Monday, May 30, 2011

Fossil Hunting in Fairhaven

rev. 5-30-2011

The Chesapeake Bay is famous for it's large, complete, and exposed Miocene Formation deposits, best know at the Calvert Cliffs, but extending from Fairhaven to St. Mary's. Since my daughter was small, we would walk these beaches, picking up shark teeth and molluscs and talking about what the Bay might have been like then. When she was very small, it was simple, fun talk of a time when the Bay was ocean, after dinosaurs but before people. Even a small child can see that shells belong to organism that are gone, and with a little explanation, to organisms that can't and don't live in brackish water.

Shark Toothed Dolphin  (Squalodontidae)

Some of our favorite places are the cliffs and beaches near Fairhaven. While the beaches are not littered with the large scallop shells that characterize Calvert Cliffs beaches, there are many small sharks teeth and other small shells, and occasionally something more interesting. Once, to our delight, a small section of vertebrae had been exposed by the passage of a tropical storm.

Thorasic Vertibrae

They were all broken up and scattered, and it took some time to assembly and identify the remains, not being a paleontologist and having only a rudimentary knowledge of mammal skeletons. A trip to the Smithsonian in Washington made it clear that it was a marine mammal, and trip to the Smithsonian Naturalists Center made it clear that it was a dolphin or small whale. Some reading about the formation and the discovery of a small whale skull by others, a short time later only a few feet away, makes it likely that this is from a small whale about 14 million years old.

Arrowheads are always tricky to date, even more so when found loose on the surface. Since there are no context or excavation clues, the best that can be done is compare this artifact to others that are better dated. This could be anywhere between one thousand and several thousand years old; I'm guessing Bakers Creek style, about 2,400 BCE since we have found others of that type in the area, but it's worn and could be older, perhaps 5,000-7,000 BCE.

Other times, it was evidence of our human past--and perhaps evidence that Fairhaven has been a nice spot for a long time. All I know is that my daughter could spot an arrowhead in a mall parking lot given time to look; she has found several on the beach.

Pretty neat.

Note: Since nearly all of the cliffs and beaches adjoin private property, stay on the beach and be a quiet visitor. Please do not dig anywhere as erosion is a serious problem. Additionally, that many of these cliffs are not too stable, and that after heavy rains collapses and land slides are common. There have been fatalities and some cliff beaches are closed for this reason (the cliffs grow progressively less stable, heading south). Do not climb on the cliffs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Don and Steve Round the Horn.

 Cobb Island Lifesaving Station. Cobb Island, VA.  
Although this trip deserves and will receive better description, Don delivered the above documentary evidence of sailing around the Delmarva, nearly halfway by now. This photo doesn't really do the scenery justice, an old lifesaving station beat down by storms. Neither does it do justice to the feeling of elation at entering the harbor after passing one of the longer stretches of uninhabited and shelterless coast. The entrance itself is potentially tricky, moving with the passage of storms and not always marked correctly. The Coast Pilot suggest local knowledge, so it's a definite milestone. I imagine the sailboats that have visited this harbor--in the past few decades at least--could be counted on your fingers. Adventuresome stuff.

Steve and Don have sailed their Starwind 223 from mid-Bay, around Cape Charles, some 175 miles to get this far, and will probably cover close to 500 miles by the time they return. I expect some tall tales and fine photos.

The station about 80 years ago.
What a great way to start the season. They probably even got a jump on the flies!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Minnow Trap from Recycled Flotsom

My back has flared up in annual protest for some perceived slight. I can't sail, I can't ride, I can barely walk. I can post something trivial.

Collecting critters and fishing may not be sailing, but I love them both. Even more, I love introducing my daughter to the natural world. Add to that father -daughter time the opportunity to teach a D-I-Y ethic, recycling and thrift all in one stroke; a bargain.

Any plastic bottle with a cap will do. Two are required. Any beat-up thing from the wrack line will do. 2-liter jugs are best, but even 12-ounce bottles do well.
  • Cut the bottom off one.
  • Cut the top off the other and insert it inverted. Leave the cap on the external neck only--it's handy for decanting the catch. The other neck, of course, is the entrance.
  • Secure them together. I've seen everything from staples to cable ties to bolts to bits of string.
  • Poke a few 1/8 holes near the neck to allow some water flow, carrying the scent of the bait our the inverted opening. Additional holes only attract fish away from the trap entrance.
  • Tie a string around the neck to orient the neck into the flow, if any.
  • Add bait. Bread is a good starting point.
We've caught minnows, spring peepers, small crabs, grass shrimp, and eels.

Something to entertain the kids and an idea to keep in your tool box for your next Cast-Away adventure.

 Post Script. We actually carry a commercial minnow trap, which gets heavy use, both at the dock and at anchor (use care at anchor not to wrap the line around the rudders--just enough line to get it to the bottom).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Aero Bars. Yeah, I'm off Sailing Topics...

Well, only for a while.

When I got back into riding I had carpal tunnel and the vibration was a killer. Aero bars were a life saver, worth sharing. I started with these:

When I got my new toy, I moved on to these:

The hinged model failed at the hinge from metal fatigue after only a few years of moderate use, which I reasoned was too little time.

Because I need a neutral wrist position I need a bar with an up-turned end. Would bar end shifters be better? No, I think I prefer brake lever shifters, since most shifting occurs on hilly terrain. The bars do add about a pound to the bike, but I don't live in the mountains, not any more.  

I think there is little question that aero bars are faster and more comfortable on the flats, racer or not. There is a learning curve: expect them to feel twitchy to start, but this soon passes; be careful on bumps; no, you can't reach the brakes, but you soon learn to switch one or two hands smoothly; set them high and wide when starting and stay far from traffic; if you're touring and value ease and comfort over speed, set them higher, further apart and not so far forward, and them leave them there. A little cork tape near the ends is nice too.

I'll repeat, they're not such a good idea in traffic. Moderation in all things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A New Toy

I dreamed of something like this in college, when racing was a passion. Then I destroyed my knee in a crash and spent 30 years waiting to ride again. What a difference aluminum and carbon fiber make.
 Now I am old, crippled, and unworthy. Perhaps I'll look fast enough if I simply lean it against a bench, pretending I've come far; like Mark Twain, I suppose I have and should be glad to look the part. Perhaps I should paint it olive drab and scratch it up a bit.

I do promise that this will NOT be riding on Shoal Survivor's bike rack, dripping in salt. It's older sibling has inherited that chore.

PS. My wife tells me I have 2 mistresses now, both starting with "B": bike and boat. She's right. The past few nights have been consumed with tweeking and minor additions, just like the boat.