Wednesday, March 30, 2011

some great reads

I am a few chapters in to T. C. Boyle's "When the Killings Done" and I am loving every word of it.  The first chapter is spellbinding, then the book gets even better.  Two ships wrecks (one from the 1940's and the other from gold rush days), a woman trapped on a deserted island, a hermit, a little bit of World War II and a modern day environmental battle.  All that is in the first few chapters of the book - and somehow it all fits together.

For a quicker read check out Alan's excellent post about an evening sail on the Bay River.  We are stuck in a little nor'easter right now - cold, rainy and windy.  This story really brightened my day.  Thanks, Alan.  (Hope you don't mind that I borrowed a photo.)


Monday, March 28, 2011

light and shadow

After a cold, dark, rainy weekend the sun finally showed up late this afternoon.  About time.  I enjoyed the shadow cast by the warm evening light on the wall of the living room.  Somebody told me photography was nothing more than light and shadow.  I think they were right.

As I mentioned in my last post I'm thinking of spending my long weekend sail on the southern edge of Pamlico Sound.  This would include the mouth of the Neuse River, Cedar Island and the upper part of Core Sound.  I've got a few anchorages picked up, but will look at the charts some more to find other options.  Places with names like Swan Creek, Corn Sage Point, Abraham Bay - they seem like places worth visiting.

The biggest chart on the table there is an old NOAA chart labelled "PAMLICO SOUND - WESTERN PART".  It is dated 1989.  I found it on top of a shelf in the closet Sunday morning, faded and covered in dust.  I must have bought the chart when we moved back here twenty some years ago,  probably spent a lot of time looking over the chart, tracing the shorelines, measuring distances and...dreaming.  And then life happened - kids, work, you know what I'm talking about.  The map was tucked on a shelf and forgotten.

But now that I've found the chart again I look at it and smile.  Some of the shorelines I traced years ago are the shorelines I've ghosted along in Spartina.  The distances I measured are distances I have sailed.  And those dreams, well, they aren't just dreams anymore.


the Neuse River

I had originally planned to start the spring walkabout on the south end of Pamlico Sound then head north across the sound to Swanquarter.  

But as I was looking over the charts yesterday I noticed there were a lot of creeks and rivers off the Neuse River that I haven't explored.  We've sailed on the Neuse a few times and last June followed a series of bays and canals to get from the Neuse to Core Sound.  But there is much more to explore.  Maybe I'll spend the walkabout down there.

The high yesterday was in the high 30's.  A little snow on the rooftops this morning.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

day two of the walkabout

On a cold grey, windy day what else are you gonna do but think about upcoming trips.  I was looking at the spring walkabout this evening, measuring some distances for day two.  Day one will take me from Hobucken to Maw Point, similar to what I did last fall.   The next day I plan to sail to West Bay behind Cedar Island - but that could be a relatively short sail.  Why not continue on through to beautiful Core Sound?

This would involve sailing down West Bay to West Thorofare Bay and following the Thorofare Canal - there is Dawn above aboard Dawn Patrol with Spartina in the background going through the canal - into Core Sound.

I really like Core Sound.  Shallow with narrow, winding channels.  The windswept dunes of the Core Banks to the east, a few sandy islands - that's me moving Spartina at Wainwright Island above - sprinkled here and there.

There is a nice photo from the Dawn Patrol crew showing Spartina sailing along the south shore of Cedar Island on Thorofare Bay.  If I make it there, about 25 miles from Maw Point, I could head a little bit south on day three and visit Morris Marina in Atlantic, NC.  Their website gives a pretty nice description....

"The marina is a safe harbor with seawalls, a launching ramp, boat slips, and a marked channel offering easy access to and from Core Sound. Gas and Diesel are available on the docks. The Marina also has a short order grill where you can order breakfast and coffee before you head for a day of fishing. The Grill is best known for the Morris Burger, the best hamburger on the Southern Outer Banks. Another famed offering at the Grill includes the Core Sound Shrimp-burger, made with the best of the local Core Sound Shrimp."

On a cold grey day a shrimp burger on Core Sound seems pretty good to me.


a penny a foot

I picked up a pack of 1/8 inch braided nylon and polpropylene cord at the expedition store - Home Depot - this morning, 48 feet of it at less than a penny a foot.  I like to always have some on board, I'll tuck a few yards of it in with my spare lines.  I use little bits of it here and there on Spartina, keeping things - like the oar - in place. It makes great lanyards, keeps the cook kit and light kit in place and is great for bundling things together.  Holds a good knot, lasts forever.  What more could I want?

(That oar dates back to my Sea Shell 10, a kit boat my Dad and I built in Texas in the 80's.  I had some fun on that boat, but was soon building the next boat, the Devlin designed Nancy's China.  I don't have any photographs of that Shell, but I've got some good memories and the oar.)

Bruce mentioned to me a week or two ago that he was having trouble finding a post from a while ago.  I can see why - there are about 600 posts dating back to January of 2009.  He wondered if there was some way of indexing by topic.  After some discussion we decided to use the label feature on our posts, tagging with the words "meals", "gear", "planning" and "life on board".  I've made some links to those topics that will sit on the right side of the page just below "some photographs".  It is still not a very good index, but will at least narrow things down a bit when we are looking back for an old post.

And now that the EC competitors have caught up on their rest they are starting to write posts about their experiences.  Kiwibird has some analysis of the gear she used with a promise of a daily log to come.  Paul has a brief summary and some photographs, more to come I expect.  And Dawn talks about her race here.  It is rainy with temperatures not expected to reach 50 degrees today - no sailing here today so I'll read about their adventures instead.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

rain, rain, go away (at least for day sails)

I got my four mile walk in this evening before the thunderstorms reached us.  A few light sprinkles on my last lap of the neighborhood, now I'm hearing thunder. This will be the first severe thunderstorm of the very young spring.  The seasons are battling it out.  Thunderstorms tonight, rain likely tomorrow, clear friday and a good chance of rain saturday and sunday.

I do not like day sailing in the rain - notice I said "day sailing".  I don't like rigging the boat in the rain, I don't like unrigging the boat in the rain.  I don't like to put my sail covers on wet sails, I worry about mildew.  And it is a pain to dry the sails.  If I'm lucky the rain stops towards the end of the day sail and the sails dry themselves off.  One time the rain ended as I got to the ramp.  I hauled the boat out, pointed the trailer into the wind and raised the sails in the parking lot to let them dry for almost an hour.  Other times I have had to spread the sails out in the garage to dry them off with two or three fans.  

But on cruises rain is a whole different story.  There is Bruce above on day two of the Skeeterbeater.  That was probably our rainiest trip.  We got caught leaving Wyesocking Bay in storm.    A lot of rain, some pretty nice wind.  Later that day we sailed between three small storms, great wind all the way.  By day five we had come to enjoy those storms.  Hey, more wind!  With good foul weather gear, rain is not a problem.  I wear Third Reef gear from West Marine, Bruce has a set of foulies from Cabela's.  We see the storms coming, slip the gear on, maybe take in a reef and keep on going.

Thunderstorms are another story.  I don't mind the thunder but I can do without the lightning.  Above you'll see some lighting glowing in the distance south of Caffee Bay.  Those cells are pretty common on Pamlico Sound in the summer.  I like to see them, but only from a distance.  Last June on Core Sound I  did get a little buzz from a storm overhead just before the lightning crackled above.  I still don't know what to think of that.

The driest cruise I have had was last fall on Chesapeake Bay - eight days and virtually no rain.  By day five Spartina was crusted with salt from the spray.  No rain to clean it all off.  I never realized until then how sponging out the fresh water from rainstorms kept the boat nice and clean.

Rain, while no fun for day sailing, is no problem for cruising.  Enjoy it, enjoy the wind, dry out and keep on sailing.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

the inner banks on $8 a day

I did some shopping for the spring walkabout today at my favorite expedition stores - Wal-Mart and Target.  Above are the lunches.  Bruce and I have had the tuna salad with crackers for years now.  Today I decided to try the ham and chicken salads.

Breakfast will be Oats 'n Honey granola bars from Nature Valley

The main course for dinner will be SPAM single servings or salmon.

I picked up a Simply Asia meal (sesame teriyaki - noodles, sauce and sesame seeds, just add meat, fish or shrimp), plus some Couscous for another night.  Why I haven't used Couscous before I don't know.  I enjoy it, it is simple to fix (boil water, add Couscous, wait five minutes), it is healthy and goes with just about anything.  So I'll give it a shot.

Plus anchovies and smoked oysters, either an appetizer for part of a last night of the cruise ritual which you can read about here and here.

 A dozen cups of fruit - tropical fruit, mandarin oranges and cherry fruit mix - I have one with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Plus crackers to go with lunch and as an afternoon snack.

It all comes to about $40, eight bucks a day for five days on the water.  Plus I got a few other things, including Gulp bait, below, two gallon freezer bags (great for food, clothes and eventually as a trash bags) and some chemicals for the porta-potti.  

I figure eight bucks a day is a pretty good deal for relaxing on the water and enjoying life.


plans made, plans kept


Above is the rough map Bruce and I started with for planning our spring cruise.  We roughed out the trip when I was visiting San Diego in early December, talking over a couple of cold schooners of beer about where we would like to go.  In this case it is the middle part of Chesapeake Bay.  We had sailed through the area in 2009, much of that trip was out on the open bay.  I started exploring the shoreline last fall on a solo trip.  After a little discussion Bruce and I decided to revisit the area, exploring the bays and rivers along the way.

Once we have the initial map in hand it is a matter of working out the details.  We need to find a ramp to launch the boat and a parking lot where we can leave the jeep and trailer for a week.  In this case it will be Onancock, Va.  I'll be over on the eastern shore next week and will drop by Onancock wharf to confirm this with the dockmaster.  I think we'll end the trip at Cambridge.  But I say "think" because I haven't nailed down a marina.  In addition to a marina, we need a ramp and an Enterprise rent a car office - we'll rent a car to drive back to Onancock to retrieve the jeep and trailer.  Cambridge, St. Michaels, Easton and Kent Narrows all fit the bill with ramps and rent-a-cars.  What we still need to work out are marinas.  They are crowded and expensive on that part of the bay.

Between the start and the finish are a series of roughly 25 mile days of sailing between possible anchorages.  We've done as little as 13 miles (though it took us about 30 miles of sailing to cover that that 13 miles) and as much as 48 miles in a day, but 25 miles seems to be a pretty comfortable distance for us to cover on a relaxed day of sailing (hey, we're out there to have fun).

Then there are the other details - food (Bruce handles most of that), navigation (my job) and gear (shared responsibility, but we've done it enough we both know what we need to have on hand).

Thinking about the planning process got me thinking about past sails.  I have never gone back to the planning maps to compare the plan with the actual sail, so I decided to take a look.  Above is the Tag Team sail with Paul and Dawn last June, the planning map at left and the actual gps track at right.  

There are some minor differences between the two.  Instead of going down the ICW to the Bay River Bruce and I cut over on Jones Bay and took a tiny creek to the Bay River, something we had talked about as an option before the trip.  And we made a side trip to Vandemere, again a possibility we had talked about beforehand.  We did not sail outside from Cape Lookout to Beaufort as marked on the planning map, it was too windy and rough that morning and we sailed the back way to Beaufort.  And the last night out we anchored in Beard Creek instead of behind Great Island.  But otherwise the gps track is, to me, surprisingly close to the plan.

Above are the maps from my solo fall sail on Chesapeake Bay, the map showing possible anchorages at left and the gps track from the trip at right.  I probably did less planning on this trip than most others.  Since I was alone I knew I had to end up where I started, my plan was to sail north from Rumbley to Oxford, then work my way down south to Tangier Island, then return to Rumbley.  The nice thing about this stretch of the bay (and for the areas of the Inner Banks of North Carolina that we sail) is that there are anchorages almost everywhere.  Finding shelter from a storm or for the night is not a problem.  

My rough sketch for the trip proved fairly accurate, the biggest change was opting to go to Tylerton on Smith Island instead of Tangier Island.  It was apparent during the last couple days of the trip that Smith Island was a better fit as far as mileage, plus I had never been to Tylerton (I have been to Tangier Island several times).  But otherwise the plan was pretty close to the final trip.

As for the spring trip with Bruce sketched out in the map at the top of this post, it is still evolving.  We will probably bypass Holland Island.  We might anchor the first night at Watts Island instead of Tangier Island.  We'll sail near Wenona on Deal Island, but it will be late in the afternoon and we probably won't go into the harbor.  Tylerton, Whitehaven, Dogwood Harbor and Oxford are on the "must visit" list.  How will the trip turn out?  We've got a couple of more months to tweak the plan and even then we won't know for sure until we sail it.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

from one circumnavigation to another

Book club time......

I'm going directly from one circumnavigation to the next.  I just finished reading the kindle book The Fifth Circle; the passage log by Webb Chiles.  It is one of five kindle books that Webb has available through kindle, all priced at a very reasonable $2.99.  I am a longtime fan of Webb Chiles, I've written about him before.  I've enjoyed his books since the late 1980's, was very happy to hear him speak in the early 1990's, and I am now glad to exchange the occasional email with him these days about our journeys (he sails around the world, I sail across the sound - yet still we find something in common).

The passage log is just that, notes jotted down by Webb as he sailed around the world on the 37' sloop Hawke of Tuonela.  It was a great read.  The book (can we call kindle books books??) has fascinating insights into both around-the-world sailing and Webb's interesting outlook on life.  There is a rhythm about the book, and about the voyage, that goes beyond just the details of ocean sailing.  Weather, sails, broken gear, food and music are all a part of the life he describes.  Webb starts the journey in New Zealand.  Mid-way across the Indian Ocean I felt as if I was along for the ride.  And I felt a tinge of sadness as he approached, months later, New Zealand at the end of the voyage, I was sorry for it to be over.  You know it is a good book when you regret seeing it come to the end.

I'm going from that recent sail around the world to one of the great circumnavigations, this one by Joshua Slocum.  I've read the Sailing Along Around the World a couple of times before.  It is a classic, no doubt.  But this is a slightly different version, a kindle book with enotations - sort of hyperlinks to explain terms - with help from Chris Thomerson.  

This is a "review" copy - a free copy that a publicist sent to me to read and review. Hey, a sailing classic for free?  I'll take it.  Right now Joshua and I are approaching the Azores.  I'll let you know how the "enotated" book is in a while.

And then there is the old printed book.  Yes, ink on paper.  I just pre-ordered a copy of Sea of Lost Dreams by Ferenc Máté.  This is a novel about post World War I sailing in the South Seas.  I read Máté's first novel of the series, Ghost Sea, and enjoyed it.  I hope this one is just as good.  The book - a printed book!! - won't be out until mid-april but I thought it was a good idea to put in the order.  Why would I order a printed book?  Because it will be perfect for a good read on the spring walkabout (print is still best for open boat sailing).  I can't wait.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

ode to joy

That is Ode to Joy, the Tartan 34 that belongs to my friend Paul.  He normally keeps it on a mooring on the Lafayette River near his home, but in the winter months he keeps it at the Waterside marina in downtown Norfolk.  During the off season the slips at the marina are either very inexpensive or maybe free.  I saw it there this morning when I went for a pre-work walk along the waterfront.  
Seeing Ode to Joy made me smile, I've sailed on her a few times.  And the name reminded me of how good it felt to be out on the water yesterday in Spartina.  Joy is the perfect word.  The wind was gustier than I had expected for a first sail of the year.  But with a single reef we handled it just fine.  Not burdened with all the gear and supplies for cruising, Spartina felt light and nimble in the breeze, heeling over to dip the rail in the water and holding steady there as we sailed into the wind.
It did not surprise me that Spartina could sail like that, she is a well designed boat.  It did surprise me that I felt so comfortable at the tiller after a long, cold winter off the water.

Curt sent me his planning map for his May sail down in North Carolina.  He'll be there just a week or ten days after I do my spring walkabout in some of the same water.  This is a revised plan where he goes from Oriental to Beaufort to Cedar Island, and maybe Ocracoke, in a counter-clockwise fashion.  I think he originally intended to go on a clockwise path from Oriental to Cedar Island and then down Core Sound to Ocracoke.  But going the opposite way let's him take advantage of the typical winds out of the southwest.

Bruce and I had talked about this very topic last spring as we planned the Tag Team sail with Paul and Dawn.  We had chosen the clockwise route.  A few weeks before sailing Paul mentioned that counter-clockwise might be more efficient.  But we stuck with clockwise for a few reasons.  One, we had done the counter-clockwise path a couple of years earlier.  Two, this route spread out planned stops at Oriental (a favorite town to visit) and Beaufort (another favorite).  And three, in our earlier experience the typical summer southwest winds were in fact out of the east, so go figure.

In my opinion it doesn't really matter.  Sailing into the wind, sailing down wind, it is all a lot of fun.  On the Tag Team sail the southwest wind did kick up on Day Four, the longest day of our trip.  The photo below is from Core Sound as we turned south towards the Swash, spending the next few hours sailing hard into the wind.  Thinking back now, I'm glad we chose that path.  Not because one way is better or worse than the other, it is just that I have really great memories of that day on the water.

Curt, thanks for sharing your plans.  You can't go wrong either way.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

on the water

Spring arrived, unofficially, in the mid-Atlantic about 12:30 this afternoon when a warm gust of wind out of the west seemed to blow away the clouds and Spartina sailed comfortably downwind under a single reefed main.  Blue skies and warm sunshine, plenty of wind.  It was great.

Much of the late morning was overcast.  Warm, but grey.  And with a little more wind than I'm ready for on the first day of the season.  I started sailing under mizzen and jib only, then raised the reefed main and felt right at home.
Rigging the boat was a little clunky.  I had forgotten the order of all the little details.  But I got it done with a lot of "oh yeah, that's next" and it started to all feel familiar.

The outboard ran great (thanks Jim!) until is sputtered to a stop and then I remembered checking the fuel was one of those things I was supposed to do at the ramp (d'oh..).  "Oh yeah, check the fuel", proving once again that the weakest thing on the boat is the guy at the tiller.  

Tried out the new Pentax Optio W90 with mixed results.  All the photos in the post are from the camera and they are all fine except the one below.  That one, well over-exposed, was shot in the interval shooting mode.  You set the interval, in this case two minutes, the camera goes to sleep, wakes up every two minutes, shoots a photograph and goes back to sleep.  What I found was the waking up and shooting happened so quickly that the image was captured before the camera meter had time to adjust to the brightness.  When I manually shot the same image, with the camera being awake to start with, it was fine.  But in interval mode all the full daylight images were overexposed.  I'll contact the Pentax people and see what they have to say.  (I was trying to do an interval shoot of the entire sailing day, including the drive to the ramp and rigging, but technically it wasn't working out - evidenced by this photo on the drive to the ramp.)

And then home in time to wash the boat, put the gear away and cook dinner.  A pretty nice first day of spring (even if it is not spring according to the calendar.)


Saturday, March 12, 2011

happy, adventurous, well-rested family

There they are - Paul, Dawn and Alan - looking happy and well rested.  How many miles on the water are in the photograph between all the EC's, the North Carolina Challenges, weekend trips, week-long trips, and Alan's recent sail half way around the world?

There should be more reading to come as DanceswithSandyBottom, SandyBottom and SOS will hopefully be posting about the trip on their blogs.  I'm sure Paul will take a good look at Dawn Patrol's performance with the new spinnnaker.  And I hope Dawn will talk more about her race, the winds and the struggle.  I'll be interested to hear about her plans for next year's event.  (At the very least, Dawn, I want to hear more about the bull shark fishermen.)

Also check out Kiwibird's blog, she'll have some stories to tell.

As for me, the weather does look decent for a first sail of the year tomorrow.  Warm temperatures and light winds, to me that is perfect for getting out there, checking the rigging and getting comfortable on the boat.

Grilled striper, served over rice on a bed of etouffee style sauce ( a nice roux with sauteed onions, red peppers, celery and tomatoes)  is on the menu for tomorrow night.  


five days, four nights

Plans are coming together for the spring weekend walkabout in late April or early May.  A total of five days and four nights down in the sounds of North Carolina.  Of those five days, it is really just three full days.  The first days includes driving down, rigging the boat, launching and then an four or five hour sail starting late morning.  And the final day should be just a three hour sail back to the dock, maybe even less, to give me plenty of time to haul the boat out, pull down the rig and trailer home.  

I'll put in at Pate Boat Yard in the little fishing village of Hobucken on Goose Creek Island.  My guess is I'll sail to somewhere around the mouth of the Bay River, either Bonner Bay or Maw Point, for the first night (similar to what I did last fall, but hopefully without the storm).

From there I would like to go explore West Bay (2) behind Cedar Island.  I've sailed by it, but never into the bay itself.  My timing in bad on this, Curt will be sailing through that area a week or two later and I won't get to cross paths with Annie and see that beautiful boat.  He'll be on his way to either Ocracoke or Cape Lookout, or maybe both.  I'll look forward to hearing about that trip.

From there I would like to head north, maybe a nice long sail north across Pamlico Sound to anywhere between Juniper Bay to the east and Spencer Bay to the west (3).  Countless anchorages are in between.  That is Spencer Bay, below, from the SkeeterBeater.

I don't expect to cover any great mileage on the weekends trips.  I'll probably spend a good deal of time ghosting along the marshes (one of my favorite things to do) under mizzen and jib.  There's no real schedule, just relax and enjoy being on the water.  Here is the track from last year's spring walkabout, lots of sailing just off the edge of the marsh grasses.

Eventually I head down to anywhere between Mouse Harbor and Jones Bay (4).  Again, lots of choices for anchorages, protection from just about any direction of wind.  I wouldn't mind visiting Middle Bay, below, another nice place I've just sailed past but never really explored.  We'll see.  That will leave me with a short sail back to Pate Boat Yard.

I made up quick shopping list for the trip.  Twelve cups of fruit (one for every meal), a box of breakfast bars, four tuna lunches, four packs of meat (spam, chicken, salmon) (but I'll try my luck at fishing too), peanut butter crackers, some anchovies and smoked oysters, and dried fruit.  Plus a couple of potatoes and onions.  For our cruises I typically buy the supplies over a few month's time, box by box.  It is easer to do that when I'm on a budget that cuts close to the bone.  But for this weekend trip I might buy it all at once just to see what the total cost is and come up with a per meal or per day cost on cruising food.

I'll get back from this trip and have just about three weeks until Bruce and I take off on the Chesapeake Bay trip.  Can't wait.