Saturday, January 3, 2015

End of year 2014 fishing and paddling trip.

We left on Christmas Eve from Outdoor Resorts to camp at Lopez, a mere 5 miles away. The winds were pretty stiff, blowing 15-20 and gusting from the south. Yes, a headwind and a new moon outgoing tide made for a long and strenuous paddle. That evening a very powerful storm roared through. We had figured it was going to hit around 6 pm so we had a very early dinner and set up the tarp to have a dry place to cook and eat. It rained some but nothing major until about midnight. Just before the storm hit and lightning flashed, the mullet were jumping out of the water hitting the side of the port-a-let and landing on the ground. It was a feeding frenzy! I was worried one or the trees on the site would get hit and fall on the tent, but we survived.

Christmas Day we left for Rabbit Key and followed the outgoing tide out; it was one of those negative tides. We walked the canoes from Turtle Key to Lumber Key! We went around Lumber and a huge flat was formed between Crate Key and Lumber so we could not continue and had to wait. I scoped out for some fishing in the lee of the NE winds that were 15 knots. I found a very deep area not too large adjacent to a point off Lumber. I caught a gorgeous 30 plus snook just working the area with the space guppy. Unfortunately, it wrapped around my stick-it pin and while trying to lip it, the leader frayed and off it went. I am sorry the lure was still in her but it is barbless so hopefully it will fall out. A nice red followed on same lure color and then the water started coming in.

Notice the pattern of fish catches at the end of an extreme low out here. Water came in and we were free to go to our second nights camp at Rabbit Key where Alex met us.

The next day was a paddling day to Watsons. The tide would be incoming on the Chatham at 11 am and winds now NE 10-15. My plan was to fish the Duck and Houston coves but when I got there the coves were bone dry and I only worked the points until Gun Rock. Again the best action was at the end of the low in barely any water. This time it was a 36" beauty using same lure.

I did catch trout along the way and a nice little red. Best action was the Huston cove points trout are everywhere. Strangely no maks or bluefish...

Lining up around Gun Rock to take the Huston to Storter then into the Chatam and the tide is still coming out and strong even after 11 am. We waited another hour but decided to go for it as maybe the wind was driving it out. It was a struggle but we got to Watsons and the tide did not reverse until much later that afternoon and brought in another friend, Kathy.

We had the campsite to ourselves until a skiff came in with two nice guys that had a heck of a time finding enough water to get there. They set up and went fishing, brought back a trout for dinner. Pretty bug free evening catching up with Kathy and Alex.

Next morning we headed to Darwin's a short paddle away with the intention of spending two days in the Gopher Creek area. The fog was thick this morning but the winds were low.   After setting up on an empty site with a CLEAN port-a-let (thanks to the Honey Barge that had arrived earlier).

We went into Gopher against a raging current. It was difficult to paddle to the first lake. The water levels are so high in here, I could have gotten lost. There were no mud banks dead trees exposed. There were numerous power boats all over (more than I have ever seen in here) and going into rookery and pelican bay because the water was so deep. If they continue speeding through the no wake zones and flying by without concern this place will become a pole troll only area. I got pissed off and just called it a day after getting almost swamped twice while trying to work the creek. Fishing was tough because the fish are scattered deep in the roots. You can hear the snook popping but good luck trying to get way up in there. BTW water never stops flowing out of this creek into Cannon Bay.

Darwin basecamp day two and the winds shifted to the SE. I decided to fish the barrier islands separating Chevalier and Cannon. Alex has left and Toby arrived later. The winds were problematic for fishing and my stick-it pin did not hold me where the fishing is good. I should have brought my anchor. Caught some small reds and a few pretty golden trout but no snook.

The fishing back here is not very good, much better on the outside. Night two and no other party shows up. It is getting warmer, where is winter? We had a bug free night thanks to twin Thermacells, a punk stick and our citronella Candelier. We had some good company as usual.Great to have Toby along tomorrow for his second run down to Turkey with us via Charley and Kathy's first.

Today we head out of the backcountry to Turkey Key via Charley Creek. We woke up to beautiful calm water and blue skies. In the creek we paddled again against that very strong current trying to get to Charley to ride the outgoing to Turkey. Now, how is it that the tide is outgoing and that current runs up into the bay? Is there an elevation change in the middle that funnels water out? A beautiful paddle and again had two boats almost buzz us in that creek, WTH is going on with these guys? It clearly says NO wake until you get to the first lake! One can tell the price of gas is under $2.50 a gallon.

The paddle past Rookery to Pelican bay is still gorgeous even with high water levels. The birds are not around feeding on the shallows as they usually are but there were some big lizards guarding the entrance to Charley creek. As we were going into the creek, the current started flowing out to the gulf. There were some snags to work around but no major obstructions to get through. We see ahead that the Turkey key SE spit was available with no campers on it. Good because the winds shifted to the SE for the two nights we were there and the weather is super warm, almost unpleasant.

Setting up to stay, we put up the tarp giving us sun shade. Since our last trip here we notice that the beach is almost gone. Like most islands this year we have visited, the sand has receeded and you have to camp in the grassy area full of stickers that puncture you skin and tent floor. I pulled out the fly fishing gear finally and start practicing my casting along the shoreline. Why have I forgotten my cast? I was doing so well and now can't seem to get it right. I practiced all afternoon until I had to stop because it really made my back stiff and painful. So now I have the side arm cast pretty good and maybe can cast out 40 yards at most. Tomorrow I will take the fly rod out on the canoe to test it.

The next morning was again foggy/windless and the tides were low, Toby had left early in the morning. I head to the mouth of Charley Creek to see if there were any fish there on the incoming. Connie had gone in towards Pelican Bay to photograph. I worked the area with topwater and weedless jigs but not much going on. Somehow the outgoing tide seems better for this area. Next I head over to the New Turkey Key area and catch a few trout. I saw numerous giant sized sheepshead in the shallows. I pulled out the fly rod and tried to cast far enough to the area they were at without spooking them. It is just not working well for me and that side arm cast is difficult from a seated even from a kneeling position. Will have to resort to using the fly rod on shore until I can figure this out, it truly is frustrating. I start heading back towards Turkey when I spot a huge fin working a point. Yes, there is a big black drum here and he/she is waving a large fin at me. I spent a good hour following this fish around and I tried everything even the shrimp lure scented with shrimp goop. It was not even caring that I was throwing everything near it sometimes on it. Well back to camp I have a nice trout to fry up for lunch.

Afterwards. I found another grass flat full of whiting and trout and had fun until it was time for cocktail hour and enjoy some time with Kathy before she leaves.

Final day at Turkey and of course the winds are shifting to the NE and picking up speed. I decide to hide from the wind between Buzzard and Plover that morning to fish the incoming. Again, starting with topwater and ending with jigs, caught nothing but trout and some big jacks. Back to camp to catch up on some reading and to rig the tarp for the rain that will be coming in again this afternoon.

It is New Years Eve and unfortunately, Kathy and Toby have left. We had the place to ourselves, there was no one on either Turkey or New Turkey, until just before dinner we spot some paddlers we had met at Darwins passing through. They were Tom, Thomas and Katy who were looping around the Rodgers River. They camped with us and were also going back to Watsons via Charley Creek the next day. The rain came and we all huddled under the tarp to tell stories until late that night. We always meet really interesting people out here and enjoyed their company.

The paddle towards Rabbit was in the fog and with higher winds during the first part of the morning. After we crossed Chatham Bend the winds stopped and the conditions were perfectly smooth. It was windless and getting warmer. I trolled and worked the beautiful Duck Rock cove and found the usual trout and jacks but could not really stop to work the coves as I wanted. It was very hot and without wind I really wanted to just get to camp and into some shade.

Once we got to Rabbit we pitched in the little high point next to the creek. It had trees and I wanted shade. As soon as we get there an armada of powerboats all head to Rabbit with dogs, kids, picnic baskets. One group set up right next to us and almost walk into our site. Hoping the outgoing tide comes quickly to rid the island of people. Yes, they were soon gone!

Later, Alex paid us a surprise visit on his way to Turkey and then looping around the Nightmare/Broad Creek area. We were really happy to see him. Soon after he left, a group of kayakers come in late blaring loud heavy metal music. Luckily we set up in here and away from the main island to get peace and quiet! That is what we get for camping so close to Chokoloskee on a holiday weekend.  By dinner time that group quieted down and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and campfire.

It rained again that night and the heat did not let up. We left at about 8 am and were at Havana CafĂ© having lunch by 11 after loading up the car.

This was an unusual trip for us with a lot of basecamping and relaxing. It is my 5th month after back surgery and we wanted to do a conservative trip with low mileage. Luckily, I am feeling pain-free and stronger each day.  It is good to have Connie and all my friends helping me with moving the heavy stuff at camp. This trip made me decide I really don't like to basecamp for more than two nights and I like to get as far away as I can from the noise. I wonder what our route will be next New Years 2015.  Any suggestions???

Connie wrote her version and included a very beautiful slide show with trip route here

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Remodeling the canoe for the upcoming season. Part 6 the finished product!

Since the last blog post, Jay had a few more tasks to finish. He had to screw the gunwales together through the hull and he plugged up the counterbores. A final sanding before the epoxy work on the gunwales. After that it was just a waiting game of varnish and wait. He said that for every layer which only takes 20 minutes he will have to wait 24 hours for it to dry. He has finished the seat webbing as well.

I asked him if he had to sand between coats.  He replied, "Not necessarily.  I did after the first coat.  I did not between coats 2 and 3".    The following are reasons for sanding:

1.    If you have a long time (@36+ hours) between coats. No chemical bonding.
2.    If you have a bug or some other blemish to sand out that happened in the previous coat.
3.    To knock down high points.  Not so much of a problem when varnishing over epoxy since the wood is sealed and has been sanded after the epoxy coat.
4.    I always do it prior to the final coat.

Jay sent me a message that after nine coats he is finally done with the varnish! I can pick her up!

Here is the finished canoe, picked up today from Jay and Ann's home.  Thank you both for putting up with the canoe in your garage all these months.  And Jay, I can't thank you enough.  My canoe will give me many more years of adventures thanks to your hard work.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Remodeling the canoe for the upcoming season - Part 5

Jay is back at it with another report from the shop. He has sanded down all of the thwarts and the seat and will let these cure for another week to start varnish. He also did some final shaping of the inwales and prepped them for installation.  He made sure the fit was perfect at bow and stern.

Blue tape was applied to the original screw holes to prevent the thickend epoxy from oozing out on to the hull.

More paper and more tape:

Grabbing every clamp at the shop a total of 71 used per side! The amount was too much and he had to use a 25lb weight to keep the canoe from tipping over.

It all held after he let them set overnight. I never doubted it for a moment!

The process was repeated for the outwales.  Not before making sure the tapered fit was perfect before installation at both bow and stern.

The same process of clamping and fitting for the outwales that was done for the inwales was repeated per side:

He started to varnish the seats and thwarts, the warmth of the golden color is going to look beautiful!

The outwales are attached and now the process of placing the decks and drilling the holes for the seat and thwarts begins.

Jay attaches the deck with  hot glue to hold the piece in place. He will then be able to drill over the counterbore. He told me that the hot glue formula he uses has good bonding strength but low shear strength. When he is finally ready to fit the deck, he removes the screws and taps the deck with a mallet it will pop right out. He will then clean off the glue and epoxy and screw it as a finished

All the seats, thwarts are now drilled after he measured and measured and measured. He only had one chance to drill and it had to be in the right spot. He has more patience than me!

Today he was working on the seat webbing and trying to get the right location before stapling it to the seat.

Stay tuned for next weeks report :-)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Remodeling the canoe for the upcoming season - Part 4

Another busy weekend getting the rails ready for installation. The new gunwales are a little thinner than the original 5/8" vs  3/4". Jay will add an 18" piece of ash at paddling station to be fed up around the seat drop.

Get out the round over bit, router table and feather boards, time to add some shape to the rails:

Preliminary shape of outwales. They will be rounder after the rail is attached to hull:

Here is the rough shape of the inwales:

Using a Dunmore hand grinder, Jay quickly drilled hundreds of shallow holes on the mating face of the gunwales to help the expoxy bite to the hull.

We have ordered the brass screws that will go under the bungs his dad is making. Here is a picture of what the bungs look like in Jay's canoe:

The thwarts, seat drop and carry handles will have carriage bolts made of silicone bronze. These are now ordered as well.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Remodeling the canoe for the upcoming season - Part 3

We decide to have the outwale and inwale sandwich the hull. Jay will scarf and then plane the rails again as in one piece. He will use a router to round the edges prior to installation.

Scarfs are planed to size, this is the outwale:

Dry fitting the deck:

Now starts the process of sanding and epoxy work:

The staple holes in the seats have been filled with thickened epoxy. It won't show once covered with webbing: