Monday, March 2, 2015

a sign of the coming spring

A hint of warm weather arrived yesterday evening in the form of an email from Paul, aka Dances with SandyBottom.  He and son Alan, known as SOS, are gearing up for the Watertribe Everglades Challenge which begins this Saturday at 7 a.m.  Paul asked if I would serve as their "shore contact," something I am very happy to do.  Following the everglades challenge has become a right of spring for me, tracking friends Paul, Alan, Dawn and Kristen as they sail and kayak from Tampa Bay to Key Largo.  It is typically the time I doing final prep work on Spartina, hoping for a warm day to get out on the water.  (This year, because of my rehab, I'm behind schedule and will be looking for a warm day to paint Spartina's cockpit.)

Paul tells me they have made a few modifications to Dawn Patrol, a Core Sound 20 designed by Graham Byrnes of B&B Yacht Designs.  They have a new weighted centerboard, removing the need for a  downhaul, plus they have added hand rails - a good safety item I'm sure - to the cabin top.  New splash guards have been added to the side decks, possibly reducing the amount of spray coming into the boat (but the way they sail, I doubt it).

Above is a night shot of Alan in a Watertribe event from a couple of years ago.  Paul says they will follow their tradition of sailing non-stop, taking turns sleeping/sailing throughout the day and night.  When they get a chance, and have a cell signal, they promise to send me updates via txt and some photographs. 

Tracking the ec competitors was once a challenge in itself, but it is now much easier courtesy of the iPad app Spot Buddy.  I can plug in as many tracking urls as I like and keep track of everybody.  

While serving as shore contact for Paul and Alan, which means basically posting updates here and on the Watertribe Facebook page, I will be watching Dawn, above, and Kristen, below, as they kayak down the Florida coast.  That image of Dawn might well be from a stretch known as "the nightmare" through the everglades.

Emailing with my ec friends last night, Kristen mentioned she had just brought her kayak indoors to "defrost" it after an icy rain had just passed over Maryland's eastern shore.  My first reactions was that that is no way to start an everglades challenge.  My second thought was maybe it is the best way to start the adventure.


While digging back through the blog to find the photographs above I came across this photo of Spartina crossing Albemarle Sound a few years ago.  The picture made me smile.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

further notice

Small mountains of dirty, discarded snow blocked my view of the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River as I drove by to check on the boat ramp.  Walking around the snow piles I saw the "closed until further notice" sign still in place, and the large concrete blocks too.  I hope to be sailing within a month, but I suspect it will be out of Elizabeth City, N.C. where there is a very nice ramp.

Maybe winter will end - it snowed again today - and maybe there will in fact be further notice saying the ramp is open.  I'm not counting on either.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the view from above

I came across this drone video of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore.  In the photo above you see Navy Point with 18 acres of boat shops, docks, a floating fleet of classic Chesapeake Bay boats and a light house too.  To the right is Fogg Cove where I anchored on last fall's walkabout.  I plan on visiting St. Michaels twice this year, first in May to meet a daughter there for an Eastern Shore/Baltimore/Bertha's Mussels/Orioles's game weekend and then in the fall for the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  Can't wait.  Check out the video made by Mid Atlantic Video, it's fun to watch.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

freezing, thawing

3 days until the forecast low is 1º

6 days until I can return to work

12 days until the grapefruit league begins play

18 days until the Everglades Challenge

31 days until spring

Monday, February 16, 2015

September to January

I just now noticed that four of my last five posts have been about seafood: white clams, oysters, blue crabs and crawfish.  I cannot argue with those who say this is a food blog that sometimes mentions sailing.  I see your point.

The image is a screen shot off my phone showing GoPro images downloaded by wifi from the camera to the phone, all between September and January.  Images at at the top are from the September walkabout.  There is an Elizabeth River daysail image with short sleeves and bare feet, Chestertown sailing while wearing jackets, the last sail of the year in Elizabeth City (wearing a red shirt), sanding the cockpit in December and the first unassisted walk to the boat post surgery.

Our forecast is for potentially 12 hours of snow with some freezing rain.  Temperatures will remain low for the coming week with another chance of snow a week from today.  I need a few days of warm weather to Spartina's cockpit and reinstall the deck plates, hopefully sailing by mid or late March.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

the dead of winter

The temperature tomorrow morning at 6:00 will be about 13 degrees.  It was cold all day today with winds blowing 40 miles an hour.  The weather forecast charts show snow here and there, ice pellets and just about anything but warming temperatures.  What else could we do but fix a nice batch of crawfish étouffée?  It brightened the spirits.  Mardi Gras is Tuesday.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"of the channel species, blue in color"

Chesapeake Bay's iconic blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, is in trouble.  

On this chilly winter day almost 70 million crabs of female crabs are burrowed in the mud in the lower Bay, waiting for spring and the spawning season.  That may sound like a lot, but not when you consider that over 200 million females are needed to maintain a healthy population.  The situation is described in a story in today's Washington Post.  

H. L. Mencken referred to Chesapeake Bay as an immense protein factory, crabs being one of the main products.  He went on to describe the crustacean as....

"prime hard crabs of the channel species, blue in color, at least eight inches in length along the shell, and with snow-white meat almost as firm as soap"

Steamed, fried, grilled or sautéed, there is not a bad way to serve crabs.  I cannot image a spring without soft shells, a summer without crab cakes or a fall without spice-covered hard shells.  An important part of the bay's ecology, they are an important part of the economy too, providing an income for watermen, boatbuilders, wholesalers, crabs pickers, grocers, restauranteurs and chefs. 

Pollution and overfishing have done their damage.  And nature has been rough too - sharp freezes that kill the crabs in the winter and a thriving red drum population feeds on juvenile crabs in the summer.  

Sailing out on the bay, the waterman working on deadrises are a constant, hauling crab pots or working trot lines.  With all that activity it is hard to imagine that the last time the crab population was this low the industry was declared a failure.  

I don't know what the answer is, I don't think anyone does.  Awareness is maybe a start. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the oysters of Barren Island

Maybe I should add an oyster knife to Spartina's cruising gear.

At the very top of Hooper Island, Fishing Creek leads from the Honga River out towards the bay.  You pass beneath the fixed bridge, the boat ramp and a few deadrises to starboard, an old cemetery in a farm field to port.  Then there's an old white building with a little pier.  Ahead, across some very shallow water, is Barren Island.  I have sailed near Barren Island many times, and I have passed through Fishing Creek often, most recently last September.  I've noticed that cinder block building each time I passed by and guessed it was an old out-of-use fish house.  Just yesterday morning I came across the website for Barren Island Oysters, which appears to run its aquaculture operation out of the old structure.

My first experience with Barren Islands and her oysters, in this case wild oysters, was in 2010 when I sailed up Tar Bay into the shallow water, the steel centerboard clanking on the bottom to let me know I was over an oyster reef.  I did not get any of those oysters, but a nice striper holding on the reef and, soon it was on Spartina's grill.  

Farm raising oysters had been a great innovation on Chesapeake Bay.  Grown from "spat" in floats, the oysters soon become large enough to be put in cages out in Chesapeake Bay, the jumble of shellfish filtering the water and at the same time becoming a living reef that provides structure and protection for fish, crabs and eels.  Oysters farms can be found all over the bay.  I've heard there are at least 20 farms in Virginia waters, and many more in Maryland waters.  They are good for the environment, good for the economy and they produce some pretty tasty oysters.  I'm a fan.

What appeals to me about Barren Island Oysters is its location, right there by Fishing Creek where I sail from the Honga River out to the Bay.  Maybe this fall I'll have a few extra dollars in cash and an oyster knife on board, and maybe I'll drop by that cinder block building and pick up some fresh oysters for dinner on the half-shell.  Wouldn't that be nice.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

light work

Almost 70 degrees today.  Did a little light work, some sanding and a thin coat of clear epoxy on bare wood.  I realized that I am not that far away from painting the interior of the hull.  I could use a few days or warm temperatures and maybe a little more flexibility in the hip.  Maybe by the end of the month.