Sunday, September 22, 2019


Out for a short sail today with both the Pilgrim and the oldest daughter (also co-builder and member of SPARTINA original crew) on board.  I should have been home packing, checking gear but with a perfect forecast we had to get out.  Sailing without humidity, now there's an idea.

Shorter sail than usual, back to the house to wash the boat down, heading to Hatteras (staying in Buxton without a hurricane nearby, there's another great idea).  Catching an early ferry to Ocracoke tomorrow to see how the good folks down there are doing.

Some boats heading south on the ICW already, including ADVENTURESS of Falmouth, England.  A beautiful boat, I believe it to be the 1955 German built Philip Rhodes R27 mentioned here.  Very, very elegant.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

packing, checking, charging

GoPro batteries

freeze-dried dinners

sleeping gear
top to bottom, sleeping bag, bevy, sleeping pad

hypothermia kit, left, and bag of freeze-dried dinners

vacuum-packed spare am/fm, gps and vhf radio

dried pineapple/strawberry/papaya

almonds/pumpkin seeds/pistachios

Thursday, September 19, 2019

1899 Ocracoke hurricane

Barry points out that historian David Cecelski published a great journal written by a young woman visiting Ocracoke Island during what turned out to be the 1899 San Ciriaco Hurricane.  Well worth the read.

Here's the direct link -

where, and if

I have been asked by a few friends where I will be sailing this fall.  The short answer:  from Cambridge on the Choptank River to the top of the Bay and back.  This will be similar to the Last 294 and the Top O' the Bay cruises that I have made over the last few years.  It will be similar but not the same.  For every creek where I have anchored there are a dozen or more to be explored.  I hope to go up the Elk River past the entrance to the C and D Canal.  I might even cross over to the western side of the Bay to sail the Magothy River.  The Bohemia, Sassafras and Chester River are all on the list.  I hope to visit St. Michaels but probably not during the small craft festival.  I do hope to see a few friends along the way.

I've also been asked if I'll even be going.  The tropics are alive with storms as you can see from this screen shot of the Washington Post.  Lots of storms out there.  I will hope for the best.  Fall works in my favor as cool fronts come sliding from northwest to southeast.  Those fronts can become steering currents for the storms pushing them away from the coast out into the Atlantic.

I have a sixteen day window for sailing.  I can use it all, or start later/finish earlier if there is a threatening storm.  Worst case, and it is not a bad case at all, I can launch out of Cambridge and spend some time exploring the many creeks of the Choptank River, staying less than a day's sail from Cambridge.  Day sailing the Choptank, spending the evenings in a creek sounds pretty good.  We'll see.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

50 seconds of Hurricane Dorian

Last night I found a few video clips, most shot with the GoPro, of Hurricane Dorian passing over Buxton on Cape Hatteras.  Most clips were shot at or near The Cape Pines Motel, my favorite (and in my opinion the safest) hurricane hotel on the island.  I believe Dorian was at the time a very low Category 1 storm.  Nothing fancy here, just some clips strung together ( you can even hear my talking to my camera).

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Most of the packing for the fall trip will happen next weekend, but with several pieces of new gear I decided to get a head start on it today.  (I had hoped for a sail today but the map tells me is is a light blue to purple kind of day - light and variable winds.)

With the idea of reducing single use plastic (I know, it's a fad, but I sail by so much plastic in the rivers and sounds I thought I would try and do my part) I am trying out stand-up reusable ziplock storage bags.  Each bag contains most of the food for two days worth of meals.  Each day's meal includes an Rx bar, buffalo meat bar, three cups of fruit, can of Italian tuna and some ginger chews (freeze dried meals go in a 20 liter dry bag).  That red Rx bar is chocolate cherry, that doesn't sound like it would suit my taste but I have yet to try an Rx bar that I did not like.

I have two new anchor lights, Everbrite camping lanterns.  Two for ten bucks, seems like a good deal and they seem to be well made.  If I'm using the boom tent I use just one anchor light, hanging it up in the lazy jacks.  If I am not using the boom tent and instead sleeping under the stars I use two anchor lights, one under the bow sprit and one off the stern.  I want those predawn dead rises to see me as they come down the creek.  In the past I have tried to have all my equipment use AA batteries. These use AAA, as does my new marine vhf radio so I'll carry supplies of both types of batteries.

I've also got new foul weather gear, jacket and bibs made by Gill.  I bought both through amazon, not realizing that the bib pants were from a wetsuit store in England.  Four-day free international shipping, I don't see how they can do that but obviously they can.

I'll have two books on board, both look good to me and received good reviews.  Dusk comes early this time of year so I don't know how much reading I'll get done.  

A few other things I need to do...

  • I've got a new gps so need to create new or copy old waypoints
  • My new SPOT Gen 3 has an option for a second message that I don't understand so need to look at the owner's manual.
  • Fall means fishing on Chesapeake Bay, need to renew my fishing license.

Friday, September 13, 2019

the coast lies broken

The title of this post is from the opening page of Peter Matthiessen's SHADOW COUNTRY where he describes a waterfront town in Ten Thousand Island coast of Florida after a hurricane had struck.  I often read the first two paragraphs of that book when I know that a hurricane is coming up the coast and when I know I might well be in the middle of the storm on the narrow strip of sand known as the Outer Banks.  The question I have when going to a storm is not so much about what the hurricane will be like -  after 20-some years of covering the storms down there I know what it will be like - but what I wonder about it what will the villages be like after the storm has passed.  That is always the question.

I was on Hatteras where there was not too much damage.  Hearing dire reports from Ocracoke Island I told a friend that those stories were most likely exaggerated.  I know now that I was greatly mistaken.  In the lower portion of the photograph above you see the high water marks from what had been considered the severe hurricanes that crossed over the island.  You can see that those marks pale in comparison to Dorian's mark.

As it was explained to me, there are something over 900 year-round residents on the island.  Most of those people live in the older homes meaning those built between a century ago and maybe the 1970s.  Those homes were built much lower to the ground than the more recently homes built on stilts.

When Dorian's storm surge came - I heard it described as both a tsunami and as a river rushing through the narrow lanes of the village - the water flooded most of those older homes, damaging the floors, walls and most importantly the wiring.  Most of those homes will need to be completely rewired before folks can keep cold food in a fridge, cook on an electric stove or keep cool and comfortable in air conditioning.  Cars and trucks parked on "high" ground, were flooded and destroyed.  The road to the ferry docks at the north end of the island was ruptured.  Those people now have no place to live, few undamaged possessions and no way to make a living.

As one resident said, they are in survival mode.  Health and safety are not assured at this point.  The island has a long hard path to recovery, one that will take months if not years.  

The islanders, being islanders, are coping with a smile.  Waiting to catch the evening ferry off the island I met a woman whose house was flooded, jeep totaled, she lost pretty much all of her belongings.  She was also a double amputee.  I have since heard that after dealing with the storm's damage for a few days she decided to go the the beach for a swim, something she described as glorious.  Somehow during the swim she lost one of her "legs" in the ocean.  It did not faze her, she could weld a new, temporary leg.  Then friends showed up with her lost leg, having found it washed up on the beach.  She saw it as a metaphor for life on the island.  "The sea taketh, and the sea giveth back!"

The coast for now lies broken.  I wish the islanders well as they work to mend it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


My thanks to Ken for pointing out that the Hurricane Dorian survivor NANCY ELLEN was a fishing boat, not a buy boat.  Here is a link to a nice piece at TownDock.  The boat does have an interesting history above and beyond surviving a hurricane in Silver Lake.

Monday, September 9, 2019

storm survivor

I do not know the history behind the beautiful buy boat NANCY ELLEN.  I'm sure she has an interesting story,  and the story has a new chapter - surviving Hurricane Dorian in the harbor at Ocracoke.

across the sound

Talked our way as walk-ons for the Swan Quarter to Ocracoke ferry.  A couple hours across the sound on a stormy day.  Hope to see how the folks on the island are doing.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

cold dog stew

Crab Omelet at the Old Nags Head Cafe this morning.  Off Hatteras Island, driving through standing water and over the sand that covered long stretches of NC 12.  

The omelet was an improvement over the cold dog stew that served as sustenance yesterday.

Friday, September 6, 2019

the eye

The eye of Dorian began to pass us by to the south and east, then slid west, back east and then west again.  The wind calmed, a patch of blue skies.  Very cool.  Sound blow out to the west, but not as bad as Irene.  Backside of storm arrived about five minutes ago, howling winds and rain.


Had hoped the eye would pass over us.
I think we are on the edge.
Lighter winds and rain, but not the full effect.

just after dawn

Wind picking up since before dawn.
Eye still about 40 miles south of us.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

first gusts

"like being stalked by a turtle"

An islander told me this morning that waiting on a hurricane is kind of like being stalked by a turtle.  It's kind of slow and ponderous, always out there and keeping an eye on you.  How true.

The map is not very encouraging.  The Category 2 (orange) 8 a.m. Friday position is basically over Hatteras Island.  There has been talk of it coming ashore around Morehead City/Beaufort, then heading up the middle of Pamlico Sound.  This is not good.


Hurricane Irene followed a similar path a few years ago: landfall west of Cape Lookout and up the middle of Pamlico Sound.  Hurricanes spin counter-clockwise.  The easterly wind at leading edge of the storm pushed the Sound waters so far to the west that people were walking out into the sound from Hatteras Island, picking up fish and clams along the way.  The western side of the sound, including Hobucken, was underwater (you can see the high water mark on the window just to the left of Shawn at Pate's Boat Yard, above).  

On the back side of the storm the wind swung to a westerly, pushing all that piled up water east.....with a vengeance.  The returning water breached the island in two places and flooded most of the villages.  Above is the north end of Rodanthe, the sourthernmost breach.  I recall my boss at the time telling me to come home as soon as the sand was cleared from road.  I explained to him that there was no road.

Storm paths can and do change.  We are in a safe place, a solid hotel on one of the three ridges in Buxton.  We'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow morning brings us.  I got a tee-shirt from the earlier storm.  Maybe I'll get one here too.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


What is always done before a storm.




Tuesday, September 3, 2019

eye of the storm

A spectacular photograph looking down into the eye of Hurricane Dorian, made by astronaut Nick Hague from the International Space Station.

Latest forecast shows a glancing blow to South Carolina, maybe the Charleston area, then out towards Hatteras as a modest category 1 storm.  But who knows?

packed for a party

a hurricane party

In case you are wondering, from left to right foreground, Honda generator, extension cord, starting fluid to get the 15-year-old generator (which has run for hours in a mixture of blowing rain and salt spray during previous storms) cranking, gas.  Top, left to right, clothes for a week in green backpack, foul weather gear and boots inside yellow dry bag, laptop and various connectors/cords/etc black backpack.  Cameras are in the box under the black backpack, a 300 mm lens is behind the extension cord.  What you can't see up in the front seat are a couple cases of water bottles, eight cans of stew and a week's worth of breakfast bars.  Somewhere in there, can't recall exactly where right now, is a cork screw.