Monday, February 29, 2016

Spring Weather

Unusual paddlewheel boat called the Cotton Blossom seen at the Dog River Marina.

Mobile Bay waters were nice and calm in the morning.

Big Lift ship at the Theodore Industrial Canal.

Interesting name for a ship. Workers can be seen on the deck of the ship.

It is hard to appreciate the size of a ship until you kayak by one.

This wood chip hauling ship called the Andalucia is about 630 feet long.

Of course, some of the shoreline of the Theodore Industrial Canal is polluted with plastic and styrofoam trash. Alabama obviously has no one working to regularly remove trash from their polluted waterways. Alabama ranks #46 when it comes to eco-friendly behavior like recycling. Recycling? What is that?

On the way back the waves in Mobile Bay were considerably more choppy. Choppy enough get soaked from waves crashing against the kayak.

Luckily it was a tailwind and the waves were big enough to do kayak surfing for about 4 miles. Riding waves bumps up the speed of the kayak from about 4.5 mph to about 7 mph. 

Spring like weather (70 degrees) was incentive to get a lot of folks out on the water in Dog River. This photo was taken a second before the wind surfer fell into the COLD water. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shoreline Critters

Fantastic polish job compliments of the supreme designer of life seen on what some call the Spotless Polished Ladybug.

Technically Ladybugs are NOT bugs, they are Beetles. This Polished Lady Beetle is seen on the leaf of a Narrowleaf Vetch weed.

Not surprising, also seen on a nearby Vetch weed is another Lady Beetle, this one in its larva stage of life. 

Lady Beetles are beneficial insects that are said to eat over 5,000 soft body insects like destructive aphids during the course of their one year life span. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Paddle Bayou Heron

I decided to join up with the Pascagoula Paradise Paddlers club paddle in their Bayou Heron Paddle today. The mostly defunct Mobile Bay Canoe and Kayak Club rarely has paddles anymore.

Paddle trip track. Launch site shown as a red star on the map. Trip length was about 6-7 miles overall.

A recent fire burnt some shoreline areas along Bayou Heron. I wonder if fire killed these little shoreline clams.

The launch site is at the end of the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge road that dead ends into Bayou Heron.

The brown pine trees on the left are the result of the recent fire.

Nice spring day. Some folks were wearing shorts and had bare feet.

We went about 1 mile north until the creek got too narrow to continue, then turned around.

Then we headed south past the launch site paddling for another 2 miles. The shoreline scenery was monopolized by salt marsh grasses.

Not much wildlife visible. When there are dozens of paddlers on the water wildlife tends to hide. The only animals I saw were in kayaks and a couple of them were not too happy. This doggie seemed to be happy though.

Turn around point was where Bayou Heron empties into the Gulf of Mexico or as some prefer to say the Mississippi Sound. Technically it is Grand Bay. It is where the waves start getting bigger.

This was an excellent paddle with a good paddle club. The No-See-Ums unfortunately made their presence known by sinking their little suction drills into the flesh. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dog River Critters

Rather bold nutria (big river rat) swimming in front of the kayak. Ever since the State of Alabama (ADCNR) started promoting the sport of killing of one of the main preditors of nutria (big alligators), the nutria population has been increasing.

Years ago I used to see plenty of alligators in Dog River and no nutria. Today I see plenty of nutria and no alligators. But, the State of Alabama does get to rake in fees from people who want to kill the big docile lizards. First the state gets a hunting license fee and then another fee for an alligator tag. Nothing like allowing the senseless slaughter of alligators to supplement the State's income all under the guise of calling big alligators a threat to public safety.

I cannot remember the last time in the past 40 years that an alligator attacked a person in Mobile. But dogs sure have been attacking and hospitalizing people. Several vicious dog attacks this year alone, one almost killing a kid. 

Why doesn't the State of Alabama have a hunting season on aggressive dogs which really are a proven threat to public safety?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Giant Dog River Turtle Reunion

It was very thrilling when a giant alligator snapping turtle surfaced next to the kayak in the back of a narrow waterway. I think this is the same giant Dog River snapping turtle that caressed my kayak almost five years ago. It is hard to see the submerged alligator in the above photo.

So the turtle's head is highlighted in this photo. Better photos of the giant turtle can be seen at the blogger below link:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hobie Pedal Kayaks

Drum adjustment hole Ribs break.

Cables break.

Hatch seal is poorly designed.

Sprockets break on older model drives.

Fin rods snap in two.

Pedal crank arms break at weak spots.

I really love my Hobie Adventure pedal kayak but the reality of its Mirage Drive quality sucks. 

In the last few weeks two Fin masts (steel rods) have snapped in two while pedaling easy plus the pedal crank arm broke in two. 

Part breakage is par for the course with a Hobie Mirage Drive kayak, at least if using the larger Turbo Fins.

Because of all the breakages, when I go kayaking it is necessary to take TWO Mirage Drives. That is so there is a back up drive on hand to quickly replace the one that fails. 

Carrying a second pedal drive unit is better than carrying a spare part for every part that can break on the Mirage Drive. Trying to replace broken parts on a Mirage Drive while floating in waves and wind can be challenging.

What parts have broken on my Hobie Adventure pedal kayak? Chain and idler pulley cables snap in two (rust on uncovered part of steel cable). Drum adjustment hole ribs break (poor design). Fin mast rods snap in two (rust at rubber mast friction point). Hatch Seals are finicky to close and water still comes in the hatch despite there being a seal (poor design). Carrying handles fall apart due to rust (poor design). Nuts, Set Screws and the Rudder Handle come loose. Pedal Crank Arms break at attachment holes (weak steel alloy). Composite material around the Sprocket Set Screw breaks (steel screw in composite material). Sprockets break around the Fin Mast (poor design in older models). Idler Pulley and Sprocket Shafts wear out (grit in water) and rust causing squeaking and wear of the composite material. Rudder cables can break. Rubber fins have broken. Even the kayak hull can crack near the Mirage Drive well. Some part breaks like rods and cables have happened a half dozen times. 

Interestingly, a Hobie V2 Mirage Drive retails for about $550 and the newer GT Drive about $650. That is for a relatively simple pedal drive unit with only a few moving parts. 

By comparison, a brand new 3.5 horsepower boat motor can be bought for about the same cost of $550. Hobie must be making a huge profit on their Mirage Drive units and making a killing on their pedal boat customers who have to constantly replace broken parts.

Hobie really has a great pedal boat idea. Only trouble is, Hobie puts parts in their Mirage Drive that appears to be designed to break shortly after the 12 month warranty runs out.

Really. My Hobie Adventure pedal kayak has broken while out on the water over 40 times. By comparison, during the same time nothing has broken on my car which has been used much more frequently. 

Guess there is better consumer product watch and protection for motorized vehicles than for pedal boats.

Despite the regular breakage hassles my Hobie Adventure outperforms any other plastic kayak on the market. The Adventure is very stable and fast. I often take the Adventure pedal kayak out in windy conditions that I would not dare to take a paddle kayak out in. Unfortunately, the local Hobie dealer says that those who want to buy an Adventure kayak now have to buy the Adventure Island Sailboat Kayak which costs about $4,600. Yeow.

Despite 10 years of urgings for a high performance pedal kayak, Hobie still offers no HP pedal kayak. Probably because Hobie's Mirage drive units break often in their recreational kayaks so the drive units sure could not handle the stress that racing kayakers would put on them.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Rough Weather

Weather has been less than idea lately for kayaking. Sunday on Dog River was windy with the shoreline obsecured by fog. 30+ mph winds on Monday and Tuesday was enough to keep me off the water.