Monday, July 18, 2016

boats, big and small


The deadrise-built buy boat Linda Carol is rejoining the fleet.  I saw her up in a yard in Poquoson a couple of weeks ago where she was being rebuilt after the 1930s era boat was found in terrible condition in a salvage yard in Long Island.  If she is not on the water already, she will be soon.  Finishing work was going on when I saw her, and they were running water into her hull so the planks swell up - she had a ways to go on that as you will see in a photo down below.  Very cool boat and I can't wait to see her with buy boats that gather for a reunion tour every summer.

and small....

Registration is open for the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival is posted on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum site.  (Could that be UNA in the photograph above??)  I'll have to wait for the next paycheck to sign up, but will definitely register soon.  Got blown out by a hurricane last year but that's life.  This year it's gonna be great.  I even hear that Barry may be putting on a movie night.  Where's the popcorn???

Thursday, July 14, 2016

looking back, looking forward

Sometimes I feel like that weather channel guy, the one that is always going to the hurricanes, blizzards and tornadoes.  If that guy gets on an airplane with you, get off the airplane because you are headed for bad weather.  

My last three cruises have all been affected by tropical storms or hurricanes. Spring of 2015 is was tropical storm Ana that came ashore in the Carolinas May 10 when I was out for my spring sail.  Fall 2015 we sailed up Chesapeake Bay caught between a low pressure system off the Carolinas and a high pressure system coming in from the northeast, and all that followed by the approach of hurricane Joaquin.  And of course this spring it was tropical storm Bonnie, which lost its power over the Carolinas but left behind a massive amount of moist air that turned into rain, fog and thunderstorms.  Above is weather radar as I was leaving after four days of rain, with four more predicted.  

I had five days of great weather before the storm came in, and always enjoy sailing down to Beaufort and the very tropical feeling Cape Lookout.  The sail up Core Sound, starting with the winding channels of Barden Inlet, was a treat too.

The storms showed up in the early morning hours of day six.  I was please with the way both Spartina and I dealt with the weather.  We set a speed record - 8.9 mh up West Bay wish a fast moving squall coming up from the south.  I was looking for some protection where I could round up and reef but the storm passed us by.  I was glad to reef and double reef crossing the Neuse River, but should not sailed into shallow water, which was very rough because of the strong wind, before turning north up Pamlico Sound.  I used a variety of sailing combinations, full sail, single reef, double reef, mizzen and jib and jib only, depending on the situation.  Never felt at risk.  

The new boom tent was a huge success, kept me dry but still allowed a very comfortable air flow.  Best investment I have made in a long time.  Roomy and comfortable, it gave me space and time to dry things out after rainy days.

I took too much food.  Too many snacks.  Part of that is that I always take more than I need, but part of it was that I just had less of an appetite than in the past.  Loved the dried mango and the big jar of peanuts.  Dried cantaloupe melon turned out to be too sweet on hot days.  Wish I had brought dried strawberries.  Should have spent a few more bucks and bought medjool dates instead of the lower grades not-quite-as-sweet dates.  Cashew nuts were excellet as were the pumpkin seeds.  All the freeze dried meals save one - spaghetti with marinara sauce - were excellent.  I used Curt's idea of dressing them up a little with a dash of olive oil, which was great.

I will be looking forward to sailing to Washington (NC, not DC) on a future trip, plus visiting North Creek, South Creek and Blounts Bay - all of which come off the Pamlico River - and revisiting Ocracoke Island.

The fall trip will include the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  I'll put in a week early in Cambridge, sail north to explore a few rivers, come back for the festival and then have a few more days on the Choptank and maybe Little Choptank.

In between now and then there is a lot of day sailing to do, maybe a weekend trip to sail out of Cape Charles when the Buy Boats are there.  I can't wait.

Monday, July 11, 2016

a most fortunate miscommunication

Saturday morning I sailed through the the small fleet, maybe three or four boats, anchored out on Craford Bay.  Most cruisers aren't up and about that early but as I approached a white-hulled ketch I saw a couple aboard, that man waving and the woman giving me a thumbs up.  They were flying a Canadian flag so I took them for late season snow birds headed back up the coast after a winter in the Caribbean.  

I asked them where they were headed.  Nova Scotia.  From where?  Well, says the gentleman, we sailed from the west coast of Canada.  (Now this was getting interesting.)  When did you leave?  1988.  "Wow" was all I could say.  Well, the woman said, we spent a little time visiting the islands of the Pacific.  We shared a laugh, waved goodbye and I headed across the river in a fine breeze.

Later in the afternoon I sail over to the ketch to take a closer look.  The man peeks up out of the cabin, said they could hear Spartina's hull cutting through the water.  He complimented the boat and I asked if he would like to hop on for a sail.  Absolutely, he said.  So I sail up along side and wait for him to climb aboard while he's asking if I had a painter.  I was saying come on aboard and he was saying tie up here.  And then we realized we had misunderstood each other: I thought he was coming sailing on Spartina, he thought I was visiting his ketch Kantala.  Come aboard he said and we'll sort things out.  

So this was how I met Michael and Sheila and spent the afternoon sitting in the spacious cabin talking about boats big and small, ocean sailing, island lifestyles and who knows what else.  They had stories from Australia and New Zealand, the Indian Ocean, Asia, Africa, St. Helena, South America and the Caribbean.  And now for the first time they were sailing north to Nova Scotia.  They could not have been more gracious and welcoming, it was a true delight.  A couple of times I said I should be going but the conversation would take another turn and I would sit back down and enjoy their company some more.

I was the host the next morning as Michael and Sheila joined me for a morning sail on Spartina where we had the chance to continue our conversation.  And then to lunch where me met my friends of many years, Fred and Mary Lou, who were bringing their new cruiser up the ICW from Oriental.  It was a great lunch where we realized we had all been on the ICW from Beaufort north to the Neuse River, Goose Creek Canal, Pungo River and Belhaven within the last month, myself during the spring cruise and Michael/Sheila and Fred/Mary Lou often within a day of each other this past week and at times sharing the same harbors.  Very cool.  

Now I hear that Fred and Mary Lou are in Deltaville on their way to Rock Hall.  Michael and Sheila will be casting off at dawn bound for New York and points north.  And I will be here, very glad for a fine weekend of sailing and the chance to meet new friends and see some old ones. 

And I shake my head and wonder how I built a boat to get away from everyone and instead made a lot of good friends.  Go figure.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

day nine - back to the ramp

Rain in the early morning hours, fog at sunrise.  Dry and comfortable inside the tent I listen to weather radio.  Rain and chance of thunderstorms for the morning, rain and chance of thunderstorms for the afternoon.  And the forecast for today is the same for tomorrow, the next and the one after that.  

I think about sailing west up the Pamlico to Washington, but the idea of walking around the waterfront wearing foul weather gear doesn't appeal to me.  Been there, done that in both Bath and Belhaven.  I think about sailing east on the Pamlico to Bluff Point, the jumping off spot for Ocracoke Island.  But there is no way I'm sailing across the sound with thunderstorms in the forecast.  

It is time to go home.  We motorsail down the river, skies beginning to clear about 7:30.  I can see thunderstorms forming over the land on the north side of the Pamlico.  My goal is to get back to Goose Island Creek dry and comfortably.  The wind is out of the NNE and with sail and outboard we make a steady 6 mh.

We make the creek late morning and head down the canal, turning to port onto Jones Bay.  I follow my tracks to find the creek up to Shawn's place and there he is waiting to help with the lines.  He glances at me then looks around the boat which is surprisingly dry and well organized after four days of bad weather.  We can hear thunder in the distance and I break down Spartina's rig, Shawn and Captain Jack asking about the trip and the weather.  Captain Jack credits me with the stormy weather, says they get bored on the island with good weather and I can come back anytime to stir things up.

I thank Shawn for his hospitality and head home.

total miles - 173.7

max speed - 8.9 mh (sailing down West Bay with a squall behind me)

average speed - 3.9 mh

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

friends, unintended

Above is a painting of friend Barry sailing one of his finely crafted Melonseed skiffs  done by friend Curt.  Very nice, don't you think?

On the other side of the world friend Webb will be raising anchor soon to sail from Darwin, Australia for South Africa.  Click here to see a brief story in Latitude 38.  And click here to see Webb's yellow brick track.

I built Spartina to get away from people and ended up making some very good friends.  How did that happen?

Monday, June 27, 2016

day eight - fog, sun, storms, rain

Fog.  Up before 6:00 and the trees on the shoreline are shrouded in fog.  Poking my head out of the boom tent I can see nothing else on Pantego Creek save for the fog.  There is a nice breeze.  

We sail off anchor at 6:45, navigating by following yesterday's track.  We make 2.8 mh down the creek past a couple of anchored boats, slip out through the breakwater and turn south making 4 mh.  By 9:00 the fog is gone.  Low grey clouds giving way to blue skies.  I spread out the foul weather gear to dry.  After yesterday's drizzle the warm sun feels good.

Off of Wright Creek a crabber is working his pots, a large black dog perched on the bow of his skiff.  The wind falls off approaching Wade Point, making barely 1 mh.  Then no wind at all and I scramble for my foul weather gear as a light rain falls, the sun shining all the while.  The rain stops and a north wind fills in, making 4 mh west on Pamlico River.  

Off of North Creek just after noon.  I had launched out of there a few years ago, a nice pretty creek that branched off in several different directions.  I wondered why I had not visited since.  Maybe later in the trip.  

There's a little blue sky, mostly white puffy clouds with flat grey bottoms.  Wind falls off and there is a light rain.  Off the ferry docks I look behind to see a storm building to the northeast.  It looks like it is tracking down the Pungo River, then builds over the shore to our north.  

Another arm of black clouds moves over the river ahead of us.  Strong wind out of the east.  The skies darken and this time I don't wait, I round up to bring down the main and mizzen.  

We turn downwind as the cool outflow rolls out from under the storm.  Making 5.3 mh under the jib alone.  The wind keeps building and I see we are sailing through a field of crab pots off of Gum Point.  I angle to the southwest to find deeper water.  The rain arrives but just as the storm seems to lose its energy.  Now just a heavy rain.  Making 4 mh under the jib we pass Marker "4" and head to Bath Creek.

Full sail up and wind drops.  Heavy rain.  Under power to the creek, tying up in an empty slip at Bath Marina about 4:00.  I knock on the office door wearing foul weather gear in a steady rain.  The owner opens the door, smiles, says "Out cruising today?"  He says I can leave Spartina in a slip while I get a sandwich at the sub shop across the street.   

We cast off in a light rain - it's been raining since we approached the creek - and motor to Plum Point to anchor for the night.  The rain stops and we get a little bit of evening sun, I can dry out Spartina before putting down the sleeping gear.  I check the weather radio:  Rain tomorrow morning, chance of thunderstorms, rain tomorrow afternoon, chance of thunderstorms.  And then the automated voice repeats the same for the next four days.  I think about visiting Bath and Belhaven in foul weather gear and rain, and I wonder about doing the same in Washington.  I decide to think about it over night.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

glad to be here, not there

Beautiful this afternoon, and tomorrow should be just as pretty when I go out for a sail on the Elizabeth.  Doing a quick edit for the day eight log and I came across this, which was an accidental photograph as I had the go pro on interval shooting and was getting ready to point it fore and aft to show the storms ahead of me and behind.  The trip was an adventure, particularly the last few days with all the moisture and squalls associated with Tropical Storm Bonnie.  The photo made me smile, being glad I was here with a nice forecast and not there with storms all around.

day seven - rain

Up at 6:00, I take my time packing the sleeping gear and cleaning up Spartina.  Grey morning with dark clouds and rain sweeping across Goose Creek Island to the west.  I choose to wait out the first little rainstorm of the morning and as it passes the wind swings from south to west.

Just after 7:00 we drift off anchor, no wind.  With sails up I start the outboard and we motor across Mouse Harbor. 

 Mid-morning we are motoring across the Pamlico River, no wind and light clouds with a hint of blue to the west, dark clouds to the east.

A SE wind comes as we pass Currituck Point and enter the Pungo River.  All sails up and making 3.8 mh to Belhaven.  Just after 11:00 the sun breaks through.  Hot.  Wind drops but still making 2.5 and I'm content with steady easy sailing without rain.  Wind comes and goes and we slide through the Belhaven breakwater under sail a little after noon.  I tie up at Wynne's Gut town dock.  

It's a holiday weekend and the town is dressed for it, but the rain has chased everyone away.  I take care of chores, buy some bottled tea, empty out the portable head, clean up Spartina.  The afternoon is grey and a light rain falls.  In foul weather gear I sit on the porch of a gift shop with a plastic bouquet of flowers to my right and the top of a bushel basket painted with a crab to my left.  I send a few emails on my phone and read the news.  I think of taking a nap there but decide it is not a good idea.  Fish Hooks, my favorite restaurant is closed.  I picked up a burger, fries and iced tea at Farm Boys and sit across the street on the covered porch of the old hardware store to eat.  

We cast off from the dock and motor across Pantego Creek in a light rain.  I set up the boom tent but leave it hanging from the boom as the rain stops and the sun comes out just in time to dry out Spartina before I get out the sleeping gear.  I read, listen to the radio, check the weather.  Forecast for tomorrow:  rain in the morning, chance of thunderstorms, rain in the afternoon, chance of thunderstorms.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

day six - storms

I wake in the middle of the night.  Rain, sometimes heavy rain.  I reach outside the bivy and touch the corner of the bunk flat where water collect.  It is dry.  The tent works.

Awake at 6:00.  Dark clouds to the south and some patches of blue to the north.  I tuck away the sleeping gear but the tent is still in place as a rainstorm moves in.  I lean back in the cockpit and nap, waiting for the rain to move on.

We sail off anchor just after 8:00, making just over 2 mh down Merkle Bay as low grey clouds slide overhead.  The clouds to the south break and I see a towering thunderstorm though I can't tell which way it is moving.  Typically our storms move west to east, but with a Tropical storm in the area all bests are off.  The clouds move in again.  The sun breaks through at 9:00, making 5 mh NNW on West Bay.  

Dark clouds slide up from the south and suddenly there is the cold outflow of air from a coming storm.  Glancing at the gps I see there is no protection nearby.  The bay is calm so I keep sailing as the rain begins to fall and the winds pick up.  All sails up, there isn't time to reef, and the gps shows 8.9 mh, a record I think, as the squall pushes from the stern.  The chart shows the nearest protection a couple of miles away at Henry Hills Harbor.  I decide to round up once I get there, but after 20 minutes of rain and wind the storm passes me by.  In the calm I bail out Spartina.

Steady wind and calm sailing out of the bay and into the narrows behind Racoon Island.  Looking southwest I see another storm coming so round up to tuck in a reef.   Preoccupied with watching the storms I forget about the shoals at Point of Marsh until I feel the center board bounce across the first shoal and then the second, plenty of wind on the beam to push us across the sand and mud shallows.  I tie in a second reef to cross the Neuse River toward Bay Point just below Jones Bay.  The wind comes and then goes, I shake out the second reef.  Spartina rolls and heels in the rough water of the Neuse River.  I watch a storm on the far side of the river slide from south the north and it misses us as we approach Bay Point.  

I sail too far into the shallows off Bay Point and the waves build as does the wind.  I go forward to tuck in a reef.  Spartina rounds up and wallows as a wave comes and from the starboard side I see I am looking straight down over the port side into the water.  I decide quickly I don't need the main at all, drop the gaff and wrap the main tightly around the boom. We turn north under mizzen and jib and 5.5 mh.

We follow the shore up Pamlico Sound.  Sow Island Point, Middle Bay Point, and before Big Porpoise Point the clouds part and we have blue skies.  The afternoon wind is getting stronger and I drop the mizzen, 5 mh under jib alone as we round Little Porpoise Pount and Sound Point, then cut across Mouse Harbor to Soundward Bay.

More squalls passing by so I set up the boom tent before cooking dinner - Chili-mac with beef, excellent.  A light rainfall, then clearing, and I peek out of the tent to see a rainbow.  Forecast for tomorrow:  morning rain and possible thunderstorm, afternoon rain and possible thunderstorms.