Wednesday -- October 1, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
David Monroe, our computer repair person, has just left. This time I got smart... did not tell
them we lived on an Island, only that the driveway could not be seen from the mailbox. and that
they should call first. When I met them at the top, I explained that the "driveway" was off
another street, and that if the truck was not needed we could walk there quickly. When I said
"driveway" I was thinking about the entrance to the towpath at Lock 5, but fortunately was not
called upon to explain. By the time we got to the ferry (thank goodness for good weather) he
was charmed, and any inconvenience forgotten. Unfortunately, the part to be replaced was not
here... Airborne Express could not find where to deliver to and, unlike its competitors, did
not know to leave it at the Sycamore Store with George Rogers.
Thursday -- October 2, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Today was Rosh Hashana, and consequently a "three page day." This means two log sheets were
completely filled and we went over 40 people. Actually, today we went over 50 people, and at
one point all Club canoes were out.
Friday -- October 3, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
David Monroe, our computer repair person, found the ferry by himself... the part was here...
and a happy
ending can now be uploaded. He went on and on about what an adventure it was to come
here... how no one at the office believed him... and I felt better about how to handle
future service people who must come down here.
There were lots of swimmers today. John and Miriam Crook hosted a birthday party for son
Victor, and reported the water to be swimable but "right on the edge of being no fun."
Ann Kip and Mark Brenneman reported the water to be bracing, but could not be drawn on
whether or not it was fun.
Saturday -- October 4, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Another three page day, but who can be surprised with this sparkling weather. Lots of
work got done today. Tryon Wells helped fix the broken light on the deck stairway, and
John Matthews and John Krasny worked on making the new ropes with metal clasps that will
go on each canoe to allow easy connection to the high water chain when floods are expected
and the canoes must come out of their racks.
Monday -- October 6, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
This morning I received an early call from Garret Rasmussen to say that when he returned
yesterday to put his canoe in his rack he found a strange canoe sitting there. This seems
to be fresh evidence of Members or their guests taking canoes that are not their own from
the racks and using them. Apparently someone had used Jessie Bakeman's canoe and returned
it to the wrong rack. This is the third known time this has happened on a crowded weekend
day... usually a Sunday.
Your Caretaker shudders to imagine the goings on that occur when he is not on the Island.
Yesterday an early fisherperson came on to the Island, and following correct protocol, took
the ferry back over to lock it up for the arrival of the substitute caretaker. However, he
did not actually lock it, and when the substitute caretakers arrived they found the ferry on
the Island, where the two non-Member strangers had to be hailed to come fetch them. The two
passing bicyclists had seen the unlocked ferry and decided to take it over and roam the Island.
Today Marty Burgess' "Circle of Wisdom" ladies group came down and cavorted at the swimming
float... eating lunch, swimming. and generally behaving as though summer will never end. And
why not? Today was the first October day with a 90 degree temperature since 1986. The water
temperature was 67 degrees, and several other folks came to swim during the course of the day.
Tuesday -- October 7, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
I am starting to think that we have finally been accepted in the neighborhood. My morning
walks around the Island have accustomed me to seeing certain neighbors in certain places
at certain times. The blue heron frequently seen fishing at the lower end no longer flies
away at my approach, but suffers my presence warily. Today a gaggle of geese flew in and
settled loudly all around him, squawking and carrying on such that I finally understood the
word "cacophony." The heron glanced over in such a way that it was easy to imagine he was
trying to comment on the way the neighborhood had suddenly gone down, but with his regal
demeanor he seemed nonplussed and continued his vigil... although it was difficult to
understand how he would find breakfast, surrounded as he was with noisily gossiping geese.
Wednesday -- October 8, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
It has been a little less than three weeks since I sowed new grass seed. It was timed just
before expected showers, and sure enough I was rewarded with new green in only 8 days. Now
some of this new grass is starting to dry up and turn brown. so today was dedicated to watering. Having bought new hose, I can reach almost to the end of the canoe shed in one direction and almost to the canoe by the swimming float in the other. A lot of raking was necessary so as not to water leaves instead of new grass... and a lot of huffing and puffing pulling hose, but it was great fun because the day was so sparkling. And in fact the upshot was a guilty feeling that if the Caretaker had been more on the ball during the mid-summer drought, less seeding in the fall would have been necessary.
Because of the great weather, 6 picnickers showed up to continue the pre-monthly meeting eat
out... and even swim out!
Thursday -- October 9, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
A kingfisher has been noticed hanging out around the Island for the last month... seen
frequently but mostly seeming to be flying hurriedly from one end to the other. While
sitting out early this morning at the table at the lower end, he flew into the children's
tree over the water, near the bank, where many ripples could be seen on the surface denoting
the myriad little fish. It was fascinating to watch him fish, diving into the water. I
now recognize the splashing sound I have heard many times near the area of the large downed
sycamore tree sticking into the river mid-Island. The big show is playing continuously on
Sycamore Island for anyone who cares to sit quietly and watch.
Friday -- October 10, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
A gentle hour's rain early this morning has relieved any anxiety about the new grass lasting
until next mid-week's forecast showers. Two poor fishermen had just put their canoe in before
the big surprise. It was so gentle I sat for 20 minutes at the bench near the ferry before the
water made it through the tree canopy. Makes one wonder about how much water gets soaked up
before it hit the ground. When one considers the actual surface area of all the leaves above,
the smallest leaf absorption at all would make a big difference in how much water must fall
before any hits the ground.
Saturday -- October 11, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
John Matthews came early and we set about to try to finish making and attaching the new
leaders to the canoes. The rope used is a quarter inch daycron of eleven foot lengths
with a hooked clip on the end for quick attachment to the safety chain that will be rolled
out upon the lawn in the event of flood. The ends of the rope are melted, the knot used
is a bowline, and each end is crimped by John with aluminium wire cut into small lengths
for that purpose. John Krasny joined us mid-morning, and by early afternoon we had almost
finished. Then, after deciding to put clips on both ends of those leaders used for kayaks
so the owners could detach the leader and would not have to trail it, while experimenting
with clipping the line to another rope... the flexible metal tongue on one of the clips
broke... surprisingly and easily... and now the entire project may have to be redone if
it is decided that all clips must be replaced with a stronger type.
Monday -- October 13, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
It is another in a long line of beautiful and unseasonable warm October days... and Columbus
Day to boot... so I am surprised to have had only two visitors by noon. It must be reported
that last night Winston Wily's canoe was left on the canoe float. The log indicates that he
did not come aboard, and the implication is that this is thus the third Sunday in a row that
a Member's canoe has been taken from a rack and used by unauthorized persons.
Tuesday -- October 14, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
This morning was the Deborah Shepherd and Tom Levy field trip for second graders from
Georgetown Day School... splendid weather... several questions about membership from the
many parents in attendance... and smores for all. The Caretaker's nature tour was apparently
touted before hand as the high spot... so the pressure was on. The afternoon will be devoted
to mowing leaves on new grass in anticipation of the coming showers so that wet leaves will
not mat on top. And with the approach of the first serious cold front of the year, this will
be a good time to look after and bring in tender plants.
Wednesday -- October 15, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
It is the start of the flu season. This morning the Caretaker's wife had to take the ferry
over and lock it up on her way to work.. Good thing it was a cold and rainy day... finally.
It does beg the question about what happens when the Caretaker is incapacitated. Had this
happened just a few days before when the Island was receiving about 15 guests a day... it
would have been a serious problem
Thursday -- October 16, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
George Malusky returned to the Island mid-morning to report that the fish are definitely
not biting. Well, actually just one was, even though the water temp is 65 degrees and
the air temp at 1030 hours is only 55 degrees. George seems to think of fishing season
as ending around Halloween. However, he reports that rockfish are still biting downriver
near the airport, and so will move his fishing activities there this weekend.
Saturday -- October 18, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Your Caretaker has the flu... no motivation for big reports... nor to do the ferry. This
does raise the question about what the procedure is when the Caretaker is sick (are there
sick days?) or otherwise incapacitated. Fortunately, the Caretaker's Wife has been doing
yoewoman service on the ferry. Also, John Matthews came down today and spent considerable
time taking the defective clips off of the ends of the canoe leaders.
Monday -- October 20, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Despite wet fall weather the Island remains active on the weekends. Yesterday's big event was
the "fixing" of the ping pong table upstairs. The table had been folded for a meeting, and
because it is not in good shape, could not be unfolded by Susan Young because the struts were
bent. Before it was over, Susan, The Caretaker's Wife, John Matthews, and Tove Elfstrom had
all contributed to bending, or right side upping, or wheeling the table until it was playable
Today John Matthews brought down materials to repair the leak in the roof above the kitchen.
It was some kind of rubber with an adhesive surface that needs un-leaded gasoline to apply(??).
Stay tuned. And Jim Drew returned from fishing with nary a bite, lamenting that the season is
over, and wondering why some people ice fish.
Tuesday -- October 21, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
The water temperature is down to 58 degrees!! This must be why Jim Drew could catch no fish.
Last week at this time it was 68 degrees, so this is quite a change
Wednesday -- October 22, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
This is the big day before the first hard frost, so it has been bust, busy. For any plants
hoping to winter over indoors, this is the day of the final cut. Find a pot or die!! And in
fact today I did report about 115 plants in 16 pots. Check them out upstairs, where they should
be OK until December. Then... we will see. Also today I tried to shut off the water and drain
the pipes to the outdoor shower. Everything went fine until the last step... loosing the small
back drain cap at the valve. Water commenced to fill the black hole wherein resides same valve,
probably from the black tubes above the shower that hold so much water, but the light was
failing, it was getting cold, and I was surprised how much water filled the hole, so I lost
my nerve and screwed the cap back on before the water got more than elbow deep. Tomorrow is
time enough. And light enough.
Thursday -- October 23, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
... and of course with the light the cap was unscrewed and hardly any water at all drained out.
The Island is now proofed against light frost, and can wait the three weeks to the workfest for
hard frost proofing. There were many calls back and forth today to the National Park Service
before it was settled that Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, was not going to bring a
friend and visit the Island this weekend. Seems the airport departure time of said friend was
moved up and there will be no time. This was to have been solely a personal visit, apparently
he lives somewhere near the towpath and is familiar with the Island somehow. Of course, with
the on going controversy regarding the re-watering of the canal, several Members were interested
in whether he would be here or not, and the NPS was warned that he should not expect to come
here and not have someone bend his ear about it. Gordon Gay of the NPS reiterated today that
they were working on the re-watering currently, and that the trucks I see daily on the canal
were no longer moving surface material for the towpath resurfacing project, but were now
removing materials being dredged out of the canal near Angler's Inn.
Friday -- October 24, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Marty Burgess came down to prepare for her Sat overnight camping with the teenagers from the
Friends School. We learned that there is no firewood put up, and spent some time searching
the Island. Today's main activity was raking the leaves from the new eight week old grass on
the new beaver paths before the expected weekend rains. Certainly we do not want soaked leaves
matted down over the new grass before it can get established. I will leave early this
afternoon for a family reunion and be covered by Sally Strain, and tomorrow by Mary Edsall.
Monday -- October 27, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Ahhh... Monday inspection tours are interesting. First thing noticed was that someone had
pulled down the lattice under the workshop to get at the wood box, although why is difficult
to ascertain as there was no wood there, only newspapers. It was alarming to see that someone
had used charcoal lighter fluid to get a fire started in the wood stove upstairs. The
refrigerator was filled with forgotten or abandoned party stuff. The Sunday substitute
caretakers had not signed anyone onto the Island, and one would have thought no one came
yesterday except that upon returning in the dark late last night we encountered Barbara
Kraft and her book club (large unscheduled party??) coming up from the Island.
Tuesday -- October 28, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
A special mention in the dispatches is accorded to Sally Strain, who while substitute
caretaking on Friday afternoon brought over in the gathering dusk a group of teenage boys.
She had never seen them before, was not sure who they were (although she did demand and get
a Member's name), and reported feeling a little bit vulnerable. When they announced that
they were going canoeing, she reminded them that it would be dark soon, that she would leave
at 1730 hours, and to be back by then. There were some smart alecky remarks made that they
would be out a couple of hours, and she had to sternly remind them of the time and light
limitations. Moments later she noticed the group of teenagers taking canoes and kayaks
from Member's racks. They were already in the water (without life preservers) by the time
she got to the canoe float. Upon questioning the teenager who was, as a son of a Member
but unaccompanied by an adult, responsible for the group, it became clear that they were
using watercraft of Members without permission. She was required to be very forceful to
get them to return the Members' canoes to the proper racks and to use Club canoes instead.
As this was done she endured continuing rude and obnoxious comments from two of the guest
teenagers (the Member's son was always polite) and being alone on the Island this further
added to a feeling of vulnerability. Sally then called the Member to verify the identity
of the party. In this case it turned out to be the first visit to the Island by the son
of a new Member and thus somewhat understandable that the rules were not known. I have
spoken to the Mother today, who expressed embarrassment and apology for the conduct of
the teenagers, and acknowledges that two of her son's friends are known for their "teenage
mouth." Despite the teenager's report that Sally had been on their case, the Mother
reports already chewing them out as, regardless of the teenager's perception of slight,
they were on the Island as her (the mother's) guest, and were responsible for behaving
accordingly. The incident has been reported to the president. None the less, this issue
is very sensitive because this means that on 4 out of the last 6 weekends there has been
unauthorized use of Members' canoes. Twice on Sunday evenings I have returned to find
Members' canoes left on the canoe float, when the owners were not logged onto the Island
that day. And yet, even from the canoe float the sign can be seen on the canoe shed
announcing: Canoe Shed, private Member owned canoes only.
Wednesday -- October 29, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
David Winer came down today and we spent the afternoon affixing new waterproof labels to all
canoes. These are circular, black on gold, emblazoned with the name "Sycamore Island" and
the assigned rack number of the canoe. They actually look quite classy, and folks should
be pleased. All for $40. This is a boon for the Caretaker as these last weeks there has
been a lot of returning of canoes to proper racks and now there is no question concerning
what goes where. Incidentally, for this project all labels were put on the bow of the canoes,
and many had to physically turned around so that all were facing the Virginia shore, revealing
that the team putting the new rope leaders on the canoes had not checked to put the leaders on
the bow, and should redo many.
Thursday -- October 30, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Returning to the Island from the bank mid afternoon I found Kenny Barnes of the NPS painting
a primer on the hand railing on the pedestrian overpass. Some might recall that I spoke to
the NPS about this when they were doing the new path down the hill. I asked Kenny who I could
call and give positive reinforcement to for jobs well done, especially after he told me that
tomorrow 5 guys would show up and completely redo the entire paint job on the pedestrian
overpass. He recommended Audrey Calhoun (703-285-2590) at the Turkey Run Office of the George
Washington Parkway office (they manage the Clara Barton facilities), and while I got a recording
with a different name, I did leave a laudatory message.