Sunday, May 15, 2011

More high water

Since last post the lake got yet higher, but on this day was back to about the same.

It was starting to rain (and forecast through next Wednesday) as we launched from Converse Bay and headed south.  Destination Lewis Creek.

A friend had told me she has to wade or row to get from her house on Long Point so I wanted to take a look.  The camera's battery was pretty low, so it died early on, but there are a few pics.

This no-parking zone is on the main drag for the point

From Kayak2011

Paddling down South Road.  You can see the high water mark on the white house.

Oh, last Wednesday evening a couple of us went out on Shelburne Bay.  Saw only one or 2 houses flooded, and one successful defense.  This dike is new.  It was put in to protect the road in front of this house.  Working so far..

Monday, May 02, 2011

More flooded

Since last week's trip onto flooded Lake Champlain, the water has risen another couple of feet to a record high of 102.8 feet.

At the Converse Bay boat ramp there was a guy getting his truck lined up to haul a  boat out who repeatedly warned us how cold the water was and how rough with 5 foot rollers once you got out of the bay and we shouldn't go out in (mere) kayaks.  When it was clear we were still planning to go he was overheard remarking to his mate about bleeping idiots.  My own reaction was that all the cold water deaths in the news this year have been people either in motor boats or whose truck accidentally went in the lake.

When we cleared the point and entered the main lake, we didn't see much of any waves over 1 foot, mostly less.
Lots of floody stuff though, like plumes of brown water from mud that eroded off softer bluffs normally above the water line.

The Charlotte-Essex ferry is closed.  A good idea with the state of the loading area:

From Kayak2011

There were lots of flooded boat houses, and docks under water.

We lunched at Shelburne town beach (what beach?) then headed out into the lake for a straight downwind shot back in the "5 foot rollers" rather than following the shore.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Winooski F&W

"Launching at 2 pm from WInooski F&W in Colchester, then heading out to the lake.
It's a raw, wet, and windy day."  (water 34 degrees, air mid 30's, 30+ knot wind, and sleet/rain at time of posting) 

By trip time the precipitation had stopped, air temp was up to 40, but the wind was holding up.

The Winooski boat ramp is far enough up river that it's sheltered from the lake, so launching was calm and easy. The lake level is high enough, just a hair under 101 feet, that we didn't have to paddle around that last bend to get to the lake. It was possible to just paddle through the woods.

When we got in sight of the river mouth, the wind was howling pretty loudly, and we could see breaking surf in the distance. 
Once out in the lake we headed upwind (south). It was one of those days where you spend a lot of time looking up at the waves coming at you.  Effort needed to progress was not sprint, but enough that the big enchilada I had for lunch was complaining about getting squeezed.  

Eventually we got to some point that had pretty good clapotis (reflecting waves) on the south side.  After running that we headed back out into the lake enough to get a straight downwind run to the bridge.  

The bridge was in the sheltered area, but the waves still had enough momentum to give us a little kick going under.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Springtime?  On Saturday the water was 35, the air a little warmer, a good wind predicted,  and the lake is officially in flood.  But... there were 2 separate kayak trips.  I opted for North Hero in the morning as I had a commitment later in the day plus rain was more likely in the afternoon.

The beach we'd normally launch from is under several feet of water so we're starting from a steep shoreline with good size waves coming directly onshore.

The procedure (so I'm told) is wait for a relative lull, go out a few steps, jump in the boat with one foot (the other hanging), paddle like mad to get past the clapotis, then put other foot in, skirt up, and pump out whatever waves washed in during the process.  Pump goes in the cockpit because the waves could tear it out of the bungies.

Real world:
1) Figure out that for me there's no "quick jump" into the borrowed CD Rumor as it's more of a "gradually wriggle in" fit.  Go back and get a wider boat.

2) Do the jump in and paddle thing.  The put-other-foot-in step is interrupted by not being able to get said foot past the pump in the cockpit. Big wave comes during this and everything goes over.

3) Put pump in the bungies, get back in the capsized kayak and roll up, attach skirt, and pump.

Phelps, who had no pump, managed to get his 2nd foot in first try.

At least now I can say I've done self rescue "in conditions" (wind, waves, near freezing water.)  Though I've been knocked down before while entering/exiting, it's always been where I could stand, and in deeper water I've always been in the kayak so it was just a matter of rolling up.

After that things went pretty smoothly.  Paddled out along the Colchester causeway which gave us shelter from wind and waves.  At the cut we went to the other side and confirmed that it was rougher over there, then back to the lee.  For the return, we  peeled away from the causeway and rode the wind back to the start.

I heard the other trip launched in a sheltered bay,  so didn't hit the waves right away.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maple has terroir! Who knew?

From Vermont Public Radio:
"Henry Marckres is the maple specialist for the Vermont Department of Agriculture. He's tasted maple syrup almost every day for nearly 3 decades! He's judged contests around the country, sampled batches from sugarmakers from Highgate to Bennington, and he's the arbiter of quality for the state of Vermont.
He spent some time with VPR's Jane Lindholm and shared his thoughts on what distinguishes one jar of maple syrup from another."

Audio interview:

I must say I can't tell a Putney from a Shelburne.

In some ways syrup in Vermont is like moonshine in the south.  It's made in the woods, lots of boiling and steam involved.  Stores carry it, but many people just get it "from a guy."  Maybe a guy at work from the trunk of his car in the parking lot, or trek out to a sugar shack.  I usually get it from my barber.  My last fix came from a friend packed in a 5 pound sour cream container.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More snow

I think I've had to shovel snow every day in the last week except Saturday.  Saturday was a technicality.

I had tickets for the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber ensemble in Rutland (about 70 miles south on Rt 7.)

Kayak buddy Sam lives pretty close to Rutland.  He switches over to back country skiing once the snow builds up and is always trying to get me to come down there, so I called and made arrangements.   He suggested that I probably couldn't get to his house without 4 wheel drive, so meet him at the local store.

We took off through the forest from his house, skirting the Mountain Top Inn, picking up a mile or 2 of the Catamount Trail (a ski trail that spans Vermont from north to south,) and hitting the Chittenden reservoir.

From Other2011

The tiny black dot on the snow in the distance is somebody ice fishing.

On the way back it started snowing hard enough to remind me why I started wearing contact lenses for winter sports (but not today!)

After getting back, Sam drove me back to my car.  Scraped the windows off and headed to Rutland, where there's a covered parking garage across the street from the theater (yay).

The box office was holding my tickets.. in theory.... After flipping through a box of envelopes they can't find them.
"Did you order them online?"
"No.  XXXX from VPR (Vermont Public Radio) called it in. "

They check the box of envelopes again, look over some lists, then "Hmmmm.. I don't see it anywhere."

Sinking feeling.....

"Don't worry, we'll get you in."

Yes, it's Vermont!  On the strength of showing up and saying I'm supposed to have a ticket, they trust.

"Robin isn't coming, Here's her ticket."

Center seat, fourth row.  Cool!

Usually at things like this you see people you know, but since I'm not from around there, no (though I *do* know Robin, whose seat I'm in.)
The topics of pre-concert small talk were road conditions and preparation for sugaring season.  Since I drove a ways and tap my one maple tree I guess I fit in.

The concert was great, followed by a performer meet & greet in the lobby over cookies and coffee.

Then, back to the snow.... 70 miles back home at 20-30 mph.  Not bad other than how long it took.  Home around 1 am Sunday morning, then it  took about half an hour to shovel enough of the driveway to get off the road.

So that's why I didn't have to shovel on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Skating the Lake

As much as there are some paddlers who will seek and find whatever liquid surface remains on the lake through the winter, there is the flip side.... people who relish the frozen surface, maybe hiking to alpine ponds in search of skateable ice in October.

We just had a few days of cold weather, one morning clocking in at minus 20 to 30 F depending on where in the state.  I asked Phelps to let me know when there was some skateable ice in the islands, and the answer was now.

On the way I saw that there were already some ice fishing shacks out.

I was picturing putting on the hockey skates and whizzing around some area on the scale of an ice rink, or maybe a football field.  Things were mostly a little rough for that, plus why confine yourself?  We ended up using nordic skates, which are essentially speed skates with XC ski bindings and a bevel on the front to go over bumps.  They were the inspiration for the clapper skates now popular in long track speed skating.  I've used them once before, but only on a groomed oval.  I recall in that setting one good stride could take you a hundred yards.

It seemed like I was just here for a barbecue and it was 80 degrees.

First thing is getting down to lake level, then walking out to where the surface is a little smoother.

The horizontal dowel hanging from his neck is really 2 nested ice picks, which you use to haul yourself back on the ice in case you fall through a thin spot.

Much of the ice looked like this.  A couple of days ago these were loose floating chunks of ice, now encased in new clear ice.  I saw a fish swim by one of these "holes."

From Other2011

You  need to occasionally whack the clear sections with a pole to check the thickness.  Those familiar with the local tectonics know where the plates of ice are pulling apart (causing thin ice or open water) due to wind and the configuration of shore line.

The temperature is in the teens, but with the wind it feels like I'll be at that distant island (2.5 miles)  in about 5 minutes.  Seriously, just standing there the wind will blow you to some real speed, and we used a lot of the space visible here.

Unlike ski poles, these poles have no baskets, and have hard conical points that reliably grip the ice.