This column was first published May 17, 2008

So far this spring has been slow starting as far as my getting time on the water, but even at that I’ve had a half-dozen launchings. And any time on the water is better than none, right?

The weather around these parts is beginning to feel more like spring and best of all we’ve gained back six hours of daylight since the dungeon days of December. There’s daylight to wake up to, and there’s still some light left in which to drive home. This week delivered a few seasonably warm days, enough to wake up the early rising flying pests. I expect the next time I’m able to hit the nearby lake, fly dope will again be a part of my paddling ensemble.

A bunch of press releases and notices have landed on my desk in the past couple of weeks, and rather than bore you with my exploits I thought I’d pass along a few of the more pertinent ones. Grab your calendar and a pencil, but first check out this item from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary concerning EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons).

Have you considered this question: What if you called for help, say 911, and no one answered?

If you’re an avid boater who has an older model EPIRB this isn’t a hypothetical question, starting Feb. 1 next year. According to Anthony Turner, chief external communications division, National Department of Public Affairs, older EPIRBs that transmit a distress alert on 121.5 MHz or 243 MHz, “will no longer be monitored by satellite, and are likely to go completely undetected in an emergency. Only distress alerts from 406 MHz beacons will continue to be detected and processed by search and rescue satellites worldwide.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary recommends the new EPIRBs be part of the season start-up shopping list, Turner said. “Although recreational boaters are not required to carry an EPIRB, they are strongly recommended for all boaters, including kayaks and other paddle craft, along with a VHF-FM marine band radio,” he added.

“The 406 MHz signal sent by the newer EPIRBs … are picked up by the COSPAS/SARSAT satellite constellation, which determines the EPIRB’s position through triangulation. EPIRBs with embedded GPS are even more helpful in quickly finding a distressed boater. With GPS coordinates, the position of distress is pinpointed almost immediately. Without GPS, it may take two or three satellite passes to come up with a good, triangulated position,” Turner wrote.

For more potentially life-saving information, along with how to take a boating safety course or get a free vessel safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit and for more information on the Auxiliary visit on the Web.

L.L. Bean family weekend

Here’s the first calendar item I promised. The L.L. Bean Outdoor Family Fun Weekend is May 24-26 in Freeport and Don McLean will perform a free concert on the 24th at 6:30 p.m.

Bean’s family weekend, according to Kathy Whitney, of the company, will feature three days of “fun and activities, interactive demonstrations, presentations, great promotions, special guests and much more all aimed at making it easier and more enjoyable for kids and families to get outside.”

In addition to the free concert by McLean, their company is offering Outdoor Discovery Schools Walk-On Adventures for only $15 and a variety of hands-on activities in biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating and more. Seth Wescott, 2006 Olympic snowboard cross gold medalist, will also be on hand May 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to sign autographs and visit with customers. There will be an adventure ropes course and a variety of demonstrations, clinics and activities for all ages as well as 10 percent discounts off all tents, sleeping bags and hiking backpacks.

20th Maine bike rally on tap

The 20th Annual Maine Bike Rally will be held in Fryeburg July 11-13 and will feature more than 30 bicycle rides ranging from a challenging, 100-mile climb up mountain passes to a star-gazing night ride, mountain bike rides through the White Mountains National Forest, and a family-friendly trail ride with stops for swimming and ice cream.

According to information sent to me it has been chosen as the “League of American Bicyclists’ 2008 National Rally … [It] will feature a bike expo and art show, bicycle parade, musical performances, films and other entertainment.”

Preregistration deadline is June 25. An all-inclusive weekend price covers camping, meals, rides, activities and a rally T-shirt. Fees start at $70 for adults and $30 for children ages 6 to 15. Residents of 17 towns in western Maine and the Mount Washington Valley area of New Hampshire may participate in the rally bicycle rides for free, thanks to sponsorship by L.L. Bean. Registration forms, a menu and information about local accommodations may be found at or by calling (207) 623-4511.

Organizers say the League of American Bicyclists selects a different location for its national rally each year, with this year’s rally expected to draw at least 500 bicyclists from across the country and Canada. Co-hosts include the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Casco Bay Bicycling Club, Merrymeeting Wheelers Bicycle Club and the Town of Fryeburg.

The rally will be based at Fryeburg Academy. A jazz ensemble from the academy’s summer music program and two other bands will perform at the rally on Saturday. Evening entertainment will include a gourmet dinner and screening of the award-winning documentary, “Asiemut,” about a couple’s experience biking through Asia. The filmmakers will attend and answer questions.

For more information, contact Shoshana House, communications coordinator for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine at 623-4511 or Dave Kinsman via e-mail or at

Tune up that bike!

While you’re thinking about bicycling (gasoline at close to $4 per gallon should be a good incentive) and you haven’t had your bike tuned yet, why not attend the next Maine Outdoor Adventure Club meeting at Epic Sports, 6 Central St. in Bangor, on May 27 starting at 6:30 p.m. The speaker is former professional bicycle mechanic Paul Markson and he will demonstrate how to get your bicycle back on the road or trail in a manner that will ensure your first ride is both safe and enjoyable.

Peggy Markson of Orono who sends me information about MOAC’s meetings, wrote that Markson will cover basic bicycle maintenance, on road repairs and tell you what three items must be checked every time you saddle up.

If you’re interested in the outdoors, Markson says, take a look at the calendar of events on the Web page to learn more about midweek evening walks in Bangor, new member hikes, a new progressive hike series where each hike is a bit more challenging, weekly paddles on local lakes and ponds, trips into Acadia National Park, and group bike rides. New members and visitors are welcome to attend meetings, Markson says. For more information drop her an electronic line at

One more calendar item

I mentioned this event in an earlier column, so this is a reminder that June 6-7 it’s time for the 12th annual Paddle for Pine Tree Camp, a camp for Maine children and adults with disabilities. There are two trips on the Kennebec River.

The first is June 6 for a sunset paddle from Bingham to Solon followed by a pizza party. The second is June 7 for a morning paddle from Solon to North Anson followed by a barbecue. Each is open to kayaks and canoes and each is seven miles and will take about 21/2hours to complete. A free shuttle service will be offered.

This is a fundraising event to help Maine children and adults with disabilities attend Pine Tree Camp, a fully accessible summer camp. It costs $1,330 for campers to attend a six-day session, and the camp is committed to offering the Pine Tree Camp experience to all who can benefit, regardless of their ability to pay tuition. If you wish to be a part of this tradition plan on raising at least $50 (or $100 if you’re planning to participate in both trips). This minimum requirement ensures Pine Tree Camp will be able to continue its open door policy. And the camp will help support your fundraising efforts! Just call 207) 443-3341 and sign up or go on line at where you can register either to paddle or to support someone who plans to paddle.

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays