MITA and Microplastics

The Maine Island Trail Association’s annual island cleanups certainly help keep Trail sites looking good – but that’s not the primary reason we do what we do!

Even more importantly, marine debris – especially plastics – in our ocean cause myriad environmental problems. Since this debris doesn’t biodegrade, it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, which are near impossible to remove and harmful to all kinds of marine life.  In a recent blog post, MITA cleanup volunteer Peter Jones ruminates on marine debris, how it travels across the ocean, and why it’s so important to “Leave No Trace.”

Read his post here!

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Cold Blood, Hot Sea: Intrigue on the Ocean!

Mystery writer Charlene D’Avanzo releases her new novel Cold Blood, Hot Sea this month.  It’s an exciting tale of environmental mystery, in which oceanographer Mara Tusconi is forced to confront the world of anti-climate-change big energy conspirators with both her research and her life on the line.  Charlene lives in Maine and is a long-time paddler and MITA member – she even mentions MITA in her book!  We recently had the chance to chat with her about climate fiction and the Maine Island Trail.

What is the basic premise of Cold Blood, Hot Sea?

I was motivated to write Cold Blood, Hot Sea after listening to a famous climate scientist describe the harassment he had to endure at the hands of climate change deniers. I was horrified that the very people trying to figure out this extraordinarily complex global human-caused phenomenon were being hounded in this way. The idea to write a novel with this underlying theme came to me because other scientists just weren’t reaching the public via the usual means. I chose mysteries because I read a ton of them, and the idea of the protagonist solving a puzzle works well with a scientist as lead character. My goal was to write an engaging, face-paced story through which readers would gain a better understanding of impacts of warming in Maine’s coastal waters – without being preachy at all. Many people have little idea what scientists actually do day-to-day, so that was also a goal.

How does the Maine Island Trail figure into the book? 

My protagonist, Mara Tusconi, is an oceanographer and avid sea kayaker. On several occasions she paddles out to islands off the fictitious town of Spruce Harbor. I specifically mention MITA at a crucial moment. Mara and her colleague Ted McKnight (he’s the love interest) paddle out to “Cove Island” on a lovely spring day. Mara is secretly terrified of giving speeches to the public (her reasons are explained via the story). Ted is trying to convince her to be the spokesperson for climate researchers at a big-deal meeting in a few weeks. Before they get to the island and discuss this turning point in the story, Mara asks Ted if he’s a MITA member. When he hesitates, she tells him to “get with the program because the Maine Island Trail Association protects hundreds of Maine islands.” She threatens to “come after you” if he doesn’t. Ted laughes and adds, “I’m sure you will.” It’s a light moment before things get heavy.

What are some of your own experiences on the Maine Island Trail?  How did those experiences shape you as a writer?

The first time I visited a MITA island was probably twenty years ago when Lee Bumsted (LL Bean guide, MITA member forever) took me to a few islands off Stonington. I was astonished that these precious bits of land off the coast were available to boaters to land on, walk around, and even camp on. When I learned the number of MITA islands, I was flabbergasted and so very grateful.  I’m part of a large group of paddlers who go to Stonington for a week of paddling in June. We’ve been doing it so long I can hardly remember a June when I haven’t revisted those MITA islands. My books are set on and right off the Maine coast. These are “environmental mysteries” because there is an environmental theme, but I think of the actual physical setting as a kind of character. I try to make the Maine coast come alive for people who have never been here and those who know it really well. You do that with imagery – visual, of course, but also smell, sound, touch. When I circle the islands and walk through them, I close my eyes and try to drink it all in so I can remember that later. For instance, a while back I stuck my hands into some boggy water in the middle of an island. It was much colder than I expected and deeper. I used that in a scene in which Mara must cross a soggy bog in a violent storm when she’s exhausted.

Is the Mara Tusconi character based on you?  Is it easier for you to write about someone who’s similar to you, or very different?

As I explain on my website, Mara is like me in some ways but different in many others. We’re both marine scientists, although she’s an oceanographer and I studied the coast because I get terribly seasick. Mara shares that disastrous trait for an oceanographer. She’s much younger than I am – early 30’s. She’s pretty opinionated and sometimes rash, which I certainly was in my younger days. We’re both nuts about sea kayaking, although she’s much better at rolling her boat than I am. Mara’s famous scientist parents died in a submarine accident when she was 19, a tragedy that has shaped her. Her godfather Angelo is her only family. None of that happened to me, thank goodness.

What are some of the lessons you’d like readers to take away from the book that you think will resonate with MITA members?

In my experience, even folks with a strong environmental ethic have a difficult time grasping the climate change crisis – both the present-day impacts and what’s in store for our children and grandchildren. Given the scope of global warming, it’s understandably difficult for most of us to get a handle on what’s happening and what individuals can do about it. I would hope that Cold Blood, Hot Sea might stimulate readers to learn a little more so they can educate others, for instance. On my website, I include websites that provide good information plus books I’ve found helpful.

Interested in reading more?  Purchase Charlene’s book here.

So Many Anchorages, So Little Time!

Photo: Wed Ceiling Productions

Photo: Wet Ceiling Productions

Nobody knows the coast of Maine better than MITA members.  In celebration of the anchorage data added to the MITA app in 2016, we asked some of our veteran cruisers for their personal favorite anchorages and cruising grounds. Here are a few…

  • “Tucking on the north side between the two Brown Islands (south of Cylends [“Slins”] Island) just to the west of Whitehead Island, gives good southwest protection and an open view south to the islands off of Tenant’s Harbor and Monhegan. Good mud bottom.”
  • “Moores Harbor on the northwest coast of Isle au Haut provides an expansive view of the coastal mountains that rise above Vinalhaven and North Haven. Good protection from a northeast wind and it is deep enough to avoid the southwest wind by coming up close to the shore.”
  • “Roque Island Harbor provides a protective anchorage from just about any direction. It provides a good location to explore Englishman’s Bay and islands off of Jonesport to Machias.”
  • “Gunk-holing in Ship Harbor on Great Wass is fabulous.”  
  • “Cruising through the islands just south of Ripley Neck off Harrington.”
  • “Our long time favorite is the Basin. A real ‘hurricane hole’ or just a perfect spot for an evening cocktail.”
  • “For the intrepid with accurate GPS, motor into Little River (at high tide only) and tie up at the Spar Shed Marina in East Boothbay. Lots of atmosphere, limited moorings.”
  • “Small power boats visiting Jewell Island’s Cocktail Cove often anchor near the trail leading to campsites and a privy at the southern point. But take care if you trek off during a falling tide — the water can drain quickly and leave you beached!”  

We hope you’ll share your own favorite anchorages with us, and enjoy these and many others in the 2016 MITA app!

Sign up for 2016 Cleanups!

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Spring is here so it’s time for a little spring cleaning. MITA is dusting off the boat fleet, laundering the work gloves, and polishing our trash pickers. On five different days this spring and another four this fall, we’re planning cleanups from Kittery to Downeast. Volunteers will be taken by experienced MITA skippers to clean the shorelines of targeted islands in several different regions of the Trail. While just a single day commitment, it’s a great way to volunteer with MITA and get out to explore and protect Maine’s wild islands.

Spring Cleanup Dates:

  • Friday, April 22 – Fort Foster “Earth Day”
  • Saturday, May 28 – Casco Bay
  • Saturday, June 4 – Muscongus Bay
  • Sunday, June 5 – Kennebunkport Conservation Trust “Gear Grab”
  • Saturday, June 11 – Deer Isle
  • Saturday, June 18 – Downeast

Fall dates will be posted this summer. Please keep checking back for updates!

Space is limited. To sign up or for more information, call 207.761.8225 or email stewards@mita.org.

Build a D-I-Y Kayak Trailer

Last month’s post about building a homemade kayak storage system was so popular that we’ll stick with the do-it-yourself theme in March! Here longtime member Jim Owen shares his plans for a self-built kayak carrier that fits easily into a hatch.

Parts List:

  • 1 two-by-four
  • 2 large wooden triangles
  • 2 baby carriage wheels (or other small wheels!)
  • an axle (or whatever one can find about as wide as the aft end of a kayak)
  • plastic electrical cable fittings, spaced 3-4 inches apart all along the bottom of the two-by-four to hold the axle in place
  • two sets of rope
  • a tie-down of your choice with hooks at both ends (I found one for $3 – it has a jam cleat as part of one of the hooks – you supply your own rope)

Effort:

Find and/or cut the wood to size, and strongly attach the triangles to the two-by-four (with rugged screws), with your kayak’s aft end in mind. Drill two rope-sized holes in the upper end of the triangles – the top hole is for the rope holding the boat closest to the stern, and the bottom hole is for the rope which will connect to the tie-down leading back from the cockpit. That done, then attach the axle to the two-by-four with the fittings. The rope needs to be fitted and tied according to one’s kayak dimensions. The key component of the trailer is using rope, and scaling the trailer to the size of your kayak and its main hatch.

Below see a “self-explanatory” picture. I am not a skilled carpenter, so if I can make this anybody can, and better!
– Jim

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Later on, Jim submitted an update to his design:

Earlier this week I was using my kayak trailer and one of the wheels caught on a granite slab. I wasn’t paying proper attention. I gave it a big pull and tore off the axle on one side. Drat! However, it is easily fixed if that happens to you. Just screw on new hardware clips, maybe metal.

How to Build a Rolling Kayak Storage System

Winter is a time for tinkering – cleaning gear, repairing boats, and making plans for the upcoming season on the water. In that spirit, here’s a fun building project designed by MITA member and volunteer Mitch Darrow.  What an awesome idea!

“My kayak fleet doubled last summer, and I was faced with the challenge of finding storage space in the garage this winter. I had been hanging the boats on the garage wall, but this was proving cumbersome for two boats, and impossible for four.  So, I designed and built two rolling storage racks for the boats and all the associated gear.  One rack has hanging storage for wetsuits, paddling jackets, and a map case.  The other rack has integrated paddle storage and hanging storage for spray skirts.  Both have ample tote capacity for camping and other gear.  Both can be rolled out of the garage and right up to my vehicle for easy loading and unloading.

Figure 1: Loaded storage rack

Figure 1: Loaded storage rack

Materials List

(1) ½ OSB or plywood 4’x 8’ sheet

(4) 2x 4x 10’

(4) 2” casters

(4) Pieces of 1” webbing x 72” length (can use webbing widths up to 1.5”).

(4) Plastic web slide lock buckles

(12”) 2” diameter wooden closet rod

(8) 2” fender washers

(8) 5/16 x3” bolts and nuts

(8) #10×3” bolts and nuts

(16) #10 washers

(50) #10×2.5” wood screws

Hooks and handles based upon your needs

Materials Cost: $50-$75 depending on your choice of building material and hardware selection. I built 2 racks for less than $100 total.

I chose to use 2” swivel casters, to maximize the vertical storage available.

The brackets on each rack have different elevations to allow the kayaks to interleave in the corner of the garage.

Take a sheet of plywood and cut three 16” x 48” panels. You’ll need 3 of these panels per rack. Each panel will be enough for three brackets, if you interleave them.

Figure 2: Rack with paddle storage

Figure 2: Rack with paddle storage

Figure 3: Rack with hanging storage

Figure 3: Rack with hanging storage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4: Bracket construction (top)

Figure 4: Bracket construction (top)

Figure 5: Bracket construction (front)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make the arm brackets:

  1. Cut the bracket shape out of the panel according to the plans in Figure 6. I used a jigsaw, but a router with a trimming bit will precisely duplicate the subsequent bracket pieces.
  2. Drill the four holes in each bracket piece in the spots indicated by the blue circles. Use an 11/32” bit, which will fit the 5/16” bolts.
  3. Smooth the edges of each bracket piece with a sander or router.
  4. Cut the 2” dowel into 1-1/2” pieces, and drill an 11/32” hole down the center. You’ll need 2 per bracket.
  5. For the nylon straps, you’ll need two lengths for each boat. I found 6 feet to give me enough adjustment to get the kayak at the right elevation in the sling. Don’t forget to melt the ends. I used an adjustable plastic buckle to attach the two ends together in a loop.  It provides sufficient holding power and a slim profile.
  6. Run a bolt through the outboard hole in one piece, through your 2” closet rod and finally through a 2nd bracket piece.
  7. Run another bolt through the top holes and closet rod.
  8. Loop the nylon strap between the two bolts.
  9. I ripped some 2×4 scraps and used them to reinforce the bottom and outside edge of each assembled bracket. Refer to Figure 4 and Figure 5.
Figure 6: Arm bracket template

Figure 6: Arm bracket template

To make the frame:

The most important measurement is the actual garage door opening height. Your rack must be constructed so that there is sufficient clearance when the rack is loaded with both kayaks.  While you can use larger diameter castors, I found that 2” wheels helped me to efficiently utilize the space. Once you have your overall height, you can layout the frame.  I chose a 36” measurement from the bottom of one bracket to the bottom of the second.  This gave ample room to maneuver the bottom boat into the brackets.

For my touring kayaks, I found that placing the brackets at 5’ centerline provided the support at the correct locations.  You will need to adjust this to your particular boats.  In my case, I needed a 5’ x 2’ base. I cut two of the 2x4s into four 5’ pieces, and then cut two 2’ pieces, on from each of the remaining 10’ lengths. I then framed the 5’ x 2’ base from 2×4.  From the remaining 4’ x 4’ piece of plywood, cut a skin for the base, and attach it to the 2×4 base.  Attach your casters, and flip it right-side up.  Cut your vertical supports from the remaining 2x4s, and toenail them to the base.  Make gusset plates from any scraps left from cutting the brackets, and use them to strengthen the verticals.  Use the remaining 5’ 2x4s as stringers between the verticals.  Any remaining plywood can be used as surface for mounting storage hooks.

Attach the bracket assemblies to the verticals, being sure to keep each level with the floor, and at the same vertical height.  Make sure to leave a little space for the webbing between the upper roller and the vertical frame.

Figure 7: Low profile hooks for hanging gear

Figure 7: Low profile hooks for hanging gear

Figure 8: Boat resting in the sling does not touch the bracket

Figure 8: Boat resting in the sling does not touch the bracket

 

 

 

 

 

On one rack, I used a large diameter hole saw with a 2” cutting depth to bore holes through the 2×4 stringer.  This created an efficient storage system for my paddles.  Refer to Figure 9.  On the other rack, I used 3” hex bolts with extra nuts and washers to create low profile hooks for my pfds and wet suits.  Refer to Figure 7. These worked well in my limited space and allowed me to store the racks in the garage tight against the walls.  Feel free to use something more conventional if you have the available space.

I also included map storage area.  I have a large collection of 11×17 laminated maps that I have collected, and this allows me to keep them in a central location.

The outer bolts on each bracket ended up protruding beyond the bracket.  I used a little bit of plastic tubing and covered the ends of the bolts. This protects both the boats and me.

One final note: if you use OSB please be sure that you seal the rack with paint or stain.  This will protect the material from humidity or moisture and subsequent delamination.  Most home owners usually have some paint leftover from previous projects – if you are not particular about colors use what you have laying around.   I intentionally used a color on the brackets that would make them easy to see in low light situations, like a dark garage.”

Figure 9: A large diameter hole saw turns the cross bar into paddle storage

Figure 9: A large diameter hole saw turns the cross bar into paddle storage

Early Spring Kayak Camping

In honor of the real winter weather we’ve (finally) been getting, here’s a story from last year’s harsh season by Prudence Baxter of the North Shore Paddlers Network.  In preparation for paddling in Alaska, she and some hearty companions spent a snowy night on the aptly named Little Snow Island in Casco Bay.  Click here to read about her adventure!  Be sure to stay warm and safe out there, folks.

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Snow on Little Snow Photo: Prudence Baxter