Saturday, May 19, 2018

Onancock Creek

I received the nice photograph above from Rudy and Jill Sechez.  We were both leaving Onancock that morning.  I was headed for Crisfield and the ramp.  They were bound for Pocomoke on their self-designed, self-built sail assisted trawler BRINEY BUG, below.  Very nice folks and I hope to catch up with them later this summer when they pass through Norfolk.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

a few photographs

Back earlier than expected.  Forecast called for three more days of rain showers or rain showers and thunderstorms.  I can sail in the rain but I want a little light - sunlight - at the end of the tunnel and that wasn't going to happen.  Six days of good sailing, interesting weather, very nice and kind people. Good to be back on Tangier Sound, it has been a while.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Enjoying Onancock this afternoon, a nice little eastern shore town with old homes, wide porches, magnolias and honeysuckle vines. Heading north to Pocomoke Sound tomorrow.

have you ever wanted to kiss your anchor?

Line of thunderstorms last night, moving at 35 to 45 mph, winds 45 to 70. We were anchored behind the sand spit at the southern end of Tangier. Storms from 9 pm to 1 am. GPS track this morning was a circle around the anchor as we moved with each storm. The anchor did not move an inch. Screen shot from Barry.

this morning

on the way from Tangier Island to Onancock.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


My favorite crab cake spot on Smith Island is closed, the woman at the docks tells me. So I go to the visitor center for a cold bottle of water. The lady there loans me her bike so I can ride around the village. As I get back the woman from the docks is there with toasted bread, roast beef, salad, cantaloupe, bottle of water, a lemon, a lime and a slice of Smith Island nine layer cake.

It was a finer lunch than any crab cake I might have bought.

nothing lasts forever

Arrived in Ewell to find Ruke's is closed for good. They had the best crab cakes on the bay. Made with love, said the woman who told me about it. I might hang around Smith Island and try the Drum Point Market in Tylerton tomorrow. I recall some good crab cakes there.

Friday, May 11, 2018

mornings like this

Mornings like this, with a fresh breeze, clear skies and the water wide open ahead, remind me why I sail.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

checklist, weather, tracking map

The checklist is checked, boat loaded and jeep packed.  I think we (we being SPARTINA and myself) are ready to go.

The weather forecast seems to be improving.  Over the first four or five days of the trip there should be wind from a variety of directions and speeds from 5 to 20 mph.  Some sunshine, some clouds, not much in the of rain.

Here's the tracking map.  Or you can copy and paste the url below.  It should go live mid-morning tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

about that boat from Gibraltar

I mentioned in my post about sailing last Thursday evening that I came across a boat anchored in Craford Bay from Gibraltar.  This was a first for me and it caught my attention.  We shared just a brief shouted greeting on that breezy evening, and I figured that was that.

Saturday we cross paths again on the water, Steffan and Jo from RADIANT SPIRIT, headed into the docks on their dinghy.  Then Steffan joins me on SPARTINA for a sail just as the wind fills in around noon (photo below by Jo).  And the next day the three of us go to the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop annual open house - a really fun affair promoting a great program for kids.  This morning we meet for a cup of tea and to say goodbye.  Soon I'm headed for the cruise on Tangier Sound and they will be on there way up the western shore of the Bay. 

I must lament once again my failed plan to build a boat and get away from everyone.  Instead I continue to meet fine and interesting people on the water, many of them who go on to become my best and truest friends.  Go figure.

The forecast as of now:  Sunny to start the trip and then some moisture moving in.  Steady winds and a little bit of everything from rain to shine the following week.  I can't wait.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

packing for the spring trip

Packing for the spring trip on Tangier Sound.
Tracking map should go live Friday.

Soft shell crabs on Tangier,
crab cakes on Smith Island,
and a lot of good sailing.

Thursday, May 3, 2018


A breezy double-reefed sail this evening.  About a dozen snow birds in Craford Bay.  Boats from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and (a first for me) Gibraltar.  Is there anything better that a sunset sail with Buena Vista Social Club on the blue tooth speaker?

Just before sunset the wind dropped and full sail.  A fine way to end the day.  Photo at the top from friends on the tall ship American Rover.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

sunset sail

with a reef tucked in....


As the osprey hovers over a next on Currituck Sound, a high pressure system hovers over the Atlantic about 500 miles east of South Carolina.  That is bringing us day after day of warm temperatures and southwest winds.  Summer has arrived.  (Could it be that  spring arrived Saturday and departed Sunday?)  

I have left SPARTINA in a slip on the river.  A beautiful sail yesterday evening, hopefully another one this afternoon as soon as I sneak out of work.  And maybe again tomorrow evening.

Currituck Sound

Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Is that a Pathfinder?"

It was almost 80 degrees yesterday.  Low 50s this morning.  I liked yesterday better.

Saturday was a pleasant sail.  Winds at time were light, filling in now and then.  Almost no clouds in the sky.  A NATO parade and festival on the waterfront, I could hear the singing from the stages and marching bands coming around Waterside Drive from before 9 a.m. until a little after noon.  Children waved from the waterfront, two military officers wearing kepis applauded as SPARTINA sailed by.

A man came down to the dock as I tied up for the evening to ask if the boat was a Pathfinder.  The exact same thing happened a week ago at the same dock - "Is that a Pathfinder?"  The question surprises me.  "Is that a Drascombe?" is the more common question.

More and more snowbirds are coming through, including EMMA, from Hamburg, Germany, above, which I believe to be a SWAN 60.

It is hard to sail when it is 50 degrees and gusty, particularly after a warm and pleasant sail the day before.  I could not have sailed today anyway - a cruise ship came into the terminal and blocked access to the basin where I leave SPARTINA.  I knew this would happen and planned to leave the boat there in the water while I did some trailer maintenance at home.

SPARTINA will be on the river all week.  I hope to sneak out for an evening sail or two, or maybe three, after work.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Beaufort, then and now

I found a photograph at my new favorite website that really touched my heart.  It is a photograph taken on the Beaufort, NC waterfront just a matter of feet where I dock SPARTINA when passing through town.  The boat in the foreground is the Nettie B. Smith, a 35-foot-long boat built for local freight hauling.  Behind the boats - there are three there including a sharpie, a kunner (the small dinghy in the foreground) and the Nettie - is the intersection of Front and Turner Streets.  You will see that same intersection in the satellite image below, the X marking the site where the old photograph seems to have been taken and the O marking the floating dock where the dock hands typically direct SPARTINA.  Just being able to see the history there makes me smile.  If you are interested in Mid-Atlantic maritime history it is worth reading the entire entry.  Below is the description of the freight being hauled by the boats, written by Michael B. Alford and David Cecelski.

"One of the boat’s hands is unloading split firewood, undoubtedly cut somewhere close by. A pair of high-wheeled drays pulled by mules wait to carry the firewood into town. Evidently the draymen are quite confident that unloading cargo is not their job. Barrels of naptha also lay on the shore.
The naptha— possibly just crude oil, but more likely a light petroleum distillate like kerosene or one that was even lighter—of course was not distilled anywhere near Beaufort.
The destination of the naphtha is anyone’s guess. Locals commonly used kerosene lamps in their homes, but in this quantity the oil might have had an industrial use.  Perhaps they are bound for a local menhaden factory, where heavy presses and furnaces turned the fish into fertilizer and oil.
Another, rather more romantic possibility, is that the Nettie B. Smith’s master intends to ferry the naphtha barrels to the Cape Lookout Light."

My good friend Barry - boatbuilder, photographer, videographer, writer and connoisseur of oysters - asked me if I had ever heard about the web page.  I had not, but I knew well of David Cecelski, the man behind the collection of new writings, essays and observations about life on the North Carolina coast.  I had read two of his books, The Waterman's Song, Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina, and the more personal A Historian's Coast, Adventures in the Tidewater Past.

Cecelski's site looks at the social, racial, economic and environmental history of the sounds, creeks and rivers of North Carolina.  That may sound a little on the dry side but it is not.  He weaves together rich stories of the coast, bringing historical characters to life and putting them into the context of the times.  Cecelski's books have changed the way I look at the shore as I sail by.  I see thriving communities that are no longer there, hard working fisherman and boat builders now long gone.  It is strange and sad how along the marshy shore villages and towns disappear, quickly pulled back into the bog and covered by vines.  Those places, people and lifestyles may be gone but I thank David Cecelski for keeping them alive.

Monday, April 23, 2018


Two days of sailing.  Light winds, strong winds, no wind.  Sunshine, clouds.  

Glassy calm in the morning.  A cormorant breaks the surface, a striped bass in its beak.  The fish, surprisingly large, tries to wriggle free.  The bird shakes its head, leans back and swallows, the shape of the fish seen sliding down the bird's throat.

Midday the wind builds, as does the overcast.  Tired, chilled by the wind, I drop the main and jib, set out the anchor, lean back and put my hat over my face.  Sleep.  The boat rocks as tugs pass by in the channel.

An osprey sits on a crooked nest on a crooked post near shore, a chick no more than a month old next to the large bird.

A pipe band walks in a line across the park, five yards between each member.  Casually dressed, it must be a rehearsal.  The sound of the bagpipes carries across the water.

Breaking down the boom tent at the dock a man walks by.  Dressed in a suit and carrying a brief case, he stops and turns towards SPARTINA.  He watches for a minute, says nothing, turns and walks away.

A gusty southeast wind heading up Scuffletown Creek to the ramp.  No other trailers in the parking lot.  Blue sky.  Sunburn.  Spring.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

dinner, green

Steamer night at the household.  A week ago a neighbor boiled up 120 pounds of crawfish shipped live from Louisiana.  He realized he had bought way too much for his party.  I got three texts asking for help.  So I showed up and did my best, ate as much as I could.  He sent me home with several pounds more, which I froze and then enjoyed tonight.  I like to be a good neighbor, helping out anyway I can.

Green means "go."  A good forecast with temperatures in the 60s, a few clouds and some sunshine, and a decent breeze.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

downrigging memory

I just came across this photograph yesterday, don't think I had ever seen it before.  It is from the Downrigging Festival in Chestertown, Md, in 2013.  I haven't been to the downrigging in a few years now, I enjoyed it (when the weather was nice, which it isn't often in early November).  The tall ships in the background, from left to right, are Lady Maryland (distinctive pink and green hull), the very bow, with yellow stripe, of the Pride of Baltimore II (now on hard financial times), the Virginia (now owned by the city of Norfolk), The Sultana and Kalmar Nyckel.  They are all great boats and it is a joy to sail alongside of them.  I'm glad to have this memory for the scrapbook.

Monday, April 16, 2018

check out my bottom (paint)

Two days of work.  The first to figure out how to lift SPARTINA slightly off her trailer, tape then sand below the waterline.  Then two some final sanding, one coat of bottom paint, three-plus hours of drying and then a second coat of paint.  There are a few small areas near the rollers and supports that I could not get to.  I'll take care of them tomorrow.  I used West Marine's Bottom Shield which they describe as a hybrid that combines a hard surface that self-polishes like an ablative.  We'll see.  About $60 for the paint, probably another $60 for the brushes, rollers, tape, gloves, etc.  This summer I'll feel much better about leaving SPARTINA on the river for a week at a time, giving me the chances to sail before and after work.  Sanding was the worst, painting was pretty easy.  Glad I got it done.