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Sit down — or stand up — and paddle offshore

 Get off the beach
By JEFF INGLIS  |  June 7, 2013

Portland Paddle's Zack Anchors and Erin Quigley

Sea kayakers in Portland have a couple of problems. First, it can be hard to find someone to paddle with, if you don’t already know a fellow enthusiast. Second, if you find someone willing to paddle, they likely don’t have their own boat — meaning you’re back out paddling solo again.
There’s nothing wrong with that, except it’s way more fun — not to mention a good bit safer — to paddle with friends. The easy solution, of course, would be to rent a boat for your willing partner. But until recently, renting a kayak wasn’t possible in the Forest City. Rather, prospective paddlers were forced to leave downtown and drive north or south along the coast, or to sort out the ferry schedules to and from Peaks Island on either end of the trip. All this precluded a quick after-work paddle or the spontaneous choice to laze around the swells of a weekend afternoon.

But salvation is here, and there are no more excuses. Portland Paddle opened its hatches last weekend, right at the East End Beach.

It’s a perfect spot to start a paddling trip — many owners already store their boats on the city-provided racks and launch from the beach. It’s a very protected little corner of the harbor with great views, and provides super-easy access to a wide range of destinations. You can take a relaxed excursion among protected inlets, (carefully) explore wildlife nesting areas, check out the rarely viewed seaward sides of lighthouses, and watch lobstermen do their work at close range — if you’re lucky, and have some cash on board, you may buy them fresh out of the trap!

Portland Paddle co-owners Zack Anchors and Erin Quigley are longtime East Enders who found themselves frustrated at the lack of paddling opportunities on the mainland hereabouts. So Anchors, a master Maine Guide who has led kayaking trips in many places for more than a dozen years, and Quigley, an experienced outdoorswoman who just got her Maine Guide license last month, teamed up to expand paddling opportunities in Portland.

They have about a dozen single kayaks and five tandems (as well as several stand-up paddleboards), all available for rentals by the day, half-day, or for an hour or two. (Buy a 10-rental punch card for a discount!)

The gear’s all new; they let me put the very first scratches on the hull of a shiny Necky Looksha in late May, on the first official Portland Paddle outing, an afternoon route around the back of House Island via Fort Gorges. It’s great stuff — put it to use!

Go it alone
If you rent from Portland Paddle you’ll need some kayak experience and self-rescue skills. (See below for class information if you need to learn, or brush up, on those skills.) They have wetsuits, life jackets, spray skirts, and paddles available at no additional cost. (For a half-day single kayak rental with all the gear too, you’ll pay $40.)
Pop out to Fort Gorges in just a few minutes, or across to lunch on Peaks. Noodle among the islands for a relaxing afternoon of on-the-water sightseeing, and find a quiet beach to pull up on for a swim and a brief rest before heading back on your way. Paddle up the inland coast to Mackworth Island. Explore the inner harbor or even up the Fore River. Or head for the main passage out to the open ocean, checking out some of the more remote outer islands; adventurous paddlers can cross the channel (be careful!) to picnic at Willard Beach or Fort Williams Park.

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