Launch: Bomier Boat Landing, De Pere
Takeout: Green Bay Metro Marina
Distance: 8 miles
See larger map
See larger map
Tall ships bring out lots of low boats on what was to be the last segment of the Fox River Heritage Paddle 2010 kayak and canoe trip.
Clear skies and warm temperatures don’t hurt either.
We expected that the reproductions of old wooden sailing ships in Green Bay for the Baylake Bank Tall Ships Festival would make for a good turnout for the victorious conclusion of the series. But because heavy July rains and the resulting high water caused the rescheduling of three earlier segments, the end of the route was not the last of the journey.
It seems like there are boats everywhere at the Bomier Boat Launch in De Pere. A roll call in the De Pere lock tallies 98 paddlers in 74 boats – a record for the lock tender.
The lock is also the setting for a freak mishap. One of the kayakers drifts back against a recessed steel ladder in the interior of the lock. When the tender opens the valves to draw down the lock, the front of the kayak lowers with the water level but the back end – hooked onto the ladder by its rudder – stays up high.
The boat is approaching a 45-degree angle when Bob Kriese of Waupaca, one of the more skilled paddlers in the group, jumps into the water, swims to the ladder and frees rudder from wrung. The boat drops with a splash, but its calm occupant stays upright.
We are quite a sight, as boats of every color spread out down the Fox. As always, their occupants range from teens to 70s. We have in common a love of open water and the camaraderie of those who share it.
As we approach downtown Green Bay, spectators on the bridges turn from the tall ships to the curiosity of the low boats. Kriese and Jake Stachovak, the Portage-to-Portage paddler, entertain them with a show of rolling. Jake stands up in his boat and waves to the crowd.
The tall ships, 12 in all, give us another history lesson. We keep our distance, as the U.S. Coast Guard has required, but paddle slowly through gawking. A blast of cannon fire makes us jump in our boats – not enforcement by the Coast Guard but a show for the people on shore.
We leave the colonial era for the modern powerboat haven at the Green Bay Metro Marina, back on shore and back to the present.