Thursday, February 26, 2015

further notice

Small mountains of dirty, discarded snow blocked my view of the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River as I drove by to check on the boat ramp.  Walking around the snow piles I saw the "closed until further notice" sign still in place, and the large concrete blocks too.  I hope to be sailing within a month, but I suspect it will be out of Elizabeth City, N.C. where there is a very nice ramp.

Maybe winter will end - it snowed again today - and maybe there will in fact be further notice saying the ramp is open.  I'm not counting on either.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the view from above

I came across this drone video of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore.  In the photo above you see Navy Point with 18 acres of boat shops, docks, a floating fleet of classic Chesapeake Bay boats and a light house too.  To the right is Fogg Cove where I anchored on last fall's walkabout.  I plan on visiting St. Michaels twice this year, first in May to meet a daughter there for an Eastern Shore/Baltimore/Bertha's Mussels/Orioles's game weekend and then in the fall for the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  Can't wait.  Check out the video made by Mid Atlantic Video, it's fun to watch.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

freezing, thawing

3 days until the forecast low is 1º

6 days until I can return to work

12 days until the grapefruit league begins play

18 days until the Everglades Challenge

31 days until spring

Monday, February 16, 2015

September to January

I just now noticed that four of my last five posts have been about seafood: white clams, oysters, blue crabs and crawfish.  I cannot argue with those who say this is a food blog that sometimes mentions sailing.  I see your point.

The image is a screen shot off my phone showing GoPro images downloaded by wifi from the camera to the phone, all between September and January.  Images at at the top are from the September walkabout.  There is an Elizabeth River daysail image with short sleeves and bare feet, Chestertown sailing while wearing jackets, the last sail of the year in Elizabeth City (wearing a red shirt), sanding the cockpit in December and the first unassisted walk to the boat post surgery.

Our forecast is for potentially 12 hours of snow with some freezing rain.  Temperatures will remain low for the coming week with another chance of snow a week from today.  I need a few days of warm weather to Spartina's cockpit and reinstall the deck plates, hopefully sailing by mid or late March.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

the dead of winter

The temperature tomorrow morning at 6:00 will be about 13 degrees.  It was cold all day today with winds blowing 40 miles an hour.  The weather forecast charts show snow here and there, ice pellets and just about anything but warming temperatures.  What else could we do but fix a nice batch of crawfish étouffée?  It brightened the spirits.  Mardi Gras is Tuesday.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"of the channel species, blue in color"

Chesapeake Bay's iconic blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, is in trouble.  

On this chilly winter day almost 70 million crabs of female crabs are burrowed in the mud in the lower Bay, waiting for spring and the spawning season.  That may sound like a lot, but not when you consider that over 200 million females are needed to maintain a healthy population.  The situation is described in a story in today's Washington Post.  

H. L. Mencken referred to Chesapeake Bay as an immense protein factory, crabs being one of the main products.  He went on to describe the crustacean as....

"prime hard crabs of the channel species, blue in color, at least eight inches in length along the shell, and with snow-white meat almost as firm as soap"

Steamed, fried, grilled or sautéed, there is not a bad way to serve crabs.  I cannot image a spring without soft shells, a summer without crab cakes or a fall without spice-covered hard shells.  An important part of the bay's ecology, they are an important part of the economy too, providing an income for watermen, boatbuilders, wholesalers, crabs pickers, grocers, restauranteurs and chefs. 

Pollution and overfishing have done their damage.  And nature has been rough too - sharp freezes that kill the crabs in the winter and a thriving red drum population feeds on juvenile crabs in the summer.  

Sailing out on the bay, the waterman working on deadrises are a constant, hauling crab pots or working trot lines.  With all that activity it is hard to imagine that the last time the crab population was this low the industry was declared a failure.  

I don't know what the answer is, I don't think anyone does.  Awareness is maybe a start. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the oysters of Barren Island

Maybe I should add an oyster knife to Spartina's cruising gear.

At the very top of Hooper Island, Fishing Creek leads from the Honga River out towards the bay.  You pass beneath the fixed bridge, the boat ramp and a few deadrises to starboard, an old cemetery in a farm field to port.  Then there's an old white building with a little pier.  Ahead, across some very shallow water, is Barren Island.  I have sailed near Barren Island many times, and I have passed through Fishing Creek often, most recently last September.  I've noticed that cinder block building each time I passed by and guessed it was an old out-of-use fish house.  Just yesterday morning I came across the website for Barren Island Oysters, which appears to run its aquaculture operation out of the old structure.

My first experience with Barren Islands and her oysters, in this case wild oysters, was in 2010 when I sailed up Tar Bay into the shallow water, the steel centerboard clanking on the bottom to let me know I was over an oyster reef.  I did not get any of those oysters, but a nice striper holding on the reef and, soon it was on Spartina's grill.  

Farm raising oysters had been a great innovation on Chesapeake Bay.  Grown from "spat" in floats, the oysters soon become large enough to be put in cages out in Chesapeake Bay, the jumble of shellfish filtering the water and at the same time becoming a living reef that provides structure and protection for fish, crabs and eels.  Oysters farms can be found all over the bay.  I've heard there are at least 20 farms in Virginia waters, and many more in Maryland waters.  They are good for the environment, good for the economy and they produce some pretty tasty oysters.  I'm a fan.

What appeals to me about Barren Island Oysters is its location, right there by Fishing Creek where I sail from the Honga River out to the Bay.  Maybe this fall I'll have a few extra dollars in cash and an oyster knife on board, and maybe I'll drop by that cinder block building and pick up some fresh oysters for dinner on the half-shell.  Wouldn't that be nice.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

light work

Almost 70 degrees today.  Did a little light work, some sanding and a thin coat of clear epoxy on bare wood.  I realized that I am not that far away from painting the interior of the hull.  I could use a few days or warm temperatures and maybe a little more flexibility in the hip.  Maybe by the end of the month.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I love this 1961 photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, which I found on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's Facebook page, both as a very nice black and white image and also as a little piece of history.  The photograph was taken in the shallows off the beach at Matapeake (marked with the arrow below) on Kent Island.  I wish I understood more about the rigs on the boats - booms hanging off the sides and also the wider boards (for culling??) towards the sterns.   Here is a comment from on the Facebook page about the clamming from S Michael Mielke....

The workboats here are small by today's standards. Most of these are 30 to 35 ft long and quite narrow. A couple of tucksterns. These short rigs worked shallow waters where there were plenty of manoes (White clams) in these early days of clamming.

I've sailed past the beach on the bay side, and also behind Kent Island through the Narrows.  The X marks Warehouse Creek, a beautiful anchorage visited a few years ago.  Need to get back there soon.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Another day of rehab, one pleasantly brightened by a couple of surprises.  Chesapeake Bay Magazine contacted me to say they want to publish a photo essay and notes from last September's walkabout on Chesapeake Bay.  I had submitted some words and photographs late last year and had almost forgotten about it.  The editors had a list of questions and some areas for rewrite, which I am glad to do.  Publication date is uncertain, but they want to get all together so it is ready to go.

I was also caught off guard when I saw on the blog's dashboard that there had been over 500,000 visits.  I take that number with a grain of salt.  It includes, I have read, web crawls and web-based "pings" to the site.  Actual readership, which could be found using some third party analytics, is probably much lower.  It is nice that people take time to read the blog, which is in fact Spartina's sailing log.  I write it for myself, sometimes to help me think things through, sometimes just for the memories.  If others enjoy it, then good for us all.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Excuse the messy garage.

I've had all my cameras out the last few days, mostly to drain and recharge the batteries.  With the GoPro Hero3 in hand I decided to experiment with the GoPro Studio, a very simple editing program for GoPro produced media.

GoPro's are great and, in many senses, revolutionary cameras. (How can they build wifi connectivity into a $300 camera when major camera manufacturers want $700 or more to add connectivity to their cameras???  I've got to wonder if I will ever buy another camera that doesn't have built in wifi.)  The only thing I don't like about camera is what has become known as the GoPro "look," which is really the fish eye appearance that comes from shooting with an extraordinarily wide lens.  It's great for surfing videos, but curved masts and horizons don't seem to work for me.

GoPro studio, in the advance settings of the "view and trim" section, offers the opportunity to correct for the wide angle lens.  The screen shot at the top and the one below from the same GoPro video clip.  The bent lines of the top image is the standard way GoPro images appear.  Below is the same shot with the "Remove Fisheye" box checked.  Notice the bent lines are now straight.  Pretty cool.  There is some slight cropping involved to make this work, but not too much.

Below are two more examples, first the raw video image, then the processed image with the fisheye removed.  

Unfortunately this can be done only with video images, not stills.  But it is progress and hopefully we'll be able to "unbend" still images in the future.  In the meantime GoPro customer service has suggested I experiment with the field of view in the camera settings for still images.

I can see buds forming on the trees.  Rehab is coming along steadily.  Maybe a little light sanding and epoxy work in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

screen shots

Having pledged to myself not to turn on the television until 6:30, just in time for the kickoff, I've been doing a little web browsing and found Barry's video from a sail we did in the fall of 2013 (I think).  I had forgotten about it.  Barry has been on board a couple of times and I'm usually thanked with at least a nice bunch of photographs and sometimes a video.  You can find this one here.  

You can tell it was a busy, blustery day on the water.  I think it was the weekend of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race,with all the tall ships heading out the morning after the captains and crew party, plus a festival of some sort - maybe the wine festival - at Town Point Park.  Throw in gusty wind and some traffic - tugs and freighters - and we had an interesting fun day on the water.

I regret to say I will not be doing as much sailing on the Elizabeth River as in past years.  The ramp is still marked "closed" and there is no sign of any attempt to rebuild it.  There is a nice ramp up the southern branch of the river, but it involves motoring through an industrial/military area - lots of security boats, flashing lights and weapons on display - and a train trestle too.  Instead I will be making the drive down to Elizabeth City, NC for a lot of my daysailing, which will be fun.  It's a nice drive, the river is beautiful down there and with the mile-plus motoring through the shipyards of the Elizabeth River it is basically a wash on time - twenty minutes of motoring past shipyards and commercial docks vs. 25 minutes extra time on the road driving along the edge of the Dismal Swamp to a nice ramp in a park area on the Elizabeth City waterfront.  I'll take the extra time on the road.