As the sun begins to dip below the skyline, the Providence River’s surface flares up, tinged with its flickering glow. In the hazy sunset light, a gondola emerges cutting through the still water’s surface, though it’s just as easy to hear as it is to see; as it glides down the river, the boat wafts strains of song from its live accordion accompanist. Led by owner Marcello, La Gondola’s group of gondoliers row with the mission to only furnish passengers with romantic sojourns and to celebrate the riverfront and the city’s Italian ties. Each of his Venice-built gondolas gleams with intricately wrought ornaments and solid brass trim, and at 36 feet, they comfortably hold a gondolier, guests, an accompanying musician, and the occasional hitchhiking tugboat captain. Each gondola trip his company takes gets Marcello’s custom touch, as he tailors every trip to passengers’ desires. “No matter who you are,” he says, “we strive to make you feel like the queen and king of the river.” In agreement with many other residents, Marcello considers Waterplace Park a city hub: “If the park is the heart of the city, the river is the lifeblood,” He says. He hopes the rebirth of the local riverfront parallels a local renaissance for gondoliering as well, which inspired him to plan the inaugural Gondolympics in May.
In the early ’70s, Boston-area resident Mike Farny dreamed of creating affordable outdoor recreational activities for his community to enjoy. In May of 1973, Mike set up shop in the MDC Norumbega Police Substation of Newton/Auburndale and began realizing his dream. The location—directly next to the historic Totem Pole Ballroom—perfectly enabled the environmentally friendly practice of canoeing and kayaking. Mike's vision blossomed over the years to include four other locations, each offering rentals, tours, and instruction.
Today, on-staff guides lead tours of the Charles River and Boston Harbor to educate participants in ecosystem conservation, view the skyline and sunset, or explore historic structures. Select trips also include lunch to fuel participants as they navigate difficult waterways and jump through flaming hoops. To prepare customers entering the water for the first time, instructors coach riders of all levels in private or group lessons at the paddling school, which draws on more than 30 years of instructional tradition. Staffers can also equip boaters in the shop—where P&H and Boréal kayaks hang alongside Tahoe paddleboards and Wenonah canoes, dreaming of one day being the inspiration for a traditional sea chantey. Crew members help clients choose their ride and accessories from these selections and others through free daily demonstrations.
Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures' aqueous instructors equip riders with the building blocks for surfing success with comprehensive courses and hands-on demonstrations. During the two-hour intro-to-standup-paddleboarding class, certified instructors help small classes of students brush up on body-boating basics atop the calm, protected waterways of the Westport River. Armed with top-of-the-line equipment, including boards, paddles, and masks shaped like each rider's favorite waterfowl, students learn how to keep their balance, paddle properly, and navigate eddying currents safely and quickly. Osprey's intro lessons shove off at high tide every Saturday and are calibrated to all levels of surfing experience. In the event of days marred by inclement weather or Loch Ness Monster impersonators, lessons may be rescheduled for cleared conditions.
Those who follow Deerfield River westward from the Catamount State Forest to the Mohawk Trail State Forest travel through the hilly terrain of historic Charlemont. There, in 1989, the Berkshire Mountains and other geographical spoils caught the eyes of Bruce Lessels and Karen Blom—a medaling member of the US whitewater team and a public health nutritionist looking to make the outdoors more accessible. They built Zoar Outdoor on the river, establishing an 80-acre facility to be a base for ziplining, rock climbing, camping, and solar-powered lodging. Today, a staff of adventurers keeps that base running. They not only sell an arsenal of outdoor gear and continue those establishing activities, but also lead whitewater rafting and kayaking trips down their home river, slicing through the waves and rearranging a slew of fishes' living rooms along the way.
Since its inception as a nonprofit organization in 1985, Community Rowing Inc. has guided more than 15,000 students in invigorating rowing sessions held on the Charles River. Their experienced staff of Olympians and coaches helps students to become familiar with industry-standard boats and rowing machines through comprehensive introductory lessons and extended handshakes with the rowing arms. After gleaning the skills necessary to properly use equipment, students gain access to locker rooms, training areas, and any additional courses on the Charles River. The full-body, calorie-burning workouts are available throughout the week, allowing students to learn essential techniques such as sweeping, sculling, and dealing peacefully with the water road rage of aggressive gondoliers.
Boating in Boston drops anchor at seven area locations—including local lakes, ponds, and Boston Harbor—helping visitors to undertake watery adventures with a fleet of more than 200 canoes, kayaks, sailboats, pedal boats, and paddleboards. Whether navigating the gentle eddies of Stoneham's Spot Pond or searching for the feral water-polo team rumored to inhabit Wakefield's Lake Quannapowitt, visitors can hit the water untrained or gain new proficiency with solo or group lessons. The crew of instructors also instills a love of boating in the littlest buccaneers with youth summer camps that teach basic skills and safety.