Kayaking with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Leading up to the weekend, EY instructors were keeping a vigilant eye on the forecast because, for yet another Saturday trip, it was looking like some rain might fall. But on Saturday morning, as we headed out to the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse in Somerville for our day of kayaking, we thanked Mother Nature for sending sun and warmth instead.

Once there, we were joined by three “matches” from Big Brothers Big Sisters and by an awesome instructor from Paddle Boston, Allee. We were all eager to get into the water, so we didn’t waste too much time on land - we each got on a lifejacket and took a paddle, then grabbed some dry bags filled with fresh fruit and reusable water bottles to bring out on the kayaks. As we listened to Allee’s instructions on paddling techniques, we were interrupted by a raccoon making its way down the path from the boathouse to the parking lot. After disucssing some theories as to why this raccoon might be walking around in the middle of the day, we finished up our paddling lesson and headed down to the docks.

While in the water, we paddled out a ways before Allee introduced us to some kayaking games. The fan favorite for the day was definitely “basketball.” This entailed several floating dry bags (these were the basketballs), and the cockpit of the kayaks as the baskets. As Allee counted down the start of the game, paddles were frantically thrust into the water to reach the basketballs first, creating a frenzy of splashes in the Mystic River. Everyone’s competitive side came out right away; it was the perfect way to break the ice.


After a few more games, we set a goal to paddle to the bridge a fair distance away. As we coasted our way up the river, we found ourselves traveling through a thick patch of water lilies, which forced us to slow down so that our blades wouldn’t get tangled in their stems. In doing so, we were able to spot a few fish splashing on the surface of the water, as well as several turtles sunning themselves on a log at the river’s edge.

The day ended with another competition: a race. We formed a starting line marked by a pink buoy floating in the water. Allee sat in her kayak about 100 meters in front of us. To win the race, we had to paddle out to where she sat, then paddle back to the pink buoy….backwards! When Allee gave the signal to start, everyone’s paddles dropped into the water simultaneously, creating some major splashing. Kayaks collided, and there were a few close calls, but everyone remained in their boats, and in the end we were all too out of breath to figure out who actually won the race.

After paddling for nearly three hours, and using up our last bit of energy on the heated race, we were ready to head to the docks. Once we were back on land, with our life jackets off and paddles returned, we circled up for a debrief. EY instructors asked everyone to name their favorite activity from the day. Although most participants enjoyed basketball the most, some people preferred the more collaborative games, like kayak-hopping, while others enjoyed the paddling in general. But we did all agree on one fact: we would certainly be sore tomorrow!

Alec Griswold