Monday, August 6, 2012

Axes, Machetes and Weed Whackers, Oh My!

Every summer, a particular kind of algae (I don't know the name of it) blooms in the Willamette. I know that it's an invasive species, and that there's a heck of a lot of it. It forms these long hairlike tendrils, probably more than 3 feet long. It blooms, then floats downstream. As it floats downstream, a lot of it gets caught on the low water line--the cable that runs across the river underwater.

Because of that, the first trip across the river in the morning is a solid arobic workout. I've got it down to a science now, but the first few days after it started to get bad, it was a mess, and took almost a half hour to cross a river that should take 3 minutes! The good technique is to put the boat in motion, and walk out right away with the machete. As soon as the algae starts coming up where I can reach it, I start whacking at it. It builds up faster than I can whack, and pretty soon there's at least a foot thick ball of algae wrapped around the cable. It's wrapped so tight that it actually stops the boat. It's clogged up a channel where the cable runs through a fairlead so tightly, that even with both engines on full power, I'm stuck. I sit there, stuck, for a few minutes more, whacking like crazy at the giant ball of algae. Then I head into the cabin, back the boat up a bit, then go forward, hoping the momentum breaks the algae off the line. Some mornings, I have to go back and forth several times. A good day is when I can head slowly across, never having to back up. I've had one day like that. My best time is 8 minutes. 8 minutes to cross the river that should take 3 minutes.

When the algae first got bad, the boss didn't like the idea of us using the machetes. Maybe it was cause we're girls? I dunno. I kept telling him we just needed a sharpener, so we could whack through the algae with less force and a sharp blade. It was getting so bad that occasionally, I'd have to grab the fire ax. Seriously. I'd be standing out there on the edge of the boat, using a super heavy ax to whack at algae. I tell ya, my life is crazy.

Before bringing us a sharpener, the boss decided to try a weed whacker. It's a nice idea in theory. You could just stand there, not leaning over, in a much safer position and location, and just let the whacker cut away at the algae. Except the weed whacker took three times as long, and covered everything, including the user, with a thick layer of green algae fur. It just didn't do the job. Finally we got a sharpener and the machete usually works just fine. The other morning though, there was a small tree branch wrapped around the cable, as well as all the algae that had attached to the branch. I will admit, I used the ax for that one.

Once you've gotten across the river, you're not done, at least not for the whole day. Usually once or twice throughout the day, you've got to walk over to where that cable comes out of the water and attaches to the ramps. Right there is where all the rest of the algae that is caught up throughout the day gets shoved to. You've got to go whack it off, then drag all of the algae that's been cut back into the water. Cause drying and dried algae is a really disgusting smell. It smells like something rotting on the beach, and it's full of bugs galore.

So that's my story. Most mornings, even before 7 am, I've been swinging a machete for 10 or 15 minutes. Then later in the day, it's back to the machete and a pitchfork, to move the cut up algae around. But usually I wait until after I've had my coffee for that.

1 comment:

  1. Since it is an invasive species, too bad you can't haul off the cut algae. Less in the water to bloom and spread.