Thursday, February 27, 2014

renewed, found and forecast

I have renewed my COSPAS-SARSAT beacon id, something that is required by NOAA every two years.  I think SARSAT stand for search and rescue satellite, I'm not sure was COSPAS means.  I'm just glad to have the device with me, particularly when sailing offshore.

I carry both a SPOT and, for the last two years, the ACR beacon.  The SPOT stays on the deck, attached by a small line looped around a cleat, where it provides a track for anyone interested in checking on me, a chance to call for assistance, a chance to call for rescue and the opportunity to tell friends on an email list when I'm raising anchor for the day and setting anchor for the night.

The ACR beacon stays in a pouch on my inflatable life jacket/harness.  It is on me, just above my right hip, every sailing day on a cruise from anchor up to anchor down.   

With a minimum of searching I found my Virginia Barrier Islands waterproof map.  It has been about eight months since the last attempt down the eastern shore and I wanted refresh myself on the winding path down the seaside behind the barrier islands.  I realized that I would only need to use the back side of the chart which shows the area from Wachapreague Inlet to the southern trip of the shore.  The front of the map is from Chincoteague to Wachapreague, and, if we have north winds and good weather, I'll be sailing that portion outside.

I was down in Elizabeth City for work yesterday, being reminded how much I love that town and the Pasquotank River.  This morning I checked the forecast to see that Sunday might be a day for sailing - a high in the 60's and winds out of the SW.  I'll watch the forecast for the next couple of days.  Maybe the first sail of the year will be on the Pasquotank.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Swimming Point

A very crisp evening walk along Swimming Point, the shoreline that curves around the Elizabeth River's Craford Bay.  I wanted to see how the reclamation project was proceeding.  As far as I could tell there were four barges and three cranes in place for the work.

A floating boom snaked across the water marking the areas where the bottom had been dug up to remove the tar-like substance that came from an old gas plant nearby.  Two of the barges appeared to have sand on board.  If it was sand, that's good news.  It means that they have completed the removal process and are now restoring the bay with clean sand and - hopefully - oyster reefs.  (It would be nice to pull up and anchor and not have it coated in thick muck.)

I'm glad the work is being done, and I hope it is completely done by the time Spartina gets on the water.  I don't want to have to share Craford Bay with too many barges.

Monday, February 24, 2014

glad they labelled it "earth"

I've added a link to the earth wind map to the "gadgets," as they are called, in the column to the right.  Click on the image and you will find a very cool image of the flow of winds around the earth.  I've added it there for my own benefit.  I'll be using it to watch the winds for the Watertribe's Everglades Challenge, which starts in just a few days. 

 And I'll leave it there to follow Webb Chiles as he sets off on GANNET from San Diego to Hawaii and points beyond in May.  Webb will be using a tracking device that will post his position and speed twice each day.  It will be interesting to me to see the winds that carry him over the ocean.

The map is zoomable, so you can zoom in to a specific area or back out to see the entire planet.  I am glad they labelled it earth, because otherwise, well, I might not have known.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

out of the darkness

Today Spartina rolled out of the dark, cold garage into a bright sunny day.  I was happy to have the nice day.  I was even happier that in fact Spartina could roll, having for the first time in weeks an axle and wheels in place. 

Much of yesterday and this morning was spent on the garage floor with wrenches, a mallet, electrical tape and bags full of old and new hardware.  Focusing on the leaf springs, axle, hubs, bearings and wheels I had forgotten about all the other bits of hardware that needed to go back in place.  Rollers, guides, license plate, wiring and tail lights.  And a new spare tire mount, too.  Once the trailer was completer I sorted out the gear and packed Spartina for sailing.

The photo below is from March 10 of last year, the first sail of that year and the first sail with the Dabbler Sails (which I have since learned to adjust for a better set).  This afternoon may have been warm enough for a nice sail or, considering the calm winds, a nice drift.  But we weren't quite ready.  Spartina is now, save for a few minor details, ready to sail.  Hopefully soon.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Toms Cove, time and tide

Before putting in for my adjusted spring vacation I thought I should check the tides to see how a sail outside on the ocean from Chicoteague to Wachapreague Inlet would work.  The photograph above is from the last attempt to make it down the seaside of the Eastern Shore, which did have perfect tides and would have gone well if a particular channel was not filled in with sand. 

I was pleased to find that the tides would be just right.  High tide on launch day is not that important, I would simply launch out of the marina at the south end of Chincoteague and make my way a couple of miles east to Toms Cove.  

It would be the next morning that the tide matters.  The morning high tide is at 5:07 a.m., with a sunrise at 5:45.  Perfect.  Anchor up at the false dawn, making my way west and then south around the hook at the bottom of Assateague Island and sailing with the tide out into the ocean.  And then twenty-some miles down the shore to Wachapreague Inlet.  Spartina could ride incoming tide at into the inlet anytime from midday until 6:15, with a sunset at 8:13.

That's assuming wind out anywhere from NE to NW to carry me down the coast.  If the wind is not favorable, then I'll be launching out of Onancock for a sail on the bay.  

It is good to know, at the very least, that the tides will be in my favor.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

spring trips

The days are getting longer.  Pitchers and catchers are in camp.  The buds are forming on the trees.  It is time to think about getting on the water.

The Watertribe website says it is nine days, 21 hours and 11 minutes until the start of this years race down the west coast of Florida.  I read that there are 140 boats entered in this years event, which should be interesting as they like to hold the expedition style event under the radar.  Stealth camping with a fleet of 140 boats, that should be interesting.  I have a lot of friends - some that I have met in person, some that I have not - who will be competing, and I will be watching their progress on the tracking map.  

I like the race for two reasons.  First, it is an exciting event with some vary serious sailing and kayaking through the everglades and along the white sandy beaches of Florida.  And second, the event typically marks the beginning of at least a chance of sailing in the mid-Atlantic.  Spartina will be ready, but with a hard winter will the weather?

I just received an email from Kevin who sails the Navigator "Slip Jig."  He includes me on his batch emails for the annual Chesapeake Bay spring float, which I never seem to make but always enjoy hearing about.  This year's event will be out of Dames Quarter (once known as Damn'd Quarter according to an early 1700's map), just up from Deal Island and near the mouths of the Wicomico and Nanticoke Rivers.  It is an excellent place to launch, with options of exploring those two rivers, plus Fishing Bay, the Honga River and the islands of Tangier Sound.  Kevin says he's been thinking about the trip while enjoying John Smith's Voyages, 1607-1609, a book which I've added to my reading list.  Kevin quotes from the book in his email, which I've copied here.

"Of all the places visited by John Smith and crew in 1608, the Tangier Sound, Pocomoke marshes, and the marshes of the Nanticoke to this day retain a wonderful sense of what the Chesapeake Bay looked like back then.  The three thousand oyster dredging boats of the 1880's are reduced to a dozen.  The nineteenth-century-farmed hummocks in the marshes have reverted to forest.  And the area today is viewed mostly as a preserve for plant species and wildlife."  

Maybe that why I like sailing in that area so much.

As for Spartina's spring trip, I had planned to take a couple of weeks for sailing but will now take about ten days, saving the extra days for the fall trip.  I will plan for two trips for late May, choosing to go with the one that best suits the weather.  

With north wind I will leave out of Chincoteague with the goal of sailing around the bottom of the Delmarva Peninsula, then head north to Tangier Sound, finishing at Onancock.  That trip, a second attempt to round the bottom of the peninsula, is marked in red. 

 If the wind is out of the southwest I will put in at Onancock, sailing north to Tilghman Island and then back south again to Onancock, which is marked in yellow.  This is very similar to Bay Days 220 trip of a few years ago, a very enjoyable trip.  That was a fall trip, with football on the radio and fresh caught bluefish and striper for dinner.  This would be a spring trip, with baseball and peak season for soft shell crabs.  

I don't thing I can go too far wrong with either trip.


Monday, February 17, 2014


We came home to Virginia and found, along with the cold weather, a voice message from the trailer shop telling me the leaf springs for Spartina's trailer had arrived.  It took about a month longer than expected, but the wait saved me the expensive shipping costs for the weighty springs.  I will get them in place this weekend.

I was hoping for a February sail as we typically get a few nice days in a row late in the month.  But I am hearing talk now of possibly another polar vortex.  Regardless of the weather, Spartina should be ready to both roll and sail in a matter of days.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

moonset, the last morning walk

The last morning walk, this one around Bonita Cove on Mission Bay.  The moon slides down to the palm trees of South Mission Beach.

Rock cairns along the shoreline, wisps of pink clouds in the sky, a very nice place to be on a winter morning.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

GANNET, explained

I have received a few questions about Webb's boat GANNET, and now realize that I did not provide much in the way of detail.  It is a Moore 24, hull #40.  A boat meant for racing, he has modified it for sailing around the world.  

The best source of information about GANNET is Webb's journal.  Descriptions and details of the boat are spread out through his journal entries over the last three years, mixed in with his thoughts about music, films, books and several other topics.  Below are some shortcuts to just a few of Webb's journal entries.  As I said, these are just a few entries - there are many more references throughout the journal. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

a rule broken

Webb Chiles is not a day sailor.  Just ask him, he will tell you so.  He prefers to set sail, then cross oceans.  

Webb also prefers to sail alone.  He has a general rule about people that he allows to sail with him, a rule which he waived today.

So about 18 months after we first began discussing the idea, we went out on GANNET for a day sail.  Sunny and warm with a light but steady breeze, it was a perfect day to be on the water.  The Pacific Ocean off of Southern California on a winter's day, where else would I want to be?  

We took this photograph at the end of the sail, after Webb dropped me off on a pier and I ran up on bridge over Mission Bay, the same bridge from which his earlier boat Chidiock Tichborne was photographed a few decades ago.

It was two tacks down the channel from Quivira Basin, passing through the jetties into the Pacific.  Above Webb is checking his chart plotter, comparing the data with what he receives on the gps built into his wrist watch.  

In open water - beautiful, clear ocean water - we headed SW past Ocean Beach and just outside the kelp beds off Point Loma.

It was a great day to sail on the ocean, to enjoy GANNET and to see Webb in his true environment. 

Thanks, Webb, for having me along.


again, fog

The marine layer worked its way into the bay again last night.  The morning walk was to a cadence of fog horns up and down the waterfront.

Morning sun glowed shades of red through the fog, which burned off quickly.  Clear now, with bright blue skies.  I'm hoping for wind by noon, and maybe a sail.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

after the fog

Sun up, the fog was off the bay.  

the drift

I chased the fog this morning, before dawn on the Embarcadaro when it was a white cloud drifting over the city and across the bay.

Then after dawn at Shelter Island, where the once white fog became a grey cloud sliding over the bay then retreating over Point Loma and out over the ocean.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Visits to West Marine, the hardware, grocery store and - well - the liquor store today.  I needed a new foul weather jacket, plus some things for the house in San Diego.  Webb needed some food, hardware and marine supplies, and, if you look closely in the bottom photograph, survival supplies.

Cooler and cloudier than usual.  But nice, nonetheless.