Anticipation swirled around each picnic table. Children of all ages intently regarded the activity on the waterfront. One by one, sailboats and kayaks launched into the water and gently drifted further out. Quickly devouring their ice pops to put their lifejackets on, the children were prepared to navigate the waters of Fred G. Bond Metro Park — with the help of an adult.
Justin Power, of Cary, and his son Aiden, 7, began kayaking together last summer and brought their own kayaks to the park.
“I enjoy the freedom of going wherever: You can go to a lake, a bigger lake, a pond, a creek; you can take it to the beach,” Power said. “Anywhere you go across the state that has water, you can take your kayak and jump in.”
Attracted to the low cost of a recreational experience, or the thrill of trying something new, folks from across Western Wake flock to the Boathouse. With a variety of boats to choose from including canoes, kayaks, sailboats, pedal boats and rowboats, the boathouse caters to individuals of various ages and skill levels.
Boating interest is on the rise, with three local lakes reporting more visitors. Bond Lake alone has experienced roughly a 10% increase in boat rentals every year since 2014, according to Andrew Marsden, recreational manager at Bond Park. The park’s bustling boathouse was renovated in 2007 — turning a small shed into a spacious cabin. This spring, a concrete path to the waterfront that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act was built, allowing wheelchair-users to rent boats.
“It’s a great way to interact with our environment,” Marsden said. “It can reduce stress; it gets you away from your daily life, and it’s a great way to be physically active without necessarily having to run or jog or anything like that.”
Boating is an activity the entire family can participate in. Popular among families are the bright yellow pedal boats. Stable on the water and easy to steer, it is the ideal craft for young children to make a quick 30-minute trip around the lake.
For people with more experience, canoes and kayaks allow for increased mobility on the water. Canoes are great for people looking to be in a boat with a partner.
“Multiple people can go in together, so you’re working as a team,” said Daniel Morgan of Apex, who has rented boats during the summer for several years with his son, Andrew, 13.
For some, boating is reminiscent of their childhood, evoking the nostalgia that comes with bonding over a shared activity.
Pam and Tom Callaway of Cary are considering taking their sons, Jimmy, 9, and Danny, 6, on the water because of Pam’s connection to sailing.
“I learned to sail when I was a kid when my father taught me. He had a metal canoe that had a sail attached to it,” Pam Callaway said. “You have to be in touch with what’s going around you, the wind and the weather. It’s something that expands your worldview and your personal experiences.”
For those looking to learn a new skill or ease their way into boating, Bond Park offers lessons with the various crafts. The group classes cater to different age groups, and students can choose between two-hour and five-hour courses.
Georg and Vilma Kiefer learned how to sail at the Bond Park classes. After just one lesson, the Cary couple were ready to venture on the water during light winds. Eventually, they purchased their own sailboat.
“With sailing, the conditions change all the time. You have to adjust to it; you have to read the winds,” said Georg Kiefer. “Being part of nature is more rewarding than just sitting on a boat with power.”
Now the Kiefers regularly sail during high winds, making it a rigorous workout rather than a leisurely glide across the water.
Renting a boat is a way to escape from a monotonous routine and revel in the serenity of an afternoon on the water. Georg Kiefer says he feels more connected to the natural world when he’s sailing.
“It’s the silence of cruising just with the elements.”
Bond Lake Boathouse
The Bond Park Boathouse offers boat rentals for less than $20 per hour. Individuals with their own boats can pay $4 per visit and use the lake’s private launch June-August. A $30 year-round pass allows avid boaters to launch private boats even during the off-season, September-May.
On the first Friday of every month April-October, the park hosts Bands, Bites and Boats. From 5:30-7:30 p.m., boaters can enjoy the sounds of local musicians and the flavors of locally-owned food trucks while they float on the water.
197 Bond Park Drive, Cary
Lake Crabtree County Park
Lake Crabtree offers canoe, kayak, rowboat, pedal boat and stand-up paddle board rentals from early May to late September. All boat rentals are free. The lake also features an ADA-approved ramp for wheelchairs. Parker Shouse is the summer boat rental manager.
“I would say that most people come here recreationally and come to meet with a group for a picnic or a cookout,” he said.
The summer months are the busiest, with plenty of activity on the water on Sunday afternoons.
1400 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville
Known for pontoon boat rentals, Jordan Lake is the spot to gather a large group of friends for a relaxing afternoon on the water. John Norton is the general manager of Crosswinds Boating, the private company which rents boats to visitors.
“Before renting a pontoon boat, people should ideally know how to operate them,” he said. “Having prior boating experience sure helps.”
The lake is busiest on summer holidays including Labor Day, July Fourth and Memorial Day.
Big Woods Road, Chapel Hill
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