Monday -- February 2, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The water level is 6.3 and falling slowly... and flooding is already forecast for this
weeks anticipated rains... so it looks as though it will be several days before the Island
will be open again.
Tuesday -- February 3, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The captain came down yesterday and brought an old winch from a boat trailer which we
rigged to raise and lower the rope that raises the pull rope. Previously this was done
at the tree near the ferry landing, but of course the water does not have to rise too far
before that is not possible without waders. The winch is now attached to the telephone
pole nearest the clubhouse, and assorted caretakers will not even have to get their
wellingtons wet to raise the pull rope higher. A wet rope is heavy, and the winch
should allow us to get the rope higher than it was during the infamous snag of the
recent 11 ft flood. The rain started here at about 1030 hrs, but the Island is battened
down for the coming northeaster.
Wednesday -- February 4, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
At 1345 hrs got the call from Jackie at the weather forecast office to inform us officially
that the river would flood (over 10 feet) and that the river was expected to crest at 10-11
feet sometime Friday morning. Of course, browsing Tryon's wonderful links on our own home
page I already knew this, but it was reassuring to actually get a call of warning from "the
authorities." The Caretaker's Wife is already making arrangements to spend Thursday night
off Island. Stay tuned... the adventure continues.
Friday -- February 6, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Well... the river went above 9 feet at 0600. Because the graph still shows the water
rising rapidly (.2 ft/hour) it looks like the decision to take the second row of canoes
out will be made about 1400 hrs. This is about the time we can expect the new river
statement and forecast. It is also the time we should be over 10 feet, which the current
forecast says we will not reach until tomorrow morning!@#!! The captain's new equipment
for raising the ferry rope works well. But the big excitement was the pileated woodpecker
hanging out at the suet feeder for about 20 minutes. He is a handsome fellow, who acted
as though it was his first encounter with suet, and liked it. I hope he will be back.
Saturday -- February 7, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The river crested around midnight at 9.9 feet, which means the lawn was covered and only
the area immediately around the house and workshop was dry... or rather muddy and uncovered.
For some reason the Island becomes a haven for waterfowl during these situations, probably
because of the calm water in the lee of the house, and great quantities and varieties of
ducks gather. Doing the rounds just before midnight I disturbed a great blue heron fishing
not ten paces from the clubhouse steps. The Island will also be closed on Sunday.
Monday -- February 9, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Saturday night I happened to see a bright meteor fall so close that it seemed the meteorite
may have landed in the grassy area between the parkway parking lot and the hill path, so
anyone traversing that area should keep your eyes on the ground. It was big (comparatively) and
seemed to glow brighter, slow, and then wink out about 100 feet above the ground.
There was a significant frost on the ground this morning when we went to do the morning
canoeing commute... the first day in some time. None the less, down here Spring is beginning.
Sitting out at dusk last night it was hard not to notice the change in the silhouette of the
darkish winter tree branches against the background of the still lighted sky. Usually the
tracery of the tree branches is smooth in winter, but now the outline is bumpy and knobbly,
as various trees are well advanced putting out large buds or other protrusions. And while
all of the bluebells have not appeared, some of the early ones have already started to open
The river was at 7.1 this morning, and as it is only forecast to drop to 6.3 by Wednesday
morning, and as another storm is forecast to arrive on Wednesday, it is likely the Island
will be closed due to high water for the rest of the week.
Wednesday -- February 11, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
"When the River Statement announces that the water is hazardous for boating above 5 feet,
it is true... they are not kidding." This quote is memorable and surprising because it
comes from Paul Stanton, expert canoeist, who talked me into letting him go out and play
in a 6.3 foot river and returned to note that it was not play, but serious business.
Yesterday was busy for an Island that was closed. Tryon Wells came down and helped modify
the electrical lines that cross the river for the lights on the path... of intimate interest
to the Caretaker's family. The Captain had obtained a certain kind of fastener used by the
telephone company to attach long lines to buildings, and two of these are now installed in
a tree on the towpath. This allowed us to take out the slack in the line across the river
to the tree and also down the hill to the tree, and with a slack loop now at the tree we
will be able to cut the wire at the tree, put in a junction box, and run a short wire from
there down to the pole near the ferry landing and install a light there. In the afternoon
the Captain came down to investigate the leaks in the clubhouse roof above the clubhouse
kitchen. The source of the leaks could not be found, the work of his son a couple of months
ago to put a new rubber fringe around the edge of the roof where the original rubber had
shrunk back was found to be excellent. So, the Captain pounded out the edge ridging on a
piece of roofing sheet metal so that he could push that edge under the shingles about three
feet above the leaky area, and we will see if that stops the hidden leaks.
It should also be noted that Paul Stanton, a contractor, offered to install a new lighting
system in the big room upstairs if the club would buy the materials, which he estimated at
about $100, using eight inexpensive fixtures but not including the light bulbs. He spoke
to the both the Captain and President about this yesterday, so surely it will come up in
Thursday -- February 12, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The geese are back in force, beginning their mating rituals, and carving up the Island into
territories. These are definitely last years gaggle, wanting to run up and honk for a
handout when they see you. What is interesting is that they have paired off... at least a
dozen pairs... and on the river side of the Island each pair has claimed its territory in
such a way that there is a pair stationed every 10 or 15 yards. It is really comical as it
is like having sentinels or watch stations evenly spaced along the edge of the Island.
Occasionally another group will try to come on to the Island and there will be such a loud
and raucous exchange that it is hard to hear the planes go overhead. There have been some
vicious fights. Thinking they were all stuck in their chosen place because of some territorial
thing, I thought I would take some of last year's corn out and drop a little off at each pair.
Big mistake!! As soon as I gave corn to the first pair all territorial symmetry ceased as they
all broke ranks and came running. It took a good 40 minutes to get everyone back in place and
the commotion was such I vowed to get ear plugs.
Monday -- February 16, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Anyone sitting on the Island these days can not help but be struck by the fact that there
seems to be an unending stream of sea gulls flying continuously up river. We're talking at
least a hundred every minute... all day long! But in fact they seem to land adjacent to the
bottom of Ruppert's Island and then float downstream towards the dam. Thus there are two
layers of sea gulls... one layer dotting the water drifting downstream and those flying in
the opposite direction about 10 to 20 yards in the air. Somewhere near they dam the gulls
take to the air and fly the quarter mile upstream to settle down for another float, and the
entire phenomena resembles a giant conveyer belt. The purpose is still a mystery, and anyone
who might shed light on this please do so. They don't seem to be fishing, and on the float
down they seem to be singly dispersed pretty evenly across the surface of the water... no
couples denoting mating procedures. At dusk they all fly away.
Tuesday -- February 17, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Was I surprised when the bell rang at 0800 hrs on a cold, rainy, February morning? Well...
yes, actually. I was contemplating the navel of the universe from that special seat every
house has for that purpose, so it took me a few minutes to get to my binoculars. Sure
enough, it was a new Member... waiting list Member actually. Before I could get my boots
on, the phone rang, and it was the person on the ferry landing inquiring about the open
status of the Club. Yes, I said, the CLOSED sign posted on the landing was correct... and
no, it was not just to discourage tourists... and actually, if the person would look closely
they could see that the ferry landing was under water... and frankly, the Caretaker would
appreciate some advance warning if anyone wanted to come down before 0900 hrs on any morning.
The person was very, very apologetic, explaining that they had come down "on caprice" and
that they had no idea about the drill for coming and going or high water protocol. And in
fact, the ferry was probably in the way of a good view of the landing being under water.
And as the Caretaker's Wife pointed out, how would they know?? There is no "New Member's
Handbook" the spells these things out. So as a point of information for the coming season,
here are a few guidelines:
The authorities issue an alert that the river is hazardous for recreational use when the
river level becomes 5 feet at the Little Falls gauge.
The Island becomes officially closed when the water level at the Little Falls gauge reaches
5.5 feet. This is the level at which the ferry landing on the Island is covered with water
and it is impossible to disembark without high boots. It is also the level beyond which the
ferry rope can not be held against the faster current without a lot of upper body strength.
The river level and its forecast can be seen daily on page two of the Metro section of the
Washington Post. It is wise to consult this for a few days after serious rains up river,
as it is possible to come down to the Island on a bright sunny day and find the river in
flood stage because it took two days for the crest of the up river flooding to reach Sycamore.
Members and their guests can come to the Island any time during day light hours, but a call
the day before is appreciated if you wish to come before office hours begin at 0900 hrs.
This is not a rule but a courtesy.
If the bell is not answered promptly... be patient. It is a long walk from the extreme ends
of the Island, and occasionally, the Caretaker has to sit in a private room and contemplate
his navel. Be mindful that the best time to ring the bell is not when aircraft are passing
Thursday -- February 19, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Doc got off to Texas this morning and his replacement caretakers (Kate and Brenda are back) were ferried over to the Island with another mini-flood lapping at the 9.5-foot mark. All went well and some pictures were taken that will find their way to this site's Sycamore Picture Gallery in a couple of days. The forecast for the crest is sometime tonight at about 10 feet. The pull-rope has been drawn up on the Captain's new winch to its highest capacity but it is still only a foot or so above the rushing waters this morning. The Captain informs me that some minor adjustments may enable us to get another foot or two but not beyond that. Fingers are crossed that it won't be snagged this time.
Friday -- February 20, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The water level was 9 and a half feet this morning about 9am, about the same height as yesterday at this time. Of course, in between the crest occurred last evening at about 10 feet, but water levels are falling off now. Our favorite indicator (Paw Paw) is registering 17 feet this morning. Dividing this number by 2 usually provides a reliable estimate of the height at Little Falls about 24 hours later. That would mean that tomorrow morning the water level should be down to 8 and a half feet. The pull-rope didn't get snagged this time by river debris though I estimate it was only out of the water by a few inches during the crest.
The club will be closed this weekend since water levels won't fall off enough by tomorrow to open it.
Saturday -- February 21, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The water level was only 8 feet this morning at 10am but yesterday's rain may keep water levels from falling quickly. High water remains the norm down at the Island. The club will be closed this weekend since water levels over 5.5 feet are considered dangerous and the ferry becomes unmanageable.
Some pictures taken at 9 feet on the Island give a good idea of what little of it is left at that height. Another foot and a half and just about everything's underwater except the spot where the clubhouse was built. You can view these pictures in the Sycamore Island Picture Gallery.
Sunday -- February 22, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Except for a brief morning outing earlier this week, the sun has been effectively absent for the past ten days. This unrelenting grayness has conspired with high Potomac water levels to seal away the Island from the club's members for over a month now. In fact, with the exception of one brief 3-day period, the club has been closed solidly since January 9th (45 days!) and things aren't turning around yet. The water level was still 8 feet this morning at 8am and the water levels upstream portend more high water for the immediate future.
Monday -- February 23, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
The water level dropped to 7 feet this morning at 9am but overnight rain and the prospect for another stalled nor'easter in the region suggests that the levels will be rising again almost immediately. The club remains closed due to these high water levels.
Tuesday -- February 24, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
After yesterday's rain the Potomac's water level is back up a little bit to just over 7 feet this morning. Unlike previous storms this winter, there wasn't as much rain so the effect on the lower Potomac water levels is not predicted to be as dramatic as it has been recently. Gray skies are still with us though so the sun will be very welcome when it finally shows itself.
Wednesday -- February 25, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Lots of wind in the forecast today and water levels expected to crest this afternoon at about 8.5 feet. The sun has finally appeared too with temperatures expected to reach 50 degrees. Nice day! Too bad the water levels are too high to visit the Island. Kate and Brenda report no problems and will be leaving tomorrow when Doc returns.
Saturday -- February 28, 1998 -- The Club is CLOSED
Though Doc has returned, unfortunately his computer suffered a direct electrical hit during the night of the freakish mid-February thurnderstorm despite being "protected" with a surge protector. I'm sure we all hope that he'll be getting it fixed soon so that he can again regale us with stories from the Island.