Friday, July 31, 2015

the reason for a loose-footed mainsails

In his latest journal entry Webb Chiles explains the reason for loose-footed sails on Drascombes.

        I once met John Watkinson, the Drascombe designer, and asked him about the loose footed sails.
        He replied:  “I didn’t want to hear the sound of a boom hitting my wife’s head.”
        That is an exact quote.  Not “I didn’t want a boom to hit my wife’s head.”   No.  John didn’t want to hear the sound.
        His wife was present and didn't seem to mind.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I am trading out two dry bags.  The 20 liter Seal Line Baja bag, which was my hypothermia/survival kit, will now become the storage bag for freeze dried meals.  And the Ascend 20 liter dry bag, which had held the meal packets, will become my hypothermia/survival kit.  The difference between the two is that the Seal Line bag is smooth on the outside while the Ascend bag has a nylon strap on the side which makes the perfect purchase point for ACR Firefly Plus strobe and flashlight.  Might as well have the safety gear all together.  Spartina, being a small boat, is also her own life boat and I expect to stay with her regardless of what happens.  But if I have to leave, I can grab this one bag and go.

Both ACR strobes are held in place with easily removed velcro straps.

While switching out the bags I did a count on my freeze dried meals.  There were a dozen, enough for the fall sail, but I may pick up another pouch of beef stroganoff, my favorite meal, for the trip.

I've also traded out my incandescent ACR C-Light, which I wore on my inflatable life vest/harness, for a ACR C-Strobe.  Virtually the same size and, no doubt, much more visible.  (I had the chance to talk with a Coast Guard helicopter pilot.  He told me that with their night vision goggles they could spot a burning match on the horizon several miles away.  I would like a little something more than a match to get their attention.) 

Here's one more photo of my sailing companions last weekend.  I'm not much of a social sailor, but I have to say it was a lot of fun to be on the water with Curt and Barry.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

a brief circumnavigation

Up before dawn, on the highway crossing the Elizabeth, James and York Rivers, countless creeks in between, farm fields, barns and churches, then the road bends left and the trees open up to a 1930s swing bridge across glassy Milford Haven.  Gwynn's Island comes earlier than expected.  Annie is tied to the small dock at the ramp, Barry is still on the road coming down from the mountains, Curt is nowhere to be seen.

Forty minutes later we are all aboard and a much too loud horn lets the entire island know we are coming through the bridge.  Around the point and into Hills Bay we raise Annie's sails, loose footed main and mizzen and jib.  A hesitant wind and we go nowhere fast.  On a peaceful cool summer Sunday morning no one complains.

Curt decides we should be moving and cranks up the outboard, heads for Jackson Creek and the Deltaville Maritime Museum.  We snake through narrow, winding passage up the creek to find the restored buy boat F.D. Crockett tied to the pier. 

And John England, the man behind the restoration of the Crockett, is heading off in a skiff but says he'll be back soon.  

And so we take a stroll around the museum grounds, familiar to Curt and Barry but all new to me.  Coming back down to the waterfront we find John aboard the Crockett and have a nice visit in the shade of the awning.

We wind our way back down the creek and head for Chesapeake Bay, the wind freshening as we go.  Barry and I take turns at the tiller, maybe I take more than my share of time but it's fun and interesting to sail a new boat.  The loose footed rig has a different feel and the sails are set with more "belly" than I am used to.  I keep wanting to reach up and pull the clew of the main aft, but we are making good speed out away from Gwynn's Island and Curt says the sails are set just right.  He should know after the many miles he has sailed in Florida, on the Sounds of North Carolina and on Chesapeake Bay.

Easy sailing, my favorite kind.  And we talk of boats and friends, trips we have made.  Our sailing lives have all intertwined in one way or another.  I first met Curt, he on his Annie and myself on Spartina, a few years ago on Swan Creek off of Pamlico Sound.  Baryy and I met at St. Michaels as we talked to our mutual friend Kevin.  Barry and Curt met somewhere on Tangier Sound on one of Kevin's spring floats.  Small boats, small world.  Curt talks about his maritime art and an upcoming show.  Barry, who seems to do it all - from design, photography, writing and video editing - tells us about the spring float on Tangier Sound.  We all have stories of moments we have enjoyed, and of other moments when we learned things the hard way.  It's all good out on the water.

We tack in towards the shallows of Gwynn's Island, then back out, working south along the eastern shore of the island.  Off long narrow Sandy Point Barry and Curt look at the charts and gps, trying to find the Hole in the Wall, the shoal-lined narrow southern entrance back into Milford Haven, dolphins keeping us company along the way.

Curt stands up at the main mast, looking for the markers he says but I think he enjoys the view and the wind in his face.  We spot the channel and zig-zag up the winding path, clearing the shoals with the wind on our stern.  Peaceful sailing back up Milford Haven and I mention I wish I had brought some oysters and crackers.  Curt directs me to a stowage area down below where I find chips and a tin of anchovies, Curt apologizing that they are not the anchovies wrapped around capers that I carry aboard Spartina.  The anchovies, salty and with a tangy bite, go down just fine with the cold cans of beer Curt pulls from a cooler.    

Back at the dock and I feel like I have left the world behind for much more than a day.  Sailing new water on the beautiful drascombe Annie with a couple of friends.  Thanks Curt and Barry, it was a treat.  My first sailing on the western shore of the Bay, it won't be my last.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Summertime.  Warm weather, warm water.  Jellyfish.
Hidden in the river in tiny polyp form, the river warms
and the medusa glides beneath the surface.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


smoker day, three bloggers on a boat

Up with the sun to get the salmon on the smoker.  We are
getting out on the town tonight, joining some friends for
a party.  Smoked salmon is easy, recipe can be found here.

But remind me next time to check on the price of
organic farm raised salmon before I volunteer to
bring a full filet to the party......

Oh well, it will be good.


"Ok, so there was an artist, a designer and a photographer 
on a small boat......."  Now I need the punch line.

Sailing tomorrow with friend Curt oh his wooden drascombe 
Thin Water Annie.  Barry will be along too.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

a loss

Sad news from Maria on the Eastern Shore.  The Chesapeake Bay Bugeye Charlotte E. Foster, sketched out on a brown shopping bag and built at a commune off the Choptank River in the 1970s, is gone.  She was up on the hard in a boatyard when tornado-like winds knocked her over and damaged her beyond repair.

I met Maria and her husband John through the Charlotte.  We spent an evening sailing together on Onancock Creek aboard Spartina, then rafted up to the Charlotte in failing light, a bottle of white wine shared in the darkness.  I slept aboard Spartina that night, waking before dawn to find a curious cat on board.  With a crisp wind I cast off to sail down creek before any stirrings at the homes along the along shore.

I hope to see Maria and John this fall on the eastern shore, maybe visit their home and look out back to where they had kept the Charlotte.  I might even sail up Onancock Creek on my way north and tie up at the dock.  But it won't be the same without the beautiful white hull and tall masts of the Charlotte E. Foster.

Monday, July 20, 2015

southern hospitality

I went out for a sail and found myself in the middle of a family reunion.  The fact that I was not part of the family did not seem to bother anyone.  And the food was a delight.

Hot with light winds.  There's more cloud cover and less wind forecast for the Elizabeth River so I head south to Elizabeth City, sailing away from the dock just as the bells of the downtown churches begin to ring.  A breeze, steady if not strong, carries me downriver.  Off of the old Machelhe Island, better known these days as the causeway, ospreys make their high pitched cries as they circle overhead.   We tack south across the river past Hospital Point and into Forbes Bay, slipping in and out of the bay a couple of times, enjoying the tall shady trees on shore, the laughter of children playing in the shade, and the hum of the cicadas that seems to surround us.

At a pier near an old house at the very back of the bay my friend Claughton waves me over.  I come alongside just to say hello but he says it's time for brunch and we needed to get up to the house.  At first I say thank you, but no, but he won't take that for an answer, telling me it was a family reunion and they had more food that they could eat.  I would only be helping them out by joining in.  Soon we are in the magnificent old house, the smaller part being the original and built in the early 1800s, the larger part added on before the civil war.  And there are people and laughter and dogs everywhere in the house, Claughton mentioning names as we walk from room to room, finally saying "they are all cousins, so just call them "cousin.""  He describes me to them as the builder of a wooden boat that I sail from here to Florida and back, and I'm saying he's exaggerating to smiles from the cousins who seem to confirm it is not the first time Claughton enhanced a story for entertainment purposes.  Claughton laughs, enjoying the exaggeration and pointing out it is a pretty boat.  And then the food comes out.  Smoked ham, shrimp and pasta, pastries and breads, heaping bowls of scrambled eggs and though I settled for a bottle of water there was champagne and mimosas to be had.  

They are a wonderful group of people, all very kind to make me feel welcome on a hot, southern Sunday morning.  What a treat.

Claughton walks me back down to Spartina and I thank him for his hospitality, telling him I'll come back when things are quieter, and he should join me for a sail.

Winds are lighter in the afternoon, cats paws walking down the river.  I keep thinking that when the next breeze ends I'll head to the dock, but find myself enjoying the peaceful stillness of a breathless summer moment, and then the next breeze comes again.