Tuesday, October 25, 2016

day three - calm before the storm

Slept in until 7:00.  Rain overnight, sometimes light and sometimes a steady drizzle.  The boom tent worked very well, kept the boat dry and I slept comfortably in the sleeping bag and bivy.  I see two deadrises working trot lines on the creek as I tuck away the sleeping gear and tent.  As we sail off anchor at 7:30 one of the boats, Double Trouble, turns to put out a trot line across my anchorage.  The second boat, Buzz Buster, runs up alongside to take a look at Spartina.  I ask the waterman if I had been in their way.  "Not at all," he says.  "Never seen one like that," he smiles, pointing, towards Spartina.  He told me to be safe, I wished him a good day, and the waterman went back to work.

The Chester River is very quiet.  Low overcast, glassy water and a light breeze.  We make slow tacks with uncertain progress across the wide river towards Gray's Inn Creek.  I check in with friends Fred and MaryLou and we talk about getting together near their Rock Hall home.  Light rain, light wind.  Light rain moves on, light wind stays.  I check the weather forecast to hear storms forecast for tomorrow.  I have a decision to make.  Continue on across the river, spend the night there and come back through the Narrows in stormy conditions.  Or turn back now, get some lunch at the Narrows and find shelter off of Eastern Bay for the night.  I turn back to the Narrows.   

I motor sail back to the narrows, tie up to top of the gas can, then tie up across the water for lunch, the mizzen boom jutting beneath the bow of a large motor cruiser.  I am pleased to see that Harris Crab House has kept their price for a crab cake sandwich under $10, most waterfront spots want $15 to $18 these days.  The crab cake sandwich arrives, a tiny crab cake on an open biscuit.  So that's how they do it.  Good lunch so I can't complain.  

We make the 2:00 opening through the Kent Narrows Bridge, a gentlemanly bridge tender wishing me well.  Blue skies work their way through the clouds, not much wind to speak of but I raise full sail anyway.  A handful of head boats full of fishermen head back to the docks leaving rolling wakes on the calm water.  I wonder how many stripers are in the coolers.  We leave Parsons Island to port still under power.  A light wind crops up and finally we are under sail across Crab Alley Bay with Turkey Point in sight.  I sit in the shade of the mainsail - it is turning into a hot day - and try not to rock the boat as we ghost along at under 2 kts.   It is quiet save for the sounds of Spartina's hull and ospreys crying in the distance. 

I hear the drag on the trolling rod go off and reel in a just barely legal striper, one that is quickly returned to the water.  Gentle sailing at 1 kt.  The wind falters off Turkey Point then fills in again once around the point and on Cox Creek.

We sail north on Cox Creek for a little over a mile then branch off to the northwest on Warehouse Creek.  Just a few homes on the creek, mostly lined by marshes and trees.  The creek ends with three separate pools of calm water, each surrounded by tall trees.  I choose the cove to port, just trees and marsh and a small barn in sight, dropping the anchor in about four feet of water.

Dinner and reading, then checking the forecast to hear that storms are on the way for the next few days.  I relax and enjoy a beautiful evening.

Monday, October 24, 2016

a sailing video

Inspired by Webb's videos of sailing across the Indian Ocean*, numbering up to nine now, I intended to take the GoPro sailing with me on the Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City.  It was forecast to be a perfect day, and it was even better than perfect: a stiff, steady west wind, not a cloud in the sky. About the time I crossed the North Carolina state line I realized I had left the GoPro at home.  So I used my phone instead.  Okay, the Pasquotank doesn't really compete with the Indian Ocean, but it was a really wonderful day on the water.

*Inspired also by Barry, but I'm not even gonna compare my phone video to his fine sailing videos.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

so what's it like to sail a 24' boat across the Indian Ocean

I've have been a long time fan of the sailing logs of Webb Chiles, everything from his Open Boat: Across the Pacific to his current circumnavigation in the 24' Moore GANNET.  The writing is rich, the details interesting.  And now to add another dimension to his current log Webb has posted three videos from his 6,000 mile passage from Darwin, Australia to Durban, South Africa.  Webb does a live narration of two of the videos, one on a day with perfect wind (below) and another on a day with light winds.  The third, with stronger winds and rough waters (above),Webb does not narrate for understandable reasons.  With all that wind I'm not sure that he could have been heard.  These videos very much add to the experience that Webb shares with us.  Check them out.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

day two - three rivers, two bridges and a beautiful anchorage

Overnight crystal clear skies, then I wake in the early morning hours to a thin overcast.  At dawn, low overcast clouds and an orange glow to the east.  Sails up at 7:00 with a light southeast wind.  Flatty Creek at 2 kts, geese walk along the narrow beach backed by a corn field.  I sail past a mansion the size of three mansions.  

Leaving the Tred Avon we make 5 kts, the wind filling in and I round up to tuck in a reef for the downwind sail.  We slip along the shoreline past Irish Creek then the wide mouth of Broad Creek with wind and waves, sometimes big waves, on the stern.  It is a quick but rough passage down the Choptank.  

Rounding up at the entrance to the Knapp Narrows channel the waves build in the shallows of Tilghman Island.  The main comes down easily but the foredeck pitches up and down as I climb out to bring down the jib.  Under power we enter the channel.  I radio to the Knapp Narrows bridge before the tender can see me.  "You near the number 6?" he asks and I tell him I'm just now passing the marker.  Soon I hear the the sirens on the bridge as he starts the lift.   Calmer in the narrows and we pass through by 10 a.m. 

Now in the lee of the land it is calm yet still breezy on the bay.  I raise the mizzen, reefed main and jib but soon drop the mizzen and shake out the reef with the stiff wind coming over the starboard quarter.  It's a fast ride along up past Tilghman Point and by 11:30 we are in Eastern Bay making over 5 kts.  Near Parsons Island an eagle circles overhead,  two crabbers are finishing up their morning's work and turning their deadrises back towards the docks.  

Past Parsons Island we sail wing and wing up Prospect Bay at 4 kts.  Under power at 1:30, headed for Kent Narrows hoping to making the 2 p.m. lift.  We reach the bridge with 10 minutes to spare, I radio the bridge tender then turn back under power to hold my position with the tide racing through the narrows.  We are the first boat to pass through the bridge, followed by a larger sailboat and a couple of power boats.

The rushing tide carries us quickly through the narrows and just as we pass the shoals I turn out of the channel to raise full sail.  We make between 5 and 6 kts on the Chester River sailing due east.  Never having been to Queenstown Creek I look at a satellite photo on my phone to see that homes line the shore on the southwest end of the creek, the northeast end is trees and farmland.

Approaching Queenstown Creek a bluff to the south blocks much of the wind.  We make four slow tacks into the creek, ignoring the channel markers as there seems to be plenty of water as least for a little yawl.  Once inside the water is calm and peaceful.  An eagle perches on a dock piling.   I try for a photograph but the eagle takes flight.   We turn northwest with a tree lined shore to starboard and trees fronting a cornfield to port.  I can hear a tractor rumbling on the far side of the field.  Anchor down at 4:00 on Queenstown Creek near the mouth of tiny Salthouse Cove.

A freeze dried meal for dinner, I set up the boom tent for possible rainstorms and then read my book before turning in.  The tractor in the corn field shuts down.  Quiet and peaceful on the creek.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

friends on the water

I just love this photograph of Kristen at the helm of her Cape Dory.  I heard heard rumors of her having a sailboat while I was at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival but never found time to ask her about it.  Kristen looks so content in the photograph that it seems she is exactly where she is meant to be, and by "where she is meant to be" I'm not even sure if I mean at the helm of a keeler (as she calls them), sailing the waters of Chesapeake Bay or running the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  Probably all three.

Curt is on a what appears to be a great adventure on his Drascombe Longboat Cruiser "Annie."  He put in sometime last week on Mobjack Bay and explored that area a bit, then crossed Chesapeake Bay to Cape for a visit.  Weather has been excellent the last few days and I hope he is having a great sail.

I went through a busy phase of work on returning from the fall sail, working some day shifts and some night shifts, and spending a little on the road down to Hatteras Island.  The reward was a three-day weekend with spectacular weather.  Had I known Curt was going to cross the bay I might have trailered over to the Eastern Shore to Cape Charles with a couple of cold pints to deliver to Annie and her crew.  Instead I had Spartina tied up on the Elizabeth River for three wonderful days of sailing, including the better part of Sunday on the water before joining the Pilgrim at the Town Point Wine Festival.  It was a busy weekend on the river with the tall ships from the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race arriving and departing, and a steady stream of snow birds heading south on their cruisers for the winter.  I did some early morning sailing plus some evening sailing, and at one point found Spartina to be the sole member of the spectator fleet as my Sail Nauticus friends held their sunset regatta.  

Fall - what a great time to be out on the water.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

day one - sparkling water

With Spartina in tow I leave home and cross the bay bridge tunnel in darkness, first hint of morning light comes heading up the Eastern Shore near the Maryland state line.  Stopping for a breakfast sandwich a man sees the boat outside and tells me it is too cold for sailing.  It is chilly.  Pull up at the ramp in Cambridge earlier than expected.  Rig the boat, load supplies and back down to the water on a beautiful morning.

Away from the ramp just after 10 a.m., all sails up a few minutes later on the choppy Choptank River with a NE breeze, a comfortable 4.2 knots headed downriver as I look around Spartina to make sure I've rigged and stowed everything right.  Terns dive on baitfish, two sailboats come out of Cambridge and looking west down the Choptank I see two more sails on the horizon.  

We round Hambrooks Bar light just before 11:00, water sweeping past the buoys shows we are sailing against an incoming tide.  Soon the entrance markers to La Trappe Creek are in sight to the north, moving west at 3 its.  NE winds swings to NW and falters.  Motor sailing now with birds diving on a large school of baitfish.

Wind fills in at 1:00, downriver at 4 kts.   I experiment with the mizzen trying to improve are performance close to the wind.  On starboard tacks it is almost chilly in the shade of the main.  

Off the Tred Avon River mid-afternoon, we turn towards Island Creek wing and wing, but I change my mind on the night's anchorage and head up the Tred Avon.  Wind comes and goes, then fills in just off of Town Creek and Oxford.  We sail pass a few mansions and round the point, entering Flatty Cove and tracking the shoreline until I drop anchor out of sight of the mansions, just a corn field to the west and a few modest homes hidden in the trees to the east.

Monday, October 10, 2016

the talkabout 185

Spell check wants to correct the name of this post to "walkabout," which is in fact a name I have used for past sails on both Chesapeake Bay and the sounds of North Carolina.  Those were to my mind walkabouts, meandering explorations with no set destination or plan.  I'm calling this one a talkabout as it was a very social trip that involved meeting, getting to know and talking with dozens and dozens of people.  

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am by nature not particularly sociable, and as I've said more than once I built Spartina to get away from the crowds.  I will admit, though, that I had a very nice time hanging out with friends, particularly at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival. I enjoyed it (but don't count on me being a regular there).

More talking, much more, and a little less sailing, 185 miles, than usual.  Lots of fun.  Daily logs will start soon.

pathfinders on the water

I'm very glad to see a couple of new Pathfinders on the water.  Above and below you see Seth's Pathfinder, launched somewhere around Rock Hall while I was not too far away during he fall sail.  I had hoped to meet up with him to see the new boat - really like that colors he used - but wind and the forecast for coming bad weather conspired against me.  I'll catch up with him later on the Bay.

And below you will see a finely crafted Pathfinder by Thomas down in the Florida keys.  

I really envy the craftsmanship, not to mention the cruising grounds of the keys.  You can read more about his boat, called "First Light" I think, here on the Wooden Boat forum.

And for the Pathfinders not-so-new on the water, below are a couple of photographs of Spartina doubled-reefed at St. Michaels, courtesy of Jessica (who has sailed with her family a few times around the world).

Spartina, proud owner of a work boat finish, is showing her age.  Ten years old now with a lot of miles under the hull, a lot of sun wearing on the brightwork.  I can see some painting and varnishing in my future.