Morning comes crisp and clear with a steady NNE wind. Sailed off anchor with a single reef tied in the main.
Sailed by the two cruising boats anchored out in deeper water, one a classic John Alden yawl and the other a cutter rig, both out of Norfolk. Friendly waves and shouts across the water. Making over five knots with the wind on the port quarter, the water in the Honga River calm. Soon we're off Billy's Point at the south end of Lower Hooper Island, Hooper Strait just ahead on a glorious morning. Wing and wing across the strait and I'm scanning the horizon for Bloodsworth Island. Crab pots off the bow give away the shallows before the low, flat island emerges.
A fast run down the western shore of Bloodsworth Island, then tiny Adams Island and Holland Island, easy sailing in their lee.
Not yet 10 a.m. and we pass the south end of South Marsh Island, the open water of Kedges Strait before us and a tall antenna in the distance guiding us to Smith Island. Out of the lee of the small islands the water is choppy and waves roll across the strait. For a moment the GPS shows over seven knots sliding down the front of a wave. Dark shapes on the horizon become the short, windblown trees of Martin National Wildlife Refuge and I begin looking for the entrance markers to the village a Ewell. A terrific gusts catches us from behind, the main jibes and I push the tiller over. Out of place, unexpected, I wonder where that wind came from.
The entrance channel is shallow and close to the wind. We round up, drop the main to motor in. Through the channel we sail under mizzen and jib to the Ewell waterfront. In the past the docks along the shoreline have always confused me, I've never been sure where I should tie up. I'm happy to see the most convenient dock is now clearly marked as belonging to Ruke's, my intended destination. We tie up and walk a block or two to the old red building for the best crab cakes on the Bay.
The ladies are nice, they always are at Ruke's. I tell them I've tied up at their dock and want to have lunch. A crab cake platter, one with fries and cole slaw would be nice. I walk out to the cluttered screen porch - some old bikes on one table, old signs for charts and crab cakes here and there. One of the women brings me a glass of iced tea. "You've been here before, haven't you." Yes, I tell her, surprised that she would remember a visit five years earlier.
Inside to borrow an outlet to charge my phone the other woman says "I remember you." Smith Island, home of great crab cakes and long memories. Lunch is a treat.
The mirror in the restroom at Ruke's catches my eye and I shoot a self-portrait. I wonder about my penchant for taking self-portraits in restrooms while cruising. The old mirror reminds me of a faded sepia toned photograph.
By 1:00 we are back on the water, motoring with Ewell to starboard and crab shanties to port. On the Big Thorofare we raise mizzen and jib, cut the outboard, heading south on Tyler Ditch. Rich green cord grass on either side, we follow the curving creek with the tide in our favor.
I can't remember a prettier day on the trip, certainly not one with such perfect wind. Photographing the clouds I'm surprised by a deadrise slipping up from behind. Spartina slides to port and the big boat passes by.
At the village of Tylerton the channel curves east along the waterfront then south on Tyler Creek. It's a wide patch of water but with a narrow channel. Red and green markers, something new to replace the old twigs and pipes from my last visit, show the way. The thin dark line of Fishing Creek Marsh is to the west, bright green grasses of Horse Hammock are to the east. Tiny dark shapes hover on the horizon to the south - Tangier Island.
At the last channel marker, still surrounded by crab pot buoys, we round up and raise the main - full sail to the south. Goose Island, really a shoal with a few high spots, i to the west. Pleasant sailing and then a faltering wind. Under power for a short while and the wind fills in. The dark shapes ahead define themselves - Port Isobel with her tall trees to the left, the water tower, church steeple and antennas of Tangier to the right. Skiffs run north toward Smith Island, a friendly wave or two. Turning into the channel a deadrise passes by, the captain waving from the cabin. We sail up the channel to the crab shanties, then come about and cross the shallows to Cod Harbor.
Evening. A nice hot dinner, sparkling water from my friend in Cambridge. A warm breeze and a beautiful sunset.