Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pains Bay

That is Spartina anchored behind an islet just inside the R"2" marker leading in to the Long Shoal River.  Just to the northeast is Pains Bay.  I was reminded of Pains Bay the other evening as I was rereading parts of The Boy, Me and The Cat, Cruise of the Mascot, 1912-1913 by Henry M. Plummer.  Henry, the "me" of the title, his son Henry jr, the "boy" of the title, sailed a 24' 6" Cape Cod catboat from New Bedford, Mass to Miami, Fla. and back in just of eight months.  They sailed "inside" most of the way, including Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay, but went outside in to the Atlantic from Beafort, N.C. to Charleston, S.C.  In the late fall of 1912 they left Chesapeake Bay and entered Hampton Roads, my sailing area.  They followed the Elizabeth River up to Norfolk, then took the southern branch of the Elizabeth to the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal, passing just a few hundred yards from where I am now sitting.  They continued south through Currituck, Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, stopping at some fishing villages on the way.  On December 2 they passed Long Shoal Light, eased their sheets and under a freshening breeze made their way to anchorage inside Pains Bay.   You can see the bay, with the tiny island below.

I've sailed some of the same waters they navigated nearly 100 years ago and find myself wondering what it was 
like back in those d
ays.  That islet I anchored behind last fall was mostly likely all that remains of a point, now eroded away, that marked the southern edge of Pains Bay.  The Boy, Me and The Cat is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.  Originally published as a mimeographed hand-stitched book, it was republished by the Catboat Association and is available at their website.  

It is superbowl weekend.  Still cold, but at least sunny, outside.  Two more weeks until pitchers and catchers report to training camp.  Time for me to get to work on the boat.  I stopped by West Marine to pick up a spark plug for the outboard - I like to start the season with three new plugs on board - and a type IV pfd throwable cushion.  I've had one, as required by the Coast Guard, but thought it would be nice to have a second one on board.  I also wanted to pick up some Interlux topside paint to touch of the worn areas of Spartina's cockpit, but they did not have the steel grey color in stock.  Hopefully I can find it online, and maybe cheaper that West Marine's $42/quart price tag (ouch!).

I did pick up a few packs of Bumble Bee Tuna Salad with Crackers.  These, along with some cups of fruit, will be our lunches.  Bruce and I continue our discussions on the menu.  

I should have some free time tomorrow before the big game so will start tackling the list of things to do.  Here are some of jobs I need to do - no in any particular order - to be ready for the sailing season.

  1. Clean out the boat
  2. tune up the outboard
  3. put the hooks and bungee cord in place under the foredeck to hold the Bivy Sacs
  4. rewire the passenger side tail light on the trailer
  5. sand down cb trunk and worn spots in the cockpit and repaint
  6. sand down worn spots and chafe pad on the two masts and revarnish
  7. put the lines back on the masts/booms
  8. sort out the tools in the tool kits, get it down to what I need
  9. take apart and lubricate the cb winch
  10. spray wd40 on trailer
  11. lubricate trailer hubs
  12. renew boat registration
I'm sure I'll find many more things to do between now and the first sail of the year, hopefully in March.  Tomorrow I think I'll start with that tail light.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making plans

Cold, grey and drizzly today.  I wanted to brighten my day so I dug out this photo from last September.  I was tacking out of Caffee Bay, a well protected spot with some nice fishing, tucked behind Marsh Island in the Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge.  Wind was light that morning.  I tacked out across Swan Quarter Bay.  The wind dropped to almost nothing and I considered motoring through the channel between Swan Quarter Island and Judith Island.  Very marshy area and I bet some good fishing in there.  But the wind kicked up about 10 a.m. and I flew across the mouth of the Pamlico River - dodging a small fleet of shrimp boats -  and anchored for a very pleasant afternoon in Mouse Harbor.  We should pass through some of these same waters, and maybe do a little fishing behind Swan Quarter Island, in May.

I did get an email from Bruce today.  He had looked over the proposed route and thought it was a nice way to go.   He's also been checking on potential menu items.  He mentioned the possibility of prepared meals in sealed bags, plus a camp stew made with vegetables and tinned beef.  Sounds great.  We are also looking at some Oriental sauces - I've seen some boxes at the grocery story with noodles and sauces, just add the shrimp, beef or whatever to make it a meal.  So we'll explore those options more as time goes on.  Soon we'll make a list of days and start building menus.  This is half the fun of a trip - making plans.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Route

That is the ramp at Big Trout Marina in Engelhard, NC.  No Cash, No Splash.  Nice little marina, well worth the $10 to launch.  The place is run by Hot Dog (I'll let you ask him where the name came from) and Edna Summerlin.  Nice folks.  They also run the cafe, that's the building off to the left.  Excellent breakfast and even better lunches.  The Big Trout Burger (hamburger, not fish) makes for a great meal.  I've launched out of there on two cruises.  That's where we'll start our trip in May.
Engelhard is a little over two hours from my home in Virginia.  We'll leave the house before dawn, have the boat rigged and in the water by 11.  Get a glass of ice tea in the cafe and cast off for Pamlico Sound.  I expect the first day's sail will be just a few hours down to Wysocking Bay.  Several good anchorages there.  Next day the plan is to sail southwest past Bluff Point and then turn due west, looking for a good anchorage in the Marsh Island/Swan Quarter Island/Judith Island area.  We'll continue west, leaving the sound and entering the wide Pamlico River.  That day or the next we'll reach Bath, the colonial capital of North Carolina and home to the famous Pirate Blackbeard.  I've heard there is a nice hotel there with a dock out on the creek.  Maybe a chance to clean up and have a nice dinner.  
From Bath we'll head southeast past Reed Hammock on the southern shore of Pamlico River and enter the intracoastal waterway.  If we are lucky with the wind we sail the first few miles south on the waterway, but as it narrows to a canal we'll drop sail and motor past Hobucken and down to the Bay River.  Time permitting we'll head west up the river and stop in at Vandemere.  I would like to meet Graham Byrnes of B and B Yacht Designs, the designer of the Core Sound 17, the Everglades Challenge 22 and several other boats.  I believe he currently holds the record for the Everglades Challenge.  I've exchanged a few emails with him and would like to meet him in person.
Leaving Vandemere and the Bay River we'll be back out on Pamlico Sound briefly before entering the wide Neuse River.  Good anchorages should be found near Broad Creek or further south at Old House Creek on the western shore of the river.  Eventually we'll sail in to Oriental, one of the nicest waterfront towns in North Carolina.  Again, a nice waterfront hotel and a nice meal.  Nothing wrong with a good hot shower.
The next few days we'll work our way up the Neuse River to New Bern.  We'll tie up there, rent a car and head back to Engelhard (about three hours away by car) and retrieve my jeep and trailer.  Back to New Bern, pick up Spartina and then head home to Chesapeake.

I can't wait.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I took this photo in Mount Pleasant Bay which is in the southwest corner of the much larger Wysocking Bay south of Engelhard.  I had just spent a few hours pounding in to a steep chop in the late Spring of 2008.   Spartina, my Pathfinder yawl, is typically a very dry boat.  But pounding in to waves with 20+ mph wind out of the southwest (according to local weather radio) meant a lot of spray in the air.  I was soaked and so was my gear.  I spent the evening drying things out.  You can see the inflatable vest with a built in harness (safety strobe attached) hanging on the boom.  Also on the boom up towards the mast are my foul weather pants.  On the bunk flat there are some tubs with cook kit and lights, books, notebooks, plus my coleman stove wrapped in the white tarp.   The floatation cushion is next to that my tether that keeps me attached to the boat.
Things look messy here, but that is only because I was drying out.  The Pathfinder yawl has a ton of space for tucking away gear and food.  In fact when Bruce and I did our six day trip - two guys with food and water for nine day, cameras, and fishing gear - we still had storage room to spare.  Pretty nice for a boat that size.

As I look ahead to the next trip I'm thinking about equipment I might need to purchase.  I've done four trips on Spartina and find that I am pretty well equipped.  The checklist I use when I load Spartina is based on the Everglades Challenge list of required equipment.  Those people have a lot of experience and know what is needed for survival.  

For now all that I can think of to get before the next trip would be a new anchor rode (Bruce tells me he has learned some splicing and can help out with this), another pair of pants with the zip off legs, maybe another dry bag (this would be for cameras).  With two of us on the boat I'll need to get another floatation cushion - they are comfortable to sit on when sailing for 6 or more hours.  I'm also interested in ordering a few Corky fishing lures from Texas, I think they might work with all the puppy drum I see rolling on the surface and tailing in the shallow waters near the marshes.  I'm sure I'll think of a few other items.  But as I said earlier, money is tight.  So I'm glad to have what I need already tucked away in the closet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This morning at the grocery store I tossed a couple of boxes of Kashi granola bars into the basket.  Six 1.2 ounce bars in each with dried fruits, nuts, seeds and who knows what else in each box.  At home I used a Sharpie to write the date on each box then put them in the closet with my cruising gear.  Those bars will be part of breakfast on the cruise.  I date the box as sometimes I have leftovers and want to know how fresh the food is before packing it on the next cruise.
Money has always been tight as far back as I can remember, and it seems even tighter now.  So instead of having to lay out cash all at once for two weeks worth of food, I'll start adding an item or two to the grocery cart each week.  It still costs the same, but I don't seem to notice it as much.  Just like looking over charts or checking out the cruising gear, buying food in small batches over the few months is part of the planning and organizing process that I really enjoy.  
Food is of course important, both for energy and enjoyment, on the cruise.  We want to keep our energy level up - spending twelve hours in the elements, even with good weather, can be a drain.  Plus it is nice to look forward to a tasty (and at least in the case of dinner, hot) meal. The menu typically includes granola bars and fruit for breakfast, tins of tuna salad with crackers for lunch and then boiling bag rice or instant mashed potatoes and foil packets of tuna fish or salmon for dinner.  Up under the foredeck there is a mesh hammock where we carry vegetables like onions, peppers and garlic to toss on the griddle with the salmon or tuna.  Snacks include beef jerky, dried fruit and crackers.  We eat pretty well.
Bruce, who has quite a bit more experience in camp meals than I do, wants to improve the menu a bit.  He suggests more fresh meats, kept possibly in a collapsible cooler with dry ice, and some pre-made sauces stored in vacuum bags.  It all sounds good to me.  We'll have to experiment this Spring to see what works best.
I did have some luck on the last trip catching speckled trout along the edges of the marshes.  Nothing better than fresh caught fish for the main course.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Heading north on Core Sound

That's Bruce, my friend of over three decades, at the tiller of Spartina, my home built John Welsford-designed Pathfinder yawl.  We were on a six day sailing trip in North Carolina in the Fall of 2007.  I shot this photo sitting back on the transom leaning backwards right next to the mizzen mast.  We covered about 100 miles in six days of sailing.  Just a great trip.  I admire Bruce for being adventurous enough to give it a try.  He had never really done any sailing before, let alone spending days and nights on boat a 17 foot 4 in open cockpit boat.  We had lots of wind, no wind, nice breezes, sunshine, thunderstorms and bright blue skies.  Chuck from Duckworks was nice enough to publish an on-line story about the trip.  You can read the story here.

The only fly in the ointment, so to speak, for our trip were the mosquitos.  I think we have figured out how to deal with them.  We'll be doing a trip this Spring in North Carolina.  Defeating the mosquitos will greatly add to our enjoyment.  That's why I'm calling the trip The Skeeter Beater 126.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


The water on the intracoastal waterway near my house was frozen a few days ago.  The limbs of the trees are bare.  The days are short and the weather is cold.  
The lines have been pulled from the rigging of Spartina.  I washed and rewhipped them in November.  The are piled inside the boat with the spars.  It is a bit of a mess.  A tub of batteries, a new spark plug for the outboard, a piece of bungee cord, my white rubber boots, called Wanchese Slippers by my fishing guide friend from the outer banks, all lay scattered about the boat.  
It is three weeks until pitchers and catchers report, the first hint of Spring.  I'll know then that warm weather is at least on the way.  I'll be on the night shift in February, it'll give me a chance to work on the boat in the mornings before I go in to work.  I've got to start making lists of things to do.  
In four months we'll make the trip.