Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's that time of year.....

Wind is down, are you listenin’
River's free, no ice glistenin’
It’s a beautiful day, let's get out and play
Paddling in a winter wonderland

Gone away are our worries
Drifting off, with the flurries.
We sing this short song, as we go along
Paddling in a winter wonderland

On the river we watch the snow fall
And bend in folds and twists as we go by
High up in a tree we hear a crow call
And overhead we see an eagle fly

Later on we’ll conspire
And wrap gifts by our fire
But now we’re outside, riding the tide
Paddling in a winter wonderland.

Season's Greetings!!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Three Tools for Extending Paddling Season

     We push the paddling season pretty hard  and each fall it gets a little easier.  Sure, there are the big things, like wetsuits, drysuits, gloves and boots.  But sometimes it's the little things which make the difference between enduring a trip and enjoying an outing.  

Buff:  I was initially dismissive of “Survivor.”  Who wants to watch starving people humiliate themselves for food?  More than a decade after it first aired, I am forced to admit that apparently the answer is millions.  Similarly, I’ve always thought that Buff’s were useless colorful decorations foisted on loyal “Survivor” fans.  But after years of attempting to solve my competing desires for warm ears and a wide brim shading my eyes, I finally purchased a Buff at Epic Sports.  And you know what, it’s pretty good.  It folds down to almost nothing, making it easy to shove into a life jacket pocket.  I keep it in the same pocket which holds my camera.  If I get on the water and the wind picks up, out comes my buff to perform hat, ear band or balaclava duties.  Quieter than a neoprene hoodie; it’s snug enough to keep wind from slipping in and it’s warm enough for 35 to 50 degree days.  Plus it’s thin enough to go under my floppy hat.  I like to think that the results are reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, and even if you disagree, I'm delighted to finally have a quick way to warm my ears.
     The other items were for Mark.  There’s no doubt that Mark, with his traditional paddle has more problems with late season paddling than I.  With no drip rings, every stroke drips water over his hands and lap.  A challenge, but also a constant reminder that we need to dress for water temperature.  This fall we’ve made two purchases to improve his life.

Boot Dryer:  Mark needs waterproof gloves; and somehow, thorough a combination of pinholes, hand sweat, or who knows what, the insides of the gloves get soaked each day.  It used to be that he’d warm damp gloves in the microwave.  Yuck!  But what are his options?  Gloves take days and days to dry.  Waterproofing means they need to be turned inside out to dry them.  Two problems: turning a thick waterproof glove inside-out takes forever, and it wears down the seams, shortening glove life. 
     Heading out with cool damp gloves makes it likely that his hands are cold and numb before he starts.  Once hands are numb it’s hard to get them warm. 
      Enter a boot warmer.  This one from Field and Stream has four nozzles and a timer; it runs for up to three hours and shuts off.  
    Mark has two favorite pairs of gloves, he runs the boot dryer every time we go paddling, so the gloves get six hours of dry time.  As a result his gloves are mostly dry when he starts.  The down side:  the smell of drying gloves; think melting rubber with a hint of old sneaker. 
      So I guess the boot dryer is a good thing, but only if he keeps it in the laundry.

Kiwi Waterproofing Spray:  Maybe everyone else already knows about this, but let us confirm, it’s good stuff.  Mark uses a nylon Seal sprayskirt, which used to be waterproof, but started dripping in October.   Having spent his equipment budget on a boot dryer, we purchased a can of waterproofing spray, and gave the skirt a coat.  And amazingly, it worked pretty well!  Next test; his older, leaky, formerly-waterproof neoprene gloves. Again success!  Yay!  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Entertaining Sights in Belfast (Maine)

     I have to admit I didn't expect a lot of our short jaunt on Belfast Bay.  I just wanted to get out on salt water and be able to turn back easily if the wind was too rough.  But shortly after we headed out Sunday morning, we heard the rhythmic clattering of the Belle Fast. 
      Belle Fast is a Cornish pilot gig; 32 feet long, crew of 6. It was apparent from the cadence, that this was the race team; keeping their beat with a fierce "huh" before each pull.  As they flew by us the coxswain advised them: "One minute more." 
Another "ugh" and they were past.  It’s always impressive to see those boats in action.

    Later, while we loaded our kayaks on the roof, we chatted with one of the oarsman.  It was a bit of a mutual admiration society, he hoped one day to attempt more adventurous kayaking, we told him about our attempt to participate in ComeBoating
     Belfast has two race teams that practice year 'round.  In the summer, they open rowing positions on the pilot gigs to interested community members.  There's a sign-up sheet by their shed.  We'd thought about signing up, but the evening paddles are filled weeks in advance.  He suggested we sign up as a stand-by, because if there are enough additional people, they will run a second boat.

The second sight was toward the turnaround point. I'd set the outlet of the Little River as a goal.  The wind was warm, but paddling straight into the sun was wearing. Approaching near low tide, Little River was hosting a vast collection of gulls; great black-backed, herring, ring-billed and laughing gulls.  As we paddled closer distant puffs of white birds rose, dispersed, and settled on the tidal flats again.
Laughing gulls in winter plumage
     Our third sight was not on the water, but wandering through town.  Somewhere Belfast found a set of vintage Christmas Decorations, and put them up.  Some of the decorations are amazingly well-preserved, and I'm sure the little Santas were adorable when they used to peek around light poles.  But the light poles have changed, and now the little fellows just dangle on high.  And a few of the Santas, especially the one in front of the Co-op, are quite worn, their suits bleached to orange, their faces and hats to white.  The end result:  well check for yourself:

Paddle Summary:  Launched 9:30AM, Finish 11:15AM. Launch: beach beside the town ramp.  Much of the nearby parking is filled with docks.   Low about 11:30AM.  5.8 miles.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mysterious Creatures

     Last Saturday, I was paddling along a  Penobscot eddyline, demarking incoming tide and outgoing current.   On quieter days this line is easily visible, as a majority of the debris in the water, mostly leaves and branches is pushed there, marking a distinct messy trail in the river.
     Also in the eddyline: floating trash.  We’ve had a rash of shopping bags filled with garbage appear in the river recently.  Far more depressing than single cans or styrofoam cups, these bags don’t just blow off a rail, they’re actually being dumped in the river.  Why???  It’s not like trash cans are hard to find.
     Anyway, I’d picked up another noxious bag of garbage and was letting it drain on my back deck.  I had my camera out to attempt to capture the brown leafy road aspect of the eddyline and was wondering if Linda Greenlaw (The Hungry Ocean) had used a similar eddyline of seaweed and trash to spot the edge of the gulfstream current where swordfish like to hang out.  So I was there, camera in hand, when beside me a long shiny tube writhed up from under the leaves.
     Stifling my entirely appropriate squeal reflex, I snapped this rather poor photo before it sank once again into the depths.  

    American Eel, in the silver stage.  Quite a coincidence because I’d just finished James Prosek’s new book, Eels: an exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the world’s most mysterious fish.   

     Mr. Prosek, a man of impressive talents, tells the eels’ tale, concentrating on human’s interactions with eels, from what happens to the glass eels and elvers caught in Maine each spring, to Pacific Societies and their complex relationship with giant longfin eels.
     Maine often appears in Prosek’s book.  Maine and Atlantic Canada export glass eels.  Jim McCleave, a professor at the University of Maine is one of the top eel scientists, and is thought to have made more trips to the Sargasso Sea searching for spawning eels than anyone else alive.  It was a Maine journalist who helped file a citizen's petition to have the American Eel declared an endangered species. Some of the reasons people feel the eel is endangered are given at, a website in support of the Taunton River.
     Two things any reader will carry away from Prosek's book is how little understood eels are (despite centuries of study by some of the great scientific minds), and a curiosity about the great longfin eel.  A Youtube search turned up several videos of the longfin eel, but none which help show the nuanced relationship between humans and a food source as well as Prosek does with his book.  
     I'm no eel expert, but even I can tell the eel in my picture isn't well.  If you’re wondering why anyone should care, you might want to read, James Prosek’s book.
A few other eel sites:
  Where have all the Eels Gone?, Gulf of Maine Times

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Plenty to be Thankful for....

   This time of year, it is more work to getting out on the water:  underlayers, overlayers, drysuits with their impossible zippers, hats, gloves, boots, pfd .... 
     Not to mention all the practice to be sure we can use said gear....
     But on sunny days, it all seems worthwhile....

     Especially knowing when we get back, we'll have a great Thanksgiving meal with our family.  Happy Thanksgiving all! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday on the Sou

We can never have enough of nature – John Muir
      Sunday, gale warnings in effect; a good day to head to the Souadabscook Stream.  Come November, Monday through Saturday we avoid streams, and wish deer hunters patrolling their shores success.  Sundays, when hunting is not allowed in Maine, we kayak where we wish, or at least where wind and weather allow. 
      Hermon Pond and the stream were a pleasant respite form the wind we'd faced on the Penobscot River on Saturday.  But the maple trees are all bare now, leaving the shores much grayer than before.  At first the trees appear solemn, a stark autumn vista.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lighthouses of Summer

Lately it seems like we only get out on gray days.  So instead of a series of dark shots, I thought I'd post some pictures of lighthouses we paddled by this summer. How many can you identify?
This lighthouse received its name based on a nearby historical site
Angeli Perrow features this lighthouse in her children's story "Lighthouse Dog to the Rescue"
The bell from this lighthouse was removed in 1980.  It's current whereabouts are unknown.
One of Maine's foggiest lighthouses, on a brilliant clear summer day.
"Flying Santa" got his start here.
A seasonal resident told us this island light has 200 visitors on summer days
Seen just to the left of  buoy 10, this lighthouse is owned by Acadia National Park.  However, it is leased to a private party and neither the lighthouse, nor the island is available for visits
Two pictures of the same small light.  The ledge it was built to warn about has been covered by the breakwater.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Davis Pond to Holbrook Pond, Eddington Maine

Fortunately, not everyone uses the same decorator.
Looking west from Davis Pond

Monday, November 7, 2011

Been There, Done That

Thought I'd share this video of a man struggling with a paddle float re-entry.

     It makes me laugh, because I've made most of those mistakes.  Errors and unintentional capsizes are a part of the learning process. About the only mistake the video doesn't highlight is the need to hold on to your kayak.  Forget to grab your kayak on a windy day and your kayak may sail away.
    Best wishes for safe practices!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lamoine State Park to the Ovens, Mount Desert Island Maine

It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful location than Lamoine State Park on a still day. Not many boats remained anchored, but those that were reflected perfectly. Between the boats, a few loons swam. And off in the distance, the mountains of Acadia made a beautiful back drop.
We’d come to Lamoine State Park to enjoy the low tide. In the summer, under similar conditions, I’ve paddled between Lamoine Park and Lamoine Beach watching the ocean floor rise and fall beneath my boat. I felt like a bird on the wing. Several times we’ve gone to Lamoine State Park for snorkeling at low tide, admiring the many crabs and sea stars on view.
But with a fall sun hanging low in the sky, the underwater viewing was limited, though I did spot a few sea stars.
Meanwhile, out on the water, we kept seeing distant white spray. Hoping to spot some sea mammal, we crossed to Googins Ledge where we were a little disappointed to learn that the source of splashing was Eiders displaying for each other.
Then, since we were part way across the ¾ mile narrows, we decided to continue on and see the Ovens. The Ovens, a series of brick oven-shaped caves, are located by Sand Point on Mount Desert Island (home of famous Bar Harbor).
They’re a well known attraction and a fun destination. The Ovens are publicly owned, but the land around them is private, making kayaks one of the most convenient ways to visit them.
A rainbow of minerals have leached out of the Ovens over the years.

This arch is known as the Cathedral.
If you’d like to know more about the Ovens formation and geology, check out this article by the Maine Geological Survey. Clicking on the pictures on the Maine site brings up captions, and in one case, more pictures.
On our trip back we paddled by Lamoine Beach, quiet except for one dog walker. The wind had picked up, adding texture to the water and obscuring the bottom. On shore, seagulls struggled to open mussels, and overhead an eagle flew by.
Lamoine State Park is such a pretty, peaceful area; yet twice this summer Frenchman's Bay has been paired with "kayaker fatality". In one case, the kayaker launched from Lamoine State Park. While the exact cause of death was not published and preventative actions are subject to debate, one thing is clear; as happened with us, this is an area where folks start on one side and are soon tempted to cross to the other. Before they do, they should be sure to have the skills and equipment for a cold water rescue.
Summary: Start 10:40AM, finish 12:30PM, 5.4 miles. Low tide 11:40AM. Lamoine State Park has fees in season. Outhouses available at Lamoine State Park. Lamoine Beach, and Hadley Beach are also good launch points for the ovens. Hadley Point Beach, on Mount Desert Island is probably the closest launch site.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Tour – Remnants of Maritime Disasters - Castine, Maine

The abandoned remains of Gardiner G. Deering, a five masted schooner, lies in Smith Cove

From the history-drenched community of Castine come two tales. The first, of a spectre lingering on after one of the worst naval defeats in U.S. History. The second, hard evidence of a prophetic dream. Read on if you dare, but be warned: There is almost no kayaking involved!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Well Deserved Recognition

Congratulations to  Karen Francoeur, (Castine Kayak International Adventures) Brad Ryder (Epic Sports) and Jeff Strout (recently retired from Bangor Daily News).  They are shown above receiving Coast Guard Public Service Commendations for starting and continuing Bangor Paddle Smart, a kayak safety symposium which has reached over 3000 people since it began in 2001!

TV coverage of the award.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pictures in the Penobscot

 Humans are designed to see patterns; especially to find faces.
Faces need not be detailed; two triangles and a jagged line carved into a pumpkin, two dots and an arc, both are instantly recognized.
Humans are also hard wired to like symmetry, especially bilateral symmetry, which serves as a marker for good genetic strength.  So it is no surprise that we spot any number of fantastic creatures in the bedrock exposed by the falling tide on the shores of the Penobscot River.

On the right day, and at the right tide, it makes for a very distracting paddle.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Long Pond, Mount Desert Island

Rounding Northern Neck
The waters off Mount Desert Island are one of my favorite places to paddle. But, with gale warnings in effect, it seemed best to stick to inland waters. Fortunately there are several possibilities on MDI. In fact, there are two ponds named “Long Pond.” We were headed for the Long Pond in Somesville. This Long Pond is five miles long; at each end is a boat ramp. Generally when I’ve driven Route 102 (aka Pretty Marsh Rd) by Long Pond, I have no chance to look around. Beside the 102 boat ramp there is a small beach and across from the beach/ramp is National Park Canoe and Kayak Rental. So my eyes are focused on the road and distracted canoe carters as well as errant children and pets. However, on the way back from Seal Cove, riding as a passenger, I happened to glance at the pond and realized how lovely it was, a narrow strip of water with mountains for a backdrop. We hoped it would be protected from the winds, and on Sunday it mostly was. I’ve read that a south wind can create a fair amount of havoc on the pond.
Some color along the western shore
The water seemed pretty tame, much tamer than we expected. Heading out from the landing, the initial cove was crowded with a variety of cottages. Some were simple cottages from the fifties, which would be at home on any lake in Maine. Others appeared significantly more likely to be summer housing for the well-heeled.
Once we’d made it around Northern Neck, much of the western shore was a part of Acadia National Park, as was tiny Rum Island.
Rum Island is to the left
With many paths criss-crossing it, Rum Island is well loved, and yet still lovely. Especially appropriate is the picture of Rum Island on Google Earth labeled “Insert Romantic Interlude Here.” I’m afraid our humble snack wasn’t quite a “Loaf of bread, a jug of wine” but there was a thou and a semi wilderness. Ah…...
We didn’t paddle all the way to the other end, but we did go as far as Duck Rock where we spied a few Acadian hikers, before we headed back to the start.
Documenting our successful paddle to Duck Rock, Beech Mountain in the distance
Afterward we drove into Bar Harbor, which was jammed with the passengers from two huge cruise ships. We watched as the schooner Mary Todd headed away from the dock, just far enough to turn around and sail into the more sheltered waters of Frenchman’s Bay.

We looked with great longing at the Porcupine Islands and the waves battering them. Fortunately, they’ll be there next paddling season as well.

Summary: Limited parking in season, portapottie.