Monday, March 30, 2009

Filling the Gap

This past week has been sadly devoid of paddling, mostly due to weather. Hopefully that will change this coming week. But, in the meantime, life continues in a reasonably interesting fashion, and there are several things worth noting. First, I finished Down the Great Unknown by Edward Dolnick, which is about John Wesley Powell's 1869 exploration of the Grand Canyon via the Colorado River. It was good, not great, but I learned a good bit and it was a nice follow-up to my previous read, The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. Second, I saw two good movies; Waltz with Bashir, an animated pseudo-documentary about an Israeli man's attempt to retrieve his forgotten (blocked) Lebanon experience, and A Bright Shining Lie about John Paul Vann and the Vietnam debacle. I recommend them both. It's funny how my entertainment tends to center on themes (the books on the West and the desert, the movies on war and personal experience). Yesterday I ran almost 7 miles (but at a slow 11 min/mile pace) in my continued training for my first triathlon (in only 1 month!). Finally, due to clever shopping, I spent $58 at the grocery store today, but saved $59! Pretty awesome, and my freezer is full of meat. We also finished The Living Planet series previously posted about, and it was fascinating and worth watching. Lots of indoors sorts of endeavours, but not a terrible way to spend a rainy/windy week. Big plans for a paddle later this week! I'm off to watch my favorite show on the telly, 24 (besides Jeopardy, of course). Cheers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'll Be a Monkey's Uncle

"Well I'll be a monkey's uncle." Aimee used this quaint little phrase the other day and it reminded me that I'll soon be an uncle. My little brother Zak and his wife are having a baby. They told the family at Christmas. We're all glorified monkeys, so it really is kind of appropriate. I like to portmanteau it into muncle. So, I'm going to see if I can get the kid to call me Muncle Josh. It works a couple of ways. First, it implies that the kid is, in fact, monkey-like, and that's funny. Second, when spoken aloud, it sounds like "My uncle." Zak will probably go for it, but I'm not so sure about his wife Jo. I guess we'll see. Since visuals are good:

Here's a picture of my mom at the moment she realized that Jo was pregnant:

To prove my point, here's a monkey making a similar face:

Here's my grandmother coming to the same conclusion:

For comparison:

Finally, here's a sonogram. Zak pointed out that in the bottom photo he (they're having a boy) is giving us all a thumbs up. That's pretty cool

Since this post is sorta about hominids and ancestry, here's a pseudo-historical tidbit. Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. In 1860 the leading scientific minds of England gathered to discuss and debate various ideas of the day. Darwin's most vocal supporter, T. H. Huxley (Brave New World's Aldous Huxley's grandfather), spoke on his behalf on the theory of evolution. As legend has it, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce sarcastically asked Huxley if it was through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed descent from an ape. Huxley calmly replied that he would rather be descended from an ape than a bishop, and there was much uproar. It probably didn't happen, at least not quite this way, but I like the story anyway.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Living Planet

Aimee and I are making our way through The Living Planet, a 1984 precursor to the very excellent Planet Earth series, hosted by David Attenborough. Since $ is tight, we've been taking advantage of Aimee's employment at the local university (English teacher, mostly to idiots, occasionally to the reasonably intelligent) by checking out movies from the university library. We like documentary, and we like nature, so it was a natural (no pun intended) fit. The reason I'm posting it here is the "Margins of the Land" episode. If you paddle in the coastal plane, or are interested in the coastal evironment then you should check it out. It's a little dated, but very familiar. There's all kinds of good stuff about oystercatchers and miscelleaneous sandpipers, crabs, mollusks, pickleweed (glasswort), tube worms, anaerobic bacteria that expell hydrogen sulfide (that smelly low tide deal), and so on. We're about halfway through the series, and we've found it all pretty good, but this episode should be particularly interesting to people like us because the place they're expounding upon is our playground. The more you know the more interesting it gets! Cheers.

NE Cape Fear, Croomsbridge to Whitestocking

Aimee and I went on a CFPA trip today on the NE Cape Fear, from Croomsbridge Rd. to Sawpit Landing on Whitestocking Rd. There were about 15 people along, including Geezer and Marie, Virginia H., Rezac, Pete Brown, and a crew that I didn't know. It was more people than I usually like to paddle with, but once everyone got launched it spread out nicely. Aimee and I lagged behind everyone else by 50 yards or so most of the trip. The weather was coolish, but sunny and nice. There was a moderate breeze, but it didn't really matter because we were sitting down pretty low between the banks. Along the way we saw an old abandoned school bus that reminded me of Chris McCandless' Magic Bus in the Alaskan wilderness (see Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer). We saw a couple of hawks that I'll have to dig through the book to figure out (I think red-shouldered), turkey vulture, tufted titmouse, cardinals, and heard several woodpeckers, though never saw any. It's quaint country, with one side of the river peppered with domiciles that ranged from the very basic to the reasonably ostentatious. I'm a fan of the little rustic places. There were lots of nice folks out on their porches and docks enjoying the day and most of them quizzed us on where we came from and where we were heading. I'm not sure that they see a lot of kayakers on the water, especially groups of that size, judging by their questions. It was an interesting group that ranged from the extremely experienced to one poor guy who had his paddle backwards and upside-down and was slouching like he was in an easy chair watching a football game. It's a pleasure to watch Rezac maneuver his boat. I've never seen anyone edge and turn so proficiently. We were under three hours on the water, covering almost 9 miles. It seemed like a really short trip, but it was a nice one.

Magic Bus

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I've embarked on training for my first triathlon. It's the White Lake Sprint, the first weekend in May. I'm announcing it to the world, and I'm committed to doing it (now I can't come up with any silly excuses for not doing it). I've got a bike and new running shoes. All I have to do now is train, which began yesterday with a two mile run. I know, two miles isn't very far, but I want to ease into it so I don't hurt myself. Today I rode from my house to Greenfield Lake, roughly a mile, and then sprinted two laps around the lake, almost 9 miles. I averaged about 16 mph (on my Trek 7.3 FX). I'm going to keep it up. I've never done a tri before, but I've wanted to for a while and now I'm surrounded by triathletes and ironmen at work, so that's got me motivated. I think it's going to be really fun, and it's a great way to get on a training regimen and get back into good shape. I'll start posting about that journey too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eagle's Island

The Geezer and I paddled around Eagle's Island from downtown today. I've been wanting to do this trip for a bit. Today the island is marsh and dredge spoil, but has seen periods as rice plantation, shipping center, and shipyard. The tides were right and weather perfect. Underway a little after 10:30 from the foot of Castle St. We rode the last of the falling tide to the southern tip of the island and hung a right into the Brunswick River. After WWII the Brunswick River housed hundreds of Liberty Ships built in the Wilmington Navy Yard during the war. They were mothballed and sat there for over a decade until scrapped sometime in the '60's (I think). There are still wooden crossbeams planted in the ground that ran power to the ships, now used mostly as perches for osprey and heron. We had a nice lunch break at the lovely Belville Park, and then continued to make our way around. We rounded the north end of the island some time later into the Cape Fear for the final leg back towards town. During the trip we saw a few red-tailed hawk, great egret, great blue heron, a snowy egret, laughing gulls, a couple of tern, killdeer, brown pelican, osprey, cormorant, and a probable juvenile bald eagle. We covered 13 miles in a little over 4 hours (at a pretty leisurely pace). It was a great paddle and a gorgeous day to be on the water. I missed a little surf for it (surf usually trumps paddling), but I had a really good time, so that's OK. I hope you did something interesting today. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opening Up

This blog is primarily about paddling. I've searched around and I've found that the best blogs, or what I perceive to be the best blogs, are centered around an activity, not a personality. Some people use their blogs to keep their families abreast, or tell everyone how awesome their dog or their kid is, and that's fine. But I don't find that interesting. I like to read blogs that are arranged around something that I identify with: bikes, surfing, kayaks, literature, food. Still, while the title of this blog may be Paddling in the Cape Fear, the web address is my name, and sometimes I think that someone looking at this might think that all I do or care about is paddling, which isn't true. I love kayaking, but it's not all I am. I work in a bike shop, and I've noticed that there are some people who can't talk about any thing other than bikes or triathlons. They just can't do it because they don't care to learn about anything else. I'm not like that. I want to die old and reasonably acquainted with as many things as possible. I want experience and knowledge and scars. I want to see the world, and know it, and touch it, even when it's not comforting and easy, because I want the fullest experience that I can have while I'm here.

So, I'm going to keep this thing primarily about paddling, but I'm gonna talk about something else here and there too. After all, nobody is following this thing and no one leaves any "I really love your blog" comments, which means that most of the people reading it already know me.

I was in the Navy. More specifically, I was a submariner. We never "sailed," but I was a sailor. "Sailor" has taken on a broader meaning; one who plies the ocean, or spends time on the water in a vessel with a bow and a stern. I don't know, you can come up with lots of definitions. Being in the Navy ties me to a long tradition of (mostly) men who went to sea for a myriad of reasons that don't matter here. What matters is that they were people of the oceans. They lived and died by it. I like being part of that tradition, even in such an unorthodox way as submariner, or (here we come back to the point) as a kayaker, surfer, free diver, swimmer, whatever. I grew up away from the ocean, but when I was 18 I joined the Navy, and since then I have lived close to, on, in, and under that big beautiful playground, the Ocean.

OK, ok. The point that I'm building up to is far less grand than what I've written so far, which is: rum. Sailors drink rum. It's naval tradition. I've been a rum and coke drinker for some time. It's my go-to drink. I'm not a beer drinker, and while I like a glass of wine with dinner sometimes, good wine is largely lost on me. But rum, I've been developing a taste for rum for years. I started off drinking really sweet crap (think Malibu). I suppose that it's not absolutely awful, but it is terribly sweet. Malibu and coke, then sometimes just Malibu over rocks. It's a little embarrassing now, but what the hell? I'm honest. Like I said before, experience. Trial and error. Then there's the easy stuff, Bacardi and Captain Morgan, both of which are still respectable, but not preferential libation. I've graduated to darker things. My favorites are Pusser's and Myer's. Sailor Jerry's is quite good ( In a pinch, Cruzan Gold is pretty good (the handle costs the same as a fifth of Pusser's) as the discerning economical choice. It's pretty good without breaking the bank. I've been considering buying some of the least expensive stuff to see if there's anything drinkable down there on the bottom shelf, but I've got standards, and even in this economy, it's hard to let go of them. Tonight I tried a new one, Bacardi Select. It's dark and robust. Mixed with ginger ale, an excellent Dark and Stormy (a new favorite to replace the rum and Coke). The D&S has replaced the old Cuba Libre because I'll drink Coke even when there's no rum it in, which isn't a problem with ginger ale. I don't want to drink Coke, because it's bad for me and expensive (but I get over both of those things if I make it worse on both accounts with good rum). Dark and Stormy solves the problem. I don't drink the mixer in the absence of rum, so we still have mixer around when it matters, and I still get to have a drink when I get home from work that I really like. Life's pretty good. Purists on the Internet argue that it's not really a D&S unless you have Gosling's Dark and ginger beer, not ginger ale. But hey, I'm a sailor. We're not that finicky about our rum drinks.

See you on the water.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Smith Creek

Paddled Smith Creek with Mike and his pal Pete this afternoon despite the chill and wind. We launched from Kerr Ave and wove our way to the Cape Fear River to the takeout at the foot of Castle St. The first section is pretty and quiet until you get to the airport, where it's interesting to watch the planes land since the creek is perpindicular to the runway and they pass overhead at very low altitude. The next section mostly consists of winding back and forth under the MLK bypass, which means that you're very aware of your proximity to traffic and civilization. We poked into Burnt Mill Creek as far as we could and paddled through another little marsh creek. Along the way there were belted kingfishers, laughing gulls, ring-billed gulls, a great blue heron, turkey vultures, cormorants, great egret, a couple of osprey (first sighting this year), and a little blue heron (the highlight of the trip, my second in the area, my third ever). We were about 3 hours on the water, covering about 10 miles. I'm glad I got out, but I'm not sure I would padde it again. Because of the bypass there is a significant portion of the paddle that you're listening to trucks rumbling down the highway. Part of the reason I paddle is to get away from all that, and there's plenty more remote waterways to explore. I'm experimenting with nutrition and energy food for longer paddles (which today was not). Today I ate a Clif Bar on the way to the launch and snacked on Jelly Belly Sport Beans (orange flavor) along the paddle. I like the jelly beans for keeping energy up along the way. A bag is 100 calories, about 15 beans. I just popped a few every thirty minutes or so and that seemed to keep me going without any fatigue. They're a keeper. Today was the first time in a week I drove my car because I've been riding my bike more consistently in the warmer weather. That, friends, is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wrightsville Beach Circumnavigation

Today I paddled around Wrightsville Beach with friends Lydia aka Wildwoman, Roberto aka Sharkbait aka Bobby Love, and Ryan (the nicknames were our radio handles when we guided for SMKC). Looking ahead at today's forecasted warm weather, light wind, and small seas I had originally proposed that we do the sea buoy paddle again, but after looking at the tides we realized that a circumnavigation might be better. So we met this morning at the WB drawbridge and launched at 10. We headed north up the ICW to Mason's Inlet, which is a shallow water inlet I've surfed many times. There was a decent waist-high wave breaking, which was a surprise given that the Frying Pan Shoals buoy registered less than a foot this morning. Once again, I feel so fricking lucky to have the paddling partners that I do. Everyone else on the trip holds ACA certification and has extensive ocean-side kayaking experience. One of them is an instructor (, and one has two world kayak surfing championships under her belt. They're all very capable, they give me information and advice without being pushy or preachy, they trust me to take care of myself, and they've got my back if I get into trouble.
This was my first shallow water inlet navigation, so I was slightly nervous when we got within eyesight of the inlet and I could see waves breaking. From the calms inside the inlet it was hard to tell how big the waves were. I commented to Lydia that I couldn't tell if it was 1' or 4'. We proceeded forward into the mouth of the inlet at a slow pace to assess the situation and look for a channel. We never found a clear channel, but after pushing through a couple of waves I could see that I only needed to cover about 30 more yards and I'd be out, so I paddled hard and cleared a few more breaking or broken waves. I feel great about how my boat handled pushing through. It was fun to punch through and then drop down the back of the wave. The hull slaps down into the water with a loud "boof" noise. Lydia's advice to me was to "point your nose into them and paddle as aggresively as you can." I did and it worked fine. We all got out reasonably dry and headed south, staying just outside the surf zone (Roberto rode a few in). At Johnny Mercer's Pier Lydia paddled in through the breakers for a beach landing (she left a car in the lot there so she could cut out early). The rest of us continued south, straying a little further out onto the open water. Eventually we rounded the end of the jetty at Masonboro Inlet and landed on the south end of the island for lunch. After the lunch break we paddled up Bank's Channel to Mott's Creek to the ICW and under the bridge to where we began, arriving around 3 pm. All in all we were about 5 hours out, and we covered about 9 miles (WB is 4 miles long, so there's 8, plus getting from the ICW out to the ocean and back). If you click on the Google Earth image above it looks like we paddled through Figure Eight, or portaged, but we didn't. Those images don't reflect the movement of the inlet from just above the hotel (Shell Island Resort) to well north of there, about .5 miles (a guess). It was a beautiful day to paddle, particularly on the ocean. I can't wait to get out there again.

Lunch Break

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hungry Meters

Sadly, it's time to start paying for parking at Wrightsville Beach again. It always sneaks up on me. Seems like just yesterday I was rejoicing in the end of the tourist season, and here we are back at the beginning again. At least we have a couple of months of there being plenty of parking to pay for before all the spots are full and you have to drive around for a while searching. If there's anything I've learned from this economy, it's to be grateful for the little things.
Too crappy to paddle today, so I'm going to stay warm and dry with a good book.