I've got to say that this was one of the best cruises on SPARTINA. Wind and weather was great, good wind throughout the trip and strong wind on a couple of days where John Welsford's design performed very well and I had to push myself beyond my usual limits.
Shawn had asked if this was the longest number of days I had been on SPARTINA. The answer was a yes and a no. I think I once spent 16 days on the boat, but three of those days I was tied to the dock at St. Michaels for the small craft festival. This trip, 14 days, is the longest consecutive sailing days. I did spend one night in a hotel in Rock Hall. On longer trips I have done that, either because of weather or just the chance to wash clothes, empty the head and resupply the water.
What pleased me most when I got back to the dock in Cambridge was that the boat was clean and organized, plenty of clean clothes available and I was relaxed and well-rested. With a quick resupply of food I could have easily cast off and gone back out for two more weeks. (Now there's an idea!)
THE GEAR: Overall the gear worked out very well. The two exceptions were the old watch I use to keep time - it died on me - and the Garmin gps 64s which lost contact with the satellites on at least three days for extended periods of time. Just a couple days ago Garmin sent out an update which I've loaded on to the device. I'll keep it with me during winter sailing so I can confirm that it is working properly. In any case I always carry the old 62s which works fine as a back-up.
Early one morning as I was rolling up the sleep gear I did kneel on my inflatable camp pillow and "popped" it. A stuff sac with a couple shirts inside was my pillow for the rest of the trip.
Very happy with my clothes, sleeping gear and boom tent. Within a few days of each other I experienced temperatures from 92 degrees (sailing down the Elk River to the Sassafras) to I think 52 degrees (at night and early morning on Queenstown Creek) and I was completely comfortable in both situations.
THE FOOD: I must say I ate very well. Freeze dried meals were excellent. I still have a small supply of New Zealand's Back Country Cuisine meals, gifts from Webb and Graeme. The spicy Thai noodles and venison rice noodle stir-fry were outstanding. I wish these meals were available in the US. I think on one or two nights I used self-heating Omeals (just add water to the packet and you get a quick hot meal), typically on long sailing days when I was tired. The Omeals are excellent, a little small portioned than I like but it would not hurt me at all to eat smaller portions. I also had some freeze dried risotto and pasta that I got from REI, and found that adding some of the Italian canned tuna to the risotto/pasta made for an excellent dinner.
Restaurants along the way provided some great meals: soft-shell crabs, crab cakes, fish tacos, Philly cheesesteak, seared tuna with seaweed salad, monkfish, and seared duck breast. Not too bad of a menu.
THE RAMP: Mid-Bay if you are looking for a good ramp on the Eastern Shore then Cambridge is your place. Great free ramp, one that I have never found to be busy or crowded. In the past I've left the jeep/trailer at the ramp while sailing but last year I came back to find someone has tried to saw off the lock and steal the trailer (thanks to Master Lock they were unsuccessful.). This year I left the jeep/trailer at nearby Yacht Maintenance Company where they charged me a storage rate as if I had left a boat on their property. For two weeks it came to a little over $70 for the storage (31' from the front of the bumper to the back of the trailer), and it was well worth it.
THE SAILING: One word for it - EXCELLENT! Some days wind on the beam or on the stern quarter, some days wind, waves and tide all against me. But the point is to sail so I delighted in spending hours tacking back around forth across the bay or up a river. And sailing with company too - Curt on board ANNIE - was very enjoyable.
THE FISHING: I did very little fishing. A little trolling on the Bay one day, some casting for feeding stripers on the Chester River another day. Part of this was safety. With all that wind the water was rough and the idea of standing up to reel in a fish on a rocking boat is not a good one. Plus the sailing was just so good I was content to focus on that.
EARLY MORNING SAILING: On day 11 I got up and stowed the sleeping gear in pitch darkness, the raised anchor as soon as I could distinguish land from water. I have never started in darkness before. I did this because the tide would be slack at Kent Narrows at 9:00 and I prefer to go through the bridge there without a running tide. There were a couple deadrises setting out trotlines in the darkness, at least one of them turned their spotlight on SPARTINA. There are several flash lights on board, I should have had one in my pocket or clipped to my safety vest in case I needed to shine it on my sails to reveal myself to other boats.
FRIENDS ALONG THE WAY: It was great to see some good friends along the way. Fred and MaryLou in Rock Hall, Curt on the Chester River, Drew in Chestertown and Kristen in St. Michaels. And of course the new friends I met along the way, the farm family that kayaked out to say hello on Queenstown Creek, the Pennsylvania crabbers down in Rock Hall for four days of serious crabbing, the locals that I watched a Sunday night football game with out on the patio at the waterfront restaurant in Chestertown, plus countless people out on the water who waved and said hello.
As I've confessed before, I built the boat to get away from people but just seem to make more friends because of it. Go figure.
It was just a wonderful trip. Now I've got to start thinking about next year's cruises.