I’ve been slowly moving my office toys into my new office. Here is part of the current configuration:

That's me paddling sweep

Gumby & Daffy’s flotilla

About the only advantage of working in a cube is that it makes mounting toys to the wall a lot easier.

There’s a real river just outside the office (though I can’t see it from my cube). I went outside at lunch today and took this shot.

Jefferson Mill on the Merrimack

Jefferson Mill on the Merrimack

Maybe someday I’ll bring a kayak and see if I can attain this rapid. But I think I’ll wait until it’s warmer for the first run.

Today Beth and I walked to the Union Church. One of my caching friends had hidden a cache there, and it had somehow escaped my notice until now. I had been thinking about placing one there, but thinking about it and doing it are two different things. I thought. She did. And actually, she had hidden it exactly in the spot I had intended to.

On the way there, we saw a garter snake.

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

I haven’t seen many snakes this summer. I think this is actually the only one I’ve seen.

Once we got to the Union Church and found the cache, we headed over to Beth’s first geocache. Not so we could see the cache (but we did check on it), but so that I could check up on a shrub I had marked there last winter. I marked it by tying a length of yarn to it so that I could identify it when it had leaves. I find it funny that I marked it on the winter solstice and checked it on the autumn equinox. Pure coincidence! Here it is with leaves:

Marked Shrub

Marked Shrub

I still don’t know what it is, but I’ll dig through my books in a little while. If you look closely, you can see the blue yarn marker right in the center of the frame behind some of the leaves.

While we were out that way, we stopped by Sandogardy Pond for a few minutes. Then we headed home again. After I caught my breath, I put the roof rack on my car and loaded up my newly repaired canoe. David was spending the day with some friends, and I couldn’t talk Beth into coming with me, so I went alone.



I paddled it around the pond in a counterclockwise direction. For some reason, I always paddle around this pond counterclockwise. Maybe because that gets me to the wilder side of the pond more quickly.

I found a bullhead lily (Nuphar lutea) still in bloom.

Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea)

Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea)

And several fragrant water lilies (Nymphaea odorata).
Fragrant Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)

Fragrant Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)

I soon found myself at the north end of the pond where the leaves were beginning to redden. Autumn equinox indeed.
Paddling north

Paddling north

When I took the boat out I realized that I had failed to tie the grab loops onto the ends. In Virginia, that would have been illegal, and it may well be here as well. I should look into that. I’ll need to drill the tie holes out again, as I covered them with fiberglass during the repair. It will be easy to do – I just need to do it!

OK, more on the fishing trip to the Red River Trout Dock. The first time I finished paddling my canoe, I hauled it up on the dock and then dragged it up to the ramp leading to the shore. I was getting ready to carry it back up the hill to my car when the owner of the dock stopped me and suggested I just leave it down at the dock. I was not going to argue! He is a fantastic guy, and I very much appreciated his gesture.

He also stopped me before I went out the first time because I didn’t have a “throwie” cushion in the boat. I did not know this, but Arkansas law requires one of those, even if everyone in the boat is wearing a PFD. He loaned me one while we were there, and that is another reason I think he was a pretty swell fellow.

The order of the rest of the events is still something of a blur to me now. I guess getting up every morning at 5:00am will do that to a person. So I will just put up a few photos and comment on them. We’ll start with some black vultures (Coragyps atratus).

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

These are not exactly easy to see in the photo. These early morning paddling excursions were not the greatest for photography because there was always so much fog. But there are three individuals in this shot. They were feeding on something – maybe fish – but I couldn’t get a good look at that.

The river was always so foggy in the morning because the water is always about 46 degrees. The water is fed through the spillway from the bottom of the lake. I don’t remember how deep the intake is, but I seem to think it was 165 feet. Maybe more, or maybe less. I do remember that it was between 100 and 200 feet though.

That is the reason they can even have trout in Arkansas. Trout like cold water, and Arkansas is not reknown for that. But when they built the dam they created a cold water river, and that killed all the native fish. So now they stock it with trout.

The fog wasn’t always horrible for photography though. Here’s a shot I liked because of the fog.

Two fishermen on the Red River

Two fishermen on the Red River

I think these were the first people I saw on the river that morning. I heard them long before I saw them though.

And now I will embarrass myself by posting some eagle pictures. I know these are not all that good, but I can make plenty of excuses for that. First, I am not much of a bird photographer. Second, I was using my brother’s camera (which was unfamiliar to me), since mine won’t turn on any more. Third, there was lots of fog between me and the bird. But I don’t have many eagle photos, so I will post this one anyway.

Juvenile bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Juvenile bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

I think this one is about a year old. At this age, they are even larger than their parents, which is something I learned while I was down there. They don’t get a lot of exercise as their parents feed them, and they eat a lot. Here’s one of the parents.

Adult bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Adult bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Their nest is on an island in the river, and there is a bluff on the other side. When the youngsters were born, people could go to the top of the bluff and look down into the nest. That’s pretty cool. My uncle told me how to find the nest, and I did go out and see it. Talk was that they had another brood in the nest, but I couldn’t tell. But I also didn’t go to the top of the bluff either.

Here’s a shot of the trout dock.

Red River Trout Dock

Red River Trout Dock

I took this one in the afternoon (or late morning, or maybe in the evening). This was after the fog had burned off.

I took this one on Friday morning.

Rachel, Beth, and Dad

Rachel, Beth, and Dad

I was paddling up to their boat when Rachel took the photo of me that I am now using in my banner. Her shot is better than any I took myself during the whole trip.

On Friday afternoon, Beth and I set out for Conway to see Beth’s friend and our former next door neighbor, Haylee. We got to spend four or five hours with her, her siblings, and her mother, and then we drove back to the trout dock.

On Friday evening, I took my memory card out of my brother’s camera and gave it back to him. I was sure glad he loaned it to me. Then on Saturday morning we went down to the dock at the crack of dawn and he helped me get my canoe in the water. Unfortunately, when he did this, he leaned forward and is camera slipped out of his shirt pocket and landed plop in the water. We fished it out with a long-handled fish net, but his camera is now toast. I felt really bad for him, as I kinda know what it’s like to have a broken camera! His might eventually come back, but that seems pretty unlikely to me.

It was on Saturday morning that I saw the most wildlife. I saw the eagles again, as well as two deer, a Canada goose, and a beaver. That was a lot of fun just watching them. I took out around 9:00am and started packing. Jonathan and Beth got back from fishing shortly after that, and we put on our church clothes and found the Heber Springs Adventist Church. It was pretty small! Including the three of us, attendance was 16 that morning. But it was a very nice service, and the people were quite friendly. I was glad we got to spend some time with them.

After the service we changed clothes in their bathroom, and then headed back to Dawson Springs, KY. Beth and I found a geocache in Missouri on the way, which is our first and so far only MO cache. We also collected an Arkansas geocache near the dock on Friday when we drove down to Conway.

The drive back to Dawson was long and uneventful, but I think that’s a good thing in a road trip!

Tonight I ordered a Canon SX150IS. That is pretty similar to my broken and well-used SX110IS, so I think I’ll like it fairly well. I went ahead and had it shipped to my parent’s house, so maybe I’ll get to post some photos again in a couple of days.

This is the first time in a week I’ve had time, energy, and an adequate Internet connection to post. I’m a tad low on the energy, but I’ll do what I can to at least give an initial report.

We’ll start with this photo my niece Rachel Gogel took of me on the Red River at dawn on Friday. I think it was Friday anyhow.

Me on the Red River in Heber Springs, AR

Me on the Red River in Heber Springs, AR

I liked it so much I made it my new header photo, but you have probably already noticed.

Beth, Jonathan, and I arrived in Dawson Springs Tuesday evening. We stayed at my parents house, and got up pretty early Wednesday morning so we could drive to the fishing hole in Heber Springs, AR with my parents, my brother Mike, my niece Rachel and her fiance, and my Dad’s brother Dallas. It was a long drive, but it was also pleasant!

When we got there, I went to the store with Dad to buy some groceries. The generators were running at the dam, so the river was up. Dad doesn’t like to fish when the river is up (it’s a lot harder to catch fish then), so he opted to not go out the first evening. Beth was disappointed, because she was going to go out with him. I unloaded the canoe and carried it down to the dock, and the two of us went out.

Everyone seemed alarmed about me going out on the river with it up like it was, but it was pretty trivial compared to the rivers I have run in the past. It really didn’t present much of a challenge at all, actually, and I was able to paddle upstream without too much effort. It was a nice paddle, and we came in before it got dark and had some supper.

In the morning we got up at 5:00am and had a quick breakfast. Then everyone was on the water by 5:30. Here’s Beth and Jonathan with Dad getting ready to go out.

Jonathan, Beth, and Dad

Jonathan, Beth, and Dad

This was Beth’s first fishing trip. Everyone was pretty well convinced that she would be bored with it pretty quickly – if not in ten minutes, then certainly within an hour. But that did not happen. She went out and started catching fish – and she was hooked.

I do not like to fish, so I got in my canoe and had a nice paddle. I went almost all the way up to the dam (which was about three miles). I turned around when I ran into a bunch of fishermen at a little riffle. I could have attained the riffle, but then there were several guys with lines cast across the river, and I didn’t want to cross them (the lines, or the fishermen). Also, I don’t like to have an audience when I attempt to attain a riffle.

Fishermen below the dam

Fishermen below the dam

I turned around and headed back downstream. It was a magnificent paddle! Over the course of the stay there, I saw a pair of otters (a first for me), a muskrat, two deer, a pair of bald eagles and their two chicks (which were larger than the parents), a couple of hawks, several great blue herons, countless swallows (exact species unknown), and trout.

Unfortunately, my camera has finally given up the ghost. It will no longer turn on. My brother very generously offered me the use of his though, and I gladly accepted. So I will be sharing some photos as the week progresses.

But right now, I should probably get to bed!

Yesterday after church I loaded my canoe on top of my car in preparation for a road trip (more on that later). But since it was up there, I figured I ought to go paddling. At first I was thinking I’d do something easy, like Sandogardy Pond. But as the idea germinated, it morphed into a Merrimack River trip. Still easy, because I was planning to put in, paddle upstream, turn around, and take out where I had put in. That neatly solves the problem of getting the car to the take out – but at the expense of having to paddle upstream.

So with the plan all formulated, Beth and I executed. There’s a river access point about five minutes from my house (by car). So off we went. I brought my camera and the GPS, because the closest geocaches to my house that I have not found are all along the river. Why not pick off a few? For good measure, I put the GPS in the camera bag, and put the camera bag in a gallon ziplock (just in case).

The first one was on an island. Beth managed to find it before I had the coordinates entered into the GPS.

Beth signs "Eyes to the Island"

Beth signs “Eyes to the Island”

Beth wanted to learn how to steer the canoe, and since that is mostly done from the stern, we traded seats. I waited until we were finished paddling upstream to do this, as it’s a lot easier to steer when going downstream vs upstream. She was pretty happy that I let her try that.

Beth in the Stern

Beth in the Stern

We had passed two geocache locations, but decided we’d hunt for them on the way back vs on the way up. There were two more on the agenda besides the one on the island. One was in a little cove, and we paddled into it (I did do some of the steering from the bow). We looked and we looked, but we couldn’t find it. So I started trying to get us turned around. There wasn’t quite enough room in the cove to do a 180, and in my attempts to force the boat around, I lost my balance and fell backwards into the gunwales. I don’t know how it even happened, but the next thing I knew, the gunwales were under water, and shortly after that, we were both standing in the river with the canoe next to us.

How embarrassing! I thought I knew how to handle a canoe! The first thing I did was grab my zip-locked camera bag. Whew! The zipper was closed, and the camera bag was dry. I clambered out of the river and put the camera on the bank. Meanwhile Beth was not very happy, and asking me why I had done that. If only I knew sweetie!

I hauled the canoe out of the water and dumped out most of the water. But there was still too much in there, so I waded back into the water and lifted the stern up over my head while the water poured through the scuppers. In short order, the boat was dryer than we were. We reloaded, and set off again to look for cache number three.

Before we got there, Beth had forgotten how upset she was with me. The third cache was located in a tree on a very steep bank, and there was really no place to pull the boat out of the water. So Beth climbed the bank, and I stayed in the canoe to keep it in position.

She searched everywhere, but that cache was nowhere to be seen. She got back in the boat (but had given up on steering by then – and let me have the stern again). We paddled back towards the put-in/take-out.

We passed some irises.

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

She picked a few and pressed them when we got home.

It took me a while to get my wet clothes off. I did that in the kitchen rather than traipsing through the house, mud and all. Then I took a shower. After I was all cleaned up, I looked at poor, poor Penny who did not get to go paddling with us (I’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work very well – she does not like to stay in the boat).

So I invited David to hike with us to Sandogardy Pond, and he accepted. Penny chased sticks, and David and I talked. At one point he said something like “Your mad botany skills are going to be your undoing.” Maybe he had forgotten about my mad canoeing skills earlier in the day (Beth told everyone!)

I explained to him that I was a “mad botantist” rather than a “mad zoologist” because plants don’t run away when you approach them with a camera. They are a lot easier to work with as subjects!

So here are some of the results of my “mad botany” from the hike.

Dogbane (Apocynum spp)

Dogbane (Apocynum spp)

I don’t remember if this is plain old dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) or intermediate dogbane (A. medium). I know one of them has reflexed petals (as this one does), but now I don’t remember which one of them that is. And I don’t have my books with me right now, so I can’t look it up. Wikipedia isn’t helping me out here any either.

When we got to the pond I found some grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea).

Grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)

Grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)

There’s not a lot of this growing at the pond, but a few always seem to bloom right near the dock.

I was also surprised to find this one:

Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum)

Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum)

The Connecticut Botanical Society says this blooms from July to August. I looked in my records to find the earliest I had seen it in bloom, but couldn’t find any entries. Hmmm. Maybe this is one I learned after I quit being so conscientious about logging.

So all told, it was a good day, even though I dumped my daughter (and my pride) in the drink.

On to today!

Beth, Jonathan, and I set out for our road trip. We are on the way to Kentucky to visit my family, and to go fishing with them in Arkansas. I haven’t been to Dad’s favorite fishing hole in about 19 years. That’s because I don’t really like to fish. Which is why I am bringing the canoe.

Canoe on top, and road beneath

Canoe on top, and road beneath

I do not intend to fish. Instead, I will paddle up and down the Red River and try not to capsize. I used to be pretty good in a canoe, and have run class III rapids in this one on many occasions! So let’s hope that was just a fluke, and not a harbinger of things to come.

Anyhow… we are in a hotel in Waynesboro, VA right now after a pretty long day of driving. When the whole family comes along we don’t usually get this far. We will stay here for two nights, and the NAD will pay for our room. I am meeting my friend Mark O’Ffill, the webmaster for Pathfinders Online, and we are going to work on getting the Pathfinder Honors Wikibook onto a NAD-hosted server so that we can expand it. The plan is to create a new Instructor’s Manual for the new Investiture Achievement curricula, which is more overtly religious than the Honors Answer Book. As such, it cannot adhere to Wikibook’s “Neutral Point of View” (NPOV) policies. The material will still be licensed under the Creative Commons – otherwise we could not do this at all. This project has been in the works for almost a year now, and tomorrow we intend to make some real headway on it.

Meanwhile, what is the rest of the family up to? Va does not want to go fishing OR canoeing. I like to say that “she likes nature, she just doesn’t want to get any of it on her.” ;-) Therefore, she and David (and Penny) will meet us in KY next week after the fishing and paddling is all said and done. But before they arrive, Jonathan will have to head back home. He has an orientation session at UNH to attend (and less vacation at work than I do). So he will drive back before Va and David arrive. As you can imagine, the logistics for this trip have been a challenge!

More bulletins as events warrant!

Here are the other eight boats in the cardboard boat regatta last weekend. We’ll start with these two.

Brunswick Beacons (white) and Woodstock Whitetails (yellow)

Brunswick Beacons (white) and Woodstock Whitetails (yellow)

The yellow boat here is the one that took first place in the speed contest. They did a great job. I missed their run, as I was hauling Redux up the bank when their race occurred, but I heard they put three people in this tandem kayak. They did a fantastic job and had some good paddlers. I was very impressed!

The white one was very nicely done too. When the race was over, they actually mounted an outboard motor on it and took it out for a spin. They raced against the yellow one, but the yellow one beat it too. The front of this boat had a water cannon mounted on a rotating turret. After they lost their powered race against Woodstock, they began chasing the safety canoes, and squirting them with the water cannon. I think everyone enjoyed that spectacle.

Let’s see what else we had.

Keene's entry

Keene’s entry

The most amazing thing about this one was that it completed the course without capsizing. I thought this one was the scariest boat. I have a shot of them paddling it back to the dock, and the look on the face of the girl in the bow says “I am terrified!” I would have been too.

This was not the only V-bottomed boat though. Portsmouth also had one.

Portsmouth Living Waters' banana boat

Portsmouth Living Waters’ banana boat

They may have won a ribbon for creativity – I was late to the awards ceremony, so I’m not sure. They sure should have won a ribbon anyhow. Bananas are not known for their racing ability.

I don’t know which clubs entered these next few boats, but they were all very seaworthy, and I think the kids in those clubs deserved a pat on the back.

A nice dory

A nice dory

A dugout

A dugout

Another dory

Another dory

A catamaran

A catamaran

This was a well-executed catamaran. The major problem i saw with it was that it would have been pretty difficult to paddle on the starboard side because of the outriggers. The grass skirts more than make up for that though.

So that’s what we were up against. I hope you have all enjoyed our cardboard boat adventures, but I know you could not have as much as I did. Thanks for stopping by!

After the weekend’s adventures, I was one tired guy today. A single night’s sleep was not sufficient to revive me, and I found myself dragging after lunch. I gave up, went home a bit early, and took a nap. Now I feel a ton better, so I will attempt to share with you the adventures that caused all this fatigue! But I will limit it to just the cardboard boat race. There were a lot of other things that happened over the weekend, and by “The Full Account” I mean, “The Full Account of Our Cardboard Boat Adventures.”

I have already posted video of the maiden voyage of our canoe. Our boat was one of the two selected for the first run (by what criteria, I have no idea). I gave the camera to David, and he shot the video. I have not listened to it (because I don’t really care for listening to screaming crowds), but I understand that he might have made a few comments comparing the Redux to the “HMS Sinkeytowne” which we entered in 2009. While I agree that the Sinkeytowne was a better boat than the Redux, the Redux was Good Enough.

Anyhow… I diverge. Because he was shooting video, I have no stills. You’ll just have to look at this morning’s post and watch the video (if you are able – sorry to those of you who can’t, C!).

Natasha had the most merit points so far since January, so she got to go first. And since she chose the canoe over the kayak, the next two girls who also chose the canoe got to go with her. None of them had ever paddled stern before (which is the position that controls 90% of the steering, or 100% of the steering if I’m back there with inexperienced paddlers in the front).


I dug in as hard as I could, and the canoe was handling pretty nicely. We rounded the buoy, but that could have been done better. I turned downstream, when I should have turned upstream. That way, the current would have caught the front of the boat and turned us faster.

In 2009, we went out to the buoy and made a 90 degree turn, then went to the next buoy and made another, returning to the opposite side of the dock from which we started out. This year they modified it, and we were to make a 180 degree turn and return to the same starting point. That way is more fair, because then there’s no paddling upstream for one team, and downstream for the other.

Even though the turn was made with suboptimal execution, it was still not bad, and we managed a 58 second run. That was the fastest time at that point (duh) but it was also only the first run. I was pretty pleased with it.

We got out of the canoe, and I put my next four girls in. Jane has been in our club for six years, and I know she has done some canoeing. I’ve taken her out more than once myself. I just didn’t remember that she had never paddled stern before.

The second voyage of the Redux

The second voyage of the Redux

That was my mistake. They paddled out to the buoy straight as an arrow. But then they could not get the boat to turn. Usually kids have the opposite problem in that they can only make it turn and they can’t get it to go straight at all. They passed the buoy which was maybe 80 feet off shore. Then they went another 80 feet before they finally managed a turn. If the race had been all the way across the lake, they might have done pretty OK. But it wasn’t.

At that point in their journey, they switched from not being able to turn to not being able to go straight. Pretty soon the current caught them and they were just headed downstream. When they got too far off course, the safety canoes showed up, threw them a line, and began to tow them in.

When they got within 50 feet of the dock, the girl holding the line let go. That was a mistake. They were no more able to steer that canoe 50 feet from the dock than they had been 100 yards from it. It started going all screwy on them, and in short order, they rammed it into some rocks on the shore. I headed to the bank to swap out with one of them, but before I could get there, they had backed up and were far from my help. So I scrambled back up the embankment. When I got to the top, they came in and rammed those same rocks again. So back down I went. Again when I got there, they had reversed and were back out in the lake a pretty good distance, but I stayed put this time. Again, they came in and rammed the rocks on the bank, and I grabbed the canoe.

I told the girl in the bow to get out, and for the rest to stay put. I got in. They asked, “What do you want us to do Mr Thomas?” and I told them to stay put and keep their paddles in the boat. In short order I had them back at the dock. The crowd was cheering wildly, but I think they were pretty embarrassed. At that point, our team had both the fastest time and the slowest time. We hung on to the slowest time. That was not a statistic that changed as the other nine boats ran the race.

There was a club from the Bay of Fundy up in New Brunswick, Canada who came down for the Camporee too. They had built a boat, but did not wrap it in plastic for the trip down. It poured rain, and their boat was no longer intact when it arrived. I offered to let them take a cruise in ours, and they gratefully accepted. So back at the dock, I stayed in, and the two Canadian girls boarded. While I was waiting for them to board, I noticed a little stream of water gushing in through the hull. I was kneeling in the ex-bow (but since I was facing the other way, that was now the stern). The bow had taken a beating on the rocks, and we had probably 20 gallons of water aboard by the time the timekeeper told us to go.

With all that water aboard, the Redux was a lot less responsive to the paddle. I still hadn’t figured out that I should turn upstream around the buoy, and the boat really, really didn’t want to make the latter 90 degrees of the 180 degree turn. But I insisted. We got back, and by then, the Redux had shipped about 30 gallons of water. At that rate, it was not in danger of sinking for at least another 10 minutes. The water wasn’t coming in any faster than a kitchen faucet could fill it, and just think of how long it would take to fill a 300 gallon bucket from the kitchen sink. Yeah – a long time.

I got out of the boat, as that was its third and final voyage. Then came the task of getting it up out of the lake. Thirty gallons of water weighs about 240 pounds, and the cardboard was quite limp at that point. It took four of us to lift it up onto the dock. We flipped it over to drain, and then hauled it up the hill next to the fire pit.

The Redux awaiting its funeral pyre.

The Redux awaiting its funeral pyre.

During the trip up the hill one of the ends split open. Ahhh, you had a great run Redux. But this was your expected fate.

By this time I was pretty spent, having run two races full out, one rescue mission, and then hauled the sodden mass of cardboard, duct tape, and glue up the hill. I had a brief rest while they ran some other boats. And then it was time for “KAYAK spelled backwards” to race.

Beth was the first to go. I posted a photo of that last night, so you could go see it here if you wanted to. I was nervous that she might not have a good run, and that maybe she would steer it as well as the foursome in the Redux did, wrecking on the rocks, and with it, our chances of winning the fastest time. But she amazed me with her performance. She took two port-side strokes before she cleared the dock on the starboard side, and by then, the boat was crooked. She compensated with two starboard strokes, and then she was crooked the other way. But she got it straightened out pretty quickly and then made a beeline for the buoy. That’s when the kayak showed its real strength.

The plastic kayak upon which “KAYAK spelled backwards” was formed is a white water kayak (a “Prijon Rockit” if you must know), and it was designed for quick turns in whitewater. Doing a 180 around a buoy was childsplay, even for a child. She rounded the buoy in an instant and headed back to the shore. I think she finished in something like 90 seconds.

Then it was Joy’s turn.

Joy powering "KSB" back to the dock

Joy powering “KSB” back to the dock

She also turned in a stellar performance, as did Connor and Trevor.
Connor captains the KSB

Connor captains the KSB

Trevor in the KSB

Trevor in the KSB

And finally it was Cody’s turn.
Cody rounds the buoy in and instant.

Cody rounds the buoy in and instant.

Cody was the strongest paddler to pilot KAYAK. He finished the race in 45 seconds, and that was good enough to get us a second place ribbon. The 58 second run in Redux earned the third place ribbon. And yes, that means we did not have the fastest time. The Woodstock Whitetails pulled that off with a four-man kayak in a very impressive 38-second run. Wow. My hat is off to them. They had a couple of other runs that were also faster than Cody’s 45 seconds, but the judges only considered the fastest time by each boat, as the prizes were awarded to the boats rather than to individual runs.

While Cody was making his run, a mother from another club asked if her daughter could take a turn. They did not build a boat, but the girl wanted to give it a try. So I said, “Sure, as long as it’s still seaworthy when all the kids in my club had taken a turn.” It was still exceedingly seaworthy, but it had shipped maybe five gallons of water by the time Cody got out (he was our last kid to run in the kayak). The girl stepped in, but tried to kneel in the seat instead of sitting in it. I told her, “No, your legs go in front, and you sit here on the seat.” Then she decided to not go. I must admit, that five gallons of water did take the waterline up to the level of the seat. Since she declined, I hopped in instead. Yeah. It was wet all right.

By that time I had figured out the turn upstream tactic, and that’s exactly what I did. I powered the kayak out, made the zero-radius turn in record time, and then powered it back. But my time was 47 seconds. Cody. Beat. Me.

Ah well. I am a geezer compared to him. Also, I had already been out three times and was pretty well flogged by then. When I got out and we lifted the boat out of the water, we flipped it over to drain the five gallons of bilge and saw that a sheet of un-corrugated cardboard had partly come off. We had an underwater sail. Surely, that came off between Cody’s run and mine, right? Also, there had to have been more water in the kayak by the time I got in compared to Cody, right? It couldn’t be that I’m nearly 50, and can’t compete with a strapping teenage lad. That could never be it!

We hauled KAYAK spelled backwards up the hill and placed it next to Redux. Then we got out a knife and cut out her name ot keep next to Sinkeytowns’s name in our trophy case.

Connor removes KSB's name from the bow

Connor removes KSB’s name from the bow

Some of you might be sorry to see that our boats lasted only one day. But that was what I fully expected. I knew these weren’t as waterproof as the Sinkeytowne, and the Sinkeytowne was disposed of in exactly the same way. This is How It Was Meant To Be.

I didn’t think to cut out the Redux’s name until it was already in the fire.

The Redux in flames, and KSB getting ready

The Redux in flames, and KSB getting ready

You can see how KSB could no longer hold its shape. Some of that was due to the removal of the front deck, but it was mostly because… it was a sodden cardboard boat. So sodden, that these two were unable to heave it into the fire. Peter from Limington stepped in and gave a hand.
With a heave and a hoe, KSB joins Redux in a fiery ending

With a heave and a hoe, KSB joins Redux in a fiery ending

The End

The End

So Redux had three voyages, and Kayak spelled backwards had six. Not a bad performance!

On Sunday I titled my post “Almost Finished” because we had almost finished our cardboard boats. Well, they are almoster finished now.

Tonight we painted them. There are still a lot of gaps between the drywall tape, and we’ll need to paint their names on the hulls. I fitted the seat in the kayak tonight too, but took it out while we painted. Once we get those three things taken care of, then they will be finished.

We settled on names for both boats too. For the canoe, the candidates were “Bloosh” (because we took all the blueish paint we had and mixed them together), “Redux” (because this is very much like the HMS Sinkeytown that we entered in 2009), and “Maelstrom” because David liked that name (it means a huge storm or a whirlpool). “Redux” won.

For the kayak, the candidates were “KAYAK” (spelled backwards – the intent was to paint it in mirror-backwards) and… I can’t remember the contender. We settled on “KAYAK” spelled backwards.

The paint was given to us by a coworker. He had a lot of paint. I think we used about two gallons, but he gave us close to eight. We had what I like to call “all the colors.” Off-white, beige, light brown, eggshell, taupe, tan, light brown, ecru, and ivory. As I also mentioned, there were about three quarts of different blues.

We had to hustle to get them painted though. We’ve been having some evangelistic meetings at our church for the past couple of weeks, and Va has been running a children’s program in the fellowship hall (where we painted the boats). The meetings start at 7:00, and I was determined that we would have our mess cleaned up by 6:00 so there would be no panicking. So we painted like banshees from 4:15 until 5:45, and then started the clean up.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was still at NHTI until 6:00, so I had to take a kid home, pick up Jonathan, grab some dinner, and then high-tail it back to the church so I could set up my computer for Va so she could play a DVD, and so I could help run the registration table. There was no time for the only optional thing in that list (eating) so I skipped that until afterwards.

I was rather hungry!

A fellow NH blogger has been writing about the Ashuelot River, and how he spent his boyhood along its banks. You can see his series here, here, and here. And of course, he got me to thinking about the Tradewater River where I spent part of my childhood. It flows through Dawson Springs, KY where I lived in high school (and when I was home, during college too).

My parents live in a house situated in a bend in the river. They have a strip of land that is bounded on both ends by the river. Route 109 divides it into a big lot and a tiny (and steep) lot, and I spent a lot of time on the banks at either end. This stretch of the Tradewater is downstream from the tiny strip, and upstream from the big lot. Lake Beshear drains into the Tradewater downstream from here too (but upstream from the big lot).

Tradewater near my parent's house

Tradewater near my parent's house, August 2010

We had a 17′ fiberglass canoe, so when we moved in to this place (I was in the ninth grade) we decided we needed a boat dock of some sort on the river. We had an old steel ladder from our triple bunkbed, and since it was now a double-bunk, the ladder was free for other purposes. My brother Steve and I pressed it into service for our dock. There was a tree growing out from the bank – sideways first, and then curving upward. It was easy to stand on the horizontal portion of its trunk, and we figured, “trunk+ladder=boat dock.” So we fastened the ladder to the tree. We accomplished this by driving a pair of 16-penny nails on either side of the ladder’s uprights, and then bending them around so that the two nails clasped the steel posts and held it to the tree. Four nails later, we had our boat dock. We did not use it very much though.

One March (probably in 1978), Steve and I decided to take the canoe out on the river. We headed upstream, as we always did. That way when you get tired and turn around, it’s downstream all the way home. Going downstream first is a Bad Idea, because then when you get tired and turn around, you have to work to get home again. That is still how I do rivers in a canoe.

I don’t remember much about that trip itself, but I vividly remember the take-out. We landed the canoe, and Steve got out to haul it up onto the bank. There was a flat shelf on the bank about two feet wide, and about a foot higher than the water (on that day). Then the bank rose steeply until it gained another six feet of height before flattening out again. That’s where the trail was. Once the bow was on the first shelf, I climbed out. Steve had scrambled up to the next shelf and started hauling on the rope while I pushed on the stern. The keel got up on the break in the bank and Steve gave it a good tug. The whole canoe pivoted around on its center, with the effect that the stern came flying around right at me. As I was balanced precariously on the lower shelf, when the stern made its hasty introduction to me, I lost my footing and fell splash into the river.

Now Kentucky is not a cold place (especially when compared to NH), but it is cold enough that you would not want to swim in a river in March. Yet, that’s exactly what I found myself doing, and fully clothed at that. They say that the cold water will make you take a very deep breath and then not be able to exhale – and I know that that’s true from experience. I quickly swam to the bunkbed ladder and started climbing up. As I was coming up, I noticed that those 16-penny nails were straightening themselves out! In milliseconds, I was climbing ever faster, but not getting any higher. The ladder, meanwhile, was doing the equal and opposite thing – straight to the bottom (where I presume it is still resting). I joined it shortly afterwards.

I found myself fully immersed in the drink again, never having fully regained dry ground in the first place. This time there was no ladder, and the bank was slick with mud. I somehow scrambled up. The house was only two or three hundred yards away. I left Steve at the river to secure the canoe, and I made my way through the pasture to the house post haste for a nice hot shower.

Never has a shower felt so good!

Today after church I was talking to a few friends, when I noticed that I hadn’t seen anyone in my immediate family for several minutes. I thought they must be waiting in the car, so I went downstairs to the lower lot and looked – no one there. Back inside to look around – no one in my family there either. Back upstairs, and still no one! So I went out the front door and saw a fire truck, ambulance, and a police car in the road right in front of the church’s driveway. One of our church members had been in an accident. (No one was seriously injured.)

Beth had seen it as she was on the new climbing dome when it happened. Va was putting things in the car, and she heard it. David was outside at the time too, so he heard it. They were the first on the scene.

The member in the accident was one of our refugees from Africa, and she had her four daughters in the car (two of whom are in my Pathfinder Club). By the time I found out what was going on, they were loading the mother and oldest daughter into an ambulance. Va was carrying the youngest one back into the church, and two other church members were escorting the other girls inside. Their father was called, and he caught a ride with a neighbor post haste. Anyhow, there was lots of confusion and excitement, and they were released from the hospital later in the afternoon.

My plan for today was to take Beth and David on a little paddle trip down the Merrimack. I figured that with just the three of us, it would go much more smoothly than the raft trip did last week. But instead, it did not go smoothly at all! Jonathan took us to the put in, and he agreed to come and get us at the take-out when I called him later.

The first problem was that I forgot my hat. I bought my hat so that I wouldn’t get a sunburn on the top of my otherwise sparsely-covered pate. I hate to put sunscreen up there, but if I don’t, I pay dearly. I had some sunscreen in the car, so I slathered it on.

Then we put the boats in the water (one canoe, one kayak) and off we went. The hatlessness lead to the next problem, and that was that sweat started rolling down into my eyes, carrying the sunscreen into the right one. Man… it burns.

Pretty soon I found it almost impossible to see. It was incredibly painful – far more painful in fact, than any sunburn I have ever experiences (and I’ve had some doozies). Shortly after that, David experienced the same thing. And then we came to some very minor class I rapids. We got down them OK, but I was worried about shooting the rapids while nearly blind.

We shot a second set and again came out OK. But the eyes were just getting worse. David had pulled over to the shore, so I did too. We could hear traffic from route 3, so I decided to see how wide the shoulder was there (it was about a hundred yards away).

I didn’t like what I saw. The riverbank was very steep up, and then the roadway was very steep down, and I couldn’t find any sort of trail. The thought of hauling a canoe and a kayak through that was just unthinkable. So we crossed the river and looked into the situation on the other side. It was much better.

I went back to the boats and grabbed the GPS so I could tell Jonathan where we were. I tried to call, but the signal was dropped. I had zero bars. So I walked a short distance until I had one and tried again. I got his voicemail. So I called Va – dropped the call before I could say “boo.” I tried again and got her voicemail. So I called the house. Jonathan answered, and I was somehow able to tell him where we were, though the signal was so bad, that it was pretty iffy.

Then I went back to the river and David and I hauled the kayak up the bank and out to the road. I left him and Beth there with it while I went after the canoe and paddles.

Jonathan showed up a lot quicker than I thought he would. We loaded the boats up, and he drove us home, eyes still burning.

It has been over three hours since we got home and my eyes are still torturing me! I expect they’ll be OK by morning. I think next time, I’ll bring my hat!

Next Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers