Saturday, August 13, 2011

windless; the burning swamp; the fall trip

The summer is notable, at least to me, for a lack of wind.  There is not a shortage of wind all the time - it is only when I go sailing.  Yesterday I was out for about five hours.  At first is was glassy calm.  Eventually light breezes ruffled the surface, then they disappeared.  It was cool and dry, even a hit of fall in the air, so I did not mind the calm water.  For about an hour my friend Paul joined me.  I'm glad there was at least some wind when he was on board.  It was not a day for great sailing, only a day for relaxing on the water.

There is a fire raging in the Great Dismal Swamp just to the east of where I live.  I do not know the convention for naming fires so I cannot explain the name, but it is known as the Lateral West fire.  You can see the plume of smoke billowing to the ESE in this satellite photo below.
Swamp fires are interesting in that it is the ground itself that burns. Peat, the decomposing vegetation that makes up the "ground" in a swamp is often ignited by nature - lightning.  Water can be used to put out the fire on the surface, but the burning can tunnel beneath the surface of the peat and reemerge elsewhere.  There is no easy way to extinguish a swamp fire.

Adding to the intensity of the Lateral West fire are the thousands of cedar trees that were downed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.  The trees, their bleach white trunks spread out across the thousands of acres of swamp, have been drying out for eight years now.  Perfect fuel for the fire.
The experts says it could take six inches of rain - a tropical storm is what they are talking about - to put out the fire.

This hint of fall - cool, dry air coming in from the north - has got me thinking about the fall trip.  It is about five weeks away.  I've got a busy work schedule between now and then but should be wrapping up a few projects just in time to load Spartina for the drive to the eastern shore.
I've been going back through the logs of the our spring trip up Chesapeake Bay and my solo trip on last fall.  The logs give me ideas for routes I might like to take, places I might want to visit.  Above is a photograph Bruce shot as we entered the channel to Tangier Island in May.  I do hope to visit Tangier Island on this next trip.  Anchoring in Cod Harbor was magical.

And this is a photo of Spartina's JW pennant, a gift from my Mom, from when we were anchored on Reed Creek on the last full day of the spring trip.  I won't get as far north as that this fall.  But the photograph now makes me smile.  The pennant was fluttering in the, yes, wind.  Those were the days....



EyeInHand said...

Great photos, Steve. A suitable tradeoff with nothing to riffle the surface.

Baydog said...

Steve, time to move to the Barnegat Bay.

my2fish said...

steve, that sounds about like my summer so far - every time I have free time to sail, the winds have not been kind to me. I'm really hoping for a least 1 sail this year with a good strong wind. good luck planning your trip.