Monday, February 3, 2014

Sage Sign in Ellsworth

One alternative to paddling is visiting nearby towns.  We went to Ellsworth one Sunday, where we discovered this sign containing  such sage advice, we felt it should be shared.

  Now I feel like I should go back on a warm summer's eve and see what sort of people need a sign like this...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Breaking Up an Ice Jam

   On the same day as our first paddle, at high tide (10:42AM) we headed to the Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor to view the ice jam.   The jam had been there for a couple days, created when rain and warming temperatures broke up ice upstream and sent it coursing to the mouth.  But where the Kenduskeag join the Penobscot, the Penobscot was still frozen solid, so the ice backed up, filling the canals with a jagged landscape.  At high tide the combination of ice and incoming water sometimes overflowed the banks, flooding parking lots.

  We wandered along the half mile jam, chatting with other voyeurs and snapping photos.  There was no flooding with this tide.

  Mid afternoon, (2PM-ish) two ice-breakers passed by our house; the Bridle and Tackle.    The Bridle has been clearing the river fairly regularly.  The last day I noted a pass-by was January 5, but I think it’s come since.  I’m not sure it goes up as far as the Bangor waterfront, but even if it has, with the cold temperatures, the river has frozen over again quickly. 
  Shortly after the icebreakers went up river, the Penobscot was once again filled with broken ice.  All afternoon chunks streamed by.
  A blurb on the five o’clock news mentioned the coast guard vessels were clearing a path to Bangor, which would allow the ice jam to flow free.  The anchor cut to a very dark Bangor waterfront, where a reporter was waiting for the ice breakers to come by.  The reporter had yet to see or hear them.  So after dinner we headed out by car to find where the ice breakers were.  We spotted the two vessels just south of Hamlin Marina/Hampden boat launch, working the river.  One at a time each breaker backed up, then moved steadily forward to strike solid ice.  On average each attack got the vessel forward one boat length (65 feet).  The second boat would back and drive forward slightly to the side, widening the path. 

  It was a beautiful night to be out; just at freezing on a still night.  Orion kept watch overhead, the January full moon slowly rose over Brewer, and the two ships kept charging at the ice.  
   We watched for 30-40 minutes.  The two breakers had made it about an eighth of a mile closer to Bangor by the time we left at 7 PM.  Not an eighth of a mile of cleared river, but an eighth mile of a narrow center path.  There was still over three miles of river to be cleared to reach the mouth of the Kenduskeag.  We heard later the two boats over nighted at Hamlin Marina

  Saturday we went to check on progress and found the boats working by the I-395 bridge.  We joined ice breaker enthusiasts on both sides of the river in watching the slow and steady progress.  

  Cars gathered at the waterfront, cameras were pointed, families gathered to watch boats battle ice.  It took two hours for the boats to go the three quarters of a mile from the bridge to the waterfront.

An hour and a half after the previous shot
  On shore the was a celebratory feel in the air, as we watched the Coast Guard wrest the Penobscot from winter's grip.
The Bridle, 65 feet long

  The impressiveness of this feat is best seen in a short video.   Video of the two ice breakers in action
   Notice the distance the icebreaker gets, watch how it tilts as it drives itself on top of the ice and imagine doing that hour after hour, mile after mile. 
    They did and by evening, the waterway was free...for awhile anyway.

  The ice jam is still in the Kenduskeag Stream.  There is a huge solid sheet of ice between the railroad bridge and Washington Street which needs to break up before the ice jam can flow through.  Perhaps that will happen next tide cycle.  Fortunately, the highest tides of the month passed without flooding.  And Bangor residents can see the Coast Guard did all it could to clear a path for that ice when it breaks.

  An earlier ice breaker related post:  On Board the Tackle 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First Paddle

    I’m not sure it’s ever really wise to paddle in the winter, especially if it involves dragging my kayak across mounds of shore ice to access the water. 

   But it was wonderful get back on the water.  The ice was amazing, broken by the tide cycle, tossed to the shore - huge chunks of blue ice, rounded blobs of frozen snow, floating piles of skim ice.   

    Evergreen trees and high hills line our river.  Atop one pine, a pair of eagles investigated an old aerie.
  The river appeared clear, and since it was an incoming tide, we headed downstream so we’d see any large sheets of ice before they could block our landing.  Sure enough about a mile down river, we came upon a pack of ice.  Not a solid sheet, but it was jammed enough to stop us.

  Returning to our ramp, we needed to land on the ice strewn shore.  It was comforting to be in my dry suit, knowing I could wade or swim to the edge.  In this photo, I’m sitting on a firm ice chunk, while my boat floats on slush and thin ice layers.  I’m getting my ice creepers so I have a hope of walking without falling

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Alternatives to Paddling - Crossword Puzzle Answer

The answer:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Alternatives to Paddling - Crossword Puzzles

I've been working on building a crossword puzzle, related to kayaking.  It seemed like an easy enough idea to start; kayak, canoe, lake - they have so many letters in common.   But, like all of life it turned out to be far more difficult.  Sure, it would start easily enough, but then I'd need a word that started with dk and ended with zt.   Anyway I preserved, (lots of ice and below zero days makes that easier to do) and now I have this:

It''s not perfect.  There are two two-letter words (rules require three letter words); one square does not have a secondary clue at all, and several clues are obscure.  But it contains a lesson I learned, so I thought I'd post it here.  Enjoy!

The clues:

1.  Not weak or soft
5.  VW model
10.  Western Hemisphere Org., initially
13.  Dull, continuous pain
14. Archaic wanderer
15.  Apple seed
16.  Part one of lesson learned while making this
18. Wrath
19.  New in Bonn
20.  Compass dir.
21.  Oft thought while creating this
22.  Part two of lesson
25.  What Sting did with Edin Karamazov
26.  The desire for this ruins many kayak rolls
27.  “Monic” and “thin” follower
28.  Large, dark birds
29.  1947 Dennis O’Keefe movie
31.  Moved quickly
33.  Employ
34.  State not to mess with
36. Low light level
38. Not to be left unturned
42.  Part three of lesson
44.  Part four of lesson
45.  Discovered on a Scrabble word site.  Also a Roman cloak
48. Poor paddling alternative, initially
50. Baffinpaddler’s lake
51.  Enlist for a third time?
52.  Part five of lesson
55.  Father of Aoris
56.  One paid to kayak
58.  Glee’s Michele
59.  Part five of lesson
60.  Prophet
61.  Can’t do it
65.  Zorba recites the alphabet?
66.  Laud
68.  Iranian currency
69.  An aid to golfing
70.  Final part of lesson

1.  60’s awesome
2.  Ward for the very ill, initially
3.  King snout-horned beast?
4.  Homer’s River
5.  Middle Brady girl
6.  A kind of moth
7.  Elf stunt double Ty
8.  A distinct pitch
9.  Adams or Poehler
10.  Drug containing opium
11.  USAF guys
12.  Disburses
14.  One who sees
17.  Period toward evening
21.  Fancy bedspreads
22.  American suffragette
23.  Of the ancient Mariner
24.  Two words which can finish this sentence:  “To shape a dugout wood you could use an ax --”
25.  Beverage made of yogurt
28.  Symbol for Ruthenium
30.  Italian city
32.  Zero
35.  Takei’s memorable role
37.  Allot
39.  Just one
40.  US Ocean Org., initially
41.  Abbrev. list enders
43.  Electric bug killers
45.  Former PLO chief
46.  NHL Flyer’s coach
47.  A fruit and a color
49.  Put a price on
52.  A type of waterwheel
53.  Fair type favored by the SCA
54.  Maldives money unit
57.  As ye sow, so shall ye …
60.  Luxurious retreat
62.  Storage container
63.  Fall behind
64.  Spanish article
67.  Neighbor to WY

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

 What a great Christmas tree!  Throw a few PFD's under it and you're all set for the holidays!

  This tree decorates the Old Town Canoe Factory Outlet (part of Johnson Outdoors) in Old Town, Me.   It's a great place to visit if you're in the area.

  Today, after three days of on and off icing/snow/rain we still have power!  I'm especially grateful today to the various work crews that keep roads clear and power flowing. I wish them well as they continue to restore electricity to  households affected by the recent storm.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Swan boats on Lake Eola, Orlando

   In September 2012, I was skunked in my attempt to ride a swan boat on Bainbridge Island, Washington. So when I happened on a description of Lake Eola and its swan boats, I knew we'd be headed there.

   We drove up to Lake Eola after arriving in Orlando. Our hotel was south of the city, while Lake Eola is at city center, just up Interstate 4. We planned for a pleasant twilight paddle. Unfortunately, we hadn't allowed for traffic. Rush hour is not really a thing Bangor Maine has (though there are occasional construction delays.) But apparently, in Orlando Florida, there is as much traffic heading into the city during the evening rush hour as there was headed out. It was a long slow slog to the lake, moving a few feet at a time.
Swans await their steads
   When we arrived, there was a parking space right beside the rental, which is by the intersection of Rosalind Avenue and Robinson St. . Swan boat (pedal) and Gondola (motor) boat rentals rent by the half hour, which is enough time to do a couple of lake laps and pretty much as long as anyone wants to pedal a swan boat. The boats are well maintained, but only go at one speed, slow and steady.

   Lake Eola  Park has graced Orlando center since the late 1800's. The path around the lake is just under a mile long. There's a lovely lit fountain in the center, some smaller fountains on the far side, and sculpture scattered around the shore.

    It was pleasant paddling under the moonlight, but I did miss being able to identify birds and other wildlife. Fortunately this black swan posed for us.  Ideally this would be a twilight into evening activity, followed by a dinner at a nearby restaurant, you just need to plan for traffic (or route yourself on smaller roads.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Homosassa River, Florida: Monkees, Manatees and Monitors

Just above Homosassa Springs State Park
 Homosassa River is another bay/river/spring which has been carved into canals creating thousands of waterfront lots.  But there are still large stretches of undeveloped land along the water.  Riversport Kayak is a great place to rent kayaks to explore that water. 

   Riversport Kayak is located inside the Homosassa Riverside Resort and is right on a canal, with its own launch site.  Bring your own kayak and you can launch there for free.  Mark rented a Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 and  I rented a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145.

   Canals and river branches all tend to look similar, but there is a great landmark for the Homosassa Riverside Resort canal - Monkey Island.  Monkey Island started life as a pile of rocks which occasionally gave unsuspecting boaters an unpleasant experience.  In the 1960's the pile was built up to make it more visible.  Mr. Furgason, a local developer, added a lighthouse to the barren island.  Later, he decided it would be the perfect home for his monkeys.
  Apparently, Mr. Furgason kept monkeys on some of his land as an attraction, but they were often in trouble, escaping and attacking tourists.  Originally, he moved three spider monkeys and two squirrel monkeys to the island.  Those monkeys have long since gone to their final reward, and the island is currently the residence of  five spider monkeys.  Their fear of water keeps them confined to the island.

  Every time I pass by Monkey Island I'm amazed that the monkeys remain there.  Look how close those keep-away buoys are to the island.  And the cedar trees have branches that lean out over the water.  It seems like it would be an overwhelming temptation for a spider monkey to leap from the tree to a passing boat, but I guess they don't and no boat ever gets too close. ( I never test the theory, because having a terrified toothed creature on a kayak with me seems like a pretty bad idea, but surely someone else is more foolish than me...)

  Anyway further along the river, by a tiny canal, is a sign for Manatee Pub.  It's nice to see that the manatees have a quiet place to gather.

  And just a few miles up river from Monkey Island is the outlet from Homosassa Spring, which comes directly from Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park.  There, in the warm out-flowing water, wild manatee gather.  Overseeing them and protecting them are a crew of volunteer monitors in kayaks.  On the day we were there, about a dozen manatee stretched across the river - guarded by three alert volunteers in kayaks who approached us and instructed us on good manatee etiquette.
A collection of manatee outside the park
   Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park is a really sweet park containing a small zoo with only native Florida wildlife, (including a hippopotamus, who was declared an honorary Florida native.)  It hosts the biggest manatees you've ever seen, flocks of birds, an aviary, and much more.  And it's a great place to get wildlife closeups.

   The park attracts flocks of volunteers, some of whom work in the gift store, or at the education center, and others who sit in their kayaks and make sure wild manatee are not disturbed. 

   We talked to several kayak volunteers;  watched as one scooped up garbage flowing by ("Bud fish," he called them), learned one was from Mark's hometown, but did we take any pictures?  I guess not.

   The outlet from the state park spring is fenced off, but the river continues on a short way, under a bridge and into a quiet neighborhood.  That's where we spotted this alligator snapper, nicely outlined against the algae.

   We also followed a few canals along the trip, exploring these quiet passages.

Then it was back to talk to Don at Riversports.

  If you enjoy tales of wildlife, Don is great person to talk with.  When we arrived he was chasing vultures away from a trash bin, which had accidentally been left open.  He chased the big birds off, not because they were unsightly, but because things in the bin, like plastic with food on it, injure the birds.  Don helps with the care of the monkeys on Monkey island - he mans the squirt guns which keep the monkeys under control when the veterinarian visits.   He has an armadillo named Tank who lives under his porch and has had adventures with almost every type of animal in Florida.  And for good measure, his wife helps with the bears at the wildlife state park.