Sunday, February 25, 2018


The weather forecast was marginal.  Surprisingly warm with a nice breeze, but only a little sun in the a.m. and the heavy overcast for the rest of the day (in the winter I really want sunshine on a sail).  But the oldest daughter had a birthday wish: a sail on the boat she helped build.  So I drove to the ramp in a light mist thinking this is not going to work out well.  But it did.  Skies cleared just as we reached Craford Bay.  I picked up the wife and oldest daughter at the docks later in the morning for just a wonderful sail.  

It was the first sail made with adjustments to the rigging by sailmaker Stuart Hopkins.  He had suggested adding a roband (simply a fixed piece of line to hold the clew close to the boom) to the main and not tightening the outhaul as much so the main would have more "belly."  I will be experimenting with this all spring but the first effort was a success.  You can see the curve of the foot of the main along the boom.  Without the roband the foot, because of tension from the outhaul, creased and folded over.  Now it curves out nicely.  It looks good and I think adds a little power to the sail.  Very nice.  Thanks for the advice, Stuart.

There was a second birthday wish: seafood.  More specifically, seafood cooked on the grill.  Little Neck clams from the eastern shore steamed in a foil tent.

Salty, very salty, oysters from the eastern shore seaside swam in garlic/basil butter, maybe too much of that (but then again can you really have too much).

And fresh caught Carolina shrimp, skewered and grilled.  It all came out pretty good.  

First sail of the year, a birthday celebration.  Pretty nice.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

this is getting old....

Below is the forecast map for tomorrow with red Xs marking my sailing areas and blue indicating rain.  Not too happy about this at all.  Seems like mid-week the forecast called for overcast, which I can deal with as long as it is warm.  Rain I can deal with too, but not on the first day of the year with the nice-just-cleaned sails.  Ideally I would like to make the first sail of the year with some sunshine and a nice breeze.  Not happening tomorrow.  Maybe next week.  In the meantime I went back through the log and pulled a few images from February sails just to prove to myself I have sailed in February.  Here they are.  (I had completely forgotten the photo above.  Pretty cool, don't you think??)

Monday, February 12, 2018

workboat finish, of course

Two new coats of steel grey interlux paint on Spartina.
Cold, rainy weather continues, and it appears that
it may last a few more weeks.

Friday, February 9, 2018

a dog's life

From Tom, who is gearing up to sail his Pathfinder
FIRST LIGHT in the Everglades Challenge.

Monday, February 5, 2018

fine dining in Saxis

The internet tells me that the the number of fine dining establishments in Saxis, Virginia has doubled.  Yes, at one time there was just one restaurant, Martha's Kitchen, and now there are two with the addition of Capt. E's Hurricane Grill & Tiki Bar.  This is good and useful information as I may well be heading across Pocomoke Sound near Saxis during the spring sail.  I have been to Saxis just once and while leaving there I took one of my favorite all-time photos, above.  Don't know why I like it so much, I just do.  Saxis is not exactly an island, it is connected to the mainland with a long road through the marshes, but it is so isolated it may as well be an island.

Capt. E's appears to be located next to the boat ramp and docks on Starling Creek with indoor and outdoor dining and a menu that relies much on the food of Smith Island.  I hope to pass through Smith Island too later in the trip and will definitely compare Capt. E's with the real deal island food.  The last visit to Saxis included lunch at Martha's Kitchen, below, an interesting visit that I wrote about here.  

Onancock is the reason I'll be crossing Pocomoke Sound.  I would like to head out of Crisfield, cutting behind the marshes on what I have seen labelled as both Broad Creek and Daugherty Creek (last photo in this post shows sailing through the creek wing and wing).  You can see the line that connects the Little Annemessex to Pocomoke Sound.  Depending on the time of day I could head east to Saxis or south to Beach Island or Island Bay.  Onancock would be a day's sail south of there.

This is just thinking out loud now, it will all depend which way the wind is blowing the first few days of the trip.  I'll certainly visit Tangier and Smith Islands, plus there are the countless tiny creeks and bays and coves.  We might even work our way up the Honga River.  We'll see.

Much too cold and windy today for a sail.  I spent the morning stowing all the sails and spars on SPARTINA.  We are ready to go as soon as the weather warms.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

separation anxiety no more

The sails arrived from Stuart's loft and I am very glad to have them back in hand.  Bending the main and mizzen on to the spars today, making a few adjustments suggested by Stuart.  It amazes me that he can just look at the sails and tell from their appearance how I rig them.  

The weather outlook for the next couple of weekends is not good.  Cold and rainy, wind out of the north.  February is typically when we get the little batches of warm days.  I will be rigged and ready.

My escape from the cold, a work related trip to Hilton Head, has been cancelled due to budgetary considerations.  Bummer.  The "working" point of the trip was to go fish for a great white shark.  Yes, sure that sounds like fun.  But mostly I was looking forward to seeing Webb and GANNET at their new island home.  That treat will have to wait until later.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Staniel Cay, circa 1980 / extended family / creek sailing

I had reason to see my sailmaker, Stuart Hopkins, last weekend.  It was a fun drive up through tidewater Virginia, across the York and Rappahanock Rivers, over the beautiful winding Piankatank and through the little towns of what is known as Northern Neck.  Though I had emailed with Stuart many times over the last few years, I had not talked to him in person since picking up my finely crafted set of sails. 

Because of a post I had done a few day earlier (that's my photograph below of a sloop near Port-au-Prince),  Stuart and I talked about each of our experiences relating to Haiti.  Stuart brought out a work of art - though it wasn't originally meant to be art - a wooden mainsheet cleat, worn by a taut line, the sun and the salt water, that he recovered from a sunken Haitian sloop at Staniel Cay in the Bahama Islands.  Stuart told me he made repeated dives to loosen the cleat from the sloop while Dee, his wife, sat in the cockpit of their ketch SEA WIND and made a sketch of the sloop, which you see above.  


SPARTINA'S sails are now five years old.  They have seen a lot of wear and tear during that time, including quite literally a tear between the bolt rope and sail cloth on the mizzen, something that happened when I hooked the sail on a line cleat a few years ago.  Stuart will repair the small tear for me and offered to check over the stitching on the sails, which is very kind of him. 

While looking over the sails I lamented to Stuart about my failed plans for SPARTINA.  I told him I built the boat so I could go sailing and get away from people.  Instead, I went sailing and met some very creative and interesting people who have become my best and truest friends.  Stuart, who sometimes reads this blog, nodded and smiled, telling me he was well aware of my "extended family."  I had never thought of it that way, but yes, an extended family.  I went sailing and found my extended family - which of course includes Stuart and Dee.


Webb has completed his sail from Marathon in the Florida Keys to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  It was a much shorter sail, if you go by mileage, than Webb's typical sail.  And it was an even shorter sail by time if you go by Webb's expectations.  You can read his passage log here.  Below you will find part of the log which makes me smile, most likely because it reminds of my kind of sailing.

"Coming into Skull Creek for the first time was beautiful.  A sunny sky.  Wind light.  Mansions along the shore.  A flock of birds standing on a sand spit off the Pickney Island Nature Reserve to the north.  A dolphin broke the surface and came and swam companionably beside GANNET.  A pelican glided past."

Monday, January 22, 2018

north to Hilton Head

Webb's Yellow Brick track shows he is making incredible time on his way north to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Winds will be picking up on GANNET'S stern tomorrow.  I wonder if he will make it in before contrary winds Wednesday.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

gone, sails so bright

Webb is gone, leaving out of Marathon on GANNET sometime around 9:00 or 10:00 this morning, on his way up the coast to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  You can read about his plans here.  If you read this earlier journal entry you will see that he will be doing coastal sailing this year, including, if weather cooperates, sailing up to Chesapeake Bay and St. Michaels where he will be the guest speaker at this fall's Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  That will be an interesting talk.

You can follow Webb on his Yellow Brick here.  


Most of the mildew is gone from SPARTINA'S mainsail, courtesy of a 30:1 water:sodium hydrochloride mixture.  It was easier than I expected.  I appreciate all the advice that was given to me, particularly some thoughts from Dory Man.  

I used a spray bottle so that I could apply the solution to specific areas, avoiding the threads that hold the sail together.  Less than an ounce of sodium hydrochloride was used.

Excuse the color balance shift in these before (above) and after photos, that has to do with the light, but look closely at the top image and you will see specks of mildew.  They were gone about 10 minutes after the solution was applied. I used that little piece of tape to make sure I photographed the exact area before and after.  Not too bad.  After general washing with woolite and vinegar, plus the spot mildew work, the sails are so white, so bright, I'm gonna need to wear shades.

Friday, January 19, 2018

five winter coats

Just got the fifth coat of varnish on the refinished gaff jaws, two more to go.  You can see the double sets of dowels, each set put in each time I replaced the leather.  It may look a little messy here but all those dowels will be covered by the new leather.  

Using my sailing duffel bag, made out of used sail materials by Seabags, I did of test of the 30:1 water:sodium hydrochloride solution.  I sprayed the solution on a patch of white sail material that had tiny dots of mildew, let it sit for an hour then rinsed it off.  I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the dark spots gone.

Washing the sails in Woolite and vinegar worked so well that I had considered forgoing the mildew treatment.  But looking closely I found two areas, probably not even a square foot in total, on the sail worth treating, both on the lower panels of the mainsail.  I will spray those areas this weekend, making sure I spray only the sail material and  avoid the stitching, let sit for an hour and then rinse with fresh water.

There will be weather for sailing this weekend.  I thought about rushing the work Saturday to be ready for a Sunday sail.  But instead I will take my time and use the good weather to get SPARTINA put back together just right.  There will be plenty of sailing to come.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

enough with the snow!

Three coats of varnish on the gaff jaws, four more to go.  Leather, whipping line and brass cut tacks in hand to finish the jaws.  Sodium hypochlorite arrived from Amazon for the last part of sail cleaning this weekend.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


hung out to dry

Mizzen and jib hung up to dry in the garage yesterday, main will be put up there today.  While in sail cleaning mode I decided to skip sailing this weekend and ordered the sodium hypochlorite solution to do the mildew work this weekend.  Not soaking the entire sails in the solution, just spot cleaning with a brush.  It's really just a few spots on the lower panels of the main and the jib.  Might as well get all the sail work done at once.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

drilled, doweled

Kind of messy with the epoxy.  Had to bring the resin and hardner inside to warm it up.  Then mixed inside and back out to the 20-some degree garage to put the dowels in place.  It will look good once the dowels are trimmed, coated with clear epoxy, sanded, varnished and leathered.  Pressure is on to get it done this week - there just might be a day with sailing weather next weekend.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

scary, trusting a compass

Began the winter maintenance today.  Washing sails, replacing the leather on the gaff jaw and doing some touchup epoxy and varnish work.  Not doing all that today, just getting started.  Above is the leather and bronze tacks off the gaff jaws.  Kinda scary looking.  That was the second piece of leather on there, the first one lasted five years, about the same with this one.  I've got to drill out the holes left by the tacks, tap in 1/4" hardwood dowels, trim the dowels, epoxy and varnish.  Hope to get that done over the next few days.  Putting the leather back on is easy, based on directions years ago from John Welsford.  Here is a post from the last time I did it.  

Because of space I am washing the sails in two batches.  Started with the mizzen and the jib today.  Put them in a 32 gallon trash can with 16 gallons of water, eight cups vinegar and two cups of woolite.  Will leave them in there for a couple of days, stirring two or three or more times a day.  This should clean up the sails but will not remove the mildew.  That will come in a couple of weeks.


Virginia inaugurated a new governor, Ralph Northam, today.  He is the state's second governor from the Eastern Shore, the first serving during the civil war.  Below is part of his inaugural address.  I think he will be a good governor.

As a kid I spent hours behind our house, crabbing and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay. To this day that is where I find peace.

When I was just old enough to take to the water myself, my dad helped me build a rowboat and launch it, with strict instructions: stay close to home.

As I grew and became more comfortable, I began to take longer trips away from the shore, until I was ready to head out into the open water.

I remember standing with my father as I prepared to embark, and like all good Dads, he knew I was nervous even before I did.

He said, Ralph, remember—when you get out there, you can always trust your compass.

If things get dark or foggy, if you can’t find your way—keep your eye on the compass.

It’ll always bring you home safely.

He was right about that compass.

Friday, January 12, 2018

not gonna get political here, but....

Received a text from a friend, you'll find her photograph
at the bottom of this post, reminding me that eight years
ago we were headed to Haiti.  It as an experience that, 
for a lot of reasons, I will always remember.


Not here to argue, just sayin'.....