Monday, January 28, 2008

Thin ice

This week I was rushed, and left home without finding in which coat's pocket my camera is hiding, so there are just a couple of shots from the cell phone before I zipped it inside the drysuit.

We launched from Oakledge, the southernmost park in Burlington.






Out to that point there's a thin skim of ice, maybe 2-3 mm. It is thin enough to flex and ride over the small waves on this calm day. You can just paddle through it, making a loud zipper sound as your kayak opens its own channel.

The platforms further out carry the nickname "dolphins," no idea why. They were used to offload oil from barges into the tank farm behind me. As far as I know, oil barge traffic on the lake ended in the 1980's.

We went by a couple of other coves that were well frozen, and I ran up onto a free floating slab that was about 6 inches thick. Other than that it was just a nice calm sunny day.

As we were packing up, a lone kayaker showed up with his boat on one of those 2 wheeled portage trailers, having walked it from home. Some reassurance that we aren't uniquely nuts for going out in winter.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Seal Launching

There was ice on shore at Kingsland Bay Saturday, so seal launch was mandatory.



So we got to try the nailboards Tom cobbled up for us. They mate together like this so you don't spike your kayak while not in use. You pull them apart, and use them to push yourself along the ice.



In the video, note attempts showing that a) paddling on ice doesn't work, and b)if you try a "walking gait" (one hand at a time) with the nailboards it just spins the kayak in place. You have to push with both hands at once. Dave was taking too long to finish, so the especially astute will notice that the kayak changes color just before sliding off the ice into the water.

video

EDIT: I don't know what's up but when I view this blog, often the video isn't loading. IF you just see an empty space above, you can see the video (and in a little better resolution) at http://youtube.com/dongallery , titled "seal launch"

After exiting the bay, we headed upwind, taking a break in the lee of Diamond Island, home of one of the weather reporting stations. Judging from the spin on that anemometer, I'd say the wind is around 20 knots. Actually, that's what I got from the station's web page later.



Tom sucking on his insulated water pipe:


On to the New York shore, north of Wesport. This waterfall is around 150 feet high (50 showing in the pic, notice the kayaker at the bottom) We went under another that was more free-falling into the lake.

The way the waves were bouncing, I noticed that I was actually getting pushed upwind while taking this.


Further up, near Snake Den Harbor, we saw maybe 8 eagles soaring.\

After a lunch stop we headed to the middle of the lake to ride back on the waves (a lot of trips lately feature this move). Back at Kingsland, the wind coming off the shore had blown all that ice away so we didn't have the opportunity for "seal landing", though I did run up and over a sheet about plywood size earlier in the day.

I checked a few minutes before reaching shore. Both my PFD zipper, and the zip pocket holding my car key were solidly iced up. A roll was in order to melt the ice off, and that did the trick.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

High water

Today we launched from Shelburne Beach. This week's thaw melted a thousand plus square miles of couple foot deep snow which then started running in what ever way it can towards the lake. The lake level rose about a foot in a day, and is now several feet higher than when I took a Greenland rolling class here in September. So what we really did was launch into the water now covering Shelburne Beach.

On some of the shore line the first line of trees were in the water, but it wasn't like last Memorial day when we were paddling through the middle of some woods.


This is a few miles north of last week's trip, but I could see that there was nothing left of those funky icicles. A few teeny ones are starting to form, but we haven't had the kind of waves it takes to wet a cliff 20 feet up since it went back below freezing.

This especially caught my eye as a blogger I read in New York posted about some illegal boat dumping down there a couple of days ago.
There were 3, I think, wrecked boats and a lost floating dock in close proximity hanging on or sunk next to shore (Spiderman sailboat???) The floating dock wasn't sunk, it was floating in like-new condition, but stuck in a cleft in a cliff.



I doubt they were dumped here, just washed up. This isn't the kind of neighborhood where the locals leave wrecked boats on their shore any more than they would leave a wrecked Bentley in the yard with a tree growing through it. When they come back in the summer, they'll have their people take care of it.

A nearby 24 bedroom "summer cottage," Well, formerly "cottage." Now a hotel, The Inn at Shelburne Farms



Around the next point past Shelburne Farms we headed out into the lake to catch a downwind ride back to the start.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January thaw

With the forecast of 50's midweek there was noise of a midweek outing on Wednesday.
Tuesday would have been THE day for warm paddling as it got to 63, but I was in North Carolina for the day, where it was about the same. Come Wednesday morning the forecast also mentioned T-storms (which didn't happen, it was sunny) and 50 mph winds (which did in the afternoon, or close enough) so the plan soft of melted away along with all the snow.

I had to take my kid to an appointment in the late afternoon, so did have a chance to walk to nearby Red Rocks (my local municipal waterfront park) around 4. The first thing I noticed was the shrieking sound of the wind in the treetops. On the beach the wind was on-shore and strong enough that I was consciously leaning into it for balance. The waves were a good couple of feet and consistent. Not huge, but pretty good considering they were coming across the short dimension of the bay they only had about a mile to build. If we'd been paddling here the big challenge might be getting your kayak on/off the roof rack without losing it. I figured the waves would be substantial in a more exposed area.

This morning there was an email from one of the gang who did go out:

"I went paddling at the Coast Guard station at 2 PM. I spent about 40
minutes in the Explorer, then retreated and switched to my whitewater
(creek) boat. As I was putting on with the latter it started to blow
like holy hell. It went up and down (but always 20+), and I stayed out
until about 4, wandering around the breakwater and in front of the iron
seawalls. There were some rogues out there that I'd judge to have been
as big as 7 feet. Presumably they're continuing tonight; it's still
blowing around 25-40 mph out there."



Meanwhile, there are some less pleasant things that come with a foot of snowpack melting in about a day... various towns worried about ice jams in the rivers, and floods. A few school districts are closed on the New York side because of downed power lines from the wind. Lots of bare grass showing, but too soggy to walk on it.
Winter is forecast to resume tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

And it begins

The weather service suspends doing a lake forecast from December 31 until May 1. Luckily they are still posting conditions from the several automatic data collection sites. Today,

"THE LAKE CHAMPLAIN LAKE LEVEL AT THE KING STREET FERRY DOCK IN BURLINGTON
WAS 96.84 FEET...AND THE WATER TEMPERATURE WAS 34 DEGREES."

Yet there is some ice around, blown and packed into the downwind end of each bay we went through today, typically in dinner plate size chunks and extending maybe a couple hundred feet from shore. Here Tom is pulling himself across the ice pack with nailboards strapped to his hands.





Rumor has it the shallow bays at the north end of the lake are frozen solid and they are having some ice boating event tomorrow.

There was also more snow packed down on the boat ramp, so instead of getting in the boat by the shore and seal-launching, I could start a good 30-40 feet back without scraping on any pavement. Kayaking isn't just about water anymore!

We had a couple of days this week of zeroish temperatures that gave this ice formation a bit of a kick. It was also blowing pretty well, so the decorative lakeside ice really took off. What you see here was all formed from waves and spray from the cold north wind. South wind today, so this is sheltered and the camera can come out of the waterproof box.



That's me! Thanks to Tom who managed to press the shutter button on my camera with neoprene mittens on. I've been wearing gloves which are a bit easier.






After the big waves, the little ones have the final say, shoeing icicles that get too close.




A video of Tom's ice-pushing:


video

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's 2008


At the end of the last trip 2 days ago, we were planning to go to Lake George today, so we had loaded all our kayaks on Tom's trailer. Then there was a winter storm warning for late in the day with phrasing pretty close to "Stay off the road you dumb @#$%$^!"
So, we stayed local to get back early, but still went out. Converse Bay again... one factor being the parking lot was plowed.


Another seal launch day.

The water was "bracing," but it does get the snow off. If you do the zoom-click on this one, you can see that there's a bit of slush floating at the surface, and it's snowing.


For a good part of the trip our wakes were the only disturbance on the water. Between the glassy surface and the snow cutting visibility and muffling sounds, this was a new face of Champlain for me. From some angles it looked like the boats were floating on air.



We rafted up and hooked to one of these overhanging trees on Meach Island. Cold flatbread (sauceless pizza) for lunch.

On the way back, we saw 3 loons. What's the collective for loons? A bin?

Why can't I get each paragraph to line up with its picture?