133 Days Until The Blackburn Challenge

Joey’s Christmas present was the deluxe GMG baseball cap. When he gave it to me he said, “I want to see you wear it in this year’s Blackburn Challenge.”

Joey. Mister Motivator. I did that paddle five times around Cape Ann and last year I took it off. So I was thinking instead of the GMG baseball cap I would wear a buttermilk pancake instead.

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

But I changed my mind. Why putter around the Cape in a motor boat when you can do it with a paddle? As of last week I am sixty years old. I already checked and there are no age brackets in the Blackburn. Not that I would have come close to even sniffing a ribbon since most of the leather and sinew paddlers in my kayak class are older than me and the last I see of them is around the Annisquam Lighthouse.

So it’s on. I have 133 days to fit into my kayak. Saturday July 25, 2015. Here is a map. Here is a timer. Here is a link to the details of the Cape Ann Rowing Club who do an awesome job on the race with food and beer at the greasy pole finish.  And the warmup is the Essex River race on May 16, 2015.

May 16. 64 days away. I’ll do that too or I’ll eat my pancake.

I'll go faster with a new hat.
I’ll go faster with a new hat.

What Do You Get When You Cross a Kayak and a Paddle Board?

Brilliant!   This is what you get when you cross a kayak and a paddle board….

a KYPAD….and it is awesome!

If you have kids who love being on the water, you should really check these out.

I have to brag and say that they are the brainchild of a friend of mine….and some of her close friends.  They dreamt of the idea while watching their kids struggling with some larger kayaks and boards.  They researched, designed, built….dreamed some more….and then executed the millions of steps and details that go into creating something as excellent as a Dream Come True. And, of it all, came the KYPAD.  You can bet that as soon as they’re in the budget the Schrafft boys will be on one of these.  They are incredibly light so that the kiddos can lug them themselves.  A huge bonus.  They can be used as a stand-up paddle board or the kids can take advantage of the cut-out seat and foot grooves for really steady sit-down paddling.  Win-win.

Hear the whole story and read more HERE!

Image 1

Why a KYPAD?
As parents, we want our kids to have fun! We invest in expensive recreational equipment that is appealing for a short time or ends up broken. Trends change. Sometimes it’s not very rewarding. We set out to create a different kind of product. Something for kids of all ages and abilities to enjoy. A well constructed board that would last. The combination of a kayak and a paddle board. The best of the most popular and exciting water based activities rolled into one. The KYPAD. KYPAD (kayak/paddleboard) was developed to meet the demands of two water sports in one incredibly lightweight, durable board. Every feature was designed with kids in mind including the most progressive lightweight material of 2.0 eps to the solid finishing touches of vacuum bagging.  Our goal is for every child to have a successful experience on the water that fosters independence, strength, fun, adventure, and exploration.







Around Manchester

A couple of random pictures on a gloomy day! Click for larger images and captions.

Wednesday, March 20 at 7:02AM Vernal Equinox

Spring will arrive at 7:02 AM on Wednesday morning shortly after sunrise at 6:45 AM. Start practicing standing raw eggs on their end. Rubber Duck is a master.


It won’t be long until we dip our duck feet in the water.

duckfeetRight now it is a bit too soon. The A01 buoy off Gloucester Harbor is recording 40 F from the surface detector all the way down to 50 meters. in the next month or so that 50 meter detector will still be at 40 F but the surface will creep up to 50F and beyond. 50 F is where I draw the line for flipping my kayak. Arms and legs still function for an hour at 50 F but colder than that and paddle is just too hard to grasp. So when the air temp gets really mild make sure your personal flotation device is up to snuff and stick close to shore. Better yet, wait a few more weeks until that A01 buoy reads 50F.

ps. Seasonal Openings 2013 Part I will be posted on the first day of spring. Our first seasonal opening is March 31st. Can you guess?

76 Summer Days Until the Big Race

(Sung to the tune of 76 Trombones)
Seventy six summer days until the big parade,
with at least a hundred and ten dory rowers motoring away.
They were followed by rows and rows of the finest kayaks;
the cream of the Cape Ann waterways!

I’ll quit with one verse …

Blackburn Challenge: Saturday July 14.  There will be a kayak pod of “not the extremely swift” led by Wendie Demuth.

Click map for more  links and info.

There is also a short 5 mile race in the Essex River on Saturday, May 19th. Just go to the Cape Ann Rowing Club Web Site and you can sign up for both right now! Go ahead. It’s easy. You are probably an SK-male or SK-female boat length say 18 feet beam 25 inches. They take MasterCard and you get a cool T-Shirt you can wear to the GMG Mug-Ups to prove you did it. (SK means sea kayak which is what you have unless you are the Lance Armstrong of kayakers. Check your kibbles and bits to see if you are male or female.)

Rubber Duck signed up for both! ( I have got to hide the credit card.)

Rubber Duck Kayak Quick Tips: If you are thinking of going out to get in shape the water  temp at AO1 buoy today is 46F:

1) Do not kayak alone. 2) Wear and buckle up a PFD.  3) Dress for the water temp, not the sunny air temp. 4) Stick to the shore like glue. 5) A hand pump, a paddle float, a waterproof handheld radio tuned to VHS 16 are all good things to strap on your boat but only if you know how and when to use them.

100 days until Blackburn Challenge

Yikes, according to my Blackburn Challenge Timer there are only 100 days left to prepare for the paddle all the way around Cape Ann starting at Gloucester High School and ending at the new Greasy Pole July 14, 2012.

 Click map for details.

Who is going to do it? Rubber Duck had fun last year but this year she is going carbon fiber and a decent time. Rumor has it that there are several people who have never done a 21 mile kayak but are seriously thinking about it. Reply to this post and lets get a pod of you together that will aim for one goal, finish before the keg is empty. Next month once the water temp gets past 50F we can start doing a couple of training runs. Who’s in?

[edit] Essex River Race May 19, 2012. A five mile jaunt from the Essex Ship Building Museum out and around Cross Island and back. Any GMGers want to do that? I’ll loan you a kayak. Sign up here with the Cape Ann Rowing Club. Start your season early this year. Life is too short so make the season long.

Like they say, be sure to bleed those bluefish…Adam Bolonsky reports

Well, it was a good day yesterday for kayak fishing east of the south tower at Thachers Island west of Londoner reef and the big iron pole. Water temps were in the low 70’s, sun was out, few boats were on the water.

Schoolie bass were rounding up on the surface, indifferent to all baits and lures but stippling the water then thrashing did the midwater column when the kayaks spooked them.

As any angler will tell you, bleed blues. Be sure to rip out….err, remove their gills.

Good eating!

Photos by Mike Hirsch, commercial airline pilot who works about one day a week, still doesn’t  know how to body surf, but sure loves visiting Cape Ann.







I see our boy Paul Morrison in the background!

Blackburn Challenge: 99 Days

It is now only 99 days until the Blackburn Challenge on Saturday July 23rd. The Silver Jubilee, 25th running of the “any human powered craft” race around Cape Ann. The Essex River Race, a 5.5 mile down the river around Cross Island and back is only 30 days from now on Saturday, May 14th.  Click the links for each race info. Essex registration is already open.

I think I will be enjoying the Essex race by eating breakfast overlooking the race. Post a comment if you know where the best Eggs Benedict are served on the river. By skipping the Essex I still have 99 days to get ready for the 21 miles of the Blackburn. Click here for my personal motivator page complete with  countdown to the day and a map.

Boating safety in small craft: Everyone wants to get out there and start practicing but there is a hidden danger even on very toasty days. The water is still only 42 F. While you are out kayaking, wear a PFD and always think of how you are going to get out of the water if you flip. That water does not give you much time. 50 minutes at 50 F is the rule of thumb. At 42 F, quite a bit shorter before getting back in the kayak is difficult. Do not go alone and wear a PFD.

But it will be warmer soon. For inspiration I look at a photo Paul Frontiero took of me in my new ride as I tested it out last summer. Last year I went all the way around in 5 hours, 30 minutes, 20 seconds in a 71 pound kayak. This one is 28 pounds. The engine just needs to trim down a bit and I’ll be smokin’.

Adam Bolonsky Sends In Striper Fishing Video

Hi Joey,
I just posted a short video of Marvin Tighe (Rocky Neck) striper fishing off Flat Rocks at Rockport.
He lands a schoolie and gives  some commentary on bait.

Kayak Fishing for Striped Bass: Trolling the Tube and Worm-

A Local Gloucester, MA Kayak Fisherman Offers Some Insights Into Trolling the Tube and Worm


Some Travel Tips From Your Boy Joey Regarding Airlines and Booking Flights

Most of you may already know this but I think it bears repeating because I am sometimes guilty of making the same mistakes repeatedly.

When searching for airfares for my winter vacations I start early, about three months ahead of time and I check the regular websites for the best deals on flights.  The main website I use is Kayak which gives you some pretty decent customization options as far as whittling down the exact flight times and non-stop flights so you can only be viewing flights that meet your criteria instead of 1000 or so flights that have 2 or more connections or are red-eyes. 

I prefer early morning direct flight departures and mid day direct flight returns.  Kayak allows me to do searches for the exact flights that meet my criteria. 

The searches can be then filtered by cheapest price or best times or shortest route.  The way I usually perform my search for the best flights is this-

I check off

  • Non-stop
  • My flights are flexible (Plus/Minus 3 days)
  • Depart Early
  • Return Mid-day

Now I’ll check every other day or so until the flights I want come up within the prices that are reasonable to me.  For Florida this means direct flights at the right times for anything under $235 and for the Caribbean anything under $400.

Once I see those flights coming up I go directly to the airline’s site for which that fare is listed to se if it is listed for cheaper on the Airline’s website.  I figure that most times the airfare aggregator probably adds $10 or so to the costs to pay for their service.  some times it will be listed a little cheaper on the Airline’s website, sometimes not but it’s always good to check IMO.

Now here is the thing though that even I who I consider to be a pretty informed and savvy web travel person still to this day forget at times in the excitement to book a great deal.

Firstly there are the baggage fees that should be taken into consideration.

Here is an airline baggage fee chart from Kayak for reference-

American Airlines charges $25 for your first checked bag on domestic travel.

Jet Blue offers the first checked bag as free.

So when comparing the two 9 times out of ten I will book the cheapest fare the way it is listed on the Kayak site but forget about the baggage fees. A $225 flight to Miami on American actually will cost you more than a $240 flight to Miami on Jet Blue if you check one bag, but it won’t be listed that way on either kayak or on the individual Airline’s respective websites. now $15 isn’t a whole lot but then if you consider that you might be flying with a partner or children and it turns out to be three checked bags that would be $45 each way equals $90.  Ideally you can travel light and avoid checked bags all together but in many instances that is just not a reality.

The next point that I would like to make is that not all airlines are created equal and some don’t have TV or Internet on them.  I don’t know about you but I would gladly pay an extra $30 for round trip airfare anywhere in the country that offered tv and/or internet in the seatbacks in front of you. 

So now lets take the above instance of the flight to Miami on American for $225 which doesn’t have internet and only has a couple of TV’s in the middle of the aisles for which you may or may not have a decent view of and charges you an extra $25 for your checked bag.

$240 for a flight without a checked bag fee on a newer Jet Blue plane which offers wifi internet and individual TV’s in each seat is an absolute bargain.

Take your time when you are booking your flights and figure out what the baggage fees will be along with if the airline has wifi on your flight.  A flight to Vegas with internet access will literally FLY BY a whole lot quicker with the internet to distract you, I guarantee it.

Good Morning Gloucester Sunrise Kayak: Sunday 5:30 AM Pavilion Beach

I’m trying to cover some of the shoreline I missed on the Blackburn Challenge circumnavigation. This morning I did Gloucester Inner Harbor. Tomorrow on Sunday it is over to the Paint Factory up behind Ten Pound Island, over to Niles Beach and maybe out to the Eastern Point Lighthouse before heading back.

Sunday 5:30 AM Pavilion Beach put in. Meet me there with a kayak and we will head out into the sunrise.
Essentials: PFD onboard, water. Non-essentials: a doughnut for the tour director.

If we get two other kayaks or more we might even schedule this for next Saturday with another put in.

Inspiration for Paul Morrison

Insert Paul Morrisons Photo here

 Photos from the 2008 Blackburn Challenge

I think everyone in Gloucester is involved in Helping Jimmy T. Get on Survivor.

After that Goal is Accomplished we have to start Helping out GMG’s own Paul Morrison cross the finish line at the 2010 Blackburn Challenge.

If you see Paul in any local Restaurants or Bars wish him luck and make sure he’s eating and drinking only the healthy stuff. The Challenge is only a few months away and we want Paul in top physical condition. Paul, Here’s a few Photos at the 2008 Blackburn Challenge finish line to inspire you.

"Mele Kalikimaka" Yeah I know It Means Merry Xmas. It's the only Hawiian I know.
The Finish Line



166 Days to the Blackburn Challenge

Only 166 days before the Blackburn Challenge race all the way around Cape Ann by oar or paddle. Sitting here on a frigid Sunday morning it seems a long way off. I am publicizing that I will be in the race so that when race day dawns I actually get out of bed and get down to the Gloucester High School parking lot and go. If I chicken out I want non stop ridicule.

I’ve been messing around with my Mobileme account which is Apple’s way of adding some cute tricks to the iPhone. I can “find my phone” which shows a google map and indeed, it shows that it is in my car in my driveway. That’s kind of neat. If I can find a way to post a link to that google map without having to open my mobileme account to the public I will do that on race day. That way there might be someone tracking me as I meander around the island. And if I stop at Bearskin Neck to have a raisin cinnamon roll at Helmut’s Strudel you can stop there and taunt me until I get my butt back in my boat.

190 Days to the Blackburn Challenge

Only 190 more days to the Blackburn Challenge. That is when people row or paddle from Gloucester High School Parking lot up the Annisquam around Cape Ann and then finish by calling out their boat number as they cross under the Greasy Pole.

Saturday, July 17, 2010. I am telling as many people as possible that I am going to do it in a kayak so that when it comes time I will not be able to weasel out. Last year I caught a wee bit of bronchitis and bailed.  Not this year.

I have made a page with some links to info about the race, Howard Blackburn and a google map I made of the circumnavigation of Cape Ann. Check it out.

If anyone wants to try out a chunk of the race in the spring or anytime before the race I might be looking for someone to paddling with. Give me an e-mail. My goal is to finish in time before the beer runs out on Pavilion Beach. I don’t care if granny is ahead of me.

Museum offers kayak building course

Essex – The Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum is offering a kayak building course May 2-9, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Waterline Center, 66 Main St., Essex. Class size is limited to six students.

The kayak design is based on traditional skin covered kayaks used by the Inuit Eskimos. Instructor is Rick Eliot. Students will build their own kayaks, custom-designed to meet their particular interests. The finished kayak is a work of art, ultra light (30 pounds or less), durable, and beautiful.

All tools and materials are provided; no prior carpentry skills required. Tuition is $1,200, or $1,100 for students, school teachers, husband-wife twin boats, or special cases. Advance registration is required; call 978-768-7541. For information, visit www.essexshipbuildingmuseum.org .