Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Trees of Harlowe Canal

Harlowe, NC took a beating during Hurricane Irene.  On our way to Cedar Island, NC for the 2011 WaterTribe NC Challenge, we paused in Harlowe and used our brightest light to check out the views of the Harlowe Canal from its three bridges.  

Bridge 1
At 9pm the current under Bridge 1 was running at about 2 knots in the unfavorable direction.  But wait!  That's not all you get....  Bridge 1 has a new feature:  a fallen pine tree which spans almost the entire width of the waterway.   The base of the trunk appeared to be roughly 1' in diameter.   The trunk is supported on those of its limbs that are pointed down into the water and bottom.  DogsLife was the first NCC arrival at Cedar Island to discover this fallen tree when he scouted the bridges earlier in the day.   As DogsLife said, it appears that the sea kayakers will have no problem gliding under the middle or around the top end of the fallen tree.  Looks like a sawing and pruning party for the rest of us.   Here are three views of that tree. 



Bridge 2
From Bridge 2 we could see that some collapsed tree limbs are resting on the power line.  Inspecting this feature from a bit of distance might be advisable as we float toward Bridge 2  --just to make sure the line has not fallen.  Also from Bridge 2 we could see the silouettes of several very tall trees that are now leaning high over the canal.  This suggests more trees may be in the process of falling over the coming weeks or months.

Bridge 3
Do we really need to scout Bridge 3?  

During the NCC,  if the WaterTribe Challenge Tracking Map shows a large number of challengers all piling up at one spot on the map near Harlowe, NC ....  well......   they may have just discovered a "new feature" of the adventure race.

Update:  Tree from Bridge #1 in Daylight  
(from Christine Cochran)


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

WaterTribe NC Challenge begins September 30, 2011


Silver pieces of eight and gold doubloons
The third annual NCC begins Friday at 7:00am on Cedar Island. In sea kayaks, trimarans, catamarans, and mono-hulls,  more than 60 individuals are on the confirmed roster for the 100mile adventure race around Cedar Island.  Two kayakers are on for the 50 mile race to the check point in Beaufort, NC.  Pirate treasure awaits the finishers.

SOS and I are aiming to complete our third NCC.  While we are sailing and rowing the Dawn Patrol,  SandyBottom will be taking on the much greater challenges the NCC offers sea kayakers.  In 2009 and 2010 she organized and managed the NCC.   This year she is looking forward to being on the water in her QCC 600 kayak. 

For all of us who take longer than half a day to finish,  it is certain that one of the challenges of this NCC will be late September's lack of moon light.

Moon phases calendar
Current weather forecasts suggest a range of conditions as a predicted cold front arrives. Temperatures on Friday and Saturday will range from 80°F down to 60°F.  Friday might be somewhat like that in the 2010 NCC:  warm and sunny with light winds.  Or, Friday or Saturday may look to be much like that in the 2009 NCC:  cool with heavy or high winds from the north or northwest.  Will we be beating into headwinds the entire way?

The adventure is about to begin.  The Dawn Patrol's SPOT track during the 2011 NCC should be available (click here).

SPOT in the bag
(or copy and paste the following URL in your browser... )

Today the WaterTribe Challenge Tracking Map shows challengers recent test locations (paddling/sailing on lakes and rivers, or at home).   During the NCC it will use SPOT tracking data to show the tracks and positions of all the challengers.
WaterTribe Challenge Tracking Map (here)

Track of the Dawn Patrol in the 2009 NCC

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Waterproof Photography

"Digital Photography Review"  recently compared six waterproof cameras that would like to find homes aboard small craft, kayaks and canoes.   The article  seems "just in time" since our ancient waterproof camera died a few days ago.

Digital Photography Review compared 6 waterproof cameras in August, 2011
  The Review Article

The cameras compared in this helpful review article:
         Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
         Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
         Sony Cyber-shot TX10
         Fujifilm FinePix XP30
         Olympus Tough TG-810
         Ricoh PX
Of course, there are many other reviews available. We found helpful for comparing pairs of cameras.

Pentax Optio WPi
Pentax Optio WPi   ( 2006 - 2011, R.I.P. )

During the past five years we enjoyed taking a few thousand snap shots / videos with our compact Optio WPi.  In spite of heavy use when kayaking and sailing,  it was still a solid performer to the very end.  Suddenly, it fails to boot up now.  The "on" light comes on, but that is the only response.  To turn it off we have to remove the battery.  Perhaps it is in an electronic coma.  

The WPi seemed fine and healthy when it came home from a two-day trip (41 photos).  Here are the last three photos taken with the WPi.

Cedar Island kayaking,  6:09pm August 20
(by SandyBottom)

Dolphins in Cedar Island Bay on a foggy morning, 7:36am August 21 
(by SandyBottom)

For recreational photography, the WPi has enhanced our sailing and kayaking experiences in many ways. After 5 years the time had come to replace the WPi. 

Choosing a replacement was not easy!  But no complaints here; it is a good thing that there is currently a good number of makes and models from which to choose. The most recent batch of entries in this niche market features dozens of enhancements and improvements.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-Ts3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 (Silver)

We chose the recently released Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3.
This is "version 3" following the TS2.

We put it to work immediately at home and SandyBottom is planning to give it a try kayaking in the 2011 WaterTribe NC Challenge

It is easy to use and remarkably familiar.   The controls and menu systems are clear and intuitive.  

On boot-up the display first reminds the user to make certain the camera door is locked  --and how to do that. This does not delay taking a photo however, because pressing the shutter-release immediately on boot-up takes precedence.

To save battery time,  we will tend to not use some of the features; for example,  the GPS,  compass,  barometer,  altimeter,  face recognition,  etc.

Favorite color ?
Waterproof compact digital cameras on the market today offer dozens of features,  specifications,  and pros and cons to consider. Choice of make and model of camera depends on the user's preferences about dozens of practical and technical considerations. 


Pentax Optio WG-1
with or without a built-in GPS
Pentax Optio WG-1

During the years that we were enjoying the WPi,  Pentax marched out a series of new versions:  W10, W20, W30, W60, W80, W90, and most recently the WG-1 and the WG-1 GPS.   The Optio models remain the only waterproof cameras that have offered time-lapse photography (a.k.a.,  "auto drive" or "interval shooting"). Every new model seemed to add a few more features and enhancements. We certainly expected that we would eventually replace the WPi with a newer Pentax model.
Among it's many features, the new WG-1 models include a 1cm macro mode with LED lighting,  and rugged build that can make claims as crush-proof, freeze-proof, and shock-proof.  Options include the built in GPS for geo-tagging photos (about $50),  and a small waterproof remote control (about $30).
Choosing between the Pentax and the Panasonic models was a tough call that required weighing many trade-offs and pros and cons.  

Nikon  CoolPix  AW100 with 3" Display
Nikon CoolPix AW100

Had we known about it, we might have considered Nikon's new entry....  the CoolPix AW100.  As of September 2011 it is available for purchase (e.g., at but there are not yet many reviews of this model.  Does it produce better images?  I don't know, but it seems it may be a strong competitor for space in the pocket for your PDF. 

Like most of its competitors it is waterproof, shock-proof, freeze-proof, ruggedly built for the outdoors. Take it diving to a depth of 33 feet.  It has a 16-(effective)-megapixel CMOS sensor.   Some features can be controlled by shaking it.  A GPS and compass are built in.   It is smaller, lighter, and more costly than the TS3
Colors: orange, blue, white, black, camoflage.

But wait,  that's not all you get!   It has ....  maps!

Map of  the locations of your photos

What Comes Next?

Perhaps we will see a rugged waterproof compact camera that combines all the functions of  a great 20 megapixel camera,  a GPS-map chartplotter,  a personal locator beacon (PLB),   and a smart phone with cellular, wireless, bluetooth, and satellite connectivity.   
Naturally, this $300 device will become available the day after you spend $300 on a cool new waterproof camera that does not have a built-in chartplotter,  PLB, and smart phone. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

The Bridges of Harlowe Canal

Bridge 2
(KiwiBird paddling,  photo by SandyBottom)
The 2011 WaterTribe NC Challenge is coming September 30.  Hurricane Irene left her marks on the 100mile course:   fallen tree limbs in the Harlowe waterway,  large floating / semi-floating debris in the rivers and sounds,  scrambled pound nets in Core Sound, and a very healthy crop of hungry mosquitos.  As recently as a week ago there was also a large shrimp boat parked in the center of Harlowe Creek.  And... no doubt the shoals are not exactly where we left them a year ago. 

The 2009 NCC featured clouds, light rain, hard rain and high winds.  The 2010 NCC served us hot sunny weather with light and vanishing winds.  It seems the 2011 NCC may have its own unique challenges.  Think of what to say when the Coast Guard asks why you have a chain saw in your boat.

The Three Bridges Video

Here is a brief  (1 min 27 sec) look at the three Harlowe bridges before Irene.

Most of these photos are from a cruise by DSWB and SOS from Oriental to Beaufort and back on May 21-22, 2011.  I took them with my mobile phone,  which explains the low resolution.  

National Bridge Inventory database

The Harlowe Waterway  versus  the ICW on Adams Creek

On that cruise, for a change of pace, we decided to enjoy sailing north on the Harlowe waterway. Considering how much quieter and more scenic the Harlowe was relative to the the ICW (Adams Creek, ICW Canal, Core Creek), we regretted using the ICW to sail south. No boat wakes and barges on the Harlowe.

Oriental to Beaufort via the ICW on May 21 (red)
Beaufort to Oriental via Harlowe on May 22  (blue)

Oriental and Beaufort

We launched the 'Dawn Patrol' from this well-kept public boat ramp at about 9:30am Saturday May 21 and returned at 3:00pm Sunday May 22. The boat ramp is in a great location for access to Oriental's harbor and the Neuse River. I would recommend it. Special thanks to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Great public boat ramp in Oriental

Out of Oriental we crossed the Neuse, sailed/motored down the ICW south-bound to Newport River, and entered the Beaufort area. We sailed past sailing replicas of the "Nina" and "Pinta" near Beaufort's Smith Airport. The drawbridge operator said he liked our "sharpie".  In Beaufort we stayed docked on the waterfront overnight. 

Arrival at Beaufort Docks

Summer Practicing and Some Are Not

On arrival in Beaufort we met some WaterTribe friends there:  DogsLife and his son Mike were arriving at  "Checkpoint 1".   They completed the entire NCC 100mile course.  Well done!

DogsLife and son Mike practicing for the NC Challenge

At checkpoint 1 of the NC Challenge
North via the Harlowe

Sunday we sailed north on the Newport River and entered the Harlowe waterway  (Harlowe Creek, Harlowe canal, Clubfoot Creek).  The Harlowe is a beautiful  route for boats that can pass under its three fixed bridges.  Relative to using the ICW,  we spent less time inland and more time on the Newport and Neuse Rivers.

On this short cruise the winds were often light or vanishing, the weather hot, and we were on a limited schedule so we did use our 2hp Honda motor --especially on the ICW and under the Harlowe bridges. 

The winds finally kicked in as we crossed the Neuse River.  Flying into Oriental on a fast spinnaker run hitting 10 knots was a happy ending.

Great dinner Sunday evening:  Little Italy in Bayboro, NC