The thing about “small craft” is you’re very close to the water. You stay afloat but feel immersed. There was a time when a small boat was a rowboat – that’s it. Now, we see lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers as tree-shaded pathways for kayaks, canoes, sail fish, paddle boats, paddle boards, tubes and yes, rowboats with motors. They’re reasonable to own, but easier to rent. Get on the water and fish, explore or just lay back. Here’s where to do it. – Jay Lloyd
Marsh Creek Park Lake is close to home but far enough away in southern Chester County to rate as a weekend getaway or day trip. You can laze on the usually placid waters of the lake and paddle away from the dock for as little as $10. Or, split the cost of a motorized rowboat that carries five adults for a reasonable day afloat at an all-day price of $165. A variety of small sail boats, paddle boats, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes are also available. Check out the tariff at: www.marshcreeklake.com/boat-rental/hours-rates
This scenic Montgomery County park in the Upper Perkiomen Valley allows you to get an oar in the water aboard a variety of small craft, including kayaks. Among the most popular are the electric motor-powered rowboats for a day or half-day of fishing. Drop in a line for bass, crappie and walleye. Then have a fun day on the water and bring home dinner as a bonus. For available boats and rates, cruise over to: http://greenlaneboats.com/boat-rental-wiped/hours-rates
Boats on the barrier island bays at the Jersey shore have had a difficult time finding deep water channels, thanks to the ravages of Superstorm Sandy. The normally shifting channels have dramatically silted over, but it is still possible to get on the water in flat bottom craft for fishing, crabbing or just exploring. The Anchorage Marina at Avalon is sending out their new shallow draft, engine-powered boats along with kayaks and tubes. Famous on the shore for its breakfast with a waterside view, the anchorage is a one-stop shop for bait, boating supplies and small boat rentals. Check out the available craft and rates at: www.avalonanchorage.com/boat-rentals.html
Sandy also wreaked havoc on the Hudson and took out the floating kayak dock at 72nd Street in New York, where both visitors and New Yorkers enjoy free kayak rentals and instruction against a backdrop of the Big Apple skyline. If you’re planning a Gotham getaway, keep checking the Downtown Boathouse web site. They expect to be back in operation shortly.
If summer takes you to Baltimore, the kids will love getting on the water in this historic and colorful harbor (for a reasonable price!) in an easy to handle paddle boat. But not just any paddle boat. At the Inner Harbor, they have their own take on the Loch Ness Monster, with paddle boats designed around reported sightings of “Chessie,” the legendary Chesapeake Bay sea serpent. Or, you can rent an electric powered boat for a waterside view of Baltimore’s historic ships, aquarium and visiting yachts.
Located at the popular summertime restaurant and watering hole, Fitzwater Station, Port Providence Paddle launches rental kayaks and canoes on the tree shaded Schuylkill Canal. The waterway straddles the Chester and Montgomery County borders near Phoenixville, and opens the door to a variety of paddle-powered cruises. They start on the canal for the outbound passage, then there’s a short portage for a return on the Schuylkill River. The trips last 2-1/2 to 6 hours. Dip into the passages and rates at: www.canoeandkayak.biz/trips.htm
A couple of tips: Rental boats are supplied with life jackets and where required, charts. But if you have children along, it’s best to call ahead to find out if there’s a vest that suits your child’s size and weight. If not, bring your own.
Carry bug repellent and sun screen, a small knife, sufficient water and lunch or snacks, depending on how long you plan to stay out. If you’re fishing, it’s also a good idea to have a small first aid kit. Have a cell phone and program the number of the marina and nearest police or Coast Guard unit. Keep the phone in a floatable, waterproof bag. Remember, tings have a habit of going over the side, especially phones, keys and sunglasses!