A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Paddle Rye Harbor to Jenness Beach

October 14, 2018
Emilie Phillips

I wanted to paddle rocky shoreline instead of the sand beaches at Ipswich Bay. NOAA forecasted 0.7 foot swells — flat enough that it was safe to take Isaac out on the open coast. The best rocky beaches are farther north, or longer paddles. But the stretch from Rye Harbor south to Jenness Beach has some rocks and was short enough for a kid trip.

Isaac paddling out Rye Harbor

We spotted a seal before we’d even left Rye Harbor. Once out of the harbor, we stayed well away from shore, even though the waves were small. We saw another seal along the first section of rocky coast. Then there’s a small pebble beach that often has nasty, dumping surf. Around there, Isaac wanted a snack, and the wind started picking up.

Paddling past the first rocky bit of coastline

After snack, Isaac couldn’t make progress into the now 10 knot headwind. Tyson wanted out of his boat pronto because his sciatica had started hurting. So I clipped a tow rope onto Isaac’s bow and paddled at full adult speed.

I towed past the second rocky coastline, then turned right into the Jenness Beach bay. Maybe 100 yards offshore, I untied from Isaac. Tyson paddled in first to get out of his boat, and to help Isaac land. Tyson surfed a one foot wave most of the way in to shore.

Isaac’s second ride

I didn’t see Isaac paddle in. I was fighting with kinks in the tow rope. But Tyson said Isaac caught one good ride, then paddled out and rode in a second one. He flipped at the end of the second and decided to go body surfing instead.

Emilie surfing in to Jenness

Meanwhile, Tyson discovered his sciatica had cleared up from paddling hard to catch the wave, so he launched to surf more. Once I stowed the tow rope, I came to join the fun. Then we ate lunch on the beach.

In the summer, Jenness is quite popular. On this blue fall day, amblers and dog walkers passed us every few minutes. It wasn’t crowded, but there were too many people for me to take a pit stop in my dry suit.

Speaking of dry suits, Isaac, amazingly, still fits his dry suit from last year. I had to stretch the wrist and neck gaskets again. We couldn’t fit as many layers underneath it, so, when Isaac decided he was cold from swimming, we added one fleece shirt under the dry suit, and one neoprene shirt over the dry suit. It wasn’t cold,, both the water and the air were in the mid 50F’s, but the breeze blew away any heat from wet skin.

Leaving Jenness Beach

After lunch the waves weren’t as good. The extra foot of tide had changed the beach shape so it no longer fit one foot waves. We spotted another seal watching us as we left Jenness Beach. With the wind now behind him, Isaac paddled the whole way back to the harbor.

Lobster dinner

Isaac and Tyson both stared east to the Isles of Shoals. We’ve paddled the 7 miles out to them before. It would have been a good day for a group of fit adult kayakers to make the crossing, but not for Isaac’s current skill level. Instead we loaded the boats on the car and went for dinner. Isaac picked lobster.

Trip Planning Details

Ocean water temperatures from northeast buoy data.

Rye Harbor

Don’t launch at the commercial marina. Instead drive to the north side of the harbor. About midway out is a breakwater. The hand carry launch is there. There’s parking space for 6 cars if everyone squishes. I’ve never had problems finding a space, but it could be an issue. No facilities.

Jenness Beach

You can park at Jenness, but parking for non-residents is limited, and the one time we parked there, I think we walked back half the distance from Rye Harbor any way. Facilities, open in the summer, are at the southern end.

Magic Seaweed makes surf predictions for Jenness. The quality of the waves changes significantly over the tide range.

All Photos

GPS Track


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Comments (2)

  • I enjoyed the trip report! Curious about establishing a baseline swim skill level with young kids before taking them out in a kayak. Collin is 4 1/2 now, has had a few courses of swim lessons at the Y and SNHU, and just this summer became comfortable “swimming” with a life jacket on. But I worry that an unintended spill into the water would cause a panic.

    • I think it is less swimming skill, and more comfort in the water. Isaac is nearly 6 and is now has limited swimming skills without any flotation aides. However, his PFD makes “swimming” unnecessary; we will retrieve him if needed. He is comfortable holding his breath under water and jumping into water over his head. We have done a fair bit of playing around with over turned kayaks and using them as “play toys”:


      We have also taken him out in some mild surf with our tandem which has very large cockpit combings. …and overturned him in surf in the tandem:


      He was quite bashful about turning over intentionally and we didn’t let him solo in a kayak beyond our reach until he was willing to be intentionally over turned and do a wet exit. He doesn’t use a spray skirt.

      Look through this set of posts to see a history of how we introduced him:


      The first canoe trip we have a post for was in July of 2013 before he was one. In 2014, you’ll find posts where we fit him in a cockpit with one of us.

      We have been working to ensure that he can safely keep his composure, hold his breath, and get out of the kayak. I am hoping that next year we will be able to put a limited spray skirt on him that he can just slip out of so that we might be able paddle to some off shore islands and do some camping. On this latest trip, he really wanted to paddle out to the Isles of Shoals and they looked quite close that day. …we told him he wasn’t yet ready to go that far or that far from shore.