Sunday, August 31, 2014

CD-14 Daysail

I finally got back on the water for a day, but in a sailboat rather than a canoe, and carrying oars rather than paddles. Unfortunately, while I had planned to take the camera as always, I somehow walked out of the house without it, so I’m sorry, but no pictures.

My son and I had put new bearings on his boat trailer a couple weeks ago. He had been told by the previous owner, when he bought the boat, that the bearings had just been done. I don’t know what was done to them, but inspecting, greasing, and replacing worn parts were none of the things that were done to the trailer. The bearings were shot. The races were pitted and gouged. One hub was all but destroyed, so we replaced it with a new hub, race, and bearing set. The right hub looked passable. Although when we finished, the new Bearing Buddy would not seat in the old hub, indicating that it was worn and would also need to be replaced.

We made an early start on the day, bought another replacement hub, race, and bearing set, and replaced the worn hub. We took a ride around town, stopping every couple miles to feel the hubs to make sure they were staying cool, meaning that we had gotten them properly greased. With that done, we headed for Kaw Lake with a lunch stop with the granddaughters in Ponca City.

The Cape Dory 14
Their boat is a Cape Dory 14. It is 14-ft 6-in overall, 51” beam, 6” draft board up, and 36” with the board down. It is gunter rigged, and one of 652 built between 1964 and 1973. My son was looking for a good pulling boat that could also be sailed. He loved the lines of the classic Whitehall, but with a $12,000 price tag on the Whitehall, decided the Cape Dory 14 much more within reach of his wallet.

When we arrived at Kaw Lake, we didn’t need a calendar to tell it was Labor Day Weekend. There were easily a hundred boats buzzing about and beached on the shorelines. We charged forward, however, and launched as planned. There was barely a breath of air even though we are in a state where a 20-mph wind is normally called a calm day. We sat becalmed in simulated ‘storm-at-sea” waves generated by the wakes from all the passing powerboats. No sooner would a zephyr attempt to caress the sail than a wake would flail the sail around and smack the zephyr in the face. We did move, however slowly, and got plenty of practice sitting on the leeward side to hold the boom off to the proper side. After a couple hours and a couple miles, we came about for the slow drift back to the ramp. We arrived at the ramp at 6 pm, and of course you know what that means. Everyone was wanting off the lake at the same time to make dinner, so it took us an hour of sitting in line waiting to gain access to the ramp.

This brailing line is on a gaff-rigged sloop, but nicely illustrates
how it works.  Credit:
In spite of all this, it was a wonderful day. The girls had a good time, as did we. We got on the water after being aground way too long, and planned a couple new projects for the boat to improve handling and convenience. I’m trying to talk my son into installing a brailing line. As the rig is now, when the halyard is eased, the boom and sail fall into the boat or overboard where it lies until the sprit is all the way down. You then pull all the sail, boom and sprit back aboard, where they are in the way of everyone and every thing. The only recourse then is to stand teetering in the bow while holding the boom and sail up while lashing it all to the mast. A simple line from an eye on one side of the mast would come down and through an eye on the bottom of the after part of the boom, then back up to a cheek block on the opposite side of the mast, and then down to a cleat. To pull into a pier, the beach, ramp, to have room to row, or just to stop and eat lunch adrift, all that would be needed would be brailing up the boom and sails, and everything would be out of the way and secured in place. When needing to get underway again, just throw off the brailing line, pull the sheet in, and off you go. Even one of the girls could brail the sail up when not needed.

So, we had lunch out on the way to the lake, and after the sail we had dinner out. I didn’t get home until 11-pm. All told, it was a nice change of pace and a chance to be on the water. What could be better? Well, maybe a breeze, but we need not get picky. Today, its blowing 25, gusting over 35, so unless a few folks have holed up in a creek somewhere, I doubt much of anyone has gotten on the lake today.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Minor Repair to a Paddle Blade

This is a common repair, but one which should be tended to right away before water intrusion rapidly deteriorates the blade further. If you know how the blade was damaged, most of the mystery is solved as how to best prevent its recurrence. It becomes a question of whether the wood was damaged by some accident or checked. Checking is a natural opening of the fibers usually along the grain. It can, however, start following one grain and make an irregular diagonal jump to follow another grain depending on the forces working on the wood. Checking usually occurs because the wood was not completely seasoned, and is now contracting, or because of weathering from not being properly protected from the elements. In something as thin as a paddle blade, the check will normally be evident on both sides of the blade.
A 4 1/2" crack that split the wood and varnish.
The blade is cracked when an external force is applied, the wood is bent, and the fibers on the convex side of the bend are unable to endure, and a crack occurs there first along the fibers. Initially, the crack may only be visible on what was the convex side, but, of course, if the force continues, the wood will fail completely. My paddle blade only showed a crack on one side, splitting both the varnish and the wood, but not being evident at all on the other side. We don’t know how it happened, but apparently pressure caught the blade in an unsupported position and flexed the blade.

Using a Dremel tool with triangular bit, a "V" groove was cut
half-way through the paddle.
On plain paddles, the crack would normally go all the way to the end of the blade, since the wood is diminishing in both thickness and strength as the blade tapers. To start, I carefully highlight the crack with a pencil so it is easier to follow while sawing. The crack is sawed through to remove any broken wood fibers, and also to open the crack enough to effect a repair. I use a saw blade just wide enough to remove the damaged fibers and no more. Scotch tape is applied over the crack on one side, since epoxy won’t adhere to it, and slightly thickened epoxy is then forcibly brushed into the crack to remove all air. As described below, masking tape is put on either side of the crack on the working side of the blade.

The groove was epoxy filled, sanded smooth, and while probably
not necessary, a single layer of fiberglass was applied to the entire
back of the blade.
On this blade, a Bending Branches BB Special Bent-Shaft paddle, the RockGard epoxy edge that is applied around most of the blade’s edge, protected the blade and kept the crack from running all the way to the end. Since the blade was not cracked through, nor to the end of the blade, I routed a “V” groove about half-way through the blade. Masking tape was used to outline the crack both in width and length. This does two things---it greatly minimizes mess and the sanding time required later, and since epoxy shrinks a bit as it cures, it allows the epoxy to stand a bit above the surface of the paddle. This makes it unnecessary to come back and add a touch more epoxy later. Once the epoxy becomes tacky, so it will no longer run, the masking tape is removed. Don’t let the epoxy cure with the tape in place.

Finished with several coats of spar varnish, the repair is
hardly noticeable.
Other than varnishing, this is really all that is necessary. However, I have a long history of always wanting to do something extra. This habit has gone on long enough that it is now impossible to ignore. So, I applied a single layer of epoxy and fiberglass to cover the entire back of the blade. I doubt the materials required added as much as an ounce to the weight of the blade, but backed up the repair and strengthened the blade so that I can now either paddle with it or use it to dig trenches. Once everything is sanded smooth, just apply as many coats of varnish (minimum of four) as your patience will allow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

River-Running Sphinx Moth

The sphinx moth, also called a hawk moth or hummingbird moth, is huge, and its behavior closely mimics the hummingbird. It flies erratically, darting about so rapidly that it is often difficult to follow with the eye. Part of this, however, is that it feeds most commonly in the evening when light conditions begin to fade. They are big, often having as much as an 8-inch wingspan, and feed on flowers with a proboscis (feeding tube) that is anchored in its tail end and still extends as much 10-inches from its head, so certainly an amazing creature. They love pink, red and orange Four O-Clocks, a self-seeding and very, very prolific flower that will take over a flowerbed. They also love petunias and evening primrose.

There are many varieties.  This one is a pink-spotted sphinx moth
because of the pink spots on its lower wings to either side of its body.
This one visited Jean in the yard, so she brought it inside for me to see. Here it appears to be helping me find camping spots on a Mississippi River map.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Running The Amazon

Running The Amazon, by Joe Kane, pub. by Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1989, 277pp.

No one had ever done a source-to-sea expedition of the Amazon. A few had paddled or rafted short sections, but a previous attempt at running the entire river in 1976 ended when the expedition leader died within the first three minutes of having his boat in the water. About a half-dozen other attempts were made, two more people died, and none succeeded

The river gradient is five times greater than the Colorado River, and drops 13,000 feet in one 300 mile section. The American Whitewater Assoc. classification for rapids has six levels. Level six is labeled ’extreme.’ It reads, “These runs have almost never been attempted, and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability, and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe, and rescue may be impossible.” The Apurimac ran from threes to many sixes or off the scale.

The river’s source is in a snowfield high in the Andes Mountains. At 18,000 feet on the side of Mount Mismi, South America’s continental divide, their first challenge would be altitude sickness. The Apurimac River would shortly begin after a few miles of following the snowmelt stream. It led them into Black Canyon, one of the world’s deepest gorges, at more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. At one point the canyon rim perches two and a half miles above the river, or over 10,000 feet deep. The roar of the cascades is so great that the native Quechua name for the river translates to “The Great Speaker of God.”

The expedition started with a team of ten, nine men and one woman, the team doctor. It ended with four members by the time they had completed the 4,150 mile run. They introduce the reader to the river, jungle, small, sleepy native villages, drug-smuggling plantations, being shot at by guerilla gunmen, violent storms, equally violent confrontations among team members, and pretty much everything else you could expect from such an expedition. This is definitely a good read.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Picture of the Day

Credit: Alex Comb, Solo Canoe
It starts as a canoe, and ends as a pulling boat, but
what can be more beautiful and serene?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Stumpy Lake - 2

The cypress swamp showed nature in full bloom.
In the southwest corner of the lake, I encountered a channel that led west. Investigating it carried my deep into a cypress swamp. The air was filled with the songs of birds, and wildflowers grew everywhere. I went as far as I could until I was just about to run out of room to turn around.

Parts of the lake were carpeted with millions of floating seeds.
As I paddled up the west shore, I drew close to a couple of kayakers. I was about to speak to them when the man ran the bow of his kayak into low foliage of a small, young cypress tree sitting right on the edge of the shore in front of a cabin. Any chance of a conversation was ended when a man came running out the door of his cabin yelling. I first thought he was wanting them to get away from his property, but instead I heard him warning that there was a water moccasin in the cypress tree. The paddler backed away as he looked about, and said that he didn’t see anything. The man approached the tree and said that he had just been out there a few minutes before and saw it entwined in the branches of the tree. After looking about, he agreed that it didn’t seem to still be there. A bit put off by the wildlife in the immediate area, the paddling couple decided to move on down the lake.

Gliding through the cypress swamp.
E-Z Launch.  This is a single boat launch.  The one at Stumpy
Lake could handle two boats at once, one off either end.
There were no good places for launch and take-out from the shore, but they had built a beautiful metal pier, float, and launching wharf. The wharf, attached to the end of the pier, is called an E-Z Launch, made by E-Z Port. The company made a name for itself making launch floats for PWC, or jet skis, allowing them to be literally driven onto the float and pushed off. This launch is for paddlecraft, and includes a seat the slides out over the canoe/kayak to enable disabled or elderly people to get into a canoe. This one was a double launcher, meaning it was long enough that two craft could be placed on the ramp and loaded, then launched simultaneously. Your canoe would be placed on several cross pipes covered with PVC. Once loading, you’d pull on the side rails and pull yourself onto the sloping ramp and into the water. It is fantastic for plastic boats. I saw several launch, and they shot out onto the water’s surface like a launched watermelon seed. I used the launch, since there were no alternatives, but found it greatly lacking for my light Kevlar canoe. The cross bars are far enough apart that the boat flexed alarmingly, and buckled as it passed over each pipe. There’s an area where the canoe is half on the launch and half water-borne where it is totally unsupported in the middle. The canoe clearly exclaimed that it was not having a good time. Returning, you’re supposed to just run the bow up onto the ramp, use the side rails to pull yourself up the incline and onto the flat section, and then disembark. I chose to just get the bow onto the ramp, and then stepped onto the side rails. Once I got up far enough, I stepped onto the end of the ramp, and just scooted the canoe up between my legs. I’m glad no one was taking pictures. There was nothing graceful about it, but I didn’t want to stress the canoe any further. Again, fantantastic idea and great for plastic boats, but for ultra-light craft, I’d recommend finding some alternative. Had it not been for heavy growth alongside, placing the canoe in the water alongside the float and boarding from the pier would have been the best option.

With Buddy loaded back on the Ram, I grabbed my packed lunch and waterbottle and settled at a picnic table for a quiet, leisurely lunch. It was a short trip, but everything I could want from a paddle.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stumpy Lake, VA

I didn’t have a lot of time, but Stumpy Lake was nearby and accessible for getting on the water. I was a bit concerned about the name, and when I met a fisherman launching ahead of me, I took advantage of the chance to question him about it. He assured me there was plenty of water unless I got close to the shores. In fact, I found plenty of water everywhere, and only rubbed one stump slightly.

Stumpy Lake, quiet and beautiful.

A very low single-lane causeway bridge connecting the highway
and a golf course and residential area.
The lake was a nice pale green color, and it was evident why fishermen were launching throughout the day. The lake was surrounded and peppered with mature cypress trees. The sun filtered through the beautiful foliage and dappled the water’s surface. An added advantage is that only hand-propelled craft are permitted on the lake. Paddling slalom in and out among the cypress reminded me of my days paddling Trap Pond in Delaware with David Sockrider.

Two female mallards, one by a cypress tree.

As usual, I paddled the entire circumference of the lake. Near the dam, seeds were being transported on the breeze. They were a bit smaller than a grain of white rice and surrounded by a tuft of down a half to ¾ inch in diameter. At times it looked like a snow storm, and toward the south end of the lake, the water was covered by large blankets of white. I wanted to be able to identify what I was seeing, but local workers in the park had no idea what they were. Indeed, they hadn’t even noticed them. So, I contacted the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. I described the seeds, and said that if I was home on the plains, I’d swear they were cottonwood tree seeds, but didn’t think there would be cottonwoods in the tidewater regions of Virginia. I am grateful to their chief biologist, J. Christopher Ludwig, who responded with the following: “I am fairly sure your seeds are from the Salix Caroliniana, the Carolina Willow, a fairly common tree on the borders of the lake. By the way, Willow and Poplar are in the same family--Salicacease--so your guess on cottonwood was right on.” So that told me two things I didn’t know before---the cottonwood is a poplar, and willows and poplars are of the same family. Cool!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Plumbing the Plimsoll Line

The Plimsoll Line

I saw this on the side of a rusty barge in the Elizabeth River. If you’ve been paddling around commercial rivers and harbors, you most likely have seen this on the side of ships and barges, but unless you are involved in shipping, you probably haven’t understood what it represents. This is called a Plimsoll Line or Mark, named after Samuel Plimsoll, who in 1874, 1875, and 1876 introduced three pieces of legislation before the British Parliament that became known as the Merchant Shipping Act. The goal was to standardize the amount of freeboard a vessel should have under different sea conditions. (Freeboard is the height of the side of the ship from the waterline to the vessel’s deck.) Plimsoll’s name stuck because his standards became British law, which in turn became the international standard in 1930 with the International Load Line Convention.

The Plimsoll Line was necessary because insurance companies, ship owners, captains and crews have interests that are naturally diametrically opposed to the interests of shippers. The owners, captains, and insurance companies would like to see the vessel arrive intact at its destination. The crews seem to favor not drowning at sea. Shippers, on the other hand, want to load the vessel as heavily as possible. It’s all about money. The more they can get aboard, the more money they make. If loading it too heavily causes the ship to sink, well, the load is insured, so they get paid anyhow, so regardless of what the shipping companies say about their devotion to safety, I know from personal experience that some shippers will often use threats of contract cancellation, tantrums, intimidation or anything else to force a captain into taking on more load. The Plimsoll Line gives the captain final authority. When the relevant line is reached, and the shipper doesn’t concur that loading is finished, the captain can call the owners, insurers, or the Coast Guard, any and all of which will back his decision to stop loading.

Plimsoll wasn’t the first to realize that there was a problem. Overloading destroys a vessel’s stability, and this problem has existed since the first raft was pushed into the water. The result can be capsizing (rolling over) or being overcome by seas because of inadequate buoyancy. This results in the vessel flooding and sinking, or foundering. The first known regulations date back to 2,500 BC in Crete, and the Romans and other civilizations followed suit.

Here’s how you read the Plimsoll Line. On the left side of the symbol, there is a circle with a bisecting horizontal line. In the summer, a vessel must have freeboard that extends from the line to the level of the vessel’s deck. The two letters represent the authors of the enforceable standards under which the vessel operates. Here, the letters AB represent the American Bureau of Shipping. LR would be Lloyd’s Registry (British), IR for Indian Registry, and so on.

Since fresh and salt waters have different densities, a vessel with a given load will settle deeper in freshwater. The two lines to the left of the vertical staff are for freshwater, and the lines to the right are for saltwater. TF is for tropical freshwater, and F for fresh. On the right, T is tropical saltwater, S for summer saltwater, W for winter saltwater, and WNA is for winter North Atlantic. Besides water density, the lines take into account the likelihood of encountering heavy seas at different times of the year, or in different regions. The end result, hopefully, is that the ship, captain, crew, AND LOAD, will get safely from point A to point B.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Picture of the Day

Credit: to @rogerden
In Algonquin Provincial Park
Wishing you a great day!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Southern Branch - 2

Paddling more took me to the entrance of Deep Creek, the northern entrance to the Dismal Swamp Canal, which is next to the I-64 bridge. Any reference to the canal brings back a memory from years ago. We were sailing to Spain, and were going down the ICW for an offshore departure from Morehead City. Never having done the Dismal Swamp before, we jumped at the chance to do a detour. When we got to the Deep Creek lock, the lock tender was mowing his lawn during his lunch break, and said for us to just hang out under he was done. I asked Jean to go to the bow and take a loop of line on a dolphin by the lock, and we’d have lunch also. Then there was the shriek from the bow. As she was looping the line around the piling, she discovered that she was disturbing a snake also having his noon siesta.

An immature osprey standing watch on a day marker.

A tree left stranded by erosion.
Now see if this doesn’t sound like most trips. I had a headwind all the way up stream, which was accepted with the anticipation of a nice tailwind on the return. As soon as I took the picture of the Dismal Swamp entrance sign, where I was to start my return trip, the wind went dead flat, denying me a helpful lift for the paddle back to Great Bridge. On the other hand, another frequent occurrence is the wind turning, resulting in a headwind going both ways. All together, this gave me a 10-mile outing, nice for a day paddle. It’s doubly nice to find a relatively quiet waterway in the midst of a major metropolitan area.

Osprey on its nest.

A line of advancing fiddler crabs.

The entrance to the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Southern Branch

I made a second trip out of Great Bridge Park, this one going down the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, Chesapeake, VA. There were a bunch of boats waiting in the lock, and since the lock only opens every half your, I had some time to enjoy the waterway to my self. Before the gates opened and released all the traffic, I diverted into Bells Mill Creek, which makes a loop around an island before dumping back into the ICW. That would have been the natural waterway before the channel was straightened. In the post “The Ditch and Lock,” on 11 Aug., you can see the island dead center of the second picture. Bells Mill Creek can be seen veering left just behind the catamaran.

An osprey, or fish hawk, and its nest high in the top of a dead tree.

Young heron in Bells Mill Creek.
By the time I had rounded the island, all the traffic from the lock had passed, so I was once again left delightfully alone. I ducked into every side stream I encountered along the river. Some produced birds and one an army of fiddler crabs, but they all ended shortly. With the tide at dead low, I had to walk across a couple creek entrances. After a couple hours I saw a ramp to starboard at a private club, and stopped at the ramp long enough to stretch my legs and have a snack.

I like this shot, which would admittedly be much
better without the two plastic bottles.

Canada goose.
A bit further took me under a bridge construction project at Rt. 17/166. I know they are used to doing that work all the time, but I still felt a bit vulnerable paddling under all that heavy equipment directly over my head.

Two osprey taking a break from their nest on the other
side of the channel.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eight Critical Words

The older we become, the more we realize that there's less time to waste, to fritter away, to be distracted, making priorities all the more important.  This tee-shirt says it all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Greatest Battle You Never Heard Of

The Battle of Great Bridge was vital to American independence from Great Britain in two regards. The Great Road, other than small foot bridges interconnecting solid hummocks, was the only way to get from the mainland to Norfolk Harbor. This great natural harbor would be critical for maintaining and supplying naval vessels, but could only be used if it could be accessed and protected. Knowing this, British forces decided to control this strategic supply line to the harbor by the Great Road. As mentioned before, the main waterway to be crossed was the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, and the Great Bridge accomplished that. Therefore, the British built Fort Murray, a dirt breastworks and wood stockade, at the Norfolk end of the bridge, and guarded it with 670 men. 
Battle of Great Bridge
The patriots had gathered 900 men that encamped on the opposite side of the bridge. As the patriot camp stirred at daybreak on 7 December 1775, the British advanced. The bridge was so narrow the British had to parade across the bridge in file to the beat of two drums, completely exposed to the patriot fire. The battle only lasted 30 minutes, just long enough to produce a “scene of slaughter.”

The British credited the patriots with great humility in withholding fire as the Red Coats withdrew back across the bridge with their wounded. By nightfall the British had abandoned their fort and retreated to Norfolk with roughly 70 casualties. A single Virginian had been slightly wounded.

Besides preserving what remains one of our nation’s greatest naval facilities, this small battle sealed allegiances so as to convince the British they had only to withdraw from Norfolk and from this new nation. The defeat of the British and their expulsion from Norfolk convinced both Southern Loyalists and wavering Southern Patriots alike that the obvious wisdom was in supporting the patriot cause.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ditch and Lock

The Intracoastal Waterway, known to most who use it as the ICW, or just the Ditch, was an effort to increase the safer and faster transport of commerce along the Atlantic Coast. Cape Hatteras, called The Graveyard of the Atlantic, is still peppered with more than 600 shattered remains of vessels that tried to round its treacherous shoals. Between being a gathering place for storms and the close passage of two conflicting ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream, passage around the cape would be impossible for most of the fall and winter, and for long periods the rest of the year. The 3,000 mile inside passage of the ICW would be the eventual solution.

Southbound vessels await lowering in the lock.
In a discussion with Virginia Governor, Patrick Henry, George Washington proposed the idea of draining the Dismal Swamp and cutting a north-south canal to join the Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound, the first 22-mile-long leg of the future ICW. Washington first visited the snake-infested swamp in 1763. While Washington served in a number of capacities, his life-long career was as a land surveyor, and so he served a vital part in how the canal was laid out. Anyone who travels the canal can marvel at his precision. Except for two slight elbows to line up connections with natural streams at either end of the canal, the waterway is as straight as the flight of an arrow.

With funding from a number of investors, Washington himself being a primary one, the Dismal Swamp Canal Company was founded in 1784, and construction commenced in 1793. The canal was entirely hand-dug by slaves, hired from area plantations, and indentured laborers, another wording for white slaves. They spent 12-years wallowing in mud and fighting snakes. The logs driven into the edges of the canal, to prevent the banks from caving in, have long since petrified and are still visible in many places. Tolls were charged to maintain the canal, and it was deepened in 1829.

With the lock gates opened, the parade heads south.
However, the needs for passage of ever-larger vessels with the adoption of steam power required the digging of the larger Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal parallel with the Dismal Swamp, but further to the east. By 1850, the advent of steam-powered dredges capable of biting through rock-hard cypress roots and knees shortened construction time in spite of the new waterway being much larger. In 1859, the canal opened with the passage of the first vessel, the steamboat “Calypso.”

Wow, what a gorgeous shot.  The photographer was standing
in about the same place I was when I took the picture above.
I found it on flickr, and would like to give proper credit,
but there was no further information.  It is so great, I didn't
think anyone would mind you enjoying it also.
In integral part of the ICW is the Great Bridge Lock. While mile zero for the ICW officially begins in Norfolk, a short distance north of Great Bridge, for most of the over 2,000 boaters making the transit each year, the lock is where the trip really begins. On this trip, I launched the canoe from the ramps at Great Bridge Lock Park, a well-groomed 19-acre park adjacent to the lock. I’ve done the lift through the lock many times for the normally 4-foot tidal difference in water level, but I’ve always been looking up from the deck of a boat at those observing from above. This was my first time to be a spectator watching the boats lock through.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Out There

I've been as busy as can be, but I checked the blog this morning to realize I hadn't posted in four days.  Thinking, "Wow, I need to get back to work," here's a review of my last book.

Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age by Ted Kerasote. Pub. by Voyageur Press, Stillwater, MN, 2004, 160pp.

Out There is a small book. It can be cupped in one hand, and has only 160 pages. Yet, I found it to be one of the better books I’ve read in awhile that really make the reader a participant in the expedition. The sights, sounds, experiences, even the smells are described so clearly that they become recognizable. Each day, each camp duty, bend in the river, wildlife encounter, new view of scenery and rapid are made real and personal. Only remaining dry in one’s recliner separates the reader from a seat in the canoe.

The thread throughout the book, as the subtitle hints, is how to be deep in the wilderness, where you seek quiet, peaceful reflection, communion with nature and oneself, while unavoidably being surrounded by technology. When does technology cease being an aid and begin to invade or intrude? Does the refreshing experience of the wilderness become more like a vacation where the office calls three times every day, or you’re tied to the laptop grinding out another report or brief? The conflict between the two extremes continued daily, while Ted always tried to find an agreeable balance. When he finally touched his partner’s sat phone, for example, it wasn’t a yielding to technology as much as a yielding to the expectations of family, who, knowing they had the phone with them, would expect a call from the Arctic, and be hurt if they didn’t get one. His one feeling of vindication came when Len, his techno-geek canoe partner, finds that his Palm Pilot has crashed, taking all six e-books Len had loaded into it along with its cold, dead, silicon chip. He has to ask Ted to dip into his dry-bag for a real paper and ink book that he can borrow.

The trip is down the Horton River for 400 miles from Nunavut toward the Beaufort Sea. Being far into the Northwest Territories, it remains one of the most remote spots on earth, little changed since the glaciers retreated 7,000 years ago. Yet, it’s on the map, so they had no sooner started than they heard a seaplane coming in, heading straight at them, and pulling to shore at their feet with a guide and his fishermen. Still, they met only one other canoe with a couple making their way very, very slowly down river. In all, in spite of the books diminutive size, it is a wonderful story that you will enjoy.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Victims of Greed - 3

The headline for this piece is really misleadingly minimalistic.  The impact goes way beyond drinking water for area residents.  This flows into the Frasier River, and other similar ponds are effecting the Athabasca River, two of the major rivers of Canada.  The Frasier along flows from his in the mountains of British Columbia, and runs all the way to Vancouver, through major salmon fishing areas, and into the Straight of Georgia, between Vancouver and Seattle.  This impacts the environment, fisheries, spawning areas, wildlife, not to mention poisoning paddlers that may not be getting the reports and paddling the area.  See the link.

Squirrelly Progress

Before returning to the water, we can mention two additions to Jean’s animal rehab work. I know this is supposed to be a paddling blog, but my need to be surrounded by water, and Jean’s need to be surrounded by critters are so intertwined, it’s sometimes hard to tell where one leaves off and the other commences. If you’re like me, and like to get the bad news out of the way first, we had a couple boys bring us an adolescent Mississippi Kite. The kite is a small bird of prey with a 3-foot wingspan, that normally feeds mainly on insects, but also small reptiles and mammals. This time of year they concentrate on grasshoppers, cicadas, and crop damaging insects, making them important to farmers. Unfortunately, many farmers are anxious to get the upper hand on insects, and resort to spraying.

Credit: wikipedia images
The bird was in a yard near the street. When the bird was brought to us, it was suspected that both legs were broken. Indeed, the bird had no use of its legs or tail. The first guess was that perhaps it was hit by a car or truck. When we took it to the Tri-State Animal Clinic, in Cleo Springs, the vet said that the legs were not broken, but that it had been exposed to a neurological agent, most likely insect spray from bugs it had eaten. The vet gave it a shot of niacin to stimulate the central nervous system. We had the kite for three days. Initially it appeared to be making good progress, eating and taking fluids, and even beginning to acquire minimal leg use again. However, once the poisons are in the system, they are hard to overcome, and on the third day, it passed away.

Anyone interested in learning more about the effects of widespread spraying on bird populations may wish to read "The Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson.

So, to the good news. The owl we had passed away and hurt Jean so badly that she said she was never going to do rehab again. A half-hour later, a couple brought her a one-week old squirrel. Upon seeing the defenseless, tiny thing, Jean was instantly back on board. The man had found it on his lawn beneath a tree while mowing. It had been quite windy, so it’s likely it was blown out of the nest. It was only 3-inches long from nose to tail, with its eyes still closed. As an infant, it has had to be fed every three hours around the clock. That is a hard schedule for anyone, especially at the age of 70, so we’ve been rather bleary-eyed. The good news is that it has now doubled in size, and we are going to an every four-hour feeding schedule during the night, with feedings every three hours during the day. Woo-hoo! That is certainly progress.
Being fed with KMR, Kitten Milk Replacer.  This is also what is
used for kittens, as the name says.  Some people feel giving a kitten
dairy milk is all they need.  Kittens don't have the enzymes needed
to digest cow milk, and can suffer malnutrition and even die.  Goat
milk, if it can be found, is fine, or KMR can be found at most vet and
pet suppliers.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Battlefield Marsh

As my brother’s condition improved, and he became more independent, I found a couple days to get Buddy out on the water. The first paddle was for only 5 miles, but a lot of time was spent poking through the spidery fingers of Battlefield Marsh.

The area called Tidewater Virginia, encompasses a large area from the Lower Chesapeake Bay down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Before the coming of “civilization” and the construction of roads and bridges, there were few pieces of solid earth that would lead to other pieces of high ground without traversing a marsh or waterway. This Tidewater area south of the Elizabeth River, however, yielded commerce for colonists in the 1600’s that included shingles, tobacco, lumber, grain, and naval stores, that were moved north to market. What became known as the Great Road is what enabled these products to reach buyers in Norfolk. The primary bridge on the Great Road would logically be called Great Bridge. Since the Great Road and Great Bridge were the only through-route that joined mainland Virginia to the ports at Norfolk, Great Bridge would become the site of a short, but critical, battle in the Revolutionary War. Great Bridge is still there, and the Great Road has become Battlefield Blvd. It is still a major route that carries non-stop, bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Entering Battlefield Marsh
Great Bridge crossed the headwaters of the South Branch of the Elizabeth River, which was channeled through to the headwaters of the North Landing River to become the start of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) Great Bridge becomes the starting point for thousands of boats every year that follow the ICW clear to Florida. The area around Great Bridge is called Battlefield Marsh, and that’s where Buddy and I would float away from the congestion and noise.
Great Blue Heron
I was unfortunately at low tide, but while I had to pick my way through some shallow bars and areas, as I came back out of the marsh, I had a couple inches more water. Opposite the boat ramp, at the park behind the Great Bridge Lock, was an industrial site. There I found YP-678 secured to a couple dolphins. (Note: Besides being a fish, a dolphin is a collection of pilings cabled together at the top to create a very strong place to secure vessels and barges.)

A YP is a yard patrol boat. These are smaller naval vessels used for training and survey work. At the U.S. Naval Academy, they are the platform for teaching young midshipmen shipboard duties, vessel operation, and seamanship. YP-678 is 108-ft. long with a 24-ft beam and 8-ft draft, of 176-tons, and powered by two Detroit diesel engines that produce a cruising speed of 12 kts. Her keel was laid in 1983, launched in Nov., 1984, put in operation at the Academy in May, 1985, and decommissioned in Nov., 1998. It seems a shame for such a nice craft to have only an official span of operation of thirteen years. Besides the designation of YP-678, she was known as the USS Judgment.  
USS Judgment (YP-678) in happier days, steaming down
the St. Lawrence River.
She has laid in the Elizabeth River since 2008, and is for sale on Craig list for $30,000 if you are looking for the ultimate yacht. She is double-planked Alaska cedar with an aluminum pilot house, and the current survey says her hull is free of leaks and sound. A couple years ago I found another YP in a slip in the Sassafras River that has indeed been nicely fitted out as a yacht. Really making me feel old is the fact that Judgment’s entire naval career took place after I retired.

Friday, August 1, 2014

John's Winfield Collection

Following his retirement and the loss of his wife to cancer, his woodshop became one of John’s most enjoyable pastimes. Anyone doing much woodwork is likely familiar with the Winfield Collection, which includes over 3,500 patterns and plans for all types of wood crafts, as well as books, DVD, and instructional videos. Here are a few that John has adorned his home with, along with his wood fences, walkways, and the enclosed front porch on his home, shown on yesterday’s post. The ship’s wheel and anchor on the front of his porch (Again, shown on last post.) are part of his collection. You can see the entire collection, and get a catalog, by visiting their site at

Model-T truck on side of carport.  Several butterflies
have found places to rest about the yard.

6-ft. lighthouse next to door on utility shed.

American eagle shows up with flag for holidays.