Thursday, November 15, 2018

day nine - a scone for breakfast, lamb risotto for dinner

Anchor up at 7:15.  The two cruising sailboats are gone.  Sun breaking through the light overcast.  I motor over to the park wharf and tie up, walking about three blocks of the brick-covered sidewalks to the Ever Grain Bread Company, an apricot ginger scone and glass of unsweetened iced tea for a pleasant breakfast.  I read the newspaper and check in with the family.

Cast off at 8:15, under power, four small skiffs setting out lines of crab pots on the river.  Windless and working against an incoming tide.

Sails up 9:30 with a light breeze, cool and grey and birds making a racket in the marsh.  Just over a knot off the mouth of Broad Creek, Northwest Point at 10:00 and making a little better speed.  But on a beautiful morning what is the rush?  I hear the high-pitched whistle of an osprey long before I see it, finally tracking it down to a nest hidden deep in the branches of a tree on the point.  Jibe at the point, still under  2 kts. 

Under power at 11:00, Comegy's Bight at noon.  A light breeze arrives, sails up and trolling for striper.  Bring in a small one and release it.  Nichols Point at 1:30, light breeze that comes and goes.  By 3:00 rounding the point into Langford Creek, two sailboats anchored in the lee of narrow, wooded Cacaway Island.

As I look about for an anchorage the breeze fills in.  Why anchor when we can have a nice afternoon sail?  I tack back and forth on the calm water, listening to sports radio and just enjoying the afternoon.  I troll a bit but not too seriously, bringing in the line and sailing some more.

Anchor down 4:55.  Wild mushrooms and lamb risotto for dinner.  A calm evening as the shade creeps out from the trees on shore.  Life is good.

Monday, November 12, 2018

six degrees of sailing

It was 44 degrees when I pulled into the ramp at Elizabeth City yesterday morning, and blowing a bit more than forecast.  I thought about tucking in a reef but decided to see how it felt with all sails up.

How did it feel?  Spectacular!  From the town's waterfront to Forbes Bay and Cobbs Point, I spent the entire day riding the breeze.  Always appreciative of my Ice Breaker thermals, they kept me warm and comfortable.

I was even treated to a small regatta from the local yacht club.  Plus a few snowbirds came through by the way of the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Days don't get much better than this.  Late afternoon as I began the drive home I noticed the temperature had soared to 50 degrees.  How nice!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

day eight - hard hat required

Cool, peaceful night.  Sail off anchor 7:25, sitting motionless is SPARTINA and making less than I kt in a ghost of a breeze.  Motor sailing by 8:00, lose a small striper on the trolling line.   Wind arrives just after 9:00.

Tacking across the mouth of the Corsica catch and release a small striper.  Blue skies and close-hauled up the Chester River at 10:30 just off the marsh at Spaniard Point.  Making 5 kts near Deep Point, just wonderful sailing, an old white house tucked back in the trees, a dog barking at the point.

I set the solar panel on the foredeck to charge batteries and phone.

It's a peaceful, winding river with little traffic.  Farms port and starboard.  A group of kayaks paddle along the western shore.  Sailing up near the eastern shore I listen to the birds in the marsh.  At noon playing the shifting breeze and working against the ebb tide, making 1.5 to 2.5.  Motorsailing at Shell Point.  The wind comes and goes, I sail when I can and motor when I can't.  

Sails down at Northwest Point, motoring past Newmans Wharf.  There's a crowd on the beach at Ralph's Wharf and I think about tying up for a burger at the beach grill made around the old deadrise there, but it is too early.  Across the river small skiffs run up and down lines of crab pots hoping to bring home enough crabs for dinner.  I continue on to Chestertown to find the waterfront to be a construction zone.  A couple tugboats and barges with cranes, and warning signs to stay off the not-yet-finished docks.  I tie up to the pilings at a nearby park and walk to the Fish Whistle for a late lunch/early dinner, then take a walk through the old brick downtown.  

We push off from the pilings and anchor out in the river near two large cruising boats.  I can smell the steaks grilling on the nearest.   A couple kayaks by to say hello, asking if I needed anything.  I tell them thanks, but no, I'm fine.  Boom tent up, I slip into the bivy listening to the dj's music for a wedding reception on the waterfront.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

day seven - at the red house turn right

There is a hole in the ceiling and through it I can see a bit of blue. Otherwise nothing but grey.  Heavy rains that came with howling winds overnight.  A comfortable, warm sleep in the bivy.

Anchor up at 7:15 and under power to get through the tide rushing through the tiny inlet.  Full sail and 4.2 kts.  Crossing the shipping channel that comes in by the beach at Tolchester, no traffic in sight.  

Further south we cross the channel again, wind aft of stbd beam, 5 kts and bouncing in the rough water.

Making over 5 kts the sun reaches through the broken overcast.  Making 5.5 and then 6 in the gusts.

Swan Point at 9:20 and we turn southeast towards Rock Hall, wing and wing.  Quiet in harbor, sunny and warm.  I tie up to the dock at the boat ramp.  In the state of Maryland all boat ramps are required to have porta potties and I need to empty out my holding tank.  Just across the way from the ramp is the Harbor Shack, a nice little spot the waterfront.  I drop in to the unopened restaurant to find a young man setting up for lunch.  "Can I fill a couple water jugs?" I ask him.  He tracks down his uncle working in the kitchen, the uncle says "sure," and waves away the few dollars I have in my hand.  So yesterday I paid $5 for two bucks worth of gas, today I get free water.  It all evens out.

Full sail outside of the harbor at 10;15, 5.5 to 6.3 kts with swells on the beam.  By 11:00 it feels like slow going as we parallel Eastern Neck.  I check the gps, 5+ kts.  Not too bad.

Off Wickes Cabin Beach at 12:20, then sailing inside of the fishing weirs we reach Cedar Point at 12:30 and turn upwind on the Chester River with a good tack towards Piney Point.  At 2:00 cb and rudder hit a submerged tree line, I'm too close to shore.  Two more tacks and I round Holton Point to see a red mansion, once a Russian compound and now vacant with overgrown gardens, and turn right onto the Corsica River.

The wind comes and goes on the winding river, the breeze on the stern.   Soon motor sailing and then under power alone.   Racing shells from a local school train up and down the river.  

I tie up at the town dock at 4:00 and walk a few blocks up a steep hill to Doc's Riverside Grill for a fine dinner and a cold beer.

Cast off and down river, I drop anchor close around a wooded point with a nice home perched on a hill.  Calm and peaceful, I can hear conversation and laughter from the home.  Maybe a dinner party.  I drift off to sleep.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


Here is the broken turnbuckle.  It was a jaw/jaw turnbuckle which meant it had a t-shaped piece on each end to hold a jaw for the line and/or tang like you see at right above.  The t broke off.  Below you can see corrosion where it broke, the corrosion telling me it had been failing for a while, allowing moisture in.  Whether it was a flaw from the beginning or a stress fracture I will never know.  Might replace with the same or possibly go a size larger.  Will have to think about that.

Monday, November 5, 2018

day six - south

Breezy, cool morning.  Thunderstorms last evening out of the southwest, then strong north winds in the early morning hours accompanied by rain.  With the stiff wind things might get wet so I put on my foul weather pants. 

Sail off anchor just after 7:00, not too long before we round up to tuck in a reef.  Elk River at 7:40 with wind over the stbd quarter, 4 kts.  Shake out the reef at 8:30 across the river from Rogues Harbor.

Grove Pt on the north side of Sassafras River entrance at 10:00, low overcast and cool, rolling downwind in the swell.  A northbound Coast Guard cutter slows down to reduce their wake, I wave and they resume speed.

Off Still Pond 11:45, a submerged branch clunks against SPARTINA'S hull.

Off Worton Creek at 12:30, 4 kts with a helping tide.

Early afternoon I spot the narrow entrance to Fairlee Creek, just a tiny break in a sand spit with the tide rushing out.  Wind on the stern we sailing through the swirling waters.

I need to top off the gas tank but the marina seems shut down for the season.  I find someone with a radio and they call the dockmaster who shows up in a golf cart.  He walks me down to the fuel pump, unlocks the small building and I top off the tank.  Two bucks worth a fuel and all I've got in a five dollar bill.  The register is empty so I say keep the change.  

Anchored behind the sand spit.  Grey skies, cool and windy.  Rain forecast for late afternoon and evening.

Sunday sail, a hardware failure

Just a spectacular day on the water yesterday.  Sunny and cool, steady wind out of the east and about ten snowbirds anchored in Craford Bay with many more passing by on their way south.  Boats of all sizes, single-handers and some couples bound for anywhere from North Carolina to Florida and the Bahamas.  Lots of friendly waves and greetings.  Fall sailing at its best.  

SPARTINA did have a hardware failure.  The shaft on the port shroud turnbuckle snapped in a gust.  I heard a "pop," saw a line go flying and watched the mast bend to starboard.  The mast bent severely, but did not break, a testament to the value of birds mouth construction.  I eased the mainsheet, sailed into Craford Bay and anchored.  After checking out the mast I used a spare piece of dyneema to tie the shroud to the tang, raised sail and spent about three more hours on the water.

It was a clear reminder that SPARTINA has had about 12 seasons of, at times, hard sailing.  It is time, past time really, to check on boat hardware that has not been replaced over the years.  I'll be doing that this week.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

day five - lily pads and lightning

Some light steady rain overnight, calm and peaceful in the creek.  Fog at dawn and a single lily pad drifting towards SPARTINA.  No wind, anchor up and under power just after 7:00.  

Cormorants perch on a fallen tree as I follow my gps track out the narrow entrance onto the Sassafras River.  A power boat hovers in the grey out on the river.  Grove Point at 7:40, Turkey Point in the distance to the north.  

Muted patch of blue in the sky, no wind but the incoming tide is in our favor.  Light breeze and motor sailing at 8:00.  Entering the Elk River at Turkey Point at 8:30, the sun breaks through at 9:00.  I'm just off Cabin John Creek so I motor in, drop the anchor and wait for wind.  Time to clean up the boat, relax and enjoy the warm sunshine.

Sails up at 10:25, light breeze and the sun is beginning to feel hot.  Battery Point at 11:30 with a solid south wind, 5 kts. on to the Bohemia River.

We follow the follow the river east past Long Point, farms sloping down to the water on either side of the river.  

Wind carries us under the bridge to where the river splits into Great Bohemia Creek and Little Bohemia Creek, though they both look the same to me.  I sail up the Little Bohemia Creek.  Not too far up the creek the hills and trees block the wind.

Counting days and looking at the calendar I see it is time to turn back south.  

We come about in light winds and make it back down the Bohemia, anchoring late afternoon in Veazey Cove.

It is a hot and humid night.  Forecast says a cool from will be coming in.  Before slipping into the bivy I sit at SPARTINA'S stern and watch lightning glowing in the clouds.