Kayaks also offer easy egress. We pull ashore along the Esplanade - a sculpted garden of winding paths and ivy-draped footbridges, peopled by bikers, joggers, strollers, and sunbathers - stretching our legs and admiring the handsome 19th-century homes lining Back Bay's banks. (The homes face away from the Charles; in the 19th century the undammed river was little more than smelly mud flats.) We lunch at the Barking Crab, our kayaks on the dock below, our mouthwatering crab cakes and shrimp accompanied by live music and ceiling fans beating back summer's heat. On our return paddle, we haul out again near Long Wharf. A five minute stroll puts us at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, Boston's tourism epicenter. There are tattooed jugglers, clowns tying towering balloon hats for eager urchins, and a sea of market stalls selling a jumbled swirl of $8 ties, $10 marionettes, and $5 hunks of sweet Italian sausage. A cacophony of mercantile noise and color, overlooked, fittingly, by the cradle of liberty.

Suddenly it is very noisy and crowded.

"Cities," says Estey, "are so much prettier from the water."

Back at the dock we dip our paddles. Wind and wave greet us.

BOSTON ISN'T AMERICA'S onlyy kayak-friendly city. Opportunity for aquatic exploration abounds. Here is a selection of the finest.