Monday, February 28, 2011

back to the future

I've been preoccupied with getting Spartina ready to sail, plus work, plus college trips with the daughters and I put the planning for the Spring cruise on the back burner.  But I had a few free hours this afternoon to sketch out the rest of the trip.

I've got the first four days worked out, you can see the rough maps here, here, here and here.  After four days of sailing we should be somewhere on the Honga River.  We'll head north on the river and take Fishing Creek to get back out on the back, sailing north and then cutting in behind James Island to the Little Choptank River.  There are two marinas off of the Little Choptank, Slaughter Creek Marina and Madison Bay Marina.  We might stop in at either one for ice, supplies or maybe a nice meal and a cold beer.  And a hot shower wouldn't be a bad idea either.  Or we might just stay anchored out, there are plenty of nice protected coves on the Little Choptank.

Below is a photo of James Island, I passed by it on days three and five of the Bay Days trip, plus Bruce and I sailed by it on our way to Tilghman Island a year earlier.  

On day six we could head north across the mouth of the Choptank River, maybe sail into Dogwood Harbor to stretch our legs and, yes, maybe have a cold beer there too.  Tilghman Island is a great spot to visit.  I'll have to check on the docking at Harrison's Chesapeake House.

One of the attractions of Dogwood Harbor would be the possibility of seeing a Skipjack under sail.  I saw the sails of one from a distance last fall, plus Bruce and I saw the Rebecca T. Ruark, below, coming into the harbor under power.  Wouldn't it be nice to be out there sailing alongside one of these classic old boats?

Day seven we would head up the Choptank River and take a brief detour up the Tred Avon to visit the great little town of Oxford, then head back out onto the river for an overnight on LaTrappe Creek.

Day eight would be a short sail into Cambridge, the likely destination for the Spring cruise.  That day's sail would be only six or eight miles, getting us in early in the day so we could rent a car and head back down to Onancock to pick up the jeep and the trailer.

This is just a rough plan of course.  Bruce will take a look and let me know what he thinks.  And of course on the cruise itself Mother Nature will add her two cents.  In the meantime I've got some emails out the marinas checking on restaurants, ramps and transient docks.  


Sunday, February 27, 2011

tools of the trade

Sometimes I do it for the money
Sometimes for the glamour
Sometimes I use my head
Sometimes I get a bigger hammer
Guy Clark, The Jack of All Trades

I sorted through the tool kit on Spartina today.  Somehow I always end up carrying more tools (weight) than I really need.  I found six screw drivers in there today, I only really need two.  When it comes down to it I just need a couple of screw drivers, a couple of wrenches and a ratchet with a few sockets (there just aren't that many nuts and bolts on the boat).  So I pared the kit down to the minimum.
I've got some other repair gear on board that is standard equipment.  I carry both a leatherman multi-tool and leatherman folding knife.  There is a outboard tool kit with a spark plug socket and a pair of pliers.  And I always carry a handful of cable ties  (an easy way to bind things together) and a west system epoxy repair kit.  

I keep the tools in a tool roll from Duluth Trading Company that I bought on sale years ago.  It may have been a close-out, I'm not sure if they sell them anymore.  But this is very convenient for me.  Of course the roll is not waterproof so I wrap it in a gigantic (2' x 2.5') ziploc big bag and put a bungee cord around it to keep it wrapped tight.  Is that waterproof?  Not 100%, but the kit has been on Spartina for years now and the tools are still in pretty good shape.

Below is a peek through the starboard deckplate on the bunk flat of Spartina.  That is where the tool kit lives.  You'll also see a bottle of water, there are a total of four bottles of water  on the starboard side all together.  And above the water are two 15 pound dumbbells (by far the cheapest and most convenient ballast I could find) and the flukes to the spare anchor.

I've carried the toolkit on Spartina as long as I have been sailing her.  But I can only recall one time when I used any tools.  That was when Bruce and I were cruising on Pamlico Sound and found that centerboard winch wasn't working.  We used one tool - a screw driver - and that was it.  But I am always glad to have the kit  on board.  You never know what you will need and when you will need it.


the channel islands

I remember this moray eel.  It was tucked down in a crevice beneath the underwater arch at Pyramid Cove at the south end of San Clemente Island.  I found it the first dive of the morning, maybe 40 or 50 feet down.  Surrounded by shrimp and secure in his hideout, he watched me while I photographed him.

This was back in 1977.  I was in college trying to figure out what to do with my life, working at the great old scuba shop called The Diving Locker on Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach (that's where I first met Bruce).  Life was good.  I was either in class, working at the shop or out diving in the waters off of southern California.  I was living at home and driving an old '64 VW bus that was perfect for hauling diving gear to the beaches or docks.  Lots of fun, not much in the way of responsibilities.

That's when I first started taking pictures - when I was diving (it took me a few years to figure out the cameras worked out of water too.)  For fun I would send the photographs off to magazines or book publishers, hoping to make a few bucks to buy a few more rolls of film or maybe a new lens.  And somehow this eel from Pyramid Cove ended up on a magazine cover.  

Those days of diving in the kelp beds of San Clemente, Catalina and Santa Cruz Island came back to me as I read reviews of T. C. Boyle's new novel When the Killing's Done.  The book, which has gotten great reviews, is described as a environmental drama revolving around the Channel Islands off the coast of California.  To quote the NY Times....

“When the Killing’s Done” is an impassioned portrait of a real place, the Channel Islands of California, where human strategies of exploitation and protection have run every course conceivable."

"This is a smart and rollicking novel, with suspense and shipwrecks galore, in which no character ever quite understands the stakes and no challenge is perfectly answered."

I have never read one of Boyle's novels though I have heard of him for years.  I've picked up a few of his books and flipped through the pages - East is East and The Tortilla Curtain come to mind - but I've never bought one.  Until now that is.  After reading three great reviews of this book I downloaded the kindle version to my droid (I've really started to enjoy reading books on that small screen).  I'll start reading it as soon as I finish Webb Chiles' The Fifth Circle, the passage log, another kindle book (right now we're in the Indian Ocean aboard the Hawke of Tuonela, about a thousand miles from Durban.)

I can't wait to start reading in Boyle's book about the Channel Island.  In the late 1970's I had the chance to dive around just about every one of those islands from San Clemente in the south to San Miguel up North.  Sometimes it was a day trip to an island and back, sometimes we would be out there for four or five days.  I remember the thick kelp forests, sandy coves and rocky shorelines covered with sea lion colonies.  After a couple of morning dives at Santa Clara Island we sat up on the deck in the warm sunshine and watched the fins of small blue sharks slice gently across the surface of the water.  On a trip out to the sea mounds - the Tanner and Cortez Banks - we saw huge schools of pilot whales.  On the lee side of San Clemente sea turtles swam on the edges of the kelp beds while lobsters and abalone hid in the reefs.  That was a special time for me.

Memories are just about all I have from those days.  I haven't been diving in years and I sold all my old underwater cameras to help pay for rebuilding the first Spartina and a new outboard.  Even the chromes I shot back then - ektachrome and kodachrome - have faded.  There is an envelope with a couple of old clippings like the magazine cover and an image of shiny fish that found its way on to the cover of a Rachel Carson book.  But that's about it.

Memories are fine with me, especially ones that have stayed vivid in my mind for over three decades.  And I have no doubt those memories will be even richer when I read this new book.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the f-word

Yes, I heard it again at the office again today.  Furlough.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I wasn't.  Mr. Ice-Cream Man, I'll take another scoop.  Yes, make that a double dip recession cone please.

This is when I'm really glad I have a boat and can think about just sailing away.

But I was soon distracted from the furlough talk when I heard about John Welsford's new boat and new blog.  Boats are more fun to think about than business.
I will always appreciate John's Pathfinder design.  It is a boat that can be built by an absolute amateur like myself, and at the same time it is a design that can handle some pretty exciting water.  I can't thank him enough for the adventures I've had on Spartina (above).
John's blog is fairly recent, just a handful of entries so far.  But it looks like he is focusing on his new boat May (below), an 18 foot gaff-rigged sloop.  It is a beautiful boat, modeled after the workboats of 1800's on the South Coast of England.  Doesn't she look great?
John is writing about the boat, gear and cruising - he already has done a five day cruise on her.  This will be a fun blog to follow.  Cruising New Zealand in a small boat, what more can you ask for?

And then later I was caught off-guard when I checked Dawn's blog and read this phrase - "as I prepare for my 8th Challenge next week..." Next week?  I had been following both Dawn and Dawn Patrol's training on their SPOT track - Dawn was out paddling again over the weekend and it looks like Dawn Patrol may have been sailing late last week down on the coast -  but I didn't realize it was coming up that soon.  It kind of snuck up on me.   But I'm glad to be caught off guard, another distraction to keep me entertained.

I have been enjoying the Watertribe's discussion board with messages about parties and packing lists, safety equipment and scouting reports.  If you want to learn how to cruise a boat safely this is a great place to start.
Check out this load list and packing chart from Iron Bob and The Juice.  That list would be a great gear check list for any sort of cruising on the water.  And if you wonder how to put all that stuff - enough for two people - in a kayak, there's a diagram to explain it all.  Like I said, you want to learn about cruising start at the Watertribe site.

So furlough or no furlough, I'll be glad for what I have.  Warm breezes from the south are on their way and I'll look forward to whatever is over the horizon.


Monday, February 21, 2011

the blog is dead, long live the blog

And now it's all right. It's OK.
And you may look the other way.
We can try to understand
the New York Time's effect on man.

- from Staying Alive, the Bee Gees

Got a lot of little jobs done yesterday and today.  I think the boat is about ready to go.  Finished the wiring harness on the trailer using the trick of filling the wire connectors with waterproof silicone sealer. That will minimize the salt water from getting to the wires at least for a year or two.  I've had good luck with this in the past.

Cleaned and lubricated all the o-rings on Beckson deck plates.  Those o-rings are six years old now.  I carry a few spares but the originals seem to be in good shape.  I'll clean and lubricate them again before each cruise.

And I cranked up the outboard for the first time since Jim down the street rebuilt the carburetor and water pump for me.  It started up right away and ran great.  Below you can see the water stream coming out of the rebuilt pump.  Jim happened to be driving by just as I was running it.  He stopped by to make sure everything was in good shape.  Above and beyond the work he asked for he meticulously cleaned and lubricated the entire outboard.  His recommendation was at the end of a sailing day to close the fuel line and run the fuel bowl empty.  If found today that this takes just about two minutes.  And then to start it up again, with the fuel bowl empty, took just two or three pulls on the starter.  Not bad at all and it should keep the carburetor clean.  Thanks for the work and advice Jim.

So just a few odds and ends left to do, basically the little jobs I do before every day sail.

As for blogs, the New York Times had story today about the waning of blogs.   It struck me as one of those "trend" stories that, when you look at the details, isn't really a trend.  The story was based mostly on the younger crowd - ages 12 to 17 and 18 to 33 - who had switched to using facebook.  I guess early on blogs were used to communicate information that is now more easily communicated using facebook - i.e. where you are, what you are doing, etc.  The Times also threw in some contradictory facts, saying Blogger had a two percent decline in unique visitors (down to 58.6 million) "although" (this being one of those "although's" that means here's a fact that contradicts our point so ignore it) globally unique visitors were up nine percent to to 323 million.  That doesn't sound like "waning" to me.  ( I really enjoy the global aspect.  This blog has had visitors form Australia, New Zealand, the UK, South Africa, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, Finland, Poland, Malaysia, Uruguay, Denmark.....the list goes on and on.)

I'm a little skeptical on the story, but at the same time I will tell you I'm a huge fan of the NY Times, read it every day.

I'm not on facebook and don't expect to be (though I have lots of friends who enjoy it).  I have fun writing this blog and I've got a list of blogs and online journals that I always look forward to reading.  I've made some good friends over blogs and have learned a lot of valuable information.  It is the exchange of ideas that is important, the form doesn't really matter.  Blog, online journal, video, newspaper story, whatever.  It is just good to know what is going on out there.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

the liars bench

There's Bruce sitting on the Liars Bench at Onancock Wharf a few years ago (either 07 or 08, can't remember).  We were getting ready for our first cruise down in North Carolina and I had to run up to the eastern shore for work.  Bruce came along for the ride.  You've got to love a place honest enough to have a liars bench.
Onancock is where we'll start our Chesapeake Bay sail this spring.  I've been so busy getting the boat ready to sail I've neglected thinking about the next cruise.  I better get back to planning.  The Onancock Wharf is, I believe, a municipal ramp/parking area.  Below you can see a photo of it with Onancock Creek running down to the bay.  (Isn't that just a beautiful, winding tree-lined creek?)   The question is "Can we leave a car/trailer there for over a week while we are off sailing?"  I need to figure that out.  I've called the wharf a couple of times but no answer, probably too early in the season.  But I'll get through I'm sure in March sometime.
Parking for the jeep and trailer has been an issue on past cruises.  Sometimes I've paid $20 for parking, sometime $40 and sometimes nothing.  And sometimes leaving a vehicle and trailer in the public lot has led to the sheriff trying to track me down.  So I do want to get that worked out.

The photo below is about five or six days after I shot the photo of Bruce at the Liars Bench.  We were anchored next to Wainright Island at the top of Core Sound.  You can see the anchor lights glowing, one up on the lazy jacks and the other under the bow sprit.  These days we use just one anchor light, and that one hangs down from the bow stay (so it doesn't interfere with the view of the brilliant night sky).

Got some work done today.  Installed the new wiring harness and lights on the trailer, bought some smoked oysters and sardines for appetizers on the cruise, cleaned the O-rings on the deck plates and put new batteries in the gps and vhf radio.  Spring is coming fast.


Friday, February 18, 2011

fishbone clouds

I added a few more pictures to the post called "the boat" including this one from off of Deal Island.  At first I was looking at the sails, mast and deck.  Now I'm just looking at the clouds.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

the (not so) Dismal Swamp

Had to drive down to North Carolina today, a nice almost Spring-like day.  Blue skies, nice warm breeze out of the southwest.   I took Highway 17 which parallels the old Dismal Swamp Canal.

It feels like the seasons are starting to change.

The highway I took today is the same one that leads to Hobucken, Engelhard, Beaufort and all those other great launching places.  Every time I drive down that road I find myself wanting to just keep heading south.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm not the only one working on the rigging

Driving by Waterside today I noticed some rigging work going on at the tall ship American Rover.  Good to see another boat getting ready for the sailing season.

I always enjoy seeing the Rover when I'm out day sailing on the Elizabeth River.  She has tan bark sails and looks beautiful underway.  I get lots of nice waves from the crew and passengers as we sail by each other.
I was a little bit surprised today when one of the captains said "Aren't you the guy with the little yawl?"  It was nice that he remembered me and Spartina.  I'll look forward to seeing them out on the water in a few weeks.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Florida on my mind

I received phone calls from both SandyBottom and DanceswithSandyBottom yesterday, logbook tests for the upcoming Everglades Challenge.  Dawn called in from the lake where she was out for a training paddle/sail in her kayak.  She said the first leg was a hard paddle into the wind, coming back was a fast sail - up to 6.5 knots - riding that same wind back to the ramp.
Paul has a nice post on the Dawn Patrol blog about the race.  He talks about preparation and training, unpredictable weather and conditions, fun versus adventure.

I'm very much looking forward to following the race.  It goes down the west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay to Key Largo.  Over the years I have visited a few towns along the way, but most of what I know about it comes from Peter Matthiessen's wonderful novel "Shadow Country."  The names, particularly along the Ten Thousand Islands, always seem so lyrical to me.  Caxambas, Fakahatchee Key, the Shark River, Panther Key, Chokoloskee Pass and Lost Man's River.  I would like to have those names in my logbook someday.

Our logbook test went fine.  Part of the test was having their SPOTS turned on so that they, along with several other competitors, would show up on the race's tracking page.  You can see them all spread out from Florida to the Great Lakes to the northeast.  Soon all those markers will migrate down to Florida for the March 5 start of the race.

We'll be able to follow Paul and Dawn on the tracking chart, above,  and we'll have their SPOT tracking pages too.  There is Dawn's track, below, from yesterday's training session.  The weather was great yesterday, but this winter has not been kind to people like Dawn who need to get in some training outdoors.  The long, cold, snowy winter had cut down on her paddling time.  She has been doing a lot of weight training.  Those workouts, plus her years of experience in the EC, should see her through just fine.  As for me, I'm still trying to figure out how you put food and equipment for a week into a kayak.

Paul points out there will be a new moon during the race, meaning that night paddling will be in pitch black darkness.  Wow, paddling at night in complete darkness.... past places with names like Panther Key and Lost Man's River.  It does sound like an adventure.

 I spent my day-off today working on Spartina.  Right now I'm reloading the boat with the day sail equipment, cleaning stowage areas and checking lines.  A couple of the lines on the mainsail jaws had started to fray.  I taped and trimmed them, melted the ends with a hot knife and then dipped them into liquid whipping.  I see that the leather on the jaws had worn through so sometime this spring I will need to replace that (I wish I would have noticed that last fall, it would have made a nice winter job).

And speaking of Florida, I got a note and some photographs from Curt.  He is down in St. Augustine, Florida and sails the Drascombe Coaster Annie.  We exchanged emails a while back and compared notes on Chesapeake, the Outer Banks, Oriental and Ocracoke.

Curt had been out for a winter sail on the St. Johns River near Georgetown, Florida.  It was clear and bright, temperatures dipping into the thirties.

Warm below, frosty decks above.  A nice fire at sunset.  Sounds like a beautiful sail to me.

Thanks for the photos Curt.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

trailer sailor

Rolled Spartina out of the garage this afternoon to set up her rigging.  Felt kind of good to raise the main, jib and mizzen, even if my sailing was just on the trailer.  Everything went together fine, just like I remembered.  The slightly raised block for the main sheet halyard makes it a little easier to set the main.  I found a few of the sail ties that were starting to fray, I'll fix those up tomorrow.

Checked the weather for tomorrow.  It has temperatures in the 60's (yeah), but also winds in the 30 mph range.  So sailing it out.  A few more weeks I guess until I get out on the water.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

able to resist anything but temptation

Forcast is for blue skies tomorrow, a perfect day to roll Spartina out of the garage and set up her rigging.  Masts are ready to go.  I just need to reeve the halyards (one jib halyard, two main - peak and throat) through the blocks, put the turnbuckles on the bow and sidestays, step the masts and then adjust the turnbuckles.  Should be easy and fun (doing anything out in the sunshine qualifies as fun this winter).  If the winds are calm I'll raise the sails.

We always get a few nice days in mid to late February.  Tomorrow will be one of them.

Monday, a day-off for me, is even better.  I think the forecast is for the mid-60's and I have to say the thought of sailing in mid February is tempting.  Very, very tempting.  But the water is still icy cold.  I don't know.  I'll have to think about it a while.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

survival strategies

I'm not talking about survival on the water, I'm talking about survival now.  Four or five inches of snow on the ground this morning, much more than was predicted.  It has been a long, cold, snowy winter. Everybody loved the movie Endless Summer.  There is a reason nobody remembers a movie called Endless Winter.  I'm looking for strategies just to get by.

Getting ready for sailing at least gives me a little hope for warm weather.  My new CGear Sand Free Multi Mat arrived from Amazon today (part of my birthday present from Mom.  Thanks Mom!).  I won't be using it on the sand.  Instead it will be my sun shade (just the idea of baking under a brutal sun sounds pretty good right now).  There you see it positioned on Spartina where it will be stretched over the boom when I'm anchored out on hot summer days.  The mat looks very well made and has nice rings sewn into the corners for attachment lines.  I would say the only negative is that it is heavy.  But that's ok, I don't see that as a problem.  Thanks for the tip on this piece of gear Kiwibird.

Bruce, don't you think that shade would have been useful on Day Seven of the Tag Team?  That day the heat index got up to 105 degrees.  There were are, above, in a nice photo from Dawn Patrol as we were entering the Adams Canal.  Mildly hot much of the morning, almost unbearable when the wind died on the Neuse River in the afternoon.

And shopping for supplies always helps me feel that sailing is not that far away.  I found this Demi-Glace Gold at the local grocery store the other day.  Bruce always brings some back from California to use in some sauces on the trip.  One less thing for him to carry back here in May.

I bought an eight-pack of Ultimate Lithium Energizers for the SPOTs and the gps.  The package claims the "ultimate" batteries will last longer in high tech devices.  We'll see.  Just two batteries will generally last a year of cruising (in last year's case, 25 days) in the SPOT.  It is the gps that tends to eat up batteries.

I also wrote my list of questions for Paul and Dawn when they call in their 24 hour reports from the Everglades Challenge.  I plan on carrying a notebook with me during the race so I'll be ready to take down information when they call.  The list of questions will be on the cover of the notebook.  There are the basic questions I have to ask - How far to the next checkpoint?  What is your eta to the next checkpoint?  What are your plans? - that sort of thing.  But I'll also ask about their energy level, the food, who they are with, the best thing that happened that day, the biggest challenge of the day.  It will help with the required report and it should help make a nice blog post too.

Just writing this post about hot weather, supplies for cruising and the EC is making me feel better.  Ok Spring, I'm ready.