Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Streak Saver

It wasn't the most pleasant paddling experience, but yesterday's brief exploration of Narragansett Bay's West Passage did keep my streak alive.  The last time a month elapsed without my having paddled New England waters was back in February of 2007.

So with only 3 hours of daylight left in February I launched from the beach (photo at left) at the end of South Ferry Road by the University of Rhode Island's Bay Campus in Narragansett, RI.  Of the 5 boat launches scouted in Rhode Island's South County it was by far the most hospitable.

Air temps were in the mid to upper 20's and the expected northwest breeze was now coming from the south.  Good-sized floating chunks of ice were encountered... 

Taking refuge behind a jetty I could see the Newport Bridge to the east behind Conanicut Island...
A distant Beavertail Point Lighthouse could be seen at Conanicut's southernmost tip...
Other than wretched ice, no trash was encountered.
With the streak preserved, Mrs. Trashpaddler and I watched the last sunset of February 2015 from the warm environs of George's of Galilee seafood restaurant in Point Judith.  The toughest February I've ever experienced and glad to have survived it!  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Plotting My Escape

As I sit here writing this post the temperature outside is 16 degrees Farenheit, it's snowing again, and my lower back is killin' me.  Old Man Winter has me pinned to the mat and, though I've already tapped-out several times, I'm about to lose consciousness.  With my few remaining seconds I plot my escape.

At the right moment I see myself breaking out, dragging the boat from hibernation, using its painter to pull it over the snow, and struggling to get it atop my car's roof.  Then I'm driving due south in search of open water and temperatures above 32 degrees.  I'll be saying "so long" to Massachusetts and entering the neighboring Ocean State where snow banks will hopefully shrink by the mile.  When I get to where driving south is no longer possible, there'll be refuge in the form of open water.  I'll rejoice!  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Long Ways from the Water

Surely these are the times that try this paddler's soul.

On this morning four days from the halfway point in my 100-day countdown to the vernal equinox, my outside thermometer shows 13 degrees and the barrel, containing paddling gear, is adorned by an absurd white top-hat this morning.  Navigating anything other than oceans of fluffy white snow seems a long way off.

Fortunately I have plenty of heat emanating from my pellet stove, good music on the radio, some old maps to peruse, and an appropriate movie to later screen: Atanarjuat:The Fast Runner (if I can find it).

For some comic relief I enjoyed reading Kevin Cullen's take on all this in today's Boston Globe: "Blizzards can seem like the end of the world".

Some waterways I'm planning to experience once Old Man Winter takes his leave are:

Part of the Wampanoag Canoe Passage specifically near Massasoit's Monponsett hunting lodge where his eldest son Wamsutta (aka Alexander) was taken into custody by the dastardly (in my opinion) Josiah Winslow.

Where Metacomet (aka King Philip) and his Pokanoket followers escaped Pocasset by crossing the Taunton River.

Where Weetamoo lost her life trying to cross the same waterway.

These two ducks were also a long way from the water this afternoon...
Not sure how or why they ended up in my neighborhood.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Starting Anew on the Assabet

It was a very promising weather forecast that sent me to the Assabet River in Stow late this morning.  I launched at Magazu's Landing (at left) on Sudbury Road in anticipation of temperatures in the 50's.  Rather than wait for the warmth to actually develop, I decided to get there early to beat the crowds.

The rain had let up and it was 34 degrees F. according to my car's thermometer.

After launching I headed up river towards Gleasondale anxious to  soon shed my pogies.

The river looked quite peaceful...

Wildlife was plentiful and consisted of mute swans, Canada geese, loads of ducks, and these red-tailed hawks...

They were frequently moving from one perch to another...

The first piece of aquatic trash for this new year...
...a Remington shotgun shell.

Arrived at Gleasondale and found my boat's thermometer only nudging 36 degrees F....
Paddling beyond the Route 62 bridge brought me to within sight of the dam upstream of the footbridge...

On my return trip downriver I stopped at a wintry-looking portal to Fort Meadow Brook...

A fog developed without any noticeable rise in temperature...
...allowing me to get closer than usual to these mergansers...

Back at the landing the day's trash haul jumped ashore...
Somewhere upriver there's a litterer with very fresh breath!

The 50's were never reached.  In fact the 40's were never reached.  Upon driving home my car's thermometer showed only 36 degrees F.  Yet, I'm not that disappointed...for it was still nice out on the river and my 2015 paddling season is now officially underway without my having to leave Massachusetts.

By the way, my New Year's resolution is that no Styrofoam will touch my lips in 2015.  I'll be bringing along a stainless steel travel mug ready to press into service for any store-bought coffee.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Skipper's Year End Report 2014

My 2014 started with being frozen out from my local waters as this January 7th photo of the Sudbury and Assabet river's confluence at Egg Rock shows.  Those conditions would result in my making 4 trips southward to the tidal waters of Narragansett Bay in neighboring Rhode Island.

Eventually things thawed and many new waterways were visited over the course of the past year:  Neponset River, East Branch of the Ware River, North Branch of the Nashua River, Littleville Lake, Nemasket River, Green River Reservoir (VT), Great Chazy River (NY), Assonet River, Pawcatuck River (RI), Thames River (CT), Fort Pond Brook.  Additionally, new sections of the Charles, Connecticut, Nashua, Merrimack, and Taunton rivers were experienced.

However, if there could only be one favorite day on the water it would have to have been a spectacular Sunday in June when along with friends Capt'n and Mrs. Dangerous the waters of Mystic River, Boston Harbor, and Charles River were explored.  This photo, for me, captured the city of Boston in a new and better light...

Two encounters with wildlife were memorable: An August 25th encounter with this American Bald Eagle who shared my interest in a dead skunk-containing plastic bag afloat in the Merrimack River in North Chelmsford...

 ...and a July 30th eye to eye with this velvet-antlered white-tailed buck along the Assabet River in Damondale...

The year saw a good number of glass bottles but I believe the oldest man-made item found was this clay pipe bowl found on April 25th by a small island in the Swift River near Belchertown...

Trash statistics for the year:
Recyclable (but not redeemable) containers equaled 39% (35 in 2013, 34 in 12, 35 in 11, 34 in 10, 32 in 09)
Recyclable and redeemable containers equaled 13%  (13 in 2013, 16 in 12, 13 in 11, 18 in 10, 23 in 09)
Miscellaneous rubbish equaled 48%  (52 in 2013, 50 in 12, 52 in 11, 48 in 10, 45 in 09)

Here's the pieces of trash per mile paddled statistics for the past 7 years:
2014 = 8.2 per mile (6067 pieces over 736 miles)
2013 = 8.6 per mile (5921 pieces over 686 miles)
2012 = 9.9 per mile (6358 pieces over 643 miles)
2011 = 9.4 per mile (6410 pieces over 681 miles)
2010 = 12.4 per mile (6357 pieces over 511 miles)
2009 = 7.7 per mile (5584 pieces over 725 miles)
2008 = 3.2 per mile (2689 pieces over 841 miles)  (was just acquiring an eye for it)

It was on this day seven years ago was born.  It was conceived as an experiment of sorts premised on answering the question “What would happen if this avid paddler decided to pick up the trash encountered rather than paddling past it?”

My first post was on New Year’s Eve 2007 and in it I laid out my course which, for the most part, I’ve adhered to.

By the end of year one I’d settled on a system of sorting recovered trash into three categories:

·         Recyclable containers having no redemption value

·         Recyclable containers having a redemption value of five cents

·         Miscellaneous rubbish such as Styrofoam, plastic bags, nip bottles, etc.

Maintaining a scientific approach was not always easy as some containers were sold with a redemption value but, because of their present condition, were no longer redeemable.

This included plastic bottles that no longer retained their flimsy plastic labels showing their redemption status (water had dissolved the glue).  It also included aluminum cans that had been crushed or damaged.  As a rule containers were sorted based on my best guess as to what they were when sold.

At any rate, the end result of my experiment is as follows:

·         Number of trash patrols: 726

·         Miles covered: 4,823

·         Total pieces of trash: 39,386

·         Pieces of trash per mile paddled: 8.2

Now perhaps it’s because of some Irish blood flowing within my veins that I pause at this point and recognize the significance of the number seven: The Seven Year Itch, Seven Seas, Seven Continents, Seven days of the week, Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Seven Notes of the Diatonic Scale, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Seven Dwarfs, Seventh Heaven, Seventh Inning Stretch, Seventh Seal, Seven Samurai, Seven Cities of Gold..…well, you get the picture.

This significance, combined with Massachusetts voters having recently laid to rest any reasonable hope of an expanded container redemption program, tells me it’s time to reset my compass heading before paddling beyond the seven year mark.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be a trashpaddler in so far as orphaned and drifting trash will always find safe haven aboard my vessel.  But from this point forward I’ll no longer be counting the trash, and the only sorting I’ll do will be to separate recyclable material from non-recyclable. 

In order to portray the amount of trash encountered I’ll continue my practice of snapping a hullside photo of the day's haul.

The title of my blog will now be “Trashpaddler’s Waterway Wanderings” and, if all goes as planned, folks will be able to find me at either or  Above all else, I am a waterway wanderer and would like to broaden the discussion to the other wandering ways of water such as the water we allow to flow into our gullets. 

In regards to drinking water from plastic containers, it's something I try to avoid. My appetite for gulping down water from a plastic container was dimmed by having spent 10 years of my working life pumping and treating groundwater laden with plasticizers (phthalates).      

I hope to explore alternative containers other than plastic for bringing along drinking water.  These days my drinking water resides in a stainless steel bottle and accompanies me most anywhere I go.  How about other folks?  How do you bring along your drinking water? 

How about treating your water?  Do you provide treatment over and above the way it's delivered to your tap?

At any rate, a Happy New Year to all my fellow aquatic and terrestrial travelers!

Monday, December 29, 2014

One Mo' Time

Yet another mild day and things being slow at work conspired in allowing me to get one more paddle in before year's end.

I launched into the Assabet River at Cox Street in Hudson and on impulse decided to paddle upriver a bit.  I'd only gone about 50 yards when I espied a large clump of plastic floating behind some branches.  On closer inspection it turned out to be 19 plastic jugs tied together through their handles...
I have no clue as to why someone went through the trouble of tying them together before placing them in the river.  Once untied they found spots onboard my boat until I returned to the launch and trans loaded them into my car's trunk. 

While doing this I couldn't help but think of what good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Capt'n Dangerous, came across this past Saturday at a Hudson River portage trail in the Glens Falls, NY area.  Check out the photo they sent me...
It was a huge pile consisting of many hundreds of flattened plastic bottles.   They notified the proper authorities and put the word out on social media.  Last I heard a woman, having heard about the problem, began work on removing some of the containers. Certainly makes one wonder what the motivation for such an act could have been.

With my boat now empty I re-launched and followed the river as it swept around Orchard Hill (opening photo).
Approaching the village and the dam I viewed one of the village homesteads...

While paddling back up to the Cox Street takeout I enjoyed listening to Willie Nelson's The Wall.  It's my favorite song of 2014.

Today saw two trash hauls:
The first from the short jaunt upriver...
...but wait...there's more... the second haul from the downriver stretch...
Combined they were comprised of 65 recyclable containers (9 redeemable) and 62 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as nip bottles, plastic bags, and Styrofoam.

My total for 2014 is 6067....Now to work on my Year End Report.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Year's End Paddle and Portage

One last holiday gift arrived yesterday in the form of a gorgeous day, especially considering that it's late December.  Blue skies and light winds saw the temperature quickly rise into the mid-40's F.  Such a day afforded me an opportunity to sandwich a new section of the Nashua River between two previously explored sections and would include both a new confluence and portage.

My boat and I were dropped off at the Oxbows National Wildlife Refuge canoe launch at the end of Still River Road in Harvard, MA thanks to Mrs. Trashpaddler.  My goal was to paddle the Nashua River in a northerly and downriver direction with hopes of making it to Petapawag (see map)...
After launching I briefly paddled upriver to the railroad bridge where one of the few surviving sections of the Worcester, Nashua, and Portland division of the Boston and Maine RR still sees freight trains running between Worcester and Ayer.

Heading downriver from this point, under such ideal conditions, it seemed I should pinch myself...

A rather disdainful look from a resident hawk was endured...

The land running along the river's east side for the next 8 miles would be that of the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge.  Land on the river's west side is posted "Off Limits", having once been part of Fort Devens military base.

Reaching Route 2 and Jackson Road I prepared to enter a stretch of the Nashua River I'd yet to explore...
It never ceases to amaze me how highways look so small from the river and vice versa.

The new section didn't disappoint in the scenery department...
Very few buildings were seen.  One of the more intriguing was these remains of a riverside structure and its once grand hearth...
I'm sure that on a long ago December 27th there was a nice warming fire crackling.

A little ways past was a new confluence providing me two new (to me) Native American words...
The stream entering the river here is Catacoonamug Brook and it flows down from a distant pond in Luneburg originally known as Unchechewhaton Pond.  Most folks today know Unchechewhaton as Whalom Lake where an amusement park operated from 1893 'till 2000.

Rounding a bend brought me to the Ayer Ice House Dam where hydro-power is still used in generating electricity...

The takeout for the portage is on the river's left side and clearly marked...

Enjoyed some hot cocoa and a sandwich while sitting in the sunshine mid-portage...

After portaging the short distance down Walker Road, I took a look back before re-launching...

A short section of quickwater was encountered about a mile below the dam where both the river and Walker Road drop while passing under the Fitchburg Railroad bridge...
Staying to the left kept me in the deeper water.

Below this point I was on familiar sections of the Nashua for the remaining 7.5 miles to Petapawag.  Tributaries glided past in this section were: Nonacoicus Brook, Mulpus Brook, Squannacook River, and James Brook.   Sounds of duck hunting were heard near the lower Squannacook.

Upon reaching the Route 225 bridge...
 ...I utilized my cell phone to notify Mrs. Trashpaddler of my ETA at Petapawag at Route 119 in Groton, and low and behold she arrived just after I'd checked out some boater's misfortune...

...the power boat (sans motor) was tied to a tree.  Not sure if rainwater and rising river levels did this, or if someone removed the bilge plugs.  Either way not a good set of circumstances for the boat's owner to come upon.

Trash recovered along the way...
Some 56 recyclable containers (8 redeemable) and 26 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as nip bottles, cigarette lighters (4), Styrofoam cups, and plastic bags.  YTD = 5940