Friday, January 15, 2021

Drysuit Test

I headed over to the East River.  Yesterdays romp in the big river lacked the wildness that I needed after a week of political insurrection.  The sky is a thick overcast that will not break, but the air is in the 40's with a very light wind.

The tide is very high so I put in at the old stage coach crossing on Bear House Hill Road, which is, by the way, a great name for a road.  I carry my gear and canoe in one load to the water.  When it's high like this I have to step in just to get situated, but it's just ankle deep.  I've put in here dozens of times.  And so begins my Olympic Short Program Routine.  My first jump is a full-double-clutz-on-banana-peel.  I stick the landing, a prone finish on my side in a foot of 40 degree water.  Now, my solo canoe is a good boat and sensing zero g, the built in self protection system (BISPS) kicks in.  The nano gyroscopes in the kevlar hull orient the canoe properly and it lands on top of me without so much as getting wet.  I then perform an optional half twist standup with BISPS disengaged.  Only then does the canoe get wet.  My routine complete, I look over at the judges table.  They hold the cards up - 5.2, 5.5, 5.3, 5.4, and a 4.0 from the East German judge, who is an asshole, it goes without saying.  But the lowest score is thrown out and I end up with a solid 5.4.  I lost valuable points because I failed to submerge my head when I landed my first jump.  The audience, a woman and her dog, are quiet.  I suppose the dog is unimpressed by someone jumping around in water.  The woman seems concerned that I might be angry with the East German judge. I assure her that I can take whatever the East German can dish out.

The Gravel Flats in high water

Anyway, that's one of reasons to wear a drysuit.  First of course, is the extra survival time, but second is the nice fact that you can fall in the water without having to call it a day.  I dump a gallon from the canoe and climb in, then dump a pint from each of my boots...good to go...wet on the outside, dry and toasty on the inside.

I head downriver.  While taking my first photo I have to check the settings.  Everything looks sepia, but that just turns out to be the day...cloudy + winter foliage = sepia. The only color out here is the dry swamp grasses. The water is high enough that in most places paddling in the river channel is just an option.

The Sneak in very high water

It is a normal day for winter.  There are quite a few Canada Geese and a few flocks of Black Ducks.  I spot one possible Bald Eagle, a Red Tailed Hawk, and another unidentified hawk.  Identification is tough today as anything flying is silhouetted by the overcast.

In the lower marsh I take the Long Cut over to Bailey Creek, cut from there across the spartina above Cedar Island and back into the East and make my return.  All the action is in the middle marsh and on the return I am treated to good aerial displays of Geese and Duck flocks moving to other locations.

Taking out, I stick the landing.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Gray Day

I intended to paddle above the first dam.  When I finally got to the state park on the west side of the river, after all too many wrong turns, it was closed for the season.  A portage in was possible, but I just wasn't enthused about the distance.  I headed next to the Eagle Scout put in.  From there, however, I could see that the current was moving at a good clip and from past experience I knew that I might not be able to bust through the current on the shelf that was a mile upstream, and the reason to paddle this section of the river is the good stuff above the shelf.

I ended up putting in under the bridges, below the old power plant and a mile above the big marsh.  I headed upstream into a surprisingly strong current.  The sky was overcast and there was no wind, so the water was near smooth.  I crossed the river and headed through the island complex.  In fact, the water surface gave no indication of the current and it seemed as if I was paddling through molasses.  I flush some Black Ducks and Mallards, about 2 dozen each in total.  At the top of the islands I ferried across, pointing the canoe at a 45 degree angle to the current and paddling.  This took me straight across the river.  I spotted 2 hawks - probably a mated pair with a possible nest not far off.  When I headed back down river I sighted a Harrier skimming down the center of Long Island.  How many times have I been in these salt marshes without spotting Harriers?  Now that I know what to look for, I see them quite often.  I lose it for a few moments and spot it again perched on a post in the center of Carsten Island.  But, it heads back upriver before I can get into camera range.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Out with the Ice

 I put out into more wind than the weatherman had predicted, but it was sunny and the 30 degree air was slowly warming.  

I cut across the channel and followed the west shore until an attached layer of skim ice sent me back to the other side.  A hawk crossed the channel.  Then, I spotted a whitish bird perched in a tree several hundred yards ahead.  In summer, that would be an Egret for sure.  I could not identify it, but it was a "raptor-ish" bird just by watching it fly off. I entertain the idea that it might have been a Snowy Owl.

The beaver lodge that has been here for a couple of years is well winterized.  Unexpectedly, there is a smaller second lodge not 6 feet from the original.  Beaver are territorial and I've never seen two lodges so close to each other.  But, both are winterized with a recent packing of mud, so they must both be occupied and I guess that they are kin.
The Double Beaver Lodge

Nearing the point where the cove turns, I hear a large number of Canada Geese honking.  I spot them mixed in with the Mute Swans that are typical here in cold weather.  The Geese flush when I am still some 400 yards away.  They go up as a few large flocks and it looks to total about 300.  They climb higher and circle in their V formations until flying off to other open water.  A few minutes later, the hundred plus Swans just move short distance to another spot in the cove.  

Immature Bald Eagle

 I find open water on the NW shore, so I cross the cove again.  Four Great Blue Herons take off from a spot that looks perfect for sunning.  Watching them I almost miss the immature Bald Eagle perched among them.  There are a few Buffleheads, some Black Ducks, and a flock of two dozen Common Mergansers.  The Mergansers are an easy identification even at long distance, the males in tuxedo colors and the females in a grey-brown drab with a deranged lady hair-do.  There's also a decent flock of dark medium sized ducks that I can't get a close look at - might be Ring Necks.

At the top of the cove I find both the Salmon and Moodus Rivers glazed over.  We've had cold still nights and even the currents have failed to keep a bit of open water to paddle through.  So, I circle the cove following the ice edge until I am forced back to the NW shore.  When I get back down to the point, my open water lead has disappeared.  The ice has been moving much more than I guesses.  I cut through about a 100 yards of thin ice, mostly 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  It's fairly easy as far as ice breaking goes.  I notice that I am actually cutting through two layers of ice.  There is a thin layer moving up the cove in the current with an equally thin layer moving down the cove with the wind.  When I stop in the weeds to write my notes, I can hear the ice coming up from behind as it crushes against shore.