Paddling With Two One-Armed Sailors And A Drunken Woman

Whitewater fun and adventures!

By Rachelle Siegrist

wes siegrist
The two one-armed sailors and the “drunken” woman

We took advantage of the splendid weather this past week, with a day of kayaking and swimming with friends Tom and Sharon.  Once we arrived at the point of embarkment, Tom and Sharon laughingly announced that they just realized they had forgot their paddle….OOP’s!  Well I always say, “When life hands you lemons . . . make lemonade!”  So we made the best of the situation and broke down a set of paddles giving the two guys each half a paddle, which actually worked out pretty good.  If nothing else it gave them a great workout!

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Me, Tom and Sharon enjoying the water!

With our two one-armed sailors amongst the fleet, we started out on our exciting journey.  For some reason Sharon’s kayak seems to have a mind of its own, as the second she stops paddling, it immediately turns either 90 degrees to the right or the left, heading in that direction and almost making a complete circle if she doesn’t intervene with her paddle.  Needless to say it’s quite hilarious to watch from behind, as she left a zig zagging wake behind her, making it look like a “drunken” women was at the helm, not being able to decide which way to go . . . Ha!

rachelle siegrist snorkeling
Most fish were quite curious to see what the creature wearing the pink mask was

Obviously our group was a sight to behold as we went along, nonetheless we were having a grand time!  After paddling for awhile we decided to pull the kayaks up onto the bank and swim and snorkel.  Wes and I had finally wised up and ordered wetsuits, which came in this past week, from our local Rhea’s Diving Services in nearby Maryville.  I was definitely like a little girl on Christmas morning excitedly putting on my wetsuit, thankful to once again be able to snorkel and swim whilst staying warm after all these years of freezing! Once I finally got my second skin on, which in itself is a major accomplishment, I stayed semi-warm most of the time, a great improvement over being without it indeed!

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Sharon and I enjoy what I call champagne falls

I saw lots of beautiful fish, including a group of ten Redhorses about a foot in length in one of the deeper pools!  Schools of bright blue minnows found my hot pink mask most intriguing, gathering in front of it and swimming up close to check it out!  Warpaint Shiners and Rock Bass also swam by, as well as numerous other fish.  After snorkeling, swimming and enjoying the thousands of bubbles at the base of champagne falls, we were all quite hungry, and enjoyed eating our sandwiches while perched on rocks and basking in the warmth of the sun.  As always, time passed way too quickly and it was time to head back, so we climbed into our kayaks and off we went . . . Two one-armed sailors, a “drunken” woman and me.

rachelle siegrist tubing
Yee Haw!!!!!

Recent rains raised the water levels of the river and made it perfect for whitewater tubing, especially for an adrenaline junky like me!!!  We all got in on the action a couple of times and had a blast going over and through the likes of what we’ve named the Double Dipper, Water Tornado and the BIG one . . . The Gusher, which actually sent us each airborne numerous times when going through it!

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Sharon holds on as she starts over the double dipper!

I thought for sure I heard the sound of The Dukes of Hazard’s car horn playing in the distance each time the wave shot me and my tube up into the air, causing us both to completely leave the water before crashing back down into the frothy mix!  “Woo Hoo!” I hollered each time, laughing until I could hardly catch my breath.

tom ranz tubing
Tom holds on tight as he approaches a whitewater hole

There are certainly times in our lives when we feel like kids again no matter our age, and these were certainly some of those times, with us all laughing and excitedly talking about and sharing our amazing experiences each time we went down.  The funny thing is, that no matter how many times we go down, it’s always as exciting as the first trip!

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Wes approaches The Gusher with me following not far behind
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Wes watches as I approach The Gusher
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Wooooo Hooooo!!!!

Even with our couple of outdoor adventures, we’ve spent most of our time at the easel and in the office this past week.  I’m currently painting a dog portrait commission of a precious little girl named Lily which I’ll be sharing with you soon once I finish painting it.

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle



My Day At Yale University

Visiting the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

By Rachelle Siegrist

rachelle siegrist yale university library
In front of the stately Yale University Library

Wes and I enjoyed a visit to Connecticut a couple of weeks ago while attending the opening of our Exquisite Miniatures Exhibition, currently at the lovely Stamford Museum & Nature Center.  After spending a couple of days at the museum and kayaking on Long Island Sound, we spent our last day at Yale University.  Faced with a rainy day, it was perfect for enjoying several of the Yale museums.  Parking in a nearby garage, we walked the short distance to the Yale Center for British Art.  The impressive building featuring interesting architectural design is filled with the largest collection of British art outside the UK.  I must say a favorite room for us both was the Long Gallery, where the beautiful paintings were hung Salon style, from ceiling to floor, showcasing about 240 works of art, with several stunning equine paintings which I fell in love with!

Yale Center for British Art the long gallery
The Long Gallery inside The Yale Center for British Art

We spent a couple of hours trying to see everything, realizing halfway through we had better pick up a little speed as hard as it was if we were to see it all.  Leaving the museum we grabbed a quick lunch and headed over to the Yale University Art Museum, where I became instantly smitten with the stunning architecture of the Old Yale University Art Gallery section, designed by well-known architect Egerton Swartwout.  Borrowing elements from Florentine structures like the Davanzati Palace and the Bargello, it’s truly a work of art in its own right!

rachelle siegrist with ancient art at yale university art gallery
Enjoying the Ancient Art inside the stunning Yale University Art Gallery 

I don’t know which I enjoyed more, the exquisite architecture or the collection of Ancient Arts housed in the gorgeous building, and couldn’t resist saying “Wow!”  each time we rounded a corner, entering yet another splendid room!

ancient art at yale university art gallery

I felt like we were walking through an Italian palace as we went along.

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At one point the sun peaked out from behind its shroud of clouds, causing light to pour through the large stained glass windows illuminating the grand room, making it nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful!

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Even the staircases were splendidly designed and constructed, making them great fun to walk up and down, while going to adjoining sections of the gallery.

Wonderful architecture whether going down . . . or going up!

This lovely stained glass at the bottom of one of the numerous staircases was a beautiful focal point indeed!

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A gorgeous stained glass window in the art gallery

Even the views from various windows in the different museums showcased more stunning architecture and historical buildings.

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The beautiful Harkness Tower

A highlight of the visit for us both was going inside the amazing Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which is one of the world’s largest libraries devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts.  The amazing building itself is truly a work of art as well, with walls made of marble, which allow the light to shine through, making them appear to glow on the inside!

wes siegrist at Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Wes in front of The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

“Wow!” was the first word out of our mouths as we walked through the door, seeing stories of old rare books housed there.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Inside The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

We were thrilled to be able to see the Gutenberg Bible, the first major book printed using mass-produced movable metal type in Europe.  Printed by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany about 1455, there are only 21 complete copies are known, and this is one of the complete copies on paper, a rare treat indeed!

rachelle siegrist viewing Gutenberg Bible
Admiring the Gutenberg Bible

The library had numerous other rare books on display, including several Illuminated Manuscripts, which were quite beautiful to see, as the gold looks so brilliant in real life.  Since Wes is always talking about illuminations in his historical miniature presentations, it’s always a treat for us to see them when visiting museums.

historical illuminated manuscript

Two lovely samples of historical Illuminated Manuscripts


Leaving the library, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around part of the beautiful campus, and before we knew it our day at Yale had ended way too fast! If you’re ever in the New Haven, CT area, I highly recommend a visit to this national gem!

~ Recently off the Easels ~

It’s been a very busy week here in the studio once again, with Wes and I both finishing miniature paintings.  My painting features a Carolina Wren beautifully backlit while sitting upon a lichen covered rock at the base of Fall Creek Falls.

“Carolina Sunshine”

Wes finished his painting featuring a handsome little Collared Lizard, which we photographed and enjoyed watched while visiting the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve, Bartlesville, OK, where Exquisite Miniatures was exhibited several years ago.

“Common Collared Lizard”

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle



Kayaking Long Island Sound

Kayaking to Fish Islands in Long Island Sound!

By Rachelle Siegrist

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Paddling down Four Mile River

Wes and I went to Stamford, CT week before last, to attend the opening of our Exquisite Miniatures Exhibition, currently at the lovely Stamford Museum & Nature Center.  We had most of the first day free, so we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather that morning with a kayaking adventure in Long Island Sound. So we got up early and headed over to Rowayton, a small picturesque village situated on Four Mile River.  We walked into the Rowayton Market, where a familiar and delicious aroma of spices and specialty deli foods filled the air!  Once through the store, we walked onto a porch and down a narrow staircase leading to Downunder, a quaint surf shop and kayak rental tucked away under the market.

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A small lighthouse and islands with the New York side off in the distance

Once there, we were greeted by smiling faces and felt as if we had somehow slipped into another world far away.  Soon we were climbing into our double kayak and paddling down the scenic Four Mile River, lined by sailboats and fishing boats.  We reached the end of the river and started out into the Sound, paddling toward Fish Islands.  A strong headwind made the water quite choppy and gave us a good workout as we paddled along, causing waves to crash over the front of the kayak.  Even though it was difficult to paddle in, I must admit I was loving the intense rocking motion of riding the waves and getting drenched in salt water!

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Getting near the islands

Once out on the open water, Wes reminded me that the movie Jaws was filmed not too far up from where we were.  Needless to say, the thought of one swimming underneath our kayak added even more excitement to our adventure, especially since the Mystic Aquarium has tracked one in the Sound!  After intensely paddling while fighting the headwind, we finally drew near to the cluster of islands, and immediately started seeing numerous birds.

A beautiful White Egret on one of the islands


There were several Cormorants as well as Oystercatchers, Willets, Egrets, Osprey and more! Unfortunately, the swaying kayak made it difficult to photograph most of them.

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A Cormorant sits atop a rock near the islands

An Oystercatcher (with 2 leg bands) and a Willet

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Me wading near our patriotic kayak

We enjoyed exploring the one island for a short while, and I was delighted that we were there at low tide, so more of the interesting rock formations and even corals were exposed, as well as an assortment of seagrasses and such.  We had the island all to ourselves and feeling miles away from everything, making it hard to believe how close the noise and chaos of NY City was to us!


The islands being much different than anywhere we have ever kayaked to, were so interesting to see.


The water was surprisingly warm to wade in, especially compared to the frigid water we play in here in the Smokies!

rachelle and wes siegrist kayaking long island sound
Wes stands on the grass-covered island.

With limited time due to our kayak rental and approaching storms, we didn’t get to linger as long as we would’ve liked, and it was time to head back.  We were delighted to have the wind at our backs on the return trip while watching numerous birds flying all around us, as the waves rocked and lulled us into a state of relaxation.

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Paddling back, we passed a long stretch of beautiful rocky shoreline,  which was even prettier with the low tide.  Waves crashed on the rocky shore, while Osprey and gulls soared overhead and Cormorants dried their wings after a morning fishing trip.

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The permanent stain from the high tide created the appearance of layered rocks.

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Reaching the mouth of the river, we slowly paddled along, exploring a small finger of it, where we saw several crabs spraying sand out of their holes on the exposed shoreline.  All too soon we were back at Downunder and our adventure had ended.  Leaving there we walked a short distance to Rowayton Pizza, where we sat on a lovely covered porch, enjoying a gentle breeze and delicious pizza!  The friendly lady at the kayak rental had told us about Farm Creek Nature Preserve nearby, so after lunch, we took a stroll over to the 16-acre preserve.  A beautiful old stone barn built in 1907, sits nestled amongst the trees on the property.


farm creek preserve

We walked down the hill from the barn to a small cement dock leading out into a marshy area.  Looking down toward the water below, we saw hundreds of crabs hurriedly skitting about here and there, most sporting a large claw, which they waved back and forth as if to say “Just come closer . . . I will take you on!”  

wes siegrist crab photo

It was a fabulous day indeed and ended wonderfully with a great turnout for our opening at the museum that evening!  next week I’ll be sharing highlights and stories from our day at Yale University.

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~ Recently off the Easels ~

It’s been a very busy week here in the studio once again.  I finished my painting of a couple of precious baby chicks, which our friend Kit photographed while in Hawaii.  Although Wes has enjoyed a little time at the easel, much of his time has been spent working with SAA business.

“Barnyard Cottonballs”

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle