Thursday, October 31, 2013

early arrival

The high winds - possible gusts to 52 mph - appear to be arriving in Chestertown in the early morning hours, sooner than expected.  Fine by me.  I hope to launch mid-day, but if the high winds persist, I may be trapped in the basin at the ramp.  Right now bow sprits from the Pride of Baltimore II and Lady Maryland nearly overlap at the entrance to the basin.  I will try and snake my with two masts and rigging through the ships only if the wind is reasonable.  Worst case - I spend the first night in the basin, then head out on the river Saturday morning when the winds are forecast to be down and the two tall ships head out for public day sails.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

favorite moment - 8:47

You will notice right away in the video that Barry likes to experiment, in this case shooting video and stills with his camera out on a monopod.  That opening scene of him walking by the schooners is very nicely done, you would think a videographer was walking with him using a steady cam.  But no, it's just Barry being creative.  He also uses the monopod to get some nice bow shots of Spartina, and even overhead views while under sail.

We had steady wind with strong gusts buried in the breeze.  We could see the gusts coming - for the most part - barreling up the river.  I think we had full sails up for just a short while, then tucked in a reef.  My favorite part of the video comes at 8:47.  Another favorite scene comes later where we sail by the Virginia and hear the music from the festival in Town Point Park.  Repeating the 8:47 scene in slow motion is a nice touch.

I will say that Barry put together a video that gives the feel of a typical day sail aboard Spartina on the Elizabeth River.  The sights, the sounds, that is exactly what I enjoy during a nice day on the water.  The one thing that does not come across in the video is conversation.  You might get the feeling that Barry and I were not on speaking terms that day.  But really we did have some enjoyable conversations - about sailing, work, technology, family and seafood (he left Spartina and drove directly to my shellfish guy Uncle Chuck).  I think while he was experimenting with his camera I was focused on watching for the wind gusts - which I did with success save for one or two occasions (i.e. 8:47).

Thanks for the video, Barry.


Monday, October 28, 2013

if it's Downrigging weekend, there will be weather

I have been to one Downrigging Weekend, above, which included steady rain, high winds and ice on the boom tent in the morning.  The following year, while I was on Hatteras Island, Hurricane Sandy spun up the East Coast causing some of the Downrigging events to be canceled.  I was preoccupied at the time so did not follow the event closely, but it was certainly not a weekend to be on the water in Chestertown.

So as this year's event approaches, I receive an email from the organizers about this year's coming weather.

Rain all day Friday, gusts to 48 mph, slacking to 30 mph by mid-afternoon.  Sounds like an interesting day to rig and launch Spartina.  I had planned on leaving here at 4:30 a.m., reaching Chestertown late morning and being on the water by noon.  I may reset my alarm to wake a bit later.  We'll see.  This forecast is of course four days out so it may in fact change.  

The front causing all this will be move through quickly.  Saturday and Sunday have forecasts of sunshine and nice breezes.  I'll take it.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

schooners and a yawl, photos from Barry

Barry has put up a very nice post from our sail with the schooners last Sunday.  During the sail he was constantly experimenting with cameras, hoisting the out on a monopod and shooting with a timer.  The results are very nice.  Thanks, Barry.  (That $100 slip is paying dividends.)


dawn on Cedar Creek

A light mist hung over the water at Cedar Creek, a wonderful anchorage just off the Adams Creek Canal.  Up at dawn, we were headed for Beaufort on day four of the fall trip.


Saturday, October 26, 2013


I remember exactly where the conversation occurred.  My friend Scott and I where crossing the Highway 3 bridge over the pretty Piankatank River on our way to Reedville.  I hadn't worked with him in a while and we were catching up on our lives when I mentioned I was building a boat.  Scott stopped, twisted his body towards me in the front seat of my old Jeep Cherokee and said "You're building a boat?  How do you build a boat?  How does anybody build a boat?"  I told him you don't really build a boat, you build parts of a boat - one piece at a time - and then someday you have a boat.  "You're building a boat" he said again, shaking his head and looking out over the river. 

I cannot recall how many years Scott and I worked together, and there are too many places we visited to even try and remember them all.  Swamps, beaches, marshes, caves, rivers and forests.  Clam farms, barrier islands, old fishing boats, farm fields.  If you have seen photographs in this blog of scientists out working in the field - or more precisely in the water/marsh/swamp - then odds are Scott was nearby.

Scott sailed with me just once on that boat he could hardly believe I was building.  It was just over a year ago, when the schooners were in town and friends Scott and Curt joined me for the sail.  It was a wonderful afternoon, sunny with a nice breeze.  It was the same day Curt made sketches of Spartina, for a while staying on shore while Scott and I sailed together.  Curt took this wonderful photograph of us motoring out to raise sail.

This spring I asked Scott if he wanted to join me for a sail this year.  "I want to" he said, "but I don't know if my health with let me."  At that time he had been fighting cancer for at least a few years.  He did not make it out with me this year.

Scott passed away early this morning.  I will miss him, his humor and the way he could say a word with an inflection that gave it an entirely new meaning.  Nothing was more fun than showing up at the office, meeting Scott and heading out on a road trip.  I will cherish the times we spent together and admire him for how he fought the disease with grace and dignity.  And I will remember telling him about how a boat can be built one piece at a time, realizing now that all the while he was showing me how to live a life - one day at a time.


Thursday, October 24, 2013


Out sailing this evening on a Harbor 20 with the SailNauticus crowd and doing so for - get this - work.  Yes, how do you spell b-o-o-n-d-o-g-g-l-e?

I'm starting to think about details for the upcoming Sultana Downrigging weekend.  I'll be hitting the road before dawn a week from tomorrow.  I've got a choice slip at the foot of Cannon Street between the dinghy dock and a 47 foot vessel by the name of E. E. Moore.  Sleeping accommodations are two piers and a walk across the Pride of Baltimore II away aboard the schooner Virginia (yes, life is good these days).  There is some weather swirling out there in the seven-day front forecast, but I'm counting on the high pressure system moving in.  Two years ago it was an early winter storm, last year Hurricane Sandy.  This year, I think the odds are with us.

If you are at the festival please drop by and say hello, or at least wave from the docks as I'll be out sailing most of the time.



Dew covered the main boom sailing off anchor in Parched Corn Bay a few weeks ago.  If it was this morning, there might have been frost on Spartina.  It is that time of year.  (Seeing frost on rooftops reminded me it was time to place the annual order for the Thanksgiving Willie Bird smoked turkey.)

Launching last weekend one of the trailer bunks, a 2x4 wrapped in all weather carpet, jutted out at an odd angle.  The metal support for the bunk had corroded and broken.  I had failed to routinely inspect the brackets and was surprised to find that they were all close to breaking.  I'm glad I found out now, before the nearly 250 mile drive each way to Chestertown and back for Sultana's Downrigging Weekend.

I went to Portsmouth Trailer Supply to purchase a new set of brackets, which I will install this weekend.  The woman at the counter suggested I spray on a coat of instant marine galvanizing to help ward off corrosion.  She said she used a similar product on her rifles, I might consider using it on any rifles that I own too.  I don't own any rifles, but appreciated the advice.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

crossing Long Shoal to Parched Corn Bay

Sorting through some photographs this morning.  

We crossed Long Shoal on the third day of small craft warning with strong gusty winds out of the north.  The shoal reaches out about six miles into Pamlico with depths of one to three feet.  But in close to Long Shoal Point, not too far from the sunken shrimp boat, was a small area with depths marked at five feet.  We tacked in towards the wreck, then tacked back north, crossing the shoal into the steep waves that had built up on the shallows.  Full sail, watching the waves and the gps, hoping the depths on the gps were accurate.  They were.  

And just around the corner, the calm of Parched Corn Bay.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

a priceless slip at the marina

I suspected I was in trouble when I saw the crowd at the Virginia Wine Festival at Norfolk's Town Point Park.  Then I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the expensive boats, both power and sail, filling up the Waterside marina.  

After sailing all day Saturday I called the marina on the radio and asked if they had room for me.  Long pause.....then yes they had room.....but with the wine fest the per foot rate was at a premium and boats had to pay for at least a two-night stay.  "Come back, Spartina" I heard.  "Hold on, I'm doing some math in my head."  A few rough numbers and I realized that the night would cost me nearly $100 instead of the usual $25.  "I'll take it."  Ouch.

I've had my good luck with slip fees over the years.  The guys in Beaufort cut me a little slack just a couple of weeks ago.  Onancock wharf gave me a free slip one night, then I rafted up with my friend Maria's three sail bateau the next.  The Sultana Project is giving me two nights at a prime spot on waterfront in Chestertown for the Downrigging Weekend.  So it all evens out.  

But then again, as I walked from the ramp parking lot to Waterside Marina this morning I began thinking about what I was really getting, above and beyond the beautiful moon in the predawn sky.

What I got was a sail with my friend and colleague Aaron and his three year old son Monroe.  Monroe first sailed with us a little over a year ago, miserable in his life jack and afraid of the tilting decks and flapping sails.  This time he was loving every minute on the water.

I saw the light of dawn creeping down schooner Virginia's masts as she motored to Norfolk, the schooner's sleek black hull contrasting with what seemed to be a floating amusement park.

I saw Spartina, tied up in the thick of the schooners from the race down the bay, looking as if she belonged there.

There were the schooners themselves, along with the friends I've made over the years with their captains and crews.

Plus the little dingy, the same one I photographed a few years ago at Fells Point in Baltimore before the start of the race.  

Greetings and compliments were shouted across the water with the schooner Adventurer out of Washington D.C.

And I got to watch as my friend Barry enjoyed the scenery, shooting video and stills, and talking about boats, books, friends and ideas.

Then there were the friendly waves and glasses raised in a cheerful toast as we made several passes by the Schooner Virginia, the second prettiest boat on the water today.

And the delight of sailing with the my daughters, the original crew of Spartina.

So maybe I wasn't really paying for dockage last night.  I was paying a hundred bucks for something that was priceless....and the slip was thrown in for free.


Friday, October 18, 2013

me and Captain Phillips

Just wanted to dispel the rumor that Tom Hanks really wanted to portray the photojournalist in the film Captain Phillips.  It is simply not true.  I mean if he did play the photographer, don't you think he would have been taking photographs instead of just sitting there and listening?



I could not make it to the waterfront today but the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race tracking map shows that several of the tall ships are already in Portsmouth.  

Below is the schooner Virginia after last year's race.  Weather looks decent tomorrow, great for Sunday.  I hope to be out both days on Spartina.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

from Goodnight Irene to how to shuck an oyster

For a video delight from the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, check out my friend Barry's video.  Good music, great boats, and oysters on the half shell...what more could you want?


NY Times, redeemed

And not even a day later, the NY Times Dining & Wine section redeems itself with a wonderful piece called "The Octopus That Almost Ate Seattle," just a great read on several levels.



I love food, the New York Times and the New York Times Dining & Wine section, but......

This is a photograph from a story about exciting food trends in China.  The dish, and I'm stretching to describe it as such, is called Micro Fish No Chips and comes with Scottish ale and an overhead projector that turns the table into a British flag.  Do I even need to say that Beatles music is played in the background?

Sometimes the emperor has has no clothes.  Come on NY Times, show a little judgement.  This isn't "the frenzy and swagger" of the restaurant scene, it is a joke.


ps - I'll quote BayDog from his comment below as some people don't venture into the comments area...

"That's not a trend, that's a crumb."

Monday, October 14, 2013


Down on Hatteras Island today, where the wind is howling and the national seashore is closed. Some -but not all - beach access parking lots are blocked off. People simply park alongside two-lane Hwy 12 and walk to the beach. The Feds might own the parking lots, but not the ocean.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

day one edits, forecast

I'm finally getting a chance to look through the photographs of the trip.  Here are a few proof sheets of images that caught my eye.  The proofs come for an old version of Photo Mechanic.

There has not been time to look at my my notebook or logbook, the notebook being the rite in the rain note pad where I jot things down during the day and the logbook being the moleskin journal where I write a summary each night.

I do like how day started with the red glow of the trailer lights, all the way at the top left, and ended with the cool blue evening anchored off the Alligator River, down below on the left.

I had been grey, rainy and foggy for several days now, and that may continue for a few more days.  Fortunately a high will be moving into the area by next weekend when the schooners arrive in town.  The forecast for Saturday is excellent.  Let's hope it hold true.


Friday, October 11, 2013

the future was so bright....

We've hit a lull in our sailing season with nor'easter-like conditions that brought steady rain and strong winds for a few days.  Rain should continue into the weekend, maybe clearing on Sunday when 30 mph gusts are expected.

Best to get the weather out of the way now as the tall ships from the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race will be on the Portsmouth Waterfront.  Should the weather cooperate we'll be out sailing both weekend days as I find sharing the water with the schooners a real treat.  Two weeks later I'll head up to Chestertown for the Sultana's Downrigging Weekend.  

With it being mid-October I figure we've got five or six more weekends on the water.  Might as well make the most of it.

The photo at the top is from Green Creek just off the Neuse River, relaxing after dropping anchor late morning, with an afternoon of swimming, fishing, reading and listening to college football on the radio ahead of me.  My future was so bright I had to wear shades.


Thursday, October 10, 2013


a few things I have not yet mentioned about the trip.....

Dinners.  My freeze dried meals cooked in water from a jetboil were perfect.  I enjoyed them all, save for one which I believe I cooked incorrectly.  My favorite was beef stroganoff.  Lasagna was also a favorite, though it took a little extra work to clean the cheese off the spoon after dinner.  Curried rice with chicken made an excellent bed for serving fresh filets of speckled trout.  Jamaican jerked rice with chicken was my only failure.  Either not enough boiling water or not enough time, or maybe both - my fault I'm sure.  Tamale pie with black beans was fantastic.  

I boiled the water, usually two cups, poured it into the pouch and while the meal was cooking I cleaned up the pot and jet boil, packing it back in the cook kit before the meal was ready to eat.  It was easy enough that even on my 12-hour sailing day, a long and tiring day at the tiller, I did not mind taking the time to fix a nice hot dinner.

Power.  My Goal Zero solar panel and storage panel worked just fine.  I kept all my camera batteries and even my cell phone battery charged (txt's sent to family and friends from the thick of distant marshes proved to be an extra delight on this trip.)  Above I was charging my phone while having lunch at The Big Trout Marina in Engelhard - I always carry a battery charger in my pocket when on land.  But I also successfully charged several batteries with the solar panel while both sailing and anchored.  I used the panel when sailing only on calm sunny days, but there were enough of those that I had more battery power than I needed.  

Ocracoke.  I had hoped to sail to Ocracoke on this trip.  But sailing north on Core Sound the weather reports told me I would not sail across Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke.  Three days of small craft warnings with strong winds and gusts to 25 and 30 miles per hour.  Here is a copy of one of the forecasts....

354 AM EDT SUN SEP 29 2013
* WAVES...2 TO 3 FEET.

So I will save Ocracoke until next year.  I'm thinking about Belhaven to Cedar Island to Ocracoke, then north to Manteo and back to Belhaven by way of the Alligator River and Alligator/Pungo River Canal. It is never to early to start thinking about next year.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

forty tacks

I wake an hour before I want, water dripping through my gore-tex bivy onto my face, run to the bath house to put on dry clothes and layer on the foul weather gear.  Too early, too dark to leave, the boat is packed and I walk the streets of Beaufort dressed in yellow.

Low tide and sunrise within a few minutes of each other, we motor out of Taylor Creek and raise full sail.  Seagulls hover over the tideline on the edge of the inlet.  The last of the tide carries into the ocean.

A northeast breeze on a cloudy morning, green water and five knots towards Cape Lookout Bight.  We come into the bight, sail south along the beach and round the shoal.  I jot "NORTH" in my notebook as we come about and head north towards Barden Inlet, Core Sound and...eventually.... home.

The flood tides helps us point high through the inlet, past the island rookeries and marshes with small flocks of ibis flying into the wind and going nowhere.  I cheat on the floating markers and hold true to those on pilings, losing my way at marker "30," running up on a shoal, then finding my way again.

Past Harkers Isand and Browns Island, forty tacks up the narrow channels of Core Sound, past Jarrett and Nelson Bays, past the clusters of homes and church spires of Davis and Stacy, Sea Level and Atlantic, past the barren dunes and shifty shoals of Drum Inlet, into the waves rolling down the fetch of the Sound.  A last tack to round Hall Point into Thorofare Bay, finding the little cove of protected water on the north shore with the single dolphin rolling in the calm water to welcome us, setting the anchor as the sun goes down a dozen hours after leaving Beaufort.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

without notes

Trying to remember the first day.  The usual anxiety leaving the house - have I got everything? what will the weather be like? if I make it all the way to Cape Lookout can I make it back?  what if something happens at the house while I'm gone?

glassy calm water in the pre-dawn darkness, the old corrugated steel boat house and my old dock just around the corner where I kept the first Spartina, rigging taking longer than expected and wondering when the wind would show up...

motoring to Millie's dock, then getting a ride to pick up the jeep and trailer at her place, she's worried about me, asking about the weather and talking about rain...

sailing into the south wind down the river then out onto Albemarle Sound, the wind picks up and the rough sound lives up to its reputation.  storm clouds coming out of the west and light winds working my way past the shoals - covered with crab pot floats and duck blinds - into the Alligator River...

houses on stilts, a guy playing guitar out on the deck, singing into a microphone for an audience of one.  the woman gives a friendly wave, I sail in close to ask about a nearby anchorage the guy flicks his wrist, motioning for me to stay off his dock.  I ask how deep it is by the island and he gives an abrupt answer.  I said I was sorry I missed the performance, the woman laughs, the guy says maybe he'll play another song after I'm gone...

anchor down, the first freeze-dried meal - beef stroganoff - excellent.  set up the boom tent for a few light showers before midnight and steady rain after that.