Sunday, September 30, 2012

Head of the Dog Scull Regatta

            Crew with tiaras                                       Crew with cowboy hats

             Crew with wolf or dog hats                      Crew with prison stripes

I had house guests for the weekend and Saturday morning I was talking about how entertaining it is to live on the water. No kidding. On a typical day, amongst the craft going by are a few rowing sculls, coming from a boathouse just above the island bridge that belongs to a group called the Portland Boat Club.

This Saturday was an entertainment jackpot day. First, a couple of scullers came past. Then more. Then more. Then two-person sculls. Then more. Then more. Then four-person sculls. Then more. Then more. Then four-person sculls with coxswains (an extra person facing forward calling out directives). We also couldn't help but notice lots of them were wearing costumes: see above and below.

I, still in my pajamas, walked out on the deck and yelled out to a couple of guys in a double, asking them what was going on. They said it was a race, although they were headed downriver randomly and no one looked like they were racing.

After awhile they started coming back upriver, and this did look like a race -- moving in multiples and faster with seeming intent. I went out and started taking photos.

Today I looked on the web to see what this was about -- it seemed like every sculler in the Portland metropolitan area was rowing past. It was the Portland Boat Club's second annual HOTDog or Head of the Dog Regatta. It cost $20 a head. Here's a link to their website and some information about the group:

"About PBC

The Portland Boat Club is a group of dedicated rowers, mostly scullers, in Portland, Oregon. Up until 1994, we were the Portland Rowing Club, a revival of one of the oldest rowing clubs west of the Mississippi, but following a legal split from a houseboat moorage of that name, we are the Portland Boat Club. We offer our members the benefits of belonging to a competitive club. We offer camaraderie with a focus on improving sculling performance, use of club boats, as well as moorage for privately owned boats. The Portland Boat Club is a member club of USRowing."

            Solo sculler in blue suit and bow tie     More solo scullers

           Doubles                                              Quad avoiding barge and tug

            Three sets of quads                              Route relative to deck

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hronk! Hronk! Goose scratch! Hronk! Hronk!

This is a follow-up to the Hronk! Hronk! earlier post.

I did my duty and went to Linnton Feed and Seed to buy cracked corn, as I had read about on line, to feed the geese, instead of bread.

But when I got there, I saw there were two bins, cracked corn labeled "Hen Scratch" and another one with mostly white "pebbles" labeled "Poultry and Duck food." Both were 60 cents a pound. Huh?

So I went and asked the person at the counter. She told me that cracked corn is like candy -- a snack for the birds, and not very nutritious. The "pebbles" in the other bin are dried soybean milk, which has a lot of protein and nutrients and is better for the birds. Since they were both the same price, she offered to give me a mix of the two -- nutrition and a snack (not hard to convince a most-health-food conscious chocolaholic) and I bought eight pounds' worth. The other option was to buy a 50-pound bag of one or the other.

Now I've got my super-duper goose food but when they came hronking and I threw it in the water -- it mostly sank, and by the immediate splashes, I figured the carp were getting it. At one point a carp must have come up right below one of the geese who screeched and flapped his wings and hurried away.

Okay, now what? The geese would get a little bit of it, but most of it sank. Then I discovered that there were some depressions in my float logs below, and that I could put a couple of handfulls in two different places, so two birds could eat at one time. The one that is all white (I'm guessing that one's the male) is more aggressive than the other and unless they had separate spots, the bird with gray on its wings wouldn't get anything.

I thought I would have to make sure to rinse the wood off every day so as not to attract rats, but not only do the geese eat every morsel, I realize wakes from passing boats wash it off continually, too.

I've now had to buy my second eight pounds, and also bought a small plastic container so I could keep the feed on the deck. I don't think this batch is going to last that long. Before, this pair used to come by maybe once or twice a day. Now they come by hronking VERY LOUDLY four or five times a day. I am going to have to go back on line to find out how many ounces a goose ought to eat a day and feed them accordingly.

(By the way, I got the above photo only by waiting very patiently until the goose got comfortable with me and my camera leaning way over the deck.)

Mystery of the mudded golf balls

First I saw one, then a second one, then another one. As the river level got lower over the dry summer days and months, I would spot more golf balls along shore as I paddled. Most of them were across from Bridgeview Moorage. I didn't know enough about golf to imagine someone could be driving balls from clear across the channel. Was someone up above on the dike playing golf? That notion seemed a crazy irony, since I was one of a gang of rabble-rousers who had stopped the development of a tournament golf course on the island in 1989.

I could not resist collecting each and every one that I saw. Some are white, some are yellow. Most of them I was able to pry out of the mud with my paddle, but a few were far enough from the water that I had to get out and squish through the mud.

I started asking people and learned that yes, a number of houseboaters -- including my neighbors two doors away -- do in fact drive golf balls off their decks for amusement. Were these golf balls worth anything? This neighbor pays his grandchildren 10 cents for each one they find when he takes them across the channel in his boat for golf-ball hunts. He offered me the same 10 cents for mine.

One day -- the jackpot day -- I found 13. I now have a total of 28. I thought my hard-pried collection was worth more to me than $2.80 so I have kept them.

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of The Houseboat Book by Barbara Flanagan. It looked quite wonderful, and besides, one of the houses in it is my neighbors'. Portland was one of the places where the author did a lot of research because, it turns out, Portland has more houseboats than anywhere in North America (pg. 146).

I almost rolled on the floor laughing when I read this description on page 76: "In Portland, Ron Schmidt has three platforms... on the deck, Schmidt has installed a patch of artificial turf to help him drive used golf balls across the river." Was a certain Ron Schmidt the originator of most of my golf balls? I googled him and discovered he lives at a different moorage at least 10 miles away.

I could email my friends who live at Bridgeview Moorage to ask who might have driven all these golf balls I unearthed, but I think I won't -- it will be more fun to learn some day serendipitously.

In the meantime, the river has gone even lower and I've not found a single other golf ball since the jackpot day a few weeks ago.

Not only is there a mystery golfer -- what causes the golf balls to land and stay stuck along just a few waterlines along shore and nowhere else?

UPDATE: As of October 19, 2012, I have thus far found 54 golf balls -- 11 yesterday.

Pocket your keys

One of the first bits of advice to a new houseboater is to pocket your keys. You are admonished not to hold keys in your hand while going down the ramp or along the walkway -- because it is far too easy to stop to talk to someone, or juggle your packages, or any little thing that takes away your attention -- and before you know it, your keys have fallen out of your hand and gone into the drink, nevermore to be seen.

Even the keys attached to a float, like that above, were lost -- I found them bobbing alongside my kayak one day when I was paddling.

So, from the get-go I have been extremely conscientious about not just putting keys in my pocket, but zipping them in my purse -- so they don't fall out if my purse gets lop-sided on my shoulder, or wiggles in the open-grid cart. Even when I go up to check the mail, I take a small shoulder bag and zip the mailbox key inside. This also gives me a place to put my mail so bills and letters don't blow away in the breeze as I'm walking back.

The next thing is to be sure to warn all your guests to put their keys in pocket or purse, lest they lose them to the river and not be able to even drive their cars to get home -- resulting, of course, in less than fond thoughts toward again visiting their riverhouse friends.

I ought'r see more otters

Phoo! I have been here nearly a year and have seen only one river otter -- and that one in quick passing outside my office window. I hear other neighbors talk about seeing them regularly. Sometimes I will be outside on the deck talking to a long-time houseboater who will hear the sound of the otters playing under my logs, or my neighbor's logs, but I can't recognize what they hear. Even if I did -- I want to see the otters, not just hear them. I love their playfulness in the water and scampering ways on land. I frequently hear and/or see the beaver who lives in the creek inlet across the way -- the beaver will splash its tail in warning when I get near and sometimes I get a glimpse of it. But not so for the elusive otters. I hope over time to see more -- lots more -- of them.

                                          Photo credit: Robert Barber/Painet Inc.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The first cormorant of autumn

art by Daurie Mangan-Dimuzio

I have to say I'm not an expert birder. But I also have to say that the birds I know, I KNOW.  Great blue heron -- check. Redwing blackbird -- yep. Belted kingfisher -- sure. American goldfinch --absolutely. So today I was not at all uncertain that I saw the first cormorant of autumn as I was paddling, just upriver of the last houseboat. I was elated.

When I moved here in November, cormorants were the birds I saw most often, landing and swimming in the waters outside my window, or lined up across the river on logs along the riverbank. This is their wintering range, but when they left in spring to nest, it was so imperceptible that I didn't notice it until they were all gone. Then I really missed them.

Where did they go? I wondered today. The Audubon Bird Encyclopedia says that their nesting range (they nest April through July) is along the Pacific coast from the Aleutians to s. Baja California.

In National Geographic's Field Guide to Birds of America, it shows our area as the winter range, the coast as the year-round range, and the breeding range (I have to look with a magnifying glass to make it out) appears to be northeastern Oregon and south central Oregon.

I think I recall river people saying "our birds" go to the Oregon coast, so I will ask around to find out more.They nest on rocky coasts, and that is certainly the Oregon coast. These are double-crested cormorants, which are the only cormorants likely to be seen inland around rivers. One of their most noticeable behaviors is to hold out their wings to dry in the sun (because unlike ducks, their wings are not completely weatherproof).

Welcome back, Phalacrocorax auritus. Good to see you here again.

Added on September 26:
I have now seen 17 cormorants. Mostly singles, except the three below flying off, that were together on a log. The one on the piling is the "classic" way we see them. I have seen only two flying past my houseboat -- I am looking forward to seeing them regularly out my windows like I did all last winter.

Added on December 4:
Yesterday, directly across from me, on a wooden structure lodged in the mud, sat 28 cormorants. I counted them through my spotting scope and watched as they spread their wings to dry. Right now I see three, accompanied by a heron, and two more in the water.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A tenderhouse by any other name

Oh, to be a wordsmith and own something known by a name that's not in the dictionary or encyclopedia. How can that be?

Over the last two months I hosted two Open Houses, taking more than 60 friends and neighbors on a tour of my new place, and when I would get to the tenderhouse -- a floating shed on the opposite side of the walkway -- and say, blah, blah, and this is the tenderhouse, inevitably people would ask "The what?" or "Where did that name come from?"

Being a wordsmith, of course I eventually got around to looking it up.
But to my disbelief ...
Neither tenderhouse nor tender house is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Nor in the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
Nor, oddly enough, could I find a definition via Google searching through a multitude of combinations of words.

A tender, of course, is a small boat that tends to a larger ship. Or, as Merriam says, ""A ship employed to attend other ships (as to supply provisions)" and "a boat or small steamer for communications between shore and a larger ship." But that's not what our tenderhouses are.

If I just googled "tenderhouse" I would get a ton of links to a website called written in a language that looked eastern European.
If I googled "tenderhouse""floating home" I would get a bunch of real estate ads for floating homes on sale, and it would give the dimensions of the tenderhouse included in the sale.
I tried "tender's house." I tried "tenderhouse" "Floating" and what all else I can't recall.  

Finally, I got to a county document of regulations that included "Chapter 15.16 Moorages and floating structures code."
In the list of definitions was this:
"Tender house means a noninhabitable, floating accessory building."

Some day I shall come upon a proper source.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dancing light

It's like one's own aurora borealis. Well, only one color -- white -- but the reflective rippling on the walls and ceilings is something I've always found magical, at friends' houseboats long before I had my own.

This past week has been especially wondrous, with sunny days full of bright light and wind to ripple the surface of the water. There's been a full moon, too, and through the night the light ripples brilliantly across the ceiling.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hronk! Hronk! We're here!

I had no intention of feeding them, the domestic and wild geese that come up to the deck, hronking like crazy. I have been feeding sunflower seed to birds for decades, and feeding hummingbirds -- but geese? Isn't that a no-no? Besides, I knew at least two other neighbors were feeding them so I knew they weren't going hungry.

But when spring and summer came and I spent more time out on the deck -- oh, and then they came by with their adorable chicks -- well, I couldn't resist. Anyway, how was that different from feeding the other birds, when it gets right down to it.

So, I've been feeding them, and all my visitors have succumbed as well.

Sometimes they get quite vicious -- pecking and hissing at each other -- which causes me to just give up and go inside. Sometime they hiss at me, too. I often sit on the deck with my legs dangling above the water and the geese have come and nudged my feet.

I have been feeding them whole wheat bread, corn chips, and other bird seed. It occurred to me that I should look up what I actually ought to be feeding them. I learned that white bread is bad, because there's little nutrition, and bread in general is bad because it fills up their stomachs quickly and gives them the false impression of being full. What you're supposed to feed them is cracked corn or goose feed. Tomorrow I plan to stop at Linnton Feed and Seed and get them the right stuff.


Wayward objects that float are there to be found, if you, as my mom would say, "open your good eye." I love the fantasy and serendipity of it. Especially when I paddle, because I gunkhole -- stick close to shore and keep a lookout for anything interesting -- I come across things either afloat, caught in vegetation along shore or half-buried in the mud. With my long double-bladed kayak paddle I can reach for and pry out things. Because my 2-1/2 paddling jaunts are solo and meditative, I always wonder what's the story with what I'm holding in my hand.

Actually the first "gift from the river" was the ceramic ram (below) that was in two pieces and wedged in still water near my front door step. It seemed a magical find and I wondered where it came from and how it got there. Did the piece break off when it hit or stopped at my lot flotation. Whose was it? The head is painted green but not the rest -- was the whole thing green at one time? Was the person who lost it sad? Where did it start its journey?

The above is a fishing lure that just came floating by my boat -- such happenstance. There's a wide river channel, but this, in a way, came to me. Looking like a ladybug, it's more charming than the other lures I've collected. Who lost it? What were they fishing for? How long had it been floating? If I were writing a children's book, I could tell the story from the viewpoint of the fish that saw it with a sigh of relief because it wouldn't get caught.

Then there's the little yellow boat. I spied something bright yellow along shore now the river is lower and it was jutting out of the mud. Where was the kid who was playing with this? Did it have a sail? Was it part of some other toy set? Again, where did it come from? How long was it there?

And then the beach ball. It was sitting, almost fully inflated, in a niche along the shore. Who lost it? Were a group of people playing with it -- on shore or on a boat? Did it get blown away in the wind so that they couldn't catch up and go after it? I hadn't seen a beach ball like this in a very long time -- it's the exact kind we played with as kids, and this ball here in Oregon took me right back to the shores of Keystone Lake in Pennsylvania where we dozens of post-war baby boomer cousins played together on Sundays.

The hat was sitting in the sand along shore. I can just imagine it flying off someone's head in the wind -- I always wear my Tilly hat when I'm on the water. It has a chin-band so it can't blow away, even in strong wind. I soaked the straw hat overnight to get out the sand. As soon as my boyfriend saw the hat, he confiscated it, and now with his purple sunglasses it's part of his essential banjo-bluesman look.

As I was writing this, I saw my blue boat go past. I keep it at my friend Mary's because her deck is lower and it's easier to get in and out of. She has a house-sitter who was taking her granddaughter for a paddle. I told them to keep their eyes open for treasures.

What's the difference between flotsam and jetsam? Flotsam is floating "wreckage" or cargo (or stuff in general), while jetsam is cargo that has been intentionally tossed, or jettisoned, from a ship to lighten the load in times of distress.