Wednesday, July 29, 2009

East Winds

At 1:56 my eyes opened and then, through my ears, heard the wind in the trees above. I knew the forecasts were all mixed up and that it was possible that a tropical wave coming up from the Bahamas could intensify and give us a little bump. So when I came to (at 1:56) I realized that if I could see the trees moving here then the wind was coming from the east or south, or in between. This wasn't good news.

The drive down Washington Street went from bad to worse: leaves littered the road and I could see the rain blowing horizontally from right to left (east wind). I said "Crap!" several times...maybe worse words too. And then, the arrival at Mattakeessett Court confirmed my fears. The boats were facing away from land and bouncing around and the east wind was fairly strong and consistent.

4:42 -- the wind, which was responsible for waking me every fifteen minutes, was now picking up and the trees were showing it. I jumped out of bed, forced on my wet jeans and made my way back down to the waterfront. This time the rain was heavy and the wind was ENE at about 30 or so. Crap. Larger limbs now scattered Washington St. and sheets of rain were blowing in from the east.

Billy Bennett was parked in the lot, I couldn't see him through the rain but knew he was in his truck. Alex was down on the dock checking things out. It was amazing. The whole dock was rolling and the boats were just about coming up over the finger floats. It was freaky. A few boats had broken free and one large sailboat, Barney's, was wedged into the guzzle, partially against the rocks. Alex, Bill and I worked to secure a couple of DBMS boats and then, like magic, the whole thing kind of stopped. The dropping tide and the coincident shift in wind direction caused a cessation of the waves. The rain even died down a little. The worse was just about over.

But the damage was real. Several motor boats turned over or swamped, Barney's sailboat went aground and a few of the DBMS boats were damaged against the bulkhead.

Here are some photos.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Lately I've been noticing more of these guys attached to some of my oysters (see photo above). They are oysters, but a different species: European oysters. The latin name is Ostrea edulis and are known as "flat oysters." They are native to western European coasts, particularly France where they are called "Huître plate" or simply "Plate." Other names include "Gravette" and "Pied de cheval" ("horse hoof") which is in reference to a particularly large European oyster.

So what are they doing attached to my American oysters (Crassostrea virginica)? They were introduced in Maine in the 1950s and by the 1980s they had established themselves as far south as Salem, Massachusetts. I don't know when the first sign of them arrived here in Duxbury. We find them, usually in the summer months, here in the bay and some of them are quite large. However this year a few of us are finding more of them, nickel-sized, attached to our virginica oysters.

So how do they taste? Hmmmn, well, the Europeans absolutely love these flat oysters. Most Americans don't like them at all. I've tried them a few times and although I didn't really like them at first, I can see how one can acquire a taste for them. They are similar yet different; the usual discriminatory attribute described by the general populace is a distinct metallic taste. But I've found them to have similar sweet and salty flavors that our virginica oysters possess. The metallic essence is sharp at first but then it dissolves over a few minutes and the other properties become more pronounced.

What else...well, they are pretty flat (even when large) and are easy to skim across a relatively calm sea toward unsuspecting friends working on nearby floats.

"Hey Graham, how about another Pied de cheval?"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Swimmer

Well, we found an opossum on a mooring ball yesterday. We did. I had just picked up Hunter at the town dock and on the way back to the float he said, "There is a possum right there....on the mooring." I followed the trajectory of his index finger and sure enough, there was the poor creature clinging onto one of Long Point's square blue-foam mooring markers next to Can 21. It was funny. So I decided to report this thing to Don Beers, the Harbormaster. The call went something like this:


DB: Harbormaster.

JB: Yes, I'd like to report an unauthorized mooring tenant in the harbor.

DB: Say that again? What?

JB: Yes, there is an individual of an unauthorized species that is occupying a guest mooring in the bay. Can you do something about it?

DB: What?!

JB: Don, there's an effin opossum clinging to this mooring ball next to Can 21!

DB: I'll heat up the oil....

...ok, so you get it. Actually, Don called animal control. Skip then appeared and I pointed to the sorry creature. He looked at it and bent over in laughter, which made me bend over in laughter. Funny.

Before animal control arrived I managed to track down David Grossman who was able to snap a few pictures of the opossum.

How did he get there? I have no idea. Some people guessed that it was on a boat and jumped off. Others think it simply swam out there. I think it swam and got a little disoriented.

But while we're on the subject, here are some facts about opossums:


• Opossums lived during the Age of the Dinosaurs... fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago! This means that the opossum is part of the Earth's oldest surviving mammal family.

• The opossum doesn't have a permanent "nest" because it is nocturnal and transient. It will spend and average of 2-3 days in the same hideout, then move on. Some weeks later it may return to your place, depending on your hospitality.

• Opossums have soft, rounded opposable thumbs with no fingernails, on their hind feet.

• Opossums do not dig holes, as their paws are very soft and tender, much like a human hand.

• Opossums may drool, growl and show their 50 teeth when frightened, but in reality are placid and prefer to avoid any confrontation.

• They are slow-moving with very sensitive hearing and smell, opossums are not territorial and will adapt to any environment where food, water and shelter exist.

• Opossums do not hang by their tails-the tail stabilizes their position while climbing and walking.

• Besides their natural predators in the wild, humans, cars and cats are the demise for this docile creature. Very few survive to adulthood, and usually live only 1-2 years if they do.

• "Playing Possum" is one of the most effective ways the opossums defends itself. When unable to flee, extreme fear places the opossum into an involuntary coma. They become stiff and their mouths will gape open. This condition will last 40 minutes to 4 hours. Most predators will abandon their attack, once the opossum is thought to be dead.

• Opossums cannot jump. An opossum may get into a trash can only if it has been knocked over by another animal, or if it's against a fence and the opossum drops into it, which can trap the opossum in the trash can. Just tip the can over and eventually the opossum will scramble away.

• Opossum fur coloring is most commonly gray, but can range from white and cinnamon to black.

• Baby opossums are usually born between the months of February and June.