Spiders on Gossamer Sails

direct youtube link 


A couple of weeks ago, tired after a day of raking leaves, T and I collapsed in some chairs  in the back yard. The warm sun felt good, and I laid back and stared up into the big bell of a clear blue autumn sky.

Small insects were backlit by the sun, glowing brightly. Milkweed and ragweed seeds drifting on the breeze caught the light, too. Then I noticed a long bright silver streamer, and another, and another. Looking more closely, and shading my eyes with a hand, I saw the air was thick with them blowing by on the wind, high above the trees:

Little yearling spiders were taking flight on this clear windy day. Crawling to some high point, as high as they could get, they were spinning out long threads of gossamer silk like spinnakers, and setting sail for parts unknown.

There were thousands. It was amazing how high they were, too. You may not be able to see it in the video – Youtube degrades detail horribly, and photography is really bad at conveying distance – but if you watch it in HD you might be able to see that they completely fill the air column, some easily a thousand feet up. I

It’s a behavior known as ballooning or kiting. Some of the hapless argonauts catch on tree branches or power lines after only a short flight, or drop to the ground not far from where they started. But others travel amazing distances. Human sailors have found these arachnid sailors catching in their rigging a thousand miles from land. They’ve been sucked into the analyzing equipment of weather balloons 16,000 feet in the air. They can even get caught in the jet stream and, surviving up to 25 days without food, travel profound distances, colonizing mountaintops and island far out at sea.

Pretty amazing little buggers.




MASCF 2014 ~ St. Michaels, Sunday



For some reason, Sundays always clear out fast every year at MASCF. By noon it’s all but deserted, with just us diehards still around. Odd, because, and because, it’s usually the nicest day to be there.

In the morning Michael Skalka and I took a sail on Aeon. This is Michael, one of the judges on Saturday. admiring Una:



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MASCF 2014 ~ To St. Michaels on a Flood Tide

St. Michaels Marina


It is dark Friday night when I finally roll into St. Michaels. Much later than usual. Too late to get a campsite or set up a tent, which I didn’t bring anyway. I’ll have to unhitch the boat and find a place to park, sleeping in the car with the gear. Later. First order of business is some food and beer while the restaurants are still open.

There’s a place we favor on the docks by the marina, the St. Michael’s Crab & Steakhouse. It’s at the end of a road, tucked back in a neighborhood off the beaten path, dog friendly (very), with tables outside. Not as touristy as others, mostly locals and regulars, and the food is good. Crossing the road to the bar I see there is water coming up through the storm drains. Not unusual right on the waterfront. I pull out the phone to check the tide schedule, though, and it’s not close to high yet. Four more hours of rising water still to come. Wow, this could get interesting.

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