Monday, September 22, 2014

sailing, swimming, making drawers, chikungunya, and beach plums: oh, my!

Last time I talked about exploring the southern wilderness of shoals. The next day I took my cousin Lisa and her good friend out (their first time sailing in over a decade, on average) and once again had a superlative day. (I still find that using a polarized filter (ok, my sunglasses) makes a significant difference: see below...)

​ The next morning we tried it again, but the fierce north wind kept us at the north end of the bay where we zipped to and fro for a half hour in the very small waves, then called it a success.
My birthday passed by recently with, by complete coincidence, a lobster dinner, a great sail with good folks, and excellent hugs. Very nice.
Baltic birch plywood arrived from a mail order place and I pulled out the tablesaw my dad has in his garage, a relic from my single-digit years, sanded the rust off the table and adjusted it, and found it a joy to use in slicing the plywood into pieces for seven drawers for my boat. Now I just need to figure out how to get my nice stack of pieces back to the boat and THAT is getting more complicated by the day.  
​Heather picked over a gallon of beach plums from a wild bush she found and made wonderful jelly, using found apples for pectin. That jelly is pure wild Cape Cod....except for the sugar, of course. Then she said she was DONE for this year and gave me the location of the bush, so my mom and I picked another several cups. I am not sure what to do with them, but can always freeze them and I'm sure someone will use them within a couple weeks.

I watched hurricane Edouard go from a high-probability disturbance on the coast of Africa to a tropical storm to a hurricane. So far, my observations show me that the systems in the Atlantic drift with the wind until they tighten up into a real storm and take a hard turn to the north. So, my tentative thought is that I want to see is poor conditions so systems pass by my home before turning into storms or such great conditions that they convert quickly and never ride the winds far enough west to be a problem.
Dismaying news: chicungunya is spreading in the US Virgin Islands. They say the cases are expected to max out in March and then decline as most people become immune through exposure. And the mosquitoes bite in the daytime and live inside houses rather than outdoors. So, using lots of deet on the rare occasions I have a drink or dine ashore; spending more time away from land (so one won't get bitten); spending time away from population centers (so one won't get bitten by infected mosquitoes); and, perhaps, a bed net for napping and sleeping....and maybe for reading;. It is things like this that one could find irritating, if you will forgive the term. I suppose the folks ashore will need to depend on the screens on their homes (and keep the danged screen door shut!), deet, and bed nets.

The weather now is either windy, dry, and brisk (I was foolish enough to take a brief swim when Deb and Heather were bundled up like this!)​
 or warm and foggy. Today is on the foggy side.

Due to weather, season, or (according to the commercial clammer with whom I chatted) "minnows nibbling on their siphons", steamers are not creating good holes on the surface of the sand and are thus danged hard to find. It probably does not help that the commercial folks found my wonderful clam bed and are now taking out around a half ton of steamers per week. Still incredibly easy to get littlenecks and quahogs, though.

Well, off to return the car...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

exploring to the south: Monomoy

When I was a teenager, Monomoy, the spur that runs south from Chatham, about halfway to Nantucket, got breached by a winter storm in 1978. I never really explored down there as the currents and waves made it...problematic.
Some years later ('87), Nauset Beach got cut (lighthouse cut). Then again in 2007 it got cut again (north cut).....and then another cut formed in 2013 (south cut). Geologic time runs very very fast here where the land is made of sand and the ocean's power works upon it.
Well! Combine all this with the speedy Hobie Getaway my cousin Andrew bought and this complex of bays and shoals is my well as being my clam, littleneck, and razor clam. A couple weeks ago I sailed out the north cut, along the coast, and into the south cut and anchored at Outermost Harbor, a great staging area for southern adventures. Last week, my energy levels bolstered to "manic" by a cup of coffee, I hopped aboard the Hobie and set out, running on a strong NE wind, past the south cut and into the appendix bay south of the 1978 cut, then back up and through that cut and south along Monomoy, hearing the loud surf across the narrow barrier beach. I ran over endless shoals and past innumerable "wilderness: keep out" signs until I reached the fat end of Monomoy and ocean swells started to show up, then turned tail and headed into the wind. The Cape looked like a dark line on the horizon and doesn't even show in this picture. That bit at the right is Monomoy, not the Cape... and the stuff at the left is low clouds.

I had chosen this day because the wind came over Monomoy so that I had nearly no waves to fight on my way back. Sticking close to shore, main sheet free in my hand in case of gusts, sail not-quite luffing, I made my way back to the '78 cut, scouted for littlenecks a bit, then headed home, glad I had chosen a day of high tide to easily cross the shoals.
The next day I invited Heather and Melinda out and retraced my steps until, slowed by lower wind and threatened by clouds and a few drops of rain, we headed back only partway south of the '78 cut. By the time we got through the cut, the sun broke through and we decided to stop a while in my new clamming spot and enjoy the beach, where we could see waves shooting spray high in the air. Of course, I dug clams and got a couple gallons, tossing back at least that volume of baby horseshoe crabs and undersized clams. Drifts of the shed shells littered the beach. (Note: those are shed shells, not dead crabs). What a day!

I sure do love sharing adventures! Now I just need to deal with all these clams.. Anyone?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chatham adventures and a weird new creature

Foggy and windy outside, just waiting for the cold front to bring thunderstorms and wipe the sky and air clean. I hope we get a really good one....and I hope they miss Boston, where Heather is selling her gifts (ChicByDesignCollections). I can see one on the radar that looks to be heading south of the city and some more that might end up here around dark. Sure is a change from a few days ago when we had amazing blue sky days.

​ On my first full day back, Monday (September 1), I sailed out of Jackknife Harbor and decided to take the shortest route between me and clams: past Strong Island and over to the marsh by Little Sipson Island. Low tide forced me to walk across the flats and I brought a rake rather than my usual snorkel and mask....and raked for clams rather than snorkeled and collected them gently. This meant that I caught ALL the giant ones (and threw them back) and could hardly feel the nice small ones all swaddled in soft mud. And sank to my knees and had (I assume) green crabs playing with the hair on my legs, wondering what this giant thing might be and if it were edible. Not only that, but several times I found half-golf-ball-sized sacks impaled on the tines of my rake, things that felt like little bags of chopped liver: clearly some odd critter. I resolved to return with mask and snorkel and investigate further.

A few days later Heather and I went sailing. She swam while I trekked across the sand flat, mask and snorkel in hand, and lay down in the 18" deep water.....and there was something: a dark thing like a dark skeletal flower laying on the mud. I touched it and it disappeared into a tiny hole. I found another and watched as one "petal"  curled up and slowly brought a bit of mud and debris to the middle like a fist pulling candy into a hideout in slow motion. I dug it out unceremoniously and found the weird sack I had found before and brought it home in my face mask. Here are some pictures and a link to a video in which the mouth is at the top right, I think. It can crawl slowly with the body tentacles, but the feeding tentacles are missing: perhaps it spat them out to deter me when I dug it up or perhaps they are hidden, but I see five mouth projections and that means to me that it has the five sided symmetry of a starfish, sea urchin, or sand dollar. Related?
After some research, I found that it is a sea cucumber and that the "flower" is the tentacles. I LOVE it that after 50+ years I still find new things here! Not sure of the species, but this is at least similar: