A weekend escaping on the water


This is a seriously long blog. I’m sorry for that, but an incident I witnessed this weekend keeps running through my head, especially in light of our current events, and especially since it would have otherwise been a “good distraction” weekend, with our South Jersey Chapter of Surfrider Foundation’s “International Surfing Event” on Saturday and the Clearwater Hudson River Revival on Sunday. 

I wasn’t counting, originally, on being able to help out Erik Baard and his merry crew of volunteers at HarborLAB (learning, adventure, boating), but he put out the call for more help and I was able to go, so happy day! Croton-on-the-Hudson is a gorgeous venue, with NY’s rolling hills as backdrop to the wide part of the Hudson north of the Tappan Zee Bridge, and the Clearwater Revival is an awesome event. Erik’s core group of merry volunteers are also just a ton of fun, full of personality and spirit, wonderfully diverse and committed to educating local New Yorkers of all ages about their watery environment. You really can’t find a more welcoming crowd of water folk, and the bonds we have after even now only two days together on the water seem to be the kind to last a lifetime. 

One thing I kept forgetting throughout the day, though, was that I was wearing a shirt with a Maryland blue-claw on it that I picked up at the Point Lookout general store, my hang-out in during the violent storm that turned my tent into a tumbleweed. The shirt has this giant crab on it along with the words “Free Hugs.” It took me a little off-guard to have folks suddenly reach out to me for their free hugs. I’ve worn this shirt before, but no one ever took me up on the offer. I’m so glad the festival folks reached out, we could all use a hug now and then, and especially now!

One update that I just have to toss in…our National Ocean Policy that we worked so hard on has been repealed. Well, we’ll just have to start over. This time, it will be even better, I’m sure, with even more recreational user input in it, plus maybe the educational aspect that was present in “Oceans21” will be added, and maybe bays and estuaries will also be included in the policy next time. Speaking of user-groups, in light of this past weekend’s sobering water-related incident I witnessed, I figured I’d start out with a few of my more memorable observations related to recreational use on the waterways, so here we go— 

My observations and thoughts of recreation and navigation on our waterways and how we coexist among motorized craft, and what I’ve seen as far as law enforcement or not, posted (sorta) as a list: 

-waterways are almost a “last frontier,” in a sense, where the individual keeps a look out and provides assistance to others as needed. There are marked channels (unless you are in the back bays of the coastal Delmarva Peninsula between Chincoteague and Oyster), but not everyone, particularly PWC (personal watercraft like jet skis) & smaller motorized boats, always stays in them. There are rules, but not everyone seems to follow them, and keeping a lookout and staying watchful is always the best policy. Boaters don’t always look, and accidents and near misses are the norm. People also tend to boat and drink at the same time. It is most definitely a place where boundaries are fairly flexible.

-watched a drug hand-off via two PWC to a person sitting on a river bank at the mouth of the Rancocas (2014)-I don’t think the drug being handed off was pot, though. (read about how the town of Everglades City was totally busted—the WHOLE town-I did not witness this event, of course) Reading this article with its the description of the Thousand Islands, I have zero clues how I navigated that area back in ’09. I had no map and was too cheap to buy charts for my GPS.

-there is a marina in Camden that has a ton of sea worthy vessels, but no one out on a sunny, summer weekend mid-day, which is odd considering that boat and water lovers will use any excuse to hang out with their boats. while exploring on land, my family and I were shooed away by a “guard” in an old, white beat up Cutlass type sedan at the land-entrance to this very marina. The driver was a heavy set white guy.

-two white guys by this marina behind Petty’s Island felt comfortable enough to smoke pot on the waters there, outside of the channel. I’m a firm believer that pot should be legalized, but still, right now it’s not and doing something like that shows a certain comfort level with illegal activity on the water.

-no wake zones abound, but not all of them are patrolled. Generally speaking, in areas of greater wealth, at least judging by the boats and home sizes, you might see a marine officer. USCG presence is variable in such places. I’ve never really seen anyone approached for anything in no wake zones.

-I’ve been mildly questioned by marine police- in the Florida ICW, forget what area-might have been Fort Lauderdale area-when I was taking photos of a beautiful spot of mangroves up for sale on the waters edge. The officer asked me if I had a PFD and whistle. He might have asked me where I was going, too, but I can’t really remember.

-a Florida fisherman told me how homeowners on the ICW have chased him away from their properties, even though the water is public domaine.

-I’ve been taken in (I did NOT make a call for assistance to the USCG, they knew I was in the area because I alerted them, when I left Newport, OR, that I would paddle into their bar at such and such a time. In OR & WA, the USCG has the authority to close down and/or restrict harbor entrances, so it’s a good idea to let them know in advance if you plan on crossing their “bars” so they can alert you if conditions kick, as they always seem to do in OR, so you can find an alternate landing spot or not, IF they end up closing or restricting their bars) by the USCG on the West Coast, but to be fair, they had suffered a loss-a helicopter that went down days earlier, killing three out of four on board. They also wanted to make sure that I was prepared to be out there, that my lack of preparation wouldn’t cause them to have to risk their lives-their end advice to me after trying to shut down my freedom to paddle from Seattle to San Diego: get a new PFD (cause mine was “dinghy”), flares, and more sandwiches. 

-rescue by the AC USCG unit when my boat came apart in April ’10 (I had a loose screw…yea, I know what you’re thinking!!!) For that rescue my family and I are forever grateful and it kills me that this most worthy of all branches of military, now part of DHS, is constantly having its budget cut. Here is one of my favorite books about the USCG. I’m glad I read it AFTER my West Coast paddle, as it might have REALLY scared me away from doing that crazy adventure for our ocean.

-it seems a great number of fishermen on the West Coast have had their asses saved at one time or another by the USCG-this info I gleaned from conversations with a captain who hosted June and me on his boat-his crew cooked up the best fresh fish dinner ever. 

-chatting with a lock master on the Erie Canal: when I noted that there were a couple of Russian guys manning one of the locks, the lockmaster’s immediate reaction was “OH, the RUSSIANS, THEY get to do whatever THEY want at their locks.” I just thought that was funny. We had been talking about Albany’s crookedness which I maintain is NUTIN like NJ’s crookedness, at least not like in South Jersey. People don’t know it unless they are dialed in a bit, but the Russian Mafia has a pretty strong presence in NYC. Word has it that it’s taken over the Italian Mafia. But of course that is just the word on the street…

-while paddling to Jersey Paddler’s “Paddesport Expo” (sadly no more), chatted with a lady officer with a gorgeous police dog, walking along the waterfront of Burlington City. I mentioned where I thought drugs were entering in Camden. She told me to “be careful, there is nothing you can do about it, you are only one person.” I thought that was really an odd thing for a LEO to say.

-In general, in the summer I try to stay out of the busy bays. Better on the ocean, right behind the impact zone. Back bays are okay in the morning and before 5p, before everyone’s had one too many drinks on the water. The Barnegat Bay area is insane with recreational traffic zipping everywhere, no matter what the time. When I do paddle in the back bays I frequently find myself seeking shelter alongside fishing boats.

Florida has a pretty big problem with boaters and booze. But this in no way limited to Florida. This was an issue which prompted NRDC to reach out to a private, exclusive marina when wind pushed back the arrival to my chosen destination past dark. A week prior a motor boater had run into another motor boater with the result being a fatality or two (can’t remember the number, know it was at least one).

Exclusive areas with big homes along rivers and coasts mean more marine police and authorities who question your right to be on the water, well, I should qualify, that this has been my observation at least in Florida and along Long Island’s Eastern shore. I’ve even had a cop car drive out and park on the beach as I paddled along the coast from Hampton Bays, NY, to Montauk. It was like he was warning me to not even think about landing there. I’ve seen signs, private signs, telling me I couldn’t go on certain waterways, that they were “private.” Since when is a navigable waterway “private?” 

One of my FB friends lost his daughter when she was diving and a motor boater ran over her, despite her diving flag being up and a boat with a person watching nearby. Another friend narrowly missed death when the same thing happened to her-but she might have been out of the country. 

I paddled in Lake George, forget which year that was, at the request of a friend who was working with the American Canoe Association on a “share the water” campaign because motor boaters have had run-ins with kayakers, with the kayakers being killed. 

I’ve never witnessed marine police accosting, other than myself in rich white areas, or ticketing anyone, certainly never tying up to a boat and pulling them away from a group with which they were clearly associated.

That changed when I was helping out with a wonderful little organization, Harbor LAB (“learning, adventure, boating”), which was getting folks on the water at the Clearwater Hudson River Revival. Erik Baard heads up this merry group of enviro-focused paddlers, and provides learning experiences on the water for kids and young adults. 

Also at the Clearwater event was another awesome organization with a boat building program that gets kids on the water who would not normally get on the water. Clearwater wisely recognizes that we protect what we love, so they partner with organizations that get folks on the water so that they might bring even more folks to the water protector fold. 

Everywhere you go, though, the demographic of water users and lovers is pretty monochromatic. Whether it’s rowing, sailing, paddling, racing kayaks/canoes, swimming, or life-guarding, it’s mostly white. Most motorboaters are also white. The fishermen that line the banks of the nation’s waterways are way more diverse than the folks in and actually on the water or participating in competitive & non-competitve water sports.

I’ve never really seen a a marine police officer board or force a boat to tie up. I’ve seen them, on rare occasions, tell people to slow down, but never one that went after a boat, made it tie up, motored off a distance with it, and kept it detained for more than 15 minutes. 

There’s a first for everything. I had watched some of the kids-they were late teens, early twenties-but they are KIDS(I call anyone under 25 a “kid,” and it seems that neuroscience and the field of psychiatry might support that opinion-“Longitudinal neuroimaging studies demonstrate that the adolescent brain continues to mature well into the 20s” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892678/ ) —associated with one of the water-based orgs at the Clearwater event. They goofed around a bit, did some yahooing which I’d expect from any kid, hell, I’d almost gotten run over by former President George H. Bush (in his 80’s!!) doing the same thing coming into the inlet at Kennebunkport. He came in at like mock 10 and could have almost clobbered me, if I hadn’t scooted over to the jetty the minute I saw the nose of his boat. He cut his engine but he’d been going so fast his security detail almost slammed into him. This is just what folks tend to do on the water-a little yahooing, and our former President was no exception. Why would a youthfully exuberant group of guys in a boat be any different?

Anyway, the kids steered their vessel toward their organization’s two catamarans. It was all in good fun and not like anything I’d never seen before on the water. Heck, I’d even once had a couple of angry, hostile guys try to toss me a wake in the Gulf of Mexico (not a very intimidating wake, not even a fun, ridable one). The kids, though, weren’t being aggressive, they were just having fun. Besides, they calmed it down and were about to tow the sailboats in, so the joy-ride was soon over. 

Even though it was quite obvious the guys had settled to the task of bringing in the sailboats, the big West Chester County Marine Police boat came out, a sullen, somber presence all in gray on the water. 

An officer called out via loudspeaker, “Inflatable, come here.” 

I was watching, thinking that the officers would just give them a “what for” and “slow it down” like what I’d seen on rare occasions in other areas, or harmlessly check them out as has happened to me on occasion, when I’m in ritzy rich areas. I certainly wasn’t prepared to see what happened next.

The officers tied up the inflatable with the kids still in it and then motored off, taking the inflatable and the kids far away from the activities of the Clearwater event. We could no longer see very easily what was going on, and we certainly couldn’t hear what was going on. That concerned me. All those kids on the inflatable were blessed with melanin-rich skin. Living in a mostly white community and having experiences in mostly white communities, like the one in which we were, I was immediately concerned about the safety of the kids. I’ve had folks in white communities, my home town and other towns I frequent as well as white towns in other parts of the country, assume that, because I’m white, with blonde hair and blue eyes, that I subscribe to certain negative opinions they have about certain folks with skin tone darker than mine. It’s always been horrifying, and shocking, but it has taught me about the insidious nature of racism in this country. We can’t ignore it away. Anywho, I wish I could say cops treat everyone the same, but I know better, and I’ve seen and heard evidence of unfairness of treatment on many occasions. It bears repeating that we don’t have a #BlackLivesMatter movement in this country for nothing. 

The kids were with the cops for what seemed like forever. It could have been twenty minutes, it could have been longer. I thought about all my little run-ins with law enforcement, both on the water and on the road, as well as at protests. I couldn’t imagine anything would happen with all of us watching, but why did the marine police tow those kids so far away? Why did they do that? Wasn’t this a little much for youthful exuberance? After all, I have a friend here in my very aforementioned white home town who’s kid had a raging party while she and her husband were away. Cops were called, and warnings given, and that was that. Her kid should have been busted for underage drinking and creating a public nuisance. But he and his buds weren’t. Would that have happened if they were of a different demographic, if they weren’t white? I don’t think so, and I’ve sat in enough courtrooms, due to my lead foot, to know so .

So what was going on here? Why were these kids towed out and why was it taking so long to give them what really should have been a simple warning? They were with a nonprofit, for God sakes, that gets kids on the water. They were clearly now focused on the task at hand of bringing the sailboats in. Wasn’t this a little heavy handed, though, even if they weren’t associated with a nonprofit? All sorts of things were running thru my head. I’d NEVER seen this type of heavy handedness on the water before. With the free-for-all that our waterways become in the summer, you’d think being a yahoo and doing stupid things is just part of being on the water-not that it makes it right, it doesn’t, we do need more enforcement, but it needs to be fare-and these kids had stopped their yahooing as soon as they got to their sailboats. 

It seemed way excessive to me, how these cops were targeting these kids. After the drug drop I had witnessed, the near misses because of TRULY cavalier behavior, the speeding in no wake zones, it seemed a little surreal to see such targeting of basically normal-behavior on the water. But their skin color. That is really all I had, really the only thing that seemed so obviously different to me from all the other times I’ve witnessed shenanigans on the water and, in my mind, the only reason why these kids were getting the book thrown at them, why the marine police towed them off, away from our view and hearing.

In the end, the kids got two tickets. Both tickets should be tossed out. Apparently they got a ticket for making wakes in a no wake zone (this should have been a warning, especially since it was short lived once they got to the sailboats they were bringing in) and for improper registration, which is odd, because the vessel is registered. Maybe the cop didn’t look hard enough? Really, they should have just gotten off with a warning. These are kids, for goodness sakes, a stern word would have done the trick. 

I went up later to talk to one of the kids who had been on the boat. He had this look on his face, you could see the whole experience traumatized him. I didn’t know what to say, what could I say? Except, I’m glad you’re here, I’m glad you’re on the water with us, and I’m sorry for your experience with those assholes. 

Day 21- The March for the Ocean

It’s been a week since I’ve been home, a week since our amazing March for the Ocean. Even my little non-activist mother-turned-activist went. We had quite the crowd there-folks came in buses, some flew in from California; ocean lovers turned it up in a big way that day.

The day started early. I had slept the night before at Jim Foster’s Anacostia Watershed Society’s office after the very fun and productive sign making party at the Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center , which is a really cool place to visit-they run enviro programs for kids in the city there-and there is quite a bit of history there. Matthew Henson was the first African-American to explore the North Pole . There was a chance that some folks might show up since Jim offered to make his office a flop house for the night, but no one did, so it was just me in an office that, seems like a theme, is undergoing renovation so there was no running water. But there was a composting potty, so that was good, and drinking water, plus some water in a jug for hand washing. Staying at Jim’s worked out perfectly-it allowed for an early start and it gave me a place to keep my canoe, as it would have been impossible to park our car with my canoe on top in the hotel parking deck. Plus, I could get up and out the door without waking up the family, a major bonus. Thank you, Jim!
I did wake up during the night to check on the boat, because, as usual, someone would not let my wine glass be empty and I kept drinking it like an idiot. So of course I wanted to double check my knots and make sure the canoe hadn’t floated downstream with the tonnage of flood-related jetsam and trash. It hadn’t, but it was collecting, in places, some of this trash. The debris was a minefield to paddle thru, and there was no sign of it abating anytime soon. The Army Corps was doing it’s best to clear stuff out, as all the logs and big pieces of debris are definite hazards to navigation, but the incredible volume of stuff is completely overwhelming their efforts.
In the morning I rolled out of bed and easily paddled the mile or so to the Anacostia Community Boathouse, which was already bustling with activity. I saw folks at the outrigger canoe dock-and was thrilled to see that National Capital Area Outrigger Canoe Club was assembling to have a three boat practice and join me on the water. Even better yet, they had room for Julia in the canoe! She got to sit in seat five and seemed to really enjoy herself with Matt Butcher patiently coaching her from the steersman’s seat.
A couple of kayaks came out along with Veronica, an amazing SUP paddler who has her paddle outfitted with a net so she can grab trash as she paddles. Rodrigo and Natalie joined us at Jim’s office, and more folks came out along the way. We assembled at The Wharf for a great group photo-which I just realized I haven’t seen yet! We had Nautifoods coffee and donuts, all donated by Nautifoods which is a floating cafe. Definitely check it out if you are on the water in the capital area-and they are going to be getting paper straws for their awesome cold coffees!-and yes, you can rent kayaks and SUPs on both the Potomac and the Anacostia.
Things sort of fell apart a little bit because folks went in different directions after our group shot. It was getting late and folks definitely wanted to get to the march on time. I had arranged, with Jim’s help, for two slips at the Wharf but it’s a big place, and I had zero clues where this might be in relation to where I was. It wasn’t the kayak rental place, for sure, but where was it? Mild panic started to set in. I poked around a bit and saw a spot that was most definitely not crowded with boats, and figured that that must be the area, or near the area, or maybe someone from that area might know the person, whose name I had forgotten, and could direct me to where that person worked and the area where I was supposed to be… so after frantic calls to my husband, who has a mirror email account, I was able to get the name-and other names-and yes, I was in the right spot! What a problem when technology doesn’t work as it should which is what seems to be happening with my new iPhone and why I couldn’t check my emails myself. The lack of service ever since paddling by Wallops NASA station has been surreal-especially since I NEVER have had any problems with Verizon before, not even when I paddled this route ten years ago. You’d think service would be better, but in my case, it was worse! Should I be paranoid? After all, this regime is doing some pretty horrific things to our environment and to people, and with net neutrality gone, who knows?
 So once I found the right place to be there was yet another issue-I had no bumpers, no rope, nothing to tie my canoe to the dock. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. We had a fabulous paddle down, totally relaxing, but even Natalie and Rodrigo, in their slower craft, were worried about our time crunch. After all, we still had to walk to the March and get there in time to say a few words at the start.
 And then there was Julia. We hemmed and hawed a bit about whether Julia should paddle back to the boathouse or disembark and meet up with Carl & the family. We opted to go along with the plan we last communicated with Carl-to have her get off at The Wharf. Except she didn’t know, because I didn’t know, at that point where I was going to end up. So I had her walk down toward the Anacostia…which ended up being the wrong direction.
 It was a minor shit show. Julia wandered The Wharf and I had no clue where to go and no way to get in touch with her to let her know where I now was. For once I was cursing my decision to not let her have a cell phone til she’s in high school.
 So there I sat with no way to tie up my canoe and Julia meandering around looking for me and the clock is ticking. In between bouts of mental cursing rants, I look up and see a tall guy with a beard and a “March for the Ocean” shirt. A friendly!! And even better yet, my cousin, Steve! He had parked his car and was walking over to the March when he saw me. So he strolled over. Meanwhile, the wonderful folks at the docks dig up some ropes and bumpers for me, just as my husband also dropped off ropes and bumpers. Then Amanda O’Neill, an intrepid local sailor, came up with Julia-or did she? I can’t remember how we finally found Julia but it all worked out-my cousin Steve directed us to the monument-thank goodness he came right at that time! Putscher-Howard power-my late dad and his late mother, my dad’s big sister, must have had something to do with our finding each other and making it to the March on time.
 The rest of the day was a blur-it really was, as much as I tried to savor and remember it, even the hot humid heat and threatening storm clouds-the Heirs to the Ocean impressed the crowd as did all the speakers, but there is something about articulate young kids up there on the stage, our future, actually involving themselves in this sometimes stressful process we call democracy. I’m glad the kids were able to speak before the lightning flashed across the sky and the park folks cleared us out. It’s sort of poetic, that the young folks have the last word. After all, they more than us older folks will have their lives impacted by what we don’t do for, and what we continue to do to, our ocean.
 Much thanks to David Helvarg and Blue Frontier Campaign for having the vision and commitment to see this first annual March for the Ocean thru, and for Mike and his life-sized Blue Whale. The march was huge and awesome and it will only grow. We are a force, and the more folks who love the ocean realize what they have to lose, the more they will come out and march. Here in this country, the PEOPLE truly DO have the POWER. As long as we don’t allow nefarious forces to divide us, we will be alright.
 So let’s keep marching and fighting, y’all. It might be inconvenient to get to all these marches, make all these phone calls to our electeds, it’s annoying to write letters to our editors and sometimes risk the scorn we get for being “the squeaky wheels” in our communities, but there is too much to lose by sitting on the side-lines, and yes, our kids, our ocean, our planet, is very much worth fighting for, however we can. The Heirs to Our Ocean impressed us all, THIS is why we march and why we won’t stop-our love for our kids and our ocean on which we all depend for life is our motivation. And we will not stop until the threats to our ocean and to humanity do. Paddles up and forward ho! Emua!

Day 20 – June 7th – Fairview Beach to Anacostia


This is the next to last day-and I probably won’t do another blog until Monday-cause I hope no one who cares about the ocean is at home to read it. I hope we’re all marching.

So today Rodrigo, Natalie, and I savored THE perfect day on the water. Glassy and calm, we paddled with the incoming tide by woods full of eagles and ospreys, cotton ball clouds and perfect blue sky. It really was the most magical and relaxing day of this whole adventure. We did have flotsam and tons of plastic trash to navigate around, too much for us to take with us, so that was a little depressing, but it also hardened our resolve to keep doing what we are doing, to make changes and educate folks whenever and wherever we can about what we are doing to our ocean and how we can be a part of the solution to at least fixing the plastic problem.

We glided on to Mallows Bay, which I misnamed “Marrow Bay,” a bay I had paddler by on the West Coast. Mallows Bay is a shipwreck graveyard. Of course the vessels that rise above the river now have osprey nests on them. Seeing the nests on various structures one wonders where ospreys built their nests before people made docks and houses over the water or sunk boats in bays. It’s a wonderment, sorta like wondering where chimney swifts roosted before there were chimneys. The things we ponder while paddling!

Jim Foster, our water angel, was waiting for us when we arrived early this afternoon. He waited patiently while we set up camp, showered, and then we headed out to a wonderful barbecue spot which would have been better if not for the styrofoam containers. Ugh! But it WAS excellent barbecue but holy heck, let’s ditch the styro. I did buy an iced tea in a can and used the new stainless steel straw that Jim brought us. From now on I’m going to make a point of going out with the straw-needless to say, straws are all over the place at the beach and they were all over mixed in with the flotsam floating down the Potomac.

There are so many things we can do to make things better for our ocean and our downstream neighbors-stopping with the single use plastics is an easy-ish first step.  And marching is another great way! We need these marches to show our electeds and the general population that our amazing ocean resource is too valuable to be abused as we currently are doing. No ocean, no us, and that is why we will march, and why we will continue with our advocacy, and why we can never shut up. Our future generations would never forgive us if we turned a deliberate blind eye to the harm we cause. The least we can do is try to get folks to wake up. Protecting our watersheds, protecting our rivers, protecting our bays and lakes, it all helps us protect our ocean, the creature that live there, and us.

I do take it as a good sign that I’ve seen way more ospreys and bald eagles than I remember seeing ten years ago when I did this paddle. It’s fitting, in a way, to see so many eagles, after all, the Eagles DID finally win a super bowl, and I take that as a good sign, too.

Oh! The music we were listening to was also a name I flubbed in my previous blog-it’s “bossanova.” That and blue grass are prefect  to listen to while floating along a glassy river.

Day 19 – June 6th – Colonial Beach to Fairview Beach

My total bad for not mentioning two key players in this last stretch, without whom this would absolutely not be possible. Jana Mars, who has a water/SUP-lifestyle and yoga shop in Philly https://aquavida.com , and who has partnered with Clean Ocean Action in various adventures, made the trip down the day before her daughter’s birthday to help us out. Without her help we would not have been able to get all the gear we had from Point Lookout to Coles Marina and then to the Monroe Bay Campground where then yet another trail angel, Jim Foster of the Anacostia Watershed Society https://www.anacostiaws.org , picked up. Jana even so gamely slept in Rodrigo and Natalie’s roomy tent, where we had such a nice view of the river.

These ocean missions would not be possible without the help of so many, and for sure this paddle to the March for the Ocean on June 9th is no different. Where we have our tents pitched now is under the tent of an outdoor bar, which as luck would have it was closed yesterday so we have the place to ourselves. We were going to stop at the Fairview Beach Yacht Club, which is right next door, but Jim figured we needed a little shade,  after having been beaten up by wind and sun. It IS the perfect place. We’re powering up our electronics and yesterday we had a good meal at the other Tim’s restaurant here.

Yesterday’s windy paddle had me digging in hard against chop and snotty mess, not the worst I’ve been in but it was consistent and slow. I felt like I was making good headway to the bridge, as I was approaching Dogren Naval grounds, when I heard a big heart stopping boom. I continued to paddle on a little bit, talking on the phone to David Helvarg, who had called shortly after the blast. I was going to put on my marine radio to see about getting information when I noticed a Range Control boat making a beeline for me. They suggested I wait in the little river entrance nearby and that they would signal when the tests were over. They had four more rounds to set off and then it’d be clear. It was kinda cool to see the splash of the ordinance while also realizing that that was the general area where I would have been if I hadn’t been pulled out do the way. Apparently they don’t have specific days for when they do their tests, so perhaps today I’ll radio to see if anything is going on at Quantico when go by that. Last time I was this way I had some near misses there, and no one ever came out, but, as the Range Control officer pointed out, I am hard to see.

Today Rodrigo and Natalie will join me for this leg, where we hope to be by Morrow Bay, I think it is. It’s NOAA’s newest marine sanctuary so we figured we’d have a peak. It’ll be a nice casual paddle, which is good because yesterday was a total slam fest to make headway against wind and swollen tide & current. We are going to have a late start because low tide is at 9, and we most definitely want to go up with the incoming tide tho we probably won’t feel it’s push til noon, since there is such a strong downward current from all the flooding.

Jim decided to sleep in his car since he’d have a four hour round trip otherwise. He and Jana and Rodrigo and Natalie are the hero’s of this leg-I’ve been using Rodrigo’s hotspot when I have no service or WiFi. Fortunately there is very good WiFi here at Rick’s. We have our own little ban of “the usual suspects,” we’re just missing a piano player. But we WILL have music on Saturday!

The water quality right now is also pretty suspect. Water levels are ridiculously high due to all the rain, and with this flooding comes a mixed bag of pollution-lots if run-off from people’s yards, combined sewer systems being inundated and releasing raw sewage into the water, and hazardous debris and trash heading out to the ocean. I didn’t want to hop in the water to pee, so I pulled up at Caledon State Park, where the cleanest port’o potties on the planet are. If you break there, or camp there, you won’t help but notice that, while the grounds are clean, the water’s edge is littered with trash, mostly plastic, from upstream. That would be the perfect site for a clean up party/campout trip. I would definitely be game for that and I bet Rodrigo and Natalie would, too.

I am so looking forward to today’s relaxing paddle with company and to paddling in to the sign making party at the Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center! I’m hoping to arrive anywhere between 4-5. Even my little mother will be there! So it’ll be my whole immediate family, minus the conure, the parakeet, and the crazy-Co dog. Can’t wait to see them and make some signs!

Day 18 – June 5th – Hague to Colonial Beach


The cold front blew in around 2:30 this morning, making our tents rustle in the breeze. Yesterday Rodrigo and Natalie joined me for a full day on the water. We left a little late, but enjoyed the beauty of the blue skies, the bald eagles soaring all over Westmoreland  Park, and appreciating the various architectural prowess of the ospreys in this area. There is definitely a need for more osprey nesting sites. Some folks had ospreys nest right on their docks, and there were at least three osprey nests on various rooftops, including a big one with weeds and grasses growing out of it on top of a bar. I’ve never seen that before.

We did have a bit of wind and subsequent chop, but Natalie and Rodrigo peddled their inflatable Hobie sailing kayak merrily along, while listening to Brazilian bosova music, sort of a soft jazz. It was quite the site, I imagine, our two unique vessels making headway up the river. We did catch the eye of a park ranger in his truck, who slowly drove by and kept up with us on land. I guess he thought we might be trying to stealth camp on state park property.

We were on our way to Monroe Bay Campground, which has the perfect beach campground as well as exceptionally clean and beautiful showers, which look newly renovated-and they are definitely not, with their gorgeous tile work and rock work on the floors of the showers, your average run of the mill camp showers. The people are very friendly here, and I am so thankful for Natalie arranging this spot for us.

We enjoyed our dinner while watching it pour buckets in the bay we had just crossed not too long before. Natalie and Rodrigo had done a ton of cooking, and have almost every conceivable Yeti bag made. They even out-Yeti my brother, I think, who has quite the collection. So we enjoyed the food they made and desert, too!

Our dinner and conversation was cut a little short tho, as a swan family came on the beach and made a point of letting us know our time was up. Rodrigo grabbed my paddle and stood on the picnic table to back them down a little, while we scrambled to get our things and give the swans the space they so clearly demanded. Swans can be mean. My best friend at home holds a grudge against them for an article she read about one killing a Jack Russel terrier.

I’m aiming for an early start today, if I plan it right I could catch the tide up to King George. We’ll see. There is a lot of water moving down the river and a lot of debris, too, from all the flooding. But we are definitely inching our way to DC-we should be there on the 8th for that sign making party! I’m so looking forward to seeing my family-even my mother-there at this event!!

Day 17 – June 4th – Point Lookout to Hague, VA


don’t understand how I’ve had service all over the country but now trying to get it on this last leg up the Potomac is a real issue, but it is what it is. Rodrigo and Natalie joined the adventure on the rainiest day ever on this paddle journey to DC for the March for the Ocean. They came out on Sunday to Point Lookout during torrential downpours and seriously insane wind blowing out of the North East. And it was cold, on top of it. 

I spent the day hunkered down in the lee of the wind, at Bob’s camp store-a little oasis, really, I had service, warm tea, coffee, and snacks while working on emails and my blog for the day plus a blog for the next day. I thought I was so on top of it all, in that little spot, with the wind howling. The Chesapeake pounded the little land bridge that connects the campground to the Point docks and beaches relentlessly. I should have figured that the little stakes holding my tent down would not be up to the task.

After helping Rodrigo and Natalie set up their tent in a sweet little protected spot, we went to check out my tent. Apparently it turned into a giant tumbleweed and was blowing against the site’s electrical hook-up. Someone had tied my footprint to the picnic bench. Everything inside, my clothes, new towel, sleeping bag, mattress, everything was soaked. Rodrigo, Natalie, Heather, their friend who drove them out, and I scrambled to gather everything up in the rain and repitch the tent at their more protected site.

We then drove all my wet stuff to the camp office to see if there was a dryer or something I could use. We were directed to a nearby laundry mat, where Heather dropped me off. We figured I could Lyft or Uber my way back to the campground, or maybe just pay some person, anyone I could find, really, to get me back. It was looking a little grim-there were a few guys who came in, did laundry, but couldn’t help out. 

I set myself to the task of drying out my stuff and charging my phones, which fortunately charged really quickly. Other than not knowing how I was going to get back to the campground it wasn’t too bad. I even shoved my air mattress in the dryer, on low, for ten minutes (50 cents!) and got that dry, too. The laundry was nice and warm, I could make myself a peanut butter sandwich, and was fairly comfortable. But I still had no way back to the campground and Lyft was taking forever to load.

Then this energetic spritely woman with a massive load of laundry came in. She talked as much as me and in very short order offered to help me out. An angel!! Rebecca was a real hoot, we swapped stories and frustrations and time zipped by. Thank goodness there was a little all-nite convenience store adjacent to the laundry. There I was able to grab paper towels to sop up the puddles in my tent as well as water to continue hydrating. It turned out to be perfect. 

Rebecca patiently waited in her car in the rain while I dried out my tent. I also mad the unfortunate discover that I had neglected to grab a soaking wet shirt and my paddle gear, as well as the soaked bags for my mattress, tent, and sleeping bag. Ugh. Fortunately there was some park staff shooting the breeze right outside our camping spot. After I told them my tale of woe, they mentioned that there ARE washers and dryers at the campground for the camp hosts to use, and that they would see if the camp host would help me out. It was a lucky break to find this out as I was told otherwise, but no matter, it all worked out for the best and I got the remainder of my stuff dried out. Oh happy day! 

Getting the clip holding the rain sheet onto the tent itself I jammed was icing on the cake. It didn’t matter now that I was short on sleep, I was heading out the next day. Because of the anticipated wind forecast, Rodrigo and Natalie didn’t join me on that leg. They waited for our trail angel, Jana, of Aquavida in Philly, to come down and cart all of our things to Coles Marina, which is where we are now and which would be the perfect venue for a race. It is GORGEOUS and we are camping close to the water, where the lapping of Potomac’s little waves put us right to sleep. 

Coles Marina is a wonderful destination for anyone on the water. The people are all friendly, the food and drink good, and once again the locals make it. Talking to the kids here it seems they would be really game for an outrigger canoe club. I sat and chatted with Peggy Morris, who I expected to buy a beer but who I think paid MY tab!!! I didn’t realize it until she left and the bar tender said it was all taken care of.  We had a wonderful time talking about her kids when they were young, her husband, and the car her son had bought her one Christmas. Her kids and grand kids live far away and she doesn’t get to see them as much as she’d like. Hopefully that will change after she has cataract surgery. 

It sure is a sweet little spot here, I almost hate to leave, but it’s getting time to break camp and move on. Ah, the life of a transient paddler! But I am so looking forward to seeing my family and to the march.

Day 16 – June 3rd – Leaving from Point Lookout

The other night, while walking under the porch area of the bathroom, a slimy thing brushed my foot. I looked down to see a little tree frog hop up onto the wall. Closer inspection revealed two heads, but it wasn’t a two headed frog, of course, but two frogs mating, which would explain why they weren’t paying attention to where they hopping in tandem when they brushed across my foot.

When I walked by them a little later, they had separated. The larger of the two looked straight ahead, as if denying her indiscretion. The smaller one cocked his little head and stared at me, as if wondering why i had interrupted them. He kept his head cutely angled at me for as long as I gazed at him, letting me fully absorb his cute amphibian-ness. I wish I had had my cell phone with me so I could have taken a photo, but I did not. No matter, that memory of an adorable little tree frog looking at me while I looked at him will stay etched in my brain.

Walking back from the Potomac swim I watched an osprey chase a bald eagle away from its nest. There are osprey nests all over the place here, as well as blue herons. I haven’t seen any pelicans, but they are around here, I know, as I saw them while paddling here on Friday.

It’s sort of sad to leave this most endangered of state parks. It’s been a sweet little respite, the staff are incredible, and the time for quiet contemplation has been invaluable. But Natalie and Rodrigo are here, and we have our plans plus the sign making and March for the Ocean to look forward to. I say this is probably one of the most endangered parks because this place sits pretty squarely at sea level. The puddles here are fairly permanent, and they will surely only grow. Climate change will progress, and this sweet spot will disappear. It’s a pretty safe bet that by the time my kids are my age (51), they this place will no longer be a campable State Park. Enjoy it while it’s here! I sure hope I can get my kids back to this place before it’s swallowed up by the river and the Chesapeake.

Onward to Coles Marina in Hague, VA! The wind will be in our faces, as will the stuff current from the Potomac River. It will not be an easy 20 mile paddle, that’s for sure. An early start is essential, even tho that means the current will be at its strongest. So we will inch along and enjoy the scenery more than if we were flying by it.

Day 15 – June 2nd – At Point Lookout


Point Lookout is for amphibian lovers. It’s also a perfect place for water lovers of all types-fishermen, boaters, paddlers, swimmers, and today if SUP surf wet and wild outrigger downwinders are your thing you could even surf the incredible wind swells on the Chesapeake, but you’d hafta bail before you smack into the bulkhead that protects the road from pounding NE’sters like the one ripping thru here right now.

When I looked at weather two days ago, the forecast was for rain and light NNW winds, I think. Well, it’s a downpour of epic proportions with thunder and the whole nine yards to boot. Wind gusts of 25. Glad to be sitting this one out but boy will this mean more of a workout going uphill on the Potomac.
Yesterday I enjoyed my day off by watching the annual Potomac River Swim which benefits a ton of orgs devoted to keeping our watersheds and rivers healthy and clean. As it all goes downstream and out to the ocean, the hard work of these orgs also benefits that giant, global playground and life-giving, job-providing resource. You can check out the swim and the orgs that benefit from it here- http://www.potomacriverswim.com/
Cheryl W, the fearless organizer of this amazing event, invited me to do a little spiel about why I’m paddling from AC2DC and the March for the Ocean on June 9th. It was great fun to hang out with the swimmers and their escort kayaks-every swimmer has a kayaker devoted to him or her in addition to motorized safety vessels.
I gave those swimmers a ton of credit. First off, that Potomac is full on flooding right now. You KNOW that upstream sewer plants are taxed to the max and run-off from all these storms means more crap you don’t want to know about in that water they’re swimming in for hours. Plus, the downward flow of the river actually overpowers the push of the incoming tide. I had noticed how slowly I was moving upstream despite the fact I was hitting the Potomac and crossing at peak flood. My boat sits light and high on the water, making it a great vessel for going against current, no way could I imagine swimming that route.
The first place finisher noted that he was an hour slower than the previous year, and a few past participants had to be pulled from the water. For sure it will be a slog tomorrow to Hague for us. I’m looking forward to the company of Rodrigo and Natalie, plus am curious to see what they’ve been cooking up for provisions! They will surely need every ounce of energy they can eat up for tomorrow’s paddle and crossing. Wind is supposed to really blow in the afternoon, so an early start will be needed.
Right now I’m enjoying sitting here at the camp store by the kayak launch and boat docks. The porch is nice and wide, and I can look out at the little lake which goes to the river. It’s getting totally pummeled by rain. I’m hoping my tent will still be standing and dry by the time I get back to it.
Bob, the manager of the store, has been wonderful. He even shared his secret stash of Stone Cold Creamery ice-cream coffee creamer with me. And by the time I finally made it here he had a citronella candle burning at the picnic table which is serving as my desk right now. He’s gone out of his way to help me, as it seems everyone at this campground has. They truly are fantastic here. I hope I can convince my family to come here and camp-I wanted to poke around here more at the historic sites today but the deluge killed all hopes of that.  Hopefully it will let up by the time Natalie and Rodrigo get here so they can at least get their tents set up before the next deluge hits.
Right now it looks like it’s going to rain forever-no sign of it easing off. I do wish the camp stores sold books! With next to no WiFi books would be perfect. Besides, I’m really hankering to read that book about Cape Charles. Such characters there!
Today on my walk to the store and “my office” I picked up a bunch of plastic bags, cups with lids, plastic water bottles, and two styrofoam cups along with plastic fishing lure wrappers and various other plastic fishing related stuff. I really wish bait shops would make sure they tell fishermen to throw their stuff away properly, and recycle what they can. Or maybe schools should be better about teaching kids to pick up after themselves so they don’t grow into adults who leave their trash everywhere? It gets me annoyed that we all hafta suffer when parents fall down on the job of making their kids clean up after themselves. If parents would do their jobs teaching their kids to be responsible for their trash then we wouldn’t have adults tossing trash around. I mean really, what the heck is up with that? It’s so easy to take out your trash and recycling and put it in its place. Why not just do it?
Education is never ending. We don’t need to yell at people, just ask them kindly to pick up their trash. And we need to be persistent. I bet most folks who litter have no thought at all how damaging it is to or ocean and the creatures in it, or how it works it’s way into the food chain and the very fish the fishermen love to eat!
The sky seems to be lightening a little bit, so hopefully soon I can make my way back to my tent. I suppose tho, I should not be in such a rush. I do have a lot of phone calls to make, and this IS the only protected place with the most reliable internet. Plus, it’s fun to take a break and chat with Bob. He has a smarty pants daughter doing amazing things and an extremely talented musical genius son, who’s YouTube links I’ll get to share when Bob gets back from some of his chores. Oh look! Found a link to one of his songs. Check Hayden Warren out-he’s pretty damn good-he writes his own songs, plays ALL the instruments and puts it all together. Pretty amazing. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Goosh5P8R4c
For the Ocean!

Day 14 – June 1st – Tangier Island to Point Lookout


Some people might write off Point Lookout as mosquito infested swamp, but when you’ve paddled across the Chesapeake and then across the Potomac, and completely lucked out with conditions and the fact that your gerryrigged gear held with minimal issues the whole way, well, it’s pretty much an oasis. Yea, there are a lotta bugs but with minimal effort you can keep them out of your tent and patiently kill the ones  that made it inside. The camp rangers and staff are out of this world helpful and kind, which also really helps make a place appealing.

I landed at the kayak/canoe launch by the general store. They had a few sandwiches which I should have bought but I didn’t, as well as hamburger rolls, which I also didn’t buy along with the regular swag and stuff you find in camp stores. Friendly Bob who works there helped me with my canoe-it’s stored safely in their locked enclosure where I’m happy to see none of the standing  kayaks fell on it in last night’s strong winds.

Bob called the rangers who then came out and drove me all over to where I needed to be to register for two nights stay. I’m also gonna take a third so Rodrigo and Natalie and I can all launch together for Coles Marina in Hague, VA, on Monday. Zack from the park here was immensely helpful. He drove me to the registration office which also had a little store with peanut butter and other odds and ends but no rolls or bread! Go figure. So poor Zack took me back to the store where I landed so I could buy those rolls and other odds and ends for dinner. Then he drove me back to my campsite. Really, the folks go out of their way to be helpful. Kindness is always so appreciated!

Later I met John and Beverly who are the volunteer camp hosts. John offered to drive me to Walmart to pick up any supplies and I might just take him up on that. It’s pretty much going to be peanut butter and nutella for the next couple of nights-breakfast lunch & dinner, tho maybe I’ll splurge on a pre-made “Greek style” sandwich here at the store. But at Walmart I might be able to buy a book, which would be a nice thing to have as where one can get internet is seriously spotty. If not here at the camp store by the launch, then it’s standing on a road with a bazillion mosquitos munching on you.

The mosquitos, people are not going to believe this, tho, are actually a small price to pay to fall asleep to the most amazing chorus of frogs I’ve ever heard outside of the Pine Barrens in my home state. If you are quick you can get in and out of your tent with minimal mosquitos and other biting things getting in. Then if some do, and I’ve been lucky to have just a few come in, you just sit quietly with your light on and wait for them to land on you. They are hungry so it never takes long. Then you wack em. Totally worth it to be lulled to sleep by these precocious frogs.

I am actually really proud of myself that my rigging held from Tangier to here. Definitely a major highlight. The current on the Potomac right now is pretty strong form the deluges of rain we’ve been getting, even countering the extremely strong incoming tide up the Chesapeake. It was a bit of a slog by the lighthouse at Smith Point, and always a little nerve-wracking to be going so slowly, or feeling as if one is going slowly, across a shipping channel.

Fortunately the night before I left, Jeff, a staff person at CBF, brought up charts so I could see where the shipping channel was. This was good because it helped ease my mind a bit and even tho I think the vessel I first saw was a little outside the channel, it did let me know that I was nearing the land I still could not see.

Once I inched my way past the lighthouse, I was home free for the first part and now paddling enough on the VA side to see Point Lookout and paddle across. Along the way I saw a pod of dolphins hunting the menhaden or whatever it was I’d been seeing all over the place. I even got some photos of distant fins. Despite the incoming tide I needed to dig in to make headway. The Potomac is super swollen right now. When the westerly aspect of the wind kicked up I started thinking about my options, but Hague, which is on the VA side, was 22 miles away while Point Lookout was less than 9.

I kinda figured since I could now see the Point maybe I should just shoot for it, especially since it looked pretty decent, despite the wind. Once I moved off away from the land, an even larger pod of dolphins followed by a photographer in a boat crossed my bow and the wind completely dropped off to a refreshing breeze. It was pretty incredible. This pod was even larger than the first one I saw. It was almost like they were a sign telling me, “cross NOW.”

Eventually the swollen Potomac pancaked out, with minimal gear shifting bumps diminishing to nonexistent bumps. It was almost glass-like in its surface. So I slogged my way to the campground, my personal oasis.

And now I’m here, where I’m going to sign off from my blog and check out the swimmers who are swimming from VA to here. Apparently this is a fundraising swim for a variety of clean water interests. So I am REALLY glad I’m sitting out a paddling day! Maybe some of them will be interested in paddling in DC and/or marching for the ocean with us on June 9th!

For the Ocean!

Day 13 – May 31st – Onancock to Tangier Island


I’m here on “the point,” Port Isobel of Tangier, listening to the birds welcome the day and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s boat creaking in its moorings. The wind hasn’t started quite yet but it will, SSW and then SW and W before clocking more to SE. Hopefully the more westerly aspect won’t pick up until I’m at least within site of land and maybe even a few miles from it.

One of the staff, Jeff,  brought up a chart yesterday so I could see where the shipping channel is. There is kind of nothing quite so worrying as being in open water and not knowing when you need to gun it across the channel, and to see a vessel on the horizon and not know where you need to be to stay out of its way. Generally speaking, you want to not be in front of it.

I arrived yesterday in time enough to scramble for WiFi, so I could do the little ten minute or so video blurb on Ecowatch’s FB page. Someone commented that I looked like I had been huffing paint because of the zinc oxide smeared on my face. Clearly the commentator didn’t know it was zinc oxide and that if you are out in the sun you will be fried, as I’ve already unfortunately allowed once in this trip, without it. Ah well! This ain’t no beauty pageant!

I got a brief little tour of Tangier-grabbed a flounder sandwich and a salad at Lorraine’s along with a tiny painting I’m going to somehow squish in my bags. Then Luke and Jeff of CBF treated me to ice cream. Perfect day, and I’m glad I decided to stay instead of continuing on.

The CBF center here rubs three day camps for kids to learn all about their watershed and the “bay life.” They set crab pots and spend the day outside learning about the ecology of the place and how they impact it, no matter where they come from within this watershed. The Chesapeake Bay’s watershed is enormous, encompassing the surrounding lands and further up the many rivers that feed into it. I remember paddling to DC in ‘08 but from the C&D canal and snapping photos of corn growing right up to the water’s edge. Crazy. The kids and their parents might be impacting the watersheds, for sure they are, but the corn on the bay and the chicken farmers in PA whose run-off hits the Susquehanna are doing way more damage than a few families. But heck, we need it all, we need to educate the people and we need policy to protect us, well, if we want to keep our resources healthy and us healthy, that is.

Education is a huge part of why I’m paddling why I have paddled all over and why,  after I’m done paddling long distances away from my family, I will continue to keep organizing and educating. It needs to be nonstop and we DO need policy to ensure our bays and rivers and ocean are protected. It’s also why this upcoming March for the Ocean is so important. It’s a tremendous tool to educate and show our electeds AND the powers that be that are so now running the show that we wIll stand up for our ocean and our water. Both need to be clean and both are required for life.

I really, really, really, really hope we can make a big stink for our Ocean on June 9th. It’s going to be fun! So grab a boat and meet me along the way and we’ll have a nice short paddle (only about 4 miles) from the Anacostia Community Boathouse to The Wharf where we’ll tie up and walk to the march. I can’t wait. This is the LEAST we can do for our ocean!!! (Hey, ditch your single use plastics, that’s a pretty big thing, but it’s a very good thing, too!)

For the Ocean!