Our Latest (Toughest) Canoe Trip

We May Not Have To Trade In Our New Canoe After All

As I mentioned in the discussion on our page for Royal Terns, I managed to flip our new canoe shortly after Nancy got that shot. Although I believe that was the first time I’ve ever done that to Nancy, it really damaged her confidence. She has been more hesitant about our canoeing adventures ever since. She has even been considering trading in our new canoe for another model. It might be too early to tell, but that may have all changed after our last trip out of Lake Kissimmee State Park.

Our New Canoe

We bought the Kevlar Flex-core Wenonah Escape, a 17½-ft, 53-pound canoe, because our old 75-pound, 17-ft, aluminum Grumman seemed to be getting heavier every time we used it. We got that canoe less than six months before our Cedar Key trip and had used it only about eight times. But we had already noticed that although our new canoe was faster in calm conditions, without the small keel of the Grumman, it was much more sensitive to weather conditions. Especially in a crosswind, the weight distribution of our gear was now critical; too much weight aft and the wind would tend to turn the vessel away from the wind, and having the center of gravity too far forward would turn the canoe into the wind.

The Cedar Key Trip


We were in Cedar Key for the 53rd Annual Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, but decided to stay around for a few days to explore. When we began the canoe trip that morning, it was a beautiful, sunny day. The winds remained about 5 knots throughout most of the day. Our first stop was on the first island, Atsena Otie Key, about a mile south, to get pictures of downtown Cedar Key. Then we were off to Seahorse Key, a couple of miles further to the southwest, to get lighthouse pictures and such. The “Royal Terns” was one of Nancy’s last photos, taken just before 5 pm. The wind started to pick up as we headed back to Cedar Key. By the time we passed Grassy Key (about 2/3 of the way back), winds were approaching 15 knots and we were in the trough of a chop that was higher than one foot. As the wind was picking up, I was spending more and more effort maintaining our course and less force was devoted to making forward progress. I was wearing out, so decided that I needed to shift some weight forward. That’s when I made some critical errors in judgment. Without alerting Nancy, I raised up just enough to lift a gear bag over the next thwart. But that was too much. I clearly overestimated the stability of the canoe and the seriousness of our situation. We flipped.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
So how should we have handled these conditions? There’s always more than one way to skin a cat, but I should have first told Nancy what I was about to do. Instead of staying in the trough, we could have let the wind help us to a downwind heading (which is much more stable). Then Nancy could have stabilized the canoe with her paddle while I made the necessary ballast adjustments. And although I tended to attribute my lack of judgment to a lack of familiarity with our new canoe, I can’t guarantee the Grumman would have survived the original operation either.


Most of our gear was in dry bags but Nancy hadn’t put away her best camera and lens before we started the crossing. From the water, we righted the canoe, rounded up and returned most of our gear to the canoe, and from inside the waterlogged canoe, paddled or swam to shallower water west of Atsena Otie Key. There we could stand up and touch bottom, bail out the canoe, and continue to the Cedar Key harbor. From there, we immediately called Canon to see how best we could preserve the equipment. They said we didn’t need to do anything except mail it to them so they could take care of it. But they couldn’t. We had to buy a new Canon EOS 7D body and 100-400mm zoom lens. Oww.

Lake Kissimmee State Park

At Lake Kissimmee State Parkofficial website, there is the Buster Island Loop Paddling Trail, which winds over eleven miles. Nancy has brought her school camping club here before and they have canoed this trail. We planned to follow our traditional routine of launching just west of the bridge to the cow camp, heading west along Zipprer Canal into Lake Rosalie, then south to Rosalie Creek, where we paddle to Tiger Lake, then east-northeast to Tiger Creek.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
For what it’s worth, on an earlier trip with Nancy’s school camping club, it was at a spot on Tiger Creek, just before you get to Lake Kissimmee, on a decent beach before the line of trees on the right (south) side that parallels the Lake Kissimmee shore, that they found the subject model for Barred Owl.


Tiger Creek leads to Lake Kissimmee, and then it’s a shorter paddle northwest to the east entrance to the Zipprer Canal. From there, the journey ends at the State Park Marina, just a short hike around the water structure from the starting point.

The Trip

This trip started normal enough. It was mostly sunny at first and windy, but we didn’t feel the wind below the banks, and especially in the tree-lined sections of Zipprer Canal. Lake Rosalie was another story. By then, the wind was seventeen to twenty-four knots out of the southwest, which means its fetch was essentially the whole length of the lake. As we entered the lake we were paddling directly into waves of at least 1½ feet. We were paddling full speed ahead and Nancy was really getting pounded riding up (and down) in the bow. (Where I came from, you’d have to pay at least a quarter to get this much excitement). It was Nancy’s understanding that we should be hugging the shoreline where it would be flatter, a misconception apparently held by many people. It is only flatter near the windward shore, where there is no fetch, or distance the wind has blown over the water to build up the waves. On the leeward (away from the wind) side where we were, there is no relief; the waves are as high as they are going to get.

Protocol

Whether in the front or the back, a straight stroke along the side of the canoe will tend to turn the canoe away from that side. Normally, the two paddlers would be stroking on opposite sides of the canoe – one on port and one on starboard (right as you face forward) to cancel out their individual turning forces. You should change sides on a regular, but not too frequent basis. When one needs to change sides, they call out so both paddlers change sides together. The weaker paddler (or the photographer if they are not the same person) would usually be in the bow. The stern paddler is normally responsible for course corrections and casual maneuvering. S/he does this by adding a little side flip or “J” to their stroke as necessary. If the strength of the paddlers is the same, few “J”s would be necessary. In other circumstances, they may be required on every stroke. Tight curves, as found in many creeks in Florida (like the two mentioned below, for example), require turning effort from both paddlers. Nancy taught canoeing in her previous day-job. She knows more strokes than I do and is very good.

Since we’ve owned this new canoe, I’ve had to make modifications to the standard tandem canoeing protocol/etiquette. As a crosswind picks up, I’ve started making sure the stern paddler (which is I) is stroking on the lee side (or on the same side as the wind is trying to blow the bow) to better counteract that force. When the wind is really strong, I ask the bow paddler (Nancy) to shift so that we are both on that side.

Lake Rosalie

At first, we are paddling directly into the wind. Our next waypoint, the next creek entrance, hidden in the tall grass, is about 45° off the port (left) bow. The problem is, under our current wind conditions I soon discovered that if I let the bow get over 30° off the wind, then even with both of us paddling hard from the leeward side or even using one of the turning strokes, it takes quite a while (and a lull in the wind) to bring the bow back on course. Paddling in the trough of an occasional 2-foot chop isn’t something I was going to let happen. As we got into the middle of the lake (and the bearing to our waypoint approached the beam), the waves are slightly smaller and the wind shows signs of weakening (at least part of the time). We changed course so the wind came from about 30° off the starboard bow, which is as far off the wind as I felt we could reliably recover from. Then we eased off on the power a bit (when not recovering from a gust) and let our leeway (the sideways direction and speed that the wind is impacting us) make up the difference in course angle. We eventually find and enter Rosalie Creek.

Rosalie Creek is narrow, winding, picturesque, and protected for the most part. Nancy is able to photograph. There is some current, which makes station-keeping a little more difficult, especially since I’m already tired. We enjoy the view and the rest, and then we enter Tiger Lake.

Tiger Lake and Lake Kissimmee

As we enter Tiger Lake, we see an osprey catch a fish. Then an eagle tries to take the fish. We watched a remarkable aerial display that lasted at least five minutes. The osprey had a tighter turning radius but the eagle was never far behind. Finally, the osprey dropped the fish. Maybe it decided that it was expending more calories defending the fish than it would have gained from eating it. The eagle made a low pass looking for the fish, but unsuccessful, it flew off, as did the osprey in the opposite direction. Just a few minutes later the osprey flew by again and grabbed another fish (without interruption).

Although not quite as strong, the wind is still alive and well. But we are a little more rested. From Tiger Lake, our next waypoint, Tiger Creek, is close to directly downwind. The wind is now helping with our speed. But the waves, which are growing as we cross the lake, are trying to broach the canoe (turn it sideways to the wind, possibly burying the bow in a wave or capsizing the boat when it gets in the trough). This takes heavy corrective paddling from the stern paddler as every wave goes by until we reach Tiger Creek.

Tiger Creek is wider than Rosalie but still serpentine. Again, Nancy is taking pictures (including close-ups of a snail kite eating lunch).

In Lake Kissimmee, our intended track was to the northwest just off the windward shore of the lake, and the lake was full of water plants so the waves aren’t too bad. The wind had even started subsiding. We found our way to the canal entrance and then to the marina. Although we were completely bushed, we did manage to get the canoe secured back on top of the van right at sunset.

Conclusions

This wasn’t our longest paddle. We’ve done more than fifteen miles on a day trip on more than one occasion. The most recent time was around Snake Bight east of Flamingo (which is at the end of the road in Everglades National Park). And even though almost half of that trip was through water about two inches shallower than the canoe with a thick muddy bottom, the weather was mild and the trip wasn’t as tough as this one. (Interestingly enough, on our last trip to Flamingo, Nancy mentioned canoeing to Ingraham Lake, which is at least ten miles west of Flamingo. Now that would be quite a day trip for us.)

But more importantly, the wind and waves were worse on this trip than on the Cedar Key trip that caused us to capsize. I’m hoping that was enough to rebuild Nancy’s confidence. Stay tuned.

Is This Picture Straight/Level?

This is I, canoeing on the Turner River just south of the Tamiami Trail just before noon in the late spring of 2008 (when I was just over 81% of my current age). In this picture, I’m just keeping the boat steady. The photographer (who is very near and dear to me) would normally be facing the other way in a vessel like this and had to reach all the way around, without getting up, to get this shot. Is it level? If not, is there anything in the picture that would be of any help in straightening it?

Besides my usual readers, I may be inviting my Facebook friends, as well as our Instagram viewers, LinkedIn links, and members of Kendall Camera Club, as well as any of their friends and acquaintances to participate in this discussion. I will copy most of those answers below. The best answer will get ten dollars off of any Bee Happy Graphic product or service, and of course, bragging rights. This reward may be combined with other offers and awards. If two or more people come up with the same idea, the one who speaks first will win the prize. Honorable mentions may also be rewarded. You will have at least two weeks to come up with an answer. Good luck!

(OK, since I mentioned it, I might as well make it worth something; if you can tell how old I am now, based on the evidence above, I will increase your reward by the same percentage as my age has increased since this picture was taken. Is that better?)

Please enter your comments below (after submitting, there may be a delay before your comment appears). Good luck, and thank you.

More Cancellations Due To The Coronavirus

Our next two festivals, the Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville,Announced scheduled for the last weekend in March and the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts in Cedar Keyannounced the first weekend in April have both been canceled. We will be back in Cedar Key next year, specifically April 17 & 18, 2021 (if the one that was canceled was supposed to be the 56th Annual …, what will next year’s festival be called?).  We are still negotiating our future appearance at the other three festivals canceled so far (Pembroke Pines, Winter Haven, and Gainesville).

Although I hadn’t announced it yet, we were also scheduled to travel to India after the end of the Florida art festival season this May with Natural Habitat Adventures (our second-favorite tour company) to photograph tigersdetails. We have also pushed that trip back one year. There may still be room available on that trip; contact us (or Natural Habitat Adventures (tell them we sent you)) if you are interested.

Our last two festivals this season (Melbourne and Fernandina Beach) are still on, starting the last weekend in April. While that might change, I don’t expect to hear from them for another couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

“Oak Tree Graveyard” – Our First Night Photograph

When we discovered Big Talbot Island State Parkwebsite north of Jacksonville one morning toward the end of April, 2010, Nancy saw Boneyard Beach and decided we needed to come back late in the afternoon for further investigation.  The elevation for most of the tree-clad island is about twenty feet.  Atlantic storms over the millennia have eroded the bluff to the beach and continue to knock trees down to the beach.  We returned while it was still light, worked our way down to the beach and took “Trees In Their Twilight” just a few minutes after sunset.  The camera was on a tripod for the 0.8-second exposure.

Since we expected a near-full moon to rise within the hour, we stayed around and took “Oak Tree Graveyard” less than an hour later, one third of the way through nautical twilightdefinition.  It was so dark we needed a flashlight to change the settings on the camera.  That picture took a 65-second exposure (about 8,000 times as long as your average selfie), which gave the sensor a chance to pick up light you didn’t even know was there.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
This is the one area that the sensor is better than your eye. As I mention in Limitations You Should Know About Your Digital Camera (Or Phone)!, your brain doesn’t benefit from staring at something longer than 15 secondssource.


During that 65 seconds, I took our little LED flashlight (so as not to overpower the almost non-existent ambient light) and shined the light back and forth over those nearest three trees in the foreground.  I recall “painting with light” like this the whole 65 seconds, but Nancy distinctly remembers stopping after fifteen seconds 😕.  If you sweep slowly to cover the target in one pass, you might miss a spot. Or if you linger too long in one area, you will create a “hot” spot.  I recommend sweeping faster and making as many passes as you can to take advantage of the averaging effect.

What amazed me when the image finally appeared on the back of the camera after the shutter closed, was that the orange glow was still there. We’ve since gained more experience with night photography (for example, see Nautical Twilight In The Glades, Seven-mile Bridge At Twilight, Midnight In The Pinelands). Now we know that there are enough photonsdefined bouncing around at even the darkest hour so that if you left your shutter open long enough you could make it look like a bright overcast day (there would be nothing casting a shadow). At midnight, the light level could be about 1/160th that of “Oak Tree Graveyard”, meaning you would have to increase the exposure time, aperture, and/or ISO to gain over seven f-stops to get its sky to that same level of brightness. But the horizon would be blue again by then because the orange glow only lasts an hour or two, depending on atmospheric conditions.

Epilogue

After getting “Oak Tree Graveyard”, we headed back up the bluff and back along the trail to the van. In an open area in the woods along the way, we saw an unbelievable firefly display as we have never seen before (or since), but were too tired to stop for pictures. Nancy has been kicking herself about that decision ever since.

Englewood Bank & Trust Invitational Thanksgiving Art Festival

We have been invited to this festival for the first time. It will be put on by the same local artistartist who put on the Boca Grande Invitational Art Festivalannounced in June (which reminded us why intelligent artists in Florida stop participating in art festivals after the first weekend in May – it is hot, and people tend to stay inside with the air conditioner (and their wallets)).

This festival will be held on Saturday, November 30 & Sunday, December 1 – Thanksgiving weekend. (For what it’s worth, Nancy & my anniversary falls the day before Thanksgiving this year). There will only be sixty artists on the grounds of Englewood Bank & Trust, 1111 S. McCall Road in Englewood. Hopefully, you can find more information on their Facebook page @EnglewoodArtFestival as it becomes available.

Space Coast Art Festival In New Location Again

We have been accepted into this art festival for the fourth timeprevious. This time the festival, which will be Saturday, October 19, from 9 am to 5 pm, and from 10 to 4 on Sunday, will be held at Space Coast Daily Park at 6091 Stadium Parkway in Viera, Florida (32940). This is a new 30-acre outdoor event and entertainment venue for Brevard County.


In addition to the 90 artists, they will have live art & music performances, a food court, kids entertainment, and a student art show. You can find more information on their website, Space Coast Art Festival, as it becomes available. They are expecting only 14 thousand visitors this year, but we are still looking forward to a good festival.

For what it’s worth, the people putting on this show have been scrambling since the City of Cocoa Beach wrongly started messing with them five years ago. Last year we had the opportunity to work with their new competition, the Cocoa Beach Art Show. Dealing with the lady in charge was not exactly a pleasure; she claimed to have well over ten years of experience in running a five-year-old festival and still didn’t understand her own festival rules as they were written (she made us take down Nancy’s hand-made notecardssample because notecards were mentioned as an example in a rule prohibiting mass-produced merchandise).

Now that Space Coast has a stable new venue and time, I fully expect them to return to to the highest level, as established by over fifty years of greatness (as indicated above, we haven’t been there all of those fifty years).

Giant Swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes)

For the last couple of summers, Nancy has been working hard to ‘branch out’ with a larger selection of (native) butterfly host and nectar plants around the yard to bring a greater variety of butterflies to the neighborhood. It is starting to pay off. Besides our Monarchs, we’ve seen more Zebra Heliconians (our state butterfly, formerly known as the zebra longwing), we’ve seen Polydamas and Giant Swallowtails, we’ve seen one of the Duskywings (the Zarucco, I think), a few Sulphurs, and even some Atalas. We’ve recently seen chrysalises of the Atalas and then the Giant Swallowtails. Earlier this month, I expanded our explanation of the Atala Butterfly life cycle on that page of our website (www.BeeHappyGraphics.com/gallery/atala.html). Now I’m going to tell you a few things about the life cycle of a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

The Egg

For this discussion, we will start with a single, 1 to 1.5 millimeter (just under 1/16“) cream to brown colored egg with orange secretions, on the upper surface of a leaf. It is laid on members of the citrus family, the giant swallowtail’s host plants, represented in our case by wild lime. The egg lasts four to ten days before hatching, depending on the temperature and host plant.

The Caterpillar

Small Larva of Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Figure 1: early phase (instar) of giant swallowtail caterpillar. Its head is to the right.

The larva (a.k.a. caterpillar) then goes through five instars (periods between molts) which, unlike the monarch butterfly instars, all look different. The first instar has hairs. The next instars have been compared to bird poop. The younger instars are more realistic-looking as bird droppings with more contrast than the later instars (shown in Figure 2). They rest on top of the leaf and are nocturnal (which makes sense – being seen moving around during the day could blow their disguise). The more mature instars rest on the stems and have been theorized to resemble small snake heads. These caterpillars also have a red, antenna-like osmeterium, which is not usually visible (and which we have not yet seen).

Larger Caterpillar and Chrysalis of Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Figure 2: larger giant swallowtail larva on the left side of the branch (head up) and chrysalis on right side.

The Chrysalis

After three or four weeks, when it reaches a length of about two inches (5 cm), the larva will pupate. It could form the chrysalis (not to be confused with a ‘cacoon’, which is just an outer protective cover spun by a moth larvae for their chrysalis) right on the stem of the host plant (unlike the monarchlife cycle, who because its host plant is an easily devourable species of milkweed, must travel up to twenty feet to find a safe place to pupate, or the Atala, for which all sibling larvae pupate together so they don’t have to worry about their late-developing siblings coming by and eating them onto the ground), or it could travel a short distance to a vertical surface. As seen in the above picture, the chrysalis hangs tail-down at an angle of about 45° to the structure with its top suspended from silken threads. The pupa (a more general name for chrysalis that can be also applied to all metamorphizing insects, not just butterflies and moths) will last from ten to more than twelve days before emerging into an adult. Unlike the monarch, we have not noticed the giant swallowtail chrysalis changing color over time.

The Adult

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Figure 3: adult giant swallowtail butterfly. (Notice chrysalis below it.)

As shown in Figure 3, the adult is black with yellow trim on the top, and could possibly be confused with other black-and-yellow swallowtails like the Black Swallowtaildescribed (and very-rarely-seen species like the Schaus’described and Bahaman Swallowtailsdescribed). The underside of this butterfly (not shown (yet)) is predominantly a light yellow. The adult lives six to fourteen days. This butterfly lives in the near-coastal areas from Florida through the Carolinas (compared to the black swallowtail, which extends north just beyond Massachusetts).

Epilogue

Nancy took all of the pictures shown in this article. As you noticed, we haven’t yet photographically documented the entire life cycle of this butterfly, and I don’t know when Nancy will be satisfied enough with her pictures to add an image of the giant swallowtail to our commercial collection. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Besides our personal experience, we have relied on a number of resources, including University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department and Butterflies of the East Coast: an observer’s guide by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor, as well as the links highlighted throughout the article.