Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Just back from a three day/two night paddle in the Okefenokee and tomorrow I head off for a wedding in North Carolina.  I'll write more later, but it was an incredible trip that went well (there were nine of us).  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Moon River

Bruce's hat made up for missing the rising sun
Author's Note:  I am going to be away most of the next week.  Early Monday morning, I'm heading to the Okefenokee for another 3 day wilderness paddle and then I'm heading to North Carolina for a wedding.  I'll check blogs when I get a chance, but that won't be often.  

Well, it's not wider than a mile, but it might have been for we couldn't make out any details of the other side when we slide our kayaks into the water beside the bridge on the Diamond Causeway.  The air was saturated with humidity and fog reduced visibility to a few hundred feet.  There would be no brilliant sunrise this morning, but it was good to back in the water with a sailing and kayaking friend from Michigan.  We were paddling the famed "Moon River," a small tributary of the Vernon River near Savannah.  There are many songs named for rivers; this might be the only river named for a song as an honor to one of Savannah's famous sons, Johnny Mercer. The Mercer family owned a home on this marshy river.  The song became iconic after being featured in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's and Savannah felt the world needed a real Moon River.  I have been wanting to paddle this river since arriving--and some night when the moon is full and the tide high, I'll paddle it again.

We paddled up river from the causeway.  I'd chosen to take Bruce on this section of water because I knew we were not likely to get lost.  If we were paddling in the open waters of Green Island or Wassaw Sound, we might have ended up somewhere we didn't want to be before the fog burned off.  As the crow flies, it was two and a half miles between Diamond Causeway which runs to Skidaway Island and the causeway running to Isle of Hope.  Of course, the river isn't straight, and we did some exploring, so I figured we'd cover six or seven miles and had a favorable tide.
Entrance to Wormsloe
(photo taken by Bruce's wife)
The tide was nearly high when we began paddling.  The top of the Spartina (grass) was barely out of the water.  Once we'd headed up north a bit, the fog seemed to dampen the sound of the cars on the causeway and we were in our own world.  Occasionally we'd pass a pier from one of the houses on the west side, but no one was around.  Much of the east side of the river is wild, a part of the Wormsloe plantation which is a state historic site and has an incredible drive though a long row of Spanish moss draped live oaks.  I'm sure many of you have seen this driveway as it was featured in the movie "Forest Gump."  In the wooded areas to our east, we heard a number of owls.  
Isle of Hope Causeway (the fog is burning off)

At Isle of Hope, we turned around. The bugs were getting bad as the causeway was blocking what little wind there was and we were mostly in grass and not open water.  The tide was now going out and it gave us a good push as we paddled back the way we came. The fog had mostly burned off by the time we were back at the take-out where were encouraged to quickly load the boats and get moving by a hoard of mosquitoes.  At least, the repellent kept them from biting, but they were still annoying and I'd swallowed a few of the buggers. 

that's me!
Moon river, wider than a mile
I'm crossing you in style some day
Oh dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you're going, I'm going your way
Two drifters off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see
We're after the same rainbow's end
Waiting 'round the bend, my huckleberry friend
Moon river and me

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Photos and comments on the last couple of days

March is a busy month for me with no real break foreseen until mid-April.  But it has been great as there were friends visiting from Michigan last week (and another couple coming tomorrow) and a few others who plan to visit the week after Easter.  In addition to company, this is a busy time at work but that doesn't mean I don't have fun.

 Sunday was race day and it started out terrible.  At first, the wind was dead.  We barely had enough wind to get us out of the harbor and waited around for wind to come up.  It didn't look like it would and we were bobbing around in the water fighting sand gnats that had followed us out.  Finally a little wind came up out of the north and the committee boat signaled the start of the race.  There is one thing about such low wind especially when the tides were running strong and perpendicular to the wind, no one had a problem of being over the line at start... We were in a decent position and it took us 30 seconds to make it over the start line.

The first two points were incredibly slow.  When we rounded the second point, the wind died and we ended up going backwards (behind the pin) by the tide.  But then the shore breezes came in.  We were in third and we could see the water begin to move and the two boats ahead of us take off.  Soon, our sails were full and we were on a close haul to the finish.  The wind kept up, it was never great but the other two races were enjoyable.

The club mixes up the crews and the boats.  This past Sunday I was sailing with another Jeff and Bill, both way more experienced than me.  We were on the "Harvest Moon," which has the prettiest name of all the boats but is also notoriously the slowest.  We were never last, but the best we did was third out of six boats.
Day's End
 Late last year I started taking the training to become a fire fighter with the local department.  About a month ago, I passed the test and was voted in as a firefighter.  We are a part of a larger fire department (Southside) which covers most of the county outside of Savannah and few smaller cities, but out particular department is just for the island.  We have two stations, each manned by a full time firefighter/paramedic, but the rest of us are volunteers.  Last night we took off all the hoses off one truck and tested them (five minutes at double the normal pressure).  It is a lot of work as each truck carries 1200 feet of five inch line (for hook the truck to the hydrant) and another 1000 plus feet of 2 and 3 inch line.  Taking it off is easy, draining the hoses and putting them back on take time and muscle, a project made worse with no wind and the spring sand gnats...  But we got it done and all stopped for a beer when we done.

uncoupling a 5 inch line--that's not me
You can't believe how heavy these lines are when filled!

Monday, March 09, 2015

An afternoon paddle to Raccoon Key

paddling in Delegal Creek
Taking advantage of the longer day thanks to daily saving time, favorable tides and warmer weather, I launched my kayak on Sunday afternoon at the Delegal Marina and paddled with the ebbing tide toward the open waters of Green Island and Ossabaw Sounds.  You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them. 

pair of osprey 
 I haven’t gone very far before I notice a pair of osprey building a nest on a navigation marker.  As I paddle closer, one takes off, only to come back a few minutes later with another stick.  When I get too close, they begin chirping, obviously upset with my presence.  I continue paddling, leaving them to build their home. 

nest building
At the mouth of Delegal Creek, I paddle around the east end of Green Island Sound and across the wide mouth of the Vernon River.  This is my first open water paddle since the fall and I am always conscious about how open the water is looking out to the sea and how small my boat appears in relations to the water.  However, I'm not nearly as small as the ducks which bob up and down with two foot waves that break across my bow. With the outgoing tide going against the offshore wind, waves move inland keeping me from paddling straight across the channel which would have allow the waves to dump water (and possibility roll me) if I was parallel to the swells.  Instead, I take the waves at a forty-five degree angle, toward the mud flats on the east end Raccoon Key, my destination. 

Relaxing on a sandy beach
Arriving at the key close to low tide, I pull my boat up on high ground and find a small sandy beach where I drop a mat and enjoy the perfect weather.  It’s warm but not hot and there is enough wind to keep the sand gnats at bay.   I read an essay about exploring a cypress swamp in Florida by John Lane and the look to make a few notes in a journal when I realize I don't have a pen.  Instead, I take a nap behind the white noise of waves and gulls.  Thirty minutes later, I get up and explore part of the key and am amazed at the number of dead horseshoe crabs that appear to have been washed on shore and then abandoned far from water when the tide ebbed.  American oystercatchers and a few other shorebirds run up and down the beach at the edge of the water.
American Oystercatcher

Low tide was a little after five, but I wait till nearly six before paddling back across the sound.  The waves have died and I make good time as I head for the mouth of Delegal Creek.  From there, with the tide running strong, it's an easy paddle back to the marina.  There was only one osprey at the nest, when I float pass it.  By 7:30, I’m at home, hanging my kayak in the garage and hungry for dinner.  

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Nevada Jack is back!

"Another Modest Proposal and the Local News"
By Nevada Jack

Nevada Jack
Lately, there has been a competition for a one-way trip to Mars going on within our midst as I was reminded of reading this post by a Cuban in London.  A few lucky and crazy members of the human race get to sail through space and land on Mars where they will spend out their days (with obviously limited oxygen and food supplies) wondering what they were thinking while we watch.  Obviously, the desire to be famous overrode any cognitive functions within their brains.

I have never understood our fascination of reality TV or survival shows.  Reality TV seem so unreal.  Survival shows, with the idea of voting people off an island, seems to be the apex of some extreme social-Darwin capitalism that is in conflict with my Christian humanistic beliefs.    But, considering the numbers of people who not only enjoy but make time to engross themselves in such shows, maybe we should give in, marry the two genres, and declare the globe to be a reality TV survival show.  The upside of all this is that instead of competing for a one-way ticket to Mars, we could vote people off the planet.   Then, before the rocket lifted off, we could have the humble but reluctant astronauts show remorse and speak to what they should have done differently or why it is a mistake to send them to the red planet and not someone else.

Just think of the possibilities.  We could rid the globe of bad guys with horrible hair like Kim Jong-un.  We could rid the world of ISIS fighters.  We could rid the world of Miley Cyrus.  We could rid the world of the New York Yankees.   And we could rid the world of a handful of Fox News correspondents as we offer them an “exclusive” on reporting from Mars. 

Perhaps Mars, the candy company, could underwrite this new program through commercials and, as a bonus, stock the rocket with plenty of candy bars. 

I realize that for many people, Darwin and Capitalism in the same category and Christian and humanism in the same category is challenging, but deal with it.  Or, vote me off the planet.  Or better yet, vote Sage off!  Who would you vote off?

Georgia’s Postpones Execution

Sage and I both dislike the idea of with capital punishment.  That was the one thing enlightening about Michigan where we spent a decade.  The state has never allowed the death penalty, a prohibition that goes back to the 1830s.  We have, however, lived in states, like Utah, that carried out the death penalty.  And we spoke out against it.  Now we’re in Georgia and we don’t know what to make of the news that our state postponed the execution of Kelly Gessendaner due to weather!  Gessendaner arranged to have her husband killed and has admitted her guilt.  She would be the first woman executed in the state since 1945.  But the state wasn’t able to carry out its order because of a bit of snow!  Maybe this is a sign from someone higher up than the governor that our state should end this horrific practice.  What's your thoughts?