Saturday, June 26, 2010

Specious Weather Behind Me

Thankfully, the Weatherman was way off today! I was a little worried when I checked the NWS SFO/Monterey AFD and Marine Forecast. Yesterday's Tomales Bay forecast for WNW winds 10-15mph was upped to this morning's 10-16mph!?

SturgeUrge and I hit the road about 0730...there was some barely-there "drizzle" on the windshield...again, contrary to the latest forecast! We arrived at the Miller Park Boat Ramp at 0930 to view a glassy, flat Tomales Bay under cloudy but dry skies.

I rigged and baited the crab pots while SturgeUrge chatted up the other fishermen getting their rigs ready to launch. Word was, no legal dungeness crabs around, halibut fishing...slow. Some helpful anglers advised us to watch the course they ran from the ramp to the main bay, as the water was pretty thin.

We launched into the mirror-like water, followed the Good Samaritans' course until the depth sounder said five feet, and blasted across the Bay to the West shore to set the pots.

With the crab gear deployed, we started drift fishing for halibut. There was barely any wind at least the flooding tide moved us some. We had some raked baits, but no bites that got our attention. We drifted for an hour and ran back to the crab gear.

After a one hour soak, the first pot had a bunch of Red Crabs and a half a dozen dungees! The reds were huge! Three of the dungees were keepers, too. The other pot was loaded with dungees...maybe 15! Most were just a little short, but a couple more were keepers, and went into the livewell.

The day went like this as the sun came out, and so did a small armada of fishing boats and kayak fishermen. We chatted with a couple of the kayakers...nobody it seems was hooking any halibut. One kayaker, whose "handle" I knew from the NorCalKayakAngler's website, was crabbing too. He had crabs in the boat, but wasn't doing any better than the rest of us when it came to the halibut.

We kept at it, drifting for halibut, and pulling the pots every hour. After the third pull, we moved the pots because of diminishing returns, and because I recognized an undersize dungee we'd pulled three times! Poor little fella had one normal claw and one tiny "baby" claw. The Tomales Bay crab had many barnacles on their shells and claws...many more than we see in the Pacific proper.

The day flew by, we were running on adrenaline and didn't ever get around to making sandwiches. As the crabs kept coming aboard, the livewell filled with nice crustaceans. The baitwell was working like a champ...KirkVallus' electronic wizardry was paying off in spades! Thanks KV!

We weren't catching halibut, but we were caring less and less the more the livewell filled with tasty crabs! Finally, SturgeUrge brought a halibut aboard! It was about 20 1/2 inches...too short!

California Halibut must be 22 inches to retain in California waters...Urge's halibut went about 1 1/2 inches. It was impaled on a hook's point, but it was only a "flesh wound"...nothing important felt the "sting of steel" fact, the little flatfish was so small that he was still transparent. It was cool, it had the signature halibut spots, both eyes were on top, and Urge said he could see right through the skin. I snapped a quick photo, and the little guy swam away when SturgeUrge put it back in the Bay. Alas, in the bright sun, I couldn't see the LCD screen, and the camera moved, or the boat moved, and the focus was way off.

As the haul of crab grew, we started thinking we'd better leave earlier than we'd planned, so we called: "One more drift"...we'd recount and remeasure the crab, and hightail it home because there was an hour or two of crab cookin' and cleaning to do...not to mention a fresh dungeness crab dinner to savor!

We went a little further northwest for our last drift, and before long, we drifted out of the wind shadow of Point Reyes and we really started to scoot! Just then, SturgeUrge's rod almost jumps overboard! Urge grabs it, sets the hook, and starts reeling. "Anybody home" I asked. "No, it's got weight, but no head shake"...then Urge says: "Get the net!" There's a big dungee hanging onto my bait!" Then, "I'm not making any headway...start it up and we'll back down on it" That's when Urge realizes he's snagged on a crab pot rope, entangled with a bunch of eel grass, and that big crab hitching a ride. I bumped the outboard into and out of reverse, handed the landing net to SturgeUrge, he expertly caught the crab as it cleared the surface and let go, dropping right into the net.

As this was going on, we realized what we had here...A crab pot that was lost when a boat ran over the pot's line...I grabbed the gaff, and caught the crab line. SturgeUrge picked up the other fishing line that was still out, and I started to pull the derelict pot's line.

There were no line weights on the hardware store black and orange nylon rope. You've got to weight the floating line, or it's bound to find a boat's propeller.

I hoisted the pot over the gunnel, and it was loaded with dungeness crabs, and a lone red crab. We whooped it up, high-fived each other, and generally enjoyed our great fortune. There were another three or four keepers in the lost pot, which was poorly rigged...under-weighted, no line weights, no hanging bait...just a giant bait cage. We guessed it was lost last weekend, because the line didn't have any growth started on it yet...So some poor schlub lost his new crab pot on Father's Day...sorry about that, DaddyO...

So, today turned out to a day for the archives...catching a lost pot with a rod and reel is rare enough...but grabbing that hitchhiker crab, and a potfull of dungeness...well, that was just icing on the cake!

We talked to some other anglers back at the ramp who did catch a 10lb halibut today...they said they've been catching halibut all week...with live jacksmelt for bait. They jigged up the smelt from the edges of the eelgrass patches in the shallows of the Bay. They were one of only two boats we saw using the local live bait today...Noted for next time...jacksmelt were the prey we saw the ospreys winging back to their nests too.

Two hours on the highway later, we were back at the SturgeUrge Compound by 6:30PM. SturgeUrge fired up my cooker and steamed the 20 crabs in two batches, while I flushed the outboard motor, washed the rods and reels, and hauled in all the stuff from the tow rig.

I set the table for the regal spread. Two flavors of crab, french bread, and a quick homemade coleslaw, enjoyed with a great California Sparkling Wine, Domaine Chandon Blac de Noir.

In a word...perfect.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Suspicious Weather Ahead

The weather took a change today. It's been so hot in the Inland Valley that yesterday I moved a market umbrella into the Diggins to give me a longer window to work in.

Today, the marine layer held on all day, and the temps didn't get out of the high 50's. On top of that, the winds were blustering most of the day...not good for Friday's Tomales Bay Crab and Halibut Hunt with SturgeUrge.

When I had a spare minute, I checked the Marine Forecast. Friday's weather is doable...better than today in fact. Just the same, I looked at Reno's AFD to see if this was their "Baggy Trough" Not a word, though the cooling will be short-lived. A strong ridge will build in by Tuesday, warming things back up to normal.

I get the feeling that we're gonna go back and and mild all Summer.

I think I'll sneak in some fall/winter-type veggies in the Ancestral Diggins.

Damn right...I am tempting the Fates!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The digging never ends in the Ancestral Diggins. I'm still digging up the old irrigation stuff, tearing it out back to the base level, and adding new automation for the 21st Century. I automated my last garden just a season before I moved to the DaveCave.

Out in the wilds of Truckee, there's extra considerations when it comes to water, pipes, and such. Add freezing temperatures and water grows an IQ. Freezing water can travel uphill, and ice does not play nice with valves, pipes, drip emitters, or sprinklers.

I designed my automated irrigation system so that it would survive the frigid winters with a minimum of damage. My big innovation was to build the valve manifolds to be portable. When the harvest was nearly over, and the first hard freeze imminent, I would unhook the manifolds from the water supply, drain the water from the valves, pipes and hoses, and store the manifolds in the laundry room until spring.

My other genius innovation was to use soaker hoses instead of drip emitters and drip tubing. Drip systems are far from frost hardy! I heard someone on Mr Vegetable's Garden Talk Show recommend burying the soaker hose as the water will migrate down from the hose, thereby depriving weed seed on the surface of the garden of the water needed to germinate. I gave it a shot, and the results were spectacular! I weeded once a season...with a snowmaker's torch!

Weed Burners have long been in the snowmaker's arsenal...a hand-held wand with a big tube at the end makes a big flame...ideal for thawing frozen air and water valves on snowmaking hydrants...and for smokin' weeds when they're just a couple of seed leaves!

I lived on a flat, and I mean flat, lot made of clay. Once the snow melted in the spring, the meltwater hung around for a few weeks...I realized the only way to get a decent growing season would be to put in raised beds. My garden started with a greenhouse built to shelter a pair of 4x8 foot raised beds.

My room mate salvaged a bunch of windows from the old Echo Lake Lodge. I rounded up a 3-0 6-8 entry door that was mostly tempered glass, and an unused corrugated fiberglass greenhouse roof from a garage sale. I bought the 2x12's for the raised beds, and imported the soil. The first season, I harvested tomatoes and two of the cutest little softball-sized watermelons you ever laid eyes on.

In the Fall, I had to buy a 2 inch paddle bit to drill holes to plant my daffodil bulbs in front of the greenhouse! I drilled two dozen holes and tossed the bit! The daffodils pushed through that clay like nobody's business, but I understood that any productive gardening would have to be in raised beds filled with imported soil. By the time I moved to the DaveCave, my garden had grown to eight 4x8 foot raised beds...with 2x12 "boardwalks" everywhere.

The boardwalks protected the hose runs between the manifolds and the beds, and gave me a place to walk before the meltwater finally evaporated. Three of the beds had perennials in them. Delphiniums in one, one bed of Alpine Strawberries, and one bed of Asparagus. The hose runs stayed out all winter...with both ends open, ice could do no damage.

I found that once I was freed from the hours of watering, I was free to do the really fun gardening stuff. Pinching and shaping the plants, picking the Chinese Pea Pods, turning the compost, and picking the tiny weed starts that somehow germinated.

About the time I was inventing my Automated Garden of the 21st Century, My Dad was spending his retirement years upgrading his garden to drip irrigation, and ridding the yard of the last vestiges of lawn. He automated two drip irrigation circuits...around the backyard perimeter, and the South Facing privacy hedge. He mounted the timer in the garage, and the control valves were the expensive All-Bronze Anti-Siphon type.

Even without the News-Making Truckee Temperatures, those bronze valves suffered frost damage...they're junk now. It turns out that drip irrigation is far from "Set and Forget" as it was sold in the early days.

Drip systems need maintenance, just like any mechanical system. Filters need cleaning a couple of times a season, drippers need flushing, and the whole system needs flushing at the beginning of each season. Shirk this maintenance, and your drip system will be junk in a decade.

Enter TruckeeDave's 21st Century Irrigation System!

I've added extra hose to the end of each Soaker Hose Run, to accommodate seasonal flushing. The old drip system at the Diggins is shot. It's getting replaced by Soaker Hoses. Out front, the overhead sprinklers will get the portable manifold treatment.

After looking at the Ancestral Diggins Wishlist, I realized that I'm looking at a project that will unfold over a couple of years. Step by step, I'll update and automate. It turns out I'll be doing some remodeling too.

The hottest spot in the back yard has some shade-loving azaleas and an orphan hydrangea that would rather live under the redwoods in the front yard. There's a rhubarb plant that needs a different home, and once the old cedar deodara stump is gone, an Improved Meyer Lemon tree will command that hot spot!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In The Bag

I had a fun and productive weekend here in the Inland Valley. KirkVallus was in town and we spent some time working on SturgeUrge's boat Friday afternoon. Saturday, KV was off to the Big Valley for a Dog Race called "Lure Coursing" where he plays with his whippet Rose...or as KirkVallus told me with a straight face..."Rose, it's short for Rosy"

KirkVallus told me that his sister read my blog from time to time, and said: "I don't get it...he's always writing about the weather" and stuff. I looked at KV and said: "Well, duh..." We went back to riffin' and laughin'...

We always have a lot of laughs when we get together...we've earned the title: "The Kirk and Dave Show" over the years from our closest it came as no surprise Sunday evening, when we laughed ourselves into tears over at SturgeUrge's house. SturgeUrge is in sales, so he knows a joke or two as well...suffice it to say, hilarity spades.

In a little lull in the laugh-track, I queried the boys on the phrase "Baggy Trough" Nothing but crickets...then back to the wholesale hijinx. KirkVallus was anxious to get home to work, so he was going to miss our Monday halibut trip. SturgeUrge and I decided we'd pass on Monday too, and go up to Tomales Bay for crab and halibut hunting on Friday instead.

I've been digging in the garden early...until the heat causes me to retreat. Today I called it a morning in time to catch the weather on the Noon News. While waiting for the weather segment to air, I scanned the 'Net for fishing reports, Marine Weather Forecasts, and I went back to the Reno AFD from last Friday to look again at the "Baggy Trough" reference. Still puzzled, I ran through the AFD Archive to see if I could get a clear idea of just what a baggy trough is. No such luck. I clicked on and searched National Weather Service near Reno, NV and gave 'em a call.

After a fairly short computer phone triage, I pushed zero and got a human on the line.

I explained that I worked in the Ski Industry, and that I was a regular reader of their Area Forecast Discussion, and I was wondering what a Baggy Ridge was.

The guy on the phone was one of the forecasters, and was just like my Dad (and every engineer I've ever met) all business. He explained haltingly that a baggy trough was an elongated trough that wasn't well organized as opposed to a closed low which is an actual storm system. "Kinda like a Slacker Trough?" I asked...well, he allowed...maybe..."Sloppy?" I asked...yeah, kinda, let's just say it's weak and disorganized. Sounds like Slacker to me, I thought.

Once I recognized that I was "workin' a tough room", I started thanking him for his office's level-headed forecast work, especially in contrast to the Sacramento Office and their Chamber of Commerce style. I told him that I thought of the Reno guys as cowboys...not out to pasture, but realists, conservative with their forecasts, and thanked him for missing the snowfall predictions to the light side. He said: "We try to hit it right on the button"..."I know you do" I replied, and said you guys are conservative, not Pollyanna types. I told him that every time the Sacramento Office forecast the "End of the drought" for the weekend, and it turned out to be nice, it costs us a quarter million bucks. I could hear him smile when he volunteered that Sacramento has a "different threshold for warning criteria"

I reminded him that Sacramento posted a Winter Storm Warning the Friday night of Memorial Weekend, that it did snow, but the mess on the Interstate was due more to unsuspecting revelers caught in winter weather and chain controls for the first time, and not from copious snowfall. I said a Winter Storm Watch was more like it, and he said "We'd call an Advisory"

I smiled hearing the Engineer-Speak, and thanked him again, and asked: "how's the weather in Reno today?" Cheerfully he told me, and said it was the kind of day he'd rather be outside. In passing, I whined about the Spring-long North Wind Regime's effect on my fishing plans, and asked if it would return to normal any time soon. He said the winds should become onshore by this weekend!

We chatted about the Bay Area, the "Natural Air Conditioner" (they must have a chapter on Weather Cliches in meteorology school) and the prevailing coastal winds and their effect on upwelling. I tried to pry some La Niña intel from him, but he didn't have any other than the quick exit of El Niño conditions. I thanked him once more and told him to "keep up the good work" I could hear him smile as I hung up. I smiled too, knowing my opinion of the culture in the NWS Reno Office was spot-on.

I always smile when the World is spinning in greased grooves...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Serendipity Strikes Again

I awoke sans alarm clock Saturday morning a little after 0700. I like to listen to the Kim Komando Show to get my weekly dose of all things digital. Kim Komando refers to herself as "America's Digital Goddess", and hosts the most listened-to Technology Radio Show in the country. Her website is my favorite "Macro" Tech website, loaded with helpful news, info and tips to keep my technology serving me...instead of the other way around!

Kim's Show is on from 7AM to 10AM Pacific LIVE. Here in the Inland Valley, the show is tape delayed until Noon Pacific on Sacramento's KSTE AM650 and until 9PM on KNEW AM 910

At the DaveCave I listen on KKOH AM780 Sunday afternoons at 4PM (I usually watch "The Train Wreck News Magazine" on Sacramento's CW31 on Saturday and Sunday mornings...but that's another story)

So, I tuned into Kim's Show on the internet. While listening, I checked @CorduroyPlanet's Twitter Feed and saw a tweet from @planetski that chilled me to my core: "Lift Collapse in New Zealand" with a link to the story.

I went to PlanetSki (we PlanetWhatevers stick together) and fortunately this wasn't a human disaster!

"Preliminary assessment is the tower has sustained significant shock load from natural release of cable ice and this is not due to any design or structural defect in the lift," says a statement on the resort's web site. The damage occurred before the resort opened for the season. Turoa, upon Mt Ruapehu's Southwest Side, opened Thursday June 17th on their Bunny Hill, "Alpine Meadow" The New Zealand Herald has the story

The "High Noon Express" is a Dopplemayr High Speed Detachable that serves the top of Turoa's terrain. From the photos, it looks like a huge build-up of Rime loaded the cable, towers, and tower machinery, and when the rime released, the dynamic loads folded over a lift tower. The Resort's website says the lift will be up and running in 3-4 weeks.

Once I understood the story, and my heartrate returned to resting, I perused PlanetSki and found some interesting stories...A fellow received a $200,000 grant from the World Bank via the United Nations to Paint a mountain in Peru white in order to highlight Climate Change.
A story on ski resorts re-opening in North America, and even a Train Wreck Story; Charlie Sheen Department!

Finally, a little light reading! What a great way to start my weekend. I'll be planting in the Diggins, and fishing Monday...good times.