Saturday, June 25, 2011

Foot Dragging?

It's a funny thing...I'm way late writing this installment of CorduroyPlanet. I'm not dragging my feet exactly, I just got hyper busy all of a sudden, and nothing was burning a hole in my pocket so to speak, and when I did catch up, I had San Francisco Giants baseball and Formula 1 practice and qualifying to keep me distracted. Before I knew it, it was 0400 and my eyelids slammed shut.

Oh yeah, my alarm was set to go off at 0500...       Planning FAIL

So I did wake up at 0800.

That's when I saw the Tweet @wattsupwiththat put up a link to a study that looks to me like a possible indicator to refine Winter-Long forecasts for North America...Talk about right in my wheelhouse!

Yesterday's CorduroyPlanet Blog was my 500th post since I began my daily screeds back on August 9th, 2009.

...Whoops...missed...I wouldn't feel right blowin' my own horn too much when I screwed up and failed to post my Saturday blog on time...and now here I am...twelve hours past due...

So the study, by the University of Georgia, Athens: "Northern Eurasian Snowpack Could Be an Important Predictor of Winter Weather in U. S." really aroused my curiosity. If I can find some reliable reporting stations in the areas of the snowpack study, this discovery could become my most powerful prediction tool when it comes to sussing out a season long trend. Wet or dry, colder or not so's all golden...should it bear out.

To wit:
 "It turns out that snow piling up over a band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe may have as much effect on the climate of the U.S. as the much-better-known El Niño and La Niña."

Let me clarify (italics are mine):
"It turns out that snow piling up in October and November over a band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe, all the way to Northern Scandinavia, may have as much effect on the climate of the U.S. as the much-better-known El Niño and La Niña do for the ensuing winter season"

This is huge! After a long protracted cool spring, we had a three day "mini-heat wave" earlier in the week, and now we've returned to cooler-than-normal weather for what's forecast to be yet another week of below average's getting to be like a stuck record again.

Last week, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center published their monthly 90 Day Climate Outlook Discussion wherein they announced the end of the La Niña regime:


Well, there we are. The new toy has arrived just in time to keep my attention as we drift towards next!

Friday, June 24, 2011

All the News That's Fit to Endure

Thursday's USA Today had a quick story on the season's record snowfall and the ski resorts that will be open for the Independence Day Weekend.

From the USA Today story:
"In Lake Tahoe, Calif., a region that actually saw a slight decrease in overall skier visits because of frequent storms and road closures, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl and Alpine Meadows resorts will all be operating over the holiday weekend."

I don't remember any of the Big Holiday Weekends being totally blown out by weather, but with all the storms, my memories sorta run all together now. I'm thinking that when there was weather for a big weekend, chain controls hit at one end or the other of the weekend and cost us one of three big days.

The mid-week uptick in skier visits held steady, if not rose a little more. I've been surprised each season since the economy shock of 2008 by the rising numbers during the week.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fantasy and Reality

Fantasy: Maybe my brain got poached Monday on San Pablo Bay.

Reality: This Heat Wave is so cruel coming as it has after such a prolonged cold wet Spring.

Fantasy: Maybe I'll finish out of the cellar in Tour de France Fantasy Bicycle Racing this July.

Reality: I'm a piker at Fantasy Bicycle Racing. I finished four times at the bottom of my league during the two races I've contested this season...the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse.

I'm never going to play Fantasy Baseball or Fantasy NFL...too much work. (It could be argued that if I did a little more "work" on my fantasy bicycle teams, I'd get out of the cellar)

Baseball loves computers...Football too. Thanks to the computer revolution, there's even more baseball stats than before computers. (However, baseball and computer databases being what they are, all the new stats can easily be compiled all the way back to the 1860's beginning of professional ball).

I love San Francisco Giants baseball too much to burden myself with a fantasy team.

I'm what you'd call a Baseball Purist. I have a visceral connection to the game's Old-Timey nature, and to the history of Baseball. I think Inter-League Play devalues the World Series.

I don't like the DH either, though I believe it's inevitable that the Designated Hitter Virus will infect the National League. (The MLB Player's Union will never let those lucrative positions for aging stars go away, in fact forcing the DH down the National League's throat is a major goal of the Player's Union) The DH spot is a highly paid position for a one-way player, and those adored aging stars carry a lot of weight with the fans come collective bargaining time.

I believe it's short-sided to trash so much strategy and nuance from the game just to extend the careers of a few over-paid fading stars facing the twilight of their careers...most of whom will never be remembered like the True Greats are.

In the Fall, it's gridiron time. My friend KirkVallus cured me of Fantasy Football. Every NFL Season, KV drafts a team, and from week one they all go down to injury like the parade of victims in a murder mystery...I can't afford to have that on my conscience!

The Tour de France begins Saturday July 2nd. I can put together my teams now, but all the real teams aren't quite set yet. I'll do a little more reading...err, studying of the likely team rosters and the pre-race hype before settling on Team CorduroyPlanet's TdF Squad.

If I treat the Fantasy Racing as lightly as I have these past two seasons, it'll be just a little extra fun during the grand Tour.

I wonder...will there be America's Cup Fantasy Racing?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

That's Why They Call It Fishing

Monday is Fishing Day on my calendar.

This week SturgeUrge and I wanted to try a new Boat Ramp that was closer to the highly-touted Large Sturgeon Pile-Up in San Pablo Bay. I listened to KFBK's Outdoor Radio Show Saturday, and the bite was still on. Monday was the last day of Spring and the last day of a nine day run of Minus Tides. The Spring Tides are usually considered to be the last hurrah for Sturgeon Season, though for the truly impassioned sturgeon hunters, Sturgeon Season lasts twelve months a year.

Launching near the bottom of a minus tide can be anywhere from easy/peasy to impossible depending on the design of the ramp, and whether the ramp needs dredging or not. The state of California is broke now, and the Dept. of Boating and Waterways seems to be slacking on maintenance and dredging, so we've learned the hard way to do our homework before trying a new launch ramp at low tide.

I posted a question about the Petaluma River Boat Ramp on my online fishing club's forum, and got plenty of advice in no time. Coastside Fishing Club flat-out rocks!  Coastsider CaptainRon suggested I phone Joel, the owner of Leonard's Bait at Port Sonoma Marina across the river from the ramp.

Joel was very personable on the phone, advised that we'd be fine with the FV SturgeUrge launching in the morning. Joel said: "Go to the Pumphouse and go a mile...mile and a half east, that's where they've been gettin' 'em" Joel even volunteered that he didn't have any sturgeon bait worth selling and gave me the name and number of an Oakland Bait Shop where we could get the preferred baits. Rather than tow the boat to Oakland during morning rush hour, we opted to just go with frozen bait from SturgeUrge's freezer.

Monday morning we pulled out of the SturgeUrge Compound at straight-up 0800. It was already warm, on it's way to hot. We ran into some rush hour traffic on Hwy 37 outside of Vallejo where the freeway ends and the road turns into single lane divided highway, but we were in the water and pulling into the Petaluma River Channel by 9:30A. The day was getting hotter.

The ramp is right underneath the Hwy 37 bridge
Following Joel's recommendation, we motored down the channel to the Pumphouse, turned east and dropped anchor a mile or so east of the pumphouse in 8ft of water. Our first bait was in the water at 10:30, about 90 minutes before the bottom of the tide. It was already nearly 80°F and there was barely a puff of wind to be found.

They say if fishing were easy and results assured it would be called catching not fishing, we were proving the old spades.

We slathered on the SPF30, but we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys in the oven. The wind was so light that we sat up on the gunnels instead of the seats, trying to catch a little breeze. We likened the water to the Sea of a word: greasy. Barely a wind ripple and the temp was quickly getting into Tropical territory.

At the turn, a tiny bit of wind began to waft through...just enough to keep us from swinging on anchor while the tidal current slowed, stopped, and began to turn around to come back in. We stuck with it for another half an hour before we decided to move. There were just a couple other skiffs in the general vicinity, and we didn't see any nets flying.

We moved more for the air conditioning value than anything else. We motored back past the Pumphpouse, and south a mile or so to the Shellbank. Baits in the water and we waited for the fish, and the wind. It was so flat that sound carried a long ways. We could hear the splash sounds of fish jumping, but we couldn't see the splashes.  We eavesdropped on other boats 200 yards away. A family out on their Boston Whaler was drifting by grousing about how expensive bait was at Loch Lomand's Bait Shop.

SturgeUrge's rod tip started dancing, and he jumped up, grabbed his rod and set the hook. There wasn't much turned out to be a big bullhead. It would be a great bait for big striped bass, but it was unharmed so it went back into the water.

The tide was starting to pick up some speed, but the wind was still MIA. Urge's rod went off again. This time it was a keeper striper. SturgeUrge made quick work of the fight and asked if I wanted the fish. "Nope" I replied, and we snapped a photo and released the lip-hooked fish.

That's certifiably greasy water behind SturgeUrge!
That was it for the day. We stayed out through several applications of Sun Block. We even saw a sailboat anchored up near the Pumphouse fishing. We agreed it was a good way to spend the time waiting for a sailor's wind. We pulled the plug just before 5PM. The wind finally came all the way up to 4-5 knots. It was 94°F back at the ramp.

Tuesday, it's forecast to reach 100°F in Sacramento, and the high 90's here in the Inland Valley. While looking around the internet this morning I noticed that while SturgeUrge and I were out on San Pablo Bay baking like Thanksgiving turkeys, it was snowing on the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Doesn't that say it all for this cold, wet, LaNiña Spring?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Blast

I'm not a father, I'm still a son, though my Dad's been gone for a few years now.

It's mid morning on Father's Day and I'm just now writing today's blog. On the docket for today are some To-Do List items that totally are Dad-Centric.

I'm still working on Dad's Roses. Fighting Rose Black Spot Fungus, and installing automated irrigation. Dad didn't really grow his green thumb until I was out of the house and making my own way. I always get a chuckle at how soon after I moved out Dad began to eliminate the lawns around the Ancestral Digs. Back when my precious "free time" was spent mowing those lawns, and I wasn't smart enough to suggest that the lawns be downsized. Who knew teenagers didn't know everything?

After lunch I have to call back to the Port of Sonoma Bait Shop for some intel on the new boat ramp we want to launch the FV SturgeUrge from Monday. The San Pablo Bay sturgeon are on the chew, and we'd like to get in on that action. Then I'll put all the pieces together on the extra fuel tank for the FV SturgeUrge. After lunch, I'll watch game three of the Bay Bridge Series with my SF Giants vs the Oakland A's

All these thing I owe to love of fishing and baseball, my handyman talents, green thumbs...all of it. Though our paths through these passions were totally divergent, at the times when I'm lucky enough to indulge these passions, I know it's with my Dad's blessings and nurturing that I'm out there pursuing happiness via these things he gave me.

You know, SturgeUrge and I are a little slow on the uptake this season San Francisco Bay Fishing-wise. When we do get on the Bay to chase the tasty California Halibut, the waters we ply in search of our tasty quarry are the very same waters that my Dad spent many afternoons deck-handing on a commercial salmon fishing boat.

Back in the late 30's Dad would ditch high school after lunch and crew for a salmon long liner on San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. His job was to cut up big sardines for bait, hook the chunks, and feed the baited hooks over the side as the skipper slowly motored north from the Tiburon Peninsula up into San Pablo Bay off China Camp. When the whole mile or so of long line was set, the two of them would eat lunch and then motor back to the beginning of the line and retrieve it with any salmon who fell for their ruse. I guess they made two sets before they called it a day.

Seventy years later Dad's son is out fishing on the same waters, though I've yet to hook a salmon in those waters! Commercial salmon fishing is outlawed inside the Bay now, and has been my whole life. Halibut are still fished commercially by a few die hard trollers on the Bay.

Sport fishing is still alive and well on the Bay thankfully, and every time I'm out there I marvel on how successful our cleanup of the Bay has been. When I was a kid, fishing off the Berkeley Pier with my Dad and SisterSweetly, the Bay was an open sewer...literally...we never kept a fish for the it's called "Catch and Release", back in the day it was "Good Hygiene"

Today after 40+ years of environmentally sound stewardship, San Francisco Bay is a lot more like a Wildlife Reserve than a cesspool. I'm always amazed by the sweet smell and the abundance of life. In the past few years, Harbor Porpoises have been returning to the bay waters in numbers large enough to study.

In his way my Dad helped clean up the Bay. Dad was a civil engineer. His company designed many of the sewage treatment plants around San Francisco Bay that cleaned up the sewage that used to flow untreated into the Bay.

Thanks Dad! Happy Father's Day!