Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween night (redundant?)

It's ~60 and it has stopped raining. Still a slow night for trick-or-treaters.

There were a couple of years I went out with my kid and it was snowing or freezing rain. The house at the end of the block gave brandy to the parents those years. Another family in the neighborhood (since moved) had a big "wheel of fortune" thing the kids would spin to determine what candy they got. There WAS a "lose 1" position too!

In the "old neighborhood" we went 15 years and only 1 kid ever came to the house. When she was grown, she told us she'd done it on a dare because our driveway was so dark and long (~900 feet). Not worth it for a candy bar!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Got an email suggesting a paddle saturday.

Someone responded with the lake forecast:

You might think.... trip cancelled, right?

Nooooo.... now the conversation is how to best take advantage of this opportunity.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First weekend of fall

Yesterday there was a short notice trip starting at Kingsland Bay.

On the way there's a rail crossing with the red light blinking. A couple of cars are waiting... waiting.... waiting... no train. After a few minutes they start going forward one at a time, look both ways, and cross. Later I find out it had been blinking for at least a half hour. In a more populated area there also would have been a gate down.

I proceed, hoping I won't find the beach with a few cars and everybody gone. Not to worry, they are still there, along with a van/trailer load of kids from Middlebury (college) Mountain Club starting an intro to kayaking weekend.

Oops... Though I did make lunch, it somehow didn't get in the car, so I dump a few scoops of Gatorade in my water bottle, and Phelps says he has a couple extra bars and some apples I can have.

It's a nice fall day.. air and water both around 60, blue sky, color starting in the trees, and wind in the high teens to low 20's. Our route is pretty familiar, south almost to the Maritime Museum, cross over to Barn Rock on the New York side, lunch at the lean to a little north of that, then tack home on the increasing SE wind in a zig-zag route mixing some downwind waves with enough cross wind paddling so we DO end up back in Vermont instead of way north but still on the NY shore.

Conditions weren't what any of us would call challenging but the wind, color, and waves rolling under the nylon boat skin gave me the same sense stimulation I get from a scenic overlook on a fall hike. Fall's here, in your face, and you can't help but smile at it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Valcour Island

Email from Sam:

"Meet at whites Beach at 10:30 am for circumnavigation of Valcour. Plan on a strong 4 hour paddle."

Note it doesn't mention a day. That was in the subject line, but one guy didn't notice that, showed up on Saturday instead of Sunday and ended up doing the paddle alone.... then came again and did it with us.

The stretch between White's beach and Valcour Island in New York is often the windiest part of the lake, and if it is southerly, nearly a hundred miles of fetch (so great waves!)

This time, not so much.. What wind there was, we were headed into. It shifted though and by the time we got to Valcour, it was downwind. As we progressed around the island, it was ALWAYS headed towards the island. A thermal sea breeze!
The east side of the island has a lot of small caves. The waves wash over the openings making a very bassy gurgling that I can only describe as whale belches.

East side of Valcour Island

Lunch break, looking back at the start, with Mt. Mansfield (aka Stowe ski area) in back.
Lunch break
West to New York (Peru and Keeseville)
Valcour Island beach

After lunch, we continued around up the NY side
South side of Valcour

and decided to check out Crab Island.

Crab Island is named for the marine fossils in its limestone. I guess trilobites look kind of like crabs.
Landing on Crab Island
Crab Island's place in history is that there was a field hospital there in the war of 1812. There were also a few cannons placed there to defend Plattsburgh, manned entirely by invalids. ON the island now is a memorial for the battle of Plattsburgh, in which the invalids captured one of the British ships.
Battle of Plattsburgh Memorial
Battle of Plattsburgh plaque

That battle pretty much marked the end of the war as it left the US dominating the lake so the British couldn't use the water highway from Montreal to NY (Lake Champlain to Lake George to the Hudson River) to transport troops and supplies.

After the historic tour, it was time to head home, upwind. Again, that was a thermal that died out once we got a ways from shore.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Isle LaMotte

Isle La Motte is an island in Lake Champlain. Sam Champlain camped here for a while in July 1609 (watch out for quadracentennial celebrants!), and it is the site of Vermont's first permanent European settlement. Teddy Roosevelt was here addressing the fish and game league when he learned president McKinley had been shot.

Isle La Motte is also home to the world's oldest known coral reef, ~450 million years. The reef is hundreds of miles long, but here's where it outcrops and is visible.

Last but not least, we paddled around it yesterday. It's about 15 miles around, with just a few hundred people, so being the first town didn't lead to being biggest.

Here at the put in we see I still have Mr. Twitchy the paddle. As you can see, it appears to be wrapped around my old Greenland Paddle... maybe that's got something to do with it's mysterious properties?

We landed to check out this statue of Samuel Champlain at his camping spot.
Champlain statue on Isle LaMotte

A couple of people had to confer on the route

Typical shoreline:

Sam from the local kayak dealer announced he was having a sail.

We lunched on Cloak Island, just off the south end of Isle La Motte. Much of the greenery is poison Ivy, so stay on the beach.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fort Cassin

Over the years the Otter Creek has pushed enough sediment to form what looks like a canal with a levy on either side sticking out close to a mile from the shore of Lake Champlain.

Yesterday we launched at the Fort Cassin boat ramp, located at the base of this extension.

Fort Cassin was located out on the end, named for a navy Lt. Cassin in the war of 1812. Cassin commanded the fort with only 7 light cannon in a battle with British ships which were trying to prevent new American ships built upstream in Vergennes from entering the lake.
"The rapid discharge of the guns was repeated in echoes from the rugged steeps of Split Rock Mountain till it became a continuous roar." (I'd guess echos were from the Palisades cliffs) The engagement lasted about an hour, then the British withdrew.
The new ships were able to participate in the pivotal Battle of Plattsburgh. Between that and his role in the later battle Cassin was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Our trip was a little less exciting, but had it's moments. Phelps brought a bunch of his paddles for us to try out. I got one I've named "Mr. Twitchy." The first stroke I took it dove and capsized me. Compared to my old paddle, it has a fine balance of enough cant to keep it from fluttering but not enough to make it slice down under the boat. It seems pretty fast though, and the white cedar has a nice look.

Jane and Phelps at a rest (& rolling) break with a couple of his paddles.

The diving mask on Phelps's boat was brought in case we went by Thompson's Point, where a bike he was riding fell through the ice last winter. I'm not sure if he had a plan to retrieve the bike and carry it on the kayak, or just look for it.

John and Frank

On the way back from the NY side, a group of large powerboats went flying by heading south. A few minutes later we could hear the wakes crashing against the palisades. Not quite like cannon fire, but pretty loud for being over a mile away. A few minutes after that the east bound wakes hit us for a little boost.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Quad cent

All up and down the Hudson Champlain corridor the buzz is on for the 400th anniversary of, well, Hudson and Champlain (up the river and down the lake, respectively). Champlain made so many trips to the new world (57 by one count) that local 400 celebrations are going to run for many years.

One event is an end to end paddle of Lake Champlain, 110 miles over 8 days. It looks like only 2 are going the whole distance, with others joining for 1 or more days as time allows.

4 of us locals joined in on Tuesday from Charlotte to Kingsland Bay.
The voyageurs approach. They spent the night camped at Shelburne Farm.

There was a slight delay because someone had locked his boat to a tree during the car shuttle, then left the key at the other end.

A bolt cutter made quick work of that. Actually the last bit of plastic sheath took longer to sever than the steel core.

The through-paddlers were more interested in shortest-distance than exploring every cove along the way.

At Kingsland park, Dave Miskell brought out lunch. An organic localvore's dream with Dave's lettuce, carrots, and peaches, local turkey, bread, 3 cheeses. The lemonade's not local... Vermont's citrus crop isn't doing well this year.

There was a voyage logbook that I think started in Quebec city in which we were all supposed to make entries. My glasses were back in Charlotte, so I couldn't read any of the early entries, but could see that many were in French.
It was accompanied by a replica of Champlain's astrolabe.
With the weather we've had, there haven't been much of any celestial sightings made with this lately.

After lunch us day-trippers went home and the rest continued to their next overnight camp at the Maritime Museum.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Call my kayak Adam

I've been using the skin on frame exclusively for a month or so. One thing that was a bit tight on the fit was getting my heel over a particular rib while getting in or out.
Building and rolling gurus Cheri and Turner said cut it out, one missing rib is no big deal. So I did.
Removed Rib
I guess the Adam name is only appropriate if I use the cut out rib to build another boat. Anyway, exit and entry no longer require any chinese puzzle box tricks with ankle and foot.

A lot of people hoist their boats from the water when not in use, either with a frame mounted on a dock or the bottom. This hand crank used an old truck rear end and is hanging over the edge of a short cliff. Not rigged now, maybe it was replaced by the electric one nearby.

Hand Crank Boat Hoist

Friday, June 19, 2009

Charlie's Boathouse

Wednesday we started at Charlie's boathouse, a venerable institution at the northernmost point of Burlington's lakefront, it is at the end of a dirt road.
It was also at the end of the bikepath, before the bike bridge over the Winooski River was built. Many a parent has urged his kids on with a promise of a snack from Charlie's.

We were supposed to meet the rest of the club trip (9 boats) at the river mouth as they were launching from the state boat ramp a few hundred yards upstream. We were headed that way and saw them turn around and head back up the river. Later report was the lake looked too rough. Does it look rough in the picture? Some waves, but no whitecaps.

Tom called today suggesting a nooner trip. We headed into Shelburne bay and did some playing. Tom does a hand roll in his Turner-built SOF:
Hand Roll

Then I worked on my upside down paddling.

That's actually one of the standard items for Greenland kayaking competitions.

Monday, June 15, 2009

CKC annual meet, signs of summer

Yesterday marked our annual Champlain Kayak Club meeting. For many members it is also their first time out paddling for the year as the water is finally warm enough that you don't need a wetsuit.

The afternoon started with tons of kayaks ready for launch.

Options at this point were a trip around Knight Island, or a strokes class from Todd Wright, who teaches kayaking (and other outdoorsey stuff) at a local college. He also brought their inventory of the new P&H boats for people to try out.

There was lots of "home made goodness." Here is Phelps with his Night Heron (white), and Paul with his stitch & glue boat.

In the last week Tom has been using the "Famed Zipper Boat." At least the references to this boat I've seen on the net all include the adjective "famed" so I'll use it too for consistency. It's a one-off with a carbon hull and a soft deck that uses drysuit zippers to access the front and back compartments.

Here North Hero Island narrows down to the width of the roadway, with this culvert allowing us access to the other side. I'm too tall to sit upright, and not enough width to paddle, but if you start with some speed you can coast through.

On return there was some time for roll-playing, swimming, etc, then the Coast Guard gave a general talk on water (& cold water) safety. People had a chance to set off their expired flares (sorry Bonnie, no pictures!) They were pretty visible in the daylight, but mostly useful to help someone find you if they are already looking for you. They are short lived enough (maybe 10-15 seconds) that they aren't too useful to attract potential rescuers if you're in trouble.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It was a dark and stormy morning.... didn't seem like a great day for the low volume SOF. Not that it isn't stable in waves, but it doesn't have enough volume to surf well and it's a bit discouraging to just be paddling downwind when the others are zooming into the distance.

Arriving at Kingsland Bay the sun is breaking out and temp up into the 70's. The plan is to head south, cross over to New York, keep going south to Barn Rock for lunch. THen go north along the New York shore to Split Rock and surf home on the wind predicted to shift to NW by afternoon.

Lunch was at the lean to across from Basin Harbor.

No sign of the Ol' Philosophizer who was supposed to be around this weekend. He might have done this stretch on Saturday.

On the short trail from the landing up to the lean to was this knee high orchid overlooking the lake. Anyone know the variety? (edit: lady slipper)


Heading north, the Palisades are as impressive as usual.

We ended up taking a beach break on the far side of Split Rock. I tried a few minutes of swimming to see how well the drysuit with just shorts and tee shirt inside protects from mid-40's water. The drysuit kept me dry, and the personal flotation device kept me flotated.. pretty comfortable overall, but if I was swimming from the middle of the lake to shore some gloves would be nice.

On the "surf" back from Split Rock we went by a couple of sailboats with their sails hanging limp, and as you can see, not much waves.

We got back to shore around 5:30 and could see the sailboats had started to move out on the broad lake. The Diamond Island weather station showed the wind kicked up from zero (when we were out there) to 15 knots by 6. Next time...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I got out 3 times in the last week, barely time for the gear to dry out.
Wednesday evening was Shelburne bay. Only one other paddler showed up, someone new, who at least knew she was remiss in not having some sort of cold immersion protection. I opted for heading up the LaPlatte river through the nature preserve, since at least you're never far from shore, and there won't be waves. I have to note that she made up for no wetsuit by not complaining when she did dump out of the boat.

Once past the nature preserve, the river winds through the village of Shelburne, but you'd never know it was a populated area other than the pair of bridges we passed under.

Friday was another trip with just me and a new guy who came to the area for a paddling course in the afternoon but was still up for 3 hours of paddling in the evening. At least he's enthusiastic!

Sunday was back with some of the usual crowd, and Bruce was back with his outrigger.

He had a capsize too. He's pretty adept at righting it, and there's no having to empty the cockpit. From what I hear it's pretty common to capsize a couple of times in these outrigger races, and the thing is to not lose much time getting back on.

This in front of the Inn at Shelburne Farm. The patio that used to be there fell in the lake so they are giving it another try. This time it will be a Formal Garden according to Dave, who got hired to do the garden part.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Not Dead Yet

I had a plum tree with a fungal disease knows as Black Knot. It was totally leafless last year with branches that would snap like well seasoned kindling. I figured that was it and cut it down.

This spring out of the stump pops a sucker in blossom, trying to act like it might bear fruit.

Most fruit trees one buys are clones grafted onto some other root stock, and in the case of plums the root stock is often cherry. Just have to wait and see.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wednesdays are back on

Midweek paddles are back in the lineup. Bruce came with his outrigger. I guess he's decided it's time to start training for the Moloka'i Hoe (inter island race in Hawaii this fall).

Tom's been waiting since last fall to check out his rapier against the outrigger. They were pretty much walking away from us.

The change this trip is the water is up over 40F.. warm enough to skip the mucklucks, which means I can use the skin-on-frame kayak. This is definitely not as steady a photo platform as my Gulfstream!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Two days of paddling this weekend!

Saturday ran from Kingsland bay

to the leanto south of the Palisades in New York:
(Note to Ol' Philosopher: landing around the corner just to the north)

This was the first day I tried skipping the mitts, and it was fine (sign of spring?)

On the way we stopped to check out the heron rookery at the Otter Creek delta. It is in "land" that is posted, but the rules are that you are free to go up to the high water mark, which is about 30 inches higher than in this picture:

Given the water level, I was able to get right under this tree that had maybe 5 nests. The herons never seem to mind as they know we can't approach any closer.

There was also a big bird house. While I was there a duck came out and flew away.

When we got back, some guy was just pulling in. Watched us stripping off tuiliqs and drysuits, then headed out in his cotton T and shorts. He was actually a bit underdressed for the air temperature, never mind the water. (Also a sign of spring)

I was thinking of taking the skin boat Sunday, but the forecast was waves up to 3 feet, which my SOF will just spear through rather than ride over, so I left the Gulfstream on the car. As you can see, the big waves didn't happen. Here's Tom in his carbon Rapier with Stu in his 70's era Greenland inspired sea kayak.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Converse Bay

Nothing especially noteworthy about the route or conditions this week, but it was a bad week to forget the camera as we had more than just kayaks. THere was Bruce in his outrigger canoe, and Jeff in a CLC Annapolis Wherry sliding seat rowboat(CLC photo):