This column was first published June 7, 2008

Whoever it was that asked for the rain, would you please send out a thank-you note and follow it up with a request for some sun on the weekend? I sure hope we’re not getting into the rain-on-the-weekend pattern again — especially this weekend, I need to attend my granddaughter’s graduation and it’s outside.

My paddling hopes were totally drowned out last weekend. My hopes were raised a bit late Sunday afternoon when it looked like we’d catch a break from the downpours. They were further buoyed when Robert Causey called suggesting we head out to Pushaw Lake and launch the Queen Mary. During our telephone conversation I glanced to the west (from whence cometh the weekend weather) to see the biggest, blackest convention of clouds I’d seen that day.

I suggested maybe we best not head for open water with such a show headed our way. Within minutes of hanging up, sure enough, down it came again for about the 12th time in two days. This time I watched as a river formed on the sidewalk out front and raindrops the size of silver dollars crashed to the ground. Nope, no paddling for sure!

Wouldn’t you know it, Monday turned out fine. I resolved all day, as I caught glimpses out of the office at the bright sunshine, that I would hit the lake that evening even if it meant I’d be there at dark.

Turned out I was able to get out of work at a fairly reasonable hour and I made a beeline out Essex Street to Gould Landing and hit the water. I recognized colleague Scott Haskell’s Subaru wagon with empty kayak racks parked near the shore, and figured I might see him, at least in the distance.

Just past Cunningham Point I ran into him. He was wrapping up his first paddle of the season in his Current Designs Solstice GT. There was still plenty of daylight left and he decided to stretch his on-water opportunity just a bit longer and tagged along with me. Scott’s a new dad, so time out is understandably rare. Nevertheless, I felt a bit guilty keeping him away from home, yet thankful for the companionship and conversation as we wended our way around Moose Island on calm waters dappled with crimson from the sinking sun.

Rack ’em up

While last weekend may have been a bust in the paddling department, I wasn’t going to let it be a total shutout. A friend had prevailed on me to build her a rack on which to store part of her kayak fleet. We’d exchanged sketches by e-mail, talked about some design possibilities and I’d come up with a design we both figured would work.

When I got home Friday night from work, there at the end of the driveway outside the garage was the pile of pressure treated 2x6s and 2x4s and a bag of galvanized bolts. Knowing the weather was headed south on Saturday I decided to get a jump on the project and spent the rest of the evening into dark getting the center section cut and bolted together.

I don’t know about you, but I like building things. However, even with a plan (of sorts) in hand there’s a certain degree of pondering that goes on – you know, measure this, measure again, cut, admire, assemble, admire, ponder and so on. I’d never make it as a commercial carpenter, I’d take too long just admiring my rude work!

Well, over the course of the weekend and under a tarp for much of it, I got that thing put together and it was fit for a queen. Well, almost. Inspection came Monday evening, and there was a bit of lateral instability in the cross arms that caused a twinge of concern.

Back to the pondering part. A couple of 2x4s bolted across here and there ought to do it, we figured. Wednesday evening that chore was accomplished. Now I’m ready to install the catapult arm and lay waste to the nearest enemy fortress. This thing’s built like a tank. It’s a work of art … it’s kinda like a jungle gym … Now it’s got to come down and be transported to its new home by the ocean so I can park my car in the driveway again.

Spring running celebration

I received a notice from Dana Morse the other day. Morse is spreading the word about the third annual Spring Running Festival that celebrates historic herring runs on the Kennebec River.

You are invited, Morse said, to bring along your family and friends June 13, from 3 to 8 p.m., to Mill Park in Augusta and June 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., to Mill Park and Old Fort Western to celebrate. The rain date for the June 14 events is June 15.

The Spring Running is all about the celebration of a river reborn, Morse wrote. “Come and enjoy a variety of demonstrations, exhibits and entertainment. Watch a blacksmith and barrel-maker preserve fish the old-fashioned way. Learn techniques for kayak safety. Enjoy free fly-tying and casting instructions. Shop local Maine artisans at the craft show. Enjoy Native American music performed by the Burnurwubskek Singers. Don’t miss the fun. For more information and a complete schedule, visit”

Historically, the Kennebec supported tremendous runs of alewives, blue-back herring and American shad that were packed commercially and supported a varied food chain, Morse said. But with industrialization came pollution and damming. What followed was the virtual collapse of these fish populations.

“Now, 34 years after passage of the Clean Water Act, the Kennebec’s degraded water quality has dramatically improved and the Edwards Dam, which once strangled the river at the head of tide in Augusta, has been removed. State-of-the-art fish passage is slated for dams upstream of Augusta. With these improvements, herring numbers have rebounded on the river,” Morse said.

This resurgence of life in the Kennebec led to the first Spring Running festival in 2006. Now, the celebration is returning, just like the fish that got it started in the first place, he said.

For more information contact Dana Morse, Maine Sea Grant, Darling Marine Center, Clarks Cove, Walpole, ME 04573 or call 207-563-3146 ext. 205; e-mail: or visit the festival Web site,

Bike safety courses offered

Three bicycle safety and education courses will be offered in conjunction with the Maine Bike Rally and League of American Bicyclists’ National Rally in Fryeburg July 11-13.

A Bike Ed Road 1 course will be held July 8 and again July 11. Both courses meet from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Recommended for adults and children above age 14, the Bike Ed Road 1 course gives a full understanding of vehicular cycling. The course covers bicycle safety checks, fixing a flat, on-bike skills and crash-avoidance techniques. The $50 fee includes a student manual.

A League Cycling Instructor training course, the highest level of bicycle safety certification, will be held July 9 from 1 to 6 p.m. and July 10 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and July 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Those successfully completing the LCI course are certified to teach Bike Ed classes to children and adults. Bike Ed Road I is a prerequisite. The LCI course costs $200, and some scholarships are available.

To register for any of the courses, e-mail or call 623-4511.

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays