Blue Angels over the Seacoast

Four of six Blue Angels, near the marina in Newington, NH

A fortuitous convergence of good stuff yesterday: amazing summer weather; time off; small boat; Great Bay; air show rehearsal; Blue Angels in town for the first time in 20 years. Amen.

The old Route 4/ 16 bridge, with the new General Sullivan Bridge on the other side and angels overhead

The fishing was awful, but the exploring and jet-watching were great. We got stopped by the Marine Police for going too fast past within 150 feet of their boat, but didn’t get a ticket.

Old bridge

We put our 17-foot fishing boat in at the small ramp next to the Route 108 bridge in Stratham, on the Squamscott River which flows from Exeter.

We went under this old railroad bridge and when we came back hours later the tide was completely high and we almost didn’t make it under. We realized at the last moment and stopped the movement of the boat with husband-and-wife pushing-against-the-bridge arm power (John had put it quickly in neutral)… then unscrewed and lowered the windshield and ducked under the bridge.

Blue yonder

John said this was an F-18, maybe an advance for the Blue Angels.

We watched it maneuver from the broad expense of the lower Great Bay while eating fried chicken from our favorite fried chicken place/ convenience store on Route 108 near the Squamscott in Newfields.

Science happens here

We passed the University of New Hampshire’s Jackson Marine Lab at Adams Point, then traveled north into the Little Bay, stopped to explore a small island with a shingle beach.

Up a lazy river

At the head of the bay, we turned to go up the Piscataqua then Cocheco River all the way to Dover, just because we had never done it before.

Just like the other rivers we have explored that flow into Great Bay, it was scenic, with houses, fields, woods, rocks here and there along the banks, some docks with boats, but surprisingly undeveloped overall.

Wings

Then back into the bay and just our sheer dumb luck, the Blues were beginning to rehearse their show. We were not the only boaters gawking at the display of some of the finest flying skills plus coolest jet airplanes in the world.

Tight formation

Seriously tight.

Five in a line

Pretty much everyone in the Seacoast caught a glimpse or heard the roar of the Blue Angels yesterday. We are not a very large place, geographically, and they cover a lot of air when they’re turning and burning.

Certainly less was accomplished yesterday and people stopped what they were doing, where they were going to watch the sky. But maybe the sight will feed something inside, something inspirational.

What are you good at? What do you love? Can you do it with focus, skill and courage too?

From the air…

Town workers save $100,000 on Town Hall project

John Hubbard and Red Mabey

Hampton Union: Town workers save $100,000 on Town Hall project
By Amy Kane

NORTH HAMPTON — John Hubbard and Red Mabey wear many hats — literally and figuratively.

By taking on additional responsibilities in recent months, these town employees helped North Hampton save around $100,000 on renovations to its historic Town Hall.

John Hubbard is director of public works. He and his staff — Jeff Barnes, John Hoxie and Romeo Turcotte — worked as a demolition team for a few weeks in the spring. They busted out old pipes, pulled up floors, and pulled down partitions and plaster.

The estimated cost to the town if the work had gone out to bid was between $40,000 and $50,000.

Building inspector Richard “Red” Mabey has worked in construction since the 1960s, including as a general contractor. He drafted the plans for the renovation, saving the town around $25,000. He also removed and reinstalled the 7-foot-tall windows and took on jobs that were not part of the contract with Powell Builders.

“It was either that or we wouldn’t be able to do the renovation,” said Mabey. “We needed to keep costs down.”

“It’s great to have staff willing to step forward and do this,” said town administrator Steve Fournier, who estimated the $100,000 savings. “It was above and beyond the call of duty.”

With new floors, fresh paint, new bathrooms, offices for the Recreation Department and the cable TV station, new fire and security systems, a small kitchen, propane for heating and cooking, and a handicapped access ramp in back, the building will be ready for municipal meetings in September and the state primary election on Sept. 14.

There were some surprises when renovations got under way. A back wall was rotted and needed to be rebuilt, and there were three levels of flooring. The original bid by Powell Builders was for $111,485 but, according to the town administrator, additional costs have not exceeded the $150,000 ceiling placed by the previous Select Board.

On Monday, selectmen approved up to $2,000 for the addition of storm windows to improve insulation.

Town Hall was constructed in 1844, in part with timbers from the town’s original 1734 and 1761 meeting houses. It has served as town offices, the town clerk’s office, and even a police station (with an old jail cell at below the main level).

The renovated hall will play host to municipal meetings, recorded and televised on Channel 22.

“People come up to me and say they are happy to be using the old Town Hall again,” said Fournier. “It brings back a lot of memories.”

But it may be time to renovate the name as well. According to Fournier, it isn’t “old Town Hall.”

“This is THE Town Hall,” he said.

New floors, fresh paint, and much more

North Hampton Town Hall

Click here for Google maps location.

Start spreading the news…

Hampton Union: School Board debates funding for NYC trip
By Amy Kane

NORTH HAMPTON — The School Board has voted, 3-2, to affirm the educational value of the seventh-grade trip to New York City, but questions remain about how the trip will be funded.

Students hope to pack their bags and hit the Big Apple for three days in late spring. The trip is expected to cost nearly $20,000 for 60 students and their teachers.

This would be the fourth year for the trip. For the first two years, the trip was paid for entirely through fund raising, with a substantial donation from an anonymous donor in the second year.

Last year, due to concerns about the burden of fund raising on parents and the community, the School Board included $11,000 for the trip in its operating budget. This past budgeting season, the board cut that figure to $4,000 for the 2010-11 school year.

The trip includes stops at the United Nations, the NASDAQ stock exchange and the Federal Reserve building, Ground Zero, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, as well as museums and a Broadway play.

Administrators and seventh-grade teachers say the trip to New York City motivates learning and makes a real-world connection to curriculum similar to the Grade 6 trip to environmental camp and the Grade 8 trip to Washington, D.C.

“Don’t look just at the three-day trip, but look at the 160 days prior to the three-day trip that build the learning for which the trip creates great incentive,” Assistant Principal Jan Scipione told School Board members at their monthly meeting on Aug. 19. “We definitely saw children develop interest and awareness because of the trip.”

Victoria Kilroy and Kari Schmitz were the two board members who did not vote in support of the trip. They agreed it had educational value but both were concerned about the fund-raising impact on parents and the community.

“I would like to see what other options are available that incorporate the $4,000 but aren’t necessarily as large as the New York City trip,” said Schmitz.

Kilroy said, “I’d like to see where the money is coming from and exactly what percent would be an impact on fund raising.”

She noted that future budgets will increase due in part to the withdrawal of Hampton, and this could affect all field trips, not just seventh grade.

“I think we underestimate how much time it takes for certain family members to be able to go out and get the money to fund raise if it’s nothing a family can just write a check for,” said Schmitz.

School Board Chairman David Sarazen said that over the past several years he has questioned the educational value of the trip relative to its cost, but since his daughter made the trip last year and he experienced fund raising firsthand, he had concluded the effort was worth it.

“I didn’t see or experience the hardship. There was significant effort put in by the students but people are not forced to donate,” he said. “Many companies do set aside funding for this purpose, to support the good of the community.”

Board member Henry Marsh noted that seventh-graders already know about this trip and are looking forward to it.

“We’re three weeks away from school starting,” said Marsh. “It would be like saying to the eighth grade, you’re not going to Washington, D.C.”

Board member Robert Copp said students feel a sense of ownership when they raise money for a trip.

“How much they have to raise and how much time they have to spend doing it is the issue we need to balance,” he said. “I am not in favor of not funding it. I think we need to back it up. I would rather have them go to New York than Canobie Lake Park.”

The administration is expected to present financial information and funding proposals for the seventh-grade trip at the September School Board meeting.

Sing it, Frank.

Deceased baby seal at North Hampton Beach

E-mailed report to the New England Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue Team:

I was taking photos of storm surf at North Hampton Beach around 11:45 a.m. today when I spotted a surfer looking at something in the rolling waves. As the seal got closer to shore, the surfer used his board to keep it from washing back out to sea. I think he thought it might still be alive. He moved it up the beach near the seawall. The tide was nearly high.

When it was still rolling in the waves I noticed that it looked like it had sustained some wounds underneath (not pictured), though it could have been from rocks after it had died. People were coming over to see and I told them to leave it because I knew there was a number to call to report a dead (or living) marine mammal on the beach. I drove to the police station in North Hampton where I had seen a brochure about strandings and informed the police secretary. She called the officer on patrol and said she would call you.

Photos below.
Location: pin on Google map LINK.

I made the email report after I got a call from a woman at NEAQ who had questions. (Here is a LINK to their blog.) She said this is the time of year baby harbor seals are being weaned from their mothers and a certain number of them dying is not uncommon.

Update 5:30 p.m.

Hi Amy,

Thanks for forwarding on these photos to us!  I hope that surfer cleaned his surf board after picking up the seal with it!!

Your map was really helpful, made it easier to direct our field volunteer to the precise location.

Kind regards,
Ulrika

Ulrika Malone
Biologist
Rescue & Rehabilitation
New England Aquarium
Office: 617-973-6551
Stranding hotline: 617-973-5247

UPDATE Wednesday

Portsmouth Herald: Dead seals no cause for alarm, aquarium official says

NORTH HAMPTON — A spate of dead baby seals washing up along the shores in the Seacoast may have some beach-goers concerned, but marine officials said the incidence is nothing that should cause alarm.

On Monday, a baby harbor seal was pulled from the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth. Two more dead baby seals washed ashore Tuesday; one at Seapoint Beach in Kittery, Maine, and one at North Hampton State Beach.

“The high number of dead seals is a byproduct of the weather,” said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium in Boston. “You see a fair amount of mortality in harbor seal pups at this time of year. Those animals that are dead and in the water are being noticed because they are being pushed ashore by the nor’easter.”