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Old 08-31-2011, 02:13 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
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With the nice fall weather upon us, I'm now hankering to get out on the Potomac, between Roosevelt Island and as far south as one is allowed. I'm adept at paddling sea kayaks and canoes, and I'm pretty good rowing a skiff or dinghy--but I no longer own a boat.

I'm debating whether to buy a sea kayak or a used rowing shell, if I can find one cheap--or possible some type of inflatable boat that I can row.

One major concern is safety. I know it's the rapids farther north (Great Falls) that are responsible for most deaths on the river--but there have been a few deaths on the non-whitewater portions. So I want something that will be least likely to tip or capsize.

Any boaters here know which of the options I mentioned is most stable on the Potomac?

Thanks!
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:17 PM
 
Location: Reston, VA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
I know it's the rapids farther north (Great Falls) that are responsible for most deaths on the river--but there have been a few deaths on the non-whitewater portions.
Not true - Great Falls has only claimed two kayakers. Most of the deaths on the river are non-paddlers or paddlers on the non-whitewater portions of the river.

Lots of local paddler hang out on the board linked below.
Paddle Prattle
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:22 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,740 posts, read 8,967,707 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JfromReston View Post
Not true - Great Falls has only claimed two kayakers. Most of the deaths on the river are non-paddlers or paddlers on the non-whitewater portions of the river.

Lots of local paddler hang out on the board linked below.
Paddle Prattle
Wow--I stand corrected! Good to know. Thanks for the link as well.
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Saint Petersburg, FL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JfromReston View Post
Not true - Great Falls has only claimed two kayakers. Most of the deaths on the river are non-paddlers or paddlers on the non-whitewater portions of the river.

Lots of local paddler hang out on the board linked below.
Paddle Prattle

This is correct. Most of the deaths are from people who think they can handle venturing out into the water they think is even ankle deep. They can, and do get swept away and often drown.

That said, for the section you are wanting to paddle any kayak will be fine. You wont need a sea kayak. Just be aware of power boats and their wakes, and I would not venture out into the 'shipping lanes'. In fact I'm not sure you are even allowed to go out that far.

Personally I prefer to paddle from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, on southward. Calmer, wider waters, and more areas to explore. Dyke Marsh in particular is a very neat area to explore. At times of high tide you can get very far back in there, just make sure you go out before the tides totally drop on you. There are also a few small islands here and there that are easy to get to and make a nice place to stop off and have lunch. Just make sure to take all your trash with you, and watch out for snakes. While they wont bother you, they are there. Lots of awesome bird watching too south of the WW bridge, including bald eagles. EDIT: Even an inflatable kayak is suitable. Canoes are also suitable, though probably somewhat less stable in choppy water conditions. The Kayaks I have taken out, just standard kayaks have handled even a fairly choppy Potomac just fine though.

The Marina at Dyke Marsh rents kayaks for around $20 for 2 hours and $30 for 4 hours I think. Call ahead to reserve if the weather is going to be nice because sometimes they do run out. There are a number of other rental places along the river as well, but Dyke Marsh you can go as far north as the WW Bridge, and I think all the way down to the Ft. Washington lighthouse.

Hope you have fun and be safe!
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:29 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
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UCSF, thanks for all the info.

Even if I don't need a sea kayak for that area, wouldn't the increased stability be worth it? Or are you thinking I'd get annoyed by the reduced maneuverability?

The rowing shell really appeals to me because rowing is so much faster than paddling anything. I'd love to row from Rosslyn to Mt. Vernon. I've never rowed a shell, though--just cheap old boats.

PS: That is great to know about the rentals at Dyke Marsh. I think I'll do that before I buy anything. Thanks for that tip!
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:36 PM
 
Location: Saint Petersburg, FL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
UCSF, thanks for all the info.

Even if I don't need a sea kayak for that area, wouldn't the increased stability be worth it? Or are you thinking I'd get annoyed by the reduced maneuverability?

The rowing shell really appeals to me because rowing is so much faster than paddling anything. I'd love to row from Rosslyn to Mt. Vernon. I've never rowed a shell, though--just cheap old boats.

PS: That is great to know about the rentals at Dyke Marsh. I think I'll do that before I buy anything. Thanks for that tip!

No problem! Thats what were all here for (well mainly) right? What exactly do you mean by a rowing shell? I think a Sea Kayak would probably get tiring. Even on the most choppy days you are looking at 1-2 foot waves, but most days its less than 1 foot. Would have to be a pretty darn windy day to give you that kind of big chop I would think. The standard kayaks I have taken out from Dyke Marsh, handled a good chop just fine, including some rather large power boat wakes. I just tend to turn it into the wave , or, ill rock back and forth opposite of the wave to kind of keep it level. Honestly, I have never felt unsafe, even when large power boat wakes have come through. I suppose that I can swim helps with my sens of security.

Definitely check out the rentals. They are well worth it, and come with everything you need including a PFD.
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Old 08-31-2011, 03:06 PM
 
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Carlingtonian,

I'm more a sailor than a paddler or rower, but I'd suggest that before buying anything you might want to hook up with some of the local paddling or rowing clubs or take some of the organized trips arranged by the local paddling shops. Most sculls and shells are not designed to be particularly stable (speed comes at the expense of stability) and learning to row one will be faster, safer, and more enjoyable if you learn from experts rather than try to teach yourself. As far as kayaks go, if you can't consistently recover from a capsize, you might want to learn that and other skills before being out on the Potomac alone.

The folks in the clubs and the guides on the organized trips will be happy to share expertise on the best places to go and the most appropriate equipment to buy. They may also be able to help you test out various kayaks or sculls and know of people who are selling them used.
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Old 08-31-2011, 03:12 PM
 
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Remember:

As the water rat pointed out in The Wind in the Willows, "There is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
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Old 08-31-2011, 04:01 PM
 
Location: Saint Petersburg, FL
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Learn something new every day! Thanks Ramblingman. If they had said Skulls, I would have known right away, but not really familiar with the term "shells". I know what a Skiff is tho. Growing up near water both here and on the bay we tend to know those things I guess.

I still think you will be just fine in a regular old kayak. I have taken many people out who were first timers and given them just very basic things like dont lean/ rock too far over to one side...etc, and they have all been fine and had an enjoyable time. Do the rental thing first to get a feel. If you want/ need help and are not with someone who has done it before, they will give you some pointers / tips, etc. Let us know how it goes!
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Old 08-31-2011, 04:09 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
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RamblingMan, thanks for the thoughts. And I agree with the water rat!
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