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.