Saturday, April 30, 2016

halfway, gear check

Webb appears to be about halfway to Bundaberg with wind on the beam or slightly aft of beam.  If wind holds he might get to Australia a day or so before he expected.

Cloudy and cool here, with some mist.  I'm spending part of the day checking gear.  Doing a SPOT test I found that some of my AA lithium batteries, right out of the box, are bad.  Maybe too long on the shelf.  And I also found that I need to order new rite in the rain notebooks, I had used up my stash.  One anchor light, a $10 camp light form WalMart, has died.  I'll pick up a new one when I go to get a new set of flares, my current set expiring in a few weeks.   The cook kit is in good shape, sleeping gear - bivy, sleeping bag, pad and inflatable pillow - are ready to go.

Monday, April 25, 2016

a guest, a departure like a shot from a cannon

I should not call her a guest, she is, along with her sister, a co-builder and part of the original crew of Spartina.  We sailed together through the high school years and then on visits home from college.  For her to be on board does not happen as often as it once did, but it is always a treat.  Out on the river we found a cool gusty breeze, double reefed and then reefed, with plenty of sunshine.  And we found a lot of memories too.

Webb cast off on schedule today, Monday here, Tuesday in New Zealand.  The weather seems to be cooperating for his sail to Australia.  Should you want to follow along his yellow brick tack can be found here.

From an email.....

"While I don't have confidence in weather forecasts more than 48 hours out, I hope they have it right this time.  Tuesday should have 15 to 20 knots from the south.  I'm going north for 70 or 80 miles to clear North Cape and then northwest.  With that wind GANNET will leave New Zealand as though she were shot from a cannon.  The next four days look good, too.  But, of course, all that can change."

Fair winds, Webb.

from a friend

A cell phone photo from a friend yesterday, he and his wife
biking at Town Point Park while I sailed near Hospital Point.

How nice.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

less than a month, and counting (literally)

Less than a month away from the spring sail and I'm sorting through gear.  A survey of batteries, mainly AA lithiums, showed I had almost 30 which is enough for the gps (which seems to eat batteries for breakfast).

As for the gps itself, a Garmin GPSmap 62s, I went into the main menu track manager and deleted all the stored and archived tracks, some dating back a few years.  No need to take up all that storage.  Plus I went through all the pages to make sure all the data boxes had the correct settings (on the start of my last sail I found the speed in knots and distances in nautical miles, I prefer miles and mph).

And a survey of the food shows I've got plenty on hand.  I picked up the nuts - peanuts, cashews and almonds - yesterday.  In the next week or two I'll get the dried fruit.

Webb Chiles, artist, sailor, author and connoisseur of freeze dried meals, recently had a journal entry with his suggestions for slight adjustments to cooking instructions to get the best results.  His ideas are copied below.  I will follow the first, third and fourth instructions, but not third as I do not cook while sailing and an anchored Spartina is steady enough to pour boiling water, nor the fifth because I do not carry wine on board.

        Five cooking tips from the JetBoil of Chef Webb.
        Add a little more water than called for.  With freeze dry food, too much is far better than too little.
        Do not try to pour boiling water into the pouch at sea.  The mouth is too narrow.  You will pour boiling water on yourself and the cabin sole.  Put the contents of the pouch into something like the big plastic measuring cup I eat from and pour the water into it and then cover with something, even a paper towel will do.
        After you add the water, stir the ingredients well and be sure all are wet.
        Let the meals steep a couple of minutes longer than the stated time.
        If appropriate, and it almost always is, add a little wine to the dry ingredients before boiling the water.

Friday, April 22, 2016


On the morning walk I stopped on the the upper deck of the cruise terminal to look out over the river. Few snowbirds in sight, probably because of the rainy March and wind, cold April.  They should be coming soon up the southern branch.

The patio at the cruise terminal, when a ship is not in, is public space.  Very few people seem to know this, or at least very few people use this place with a pleasant view.  I may go have lunch there today.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I'll take that burger medium-rare and, uh, compromised

It was a breezy, chilly double-reefed kind of morning on the river.  I took my time before casting off, looking at the boom tent and imagining minor changes I might make.  It would work fine as is, but I think there is a little room for improvement.

I've enjoyed sailing with the small fabric tell-tales I've put on the shrouds, finding the they help me "see" the wind a little bit better.  The wind was gusting into the 20's where we made 6.2 mph, Spartina moving at 5.2 in the lulls and over 4 in the wind shadow of the downtown buildings.

For lunch I decided to try a new burger and beer joint a block off the waterfront.  Nice interior of heavy dark wooden beams, a huge selection of beers (I ordered iced-tea, which they had only "sweetened" as is the southern tradition), and a list of burgers heavily seasoned with hot peppers.  I told the waitress that though it might sound boring, I would settle for a plain burger with mayo, lettuce and tomato.  She responded that "not only do we not serve burgers with tomato, there are no tomatoes on the premises.  The acid in tomatoes compromises the burgers."  I responded the only way I could:  "Seriously?"  Yes, she was serious.  I glanced down at the menu to see the "special" burger for the day was being served with two glazed doughnuts as a bun, available with a side of fried oreos instead of french fries.  Yes, very glad to see they are not compromising anything.  I asked that my sweetened iced tea put in a "go" cup and walked to the sub shop.  

Snowbirds haven been late to arrive this spring, probably because of the rainy March and cold, windy April.  The Pride of Baltimore II was at Ocean Marine, a visit they make every year or two, routine hull maintenance before heading to Baltimore for the summer season.  Spring sail is about six weeks away, time to start counting batteries, notebooks, etc.

Two great days on the water.  A nice little break.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I've never really done this kind of thing before

It was awkward, the first meeting.  Furtive glances that avoided direct eye contact.  I wasn't sure it was her.  She didn't look very much like her online photograph, which was made in shadowy, vague lighting.  Older than I had expected, but a nice smile.  I told her I had never done this sort of thing before.  She said don't worry.  We talked about tips, I wasn't sure how much.  I gave her a number.  She smiled and said "I love you."  

Yes, my first ride with Uber.

With two days of fine weather I left Spartina down at the dock in the basin, catching the Uber ride back to my jeep and trailer at the ramp.  I'll drive back there tomorrow morning, take another Uber back to the boat.  Clear skies, about 60 and wind in the teens maybe gust to 20 out of the NE.  Reefed for a while, then full main.  Then anchored for a pleasant nap.  Then more sailing before tying up.  

For the first time I put the new boom tent on from within the boat, just as I would do when cruising.  It was easy.  Less than 10 minutes to do it, maybe closer to five.  Still adjusting lines and purchase points, might have the canvas ladies add another grommet or two on the fly.  But very happy overall.  Back at the dock tomorrow I'll bring down the tent and fold it up from inside the boat.  Should work fine.  

nap time

Thursday, April 14, 2016

a spring coat

Spartina's battered rub rais and bow sprit received their last spring coat of varnish today, a day that began with a frost and is now warming with howling winds.  Forecast for this weekend shows 15 mph wind and sunny Saturday, 18 mph wind (and according to SailFlow) gusts up to 27 on Sunday.  I will be out at least one if not both days.

Paid my annual dues to Boat US, well worth it in my opinion.  I've used their coverage twice, both times trailer issues and both times the tow truck cost would have exceeded the annual membership fee so I came out ahead.

Checked my flares to find they will expire during the spring sail.   I'll pick up another pack at Walmart.  Also bought a box of triscuits, my cracker of choices, and a box of ziplock snack bags for the spring sail.  Most of the food is in hand, save for dried fruits and nuts which I'll pick up in early May.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

the mermaid in the boatyard

Fishing head boat being refitted at Cobb's Marina
 before heading south to Miami.  Once called the 
Miss Montauk, now the Alexandra Michelle.
  The mermaid is Alexandra.  Very cool.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

new lease on life

The Schooner Virginia, which has had a place - at times a tenuous place - on the Norfolk waterfront has gotten a new lease on life.  Launched in 2005, the replica schooner was tied to the dock with the crew laid off during the economic downturn in 2008.  A few years later she was revived with a new business plan, though one that struggled in a difficult economy.  In 2015 she was shut down again and listed for sale.

I am told that tonight the Norfolk city council will vote to accept a grant from the state to purchase the Virginia from the non-profit organization that built here.  The ship will belong to Nauticus, the maritime center on the Norfolk waterfront.  

I watched the schooner being built, I have sailed aboard her on two schooner races down the bay and I've been a guest aboard her during the Downrigging Festival in Chestertown.  I have waved goodbye as she cast off her lines for Bermuda, I have been there at the dock to greet her when she returned from trips up and down the coast.  But mostly I have enjoyed sailing Spartina near her sleek black hull and towering masts.  She is a beautiful ship.  She belongs on the Norfolk waterfront.

Virginia is up the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River now, most likely in need of some maintenance.  I hope it is not too long before she is returned to the downtown waterfront.  

From today's story in the paper....

The schooner Virginia, a 122-foot sailing vessel meant to serve as the flagship of the commonwealth, is set to have a permanent home in Norfolk.
Using a $1 million state grant, the Nauticus Foundation plans to buy the ship and use it to teach underprivileged kids how to sail. The Virginia would be docked near the battleship USS Wisconsin, and the public would be able to tour it for free.
The City Council will vote tonight on a plan to accept the state grant and give it to the Nauticus Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the city-run Nauticus center.

Welcome back, Virginia.

Monday, April 11, 2016

two boats and a book

I've recently received emails from two Pathfinder builders and I've asked permission to share their beautiful work here.

The most distant builder is Lorenzo who lives in France on the Mediterranean coast.  His Pathfinder, above, which recently saw the light of day, includes the use of teak and mahogany.  Look at those decks!  Just beautiful work, I admire and envy his skills.  Read more about the boat here.  

Lorenzo tells me he will soon be sailing the Pathfinder in the Venice Lagoon raid, an event that happens every two years.  In the past he has asked me for a measurement or two from Spartina, all I've asked in return are some photographs of the Pathfinder on the water in Venice.  He tells me he will comply with my request, and further suggested we join him for the next Venice raid in 2018.  Might be fun.

A little bit closer to home, Tom, also known as Deke, is building this beautiful Pathfinder in Marathon on the Florida Keys.  Again, just beautiful work.  I really like that nice stem.  He plans to sail it in the Keys and possibly on an Everglades Challenge.

Tom is rigging his Pathfinder as a balanced lug yawl and is experimenting with the main in the photograph below.  You can follow the build here.

Tom was also kind enough to extend an invitation.  Yes, the Florida Keys in a Pathfinder would be fun.  Maybe I will sail from here to there someday.

I am always amazed at the patience and woodworking skills of people like Lorenzo and Tom.  I built a boat, but I am not a boat builder.  These guys are.  Well done.  I look forward to seeing photographs of these Pathfinders under sail.


Over the weekend The Pilgrim and I made a trip to Richmond where we visited our artist friends Curt and Eleanor.  It was a treat.  A fine lunch in a neighborhood restaurant, fun conversation and a tour of each of their studios.  

Curt has appeared on this blog a few times with his drascombe Thin Water Annie.  I've had the pleasure of sailing with him in both North Carolina and near Gwynn's Island on Chesapeake Bay.  On this visit Curt told me he had a book for me to read, loaning me his copy of River of Lakes, A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River.   A book about a journey on a small boat, in this case a kayak, is my kind of journey, my kind of book.  I can't wait to read it.  Thanks, Curt.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

into the mystic

Twenty five degrees and a hard, late season frost this morning.  Crystal skies.  A light breeze.

I arrived to find a crabber launching a skiff covered with crab pots.  Early in the season crabbing is notoriously slow with the water still cold, but with this mild winter the crabber says he pulled 25 jimmies out of his pots on his last run.   I'm gonna be rich, he says with a smile. 

Weeks since my last sail I rig Spartina like it was the first sail of the year, fumbling with knots, forgetting to pull the cover off the mizzen before stepping the main, backing down the ramp without dock lines on the cleats.  What was I thinking.  Or why wasn't I thinking.

Motoring downriver I duck into Ocean Marine to take a look at Mystic, a majestic charter boat maybe headed north to New England for the season.   It reminds me of Van Morrison's Into the Mystic, and I spend the morning sailing in a steady chilled breeze listening to Van Morrison's voice.  No pandora, no iTunes, no speakers, just the music playing in my mind.

Tied up in the basin I put the new boom tent in place.  It takes a while and a few adjustments, but it is a better set than the one I got rigging in the driveway.  I might change out some line, add a grommet, go up a size on the bungee cord, maybe change out a clip or two.  But it is good to go now, any tweaking will just make it easier to rig.

The breeze kicks up in the mid-20's in the afternoon, gusting to 30.  Reefed, then double reefed, good practice for the spring cruise.  Snow birds pass through, mostly power boats but also the very fine junk rigged Kilda out of Halifax.  A woman on board bundled in a jacket and cap waves, photographs Spartina, and I photograph Kilda.

A fine day on the water.

april fool

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

i love ya, tomorrow

Rarely do I quote musicals but in this case it is appropriate.
Sunday's east coast wind storm, as I have heard it described,
put an end to my sailing plans.  But tomorrow, tomorrow.
No work, a pleasant forecast with sunshine and a nice breeze.
Tomorrow!  Tomorrow!  I love ya, tomorrow!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


MicroTom has finished the Florida Ultimate Challenge in fine form.  I don't have the details but no doubt they will be emerging on his FaceBook page.  Well done.  If you visit his page be sure to check out all the great videos.

And while on the topic of videos, look at Team Scout video front the first day on the water competing with the Mike's Boat.  

EC 2016 Day 1. Scout sailing.
More video and a write-up to come. I promise!
Posted by Team Scout - Watertribe Everglades Challenge 2016 on Monday, March 28, 2016