Saturday, August 12, 2017

Water fun in Michigan sun!

OK, I know I spend a lot of time talking about Cape Cod and the Caribbean, but now I'm living in Michigan. Can't I find fun here? Other than sunset walks and swims, playing with numerous dogs, and hypothetical sunrise walks in the dunes? Well, sure...

Just last weekend, for example, Cynthia and I rented a canoe an hour north of here on Saturday and spent a few hours paddling an estuary/marsh/stream. We saw four or five bald eagles, many turtles (including one we caught as it made a dash through the duckweed), many marsh flowers, and a few fish.



On Sunday. we went for a little sail on Silver Lake on a hobie 16. Not much wind, but so delightful to get out on the water on a sailboat again! Cynthia handled sails and tiller, Tio relaxed, Lucy's ears and fur streamed out behind her as she kept watch, and I acted as official photographer. The dogs REALLY loved the walk on the beach on the far side of the lake, but they enjoyed the sailing as well.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Splicing lines

Many, many years ago, when I was a lad of perhaps eight or ten, I spent a week or two at my paternal grandmother's house and, for the first time, spent some some extended time with my cousins Billy and Ted. I mostly spent time with Billy as he was a bit younger than me and still fun, while Ted seemed absorbed by things suitable for his advanced age (he was a couple year older than me!). However, Ted did show me how to make a few simple splices in three-strand twisted lines and I absolutely delighted in it and use it often to this day.

This last visit to the Cape found "replace mooring buoy" on my list. I purchased the buoy and line and snagged my nephew Alex to show him the ropes. One thing lead to another and we ended up rebuilding the whole upper end of the mooring, with Alex doing most of the splicing.



At the end, he even made a dog leash, using a dinghy clip that does not get fouled with sand,

 and thought about setting up a roadside stand to sell them to people walking their dogs.

What a delight to pass this on!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

No sunrises? How about sunsets....

One thing that delights me on Cape Cod is my sunrise walks. I walk past the cars parked at the lighthouse, filled with people watching the rosy skies with a cup of coffee forgotten in their hands, down the stairs and across the dew-soaked sands, to the lapping waters. The salty scent, the building breeze, the cries of the hungry gulls... these wake me and stir me to life like an invigorating massage to my soul. The rosy light brings a magic to the shores and the early hour means that they are nearly all mine.




And, if I get warm, I can take a quick dip in waters where I KNOW I am not the top of the food chain. I MISS this!


What to do? The family cottage here does provide a nice sunrise...
but no good walk unless I wake early enough to get across the lake to the public side. This may be possible... I'll need to try it next time we are there.

How about sunsets? We live about a mile from Lake Michigan... so I've been walking there most evenings for this last week, in time to see some sunset,



pet some dogs, chat with dog owners, take a quick swim that leaves me delighted, and then drip my way home. Not the same, but pretty darned nice.... and I don't need to worry about salt getting onto my shoes,  phone, and camera!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Foggy beach walk

I love a sunrise walk on the beach, but we had many days of fog during my recent time on Cape Cod.

The beach has become far shorter due to the recent break south of the Chatham Lighthouse in March this year. It used to be about 90 minutes round trip, now is under half that. The shoreline shown by Google Maps does NOT come very close to that shown by their satellite view (internet)...
which does not come close to the android Google Maps satellite (shows the March break), And no, I did not park there, merely marked it as the end of the dry sand so I could check the beach extension on my next visit.
which does not come very close to reality: geologic time runs very very fast on the barrier beaches: chart-makers throw up their hands and simply print "Use Local Knowledge".


As one walks down the beach, the sound of the waves that make their way in from the ocean becomes louder and louder, a gentle susurrus.
After a few minutes, eye-glasses become unusable as the gathering minuscule droplets of water make seeing foggy, then impossible. The dark grayness of twilight lightens to a pinkness, telling one that the sun is, indeed, rising.
And sometimes the gray will close in again and sometimes it will clear away and leave behind a glorious sunrise.

The most recent time I walked, I photographed razor clams.

I have never before found them sitting partly exposed, but this seems to be the way things are at this particular break in the beach. Most curious. I usually can collect one every few minutes, but could collect a few per minute here.

Is the sand too dry for them to burrow down? Is it too unstable for them to maintain a burrow they can slip down easily and does burrowing through sand frequently take too much energy? Curious.


What to do when the beach is gray?
Go ahead, walk there anyway!


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Curiosity on the beach

Please be warned that this post involves digestive processes some may find disgusting. Skip it if you do...


Walking on the fine white sand of Caribbean beaches, it amuses me to think that it is almost entirely composed of coral that has been chewed, swallowed, and, um, "processed" through parrot fish.

I had thought nothing like this existed on our Cape Cod beaches, other than some shells smashed by seagulls (often on rocky beaches, but sometimes on a favorite rock like this one)...
but this does not involve passage through a creature.

However, a few weeks ago, on a sailing adventure to Little Sipson Island in Pleasant Bay,

I found small piles of waste filled with the broken shells of blue mussels.
Eyes opened, I looked at the beach again and noticed spots, small blue patches where these piles used to be...
and the sand itself has small bits of blue shell everywhere. I know that the few-percent contribution to these beaches pales beside the nearly 100% Caribbean fraction, but still pretty darned interesting.

One question that springs to mind is what species did this? Gulls? Cormorants? (A bit of quick research brings up eider ducks, corroborated by the fact that we DID find about ten mummified remains on the island that could easily have been eiders.)

One final question that springs to mind is whether these little piles are more like owl pellets, regurgitated stuff too troublesome to run through the normal one-way digestive tract, or whether it did, indeed, make the passage. The web says eiders do not regurgitate, so that leaves only one path, as it were...

So much fun to go the beach with curious eyes!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Surf clams!

Far too long since my last post, but life sometimes gets far too complex. Now I'm back in Michigan. Cynthia picked me up in Grand Rapids yesterday and drove to her sister's place for an errand, where I walked the fields, finding Japanese beetles and monarch butterflies while looking for the last clinging black raspberries. But enough about MI, let's look back at a bit of MA!

Euell Gibbons described surf clams in his book, "Stalking the Blue-eyed Scallop", as large (I've often seen ones measuring 6") and rather useless (yes, I'm paraphrasing), tossing almost all the meat or using it as bait, saying only the adductor (Yes, I spelled that correctly, thank you spellcheck!) muscles are worth eating. He also mentioned that sometimes one will find none, sometimes a few, sometimes buckets... in the same spot..

According to family legend, my uncle once came across a plethora of these clams, filled all pockets etc, and tried to make his way back through the rising tide. Along the way he realized that he had to choose between losing the clams and losing his life and, after some consideration, made the painful decision to drop the clams. *grin*

This brings us to last week, when we managed to pile all immediate available family (plus one cousin and a dog) into the Rhodes 19 sailboat and set out in light breezes,
past lounging and stinking seals, to the outer bar where we dug steamer clams, then stopped at a favorite sand bar for swimming. The kids had soon found a few surf clams.
Alerted, we soon found more with our feet ("treading for clams") and collected them into a tide pool.
Rather interesting critters...
We could easily have collected bushels, but why be greedy? After taking pics, we scattered them and gathered to watch the last ten or so dig their way rather swiftly to safety.

We brought two clams with us and piled back into the sailboat, resting figures covering the bow as we glided home, sliding swiftly along with gentle breeze and strong current.


Another day seized! So many delightful moments....

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spring in Michigan!

Beautiful weather! Cool strong winds, hazy blue skies, everything turning green! Nice thunderstorm a couple nights ago.


I've always loved spring with all the plants bursting into life, but  never realized that the spring leaves have colors similar to fall.... more green, of course, but lots of reds and yellow-greens, too.
The shiny red leaves of some maples,
the fuzzy red of an oak leaf,
ferns unfurling,
sassafras buds just beginning to loosen up..

Cynthia and I walked through the woods and marshes,
looking for mushrooms (found none), finding lots of places that wild turkeys had dug up the leaves, enjoying the spring scents, and finding this strange semi-arboreal creature.
Lucy loves hunting squirrels!
Once we returned to the car, we found ticks, so spent five minutes then and later picking them off our clothes and dogs... and added DEET to our grocery list.


We found loads of wild strawberries and wild blueberries in bloom. In another couple months the fields of commercial blueberries will be ripe. So will the cherries, wild black raspberries, and wild blueberries. Wonderful place for foraging!


And Cynthia (well, Lucy) found a mallard duck sitting on her eggs at the edge of a parking lot close to our house, near no water we know of. We wish her well.