Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

Orchard Update: Summer 2017

August 30, 2017

While this blog may have been dead for quite a while, the orchard has been very much alive.  This spring I grafted around a dozen interstems for a new block of semi-dwarf trees in an area of newground that we prepared north of the original orchard area last year.  And at the end of April a small but dedicated crew put in a great day of fence-building and tree planting to enclose the new area and plant the interstems.

Meanwhile, the oldest of the trees are around ten years old, and had begun to produce fruit in previous years, but being completely unsprayed it was misshapen and quite wormy, requiring a fair amount of cutting around by the cider crew.  So this year began experimenting with an organic spray regimen, starting in the spring with dormant oil, copper hydroxide, and Serenade (a competitive colonizing bacterial culture), and following that with two or three sprays of Surround and BT.  Surround is a refined kaolin clay product that makes the trees and fruit inhospitable to crawling and chewing insects, and BT is a parasitic bacterium that is very effective against tent caterpillars, which had in previous years set back many of our trees by defoliating whole branches.

To apply this stuff, I bought a 100-gallon PTO-mounted Kings sprayer, which fits on the small Kubota tractor (though not by much) and it has worked out quite well – if I’m careful I can do the whole ~1acre orchard with one full tank.  I bought most of the supplies from Seven Springs, which has significantly better prices than Fedco for some reason.  Many of the trees are quite laden with apples at this point, and the spray regimen seems to have all but eliminated the tent caterpillars and significantly set back the Plum Curculios, which otherwise scar the fruit badly with their crescent-shaped bite marks.  It’s too soon to tell how effective it will be on the flies and moths that damage the fruit later in the year; some folks use Spinosad or stronger synthetic stuff to knock them back, but Spinosad is expensive and I’d like to try sticking with organic pest control if it provides sufficient protection.

The Surround spray makes the trees a ghostly white, but it doesn’t seem to block enough light to affect the growth.  I also sprayed the peach trees, which turns out to be a mistake; here at the northern end of their range not many insects seem to bother them, and the clay is impossible to remove from the fuzzy skin of the fruit.  It’s harmless and I don’t mind eating it (after all, what’s in Kaopectate?), but it is impossible to wash off, and it makes the peaches look much less appetizing, so in the future I’ll skip them and work harder to avoid overspray on those trees.

Speaking of peaches, like others in Maine we’ve had a stupendous harvest this year; I took home about 65lb last weekend and it hardly made a dent in the crop still on the trees; I would estimate we’ll get at least 300lb of peaches this year, and my folks are having a hard time figuring out what to do with them.  Some of the apple trees are heavily laden as well, particularly the Honeycrisp, with branches drooping down to the ground.  We’ve also had to prop up some of the branches on some of the peach trees.

Meanwhile, the crop of winter rye did very well, and it’s currently drying in the overhead of the red barn – we’ll try to thresh some out at cider and see how it grinds.  I planted about 1/10 acre of buckwheat for a new hive of bees, and they seem to be enjoying it; it’s headed out now and we probably harvest some of that if we liked – or just let it go to seed for next year.  I also planted about 1/20 acre of Waspie Valley field corn from Fedco; it went in a bit late on account of the wet spring and new ground, but it’s way over head-high by now, and I’m hopeful that it gives a good crop before the weather gets too cool for ripening.

All in all a good year so far; despite the recent dry spell things seem to be doing pretty well.  I have noticed that some of the wild apple trees in the woods have gone completely brown; I have never seen anything like it – perhaps it could be a response to two dry summers in a row, though the trees I noticed are not in particularly dry locations – quite the opposite in fact.  I also noticed that many but by no means all of the local red maple trees have very weak-looking growth in the tops; relatively few leaves, and the ones they do have much smaller than normal.  Other maples nearby seem completely unaffected.

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A week on the Maine Island Trail: Vinalhaven to Deer Isle

August 30, 2017

This post continues the account of our recent trip from Five Islands to Deer Isle on the Maine Island Trail.  We pick up from the previous post on Hurricane Island, southwest of Vinalhaven, where we spent the night after crossing the western arm of Penobscot Bay. DSCF0375The morning dawned clear and calm, and we broke camp straightaway so as not to miss the tide.  We bid farewell to the island and rowed across the mouth of Hurricane Sound on the last of the ebb, and rounded the lighthouse on Greens Island to open the approaches to Vinalhaven village and Carver’s Harbor.  A breath of wind came up, but there was still a fair amount of rowing involved before we made it to Sheep Island, where both the sea breeze and the flood tide picked up and carried us up the east side of the bay.  DSCF0387

We made a quick pit stop in the lee of Smith Island, then decided that conditions were suitable for the crossing to Isle au Haut, and so set out for the second half of Penobscot Bay.

The front had pushed out the previous day’s southerly haze, so this time we had a crystal clear view all the way across the bay.  As before, Alexis set a course on the chartplotter app so we could keep track of our progress.  The numerous lobster buoys were a bit of a hassle to navigate around, particularly in deep water or popular channels, where two floats are connected by a submerged line of fifty feet or so (presumably so the gear can be recovered if it gets chopped by a passing powerboat). But they were also useful for gauging current, and they provided an important psychological boost when rowing in a calm.DSCF0389DSCF0392DSCF0410By now the flood was at full strength, and the sea breeze was not so strong as the day before, so if it faltered the tide might have carried us right into Stonington (and the psychology would have been a lot different with a strong ebb carrying us out into the Gulf of Maine). But as it happened the wind held, and we reached across the bay at a crab angle to the tide that carried us past Kimball Rock, past the lighthouse, and into Isle au Haut Thoroughfare by mid-afternoon. DSCF0417DSCF0435DSCF0425The wind seemed to strengthen and align with the channel as we sailed into the busy harbor and tied up on the back side of the town float.  DSCF0442DSCF0447

We stretched our legs, got an ice cream and some crackers, and walked a few hundred yards down the road to the Acadia National Park ranger station, where we talked with the ranger on duty about the park and inquired about Duck Harbor campground (booked solid as expected, not to mention upwind against the tide).  So we got back aboard and sailed a very short distance to a lovely MITA campsite with a fine cobble beach and glorious sunset views across the entirety of Penobscot bay – a total of about 16 miles for the day.  DSCF0466

We pulled the boat up the beach above the high-tide mark with on the rollers with the block and tackle, made camp, and enjoyed spectacular sunset views.

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Day seven dawned with a light breeze but a low overcast had set in, with intermittent fog.  We had 3 miles or more of visibility to the south toward Stonington and could see the sun through the mist, so we figured it might burn off, and in any case the islands of Merchant’s Row off Stonington offer numerous campsites.  So we rigged the radar reflector and ran off to the north, amid the lobster boats and the occasional outboard.  DSCF0524DSCF0537DSCF0545We passed west of Merchant Island with a clear view to George Head, but then as we approached George a fogbank rolled in off the bay leaving us with nothing but our compass course and the navigation app.

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Still, the wind was moderate, and the visibility sufficient to make out the lobster boats well away, and soon we could make out Sand Island and the racket of the granite operation on Crotch Island beyond.  At that point the wind faded away, and we took to the oars to make our way past Two Bush Island and into Stonington Harbor and the town dock.  We filled some water bottles, got a snack, and the dogs socialized with others of their kind while we waited for some wind.  DSCF0563DSCF0560The fog lifted, and in time a light southerly sprang up again, so we set off again reaching down the harbor, where we passed a ghostly windjammer in the mist.DSCF0570At this point we had an appointment to make at the end of our trip, so we coasted up the east side of Deer Isle on the tide and what there was of the wind, with the navigation app keeping us clear of ledges and steering us toward our destination in what thickened to become a pea soup fog with mist edging toward drizzle.

For the last mile and a half we had open water, and we set aside the app and steered by dead reckoning, with just the compass and a guestimate of our speed.  We saw our destination loom out of the mist just as I was starting to wonder if we should check the GPS, a dramatic and fitting end to a delightful trip.  We capped the afternoon with a hot shower and a crackling fire in the woodstove to dry off, and the next morning found our way back to civilization. In the end we traveled about 88 (statute) miles over the ground by sail and oars, and our route looked like this:2017 MITA trip map

Given the popularity of both the Appalachian Trail and sea kayaking, I am surprised that the Maine Island Trail doesn’t get more through-trippers.  Membership is reasonable, and the freedom of navigation makes island-hopping more akin to free-form off-trail wandering in the Rockies than the trail-bound hiking and occasional views of backpacking in the east.  Our point-to-point approach left much to explore, including the eastern rivers of the midcoast, upper Muscongus Bay, the Fox Islands Thoroughfare and upper Penobscot Bay, and the east side of Merchant’s Row.  And the trail extends west and east of the section we chose to travel; we both agreed that we would definitely return again to the Maine Island Trail.

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Hearty thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible, to all the friendly and helpful folks we met along the way, and to the MITA team for enabling this beautiful water trail!

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A week on the Maine Island Trail: Tenant’s Harbor to Vinalhaven

August 30, 2017

This post continues an account of our week on the Maine Island Trail.  The previous post left the story at the end of day 3, when we had sailed into Tenant’s Harbor for a ‘rest night’ after rowing from near Allen Island south of Port Clyde.

We had come far enough to appreciate the inn for its hot showers and soft bed, the front passed in the night, and the morning broke misty with a light easterly wind.  We had a nice breakfast on the porch, then packed up and beat out of the harbor against the wind.

DSCF0136DSCF0143DSCF0151The wind died (a bit more rowing) but the sun burned through the mist, and a light southerly came up which carried us through the narrow slot between Rackliff and Norton islands, a neat little passage of the sort that a small boat can breeze through but a yacht wouldn’t risk.  We got permission to tie up briefly at the Sprucehead lobster co-op, a hopping spot, where we gave the dogs a break and met briefly with a friend of a friend who lives and sails out of Sprucehead island, and he shared his advice about the crossing to Vinalhaven.  DSCF0175DSCF0176The sea breeze out on the bay had picked up to 10 or 12 knots at this point, so we got back on the water and set out across Muscle Ridge Channel for an island that would put us in good shape for the crossing.  DSCF0177DSCF0181DSCF0183

We got a good view of the Camden Hills up the channel to port. The wind carried us across the channel but seemed to be faltering, so we weren’t tempted to set out across the west arm of Penobscot Bay at the late hour.  As we approached the island we passed a ledge with a number of seals sunning themselves; I don’t know seal varieties that well and we didn’t get close enough to take good pictures.DSCF0187DSCF0191We put ashore at a nice half-tide beach, making camp on a beautiful granite ledge so as not to disturb an osprey nest on the northern end, and set the haul-off for the night – a total of about nine miles for the day. DSCF0198DSCF0215DSCF0227At the dawn of Day Five we found that for the first time the southerly seemed to survive through the night, if abated, so we got a relatively early start. DSCF0239We rigged a radar reflector between the forestay and starboard shroud, and carefully threaded our way among the ledges and islands forming the east side of Muscle Ridge Channel.  DSCF0245DSCF0255DSCF0256The wind strengthened and turned comfortingly southwesterly as we headed out into the bay.  We could make out the vague form of Vinalhaven and the three large wind turbines that provide much of the island’s power, but there was enough haze that we couldn’t actually see our destination, Hurricane Island, a high wooded granite form that guards the southwest corner of Vinalhaven.  To this point we’d been navigating by eye using waterproof paper charts, but as we faced the seven-mile open water crossing, for the first time we turned to the free app and fifteen-dollar vector chart I’d loaded on my phone. Alexis used the app to set a coarse past Crescent Island and across the western arm of Penobscot Bay to the northern end of Hurricane Island.

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With a good breeze, the flood tide running hard, and a couple feet of gentle ocean swell, we were happy to have the app to correct our compass course, and soon we were mid-bay, where we could make out the high island and the passage to the north.  DSCF0273There wasn’t much boat traffic for the crossing, but as we came closer, a nice looking yawl motored out into the bay.DSCF0272Once we passed between White and Hurricane islands, the wind went flukey off the high island, the tide was hard against us, and there were ledges to dodge, so it took us several short boards to make the float, where we tied up on the back side and went ashore for lunch.DSCF0276

While most islands on the trail are quasi-wilderness, Hurricane is a veritable city by comparison.  In the late 1800s it hosted a massive granite quarry with a town of up to a thousand people, which dried up in the early 1900s, leaving the island deserted.  More recently it was the sea base of the eponymous Outward Bound school, with a mess hall, workshops, staff barracks, cabin tent encampments, and more.  Some years ago HIOBS abandoned the island, but fortunately a new organization, Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership was formed to revitalize the island and use it for a variety of outdoor programs, and a dozen or more staff members now make it their home for the summer.  The team generously allowed us to fill our water jugs, and we spoke at some length with Sam Hallowell, the on-island Director of Operations, who described the work the new organization has done to stabilize and rebuild the infrastructure and launch new programs that take advantage of the beautiful setting to inspire students, teachers, architects, and the like.

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After lunch we took a leisurely walk among the outsize relics of the former quarrying operation, including massive grout piles, stone foundations, cemeteries, and a giant rusting steam engine. We walked through the remains of the quarry and up to an amazing overlook that commands a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and the open Atlantic.DSCF0285DSCF0288DSCF0292DSCF0294We had planned to keep on sailing, either out around the exposed southern end of Vinalhaven, or up Hurricane sound and through Fox Islands Thoroughfare to other Island Trail islands on the east side of the island. But Hurricane was a truly delightful place to visit with much to explore, and as we were studying the charts a small, rainless front blew through, quashed the seabreeze, and replaced it with an indifferent northerly. With the ebb we faced a long beat against the tide to get into the Thoroughfare, where the wind would likely be even lighter, and we didn’t want to risk the outer route at the late hour and with the outgoing tide. And with the spectacularly interesting and beautiful setting, it wasn’t a hard decision to stay the night on Hurricane.  So we took a leisurely walk around the north end of the island and back to the quarry overlook, where we watched as several yachts sailed into the harbor and took up guest moorings. DSCF0298DSCF0311DSCF0324DSCF0341DSCF0352The island seems to get a pretty good traffic of cruisers and day visitors from nearby islands, but fewer MITA through-trippers; Sam said that someone comes through about once a week doing a through-voyage along the trail, and this was consistent with the information in the tupperware trail registers that were provided at some of the islands.DSCF0359The MITA tent platforms are out of the way of the rest of the island activities, and we set the hauloff in a cove between the rocky shore and an old stone pier and made camp. DSCF0363DSCF0368

To be continued…

 

 

A week on the Maine Island Trail: Five Islands to Tenant’s Harbor

August 30, 2017

DSCF0008This post continues the report about our week on the Maine Island Trail.  The first post describes our the idea for the trip, gear, and planning. Subsequent posts will describe the middle and end of the journey.

On the first day of our trip, we launched mid-morning near Five Islands to a light southerly wind, and the photo above shows the view back into our home harbor. The breeze freshened as we got out into the Sheepscot.  Rather than beat out around the Cuckolds lighthouse against wind and tide, we decided to take the inside passage to Boothbay.  Here we are crossing the Sheepscot and entering the passage to Townsend Gut. The dogs took a while to settle down, but soon they were sleeping on either side of the daggerboard trunk.DSCF0012We arrived at the Southport bridge just in time for the 12:30 opening.  DSCF0017The wind was still pretty much southerly, and we made the end of Linekin Neck in a single tack, then bore off for Pemaquid Light.  DSCF0020

The short crossing to Pemaquid Point:DSCF0023

DSCF0026Pemaquid Point is reputed to be rough, but neither the wind nor the seas were excessive, the weather was clear, and we cleared the headland without incident, waving to lighthouse visitors on the shore.  DSCF0028

Looking to stretch our legs we poked into New Harbor, where we got permission to tie up at a commercial dock, and went ashore to exercise the dogs and get some chips and soda to complement our backpacker-style rations.  On toward late afternoon we sailed out of the harbor and a couple miles up Muscongus Bay to a beautiful island on the trail – about 20 (statute) miles on the water for the day.

DSCF0040Still being pretty far out in the bay, there was some surge even on the sheltered side of the island, and the landing was a ‘bar’ of dog-sized granite boulders covered with rockweed, so getting our gear and critters ashore was a bit of a challenge.  We then set the haul-off and pulled the boat out into the cove for the night.  At this point we were quite tired, but there was a nice campsite with great views and a couple of large tent platforms (even a rotting picnic table!), so we had a fine time.

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The morning of day 2 dawned clear and calm, and unfortunately it stayed calm right through noon, when we rigged the boat at the first sign of a breeze and headed east.

DSCF0046DSCF0055All afternoon we ghosted across Muscongus Bay past lovely islands, with rarely enough wind to heel the boat perceptibly.  On towards evening I rowed the last mile or so to our destination, a total of scarcely more than seven miles for the day.  But we had a sand beach landing, a beautiful shell beach campsite, and wonderful views of the surrounding islands.

DSCF0069DSCF0078DSCF0079DSCF0098Day three dawned sunny and the wind remained light. DSCF0113DSCF0126DSCF0128

So we rowed most of the way to Port Clyde, and put in at the general store, where we filled our water jugs at the gas dock and ordered a couple of nice omelettes from the counter to eat on a picnic table at the wharf while we waited for wind.  In general the Maine coast wharfside restaurant paradigm proved pretty dog-friendly over the course of the trip, and here as on several occasions we were one of many tables with dogs leashed to the legs of the table.  A light southerly sprung up, and we tacked out of the harbor in good spirits.DSCF0131

The wind died just as we rounded the lighthouse, and it was back to rowing.  A light southerly reappeared as we approached Mosquito Island, and carried as far as Mosquito Head before dying again, and it was back to the oars.  By now the day was getting on, and we were far from the next island on the trail.  We could probably have asked permission to camp on an off-trail island, but with evening coming on and rain in the forecast, we took the easy, luxurious route, got on the cell phone, and found a room for the night in Tenant’s Harbor.  We tied up at the town dock (a total of about 11 miles for the day, mostly under oars), schlepped our drybags to the inn, and got dinner at a wharfside restaurant, where we met some old friends from New Jersey who were finishing up their own (land-based) Maine vacation.

To be continued…

 

A week on the Maine Island Trail: Concept and Preparation

August 30, 2017

DSCF0244One of the challenges of trying to live as if CO2 emissions matter is that it’s tough to go on vacation.  A cross-continent flight or a long-distance road trip can quickly undo the gains carefully accrued over months of bicycle commuting and solar-powered living.  Fortunately, here on the coast of Maine we live in a top-notch summer holiday destination, and fantastic renewable-powered recreation is near at hand.  We tried this out for a week earlier this August, and had a great time. Besides the beautiful scenery and occasional relaxation, the trip provided a great opportunity to think about the coastal ecology and economy of the place where I grew up, with its uneasy — but symbiotic and picturesque — coexistence of the recreational and fishing economies that give the folks at the Island Institute so much to write about and photograph:DSCF0139

Naturally, climate change was not the only factor in deciding to do the trip.  It had been a while since we’d done any real backcountry, and our two dogs are getting too old for serious hiking.  We’ve enjoyed kayaking and sailing a small dinghy around Casco Bay and Five Islands, and for years I’ve wanted to do a more serious trip on the Maine Island Trail, a loosely-defined 375-mile coastal route from New Hampshire to Canada, enabled by over 200 small islands sprinkled along the route where travelers with a membership can land and camp overnight.  Membership cost is very reasonable, and it includes a useful paper guidebook with precise info about each island, including where on the perimeter of each island provides the best landing and tenting.  We managed to keep the paper guidebook dry (at least until the drive home), but all of the same info is also available in an iphone app, built locally by the good folks at Chimani. Here is Alexis taking advantage of a calm stretch to pick our next camping spot in the guidebook:

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We were fortunate to have access to a suitable vessel for the trip – a Trinka 12′ dinghy.  Most people who travel the trail use kayaks, but we like to sail and wanted to be able to bring the dogs, so the dinghy worked out well.  The Trinka is a beamy, plumb-stemmed, high-sided fiberglass tender with a self-bailing hull, and a single large sail on a stayed aluminum mast.  There’s not much information available online about these boats and I don’t get the sense they’re very common, but the design is by the same guy who designed the Laser racing dinghy (there are also 8′ and 10′ Trinkas by different designers; the commonality seems to be the builder, Johannsen in Florida).  There are some photos available online to give a sense of the boat.  With an LWL of about 12′, hull speed should be about 4.5 knots, but it’s a planing hull, and in a strong wind we saw 5.5-6 knots on a reach (surely it goes even faster when not loaded with camping gear, dogs, and water).

Initially the dogs were a bit put out by the uneven footing and constant motion, but they soon settled in:DSCF0173DSCF0174DSCF0041

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As to the particular boat we used (sail number 18, if that means anything), around 20 years ago my dad bought it from an elderly neighbor who found it too tippy for his own use. We used it a lot when I was a kid, especially since it was a lot drier and warmer to sail than the lower, sportier singlehanded dinghies like the Laser.  Then it spent 15 years or more up on blocks, until we cleaned it up this spring for Fern’s birthday party on Beal Island (which is incidentally also on the Island Trail, though it is owned by and accessible through the Appalachian Mountain Club).

Later in the summer we did an overnight test trip, sailing out of the Little Sheepscot river, stopping for lunch near the mouth of the Kennebec, and then making a trial crossing of six miles or so to Damariscove harbor before running back up the Sheepscot and camping on Powderhorn Island.  That trip went well, so we began preparation for a more serious journey.

A boat this size isn’t big enough to live and sleep on comfortably (thus the island part of the Island Trail), so one major question dealt with how to put up the boat for the night. While it’s light enough for two people to move around a bit, it’s too heavy to carry, so we contrived a couple of methods of dealing with the 10-12′ tides of the Maine coast.  For the typical rocky shores, we carried a ‘haul-off’, consisting in this case of an 8lb Danforth-type anchor with 70′ or so of rode, and about 350′ of light synthetic potwarp arranged in circulating loop passing through a ring on the end of the anchor rode.  With this setup we could set the anchor offshore, trail the haul-off rope to land, put our cargo ashore, then attach the boat to the circulating loop of rope and pull it out beyond the low-tide line, where it would ride comfortably overnight through the tide cycle.  In the morning we could pull on the other end of the rope to bring the boat in to shore.  The 350′ line (which of course gives half that much reach when doubled) was a comfortable minimum, requiring us to carefully select our location and dodge ledges, given that much of the coast of Maine looks like this:DSCF0218Here are a couple of photos of the haul-off in action:DSCF0234DSCF0098To keep the doubled rope from twisting or fouling, the junction between the single anchor rode and the doubled haul-off line is typically made to float, and is given enough width to prevent it flipping over in the water from the inevitable twisting tendency of the rope.  I made the connection with a stout piece of clear-grain oak with a galvanized steel ring bolted to it; to accomplish the antirotation I lashed a red PFD cushion to the oak bar, which can be seen in the photos above.  In doing it again I would definitely incorporate a dedicated float, as the lashing and unlashing was annoying and took valuable time.  In general we spent a lot of time fiddling with knots to secure our gear; on a subsequent trip I’d find some kind of small, corrosion-resistant locking carabiners and incorporate more fastex clips and other time-saving tools, which would be especially valuable in trying to make a fast departure in squally conditions (which fortunately we didn’t have to do).  This photo shows me in the distance at far left fiddling with the haul-off, trying to get the anchor set among submerged ledges and ghostly abandoned lobster traps near Allen Island:DSCF0088

For landing on the rare and wonderful gradual sandy beaches, we brought two hard foam rollers 6″ in diameter, of the sort that athletes use to massage their backs, which worked well for maneuvering the boat up and down a smooth beach surface.  I am told that inflatable dock bumpers work well for this also.  We also had some pulleys that would allow us to turn the haul-off rope into a 3-fall tackle to help pull the boat up a steeper slope. Here are some photos of the beach rollers in action:

DSCF0584DSCF0470DSCF0471We ended up using both the haul-off and the beach rollers multiple times, and both worked well. The rollers performed nicely on surface roughness up to apple-sized rocks; for rougher surfaces we switched to the haul-off.   One time we were able to find some driftwood planks that did a nice job of enabling the rollers to work on a slightly rougher beach; as the coast of Maine is famously rocky I’m happy to have made the trip without damaging the fiberglass. If the weather had been rougher, we would have naturally been driven further inshore, up the rivers and bays to flatter water and muddier, gentler landings, but as it was the winds were on the light side and we kept to the outer islands for the most part.

If I were contemplating more serious or extended expeditioning, one modification to the boat that I would consider would be to cut some high-quality access ports into the double hull, both to check on the condition of the internal flotation foam and to make use of the substantial volume under the seats for gear and water storage – possibly even to the extent of fitting an internal water tank.   As best I could tell, the 2+2 of us consumed about three gallons a day on average, without trying too hard to conserve.  We carried fresh water in two 2.5 gallon plastic jugs lashed in the stern, as well as five 1qt nalgene bottles for daily use, and we picked up an extra 3-liter Poland Spring jug in Port Clyde. We also brought three types of water purifiers (pump, iodine, and a newfangled UV disinfector), and didn’t use any of them, though if we’d been trapped on an outlying island by several days of stormy weather we might have been glad to have at least one of them to purify rainwater.  One piece of gear I would add would be a couple of large collapsible water bags, the weight would be nothing and they would add flexibility and psychological margin, though in reality there was fresh water all over the populated parts of the coast.

DSCF0079Continuing on the theme of gear, we also acquired several dry bags (90L, 65L, 2@20L, two for cell phones) and other maritime sundries including a handheld VHF, a plastic foghorn, a collapsible radar reflector, a small compass that we fitted to the boat, and a waterproof camera that we didn’t take the time to experiment with beforehand (this explains the datecode on the photos).

We also bought a small folding solar panel for recharging phones, headlamps etc.  This seemed kind of awkward, but it actually worked pretty well and wasn’t too much of a hassle.  The phones didn’t get coverage for much of the trip, and we only used the GPS navigation app a few times, so we didn’t need much juice.  The test would be an extended period of cloudy/foggy weather, which would mean more using and less charging.  A surprising amount of gear has gone over to lithium and micro-USB, which I guess is a welcome change compared to hauling lots of AA and AAA batteries:DSCF0120Other than that, our equipment was the usual camping gear – tent, sleeping bags and mats, white gas stove and pots, etc.  While in theory we could have upgraded our meals with bulkier or heavier items, or fresh food in a cooler, we were short on drybag space and wanted to keep things simple, so we kept to our usual backpacking meal planning.DSCF0117

We decided that our launching point would be Five Islands, and that we would go ‘Downeast’, following the prevailing winds to our destination, a friend’s cottage on an island east of Deer Isle.  The following posts will describe the trip piece-by-piece.

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Stroudwater Thanksgiving: year five

November 28, 2014

We joined forces with the Kaufman and Wilkins crews for “another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat,” with a fair measure of local content including potatoes, beets, squash,  kale, and brussels sprouts.

stroudwater thanksgiving dinner 2014

I was hoping my folks could join us, but the big snowstorm put the kibosh on that, with power out in all of Georgetown and lots of work for the plow, chainsaw, and volunteer fire crew.  Maybe next year.  We got off pretty lightly by comparison, a few branches down in the woods and the light deer netting around the garden pulled down by the heavy snow – nothing in there but the last few frozen stalks of kale anyway.

I’m becoming more a fan of galvanized wire cattle panels – might consider permanentizing the garden fence with these come next year. Kelsey has been using them to stake tomatoes for a few years, and this fall she suggested rolling them into rings to protect young apple trees from the deer.  If overlapped by one pitch of the verticals and wired tightly together, they make a nice enclosure that protects a small tree so long as the branches don’t spread too widely; since we are on standard or B118 rootstock I am tending to train the yard trees with the first rung of laterals higher in any case, to keep above the mower and the deer.  The next step would be to create some kind of three-roll type arrangement to form the panels so they naturally hold the circular shape – that way the end could be easily pried open by hand to access the trees, for instance to seek and destroy the evil Round-Headed Apple Borer.

 

Another reason we need wind, solar, electric vehicles, and heat pumps

June 15, 2014

A semi hauling diesel and kerosene tipped over in a rotary less than a mile upriver from us on Wednesday.  The image below is from the Portland Press Herald:

gorham stroudwater fuel truck crash

The article said that 6000 gallons were recovered and “Emergency crews were able to prevent the spill from entering the Stroudwater River”.  However the crash was only 1/2 mile north of the river, and  it rained heavily on Friday.  By Saturday morning the river smelled strongly of petroleum.

Modern life requires energy to power our transportation and heat our homes, but we can (and must) do better than dirty, unsustainable, de-stabilizing liquid fossil fuels.  We need to accelerate the development of efficient technology that uses less energy to get things done, and cost-effective renewable sources to meet the remaining demand.

 

Running the mighty Stroudwater

June 8, 2013

A couple of weekends ago, Emily, Andy, and Elsie came to visit, and Andy (who has done a lot more paddling than I) got the notion to run Stroudwater falls.

In dry times the river running through our front yard is little more than an overgrown brook, but when multiple inches of rain fall over a day  or more, it swells impressively.  Instead of sneaking around and through the abrupt ~1m rocky upper fall at low points in the bedrock, it rushes directly over the drop in a handful of weakly organized chutes into the millpond below.  We scoped it out and judged it (and the rapid below the ruined dam) doable.

running the stroudwater 1

Borrowing Joshua and Kelsey’s 16′ fiberglass canoe (not the beautiful cedar one his brother made for him), we carried upriver and put in.  The main channel in low water is a tight 180 degree bend at the far right, but we didn’t think we could maneuver that, so we went through the next largest chute, immediately to the left.  I half-expected we would end up swamping the canoe out of the knee-deep shallows below the fall, but although we shipped a few pails of water over the bow (which is not nearly as high as in some whitewater canoes), we passed without incident, and proceeded to run the rapid below the ruins of the dam and under the bridge, where Kelsey snapped some photos (see below).  Though these rapids were less imposing, we actually shipped more water over the bow, giving the boat a slow, plowing character in the flatwater below.  We pulled out on the  north side of the river shortly below the old bridge site and carried the canoe back over the bridge and home.

running the stroudwater 2

It made me wish the next half-mile or so of flatter water below the falls wasn’t so choked up with blowdown, so we could paddle to work – Pika Energy’s new home in Westbrook is similarly only a few hundred feet from the south bank of the Stroudwater, perhaps 3-4 river miles downstream.

running the stroudwter 3

Hive number two

April 22, 2012

Friday evening I picked up a second nuc of bees at Merrimack Valley Apiaries in Billerica. Saturday morning Emily and I hived them in a new hive inside the orchard fence, so they won’t have any excuse but to work the apple trees. We then pruned Pops’ orchard around the garden – some of the clippings went to the goats for a snack. The peach trees are just starting to flower, and with a week of cold and damp in the forecast I’m not sure how much pollinating is going to happen. But the apples are just barely leafed out, so if there’s nice weather next week the new bees will be able to get busy on them. Afterwards I did some whip and tongue grafts on a birthday tree that I grafted for niece Nola last spring; we put four different types of apples on a small feathered tree, but it did not get a fence around it, and despite it being right in a yard with a fairly active dog, the deer zapped all but one of the grafts. Now it’s got a loop of woven wire around it, and hopefully it will make it this year. I’ve been too busy this spring to do much work among the wild trees on the north side in Gorham, but we have a couple B118 rootstocks in the garden that didn’t take their grafts from last year, so if nothing else I’m going to graft them over to Medaille d’Or (which flowers really late) as a hedge against crazy spring weather.

First green in Gorham

April 8, 2012

This messed up weather is getting to be a serious threat to the apple crop. Many of the wild trees in Gorham have broken buds; some of them are at half-inch green. I don’t know exact dates, but most of the time the trees aren’t leafed out for orchard weekend in early May. A hard freeze now could easily ruin the entire year’s crop. The key temperatures are at the bottom of this page at UVM. If it gets colder than the listed range of temps for each stage, the crop is toast. Fortunately, things were relatively slower in Five Islands, where we went for Easter pot luck breakfast. This is making me think to pay more attention to the flowering time of different varieties. One that comes to mind is Medaille d’Or, which is a good strong bittersweet – it breaks buds so late, the first year I thought it was dead. I snipped a bag of M’dOr scions today and stuck them in the fridge; if I can come up with some rootstock I’ll graft a handful as frost insurance.