Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fort Wetherill Explorer

Words to follow but I think this picture really doesn't need any...

8/16/2009 Ft Wetherill to Narrow River, ~12.5 miles, Water 73, Air 80, Winds light <10

Saturday, August 08, 2009

BCU-2 Training

Tim took BCU-2 training with Greg Paquin this spring. It was a last minute thing and I could not attend. But last weekend, with Tim’s encouragement, I got a second chance. Tom M, Linda S, Eric, Heather, Tim and I participated. We were joined by Heather and Sally from CT and coached by Greg and Paula of Kayak Waveology.

I think we all had a great time. Greg and Paula make an effective coaching pair. Greg has lots of upper body strength. Even though his form is clean and I know he is not using lots of muscle, it’s a lot more convincing when Paula shows the same stroke with finesse. I’m also a huge fan of having multiple people explain things to me. I often find that different people will explain things different ways. In hind sight I know both were describing the same thing but sometimes one explanation will click better than another. Over the course of the day each of them managed to say things that helped my strokes work better.

We reviewed all the basic strokes
Forward stroke, Reverse Stroke, forward sweep and reverse sweep.
We worked on edging and used it with our strokes.
Bow rudder, beam draws, sculling draws, hanging draws, and running draws.
Low braces, high braces, sculling for support, and low brace turns.
I don’t think we actually talked about the stern rudder but we used it.
Paddle rescue, Bow Recue, T-rescue, scoop rescue, and ladder rescue.
We also discussed hyper and hypothermia, tides and waves, and kayak citizen etiquette.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something but it was a great review and great fun.

The ladder rescue was new to me. I could see a clear advantage to it in that it keeps the cockpit dry while the swimmer re-enters. I’ll need to try it in rougher water to be sure it’s effective in the slop. Like most things there is a u-tube demo of it.

I had taken the Ocean Play 1-2 course with Peter Casson at the Kayak Center in the past. We covered all the same stuff again in this class but it was far from a waste of time. I think there is real value is spending some time focusing on technique and not just paddling.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Muscongus Bay, Day 4

Day 4, back to sunny and warm. The coffee was brewing. There was a bald eagle on a nearby island while we were making breakfast.

We packed up our gear and loaded the boats. There was more room now. I managed to fit all the garbage in my front hatch.

There was no consensus to go exploring so we headed back to the launch at a leisurely pace. We surfed some gentle swells. We poked around Jim’s Island. (Which I mistook for Cow Island, good thing Bob was paying attention).

We stopped for a final lunch and explored Crow Island. On the last leg I could see a thunder head building. It was just to our north as we landed back at the marina. Sort of an omen that it was time to go.

I was sad to be leaving this beautiful bay. I really had a wonderful time. But you don’t want to over stay your welcome.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Foggy Thief, Day 3

On day three we woke up in a fog. There was no rush to get out in the boats. And good thing… Laurel set out to make pancakes for 6, one cake at a time on Bob’s MSR Dragon Fly stove. The dragonfly can be reduced to simmer or, in this case, low enough not to burn the pancakes. My MSR Whisperlite is much quieter but is basically one temperature. Great for boiling water, did fine with bacon and sausage, but sure to burn anything delicate. Anyhow, Laurel cooked pancakes for what seemed like hours. It was almost like eating Blue Shell Crabs. You can’t eat them fast enough to fill up on them. The pancakes had fruit added both inside and on top. They were absolutely delicious.

Still foggy. Now what? A tour boat of sorts wandered in from the fog. Apparently it was attached to a kid’s camp or something. The pulled a pot to see what was in it. Then they started fishing for a while. Rick jumped in his kayak to see what it was all about. What Rick was really looking for was lobster. He came back, grabbed some money and headed back out to the nearest lobster boat. For a while, we could hear them but not see them. One came close and Rick was off.

We could see the deck hand dropping fresh lobsters into his day hatch. And I swear we could see Rick’s smile beaming like a lighthouse through the fog.

We all paddled a little around the island in the fog. Rick and Becca did some rolling practice. Then Carole and I did a slow lap. Carole continued to loop around for exercise while Becca and I were a bit more mischievous. Laurel did some laps specifically to work on her forward stroke. Meanwhile, Rick and Bob began to cook the lobsters. We had one pot and could cook three at a time. By the time I pulled ashore they were all cooked and we sat down for the feast. They really were the best lobsters I have ever had. They were soft shelled and cooked in seawater. Salty and tasty. There was no reason for butter. Rick, quite skilled in the art of eating the carapace, ate everything. I’m not a big fan of the roe and didn’t lick the tomalley quite as clean. I’m not so sure that I looked up to see what the others were doing.

Still foggy. Rick and Bob disappeared in their boats. I assumed they were playing around the rocks and when they didn’t return in what I thought was a reasonable time the curiosity got to me. I jumped in my boat to go find them. As I went around the island I didn’t recognize where I was. On the south tip where Becca and I had surfed earlier there was now an entirely new rock. It was a couple of hundred feet long and revealed by the dropping tide. Bob and Rick were playing around a small rock a bit further out. The fog was such that the Island was barely visible from the rock. The waves were not big but they were running up the rock. Bob was of course stuck on the top and had to push himself to slide off. Ten minutes later he was stuck again. This time he was pinched in on four corners. It was a more difficult escape. After another 15 minutes we decided one more loop and we’d head back. Bob, you guessed it, was swept up onto the rock one more time.

We headed back around the east side of the island. At the same time the girls were coming around the west side by foot to try and find us. We didn’t cross paths. They were beginning to worry.

Back on the north side of the island there was some excitement. Blair and Theresa had found some giant spiders, probably wolf spiders. Then, out of the fog, Nancy and Ben appeared. They were a mother and son. I don’t think they should have crossed in the fog but they seemed OK with it.

Carole was beginning to think about dinner and I was thinking about burning the huge burl Becca had found. C started cooking, I started the fire. We ate Knackwurst and vegetables. Special for Bob was a side dish of worms. Gummy worms. We cleaned up, sat down around the fire with Nancy and Ben, and ceremoniously applied the burl to the hot fire. It was a slow burn that was still flaming the following morning!

Very little time in the boat, no sign of the sun, great food, another wonderful day!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sunny Thief, Day 2

We departed Hog Island about 11:30 headed to Thief Island via Coombs Ledge. From the Hog Island vantage point, Indian, Thief, and Wreck Islands look more or less the same size. Today I wanted to be sure I choose the perfect heading and we would get directly to the proper Island. From Coombs ledge that was exactly 180. Couldn’t be easier.

As we passed Coombs we saw a small seal that was clearly not healthy. Carole, trained in marine mammal rescue techniques, tried to call for help. The little seal slowly made it to the water. It looked as if it had one injured flipper.

We were alone on Thief and choose the five “best” sites to set up our tents. I was determined to set up on a flat slice of granite but I completely circum-hiked the island and couldn’t find a flat enough spot. The site I did choose was one that Bob passed up. It was situated nicely but had a bit of a slope. (The first night I pulled myself back up hill numerous times. The second night I simply slid into the corner and slept like a baby!)

Somewhere along the line Blair and Theresa arrived. They were familiar with the island and chose the site on the south end. About 3pm we headed out to do some exploring. We paddled SE towards the Wreck Island Ledges. There was very little swell but we did have some seal visitations.

From here we meandered to Harbor Island. There was a little more wave action here and Bob managed to park his kayak up on a rock. One nice thing about the 10 foot tides is the rocks are fairly soft with sea weed when the water is low. From Harbor we could see the light house on Franklin. An Object. We had to go there! On the way back we surfed the swell a bit. C and I went outside of Wreck where there was a little bit of wave excitement. The other 4 headed the slightly more direct path back. It total, we did about 10.5 miles this day.

For dinner Rick set out the appetizers and prepared a pasta/pesto dish and veggies. It was about this time we noticed there were mice all around. They were cute and well rounded. Apparently the island needed a few more Eagles and a few less Ospreys. After dinner we got the fire going and sat back and talked about our day and more. It was a wonderfully relaxing day.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Muscongus Bay, Hog Island, Day 1

We’ve explored Casco Bay and we’ve paddled Stonington. We decided to split the difference and check out Muscongus Bay. There are easily 100 square miles of bay to get lost in. And as you’ll soon hear, we tried!

Bob and I, Becca and her sister Laurel, and Carole and Rick all went up. Bob and I headed up first with intentions of getting the lay of the land regarding the launch point etc. As we drove up it was overcast and there was an occasional mist or drizzle, especially when we were near the water. While standing at the launch it was clearly a fog. But the visibility was about 1 mile.

We talked with the staff at Broad Cove Marine for a bit and paid for parking. Then we headed up the road a bit to pick up some bread for Bob. While in the store B&L showed up, presumably noticing our boats. We did our greetings and they searched for a ladies room. It was then that Bob noticed that Becca was missing one of her hatch covers. In hindsight they remembered seeing a sponge fly out back in Providence. Apparently the hatch cover had blown off hours ago. Meanwhile C&R showed up and we all started phoning around for an open kayak shop (on a Sunday evening) that might have a replacement cover. No luck of course but fortunately Bob carries a small piece of tarp and a bungee just for this purpose. We decided to go ahead with the temporary cover.

It took us our usual hour and a half to load the boats. At 4:30 we pushed off. Our destination was to be Thief Island. As we passed around Oar Island we could see just how foggy it was. Visibility was less than ½ mile. There were a few possible camp sites within a mile of the launch but a half hour paddle was not what we were looking for. We stayed along the shores of Oar and Hog Islands. At one point we could barely make out some people on the end of Crow. ¼ mile visibility. We had the island to our right but all we could see was fog. As we neared what might have been the end of Hog we thought we could just make out Louds Island, including trees. This was to be our first real crossing of about ½ mile. Then suddenly the island turned into a rock a mere 50 yards away! Visibility about 100 yards.

The Muscongus Bay chart at 1:40,000 scale is about 3 feet by 4 feet. I’ve marked the various camp sites on it but it’s folded into my “large” chart case which fits about 12 inches by 18 inches. I usually try and fold it so that the compass rose is visible somewhere. In this case there is a corner showing somewhere on the back side of the fold. I’m an engineer, I love maps, I’ve taken a seamanship class, I’m all over plotting courses and doing current corrections etc. But I don’t have an Eldridge tide and current book and I’m not sure it would show the fine detail I need even if I did. We are about to traverse the Hog Island bar. This is an area that’s not navigable for many boats. We’re in kayaks. We don’t need a route. We hop from one pretty island to the next based on what we see. How would I plot that route ahead of time? On the water? Am I to plot on the deck of my boat? On a wet rock? My chart would turn into a wet paper towel almost instantly.

I do have GPS. Mine includes topo maps of the area. Bob’s is old school and simply shows a track and GPS coordinates. My attitude about the GPS is it is for emergency use only. It’s the back up. If we’re counting on it and I drop it over board then what? (How many pairs of glasses have I lost over the side?)

We do know that if we paddle anywhere but south we’ll hit land. West is the appropriate fall back. We’re not in danger in this fog. It would just be inconvenient. I can picture setting up tents in the fog and waking up in the 16th fairway of some golf course!

It’s now about 5:30. The wind has picked up a little as we’ve entered the more open portion of the bay but it’s still no more than 10. We’re about ½ way and not making particularly good time. Laurel is a new paddler and although competent, she has yet to develop an efficient stroke. I mention that Hog is a possible camp site but I don’t strongly suggest we should stop and no one else seems to want to stop.

Now we’re sitting at the end of Hog Island. I’m looking at the chart estimating by eye that it’s about 15 degrees more than 180 true. I add 15 for magnetic (It’s really 17). 210 magnetic is our course. (It’s really 214.) Becca suggests we head out until we are just losing sight of Hog and see if we can see Louds. We try this and then we stop and discuss what to do next. The vote is pull out the GPS and keep going. Meanwhile we’re drifting and meanwhile we see our first boat in the fog. Somehow in all this we end up with an actual course of 250 magnetic. Almost 40 degrees off our desired heading. I assume this was the wind (beam) and flooding tide (same beam?) affecting our route.

We’re now at the northern tip of Louds Island. It took us 20 minutes to cover what should have taken about 8. We went a little further; it was getting to be about 6pm. We had at least an hour to go. We had another crossing closer to a mile and in an area that I expect might have boat traffic. And Laurel is slowing down. We decide to head back to Hog. The return crossing takes us the expected 8 minutes.

We were out of our boats on Hog about 6:20. No sooner had we landed and the fog lifted. We could see Thief Island in the distance. We talked about going but it was 2.25 miles away. We would be setting our tents up and cooking in the dark. We agreed to stay put. The visibility had gone from 100 yards to 5 miles in less than 20 minutes, it could go back to zero just as fast.

The island was soggy. I was happy as a clam in my knee high Chota’s but Becca was losing her Croc’s left and right in the mud. Fortunately there were wooden tent platforms to pitch on. We erected our tents. It rained "just a little". We cooked dinner and sat around and watched the LED lantern while telling stories. (No fires on this Audubon owned Island.)

And so went day one. We woke up to a beautiful sunny calm day, almost hot. We cooked a delicious breakfast and packed our boats for our “real” destination.

8/2 5.4 miles, Air 68, Water 60