Sunday, December 21, 2014

the greying of me

The shortest day of the year had sunshine long enough for me to roll Spartina out of the garage and begin the off season maintenance.  The main effort will be repainting the interior and replacing the five large deck plates.

Sanding has never been a favorite task, but working out in the sunshine was nice.  It felt good and reminded me of how much I enjoyed building Spartina.  I used both a palm sander and a new random orbit sander to rough up or remove the old steel grey paint.  I had touched up the cockpit a few times over the years, but it looked like it had been touched up and really needed to be completely repainted.  I pulled off a lot, but not all of the hardware.  Some of the larger stainless steel screw, #14's I think, I don't want to mess with.  With the smaller screws I'll drill out the holes and epoxy in hardwood dowels so that the screw, when replaced, will go into solid wood.  The epoxy work and painting will have to wait for March.

I did take off one deck plate, which was more work than I expected.  You can see the missing plate on the right in the image below.  I did not use high tech sealant, like 3M's 5200, and I am glad for that.  It was difficult enough to remove the plate using just basic bathroom sealant.  Four more plates to go, which I expect will happen Christmas Day after gifts and before dinner. 

Taking the boat apart always makes me nervous.  When will I get it back together again?  No later that April 1, I hope.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

smoke gets in your eyes

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes*

Or maybe I'll just wait three
hours and have some
smoked salmon

*the Platters

organic, farm raised - a boat for free - cuba

Give me six hours of brining and three hours of smoking
 and we'll have a nice little Christmas treat for the neighbors.


I've been told that the Schooner Virginia, which is shutting
down, has a roughly 16' Grand Banks dory that they are 
willing to give away.  OK condition, needs some work.
No trailer and it is FOB the Great Bridge area of Chesapeake.  


Recent political news has reminded me of my brief time in
Cuba a few years ago.  You can read about that here and here.
I have always wanted to visit the country.  It is more likely now
that I could go, and would like to do so before 
the dollars begin to change everything.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

an artist's memoirs, the complete collection

It was to be, I now recall almost two years after the event, a clandestine visit.  I drove north with the approach of wintery weather, a light snow falling as I crossed a bridge over a river, a rough map sketched out on a piece of paper as I looked for a narrow path leading east off the main road.  Next to the instructions of where to park my jeep I had noted not to drive to fast as stirring up dust on the dirt lane, I was told, would bring the ire of neighbors.  Privacy was much valued, maybe I should leave my camera at home.

I am told not many people get to visit the sail loft of Dabbler Sails, yet Stuart had invited me to pick up my sails in person after a mutual friend had vouched for me.  At the home on a small heavily wooded hill I met Stuart Hopkins and Dee Carstarphen, Stuart's partner in sails, sailing and life.  I remember Dee's almost shy, quiet smile, and her sparkling eyes.  In the loft Stuart showed me the sails, explaining that Dee always checked over his work stitch by stitch to make sure there were no faults.  And perfect they were.  And then he gave me a gift, Dee's book "Narrow Waters, An artist's memo of sailing through sound, swamp, city, forest, marsh and glade."  It was the first of four books that Dee and Stuart would send me over the next year, the books being my only complete collection from single author.  Each book is signed with a personal note from Dee, making the books a collection that I treasure.

I had meant to write about Dee before, but had not because I had met her only briefly in person.  I felt as though I did not know her well enough.  But I do know her now from reading and rereading her books.  It's all there - the joy, the humor, the willingness to follow the path less traveled.  (Dee and I have a little history together - we were both on Coronado Island decades ago, maybe a few miles maybe a few years from each other.)  She has led a life that would be the dream of many.  Dee spent 10 years sailing the windjammer  "Maverick" in the Caribbean with Captain Jack.  (Again, more shared history - On Maverick they welcomed aboard a new young deckhand by the name of Danny Moreland; just a few years ago I sailed from Martha's Vineyard to Norfolk on board the square rigger Picton Castle with Captain Daniel Moreland.)  

"Maverick Sea Fare", Dee's book about those years, masquerades as a cookbook.  Her words are the recipes, her drawings are a story of life sailing the tropical islands.  The sketches are of storms and pirates, a ship with a bone in her teeth, palm trees, tuna, dolphin fish and spiny lobsters.  What an adventure it must have been!

With "The Conch Book" Dee seems to be a biologist, ethnographer, economist and environmentalist all in one as she studies the Queen Conch from the Caribbean to the Keys, Panama to Bermuda.  Written and drawn in her own hand, the only way she does a book, she tells the story of the conch and the role it plays in history, nature and culture.  And of course there are a few good recipes thrown in.  

"Windjammer Cooking" is the story of Dee's time as a sea cook on Down East Windjammers.  Presented once again as a cook book, it is the story of sailing tall ships off the coast of Maine.  The chapter "Life Aboard A Dude Cruiser" is a primer for and a delightful look at shipboard life, both for experienced sailors and novices.  

I love all the books, but my favorite of all is "Narrow Waters."  It  is the story of sailing  from the Chesapeake Bay to the Dry Tortugas and then back to Stuart, Florida, a modern day version of Henry Plummer's The Boy, Me and the Cat, the 1912 sail down the coast in a catboat.  It is a leisurely winter trip down the intracoastal waterway on board "Sea Wind" with her partner Stuart, known as "The Skipper."  Dee shows that she is an artist with the eye of a naturalist, making wonderful drawings of the waterway, swamps, forests, birds, alligators, fish and boats along the way.  (Again, shared history:  I've sailed much of the water  traveled in the first 30 pages of the book - Norfolk, Elizabeth City, the Alligator River, Oriental and Beaufort.  I can tell you she captured it - from the ospreys to the early morning mists - just right.  Dee mentions a seafood processing plant on Cedar Creek off of Adams Creek;  the same seafood processing plant with a noisy cycling refrigeration system that would have kept me awake all night had I not moved Spartina around the corner out of earshot.)  

"Narrow Waters" is the story of a journey and the story of love affairs - a love affair with water, nature and a love affair with the Skipper.  Dee and Stuart have a relationship that I will always envy.  

I was telling a friend last summer that one of the true joys of Spartina was the people I met along the way.  Dee and Stuart are two of those people.  I went on that clandestine trip to pick up a set of sails, and instead found new friends.  Stuart, thank you for the fine sails.  Dee, thank you for the wonderful books, and thanks also for making sure that Spartina's sails are, stitch by stitch, perfect!    

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Daughters at a graduation party. 
Mom and Dad celebrate in the bar at the Jefferson hotel.

the graduate

Mr McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr McGuire: Plastics.

Friday, December 12, 2014

the super star

The Super Star at Hanaki Sushi, just one of many nice plates served tonight.  It is the start of a very nice weekend, 21 years in the making.

Monday, December 8, 2014

the load out

Dock lines, spring lines, fender, life jackets (six), anchor, spare anchor, flares, fire extinguisher, vhf radio, spare weather radio.

It's amazing how much gear was tucked away on Spartina.  I spent the afternoon pulling all the gear, piece by piece, out of Spartina.  It was bungeed in place underneath the foredeck, under the bunk flats, beneath the thwarts, in the water tight storage areas below the aft cockpit seats and inside the day storage area near the transom on the starboard side.

Air horn, knife, tool kit, spare lines, reef lines, oar, foul weather gear, gas can and extra hat.

GPS, spare GPS, sun block, towels, spare spark plugs, emergency strobe, am/fm radio, emergency throw rope, flotation cushions, a little bit of seine line that comes in useful now and then.

It all had to come out as I get ready to sand down and repaint the cockpit interior.  Sanding will happen this month, painting not until warmer weather in March.  For now all the gear is cleaned, organized and bagged in the big closet in the room over the garage.

As I took out the gear I wondered if I really needed it all.  Some, like the safety gear, is required.  I think most of it I use at some point or another.  Some, while needed for cruising, is on board even for day sails.  I suspect, though, that I can sort out the gear and leave some behind.  This will be a good chance for some house cleaning.

The day was as grey as Spartina's interior.  Cold, windy and rainy outside.  How much longer until spring?