Friday, July 31, 2015

the reason for a loose-footed mainsails

In his latest journal entry Webb Chiles explains the reason for loose-footed sails on Drascombes.

        I once met John Watkinson, the Drascombe designer, and asked him about the loose footed sails.
        He replied:  “I didn’t want to hear the sound of a boom hitting my wife’s head.”
        That is an exact quote.  Not “I didn’t want a boom to hit my wife’s head.”   No.  John didn’t want to hear the sound.
        His wife was present and didn't seem to mind.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I am trading out two dry bags.  The 20 liter Seal Line Baja bag, which was my hypothermia/survival kit, will now become the storage bag for freeze dried meals.  And the Ascend 20 liter dry bag, which had held the meal packets, will become my hypothermia/survival kit.  The difference between the two is that the Seal Line bag is smooth on the outside while the Ascend bag has a nylon strap on the side which makes the perfect purchase point for ACR Firefly Plus strobe and flashlight.  Might as well have the safety gear all together.  Spartina, being a small boat, is also her own life boat and I expect to stay with her regardless of what happens.  But if I have to leave, I can grab this one bag and go.

Both ACR strobes are held in place with easily removed velcro straps.

While switching out the bags I did a count on my freeze dried meals.  There were a dozen, enough for the fall sail, but I may pick up another pouch of beef stroganoff, my favorite meal, for the trip.

I've also traded out my incandescent ACR C-Light, which I wore on my inflatable life vest/harness, for a ACR C-Strobe.  Virtually the same size and, no doubt, much more visible.  (I had the chance to talk with a Coast Guard helicopter pilot.  He told me that with their night vision goggles they could spot a burning match on the horizon several miles away.  I would like a little something more than a match to get their attention.) 

Here's one more photo of my sailing companions last weekend.  I'm not much of a social sailor, but I have to say it was a lot of fun to be on the water with Curt and Barry.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

a brief circumnavigation

Up before dawn, on the highway crossing the Elizabeth, James and York Rivers, countless creeks in between, farm fields, barns and churches, then the road bends left and the trees open up to a 1930s swing bridge across glassy Milford Haven.  Gwynn's Island comes earlier than expected.  Annie is tied to the small dock at the ramp, Barry is still on the road coming down from the mountains, Curt is nowhere to be seen.

Forty minutes later we are all aboard and a much too loud horn lets the entire island know we are coming through the bridge.  Around the point and into Hills Bay we raise Annie's sails, loose footed main and mizzen and jib.  A hesitant wind and we go nowhere fast.  On a peaceful cool summer Sunday morning no one complains.

Curt decides we should be moving and cranks up the outboard, heads for Jackson Creek and the Deltaville Maritime Museum.  We snake through narrow, winding passage up the creek to find the restored buy boat F.D. Crockett tied to the pier. 

And John England, the man behind the restoration of the Crockett, is heading off in a skiff but says he'll be back soon.  

And so we take a stroll around the museum grounds, familiar to Curt and Barry but all new to me.  Coming back down to the waterfront we find John aboard the Crockett and have a nice visit in the shade of the awning.

We wind our way back down the creek and head for Chesapeake Bay, the wind freshening as we go.  Barry and I take turns at the tiller, maybe I take more than my share of time but it's fun and interesting to sail a new boat.  The loose footed rig has a different feel and the sails are set with more "belly" than I am used to.  I keep wanting to reach up and pull the clew of the main aft, but we are making good speed out away from Gwynn's Island and Curt says the sails are set just right.  He should know after the many miles he has sailed in Florida, on the Sounds of North Carolina and on Chesapeake Bay.

Easy sailing, my favorite kind.  And we talk of boats and friends, trips we have made.  Our sailing lives have all intertwined in one way or another.  I first met Curt, he on his Annie and myself on Spartina, a few years ago on Swan Creek off of Pamlico Sound.  Baryy and I met at St. Michaels as we talked to our mutual friend Kevin.  Barry and Curt met somewhere on Tangier Sound on one of Kevin's spring floats.  Small boats, small world.  Curt talks about his maritime art and an upcoming show.  Barry, who seems to do it all - from design, photography, writing and video editing - tells us about the spring float on Tangier Sound.  We all have stories of moments we have enjoyed, and of other moments when we learned things the hard way.  It's all good out on the water.

We tack in towards the shallows of Gwynn's Island, then back out, working south along the eastern shore of the island.  Off long narrow Sandy Point Barry and Curt look at the charts and gps, trying to find the Hole in the Wall, the shoal-lined narrow southern entrance back into Milford Haven, dolphins keeping us company along the way.

Curt stands up at the main mast, looking for the markers he says but I think he enjoys the view and the wind in his face.  We spot the channel and zig-zag up the winding path, clearing the shoals with the wind on our stern.  Peaceful sailing back up Milford Haven and I mention I wish I had brought some oysters and crackers.  Curt directs me to a stowage area down below where I find chips and a tin of anchovies, Curt apologizing that they are not the anchovies wrapped around capers that I carry aboard Spartina.  The anchovies, salty and with a tangy bite, go down just fine with the cold cans of beer Curt pulls from a cooler.    

Back at the dock and I feel like I have left the world behind for much more than a day.  Sailing new water on the beautiful drascombe Annie with a couple of friends.  Thanks Curt and Barry, it was a treat.  My first sailing on the western shore of the Bay, it won't be my last.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Summertime.  Warm weather, warm water.  Jellyfish.
Hidden in the river in tiny polyp form, the river warms
and the medusa glides beneath the surface.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


smoker day, three bloggers on a boat

Up with the sun to get the salmon on the smoker.  We are
getting out on the town tonight, joining some friends for
a party.  Smoked salmon is easy, recipe can be found here.

But remind me next time to check on the price of
organic farm raised salmon before I volunteer to
bring a full filet to the party......

Oh well, it will be good.


"Ok, so there was an artist, a designer and a photographer 
on a small boat......."  Now I need the punch line.

Sailing tomorrow with friend Curt oh his wooden drascombe 
Thin Water Annie.  Barry will be along too.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

a loss

Sad news from Maria on the Eastern Shore.  The Chesapeake Bay Bugeye Charlotte E. Foster, sketched out on a brown shopping bag and built at a commune off the Choptank River in the 1970s, is gone.  She was up on the hard in a boatyard when tornado-like winds knocked her over and damaged her beyond repair.

I met Maria and her husband John through the Charlotte.  We spent an evening sailing together on Onancock Creek aboard Spartina, then rafted up to the Charlotte in failing light, a bottle of white wine shared in the darkness.  I slept aboard Spartina that night, waking before dawn to find a curious cat on board.  With a crisp wind I cast off to sail down creek before any stirrings at the homes along the along shore.

I hope to see Maria and John this fall on the eastern shore, maybe visit their home and look out back to where they had kept the Charlotte.  I might even sail up Onancock Creek on my way north and tie up at the dock.  But it won't be the same without the beautiful white hull and tall masts of the Charlotte E. Foster.

Monday, July 20, 2015

southern hospitality

I went out for a sail and found myself in the middle of a family reunion.  The fact that I was not part of the family did not seem to bother anyone.  And the food was a delight.

Hot with light winds.  There's more cloud cover and less wind forecast for the Elizabeth River so I head south to Elizabeth City, sailing away from the dock just as the bells of the downtown churches begin to ring.  A breeze, steady if not strong, carries me downriver.  Off of the old Machelhe Island, better known these days as the causeway, ospreys make their high pitched cries as they circle overhead.   We tack south across the river past Hospital Point and into Forbes Bay, slipping in and out of the bay a couple of times, enjoying the tall shady trees on shore, the laughter of children playing in the shade, and the hum of the cicadas that seems to surround us.

At a pier near an old house at the very back of the bay my friend Claughton waves me over.  I come alongside just to say hello but he says it's time for brunch and we needed to get up to the house.  At first I say thank you, but no, but he won't take that for an answer, telling me it was a family reunion and they had more food that they could eat.  I would only be helping them out by joining in.  Soon we are in the magnificent old house, the smaller part being the original and built in the early 1800s, the larger part added on before the civil war.  And there are people and laughter and dogs everywhere in the house, Claughton mentioning names as we walk from room to room, finally saying "they are all cousins, so just call them "cousin.""  He describes me to them as the builder of a wooden boat that I sail from here to Florida and back, and I'm saying he's exaggerating to smiles from the cousins who seem to confirm it is not the first time Claughton enhanced a story for entertainment purposes.  Claughton laughs, enjoying the exaggeration and pointing out it is a pretty boat.  And then the food comes out.  Smoked ham, shrimp and pasta, pastries and breads, heaping bowls of scrambled eggs and though I settled for a bottle of water there was champagne and mimosas to be had.  

They are a wonderful group of people, all very kind to make me feel welcome on a hot, southern Sunday morning.  What a treat.

Claughton walks me back down to Spartina and I thank him for his hospitality, telling him I'll come back when things are quieter, and he should join me for a sail.

Winds are lighter in the afternoon, cats paws walking down the river.  I keep thinking that when the next breeze ends I'll head to the dock, but find myself enjoying the peaceful stillness of a breathless summer moment, and then the next breeze comes again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

a three day window

Assuming a north wind in mid-September, the tide charts tell me I have a three day window to sail from Chincoteague to Wachapreague Inlet on the way down the sea side of the eastern shore.

The plan would be to launch out of Chincoteague's Harbor of Refuge midday and sail the short distance to Tom's Cove, the same place where Washington "Tut" Tuttle anchored for the night.

Low tides for Chincoteague Inlet for three days in mid-September are between first light and just after 8:00 a.m.  We could catch the last of the outgoing tide to get on the ocean and sail south the 25 miles or so off the barrier islands of the eastern shore.  With a decent wind it should be easy to catch the last of the flood tide at Wachapreague Inlet.

That is if we have a north wind.  If not, we'll be sailing north from Cape Charles.

Monday, July 13, 2015

the weekend

A surprise visit from the oldest daughter, who help build
and was for years a regular crew member on Spartina, sailing
with a near perfect wind out of the north.

Looking like the Black Pearl and a distant traveler,
Pacifique was really from just up the Bay in Deltaville.

The cigarette boats were out and about, costing obscene
amounts of money, burning obscene amounts of fuel and making 
obscenely loud noises, each boat seemingly with a 
bikini'd blonde on board.

And a picture from last week came from the 
captain of the American Rover.  How nice.

I hope you had a good weekend too.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Lugworm Chronicles

"That first morning after sleeping on the beach it was strange awakening to the brilliance of the white sandy bay, the unbelievably blue cloudless sky, and behind us the shimmering green waves of the olives climbing the hill, their leaves chattering in the early wind."

I have heard of people buying books based on the first page test:  If that first page grabs you, buy the book.  In this case, the book, The Lugworm Chronicles, passed the first paragraph test.  I ordered it through Amazon from a book dealer in Florida.

The book is a recently published compilation of three narratives by Ken Duxbury as he and his wife sailed a Drascombe Lugger in the 1970s.  The voyages are Lugworm on the Loose, exploring the Greek islands; Lugworm Homeward Bound, the sail back to England; and Lugworm Island Hopping, sailing the Scilly Islands and Hebrides.

Simple cruising in an open boat.  My kind of book.  For those of you who would like to give it the first paragraph, first page or even first couple of chapters test, have a look here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

the fall trip

The first day of summer was just over two weeks ago.  Why is it, with passing of the Fourth of July, that summer seems like it is half over?  It is time to start thinking about the fall trip.

More is known about where the sail ends than where it begins.  St. Michaels and the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival is the destination.  Ideally I would like to start in Chincoteague, sail outside to Wachapreague Inlet, continue south inside the barrier islands to Cape Charles and then head north on the Bay, visiting the islands of Tangier Sound on the way to St. Michaels.  To do this I would need the right tides - a morning tide leaving Chincoteague and an afternoon tide coming into Wachapreague Inlet - and wind out of the north.  I can get predictions on tides, but won't know about the wind until the day or two before the start of the trip.  

Should I not find the right wind I'll start out of Cape Charles and just sail north, maybe all the way to the top of the Bay, then turn back towards St. Michaels.  There are a couple of rivers north on the Bay, the Sassafras and the Bohemia, that I think would be worth exploring.

In either case I'll need a ride back to the jeep and trailer, which will be in Chincoteague or Cape Charles.  With so many people at the small craft festival I'm sure there will be somebody heading south after the event.  I may just hang a cardboard sign on Spartina's bow sprit saying "Will buy gas and beer for a ride to Va."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

three videos, Frogmore stew (no frogs or stew involved)

First, let's eat.  

July 4 dinner was Frogmore stew, which isn't really a stew but a low-country boil of shrimp, sausage and corn.  The recipe came from a New York Times story looking at the variations of seafood boils/bakes/steamers from along the coast.  The article compares local traditions of outdoor summer seafood meals.  For example, on Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are steamed, not boiled, locals saying steaming keeps the meat sweet and solid.  On the gulf coast the crabs are boiled, not steamed as steaming, in their view, dries out the meat.  Boils on the barrier islands of South Carolina use spice to add tanginess, boils in New Orleans use a lot of spice to add heat.  Onions and potatoes are often left out of low country recipes, the onions making the shrimp too slippery to grasp, starch from the potatoes making the shrimp hard to peel.  Yet onions and potatoes are common in the north east with clam bakes and lobster boils.  

Boiled, steamed, bakes, onions, potatoes, clams, crabs, shrimp, lobster and all sounds good to me.  

The Frogmore stew, a simple recipe of four ingredients and 10 minutes of cooking, was excellent. 


And three sailing videos

Bufflehead, the three log canoe built at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, goes for a sail.  My daughter and I saw the two-masted canoe, the first to be built on the bay in 35 years during our May visit.  At that time she had not sailed.  Take a look here.  Just beautiful.

And from Barry, a video from the spring float to Smith Island.  He has four videos of the trip coming to his site.  Enjoy them all.  This one, with Kevin and the Navigator Slip Jig, can be seen here.  The video gives a very nice feel of sailing the channels that connect the villages on the marshy island.  Makes me want to head back there right now.

I can't compete with the beauty of a three log canoe or Barry's fine editing, but here is a video, just rough cuts really, from my sail on Spartina yesterday, a day with a breeze worthy of a reef in the main.  (I've always heard people say there is no wind on Chesapeake Bay in July and August.  I beg to differ.)  You'll notice that Speedwell of Hong Kong is still anchored, along with her nice little dinghy, in Craford Bay.  It was a very nice day on the water.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

busy water

Seen from a distance, the orange yellow color gave her away as an ocean cruiser.  Viewed closer, two stainless steel plates extending aft from the hull at the transom - bridle brackets for a Jordan drogue - seemed to confirm it.  I sailed past the stern and asked the woman aboard if it was a junk rig.  She said yes, and I said very nice boat.  She pointed at Spartina and smiled in replay.

On the second pass off the stern I asked if she had really sailed all the way from Hong Kong.  She did not hear my question, she was too busy asking why I sailed on such "busy water," then answering her own herself with "I suppose you get used to it."  I had hoped to talk to her more, but she climbed in her dinghy and rowed to shore, finding I imagine some air conditioning and maybe a good wifi signal in Old Towne Portsmouth.  

This morning on the internet I realized I had misread the boat's name.  I had thought she was called "Speedwell" and had sailed from Hong Kong.  Now I know that the modified Vertue, 25' 4" l.o.a., a teak hull built in 1952, is called "Speedwell of Hong Kong" and is sailed by a woman named Shirley out of South Africa.  Shirley cast off in March of 2002 and seems to have been sailing the Atlantic, north and south, ever since.  

Brief meetings with people like Shirley, people who look at life and live their lives in a different way, is one of the reasons I sail this "busy water."

It was a colorful day on the water with "Speedwell of Hong Kong" and all eight of the Harbor 20s, with their bright sails, from Sail Nauticus out on the water.  I saw a few friends on the boats, otherwise filled with summer campers.  Wouldn't that be a nice way to spend summer camp?  The breeze was strong and steady, the air surprisingly dry and cool for the first day of July.  And it was a busy harbor.  At one time I counted the nine sailboats from Nauticus, six barges and four tugs.  You get used to it.

Today I upgraded the software on my GoPro 3+, something more complicated than I expected from a company who has made the camera so simple to use.  I found I enjoy have the camera on board for the occasional photo, something I enjoy.  I expect I will use it quite a bit during this fall's cruise.  And speaking of the cruise, I received a dry compression sack from Outdoors Research, the same company that makes the bivy I use on Spartina.  I had heard of dry sacks and I had heard of compression sacks, but not a dry compression sack until I came across this one.  It should be perfect for the sleeping bag.