The Shocking Story of the Flying Spiders

If you have sailed on Barren River Lake for a while, you have probably seen spider webs floating in the air across the Lake.  They are the same ones that get tangled up with your wind vane, causing it to malfunction. Where are those webs coming from? Spiders, of course.  But why?spiders_ballooning

If you think that they are just surplus webs that break away from trees and other objects, think again.  If you look at the webs carefully, you will find small spiders riding on them. So, were the spiders just spinning and got blown away?  Nope. The spiders were doing it intentionally to get around, to spread their species. Just like other plants and animals.

ballooning-spiders_thumb

How far can they fly?  When Charles Darwin first observed them, the Beagle was 60 miles off the South American shore.  At that time, science was not advanced enough to figure out how they were flying except to assume that it was all due to the wind.  Recently, British scientists solved the mystery. It does not have anything to do with the wind. In fact, the spiders seem to prefer light wind or calm.  The Earth carries a negative charge. When the spiders spin their webs, the webs are also negative. And, as I am sure you know, two negatively charged objects repel each other.  So, when the spiders feel the Earth developing a strong negative charge, they begin to tingle. They begin to spin, and off they go. Whee!

Lee Huddleston  July 8, 2018

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GRINGO ESCAPADE Part Six: Homeward Bound

by Larry Caillouet

After three weeks at home we returned to Escapade in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. We spent a day reprovisioning and doing the inevitable—installing equipment. We brought a new microwave oven with us, along with a new toilet pump for the aft head, a door latch for the forward head, and a fan to replace the one that died in the galley when it got soaked with a splash of seawater en route to Cartagena. We also brought two new crew—Richard, who had sailed with us on Escapade’s maiden voyage in the 2016 Bermuda Race, and Todd, who was new to the crew. We refueled and were ready to depart.

We left Providenciales the same way that we arrived—at high tide being led through tricky shoals by a pilot boat. High tide came at high noon, which was perfect for our first project. As soon as we cleared the slalom course exit from Provo, we dropped anchor in 20 feet of water. Just as we had anticipated, the hull had collected a small garden of sea life. Richard, Todd, and I were happy to jump into the warm and remarkably clear water to clean the hull. I had bought drywall taping knives and a painter’s multi-tool. Since I had scuba gear, I concentrated on the keel, propeller, shaft, and rudder while Richard and Todd worked on the hull and the bow thruster tube. It was fun to watch the scum, barnacles, and unidentified yucky stuff flying off the hull as we scraped. In fact, I think it was one of the most enjoyable dives I’ve ever had. A good time was had by all.

Since hurricane season had officially already started, we had some concern about the weather. It turned out that high wind was the opposite of the weather problem we faced. When we got underway there was barely a whisper of wind, so we motored away on a north-northwest course. We opened the mainsail to steady the motion of the boat and in hopes that it would add a half-knot or so to our speed, but it served mostly for decoration and to reaffirm our identity as sailors, not that other kind of boater. We motored all night, and all day, and all night, and all day. Norfolk is about 1000 miles from Turks and Caicos and Escapade has a calculated motoring range of 1000 miles on full fuel tanks, but we didn’t want to find out if that calculation was accurate. So we held the engine to a fuel efficient rpm and when the wind would occasionally make a contribution to our speed, we would reduce engine rpm accordingly.

Our doldrum days passed without incident. That gave us plenty of time to enjoy sunny days, starry nights, and round after round of storytelling. The storytelling well never ran dry and even when we made landfall the bucket was still full of untold stories. The sea became so flat and smooth it took on an appearance like oil and gave us the opportunity to see its true color, a gorgeous cobalt blue that was mesmerizing in its beauty.

After about 60 hours of motoring we finally found wind, or wind found us, and we added the genoa and the staysail to the main. The customary photos of the spinnaker flying gloriously will be missing from this report because we never had the right conditions to fly it. Too little wind, too much wind, or wind from the wrong direction denied any plan to use it, so we applied our sail trimming expertise to the other three sails—when we felt like it. Cruising is not racing and it’s easy to become complacent on long ocean passages. We discovered another incentive to not tinker with the trim of the sails too much. Any time we used the power winches to trim the genoa or the outhaul on the main, we lost our navigation instruments. Sometimes this included the autopilot and sometimes only the wind speed and wind angle readouts on the multifunction display. We had to reboot the instruments each time to get the readings back. We decided that this problem was related to the battery charging problems that we had been having ever since the new inverter/charger was installed in Dominican Republic. We also decided that there was nothing we could do about it out in the Atlantic, so we became very judicious in our use of the power winches. Still, with racing in our blood, we kept the boat moving pretty well.

One day when nothing special was happening, I spotted a couple of dolphins a hundred yards out to starboard. I told everyone to get their cameras ready because they would be visiting us soon, and they did. Dolphins seem to love playing with passing boats, like dogs chasing cars, and they don’t get a lot of opportunities out in the Atlantic where we were. There were 7 or 8 dolphins in the pod—it’s hard to count them when they are darting back and forth in front of the hull or zipping off on a larger loop and returning to join the fun. They entertained us for about 10-12 minutes and showed us that a sailboat is no match for their graceful and effortless speed.

 

Partway through the third day we picked up wind again, even though the weather report said we wouldn’t have any. It was great to turn the engine off and get back to doing what sailboats are meant to do. We discovered that without the engine running the house batteries were quickly depleted. This caused the electronic instruments to be even more finicky and the refrigeration suffered, so we ran the generator almost continuously when the engine wasn’t running. The generator uses less fuel than the engine, but still we kept an eye on the fuel gauge.

The next issue became the crossing of the Gulf Stream, which can be your friend or your worst enemy. Normally sailors plan to cross it at its narrowest point to minimize exposure to what can be very rough weather. If the wind is blowing south against the northward flowing Stream, it can be quite tempestuous. We were fortunate to have a favorable wind and were able to use the Stream like a moving sidewalk. On only 12 knots of wind we achieved the amazing speed of 10 knots, which is otherwise nearly impossible in Escapade. Because the wind, the current, and the boat were all moving in the same direction, it actually felt like we were sailing slowly and gently.

We reached Norfolk, Virginia, just inside the mouth of the Chesapeake late Friday afternoon and anchored outside Little Creek harbor to wait for Customs and Immigration to open in the morning. The storms that never materialized while we were sailing were waiting for us at Norfolk. Soon after we anchored we began to hear a roaring sound in the distance. It grew louder and louder and reminded us of tornado movies like Twister, but there were no funnel clouds, just lots of wind. Then the light show began. Broad flashes of lightning lit up the night and crackles of lightning etched jagged lines across the sky. We didn’t feel threatened but an old Christian hymn, “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?” came to my mind. Yes, Escapade’s 99-pound Spade anchor held and we enjoyed the show.

In the morning we docked at Little Creek Marina and called Customs and Border Protection to check in. Two CBP agents and one Agriculture agent came to our boat and in the old-fashioned face-to-face method easily cleared us in without any SVRS, ROAM, or other electronic acronyms. We ate dinner at the nearby Cutty Sark Restaurant and Bar which can best be described as “authentic.” The live music was mostly 70’s and 80’s songs, which triggered a “name that tune and singer” contest at our table.

When we left Norfolk to sail up the Chesapeake to Annapolis, we discovered a new problem—the autopilot refused to work, another issue caused by the bank of house batteries failing. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem unless you’ve tried to steer a course without any fixed visual reference points. The lower Chesapeake is so wide that you think that you are still on the ocean. There is no land to be seen ahead of you or on either side of you. There is a compass, of course, but steering a boat while watching the constantly moving dial of a compass is exceedingly tedious. By day whoever was helming tried to find a cloud that wasn’t moving too fast and steered toward it. By night we could have used the stars but heavy cloud cover eliminated that possibility. So we used lighted channel markers and referred frequently to the route I had plotted on the chart plotter before we set sail. After 24 hours of motorsailing we found ourselves in familiar territory, waiting for the draw bridge to open on Spa Creek in Annapolis, which we have always considered Escapade’s home port. It felt good to be back and a variety of water fowl welcomed us home.

We were working on cleaning the boat and packing when we started getting messages asking if we were okay. Yes, of course we were—why wouldn’t we be? We learned that a terrible shooting had just occurred in Annapolis at the Capital Gazette newspaper office, about 2 miles away from us. It was another senseless murder rampage stemming from the growing inability of Americans to manage their anger, respect life, and behave civilly.

The following day we celebrated the completion of our 2018 Gringo Escapade in our traditional way by going to Chick and Ruth’s Deli on Main Street to eat crab cakes and chocolate peanut butter pie. We were still strolling by the waterfront and seeking relief from the heat when a few thousand people marched by in a solemn vigil remembering those who died and protesting the needless violence in Annapolis and in the USA. Although we fully agreed with their sentiments, we didn’t join the vigil. Somehow I felt that I would be an intruder, although that feeling doesn’t quite make sense to me now.

As I am writing this final chapter of the Gringo Escapades, it is Independence Day in the United States. I’m grateful to be a citizen of this great country, even with all its obvious and serious defects. The USA began as a great escapade, an adventure fraught with risk and promise. May that escapade remember its roots as the adventure continues. And may it find a true North Star to guide it through rough, confusing, and uncertain waters.

The Glow Regatta & Karl Millen Regatta

glowmillenThe Glow Regatta is Saturday June 23rd, this is our Night Regatta – Brats and Dogs around 6pm. Skippers meeting to follow.  Bring a side (BUENOS NO CHIPS!). Make sure your lights work or have a way to make a light.
The Karl Millen regatta is Sunday June 24th, this was primarily a dinghy regatta,but all classes will race. Skippers meeting at 10:30 AM . Leah will fix a light breakfast. ( all racers know that little Chocolate Donuts are the best race food). Please contact Rob Hatcher to serve on Committee boat.

This weekend is also Summer Sailstice and people will be sailing all day as well .. https://www.summersailstice.com/

GRINGO ESCAPADE Part Cinco: Turks and Caicos by Larry Caillouet

It had been our plan to sail from Colombia to the San Blas Islands of Panama and then to Bocas del Toro near the border of Panama and Costa Rica. Many factors too detailed to describe here led us to a major change of plans. Instead of sailing west to leave Escapade in a marina in Bocas for the duration of the rainy season, which is June to December, we decided to sail north to Annapolis, which we have always considered Escapade’s home port even though she is registered in Dover, Delaware. Cartagena is an excellent point of departure to sail north across the Caribbean. There was no wind at all to the west toward Panama, but to the north the open sea had easterlies of 13-20 knots. These winds are perfect for a good beam reach, tailor made for sailing north. image1
Instead of returning to BVI or Antigua to join the Salty Dawgs’ summer migration to the Chesapeake, we decided to be Stray Dawgs and follow a route unique to us. Straight north of Cartagena is what we started calling the HaiCuJa Triangle. That’s the mini-gulf between Haiti on the east, Cuba on the north, and Jamaica on the west. This gap in the islands was the perfect gateway to the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas. Providenciales would be a good place for Greg and Elaine to fly home from and TCI would be a nice rest stop and vacation place for us until we were ready to sail farther north. These islands are not Spanish speaking, but we were still feeling Gringo, so we kept the title Gringo Escapade for this narrative.
image2We left Cartagena as night fell and knew we would have to motor for several hours because the sea was in the wind shadow of Colombia. When we finally got into clear air we had the winds that usually are found in the Caribbean—15-20 knots from the east. We hoisted the sails (actually we unfurled them) and soon hit our stride at 8+ knots. When we sailed south to Colombia we had the benefit of waves on our quarter pushing us along. Now we had waves on our bow splashing over the boat and forcing us to close ports and hatches. Sometimes we zipped down the cockpit enclosure panels on the weather side of the boat to keep the cockpit and its inhabitants dry. But no one was complaining about 8+ knots.
image3When we zoomed in to the HaiCuJa Triangle on the chartplotter to set a waypoint, we discovered a small island of only 2 square miles sitting between Haiti and Jamaica. It is named Navassa Island and has been administered by the USA since 1857. It piqued our curiosity to find a US territory that we had never heard of in this out-of-the-way location, so we decided to use it as our first waypoint. If we arrived in daylight perhaps we could anchor there and have lunch. We did arrive exactly at lunch time, but this island had no place to anchor. It was long and flat with steep cliffs coming straight down to the water. It was covered with small green foliage, but the only sign that any human had ever set foot on it was a smooth path that led down to the rocky cliff at one point. So we saluted it and sailed on.
image4We were surprised to find that we still had very good wind after entering the HaiCuJa triangle. The forecast had been for no wind at all in this mini-gulf, but we were still hitting 8+ and sometime topped 9 knots. Then it happened: God turned the wind off. It didn’t die gradually—it just suddenly quit. So we started the motor and set a course through the gap between Cuba and Haiti toward Grand Inagua Island, the southernmost island of the Bahamas.
Although we never entered the territorial waters of Haiti, Cuba, or Jamaica, we could see all three of them in the distance, sometimes two of them at the same time. My boat insurance excludes Haiti and Cuba from coverage so we didn’t want to wash up on either shore. There was no danger of that with the Perkins chugging along smoothly. Eventually we cleared the wind shadow of Haiti and the delightful easterly wind enabled Escapade to kick up her heels again. We hadn’t seen another boat since leaving Colombia, but we weren’t the only ones kicking up our heels.image5 I was on watch when a playful pod of dolphins began doing their circus tricks alongside the boat. Sometimes they did synchronized leaps from the water. At other times they happily raced the boat, riding the bow wave and crisscrossing back and forth under the boat. It was easy to see that they were holding back to stay with us. At our top speed the dolphins were just out for a stroll and some fun and games.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are much like the Bahamas, surrounded by very shallow water and absolutely infested with coral. We kept a sharp eye on the chartplotter and carefully worked our way around the northwest corner of Provo, the local nickname for Providenciales, which is the most populous and developed island of TCI. It’s the island with all the big resorts, fancy vacation houses, and busy night life. It’s what most tourists are thinking of when they talk about Turks and Caicos. We furled sails and motored the last few miles to the edge of the reef surrounding Provo. By 5 am we had anchored near the marker indicating the entrance to the winding course that led through the coral heads and shoals to Turtle Cove Marina. It was high tide, but without a pilot boat it would have been foolish to attempt to navigate this course in the dark. By the time daylight arrived, high tide had passed and we had to wait for the next high tide at 5:20 pm. This seemed like a lost day as we were teased and tantalized by the sight of the beaches of Provo just a few hundred yards away from us, but we discovered that we had cell phone service from shore, so like starving men who hadn’t eaten in days, we all stuffed ourselves with phone calls and web surfing. The ocean is wonderful and the islands are marvelous, but the cyber world is our home now and it was great to be home again.
At 5 pm the tide was high again and a motor launch came out to lead us through the twisted path to the marina. The pilot gave us strict instructions to follow in his wake and not deviate at all. The twisting channel was marked with 18 red and green buoys, but Hurricanes Irma and Maria had rearranged the sand mounds under the water and being within the marked channel was not enough to guarantee that we wouldn’t run aground. With 7 foot draft there were plenty of opportunities for us to stick the keel in the sand. We kept an eye on the depth sounder and saw it go down to as little as 6 inches of water under the keel, but we never touched bottom. We breathed a sigh of relief and our sphincters relaxed when we entered the marina and were pointed to our slip.
Thursday is the weekly “Fish Fry” on Providenciales. That’s what they call it, but it really is a street party with every kind of food and local bands entertaining the crowd. We weren’t yet checked in through Customs and Immigration since the offices closed before we arrived, but we sensed that the normal requirement of checking in before going ashore was of no concern on Fish Fry night. We caught a free ride on a small bus going our way and melted into the crowd of dancers, drinkers, eaters, and partiers. The highlight of the night was a percussion band beating out an irresistible rhythm. The intensity of the drumming reminded me of the movie Drumline.
image7The first order of business after Customs and Immigration on the next morning was to get a marine mechanic to the boat to deal with some problems that had plagued us. Provo Diving was in the slip next to Escapade, so Greg and Elaine went diving while Diana and I met with Giles from Caribbean Diesel and Marine. It was reassuring to deal with a knowledgeable mechanic in English again. Giles discovered that the settings on the charger/inverter were set for lead acid batteries, not the AGM batteries that Escapade uses. image8A few adjustments solved the electrical problem that began in Dominican Republic and was not solved in Cartagena. Giles used a trick I didn’t know to burp a giant air bubble from the starboard sea water intake. That solved the problem of inadequate water intake for the air conditioning and the water maker. Soon the problems were all dealt with and we were free to move about the island. Greg and Elaine rented a car and we set off to see the island. The land itself is mostly dusty sun bleached coral chalk—not particularly appealing to those of us who love the rich green foliage of Kentucky and the Windward Islands of the Caribbean. But the waters around TCI are indescribably beautiful. My cameras were simply inadequate to capture the nuanced shades of blue, blue-green, aqua, seafoam green, and turquoise that surrounded the islands and filled the bays. Our first excursion was along the south shore of Chalk Sound. Beautiful houses enjoyed fabulous views of the sea to the south and the sound to the north. Within Chalk Sound were many small islets that would make exploring it by water intriguing. And at the end of the road was a property called Emerald Bay. In addition to two impressive homes, it had a turntable for crossing the moat they created by cutting through the rock to let the sea in. It’s for rent if you’ve got the big bucks.
After Greg and Elaine flew home we still had several days to kill before our flight. On Sunday we hitched a ride to the Blue Hills Wesleyan Methodist Church, one we had selected from a Google Search and wasn’t too far away. It was an all black church, except for us, and it added a Caribbean flavor to the black churches we knew in the states. Singing was robust, testimonies were exuberant, preaching was loud and long, and everyone was warm and friendly. The parking lot was crammed with cars because part of the property was still unusable due to the damages from Irma and Maria.
We had been very efficient in exploring all four corners of Provo, so Diana and I took a ferry to North Caicos, a few nautical miles away from Provo, but light years away from Provo culture. Instead of giant all-inclusives like Provo had, North Caicos had little mom-and-pop beach motels. Most were already closed for the season and so were most of the restaurants that were touted in the glossy tourist literature. We were out of luck even at the Last Chance Bar & Grill when we tried to eat there. That was OK with us. We were there to see the “real” Turks and Caicos, and this was pretty real. We stayed two nights in an Airbnb in the village of Kew. There are only two streets in Kew, so it didn’t take us long to walk the whole town. Along the way we met and talked to almost the entire population of Kew. One man told us about the birds we heard squawking. Another showed us the pens where he kept and cultivated land crabs and he introduced us to his mother. I think we slipped through a time warp to Mayberry with island folks.
image9The next day we drove across a small bridge to Middle Caicos, which is even less populous than North Caicos. We had lunch at Mudjin Bar & Grill which sits on a hill above caves that go down to the beach at Dragon Cay. At Bambarra Beach we waded in knee deep sea water a half mile out to Pelican Cay and back. If Mayberry could have a suburb, it would be Middle Caicos.
I’ve commented on the attitudes I’ve seen in the people of different islands and countries, but not on the attitudes of the children. On the three islands of TCI that we spent time on, Diana and I noticed and commented on how quiet and well behaved the children are. They speak softly and are polite and respectful. Clearly there is something different about the parenting in TCI compared to anywhere else we have been.
We had no crew for the final passage back to Annapolis, so we left Escapade in good hands at Turtle Cove Marina and flew home to check on our other life.image10

~ Larry