Saturday, September 6, 2014

An Unexpected Surprise -- LaVerna Preserve

Sometimes, you get lucky.
A throne for a queen of a gal.
Last weekend, my friend Julie once again humored me by heading out exploring with me.  We thought we'd head down to New Harbor, maybe get some clams, maybe go for a walk.  Neither of us really knew what we wanted to do, or where we wanted to go, but we knew it would be a great place to have a little adventure.

The night before our outing, I pulled the Maine Gazetteer out from under the boots ,water bottles, boxes, and otherwise useless junk that seems to accumulate in my car, and took a look at it.  Hmm, interesting -- I had noted from a previous trip that there was a trailhead on Rt 32 between Round Pond and New Harbor.  Once again, that Gazetteer proved itself worth the money I paid for it, because this was the trailhead for the LaVerna Preserve.

Julie was up for a reconnaissance  mission to the preserve.  At first, it didn't look like much (at least not to an Ocean Lover).  You know, just some nice trees and a really cool stone wall or two.  But this preserve ends up to have one of the most spectacular coastlines in the state -- and that's saying a lot.  After a nice little 20 minute hike, the trail opened up with a spectacular view of Muscongus Sound and some amazing rocks, with crashing surf and intertidal zonation in evidence.

Now, I'm not much of a geologist, so I'm just going to let these pictures speak for themselves:

Needless to say, I think you all need to turn off the computer -- right now -- and get down to LaVerna Preserve!  I'll see you out there (or, just maybe at the King Eider Pub afterwards).

TO GET THERE:  Take US 1 to Damariscotta.  Go south on Rt 129, and after 2 3/4 miles bear left onto Rt 130.  After 2 3/4 miles, you will enter Bristol; turn left on Lower Round Pond Road.  Follow this to the end and turn right onto Rt 32.The trailhead will be on the right about 3 miles down the road, just after the cemetery.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Basking sharks, Bioacoustics, and the Bay of Fundy

A basking shark -- immensity and amazingness.  (GMWSRS photo -- I wish mine came out this good!)
It is glassy calm on the Bay of Fundy, and the crew of Eucheta are debating whether they are seeing a basking shark in the distance or not.  Researchers Heather Koopman and Andrew Westgate are out tagging and biopsying these giants today with their assistant Karina Ortiz, and they have invited me along for the ride.

This is how calm it was!  We are passing a herring weir on the way out to the bay, and it's hard to tell what's water and what's sky.
Heather and Karina surveying for basking sharks in the calmest Bay of Fundy ever.
The problem is not that basking sharks are hard to see under these conditions.  Rather, there are so many things going on around us, we have to take a moment to get our bearings.  It's an embarrassment of charismatic megafauna.

"Okay," says Andrew, pointing to a surface disturbance on Eucheta's port side.  "That's a grey seal over here."

"Right," we agree in unison, then we turn our eyes ahead, raising our binoculars in unison.

"I'm pretty sure that's a mola over there," says Karina, indicating a large fin flopping up and down on the surface.

Mola molas are my favorite, but I contain my enthusiasm as we hone in on the basking shark.  We will have plenty of time to visit Mr. Mola after we find our basking shark.

"He's right there, straight ahead, past the harbor porpoises,"  says Heather.

Carefully approaching a basking shark; his fin and tail are both visible above the water.
Indeed, a basking shark swims along the surface about a quarter of mile away, her dorsal fin rising above the water by a couple of feet.  We approach carefully as she lumbers along, smoothly cutting the surface of the water with her fin while her tail -- probably trailing at least a dozen feet behind -- occasionally slices the water.  As we draw near, it becomes apparent just how large this shark is.  She's much bigger than our boat, with a beefy body, massive head, and dorsal fin the size of a manhole cover.  This shark is probably twenty feet long, and we can only guess how heavy she is. Ten tons? Twenty tons?  Who knows.  A lot.

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world, just behind the whale shark in size. Amazingly, they grow to such massive sizes by consuming plankton -- in these waters, copepods. They are slow moving grazers, similar to right whales in many ways.  Despite their enormous size, very little is known about basking sharks, and today we hope to put a tag on one animal and biopsy as many more as we can find.

"It's hard to imagine an animal this size that we know so little about,"  Heather tells me, and she is right. Basking sharks are as big as whales, on which decades of research have resulted in thousands of scholarly papers, dozens of textbooks, and millions of photographs.  Compared to this body of research, scientists know absolutely nothing about basking sharks.  How long do they live?  How fast do they grow?  Where do they reproduce?  What are their migration patterns?  And on and on.  So many questions remain unanswered about the second largest fish.  Heather and Andrew have their work cut out for them.

Following close behind the shark, we prepare equipment for a tag deployment.  Andrew is an expert tagger, having worked extensively on dolphins and whales before becoming curious about basking sharks.  On the bow of the boat, he prepares a tag, which records temperature, depth, speed, pitch and roll.  These tags are a rather extraordinary feat of engineering, allowing researchers to track an animal's movement through the water column and ask questions we could only dream of asking ten year ago: How much time to they spend at the surface?  How deep are they diving?  How do they behave underwater?  How do they react to differences in the water column, like temperature?  Tags like this allow us to spy on animals under the surface as we have never done before.  Andrew's tag is cucumber-sized and designed to harmlessly attach to the shark, ride along with her for a few days, then pop off and float at the surface.  When that happens, it sends a signal to orbiting satellites, telling Andrew where it is, and he then retrieves it -- or loses the data stored on it.  Thus far, he hasn't lost a tag on a basking shark, which is quite an accomplishment.

I am handed a camera with a massive lens, and I madly snap shots of the shark's dorsal fin as we track along behind the animal.  Variations in dorsal fin morphology allow researchers to identify sharks individually, just like bottlenose dolphins can be identified by their dorsal fins, or humpback whales by their fluke patterns.  Being able to identify an individual allows researchers to track that individual over time -- and ask where it's been, what it's doing and how long it lives.  Knowing how important these photos might be, I take dozens of photos as Heather carefully pilots the boat along beside the shark. As soon as I think we have enough, the expensive camera is put away in its waterproof Pelican case, lest the shark splash water into the boat when she is tagged.

Andrew makes tagging a shark the size of an airplane look extraordinarily easy, although I've seen enough tagging to know this is rarely the case.  We approach closely as Andrew kneels over the bow of the boat with a long pole, which he uses to attach the tag just behind the shark's dorsal fin.  We all brace for a reaction from the shark, but there is none.  She just swims placidly along, trailing the tag a few feet behind him.  Karina, who is hanging over the starboard side of the boat with a GoPro on a long pole, is filming her the entire time (this is how we know it's a female -- no claspers, which only males possess, were observed on this footage).  The shark gives us a bit of a show, slowly circling the boat, surfacing on the starboard side, then diving under us and appearing on the port side. It's a bit unnerving, but Andrew is elated; the tag looks perfectly placed and the shark seems completely unaware of its presence.  We drift along with the shark for a few more minutes, jot down data from the encounter, and continue to watch in wonder before calling this encounter a success.

I ask Andrew what question he would most like to answer about basking sharks.  He is quick to answer -- where do they reproduce?  He has his suspicions about this.  Andrew thinks they head out of the Bay of Fundy to reproduce, swimming south until they reach the edge of the continental shelf, diving deep to swim below the Gulf Stream, and then heading out to somewhere near the Sargasso Sea.  The tag he deployed today won't reveal this information, but this question can be answered with other tags -- if the money can be raised to deploy them.  

Andrew examining a sample.  He wears a GoPro to document the research.
Heather finding us another shark.
By eleven we have gotten biopsy samples from two sharks, and our attention begins to wander.  In the distance, a fin flutters on the surface of the water, a telltale sign of a mola.  Even these seasoned researchers are charmed by these odd fish, and we can't resist taking a closer look any longer.  We motor over to the mola and shut down the engine, drifting along as the mola swims around us, flopping its fins and laying on its side occasionally.  His large eye looks as if he is observing us as much as we are observing him.

"Just a little one," Andrew says.  At about three feet long, Andrew is right.  Someday, I'll see a monster mola, and will be able to die happy.  Until then, I catch a quick video of our friend before we move on.

Porpioses popped up all around us, puffing as they went.
Mola mola were everywhere!  These freaks are my absolute favs.  Squee!  Squee!  (That's me squealing in delight!)

By ten o'clock we are halfway to Nova Scotia, way out in the middle of the Bay of Fundy.  Although we are looking for basking sharks, we are delighted to instead find an unusual visitor to the Bay -- a sperm whale.  A couple of these amazing animals -- the largest of the toothed whales -- have been reported in this area, and when we see a puffy, assymetrical blow rise above a whale on the horizon, we know we have found one.  Their single blowhole isn't found in the midline of their head, as is the rule for other groups of whales, but has migrated to the left side of their head.  (Here's a great pic of this oddity.)

Sperm whales are rather extraordinary creatures.  They are deep divers, sometimes reaching depths of over a mile, and can go without breathing for well over an hour.  They typically forage on prey items at depth, with giant squid being the prey they are famous for pursuing, but they take many other animals, particularly fish.  Finding food in the deep oceans is a challenge, as light doesn't penetrate very far into the water column.  The sperm whale has therefore evolved a spectacular ability to echolocate, using sonar to sense their environment at depth and locate individual prey items.

We sit quietly near the whale, watching as it breathes repeatedly on the surface.  Today, the research team has brought along a hydrophone -- a microphone that works underwater -- and we decide to toss it overboard to eavesdrop on the whale.  Sperm whales are the loudest of all the animals on earth, broadcasting sounds at over 230 decibels.  That's loud -- imagine a shotgun being fired by a neighbor standing next to you.  If this whale is making any noise, we're likely to hear it.  (Interested in sperm whale acoustics?  Google "sperm whale monkey lips".  Go ahead, do it.)

Notice the bushy, assymetrical blow, typical of a sperm whale.
A sperm whale sounding.
The whale dives just as we toss the hydrophone over, and the first thing we hear is a series of clicks that sounds like a depth finder from the boat.  But it isn't; it's our sperm whale clicking away; either echolocating or communicating with another whale.  Soon this sound grows, and we hear a series of Ka-pams, which sound much like a gunshot.  All of us on the boat are transfixed as we listen to the whale.  The clicking and "gunshots" go on for about five minutes, then the pace of clicking changes dramatically, and we hear what is called "creaking" -- clicks becoming so close together it sounds like a squeaky door closing in a ghost story.  This becomes quite frenzied, then suddenly stops. 

"He's found something . . ." Andrew says quietly.  "And . . . Chomp!"

We speculate on what our sperm whale might be eating.  Big cod?  Some other fish?  Probably not a giant squid, that much is for sure.  Whatever it was, we are all thrilled to have had the chance to hear this sperm whale's noisy hunt.  Even for seasoned field biologists like Heather and Andrew, this was a special event to witness, a day we will remember for a long time.

Eventually Karina picks up her binoculars and starts to scan the horizon for basking sharks.  She is a hard worker and will be a good biologist as her career progresses.  Our brief distraction is over, and we pull the hydrophone out of the water and head on our way.  We have a few more promising leads, but are unable to approach them before the shark dives below the surface.  Soon the wind picks up.  The tide turns, and in the Bay of Fundy this is a big deal.  The strong currents of the outgoing tides are opposing the light wind, causing a chop to whip up on the water.  Suddenly we are unable to find any more fins rising above the water, and we decide it's a waste of time and gas to continue.  Andrew turns the boat towards home, where plenty more work must be done.  After a quick ride back to North Head, we unload the boat, carry gear back to the field station, and clean it to prevent salt water residue from destroying it.  Pictures are downloaded and categorized; samples are carefully loaded into freezers, and notes are transcribed onto computers.  This is the part of marine biology no one thinks about, the glamor-free part, but is as essential as the field work.

After this work is done, we break out some beverages and talk over the highlights of the day.  For me, it has been extraordinary.  The massive sharks, the charming molas, the seabirds flitting around us, the sperm whale are all dancing around in my head.  We talk about what we know about the animals we've seen, and what we don't know.  The things we don't know are the most interesting part of our discussion -- science is, after all, about questions.  There are plenty more questions to be asked about basking sharks and all the animals we saw.  We stay up late hypothesizing and speculating.  I try to put in a plug for starting to study molas, which Heather sees through in a heartbeat.  But maybe I can convert them.  I mean, basking sharks are cool, but molas -- over the top.

Whatever questions they ask about in the future, I hope I'll get to hear about Heather and Andrew's progress in answering them.

Nuf' said.
For more information about the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station (like how to donate a few clams to help them out), go to their website.

Fin.  The end.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tootin' My Own Horn

A few weeks ago, a former student of mine, and a Kent Islander, shot me an email -- the kind any teacher wants to get.  Charlotte Rutty, an extraordinary young writer and producer, said she had a "maybe-strange" proposal for me -- to appear on Maine Calling, the state's public affairs call in show.  She went on to say some nice things about me (blush, blush), and said the show was about Maine's "sea critters", and that I'd be a good fit for the show.

Well, who can refuse a lovely person like Charlotte, who flatters me and says I get to babble on about Maine's oceans to, well, at least a dozen listeners (not including my parents)?

So I said yes.  I spent about a week doing some quick research on what I might want to tell people about ocean organisms in Maine, and some key information about conservation concerns.  This included Mola mola (of course), basking sharks (which I'm going to do a post on very shortly, as they are nearly, but not quite, as cool as molas, whales, copepods, tidepools, and many others.  Damon the night before saying -- you'll probably get a question about blue lobsters, as one was in the news this week.  My good friend Anja took the day off to come down with me, to cheer me on and have someone to celebrate with afterwards.
I got a good night's sleep the night before show, headed down in the morning, and met the other guests in the lobby beforehand -- Adam Baukus of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Joe Payne, who is the Casco Baykeeper for Friends of Casco Bay.  Both were incredibly knowledgeable and personable -- amazing people.  Jennifer Rooks hosted, and was great at asking questions and leading us through answering.  We had some great questions, and Damon gets bonus points for suggesting I do some research on blue lobsters -- someone did indeed ask a question about them!  (Hmm, sounds like a future blog post to me!)

The hour flew by, they started to play the theme music, then we were out of there!

What do you do after appearing on a talk show?  Well, eat a lobster roll, of course!  We headed downtown to Portland Lobster Company, and although we melted eating out on the deck, the lobster roll went down pretty easy!  Overall, a terrific day -- one I will remember a long time.

Now I will say, there are some things that I'd like to talk more about, or I'd like to address better than I did on the show.  I'll squirrel those away to write about in the future!  But if you're interested in listening to the show, check it out here

Anja grew up in East Berlin -- behind the wall -- and spotted this monument from a mile away.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down!  Hooray!  MNP -- Mir, Peace.  A timely reminder.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tidepool Explorations: How To

Tidepool:  n, a pool of water that is left in a depression in the rocks after the tide has receded; v, the act of exploring a tidepool.  "I'm really looking forward to going tidepooling out in Harpswell at low tide."

Tidepools are places where we humans -- such a wimpy species really -- can get a glimpse of what lies below the surface without putting on special wetsuits and masks and snorkels.  These little outposts of the ocean are amazing places to poke around and find treasures of the sea -- seaweed, snails, seastars, urchins, fish, crabs and lobsters, and anemones.  Maine, I am happy to say, has its fair share of tidepools, and I encourage you all to get out there and poke around in them.  As a tidepooler from way back, I thought I'd share some tips for how to best explore one of the most fascinating habitats in Maine.

Really, does it get any better?
Go on a spring low tide.  Not all tides are created equal.  When the earth, moon, and sun are in alignment, tidal amplitude are at their greatest -- we have higher highs, and lower lows.  These are called spring tides (but do not occur during the spring season alone; the name is due to the tide "springing" up and down).  You can find out when the lowest tides are by looking at a tide chart.  Tide charts include information on when low tides are, and also how low each tide is.  For example:

This is a tide chart I just pulled up from here.  You can pick a harbor near you, and get tides for any month of the year.  For each date, the chart tells you when low tide is, and lists its size compared to the average low tide (see the "ft" column?).  The average low tide is calculated by collecting tidal data over 19 years (why 19?  You got me!) and then each tide is predicted based on this data.  So the lowest tide of the month was on August 12, at 6:40, when the tide was a whole 1.7 feet lower than average -- a very low tide.  This is when parts of the intertidal are exposed that you don't get to see on just any old low tide!  But the low tide on the first of the month, occurring at 9:32, was higher than average, so you wouldn't get to see much at all (also, it would be dark). So if I were to pick a great time to explore a tidepool, it would be August 12, starting at about 5:30 -- well before low tide, so the tide's going out.  That would give me plenty of time to poke around.

Extraordinary tidepools at Giant Steps.
Wear appropriate shoes.  You're going to get wet in the rocky intertidal, the water's going to be cold, and there are lots of things that can cut up your feet.  I like to wear wellies (tall rubber boots) when I head out to the tidepools.  If you're looking for a pair of rubber boots, I can recommend Dunlops.  They're ugly, but they last and last.  You're likely to see fishermen up here wearing them -- as good a recommendation as I can imagine, and the reason I got mine.

A student exploring in her wellies.
However, other people prefer to wear dive booties.  They let you go deeper into tidepools than boots (I have a definite limit on how deep I can walk into a pool).  Your feet will get wet, but the neoprene will insulate them pretty well.

Professor Amy Johnson, my partner in crime here at Bowdoin, likes to wear dive booties.
If neither of these options are for you, I recommend either a pair of Keens or an old pair of sneakers you don't mind getting wet.  Whatever you do, don't try to go barefoot, and don't wear flip flops.  That's just asking for trouble.  Happy feet will make you a happy explorer.

Acorn barnacles, lying in wait to cut up your feet.  Careful!
Be careful.  BE CAREFUL!  Of all the things I worry about when I go out to the ocean, it's waves that are the scariest.  Water has a lot of mass -- it weighs about 8 pounds for every gallon.  That makes it dangerous.  Waves can, and do, knock people off their feet, and can sweep them out to sea.  It happens almost every year here in Maine.  Folks go down to the shore to watch a big storm, get too close to the edge, and a big wave comes along and carries someone to their death.  Like I said:  BE CAREFUL.

It's best to visit tidepools during very calm conditions.  If there are any waves, stay on shore and just be awed by the ocean's power (from afar).  When you're near waves, don't turn your back to them -- face them so you can see them coming.  And finally, realize that not all waves are the same size.  Waves vary in size, and every once in a while a big one comes along.  Don't trust the ocean, ever; she will trick you!

Waves bad . . .
. . . calm good.

Bring a bucket!  There are lots of things you'll want to take a closer look at.  Buckets can be very useful for setting things aside so you can investigate them further.  Just remember, organisms need to be returned to the exact spot they came from, and you can't collect intertidal organisms without a permit.

You can get nice big buckets at hardware stores.
Wear your sunglasses.  Your polarized sunglasses, that is.  They cut down on glare and allow you to see under the surface much more easily than without them.  Going when there's no wind, and therefore no waves, makes visibility even better.

Investigate, ask questions, and go ahead -- touch carefully!  There are very few things in tidepools I won't touch.  Most organisms are more likely to be hurt by you that you are by them. As you probably know, some things pinch.  But most things are harmless.  Sea stars, urchins, snails, mussels, seaweed, and fish are unlikely hurt you.

Seastars are most common very low in the intertidal.
You might find this guy if you turn over a rock!
Or this guy -- a rock crab.  Careful of the pinchy parts!
Sea urchins in Maine are not poisonous.  Go ahead, touch!  See his little tubefeet?
What a great find!  A seastar who has lost all his legs but one.  He'll grow the others back if he's lucky.
A rock gunnel.  Slippery devils, but really cool.
A predatory dog whelk and egg cases from dog whelks, found under a rock.
One of the things you definitely want to do in a tidepool is (carefully) turn over rocks.  That's where the cool stuff likely to be.  What might you see?  Crabs, lobsters, rock gunnels, and urchins all love a good rock to hide under.  Just be careful that you don't crush any organisms when you put your rock back (and put it back just the way it was).

My final word of advice on investigating is to take your time and truly look.  I find a lot of things by working very slowly.  Few observations worth making are quick.  Spend several minutes just wandering around a single pool.  You never know what you'll find!

Take some useful resources.  I really like the following books:

The Naturalist's Guide to the Atlantic Seashore (Scott Shumway)

The Seaside Naturalist (Deborah Coulombe)

Life on Intertidal Rocks (Cherie Hunter Day)

Peterson's Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore (Kenneth L. Gosner)

A tidepool in winter.  That's advanced tidepooling!
Next week:  Tidepool Explorations: Where to

Monday, August 18, 2014

Razor Clam Escape Artist

Ensis directus; the razor clam.
What's a razor clam to do, exposed to the elements, a sitting duck for hungry gulls?

Dig.  Dig fast.

Clams have an extraordinary muscular foot that they use to dig.  They are, after all, molluscs, and the muscular foot is one of the characteristics of this phylum.  It's easy to see it on the gastropods -- snails and such.  But bivalves have them too.  They use them to dig in a complex and beautiful manner.  This is something you don't see terribly often out in nature, so it was a real treat to come upon a razor clam (Ensis directus) digging its way into the substrate the other day.  Usually they're deep in the mud, and digging them can easily break them.  Happily, my trusty water-proof camera was ready:

Razor clams are a wonderful specimen for my Biology of Marine Organisms lab, so I'm sorry to say I grabbed that bad boy.  It's in my tank right now, happily munching down on the Shellfish Diet I feed my filter feeders with.

Here it is in my bucket, with some other goodies:

Just look at that foot!  Wow.  Can there be anything more beautiful?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Long Island (Maine, of course)

My pal Ken can make friends with anyone.  From the guy working out next to him at the gym to the owner of a major grocery store, Ken ends up winning over just about everyone.  That's how we ended up finding out about the fair down at the VFW on Long Island.

People:  10 bucks.  People with four legs:  4 bucks and change.
One of Casco Bay Line's distinctive yellow and white ferries.
Ken and Kathy emailed us to tell us they were coming to Maine, and were planning to take the Mail Boat out of Portland, to Long Island in Casco Bay.  Damon and I took that as an invitation, and the next morning we found ourselves on the ten o'clock ferry with a couple hundred other people -- day trippers like us; folks headed out for a week's vacation; and our new friend from Connecticut.  I'm sorry to say I never caught his name, but we talked about everything from Ken's new shoulder (and his moderately new knees) to the Yankees (which almost ended our blossoming friendship).  Our new friend grew up with a summer house out on Long Island, and had just bought a little place right next to the family place.  We chatted all the way out to the island and wished each other well as we disembarked; us looking to find lunch and some beach time; our friend to find his family's island car for a ride to his new cottage.  As we made our way up towards the general store (slowly, with three rather elderly dogs sniffing all the bushes and trees along the way), an island car pulled up next to us and our new friend told us to make sure to make it up to the VFW for lobster rolls at the fair -- just up the road.  We thanked him, said goodbye, looked at each other, and decided the VFW was our best bet for lunch.

The four of us strolled along with our slow dogs as golf carts and island cars (most of which wouldn't pass inspection on the mainland) slowly rolled past us -- all headed for the red-white-and-blue bunting of the VFW.  Ken and Damon dispatched us to pick up four lobster rolls as they held onto our pack -- who were irresistible to the crowds of island kids pouring out of the VFW with cotton candy, popcorn, and prizes from the games inside.  Not only were those lobster rolls pretty darn good, but for ten bucks (with chips to boot!) they were a pretty good deal.  If this was the way of life on Long Island, I knew I was going to like it.

Service with a smile.
A happy crowd at the VFW.
Kathy enjoying her $10 lobster roll

Our hunger satisfied, we headed across the island (slowly, ever so slowly) to Singing Sands beach.  This beach squeaks when you walk on it -- just drag your feet along as you go!  Squeak-squeak-squeak.  The dogs had a great swim while the humans had a great talk about seaweed, work, and life as we sat on an old driftwood log.  Sailboats fought their way against the tide, a group of kayakers enjoyed lunch on the sand, and a game of pick-up volleyball started.  It was lovely -- perfect -- and of course, had to come to an end. Eventually we had to catch a boat back to Portland, and with our poke-along dogs, we needed plenty of time to get back to the ferry.
Does it get any better?
More kitsch!
This was a highly-functional island cah.  Most wouldn't pass inspection on the mainland.
Damon making the sand sing.
Dory wanted in on the action.
Even at our leisurely pace, we crossed the island in time to buy some sandwiches at the General Store (which are delicious) and pick up a six-pack of Bud (which you should not try to drink on their deck). Chastised by the owner, we put our Buds back in the bag, enjoyed our second lunch (those lobster rolls weren't exactly large), and headed out to the ferry.
Time to head home
Boarding the ferry.
Leaping from the wharf -- a rite of passage.

What can I say here?
Since our beers were already open, we decided to drink them along the way.  Normally, this would be socially unacceptable behavior, so we hid them in the only thing we had -- empty doggie poop bags.  Didn't we feel stupid when we realized everyone was looking at us funny -- not because we were drinking, but because we were trying to hide it -- in poop bags.  We soon figured out everyone had a beer in hand; the woman walking her dog; the guys sitting behind the community center; the gentleman driving his golf cart while smoking a big old cigar.  That's island life on Long Island in summer, it seems; laid back and friendly.  After all; summer's short.  Enjoy your damn beer in the open.
Public consumption.  Nice.
Life in the slow lane.  That's what it's all about.