The lines caught my eye from half a block away at the Downrigging Festival. Narrow forefoot broadening mid-ships, then narrowing to the tumblehome transom. I walked over to take a look. No one around, no sign on the boat, but I believed it to be a Coble.
The next day I dropped by again to find builder Robert Stack. It was in fact a Coble, a Northumbrian Coble designed by Paul Fisher. I knew from John Welsford, though I can't remember if he told me in an email or if it is in his literature somewhere, the Coble was the basis for the Pathfinder design. John took the lines, modernized the underbody for speed and simplified the construction for homebuilders like me. Robert, who seems to be a serial boatbuilder with several boats finished, in the works or planned, did a wonderful job with the boat. It was a treat to see a replica of Spartina's genesis.
Robert and his wife Elizabeth later on walked down the docks to hop aboard Spartina. It was fun to compare boats and recognize the similarities. Nice job on the boat, Robert. And thanks John, for recognizing a beautiful set of lines and sharing them with the Pathfinder design.
I placed an order with Jamestown Distributors for five Beckson deck plates, 10" outer diameter and 7 5/8" inner diameter. They will replace Spartina's five large deck plates, now yellowed by the sun and cracked by being stepped on a few too many times. You can see three of the deck plates in the photo above from a mizzen and jib kind of day on the Elizabeth River. A fourth one is to the left of the centerboard trunk, the fifth all the way aft next to the motor well.
Winter maintenance will focus mostly on the inside of the cockpit. I plan to sand and repaint much of the interior, the steel gray Interlux topside paint now worm and scratched with white primer and epoxied wood showing in a few places.
I will do routine touch up work on the varnished rub rails and main mast, and also the white deck paint and some green hull paint, but that should be easy enough. With a wooden boat spring means painting somewhere.
Sanding, scraping and prep work should be done by the first of the year, then I'll wait until warm weather in late February or early March to do the painting, which should not take much time. (My ears still burn from 20-some years ago when I expressed surprise at how little paint and time it would take to repaint my earlier boat, a Devlin-designed Nancy's China. Mary Hadley, who ran the Elizaberth City Shipyard where the original Spartina was docked, shook her head and said "Son, your boat's just not that big.....")
Still holding out hope for one more sail this year......
Here are some very, very nice photographs from my friend Roger. He had brought his 1977 Herreshoff ketch Gwylan to the Downrigging Festival. You can see some photographs of Gwylan here and here. I sent him a disc with a few photographs of Gwylan, he sent me a disc with many images of Spartina. A very nice trade.
Our two boats do share a little DNA. Both boats have sails made by Stuart at Dabbler Sails. That's the Lady Maryland with her distinctive pink and green hull in the photo above.
The best sailing by far was Thursday and Friday. It was on Friday that Gwylan and Spartina sailed alongside each other for a while.
The Lady Maryland again, above, and the Chestertown waterfront with, in the background from left to right, the A. J. Meerwald, Pride of Baltimore II, Lady Maryland and the Sultana.
I had no idea Roger was taking so many photographs, but I'm glad he did. Thanks, Roger!
I dropped by the ramp to see if there had been any changes since the concrete blocks stopped me from sailing last week. There was a change. A sign saying "BOAT RAMP CLOSED FOR PUBLIC USE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE" had been added. Thanks for the clarification.
It is interesting that they specify public use. I would like to see the marine resources police, who launch(ed) patrol boats there, plus the shipyards across the river, who launch(ed) small workboats there, use the ramp with several hundred pounds of concrete blocking the way.
I do find hope in the phrase "until further notice."
I rec'd a very nice email from Roger, owner of Gwylan, the 1977 Herreshoff ketch below, describing his sail from Chestertown to Oxford. He made some nice photographs along the way. With his permission, I'll share the story of his sail and his photographs below.
Had a fine trip back to Oxford. Crept out between Sultana and Pride II on Monday morning at 0630 with practically no wind so slid between their booms with no drama. Motored down the Chester for a while as the breeze sneaked in and Sigsbee, Lady Maryland, and AJ Meerwald slowly caught up and overtook me. Got a ton of pics of them in the great morning light that I have to send them, too.
It then became a lot of wind, mostly on the beam, so really boiled along once I set sail, making 6+ knots with just the genoa and mizzen. Motored thru Kent Narrows in late morning then set staysl, main, and mizzen and just rolled down Eastern Bay. Got thru Knapps Narrows in late afternoon and anchored for the night in Harris Creek just before sundown.
Then the next day it was just a couple of hours under power to Oxford, but detoured when I realized there were four skipjacks dredging an oyster bed in the Choptank just south of the mouth of the Choptank Light. They were using their pushboats (no wind, and I'm not sure any actually dredge under sail now anyhow) and I took a lot of pics. It was Hilda M. Willing (1905), Rebecca T Ruark (1886), Thomas Clyde (1911), and HM Krentz (1955) and just an unforgettable sight. No tourists with cameras (except me), not a "re-enactment", just four skipjacks doing what they were built to do.
I've had the pleasure of seeing skipjacks on on the water - out on the Choptank and Miles River - but never in a group and certainly never while they were working the oyster beds. How cool. Thanks for sharing, Roger.
Mixed together here are photographs of three boats. Spartina, of course, photographed with the GoPro camera on the Thursday and Friday of Downrigging weekend in Chestertown, and also Roger's Gwylan, a 1977 Herreshoff ketch, from Friday of Downrigging. There is a third boat, all the way at the bottom, from the other side of the world.
The best sailing days of the weekend were not the weekends days, they were Thursday and Friday with clear skies and a nice breeze. Friday morning was a little chilly, but it warmed up quickly. You will see a photograph of me wearing a jacket, gloves and buff against the chill.
Saturday and Sunday the weather was, well, unfortunate. Cold, rainy and windy on Saturday. The bakery and restaurants were filled with people trying to escape the stormy conditions. Sunday was cold, clear and very windy. All sailing was cancelled for those days, for both tall ships and small boats like Spartina. This forced me to be something that I am usually not: sociable.
During the weekend I found myself in very enjoyable discussions with both old and new friends. Dave and Huck, Fred and MaryLou, Brian with the catboat and Roger with the Herreshoff ketch. Bob and Elizabeth with the beautiful Coble (the basis for the Pathfinder's design), who came by and hopped aboard Spartina for a few minutes.
It was good to see Erik, captain of the tall ship Lynx; Kristen from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum; Jamie, Starbuck, Aaron and Christine from the Pride of Baltimore II.
There was a chance meeting with Doug, a regular on Kevin B's spring floats, and of course brief visits with event organizer Drew, who is always calm while organizing everything from docking to bands to oysters in the swirling storm (this year, literally) of Downrigging weekend. Add to all of those, countless people who stopped to say hello on the docks and have a look at Spartina.
This is the boat from the other side of the world. Webb Chiles, as he says, is"wearing" GANNET, his Moore 24. This view gives an excellent interpretation of GANNET's size. She is very small. And she might seem even smaller considering that Webb sailed her 6,408 miles from San Diego to Opua, New Zealand.
Because Webb broke one of his rules and invited me to sail aboard GANNET, and because I took some photographs on the sail that have been published with Webb's writings, I received a nice check in the mail. I wrote Webb to thank him for the opportunity, telling him the check was quickly deposited in my cruising account. Webb replied that his first thought was that he had never had a cruising account, but then realized that maybe that was the only kind of account he had ever had.
Note the pretty blue skies of fall, calm water on a morning with light winds promising to build as the day went on. Note the two large concrete blocks placed across the boat ramp. They were not there a couple of weeks ago. My only hope is that the city placed them there as they prepare to rebuild what has to be the worst - though very conveniently located - ramp I have ever used. Maybe they waited until the cold weather brings an end to boating season before they begin the work. Or maybe they are closing the ramp permanently. I don't know.
So I drove to another ramp, this one about a mile or two up the southern branch of the Elizabeth River. These ramps, there are a couple of them side by side, just a few years old, are very nice with grooves cut in the concrete to give vehicles traction and nice piers to tie up to once the boat is launched. That place was closed too. They are rebuilding the entire park that surrounds the ramp. Blocked by concrete at one place and a chain link fence at another, there was no sailing on a beautiful fall day.
There is the chance for good sailing weather the next couple of weeks before it gets too cold. Should I find that weather window, I will drive down to Elizabeth City, NC, where there is a very nice ramp, and sail on the Pasquotank River. And I will hope the ramp is open.
There's a very nice story in the NY Times about the recent trend of buying, restoring and using vintage trailers. According the the interviews there are a lot of reasons for this. The old trailers are inexpensive, small (some only 10 feet in length) and versatile (they are used as travel trailers, second homes, guest bedrooms and personal hide-aways). They offer a simple, affordable lifestyle that is reminiscent of an earlier era.
Reading that story I could not help but think about Spartina. There is something special about being able to define a life and fit it inside a simple wooden boat that is less than 18 feet long. And that wooden boat, just like the vintage trailers, can be used to carry that way of living from place to place. For trailers, it's on the road. For Spartina, it's on the bays, rivers and sounds.
Some of the quotes about trailers sounded as if they were written about small boats.....
"It's comfortable. It's a real safe-feeling space."
"No tv, no internet. It's something different."
"Everything you would need if you are living in it is there."
"Get back to a simpler time."
"It's a great sound, the rain on the roof."
Yes, wrapped snug in the sleeping bag, you ought to hear the sound of rain falling on Spartina's boom tent.