Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Best Nightmare Coming True?

I'm in want of someplace different, so, I paddle north in the big lake well past Union Bay.

A seaplane with an old piston engine rumbles into the air, but it is well out of sight. The sound drifts off for a few dozen paddle strokes before the plane comes out from behind a hill whose trees have absorbed it's noise. It flies south past me towards Mt. Rainier. When I reach Wolf Bay (it is not much of a bay - not since 1916 when the lake level dropped 10 feet) an eagle flies past and then perches in a tree along the shore where crows pester it. It whistles a deep haunting tone back at the crows.

I am almost to Sand Point before I see the first motorboat. I turn around and head south.

As I near the lunchcounter, an eagle flies out of the NE lagoon. It is hunting and I see it splash full body down into the water. It comes up empty, circles some and splashes down again. Again it comes up empty. This time it circles, gradually climbing and gradually widening it's arc until it finally flies back to the NE lagoon.

I have to push many drift logs out of way to access a rich plastic debris spot. It is getting more difficult for me to collect plastic junk. My best nightmare may be coming true. I fill my boat with about 50 gallons of junk. Some of it is the pebble grain styrofoam, which I especially hate because it falls apart and soaks up so much water that I cannot use it for my artwork.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Iris Time

Yellow iris's are in bloom along with some of the lily pads. So while I scoop trash from the windward side of the marsh islands, I am treated to a yellow spatter of iris flowers right at my eye level. Today it is in the 60's with a light wind. I start at Portage Bay, paddle to Union Bay to pick trash and then exit at the South end of Lake Union. But --

My first thoughts came as I walked my canoe to the lake and since my hand is well inside the canoe, I guess I can compromise and count it as a view from the canoe. I'm making a sculpture using the plastic debris that I've recovered from the lake. I want to be as green as possible, but the sculpture also has to survive outside in the weather. So, I'm gluing it together with some heavy duty industrial glue. I thought of melting it together, but that brings in the use of fossil fuel - plus the toxicity of melting plastic. Of course, natural fiber cord could hold it all together, for awhile, at which time it would self destruct and end up back in the trash cycle and the message behind the work is lost. Saving the environment will require some compromises also. But, it will also require no compromise on many issues. That is where we will fail as it is human nature to see everything as negotiable. And, Mother Nature is tolerant in the short term, but does not negotiate on the long term.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hearty Plastic Soup

Paddling north in Lake Washington on my way to collect 30 gallons of plastic from the marsh for an art project. I'm thinking about ownership. What makes a house yours? What is it that makes land or water yours? How do you really own something? Legally, one pays their money and they own "it". But, this is ownership in the shallowest of terms. People that frequently buy and sell houses, moving from town to town - do they really own their house? When I talk to them, their home seems to be an investment and at best a place to stay.

Ownership isn't about an investment, or about investing in, it is about "being invested in". It is more than the easy surface, more than the paper deed, it is about "the deed", the action, the involvement, it is about "being".

I can get snooty about the bay. I have to remind myself that everyone gets to set their own price of admission. I don't have to remind myself that you get what you pay for.

Saw some geese. One eagle soaring high and one in the trees near the entrance to the northeast lagoon. Also spotted three ducks (remember how many ducks are here in the winter) but I was too lazy to dig out my binoculars. It turned out to be a very nice day and I ended up with 40 gallons of plastic junk because I was able to access a particularly rich bowl of plastic soup.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Mapping

Today was a mapping day. I'm getting eager to complete the map. You can see the top of my "plane table" in the canoe. It is a small drawing board mounted on a tripod. After aligning the board to north, I sight along a triangular ruler and then can draw my sights directly onto my map. The bay has been an interesting project for learning about making maps by hand. Of course, I'm mostly mapping water - I can't pace off distances and much of the shoreline is marsh. The main part of the bay involved taking sights over long distances (3/4 of a mile). It required some rethinking when I found that key locations had enough metal around to throw off my compass (the trick is the order in which you take the sights). The lagoons and islands require different approaches to the problem as gone are the clear sightlines, the distances are short and the reliable points that I took out on the main bay can't be seen. Lots of time today paddling back and forth across small channels. I talked with several people about the project today. Saw some herons, ducks, geese, turtles - it seems to be the lazy summer days for critters. I like winter better, when the birds are getting ready to mate, nest and migrate.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The view from the canoe of me towing the canoe.

This morning I set out to map more of the south lagoons. I'd like to get this finished so I can work on the arty part of the map. I back out of my first sight as those little red ants appear - they have an irritating bite and always seem to be around the only dry piece of bog to work from. (There's also some wood ducks and baby ducks peeping and a few herons). After a few points, I realize that the geometry is somewhat accurate, but the length of the first leg must be off, which puts the scale for everything else off - start over. I start over, working a different section of the lagoon. It's back and forth across the water, each time wedging the canoe into the bushes and drawing in sightlines. Visibility is blocked (a bridge) in many locations, so the work is not as much fun as it should be. After finishing up a section of the lagoons, I paddle out and through the cut. Not as many motorboats as there should be on such a nice day. I take out at the south end of Portage Bay, mostly because the walk home from there will be through a lot of park land.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I forgot to take a scenery shot today, so all I have to show is 30 gallons of junk and 1 car tire.
It was about 50F this morning with a light wind. The bay seemed very calm inspite of that wind. There are few ducks in the bay. The common mergansers are gone, not many coots - really pretty empty water other than geese. I saw two eagles high and south of the bay. I set straight away to scoop some more plastic from the north marsh. I had to push some logs out of the way, which is possible because of the high water level. I spotted a large patch of big stuff, but it has to wait as it is to far from the water and the bog will not hold my weight. Still, I collected 30 gallons and one tire without much problem. It seemed to be a Ziplock Baggie/tennis ball day - don't know why but there was an unusual concentration of baggies. Redwing Blackbirds kept me company. I love the raygun buzapp calls. I also saw some marsh wrens. I scooped another 15 gallons of this and that on the way back to the put-in.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Changing Weather

A pattern of ever changing weather is around for most of the week. It is in the 50F's with a moderate wind out of the south with large puffs of cumulus clouds and plenty of sun. I start out in Lake Union, first crossing the lake and then cruising downwind towards Gasworks Park. The centerpiece of the park is an old coal gasification plant from the early 1900's. It is what was thought to be "clean coal" at that time. It is illegal for me land on the shore here because of toxic sediment on the bottom of the lake surrounding the plant. One generation's "clean" is not really "clean" if it is poisonous to their children and grandchildren. I doubt that the new "clean coal" proponents can meet that standard.
After preaching to the choir, I continued east into Portage Bay, along the way picking up a plastic lawn chair that was blown into the lake during last nights storm. There is little boat traffic and the air is very fresh. I plan on just paddling - no garbage patrol, no map making.
While paddling through the cut into Union Bay, I spot two eagles ahead near Marsh Island. I think they are the same that I saw a few days back and not the mating pair. Yesterday I noticed an eagle nest south and east of the burial island. So, there may be a second set of nesting eagles. I change plans and take some key map points - might as well while I'm there and the weather is cooperating. The south lagoons will be difficult to map. Massive amounts of metal from man made structures throw my compass off and make it difficult to sight on key points (sighting is even more important when a compass bearing is impossible).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Monster Truck Tire

I walked my canoe to Lake Washington, again, today. It was nice. The water was wet.

Paddling north up the shoreline, very little wind and very few motorboats. It is only 10:30, so the majority of boat drivers are still working over their second or third mimosa and won't be in the water for a couple hours. I spot the large female eagle once I enter Union Bay. She is being harassed by crows, but she steadily climbs and the crows leave her. She soars very high today, so high that she is hard to relocate if I take my eyes off of her. I try to continue my mapping in the NE lagoon, but it is all goofed up, so I retrieve two car tires instead. I find a bigger tire in the process and after dumping the first two I return for it. It is really big. I cannot lift it out of the water, so I tie my stern line to it and tow it slowly to shore. It is a big truck tire, maybe 42 inches in diameter and it might weigh 75 lbs or more. I contemplate rolling it out, but decide to set it across the gunnels and paddle it. The boat is a little high centered, to say the least. After dumping it, I go back to mapping the west shore and everything now goes smoothly. I spot a couple of cinnamon teal, two broods of goslings. I talk with some bird watchers. When they see me mapping they fear that I am there for some road development project. We all seem to worry about stuff like that, those of us that enjoy this recovering natural area.

Here's that tire next to my 60 inch paddle.
Uff dah...

notice the beaver work on that tree in the background!

Friday, May 8, 2009

I walked the canoe to the lake for the first time in a couple of weeks. The foot that I sprained wandering in the brush is good enough. There is a light wind from the northeast, an unusual direction for the wind to come from. Dark gray clouds mix with patches of blue. The reflections on the ripples are hypnotic, especially when close to shore and the trees get into the act. I spot a lone grebe a hundred yards ahead. I glance to my left and when I look back the grebe is gone. It is a couple of dozen strokes of the paddle before I spot it again, this time one hundred yards to my right. Although cloudy, it is a very nice fresh day and I think it strange to see very little boat traffic. As I leave Lake Washington for Union Bay, I begin my mapping project and work for the next hour and a half plotting the shoreline east of the burial island. I take only one point from outside the boat, the others I get by wedging the canoe into the marsh so that it doesn't rotate while I draw in the sighting. When it is time to go, I spot two eagles low on the north side of Marsh Island. They don't appear to be the mating pair that I am familiar with. I'm not sure what they are doing, but they are definitely busy. When I get a chance, I check out the spot that they were sitting, but there is no kill.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Smart Water, Dumb Packaging

Smart Water, dumb bottle...

Boating season opened on Saturday. Big motor boat parade, rowing races and general floating mayhem among big cabin crooosers tied to a half mile of log boom. It is Monday, so boating season is over and they are all gone until the fourth of July where alchohol, motor boats and fireworks mix for one day and one day only. Then boating season opens for labor day weekend for the annual "running over of some poor swimmer contest" and then it closes until the next May.

Got an early start today. Had the lake to myself except for the work boats retrieving the log boooom. I made a decent hand made sketch map of the bay today using my homemade plane table. Got bit by some ants, just to make it seem like work. Very few ducks left on the bay. Saw a few hooded mergansers, only six common mergansers and a pair of cinnamon teal (so pretty). I did not see any goslings and wonder if the early hatchlings get predated on more than normal. Saw two large broods of mallard ducklings. Herons around, but not as many as normal (did the weekend boating disturb them?). Very calm day, which helped when I took bearings for my map from the canoe (it pretty much can't rotate when you're doing that). Retrieved a few large boat fenders - the amateurs never check their gear before going out, and I got a super swell cheapass yacht cap, which somehow ended up in a garbage can... and tennis balls, always tennis balls.