Saturday, December 7, 2019

little white lies I tell myself

There was a hole in the sky over the Pasquotank River yesterday.  Or at least a hole in a cloud in the sky.  It may have possibly been a fallstreak hole , I am not sure.  The rays coming from the sun behind the cloud are an artifact of the iPhone lens.  I do not understand the dark area directly beneath the cloud.  It was an interesting sight on a beautiful day.

A hard frost covered the ground when I left home with SPARTINA in tow, temperature up to 40 degrees by the time I drove to Elizabeth City and rigged at the ramp.  A mirror-like river gave way to cat's paws as the willed filled in right on time.  I would have been happy sailing at 3 kts all day but by noon there were gusts into the high teens which carried us along at 5 kts or so.  No complaints.

I did not wear the mango-colored drysuit.  The river temperature was 53 degrees, just above the 50 degree threshold I have set for my sailing with a drysuit.  I do know inherently that the results would have been the same at either 53 or 50 degrees had I capsized or fallen in the water.  That the additional three degrees would have made a difference is just another of those little white lies I tell myself.  I'll begin wearing the drysuit next week.  

Sidney's, my favorite Betsy Town lunch spot is gone.  I will miss it.  In the same spot on Main Street just a couple blocks off the water is now a pizza company.  Excellent thin crust artisan (maybe better spelled arti$an) pizzas by the slice.  Very good, but I still miss Sidney's. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019


I have added some photographs to "the boat," "calm" and "stormy" posts that you see to the right at the top of the blog.  Photographs for the calm and storm posts are obvious, "the boat" is a catch-all for photographs that I like and that tell something about the SPARTINA.

additions to "the boat"

I really like the texture of the clouds in the photographs, plus the texture of Stuart's fine sails.

Curt caught SPARTINA at anchor when I didn't even know he was there.

And above is pre-dawn sailing on the Chester River.  I shot it with the GoPro 7 camera, and I think it is a decent photograph for shooting in low (non-existent) light.  I wish I had shot it with my iPhone XR, which has much better low light capabilities than the GoPro.  For future trips I'm considering buying a small housing for the iPhone so that I will feel more comfortable leaving it exposed (and easy to get to) while sailing.  Will have to think about that for a while.  This is the Amazon link for the case.

Above is sailing double-reefed on the Choptank.  There was a lot of wind on this last trip and thinking back now I may have spent more time reefed and double-reefed than on any other sail.

Below is filling out the log in the evening, something I do when I am tired and would just as soon slip in the sleeping bag.  It is important to me that I jot down the notes while the day's sailing is still fresh in my mind.

additions to "calm"

Both of these calm photographs were taken on very windy days.  Above is drifting out of the wind shadow of tall trees on LaTrappe Creek on the last day of the fall sail.  It is a treat to slip away from shore with a nearly imperceptible breeze.

Below is SPARTINA tied to the dock at Rock Hall not too long after dawn.  Winds were gusting in the high 20s and I was waiting for them to drop.  They did after an hour or two.  I do like the warm color of the morning sun on the deck and sails.

additions to "stormy"

The photograph above was taken on the same day as the calm photograph above it.  The wind did drop, but not by that much.  This was crossing the Chester River from Hail Point to Queenstown Creek, wind and waves on the beam.

Below is a photograph from sailing into the wind and tide up Poplar Island Narrows on day two of the fall sail.  Pretty much all day tacking up the Narrows and then over to Bloody Point  and on to Chesapeake Bay.  Just great sailing.

Decent forecast for tomorrow so I may sneak down to Betsy Town for a sail.  It might be cool enough for the first mango suit (drysuit) sail of the season.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy (non-traditional) Thanksgiving!

Surf and turf.

Lobster sous vide.

Cast iron griddle seared scallops.

Steak seared on the egg at 600 degrees.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2019

the last docking

Through a quirk of the new corporate vacation and holiday rules I somehow found myself with an unexpected eight day vacation.  Being a good employee I did not complain.

It was 34 degrees when I got in the jeep this morning, 46 degrees less than an hour later when I finished rigging SPARTINA and launched her into a very high tide on Scuffletown Creek.  It was an absolutely perfect fall day.  Cool, yes, but not a cloud in the sky and better than forecast winds as I tacked back and forth on the Elizabeth River.  The forecast for tomorrow is a slightly higher temperature and slightly less wind.

I tied up at Waterside Marina, the last tie-up at this particular dock.  Over the next few days the marina will be shut down, the roughly 35-year-old floating docks will be disconnected, towed around the corner and lifted by crane out of the water.  By March the marina will re-open with a set of new floating docks in a new configuration.  I look forward to docking at the rebuilt marina next spring.

lazy daze

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

about the trip...

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.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

day fourteen - the last crab cake

Anchor up 6:45, single reef in the main and a very slow, pleasant drift out of the wind shadow of the trees.

Making 2.7 past the sand spit, the sound of a tractor rumbling on a farm, a flock of seagulls takes flight.  Wing and wing down the creek.

Howell Point just at 7:20, the sun comes up.  Shake out the reef and sailing at 5 kts.

Six deadrises work a shoal tonging for oysters.  Blue skies and a crisp wind.  Perfect.

Doing 3.3 approaching Cambridge.  Round up to drop the sails.  Docked at 8:30.

I walk a couple hundred yards to Yacht Maintenance Company, the yard where I left the jeep and trailer.  Drive back to the ramp, break down SPARTINA'S rig, move the leftover food - not much leftover - and gear into the jeep.  It's late morning and I drive around the little harbor to Snapper's Waterfront Cafe for an excellent crab cake - the crabs are picked right next door so they don't get any fresher than this.  It's time to head home.

Running total 327.2 NM / 376.5 statute miles

Thursday, November 14, 2019

day thirteen - a few more creeks

I sleep in after a night with much more wind, a colder wind, than expected overnight.  A picture perfect morning.  Blue skies and sunshine.  The north wind is still there, strong enough that I tuck in a reef.

Sail off anchor just after 8:00.  Leaving the cove I see hand tongers hauling oysters up on to a deadrise.  Backbreaking work it seems to me.  Making 4.6 once out on Broad Creek and I'm glad I put in the reef.  

It's a day for exploring.  Enter Leadenhamp Creek at 9:00, riding the gusts up the creek that turns west and then north.  Tuck in the second reef at 10:30, sailing past a little creek that I called Paradise Creek when I anchored there a few years ago. 

Back out on Broad Creek at 10:45, making 4.8 sailing wing and wing, the sun straight ahead and it is cool in the shade of the sails.  

Off Irish Creek at 11:30, Benoni Point at the mouth of the Tred Avon at noon.  I consider heading in to Oxford but at this time of the year the waterfront restaurant will be closed for the season.  

Chloro Point at 12:50, I shake out the second reef as I know I'll be sailing upwind soon.

Enter LaTrappe Creek at 1:20 making 5.2 in a gusty breeze forward of beam.  A hundred yards up the winding creek the wind calms.  My anchorage is to port just past the little sand spit but I continue on up the main creek to see what there is too see.  An afternoon tacking back and forth on the tree-lined creek, where else would I want to be?  Past Connolly Point I can see the masts of the boats in Dickerson Harbor.  We turn back downwind and explore another creek that branches off to the west.  Then back to LaTrappe Creek for an easy sail back down to the sandpit, slipping in to the anchorage with trees on the north shore blocking the wind and a farm to the stern.  

Anchor down 3:00.  Spicy Thai noodles for dinner.

Running total 325.2 NM

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

day twelve - back to the Choptank

Cast of from Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at 8:00 with help from a crew member of the tall ship AJ MEERWALD.  Strong north wind still blowing.  Overcast with some blue sky to the west.  Motor out past the channel marker, raise reefed main, mizzen and jib.  Steak (venison bar) and eggs (maple sea salt Rx bar) for breakfast.  

Tacking back and forth across the narrow stretch of the Miles River.   Deepwater Point at 8:30, choppy and making 4.5.  Long tack towards Tilghman Point at 9:30, 5.0, the dark-hulled schooner ROSEWAY out of Boston coming round the point.  The sky becoming a little bit lighter.  

I am surprised we are making such good time.  So much sailing into the wind and waves on this trip I must be getting used to it.  Round Tilghman Point 10:20 and it is a whole different world.  Downwind sailing on calm water, the sun breaks through and it feels good.  Round up to strip off the foul weather gear.

Wind over the port quarter making 5 kts off Bay Hundred.  Off Claibourne at 11:00, speed between 3.7 and 4.6 depending on the waves comes down the bay.  Tuna, crackers and peaches for lunch.  Noon 6 kts at Lowe's Point.

Sails down 12:50, through Knapp Narrows with a deadrise and a large catamaran.  Full sail at 1:10, doing 5.4 on the Choptank River to Broad Creek.

Cool and grey at the mouth of the Broad Creek, a couple tacks towards the appropriately named Steve's Cove.  Two great blue herons stalk the south shore of the cove, to the north a flock of white egrets flies against the dark green backdrop of ever green trees.  Anchor down 3:00.  Venison and rice noodle stir fry for dinner, a gift from New Zealand and one of the finest freeze dried meals I have had.  Chilly in the evening, I put up the boom tent so I can hide from the north wind.  Evening the skies begin to clear.

Running total 302.4 NM