Monday, August 10, 2009

Jack's Boathouse - Paddling on the Potomac

Under the Key Bridge on the DC side is a place called Jack's Boathouse. They rent kayaks and canoes by the hour. In researching options of things to do with my visiting family members for last weekend, I discovered that Jack's Boathouse offers a guided tour every Sunday night from 7 to 9 p.m.

We originally planned to go last Sunday night, but unfortunately there was a thunderstorm warning in effect and we didn't think that'd be a good idea. Last night, although very warm out, it was a nice night, so I took the boys out and we did the Sunday night tour. We had a lot of fun.

Upon arrival at Jack's Boathouse

I wasn't sure if "7-9 p.m." meant that we needed to be geared-up, ready to leave the dock at 7, so we headed down there early and arrived under the Key Bridge about 6:15. It was a good thing we got there early because parking was at a premium. Luckily we had enough time to find a spot a block away from the boathouse, unload the car into the kayak, and roll the kayak over to the boathouse.

Thank goodness for the kayak-caddy wheels.

ES took this photo of YB and me.

There were about 20 people in the tour group. Most were geared up within the last 15 minutes before 7. A few minutes after 7, the tour guides gathered us up to introduce the tour guides, explain where we were going, and give us a safety brief. For the group of 20 or so participants, they had three tour guides in kayaks - Stu in front, Erin in the middle, and Stix bringing up the rear, and then the owner, Frank (son of "Jack") and Murph escorted us in a motor boat.

Update 28 Nov 2009: Rest in Peace, Frank. Thanks for this awesome place you've kept alive for so many people to create so many happy memories on the river.

Tour Guide Stu

Frank and Murph in the safety boat

From the Key Bridge, we headed southeast along the DC side of Roosevelt Island and past the Lincoln Memorial. We turned around at the Memorial Bridge and paddled back up the Virginia side of Roosevelt Island.

Self-portrait by the Kennedy Center.

Me and the boys in front of the
Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

Rosslyn on the left, Roosevelt Island on the right.

YB dragging his fingers in the water.

Paddling back under the VA side of the Key Bridge.

We stayed on the Virginia side of the river as we paddled under the Key Bridge and up river half a mile or so past the boat house. We enjoyed the sunset there a bit and then paddled back to the boat house.

Sunset over the Potomac.

Sunset would be happening at 8:10 while we were out on the water, and they had us duct tape a flashlight to the bow and stern of each boat before we left. I have to admit, I was a little concerned about how the boys would take being out on the water after dark and curious just how dark it would get. I am pleased to report back on both counts. It never got so dark we couldn't see. There was ample background lighting from the lights on the Key Bridge. The boys didn't seem to mind in the least. I think they were just excited they were getting to stay up past their bedtime.

Paddling back to the Key Bridge after sunset.

In the end, we ended up paddling approximately 3.4 miles in just under 2 hours. I actually did most of the paddling myself. We started out so late in the day as it was, I think the boys were just too tired to do much paddling. It was fine though. I enjoyed getting the exercise and the boys just enjoyed the ride.

I was pleasantly surprised we didn't seem to have any problems with mosquitoes or other bugs. I used bug-spray and bug-wipes on me and the boys before we left the boat house, but I just didn't see a single bug while we were out on the water.

Overall, I felt very safe the whole time with our three kayak guides and the safety boat nearby. Jack's Boathouse proclaims on their website that this Sunday night tour is open to "all experience levels." It turned out great with the boys.

This tour is definitely a great way to get an initial exposure to kayaking or canoeing and to get a cool vantage point of the Lincoln Memorial if you're visiting the DC area. Thanks very much to Frank, Murph, Stu, Erin, and Stix for taking us on a great paddle around the Potomac last night!

P.S. Be careful where you park.

When we got there, we saw three DC parking enforcement guys writing parking tickets for all the illegally parked cars near the boathouse. Since I saw they were serious about enforcing the parking, I made darn sure to find a legitimate parking space. Unfortunately, I parked 7 spots into a block of 16 parking spots, and I didn't see the sign at either end of the block that said, "Back-In Parking Only." When we got back to the car, we found a parking ticket on the window for $30. Thbbbbbt! :-P

See the sign?


Kat said...

David and I think this would be awesome to do. Maybe some day we will get stationed in DC so we can do it.

Don the Baptist said...

PT Deutermann (UNS Ret) featured Jacks Boathouse in his novel "Official Privilege." I highly recommend it.

Don the Baptist said...

Oops, I should get more sleep. Should read: USN Ret.

Anonymous said...

i really enjoyed this nice thing with nice post
thanks for sharing ,,
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