Wednesday, October 30, 2013

So when do the leaves turn?

      "So when do the leaves turn?"  In Maine, we often get that question, usually asked by a tourist positioned beside a still green tree.  The truth is, it varies from year to year.  And it's different by plant and by location.  Poison Ivy and sumac turn before maples and birches which turn ahead of oaks.

     That top shot was taken September 27 on the Souadabscook Stream.  Most trees are green, but the swamp(red) maple is blazing away.

     A few days later we explored Hamilton and Hermon Ponds and caught these shots.

     Most of the trees have turned, some have even lost their leaves.  The undergrowth is still green though.

    On October 12, while paddling on the Penobscot, we captured the opposite.

   Here the trees, which are mostly pine will stay green, but the undergrowth is a vivid red.

   The shore of the Penobscot, graced with high walls tend to change later than many places.  It was October 18th when we captured this picture.

    By October 25th, most of the maples are bare, but the oak trees still had their foliage.
    But though the river had muted some, these trees at Bangor Waterfront Park were still bright.
     That's a red maple in front of a sugar maple.

     There is no one date for glorious foliage, but scenic vistas can be found from late September through late October, if you're will to search a bit.

A Somber Monday

     As some of you have guessed, we are the kayakers who discovered the body of Barbara J. Goodwin in the Penobscot River.  As Trashpaddler noted on a similar occurance, this is something no paddler ever wants to encounter.  Our hope is that she and her family can find peace and comfort.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Greenland Drip Rings

As our water gets colder and colder – Mark, a dedicated Greenland-style paddler (GP), starts to look very enviously at Euro paddles with their nice drip rings. Mark loves those skinny wooden paddles – but the water running back from the blades over the paddler's hands can be uncomfortable in colder weather. Some die-hard GP enthusiasts will say “just get good gloves” - and he has tried – but the gloves never seem to stay waterproof for very long.

Mark's past experiments with GP drip rings have not been very successful – however this year he may have finally found a design that works (for him anyway). Of course, it required an entirely new paddle design and some changes to his paddling form – some might even question if it really is GP any more – but he likes his warmer hands!

Here's his not-so-secret recipe to make drip rings and gain drier hands for Greenland-style paddlers:

  1. Extra-long dedicated winter paddle
  2. 7/16” (1.1 cm) kernmantle line (braided covering over loose core) for the drip ring base
  3. 1/4” (0.6 cm) kernmantle line for the capping line on the ring (may not be necessary)
  4. Waxed nylon sailmakers twine and needle

  1. Make a very long paddle. His normal paddle is 88” (223 cm) long. For his drip ring paddle, he made it 92” (234 cm) long and full width 3.5” (8.9 cm) at the ends. You want a paddle that has long blades so that your hands (and the drip rings) can stay out of the water. You also want a paddle with enough blade area and power to do most corrective strokes with your hands on the loom (similar to a Euro blade in this respect.) The goal is to reduce extended strokes which put your hands in contact with wet blades. You might find that a paddle like this requires some adjustment of your paddling style – you may have to slow down your pace a bit and play with your paddling angles.
  2. Figure out where you should place your drip rings. You can temporarily attach a couple of rubber bands or some rope and try different locations on the blade. You want to find the location that keeps the rings out of the water most of the time yet isn't too close to your hands.

  3. Use a round file or rasp to cut a shallow groove in the paddle at the correct location (first frame in photo above). For Mark, it's about 2” (5.1 cm) to the outside of his hands when he's gripping at the “home” loom location. The groove keeps the ring fixed in place and might also reduce water seepage under the ring.
  4. Cut a length of the 7/16” line maybe 3/4” (2 cm) short of the circumference of the paddle shaft and use a lighter to melt the ends closed. Watch out for that molten plastic – it really hurts if it gets on your skin!
  5. Wrap the line around the shaft in the groove with the ends centered about the power face of the paddle (the “top” face that doesn't see dripping). If you have a symmetrical GP paddle, just pick one side or the other and call it the power face. Use waxed sailmaker's twine to sew the ends together (second frame). Use a stopper knot and a couple of large stitches to pull the ends towards each other, using the mechanical advantage of the stitch loops to tension it. Then, take some frapping turns around the stitches to add further tension (third frame). Finish off the binding with a couple of half-hitches (fourth frame). Trim and melt the end of the twine (fifth frame). 

  6. Use marine sealant to fill the gap between the ends, although it really isn't needed if you put the gap on the top of the paddle – gravity takes the water to the bottom surface of the paddle.
  7. Try out your rings and see how they work. Mark found some strokes resulted in water flowing over the top of the ring and getting on his hands (mostly his right hand for some reason – he must have an asymmetrical stroke as well as an asymmetrical paddle!). You might find that a larger diameter line would cure this – feel free to experiment. Mark has concerns that a larger line might be too stiff and not follow the curve of the paddle blade, leaving a gap under it.
  8. Rather than going with larger line, Mark chose to sew on a “capping” line on the shoulder of the base line. This makes a kind of lip on the ring that creates turbulence in the water flow as it comes down the blade, forcing it to drip off, rather than flow over the ring. It seems to be working. He uses a 1/4” line for this purpose. (He also tested an 1/8” capping line and loose ends to help encourage dripping – 1/8” was too small. The loose ends didn't improve performance.)
  9. To sew a capping line on the shoulder of the base line, you can use a straight needle – but angle your stitches so that the needle doesn't run into the shaft of the paddle. If you have a curved needle you probably won't have to do that.

Here's the completed ring with the capping line on the shoulder. Mark reports that it works pretty well. Occasionally, a head wind can blow the drip stream back on to the shaft – or the ring might go below the water surface and bring up a bit of water – but it is a vast improvement over no rings. He expects he will still be wearing gloves as the season progresses but hopefully they will actually keep his hands dry and warm with the help of the rings!

(And yes, as you can probably tell by the vocabulary used, Mark did write this!)
The drip ring in action

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Sighting of Ctenophora

At least four little creatures are in this picture
   We were on the south side of Long Porcupine island, headed back to Bar Harbor, when I noticed something iridescent in the water, then something else and another!   Dozens of quarter-sized striped balls with two long tentacles.
   A little ways on, there were more, and then a few of these larger creatures:

   We watched and photographed. Through the rest of the trip, we occasionally stopped and searched for more.  There were none close to Bar Harbor, or Bar Island, but most other places we saw them.

  My Mac's Field Guide to Northeast Coastal Invertebrates identified the larger creatures as Northern Comb Jellies and the superball-sized ones as Sea Gooseberries.  Some more research at home would provide some interesting tidbits.

Both Northern Comb Jellies and Sea Gooseberries are Ctenophora.  (Americans get to use CB language to pronounce Ctenophora, "10-o 4-a little rainbow buddy,"  but everyone else has to append a "ka" on the front.) Ctenophora are a separate phylum from jellyfish, (which are cnidarians).  Both ctenophora and cnidarians are simple brainless creatures.  Both are a mass of jelly with cell layers outside and lining the body cavity.  In the ctenophora those layers are two cells thick (versus one for the jellyfish.)

An underwater shot
Ctenophora get their name from their combs (or ctenes.)  These combs are made up of rows of fused cilia, whose movement propels the little creatures.  It is also the movement of cilia which causes their iridescence.
This is blurry but is shows a few flashes of green and blue
Those two strings hanging out from the Sea Gooseberry are not stingers.  Jellyfish may have stingers, but ctenophora do not.  The strings are made up of sticky cells, used to capture prey and drag it to their mouths.  (One end of the body is a mouth, the other an anus.)

These little creatures look harmless, but Ctenophora are voracious carnivores; consuming zooplankton, fish eggs and pretty much anything else they can stuff inside themselves.  They can eat ten times their body weight every day.

One species of ctenophora, the sea walnut or Mnemiopsis, is an invasive species in the Black Sea, destroying the fishing industry there.

Blooms of ctenophora, like jellyfish blooms, can be a sign of an ecosystem out of whack, or they might just indicate favorable conditions for breeding.  Ctenophora reproduce year 'round.

There are about 150 known species of ctenophora, found from arctic to tropic waters.  Many are bioluminescent.

So, those were our new species sighting of the day!  If you'd like to learn more, check out:
 Wikipedia: Centaphora
Centophores - some notes from an expert -
Smithsonian Jelly Fish and Comb Jellies  -

Mark is moving on...