Notes from the Island
May 2007

First of all, I'd like to send out a big "Three Cheers" to everyone who made it to the Spring Workfest. We managed to have a very successful day despite my lack of true organizational skills. Thankfully, I had good help. We all owe a lot of thanks to Gordon and Linda Phillips, George Malusky, Chuck Pill, Karl Kosok, Tove Elfstrom, Dave Winer, Frank Daspit, and everyone else for making this a successful day. We actually had a lot of fun, too; and there was time to meet and catch up with other Club members on a beautiful day. We now have a new canoe rack, a new brick walkway, a new wooden walkway, a reinforced canoe shed, a painted and cleaned clubhouse and all our docks in the water. Let me know if you couldn't make the Workfest and are looking for a way to pitch in.

April was the month of blue bells and high water. It was also the month when the Island is transformed from a sunny Island of naked trees to a dark and shaded forest of green. The wildflowers bloom in April and the birds return to their nesting sites. The geese have laid their eggs and the warblers are vocally claiming their territory. The cormorants have also returned in large numbers. The blue bells are on their way out now, their blossoms falling as the trees fill with leaves. They endured snow and freezing weather in this most fickle of months but their beauty and allure were enhanced by their brief appearance and they leave us with a promise of return. The high water of this past month has kept me busy with the usual preparations and clean-ups. Every flood has its unpredictable threats and this past one left me with no trail lights and a tow rope snagged high in a tree (daily log 4/20/07). I'm also trying, unsuccessfully, to convince Verizon that they need to reattach the phone line to the "new" (two years old now) utility poles and get that out of the flood zone.

On April 4th I wrote this on my log:
The sun finally came out late this afternoon and it inspired me to get out. I thought it would be fun to take a sunset run over at Turkey Run Park. I didn't think twice about jumping into a boat and paddling the 400 yards of river that separated me from the Virginia shore. I got into a canoe and had no trouble heading down river toward the foot of the Island with the 10 mph wind at my back. The last rays of the sun hit me in the face as I rounded the Island. The black silhouettes of the cormorants filed past me, their effortless flight gave no hint of the powerful wind they were headed into. The river had no visible signs of strong winds either, so I went for the other side. The wind was blowing from the west/northwest, straight down river, and when I was away from the shadow of the Island the 10 mph breeze became a steady 15-20 mph wind with sudden gusts of 30 mph. No whitecaps but a good steady train of one foot waves was knocking on my bow. I didn't debate it for more than a second: time to turn back. At this point, I was down river from the Island but only about 100 yards away. Sometimes a gust would come from an unexpected direction, pushing the canoe frantically into the waves, causing my heart to beat faster. I tied the long painter from the bow to my PFD; I didn't want my boat to sail away from me if I got knocked out by a wave. With slow and steady strokes and without panic I made it, eventually, back to the relative shelter of the slough. Winded (no pun intended) and a little sore in the shoulders, I paddled back to the Island in the fading light. Maybe another day I'll go for a sunset run at Turkey Run.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker