Trinidad, CA – A Slice of Coastal Heaven

13 10 2016

My visit with Jason Self and Shay Bickley in Trinidad, California, was more than hikes among Redwood giants and herds of Rossevelt Elk. The region sports some of North America’s most spectacular coastlines!

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Near Crescent City

Foggy and rugged, thickly forested, and impacted by frequent Pacific storms, this coast shows off when the sun pops out. Highway 101 passes through this region, tracing its line along surf beaches, through dark redwood forest, climbing to 800-ft above the sea before opening up to spectacular unlimited vistas dotted with sea stacks.

We spent a sunset hiking along the beach, and another afternoon walking to a point high above the waves. No matter what route you pick, rewards are rich.

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Man’s Best Friend waits for his family to come in.

One evening we took a pre-dinner stroll along the shore near the Moonstone Grill, a terrific restaurant with an unmatched Pacific View. It was surreal. No wind and calm seas. So beautiful!

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The incoming tide was mesmerizing. I could look down on the wavy sand, and see, with each passing wave, how the water was navigating its way further and further ashore. We found a few stranded sea creatures and set them back into the ocean, much to Shay’s delight.

The following day was to be our paddle on the bay. Days here often dawn in a pea soup fog, but most of the time, that fog loses out the the sun by mid day.

On paddle day, there was barely any fog at sun up.

We breakfasted, loaded the boats on the cars, and partially donned out dry suits. Then it was time to head to the bay.

The town of Trinidad leads to a peninsula – with beaches on the NW and SW sides. On this day the swell was coming in from the NW.

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The sea laid down for us!

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Shay readies the P&H Delphin.

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We launched on the protected SW side – which, I’ve got to say, had become an undulating lake! We got maybe a mile or one and a half miles down the shore, paddling amongst sea stacks and harbor seals, before the swells were bigger, and I could see waves crashing against rocks. Even with the small seas, they were quartering from behind, and I got a weird feeling like the sea was a magnet, and I wanted to fall in. Jason said it was a touch of vertigo. I have had vertigo sensations before, but never at sea, and I’ve never been sea sick. Turning around, facing the swell, completely reversed that feeling.

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A bay of kelp and harbor seals. And, as Jason says, sharks.

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We checked out the sea stacks, rocks, and took a “stroll” along a cliff face. There, we found murrelets, more seals, and a couple of otters! One otter came out of a little cave. Another had caught a fish, and was hurriedly eating, as if it were concerned a rival might try to steal its catch.

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And Jason LOVES his recently acquired P&H Hammer, but not having his photo taken! It was a memorable day on the big P. I hope to visit again!





Kayaking in the Footsteps of Lewis & Clark

6 09 2016

I have lived in Portland, OR for years, but I’d never visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 following their Voyage of Discovery across the American continent. This summer I made plans to see the place. A little research revealed that besides the fort, there is also a free historical kayak tour. So my friend Jessie Bader and I made plans to make a trip out there.

Fort Clatsop lies on the Oregon Coast, near the mouth of the Columbia River and Astoria, Oregon. We decided to overnight at Fort Stevens State Park Campground. Our first day, we arrived in mid afternoon. So we set up camp and, with plenty of time, headed to Astoria to check out the waterfront. Our kayak tour was the following day at 1:00.

First up was ice cream. Cones in hand, we headed down to the riverwalk along the Columbia River. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, with exhibits like a full sized Columbia River Pilot Boat beckoned. We debated and didn’t enter. But behind lay the Columbia Bar Lightship and the Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

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Just a few dozen yards inland we discovered the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. It is super cheap $1 a ride. It glides along the waterfront running to the end of the line east. Then it reverses and goes to the western end of the line, in town. The seats are benches, with a twist – literally. When the train needs to head the other way, passengers get up, move the seat back the opposite way, and sit down facing the new direction.

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The streetcar showed me some new things about the waterfront. It gets much closer to the docks than the road. There are a number of piers with restaurants and recently opened breweries on the piers.

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We got off and took a stroll down the waterfront.

It was a really beautiful August afternoon. A sea breeze blowing. On such a pretty day, it was easy to forget that Astoria spends most of the year in gray stormy conditions.

But on that day, all is forgiven.

Not so for the Lewis and Clark crew in 1805. For they arrived in the winter season. The expedition spent 106 days at Fort Clatsop, it rained every day but 12 and they saw the sun a total of six times. It’s no wonder they gave names like “Dismal Nitch” to landmarks in the area.

Today, Fort Clatsop is administered by the National Park Service. It’s got a museum, gift shop, and dedicated guides to share information on the place.

One of the most popular attractions is the daily loading and shooting of a musket. At 10:00 a.m. a guide gives a talk on the uses of fire arms back in those days, and the way people loaded and fire them.

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After the musket presentation was finished we took advantage of a half mile guided nature walk. And then, it was time for lunch. We found a thoughtfully constructed picnic spot nor far away. On this day it was Euro style, cheese, hard sausage, crackers, fruit, nuts, etc.

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Then we met the tour down at the put in on the Lewis and Clark River. The group would be a family, a couple of individuals, plus Jessie and I. We had two guides, Pat and Cadence.

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A bit of paddling 101 instruction by Cadence got the group started.

The river here is completely tidal. At low tide, much of the area is mud flats. So, the time the tours take place vary all summer, to coincide with high tide. Reservations are required. Our tour was full. We had some lively children, and Pat wasted no time in gaining the upper hand. If they even so much as yawned or stared away, she snapped “A-tten-sion!!!”

On the water, Pat immediately dropped her VHF radio and it was gone, stuck on the bottom. “Well, that’s my second dropped. They’ll fire me!”

With everybody launched we made a three-mile paddle.

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At various points we gathered for a little talk about conservation, or the challenges Lewis and Clark faced.

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The Park Service has purchased additional land adjoining the original site, and has done a good job restoring its property to the way it looked back in 1805. Wildlife has taken note. Many species of birds have returned. Elk and deer are more common.

If you are in Astoria, or camping at Fort Lewis, a stop at Fort Clatsop is definitely worth your time!





Kayakers Rejoice! Kokatat Re-Invents the Dry Suit – The Idol

24 01 2015

This week I was one of a few privileged souls to witness a revolutionary development in the kayaking world: The unveiling of the Idol dry suit by Kokatat, Inc. Why is the Idol dry suit revolutionary? Answer: The Idol is the first dry suit in history that can be zipped into two pieces – and each can be worn independently.idol-drysuit-leaf-small

Why Own A Dry Suit?

A dry suit is an expensive proposition. A top notch Gore-Tex drysuit from Kokatat or Sweet Protection can set you back $1,100, and that’s not chump change. So, what is the big deal? Your life. If you exit your whitewater or sea kayak in 50-degree water, and you don’t have a wet suit or a dry suit, you are a goner in short order. So, you ask, why a dry suit instead of a wet suit? There are several reasons. Suppose you are paddling and the water is 45 degrees. You’ll need a wetsuit north of 10mm to be safe if dunked more than 30 minutes. And you must get wet to even get warm. When dry, that wetsuit is useless. Wind goes right through it. Now, imagine paddling with that. With a Gore-Tex dry suit, all you need is a dry, comfy fleece layer under that dry suit. When out of the water, you’ll be warm and dry. It shields you from wind. The Gore-Tex will move your perspiration out of the suit. If you do take a spill, this doesn’t change. Even under water, Gore-Tex moves your sweat to the outside environment.

Dry Suit Trivia

Are dry suits something invented for 21st Century adrenaline junkies? Nope. Dry suits have been the immersion wear of choice going back to ancient times. Fact is, Arctic Inuit hunters invented dry suits centuries ago. They discovered seal intestines had the ability to pass sweat in one direction and keep water out. They used dry suits in their whale hunting exploits.

What is the big deal with a two piece dry suit? Well, for one thing, in a one piece dry suit you are stuck when needing to relieve yourself. Manufacturers have come up with rear zippers or front zippers. But still, kayakers have to wear this garment with neck and wrist gaskets even when it’s warm outside. Always a source of irritation. And it’s all or nothing because it’s one piece. Garment makers offered Gore-Tex pants or Gore-Tex tops. But if you are capsized, either meant total immersion in icy water as water enters at the waist. Therefore, for many years, the vast majority bought a one piece dry suit.

The Challenge – A Zipper That Can Do the Job

The Holy Grail was to somehow make a two-piece dry suit. And one that can be three garments in one. A dry top, dry pants, and a total dry suit if zipped together. The challenge has always been a waterproof zipper capable of the job. Metal zippers when worn around the waist are just unforgiving and uncomfortable-after all, a spray skirt has to fit over the zipper. The breakthrough is an upgraded T-Zip plastic zipper, and its SwitchZip technology and Ringseal closure. The plastic zipper is waterproof and much more flexible than a metal zipper.

idol dry suit,kokatatThe Kokatat Idol drysuit can be split into two separately worn pieces. The top can be worn as a standalone dry top. The pant can be worn as a waterproof breathable pant-with included waterproof breathable socks. That means on warm days, kayakers can launch their boat completely dry and paddle comfortably without having to wear the whole dry suit. So while the Idol drysuit costs $1,100, it replaces two additional garments! Not only that, it makes relieving oneself in the great outdoors so much easier. Whether you need to go #1 or #2 you can separate the pants and perform the duty much easier than performing the whole machinations necessary with a one-piece dry suit!

OK, I Wanna I Wanna! How Can I Get My Mitts on One?

To order one of these amazing products, you must visit a Kokatat retailer. In Portland, Oregon, visit Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Kokatat says the Idol will be available in the 2nd quarter 2015. But you can order today.

Here’s a Kokatat Video on the Idol Drysuit





Clear Lake and Clear Lake Resort, Oregon – The Submerged Forest

13 11 2014
Laura rowing Rod

I take the back seat as Laura navigates. Two of the Three Sisters rise in the background.

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No photoshopping here. There really was fog to Laura’s right and sun to her left!

The 2nd weekend in November my friends and I traditionally rent cabins at Lake Billy Chinook and kayak. This year we threw tradition out the window. Instead, we rented cabins on Clear Lake at Clear Lake Resort. Clear Lake is famous for its clear water and submerged forest. Thousands of years ago, a lava flow moved across the McKenzie River at this location, blocking its flow and creating a lake.

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A tree trunk in the submerged forest.

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The “seascape” at Clear Lake.

South End Clear Green Water

In the shallows, sometimes the water was emerald green.

But there was more. The river ran through a forested valley, and the trees were submerged in the lake that formed. Today, at the head of the lake, water emerges through fast-flowing springs, and the water is crazy clear. At the foot of the lake, a waterfall spills to form the headwaters of the McKenzie River.

Clear Lake Oregon is popular for canoeing, kayaking, rowing and scuba diving. Those plying the surface can peer down into the sapphire and emerald waters, and scuba divers can see the submerged forest up close and personal.

While most November days in this part of Oregon are rainy and cold, this day was calm and sunny. We lucked out!

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Our cabin. Sorry about the focus…some moisture on the outside of the lens!

Today, Laura and I arrived first. Our group had booked two sides of a tandem cabin. Each side has two bedrooms with double beds and a double futon in the living room. A propane-fueled pot bellied stove heats each side, and there are kitchens on each side. Cost? $99 for two nights per side. Heck if you have some friends along it’s super cheap! Other facts to know…A hiking trail runs around the lake, and there are hiking options nearby along the McKenzie River. Hoodoo Ski Resort is 30 minutes distant. And there’s cross-country skiing at Ray Benson Snow Park. For mountain bikers the nationally famous McKenzie River trail awaits.

The Clear Lake Resort provides a fire pit for the cabins and we took advantage of that.

Group camping/cabin cooking presents some interesting possibilities. What to eat? What’s easy? In this situation we settled on Wok cooking. It’s practically impossible to screw up wok cooking no matter what. Plus it’s FUN. So we brought the woks, each member bringing along a different wok ingredient. Mini carrots and corn, water chestnuts, pineapple, nuts, jasmine rice, mushrooms, bok choy, broccoli,  shrimp, chicken, peppers, etc. plus a myriad sauces. YUM!Jim and Becky sapphire pool Woking

Sunday, we picked a 4.5 mile hike which ended at a really beautiful pool on the McKenzie river. Sunday it started to rain, but it didn’t matter. We got a picture of Jim Hashimoto and Becki above a sapphire pool!

All in all, the cabins at Clear Lake Resort Oregon are worth a visit!

 

 





Waldo Lake Oregon – Water Doesn’t Get Any Purer Than This!

26 09 2014
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Paddling over the indigo waters on a calm morning.

 

There are a lot of breathtaking places to paddle in Oregon. Many places with jaw dropping views. But only one, Waldo Lake Oregon, has such pure water and easy back country kayak camping – with no power boats to interfere with the serene experience!

Waldo Lake is unique in Oregon. It’s 22-miles around, making it the 2nd largest natural freshwater lake in the state. It’s natural – not a reservoir. It’s high elevation – 5,414ft. No power boats. Just human powered craft, like canoes, kayaks, or row boats, and when the wind picks up – you’ll see sailboats plying its waters. The water is so pure Waldo Lake set the world’s deepest visibility record – you can see down 157-ft! It is almost as pure as distilled water.

I organized a group of 12 friends (and Cameron, a 3-year old happy camper) who convened at Waldo this past weekend. Waldo is renowned for its primitive camp spots on the west side of the lake. But this weekend, dry conditions caused the Forest Service to issue a ban on campfires outside established campgrounds.

 

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Katie, Christian and Cameron

We needed a fire to cook a salmon for six – because my friend Daniel Fox, who was paddling from Victoria BC to San Francisco, had stopped in Astoria, Oregon and just caught a nice Chinook salmon on the way! It had to be cooked on the fire. So, we settled on camping at North Waldo Campground. It was almost full when we showed up – only three campsites – and we needed all three! It was totally last minute. We all had packed compactly for wilderness camping. Once the car camping decision was made I pulled out everything. The barbeque, the tiki torches, the tablecloth!

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Happy hour watching sunset!

The salmon turned out delicious and there was plenty for all. Simple – cooked in olive oil wrapped in tin foil and some dill added. On the side were veggies cooked in tin foil. Really yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folks at site #32! Waldo Lake awaits.

Morning all awoke at a different pace. At campsite we were up by 7:00 and ready go to by 9:00 – but a visit over to George & Kristi’s site revealed they’d just awakened when I got there at 9:30.

My breakfast was just oats, berries and yogurt…Kristi’s was more like home! Either way breakfast in the woods is better than at home!north waldo campground,waldo lake camping For me, anyway.

 

 

 

 

View west with kayaksIt was time to set out on the lake. There is much to explore. There is “the burn” on the north side, full of coves and warmer water.On the west side there are primitive camping sites for miles. There is a trail to a lookout, up 2,000ft, where views of Central Oregon can be glimpsed. And halfway down the west side of Waldo Lake, Rhododendron Island. It’s a good spot to land your craft for a picnic!

The water of Waldo Lake is “dramatically ultra oligotrophic” meaning crazy clear with little organic matter. Chemically speaking, it’s more pure than distilled water. At an elevation of 5,414 feet, it’s so high it has no incoming streams. The water comes from snowmelt or springs. As such it’s so pure that a food chain is not supported. We saw only four seagulls and certainly no ospreys.

Words cannot really describe the clarity or color of Waldo Lake’s waters!

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Shadow, some 60 feet down. In deeper water the blue darkens.

Out in the middle of the lake, the water can appear purple-indigo. Look up ultramarine blue.

I took a photo of myself from under the water.Rod from underwater - Copy

We experimented with taking underwater photos from all sorts of angles.

 

 

 

 

kayaking waldo lake,paddling oregon,camping oregonOne such photo was taken by Bill Baxter from underneath his kayak! It makes the surface kind of look like blue mercury!

It was a glorious day! Our group split up. Some, led by April, set out to kayak to a trailhead and climb some 2,000 feet to an abandoned fire lookout. From there you can see the lake plus all of the Central Cascades Region of Oregon including Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters Wilderness, and Bend.

The rest of us paddled south to have a picnic at Rhododendron Island. On the wind protected side of the island it was HOT!

 

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Bill shows Cameron a frog!

After lunch we dared the chilly waters. Bill seemed less concerned than most and was out there with mask and camera quickly.

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You can see across as well as down

 

It took me forever to finally get all the way in the water. I should have just dove in!

Julie’s thermometer said it was 66 degrees. That is not terribly cold!Half Underwater

We all got together for a Mexican “bar” meal back at the campsite. It was a make-your-own burrito affair.

We set out the ingredients, then one would wrap up in aluminum foil & melt/heat over the fire!

Katie gets Cameron ready for the water

Katie gets Cameron ready for the water

It was a good reward after the hikes, paddling and picture taking!

We all agreed we will come back next year.

NOTE!! Waldo Lake is full of biting bugs/mosquitoes until mid August.

Plan your trip for late August or September. We think the best way to experience Waldo Lake is to camp outside the established campgrounds on the west side of the lake. There are plenty of gorgeous sites. But if your preference is for car camping, we recommend making a reservation – we managed to get the last three sites! Waldo Lake is unusual in that it gets more busy after Labor Day – and that’s because everybody’s avoiding the mosquitoes.





Kayaking Lighthouse Reef and Half Moon Caye Belize

2 05 2014
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Tisha gets a wet-exit lesson!

A week kayaking and snorkeling on Half-Moon Caye Belize guarantees a return to natural rhythms – awakening to the sunrise, sounds of gentle surf and rustling palm fronds, paddling sapphire clear waters, snorkeling amidst nature’s underwater splendor, and no hashtags. Plus, the 80+ degree water doesn’t hurt, either!

Lucy paddling out to the wreck on the reef lighthouse reef

Lucy paddling out to the wreck on the reef

Paddling Lighthouse Reef is definitely living a fantasy. The water is utterly sapphire clear and it’s warm. Inside the reef’s 22-mile long ring, the lagoon is only 8-10 feet deep. The protected waters are packed with an array of life. Our guides were of Garifuna, Mayan and Mestizo ethnicity – and they’d switch between English, Creole and Spanish at will.

Kayaks in the Island Expeditions fleet

Kayaks included Necky single or tandem polyethylene kayaks, Seaward tandem fiberglass kayaks and a few Boreal Design polyethylene single kayaks – and SUPs. The tandem kayaks were set up for sailing.

Island Expeditions paddling accessories

They also had a selection of Kokatat and Astral PFDs. A good portfolio of equipment for a tour operator, I thought.

Our agenda shifted each day depending on weather conditions. Sunrise was followed by 6:30 a.m. yoga with Tisha, from Vancouver BC. After breakfast, we would launch kayaks and paddle out to the reef, where we would snorkel.

Day one was mandatory snorkeling and kayaking introduction including wet exits and rescues.

DSCF1213One big question for me: Considering my back and hamstring injuries, which I’ve been working diligently to resolve, how will they handle trying to roll a kayak or do a rescue? The only way to know is to try. So upon launching, with the guides observing, I proceed to successfully roll my kayak five times! No back pain. Then, I try a re-enter and roll. A re-enter and roll is performed with the kayak upside down floating on the surface. I take a deep breath, get into the kayak upside down, and roll it up. Voila! I did it, no pain! Now to try an assisted rescue. In this case, with someone else stabilizing the boat, I pull myself onto the rear deck face down, inchworm my body/legs into the cockpit and then corkscrew right side up. OUCH! That was NOT GOOD! That exercise positively zonked my hamstring. But otherwise, paddling went well.

One afternoon we tried kayak sailing. We used ruddered tandem kayaks, and the sails were mounted in between the cockpits. I have to say it was fortunate I have a lot of sailing experience, because the guides pretty much said, “Here you go. Sail down to a big stick down the reef and then come back.” I steered and held the sail and my “crew” was Tisha. Remember that sailboats have keels or centerboards, which are like a fin in the middle of the boat. Kayaks don’t have them. So sailing a kayak is more an exercise in getting there without paddling, but not efficiently or in any way IMHO satisfyingly. We all arrived at the stick within one minute of each other…but that was the more downwind leg. On the way back, it was what we sailors would call a close reach – meaning we were more or less with the wind coming from the side. The return leg really “separated the men from the boys,” and I had to use every trick in my sailing skills base to get that kayak going straight instead of sideways, and to land on the island and not miss it entirely and wind up in the ocean. When we turned around at the stick, Half Moon Caye was almost invisible. I had to hold the sail as low and stiff as possible, using my outstretched arm, to spill air, whilst pushing the rudder with my feet so we had the correct angle. Lucky for me I was wearing my Astral Brewer shoes. Others got blisters! We learned to lean into the wind to keep the boat tilted right. Anyway we were so focused we simply doubled down on getting back to the island, and never looked back. When we landed, we were amazed that the others were dots on the horizon! We KILLED IT! We had 30 minutes of swim time before anyone else landed. After the experience, though, I say sailing is for sailboats!

Here’s a video of Tisha learning to wet exit her kayak!

Here’s a video of kayaking off Half Moon Caye…!

Next post – we’ll explore snorkeling Lighthouse Reef Belize!





Half Moon Caye Belize on Lighthouse Reef with Island Expeditions

25 04 2014

If you have seen “Gilligan’s Island,” then you might have imagined Island Expedition’s small operation on Half-Moon Caye. It is a true slice of paradise! No more than a mile long, coconut palm forested Half-Moon Caye sits in the southeast edge of Lighthouse Reef.Calm Day  North

Just off its eastern edge, the water drops to 12,000 feet deep. But inside the 22-mile long lagoon, the water is no more than 10 feet deep. This creates some interesting explosions of sea life, which we’ll explore in later posts.

Half-Moon Caye and several square miles around it are a World Heritage Site. The caye hosts a colony of rare red-footed booby birds.

These birds are amazing acrobatic aerial fishermen. Every day hundreds issue forth to forage in the ocean.Image

They bring back food for their young, but they are never alone.

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Red-Footed Boobie

Red Footed Boobies are symbiotically connected to Frigatebirds, which steal the food for themselves.

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Like an F-15 the Frigatebird wheels to steal some food.

Frigatebirds are even better fliers than boobies. But they have absolutely no fishing skills. They are completely dependent on stealing food from the boobies. So much so, that frigatebirds defend the entire colony from other scavenger species such as sea gulls or petrels. Oddly, the boobies seem OK with surrendering food.

Island Expeditions had about 12 platform tents arranged along the east side of the island, facing the ocean. Just beautiful, with coconut palms overhead.

 

ImageI certainly enjoyed my tent, which had two twin beds inside. ImageIt was simple yet thoughtfully laid out. It had strong pipes for a frame. It had a nightstand, a table, a laundry line, a hanging “dresser,” and an anti vermin cannister just in case. It stood up to the 24mph winds one night.

One job all of us had was keeping sand out of the tents!

Here is a video of the layout. Here is a video on a calmer day…with snorkelers!

Lodging is a misleading term, because we “lodged” in platform tents – each with beds. No super resorts here: exactly what I wanted. There were 12 tents lined up along the shore. Island Expeditions runs a sustainable operation – with water from rain collectors, a well, and composting toilets. Electricity was on four hours per day, just enough to charge your camera batteries. So, we were far from luxury yet far from roughing it. The kitchen served up three sumptuous meals daily.

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Dishes included Creole fair (lots of bbq), plus conch soup, coconut pie, pineapple and mango, and when we caught fish, catch of the day.

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Rise and shine! 6:30 a.m. yoga.

We were fortunate to have Tisha, a yoga instructor from British Columbia, on hand. Each morning she’d lead us in stretching and moves to open up the day.

In the evenings, we all gathered in the dining tent for discussions of the days adventures and misadventures.

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With island life taken care of, we had much off shore activities to pursue. So the next series of posts will explore kayaking, fishing and snorkeling in Lighthouse Reef, and the Great Blue Hole!

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The lagoon at sunrise.