouse under the Francis Scott Key Bridge, pass Theodore Roosevelt Island, go by the Georgetown Waterfront, go by the Watergate and the Kennedy Center, go under the Route 66 Bridge, go by the Lincoln Memorial, and stop upriver from the Arlington Memorial Bridge, that is located just north of the Pentagon. If we want, and the conditions dictate it, we can circumnavigate Roosevelt Island as no large motor boats can go therein. There will be USCG fast boats going by as well as very large ships in the middle area, so we should stay together in the no-wake zone. We will not go beyond the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and I will make sure we do not. The rental fee gets you a boat, a paddle, a PFD, and special entertainment. This is the easiest and most relaxing paddle one could possibly do. Even pilgrims can successfully do it. From the point of view of accessibility and scenery and low cost and safety and being excellent for first timers with no equipment (as well as challenging for athletes, if you want to race), it is tops. We will use the only kayak outfitter that is accessible by the Metro subway. I used to work here as a guide back in the day, and since that time we have had no incidents because we keep safety foremost. If anything does happen, many of us have taken the self-rescue and assisted rescue activity that our Meetup group has done, and that really helps.
Make sure you watch the other boats as well as the monuments. Some of the larger boats passing by us will have 500+ people in them.
You will see the nation's capital and monuments the way they were meant to be seen. We will have an experienced paddler with us who is certified in CPR and First Aid. We will have a UHF radio and a link to the Harbor Police. We will carry an All Hazards NOAA Weather Radio on the trip. And we will be in continual radio contact with the boathouse throughout the paddle. There will be experienced folks on the dock to help you get started, but you have to get there on time and actually ahead of time. In fact, it is smarter if you get there very early, park your vehicle, go sightseeing, so that way you can walk around and do it all in a more relaxed manner. After the paddle and meal on the river, and after we clean up, we will take a walk to a unique Washington landmark. Yes, the infamous steps from The Exorcist are just north of the boathouse; but that was just a movie, right? We will stroll over there after dinner on the water, and see if we can find a young priest with an old priest......
For the paddle, we will put-in from a floating wooden dock right where this flag can be seen in the above picture. The Three Sisters Islands, named after the three drowned Roman Catholic nuns who, according to legend, were spewed back by the river as islands, are located 1/2 mile upstream from our boathouse, and it represents the farthest point navigable by larger boats, and it is also the deepest part of the river, at about 78 feet. I am saying this so that you know we are in deep water (strictly in a physical sense, that is). However, this is a safe, fun, relaxing excursion, ideal for novices. While adults and teens are welcome on this particular trip, a younger child is okay if you do the bulk of the paddling and you use a tandem kayak. No pets are allowed. As we paddle along on the People's River, we will take in the scenic wildlife and the majestic memorials and imposing monuments of our nation's capitol. Without dealing with the crowds.
We will be paddling in an area where there will be big, open water ships. These boats have bulbs at the waterline to add stability and they throw off a triple bow wake that will push you out of the way if you are too close. If, by chance, you do not get pushed off, and end up in the bow wake, you will be pulled in and under. Ship propellers pull boats rather than push them, and the props suck the water from the sides and the front of the boat. It is up to YOU to stay away from such boats. If we stay in a group we become more visible.
We must stay within these two bridges as shown on this map that I made for us:
The Two Bridges That Kayakers Cannot Cross
The above directive is extremely important. If you go beyond the downriver bridge, not only will you violate the agreement that the outfitter has with the National Park Service, resulting in the Harbor Police plucking you out of the water (as you will be in a line-of-sight across from the Pentagon and they watch everything), but you risk swimming with the fishes as the no-wake zone ends beyond that bridge. And, yes, old timers will always call this place Jack's Boats.
It is traditional to pray to the river gods before you set off on a maiden voyage.
Bring your smile, because the tourists will be snapping your pictures from land, so a waterproof camera would be a good item to bring to snap back. Since the two-hour paddle starts at 6 PM, on the water, you want to get there way before that time, 5 PM at the very latest, as you will need to park, find a boat you like whose color matches your outfit, get your gear, as well as be given THE TALK. You pay ahead of time online for your single kayak, and then you get your boat and gear when you are ready to go. You should get there early so that you do not have to rush. So, as the original owner used to say, come on down to the river and get healed.
Guests are fine, and kids are welcome, but if they are too small to take out their own kayak, they should go out in a tandem kayak with a responsible adult who is a good paddler. Newbies and first-timers are welcome, and this trip is a great way to introduce them to safe paddling. Many of our Olympic flatwater paddlers also practice in this area, so all skill levels like it here.
Those going will need a profile photo for their own safety. We will still be on the water when it is difficult to see from tall propeller vessels, and if the current or a ship's wake takes you to the dark side, I can't show a picture of a question mark to the Harbor Police to assist in locating you.
I took the above photo from my kayak on our last paddle there. I truly did not want the evening to end.
Remember that we have no commercial guides for this trip (that costs $100 and more with the outfitter); so it is strongly advised that you stay with the group. I will serve as the guide and I will try very hard to remember how it is done since it has been many moons since I worked at Jack's Boats...... Now it is no longer called that, and it is run by an outfitter working for the NPS. I plan to be on the water at 6 PM, so do not be late.
Preparing for such a paddle may be very strenuous, but if you get there early it is more relaxing, as proven by the dude above, who is an expert in the art of time management.
There should be will be enough kayaks there for our adventure.
Here is Anna (I dare not call her an old timer) setting off for a twilight paddle in one of the CD Storm kayaks. Notice how her light is on a pole behind her.
Dinner will be 8 PM - 9 PM, with everyone cleaning up one's mess and taking the trash home at 9 PM. Remember that you bring your own dinner and non-alcoholic beverage. Departure from the boathouse is NLT 9:00 PM. Absolutely no alcohol is to be consumed at any time on the premises or on the boats or on the dock or in the parking lot due to NPS regulations as we are on government-property; if you must, please use alcohol after you leave the boathouse (you are in Georgetown on a Saturday night, so there are venues there if you want to do something that will get your name in the newspaper's crime report).
Bring a cooler with food and beverages in it, and either leave it in your car or place it behind the cabana by the dock if you did not drive there; you can bring sandwiches or cook your food therein. If you get there early, and you should, you can go to the nearby Italian deli and get food or a cappuccino that are out of this world. You can get a complete meal there and bring it back to the boathouse. I am talking about Dean & Deluca in Georgetown (at 3276 M Street, NW):
Everyone must bring a completed waiver to save time. It may be available automatically online when you reserve your kayak; but, if not, here it is:
Waiver For Twilight Paddle
Again, and I am repeating what I have been told: NO ALCOHOL and no medical marijuana or anything else used by Darwin Award contestants, as we are on NPS property. The D.C Harbor Police or the NPS (who jointly patrol the area) may visit us because they may want know what is going on at the outfitter that should be closed at night. I was told that one may get cited and the outfitter may get cited as well if any alcohol is there.
The outfitter is no longer a private operation, as had been the case since 1945, but it is now run by the National Park Service and the Park Police make it a regular stop. Our beloved government, after kicking out the family that ran it, awarded a concession contract to a Boston boating company for operational purposes, but it is under the auspices of the federal government.
For our picnic, there are usually two electric grills available. I prefer not to cook, however, because of the heat, and will bring a cold-cut sub and fruit for my meal. Bring a trash bag with you and bring all trash home with you upon departure. Procure and bring a whistle with a string; some paddlers like to have a light, but the light is optional since we will not be on the water after sunset. For your information, the light is a USCG rule when paddling after sunset; the best location for the light is on your rear hatch or the back of your Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life vest so that it does not blind you; the light is not for you to see but for you to be seen by other boats, especially those that tower above you. You will wear your provided PFD at all times.
If you choose to put your light in the front of the boat, make sure it is facing away from you and secured properly.
There goes Jim, in good form, heading towards the Georgetown Waterfront.
A two-person kayak can be an efficient vessel if the two paddlers coordinate their strokes as a team, and it helps even more if you remember to take the rope out of the water......
The Rosslyn Metro stop is just over the Key Bridge from Jack's Boats. If you choose to bring your own boat, there is a put-in fee of $5 and remember that once you drop off your boat you may have to find parking at a meter or at a pay garage somewhere (and make sure the garage roof is tall enough for your boat rack). If you bring your kayak on the Metro subway with you, let me know, so that I can take your picture (there has to be money in that one)......
The parking lot at the boathouse is very small but there is meter parking on the street, so bring quarters in case you have to park at a meter, and also dead presidents in case you are in a garage that only accepts cash. If you have any questions please ask me directly by email. After the dinner on the dock, for those who want to go to the Exorcist steps, you will have to park outside of Jack's parking lot because I will put a chain up at 9 PM and lock the area up.
This trip is appropriate for all skill levels and fine for first-timers. However, you are urged to listen and to stay with the group for your own safety. It is important to follow the finger.
While this paddler thought that we were taking her picture, it was really the landlubber behind her that we were looking at.
This event will take place based on safe weather; I will contact all attendees if a prediction of severe weather or river advisories will in any way impact the trip as our safety is the prime objective.
Here is the directory listing address (but not the actual physical location) of the outfitter, but do not plug this into your GPS, because it is really located on Water Street which is another street:
3500 K Street Washington, D.C. 20007
Those fish tales grow larger with each telling. And, yes, it does seem that one of the paddlers in the tandem kayak is taking a really good nap.
And if you want to read about the amazing history of Jack's Boats, one of the best known paddling places in the nation, here is an article on this outfitter:
The Last of the Old Rivermen
Here is the current web site of the present boathouse operator:
There goes one of our paddlers in "the good old nights" riding the moon track.
Here is where we will have our picnic after the sun has set.
This is a fabulous place to relax for a post-paddle picnic.
Here is the weather prediction for our area updated in real time:
Directions to the Boathouse: You can take the Metro to the Rosslyn Station or drive your own vehicle; either way, you are crossing the Key Bridge into D.C. and, which is very important, make sure that you follow these directions:
From the Beltway, get on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to D.C.
Take the US-29 N exit toward the Key Bridge (to D.C.)
Turn slightly to the right on Rt. 29 N to North Lynn Street
Rt. 29 N becomes the Francis Scott Key Bridge, so cross the Key Bridge into D.C.
Turn right on M Street
Turn right on Wisconsin Avenue and go to the end
The Potomac River will be in front of you; don't go straight or else you'll get wet
Turn right on Water Street
Drive under K Street the whole way (trust me) and go to the end of Water Street
Turn left into the Key Bridge Boathouse Parking - it is free for those renting boats
The Boathouse is on Water Street although it has a K Street address, so do NOT go on K Street - Water Street is literally UNDER K Street (it's a D.C. thing)
Do not go on K Street because if you do you will never get to the outfitter as Jack's Boat's is located on the street below K Street, and the K Street address is used solely for directory listing purposes.
Look at, print, and bring with you the following map:
Boathouse Area With Streets
And after the paddle and the picnic, we will go see the house at 3600 Prospect Street where The Exorcist was filmed and walk those very same steps that the Jesuit priest died upon. Amazingly enough, the house and the steps look just as they did back in 1973! So, confirm your spiritual fortitude, and get ready to see where the scariest horror film of all time was made:
Weather conditions in the area updated with each Doppler sweep:
Many people ask if they should bring a light and a whistle. Here are the two items that you should bring with you. While the light is optional, the whistle is mandatory.
This is a $10 light from Walmart:
And this is a $5 whistle from Walmart: