Thursday, May 31, 2012

a knight in foul weather gear

Two cameras, a couple of lenses, laptop, cell phone, wifi router, clothes for a few days, chargers for all kinds of batteries, boom mike, mini-tripod and foul weather gear.  The important gear, the cameras, laptop and sat phone, will go in the black backpack at the top, which I will carry on to the airplane.  The rest needs to go into the old LL Bean bag at the left.  That bag will be checked.

A few days ago there was a story in the paper about a man coming to our area for a jousting festival where he would dress up as a knight - the kind of knight that wears armor.  He tried to check his suit of armor at the airline counter, learning only that the excess baggage fee would be hundreds of dollars.  He thought about his situation for a while, realized that while there was an excess baggage fee for checking his armor, there was no fee for wearing armor on the airplane.  He was soon buckling himself in for the flight, armor and all.

I may wear my foul weather gear on the Delta flight tomorrow.


a link

Below is the link where we'll be posting during our sail from Martha's Vineyard to Norfolk.....

I will be posting here when I can.  Some of the material will be the same, some might be different.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tisbury Wharf, not the Black Dog Wharf

I had expected that Friday evening we would catch a cab from the Martha's Vineyard airport to Vineyard Haven, walk out on the Black Dog Wharf, make a phone call and be picked up by a small boat, then carried to the Picton Castle, anchored out in the harbor.

I am now told that we will catch a cab, but to Tisbury Wharf instead, and simply walk to the Picton Castle where it is currently tied up at their south dock.  Plans, particularly with ships, are a little bit fluid.

My traveling partner, Aaron, and I are in the thick of decision making and packing.  With laptops, cameras and satellite phone (which hopefully arrives tomorrow) we won't have much room for other items.  Maggie from the Picton Castle tells me foul weather gear will be important, as will be a blanket for keeping warm at night (the ship provides just a pillow and a sheet).  Shoes are optional, boots would be nice if it is cold and rainy.  Clothes should be kept at a minimum, just a change or two should do.

That first evening, and probably the next morning, I will be able to post directly to this blog.  Once we are at sea we will switch to satellite communications.  At that point I will be emailing photos, as I did in the test a day or two ago.  There won't be much in the way of words, other than a few comments to an online producer that may or may not make much sense.  We'll see.  I should have a link posted here in a day or so that will direct readers to a blog that will be more complete.  I think.  As I said, things are fluid.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

it worked!

The post with multiple photographs worked.  That's good news.  As of now it looks like posts from out on the ocean, sent by satellite phone, will be done that way.  I'm not sure how much text there will or won't be.  Still working on that.


test post

This is a test post being sent in by email with multiple photographs.  I'm experimenting, trying to figure out how to post photographs from the Picton Castle to the blog. I'll see how this post comes across.


Monday, May 28, 2012

WSW, Shoeless Joe, leftovers

Sometimes I think the Elizabeth River was made for the WSW wind and a small boat.  Today was one of those days.  The forecast called for 2-8 mph wind out of the southwest, heat and humidity.  I am happy to say they got it all wrong.

I could tell the wind was better than expected when I first woke up.  The trees were swaying in a steady breeze.  I drove to the ramp with a light overcast, the wind still showing in the flags of the Navy ships in the shipyards.  Low, grey clouds edged with white hung over the river.  I launched around nine and raised sail a few minutes later.

I did my morning circuit of Crawford Bay.  Ten snowbirds were at anchor, mostly Canadian.  I wondered what they thought of the deadrise working crab pots along the shore, the old diesel certainly in need of a muffler.  The only thing louder than the diesel was the mate, a woman with bleach-blond hair wrapped in a bandana, a bit of a paunch and a cigarette hanging from her lips.  She talked as much as she worked.  Nobody seemed to mind.  I smiled.

Late morning I picked up my daughter at Freemason Harbor.  She arrived with sandwiches, sodas and a nautical looking blouse she bought just for sailing.  Could you ask for more?   We motored around the corner to say hello to the schooner Virginia, looking better every day.

Spartina received a nice greeting from the crew and Stefan Edick, the captain, as he sat near the wheel and and jotted in a notebook.  Stefan, always friendly to the our crew, asked when I was leaving for Martha's Vineyard and the Picton Castle.  He said to give the captain of the barque, a fellow captain in a very small and tight knit community, his best wishes.  I will.

We spent a few hours enjoying the WSW wind, both the pure wind on Town Point Reach west of downtown and the swirling wind in the harbor that that dances around the tall buildings in unexpected, unpredictable ways.  Eight or ten mph, maybe better, it was a pleasant ride.  The clouds left us and it was blue skies and a fresh breeze to keep us cool.  For a while I thought a boat was crowding us until I saw the crew, a friendly Dutch couple, just wanted to get a nice angle for a photograph.  We obliged, then took their photograph.

After dropping off the daughter I headed back to the ramp, walking forward to bring down the jib.  The deck was hot on my bare feet and I thought of the emails I had received about not wearing shoes while on Spartina.  Stubbed toes, broken toes were the stories that came to me.  And I also thought of the email I had received from the Picton Castle.  The line "We often go barefoot" was tucked in the "what to bring section" concerning shoes.  This surprised me.  I have seen how the decks of tall ships are crowded with hardware and fittings.  Big boat or small, I find I will be as shoeless as Joe Jackson.


The cookout was a success, though I have few photographs to prove it.  Crawfish, boiled in the pot for three minutes then let to soak up the spices for 15 minutes, were a hit.  Timing was crucial and the oysters took too long to cook, many were eaten raw (and I have to wonder if there is a better way to eat an oyster than uncooked and slurped with its own salty brine).  Clams fit into the schedule better.  Once the pot of crawfish was removed from the burner for the quarter hour steeping, clams were put on the same burner to steam until they opened, doing so just as the crawfish reached their seasoned peak.

And what to do with a few pounds of leftover crawfish?  Frozen in a tub, they steamed up beautifully tonight with artichokes and rice.  A perfect ending to a day with WSW wind.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

forecast, tomorrow and the weekend

The forecast for tomorrow: hot, humid, winds six to ten, chance of thunder storms.  Summer is here.  I'll be out sailing

The forecast for next Friday:  Tropical Storm Beryl should be out in the Atlantic, well west of Cape Cod when we'll be boarding the Picton Castle.  I don't expect the storm will be a problem.
Beryl is an unusual storm, heading west right now and then turning northeast, in a year already considered unusual for tropical storms.  Two storms have already developed and it is only May.  What will the rest of the season be like?

Here is another photograph of the Picton Castle.  The more I read about her, the more I look forward to the sail.  I'm in the middle of filling out medical forms, waivers and agreements to fax to the ship's office.  I need to start thinking about packing.  There is a list of gear that includes everything from clothes to blankets to foul weather gear and boots.  But I can only carry so much on the flight to Martha's Vineyard.  And I want to take some camera gear and a laptop too.  

I was surprised - shocked really - when I measured the straight line distance from Cape Cod to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.  It is only 430 miles.  I had expected it to be much more.  But regardless of miles, it'll be six days out on the Atlantic.  Hopefully with the tropical storm long gone.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

a little bit cajun, a little bit clambake

the menu

15 lbs crawfish for the Louisiana Crawfish Company

little neck clams from Cherrystone Aqua Farms on the Eastern Shore

Hog Island oysters, raised by Terry Brothers, Willis Wharf on the Eastern Shore

And all the stuff that goes with it....



I may well regret this.  Not the sailing a tall ship, that will be fun.  It is the twitter account I'm talking about.  But it is part of the deal for hopping on the Picton Castle and heading down the coast.

My twitter name is @Steve1188.  I would like to say that 1188 comes from my birth month and year - November, 1988.  It does not (you would have to go back three more decades, and then a little more, to get to the year I was born.)  But @Steve1188 it is.

I hope to be posting here, when possible.  But I'll also be doing some tweeting (never thought I would be saying that).  And I'll be posting to another blog, which I will link to here at some point.  Much of the time we will be offshore and the only communications with be via BGAN, which is another name for a satellite phone.  And satellite phones costs money.  So how much I will be posting, where I will be posting, is something I will have to work out over the next few days.

Just for fun I am going to tweet this post.  How will it look when it is tweeted?  I guess we'll both find out.


Friday, May 25, 2012


A week from today, I am now learning, I should be standing at Black Dog Wharf on Martha's Vineyard.  A small boat will come in, pick me and and carry me to the three-masted barque Picton Castle.  At dawn the next day we'll leave out of Martha's Vineyard and sail for Norfolk.  Pretty cool, I think.  Details are a little sketchy and we are working them out.

I love small boats, but a ride on a tall ship sounds like fun.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

red and green, fishing fool

I found myself looking at the red splotches on my Top Spot Inshore Pamlico Sound to Morehead City and Bogue Inlet map last evening.  Those areas are suggested fishing areas that include not only latitude and longitude, but also species of fish and the months for catching said fish.  

I know, I know.  I can't seem to get over this endless search for good fishing.  But how can I when right there on the map it shows Clubhouse Slew (no. 64 on the fishing index) on Core Sound with both speckled trout AND redfish marked as prime season in June?  This map has got to be accurate.  I mean how detailed can you get?  Right next to Clubhouse Slew are the Grass Flats, no. 65 on your fishing index, with clear indications that speckled trout will not deign to move to the flats until July, arriving then in small numbers, and only showing up in strength in August.  I won't even bother flipping a cast in that direction.  But Clubhouse Slew?  I'll be working that place.

There are dozens of these red splotches on the path of the June trip - Channel Points, Back Sound Flats,  Spit Bay, Yellow Shoal, and Bottle Run Flats just to name a few.  Specks and the reds better watch out.  With 411 this accurate I expect I'll be cleaning fish every afternoon during the June trip. (Or maybe not.)

I was looking at the chart because it is time past due for planning the early summer sail.  My basic idea is to sail from Pate Boat Yard in Hobucken south to Beaufort and Cape Lookout, then head north on Core Sound to Pamlico Sound, the Pamlico River, maybe Belhaven, and then back down to Hobucken.  There are a few alternative routes in there, such as a side trip to Ocracoke or maybe East Bluff Bay (where I caught a decent speckled trout but lost a very nice redfish - better known locally as "puppy drum").   I'll have to think through my options and, of course, go with the flow on the sail.  I've got eight or maybe nine days for sailing (that shows how lax I've been in planning, I don't even know how many days I have off) and we'll just see what happens.

I'm behind on planning, behind on shopping for this trip.  Work has kept me too busy.  But I'll make time to get it figured out.  I've got about three weeks - is that all, three weeks?? - until I head down to Hobucken.  My advantage is that I have sailed a lot of these areas before and I've got a pretty good supply list.  

I was out shopping this evening when I picked up a six pack of Green Can Golden Ale.  It was only when I saw the bottles in the store that I realized that the Green Can referred to a navigation buoy.  I've had Green Can a few times over the years and have enjoyed it very much.  But it was always on draft and I had assumed the "Green Can" meant it came in a green can.  It is an excellent beer, locally brewed by O'Connor Brewing Company.  I'll enjoy it even more knowing it is named after markers like the ones that help me find my way home.

That six pack, plus a few more that I'll pick up tomorrow, will be just right when we have some friends over this weekend for the annual crawfish boil.  Laissez les bon temps roulez!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

waterfront weather

I spent the day doing some work around the waterfront.  While there I enjoyed watching the changing weather.

Early morning started with fog.

Afternoon rolled in with lightning and thunder.

Evening fell with a steady drizzle.

The photographs, shot between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.,  were made within an area of about 200 yards.  This is at Town Point Park on the Elizabeth River, right where I do my day sailing for much of the year.  I sometimes think I should get bored sailing the same river week after week.  But looking at these  photographs, I see that the scenery is always changing.


Crossing a bridge over that same river, the Elizabeth River, last weekend on a foggy and drizzly day, I thought I saw a ghost ship.  It took me a moment to realize it was the schooner Virginia, out for her first sail after being refitted with new masts.  Despite the weather - windy, cool and rainy - she looked beautiful on the water with her sleek black hull.  Trying to photograph her then, while driving over a bridge in the rain, would have been distracted driving to say the least.  But I snuck by this morning for a closer look.  I can't wait to sail alongside of her this summer.


Monday, May 21, 2012

too much wind, too much work

Saturday was a breezy day, with gusts mixed in that got my attention.  I sailed with mizzen and jib, then added a double-reefed main until I took on some, uh, well let's call it water ballast.  I had not seen the coaming that far into the water in a while.  Back to mizzen and jib for a nice day on the water.  The sustained winds were fine, it was the gusts that made it interesting.

Boats of all kinds were out on the water, including racers from the Portsmouth Boat Club's Barnacle Regatta, above, and the schooner Roseway out of Boston, below.  Plus about a dozen snowbirds anchored out in Crawford Bay.  Sunny, breezy and fun.

Work has kept me unreasonably busy.  It will be that way for a few more weeks.  And then I've got the June sail down in North Carolina, for which I have hardly begun to prepare.

I think I have sent pdf's of the Chesapeake Bay Magazine article to everyone who sent in a request.  If I missed you please send me another email and I'll reply back with the pdf.


Friday, May 18, 2012

signs of life

I've been seeing those "Salt Life" window stickers for a couple of years now but they never quite appealed to me.  It was only recently that I realized it was a clothing company.  I wonder if they sell more clothes or more stickers.

What did appeal to me was the tee-shirt I picked up yesterday at the North Carolina Estuarium.  "Brackish Life" it says, with a nice drawing of a blue crab. Perfect for anybody who hangs around the Sounds of North Carolina.  Not quite salt water, not quite fresh water.  Like a lot of things in life, somewhere in between.  I will wear it proudly.

I made it down to Hobucken a little later than expected.  Shawn was not there when I first arrived, but his friend Beth was busy working away in the pottery studio.  What, a pottery studio in the old Pate Boat Yard?  How cool is that?

I have to say that the boat yard is in great shape, much better than when I saw it last fall after Hurricane Irene.  As I was looking around and taking some photographs, Beth made the observation that storm debris can make for some pretty interesting decorations.  She was absolutely right.

The boat yard seems to be a little bit of everything these days.  A tiki hut, local hangout, pottery studio, fish house, library (you ought to see the collection of books), art gallery......

....and yes, even a boat yard.

I eventually caught up with Shawn at this house, then later back at the boat yard as he was visiting with a few of the Goose Creek Island locals.  It was good to see Shawn, good to meet Beth and good find to the boat yard in great shape.  I told Shawn I would be back in June, with Spartina in tow.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Castle Island

Visiting the Estuariam in Washington NC, sitting on the patio with Castle Island just across the river.  On my way to Hobucken for a little work.  Good to be down in the Inner Banks, even if it is for work.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Marius, send me your email address

A few people who do not live in the Chesapeake Bay area have asked me how they can see the article that Chesapeake Bay Magazine published about our trip last spring.  It won't make it to their archives for a while - years maybe, I'm told - but the editor was nice enough to send me a pdf of the article to share.

If you live outside of the Bay area, send me your email and I will forward the pdf.  A link to my email can be found on the profile page.

If you live around Chesapeake Bay - Virginia, Maryland or Pennsylvania - quit being a cheapskate.  Go to your local Barnes and Noble or West Marine and pony up a few bucks.  The folks at the magazine need to make a living too!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

day five - the weather's edge

I wake to the sound of the alarm clocks of Chesapeake Bay - the rumbling diesels of watermen heading out for the day's fishing.  One by one they come out of Jenkins Creek to the east, head in my direction and turn south into Broad Creek on their way to Pocomoke Sound.

Crisfield is in sight across the Little Annemessex River, just a downwind run away.  The sky to the east is golden.  Dark clouds and thunder hang out over Tangier Sound to the west.  I sail wing and wing at an easy 1.6 knots towards Crisfield and Somers Cove.  The thunder gets closer, a dark cloud reaches out across the river in front of Spartina.
I am in no rush to get to the ramp.  But the cool draft I feel coming from the clouds reminds me I don't want to sail through the narrow entrance of Somers Cove in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Lightning erupts ahead.  I start the outboard and drop the sails, I want to get to the dock before the the storm hits.

I tie up at the dock just as a wall of rain arrives.  Lighting all around, I run up to the bathhouse and hide, leaving Spartina at the dock to be washed clean by the rain.  Twenty minutes later the storm moves on. I back the trailer down and haul Spartina out of the water, then raise her sails to allow them to dry in the breeze.

That's the trip.  Wind, weather and a chance to escape the daily routine.  It was fun.


for the day

distance travelled     2 nm
moving time            1 hour 10 minutes

for the trip

distance traveled       104 nautical miles
moving time               32 hours  27 minutes
moving ave                3.2 knots

Monday, May 14, 2012

day four - a storm, a canal, wind

I stay in my sleeping bag later than usual, enjoying the warmth and comfort while the wind howls outside the boom tent.  The forecast for winds 15-20 out of the SW is sounding very accurate, just as accurate as the forecast for morning thunderstorms that are rumbling to the south.  I won't be going anywhere soon.

Out the back of the tent I can see deadrises dragging their nets - scraping it is called - over the subaquatic grasses in search of crabs.  Inside the tent I pack everything away, then relax and read my book.

The wind picks up, thunder gets closer and the rain falls.  The watermen keep working as if nothing has changed.

The rain stops and the skies lighten.  I listen for more thunder and hear none.  I listen to the weather radio and learn that the SW wind will keep blowing.  My thoughts of a softshell crab sandwich at Lorraine's on Tangier Island go away as I think of pounding into the swell for hours.  Better, it strikes me, is riding the wind across Tangier Sound to a river that I have not yet explored - the Annemessex.

Spartina slips out of Back Cove, passing by the deadrises, under mizzen and jib.  We make 3.5 knots across the Cove, then 4.5 knots out in the open water of Tangier Sound, still under m and j.  The skies are overcast and the water is grey green.  A little after 9 a.m. I raise a double-reefed main and make 5 knots towards the eastern shore, now visible low on the horizon.

The clouds peel away and I have blue skies.  But I feel like Spartina is not making any speed.  I check the gps and we are doing 4.5 knots.  It is easy to get spoiled by good wind.

I sail past the white beaches at Flat Cap Point, the river entrance.  Arriving in the narrower river channel of a river I have not explored, I round up and drop the main, continuing downwind under mizzen and jib.  Spartina moves at almost 5 knots in the protected water.

At the last turn in the river we round up again, raise the double reefed main and tack back towards the river entrance.  At noon I see the channel markers for the entrance to the Daugherty Creek Canal which cuts between the mainland and undeveloped Janes Island.  The wind is coming right up the canal so I drop the sails and motor into the canal.

It is a pretty canal, campgrounds to port and Janes Island to starboard.  I see a small marina at Janes Island State Park, tie up to get a cold drink.  The camp store is closed, but a kind ranger offers to open up for me and I buy three bottles of tea.  Then get back on Spartina and head towards Crisfield.

The canal opens out on to the Little Annemessex River with Crisfield and Somers Cove less than a quarter mile away.  But the skies are clearing and the water a pretty green color, we are not ready to head to the ramp quite yet.

I sail down and across the river to the entrance of Broad Creek.  The wind is perfect to carry me most of the way through the creek, ospreys flying from their nests on top of the channel markers and fish jumping in the calm water.

I leave the creek and enter Pocomoke Sound as the wind falls off and the afternoon becomes hot.  Drifting just outside of the creek, flies and gnats start to swarm about the boat.  I scan my charts for a nearby anchorage for the evening.  Every place nearby looks marshy and "buggy".  I drift for a while, feel the heat and think about what I should do for my last evening out.

Back into Broad Creek, the wind making a welcomed reappearance that carries Spartina back north to the Annemessex River.

Out of the creek I turn west to an area where pelicans are diving in the calm water.  I drop the anchor just before 5 p.m.  There are gnats buzzing around the boat, but it is not too bad.

At twilight the gnats go away and a banded water snake swims across the glassy surface.  The snake noses up to Spartina, glides along the hull, swims away.


distance travelled        27.6 nm
moving time               7 hours 33 minutes
moving average           3.2 knots