before the heat...
Sunday, July 5, 2020
I should not have gone out sailing this morning. It was so calm. Not a hint of a breeze, not even a suspicion that a zephyr might ruffle the still water. But I went anyway.
I left the basin with the mizzen already raised, main and jib up once I crossed the shipping channel to Craford Bay. And there I found the lightest of breezes. Not enough to tighten the lines, but just enough that SPARTINA could make way at a half not or so. It was just after sunrise, the summer heat not yet bearing down on the river. How nice. I spent two hours sailing back and forth among the five sailboats anchored there, said hello to a paddle boarder out for her morning paddle, then made my way over to the park on the Norfolk side of the water.
I sailed all three days of the holiday weekend, and the river almost felt normal. The Schooner Virginia was flying her signal flags and the battleship Wisconsin nearby opened for tours for the first time in months.
Sail Nauticus had their boats out. Some of the Harbor 20s had family on board and no masks were worn. Other boats, non-family members on board, wore masks.
Even some cruisers passing through, including this sailor named Jack with sturdy looking NAJA 30 foot plywood kit boat FLEETWOOD. You can read about his circumnavigation here.
The tour boats were out, crew members waving as they wore their masks.
I tied up for lunch on Friday and had to go back because I had forgotten to get my mask out of my PPE kit (since when did I have a PPE kit on board?).
It felt good to day sail on the Elizabeth River. It felt almost normal. Not quite. Almost.
Saturday, July 4, 2020
The quietest and most peaceful of nights, probably the best sleep I had had on the trip. Up at 5:30, sail off anchor just after 6:00.
SE wind and beautiful morning light, I am glad for GPA to help me remember how to get out of the marsh. Making 2.3 across the calm water I can hear the cluck and cackle of the marsh hens hidden in the cord grass.
3.0 past Rogue Island and I wonder if I should raise the centerboard just as the 100 lb steel plate touches the soft bottom. No problem, take a turn on the winch and raise the board.
At 7:20 on Pocomoke Sound sailing outside the long shoal that reaches out from Beach Island, jibing at red marker "6". It's choppy at the marker with a huge amount of water flowing out around the shallow shoal. Sailing wing and wing, 2.4.
At green marker "7" at 8:20. Lighter wind, then no wind. Under power. It's time to make a decision, either head NNE towards Saxis or NNW towards Broad Creek and the ramp. I listen to the weather report, little to no wind the rest of today and then again tomorrow. NNW towards Broad Creek which connects to the Little Annemessex.
I can make out the red marker at the creek entrance at 9:35. In the creek at 10:15, still no wind and we enter under power against the outgoing tide. It is a pretty, winding creek that I have sailed through four or five times over the years. Beautiful marshes, an old fishing camp, turns and bends that always leave me wondering if I am still on the creek or not.
Back on the Annemessex at 10:45 and soon passing through the narrow cut between the crab house and the condos. Docked at 11:15, 15.29 NM for the day, mostly under power.
Coming into Somers Cove I could see my favorite crab restaurant was closed. What to do about lunch? Fast food in Pocomoke on the way home is an option, but not a good one.
SPARTINA, on the trailer with her rig broke down, I get on the road. Just outside of Crisfield I see a Gulf gas station with a sign that says "Crab Pops Served Here!" Curious as to what a crab pop might be I go inside and ask. It is bits of soft-shelled crabs deep fried and served over a bed of French fries. Restaurants only like to serve whole soft-shells, so what do they do with those missing a claw or two? Cut them up in to pieces, fry them and give them an interesting name. Crap pops in Crisfield, on Tangier you can get the same thing only it is called "crab jewels." So I order up a batch and they are a delight. Then back on the road home.
244 NM, 281 statute miles for the trip.
Friday, July 3, 2020
Out on the water and saw a ton of old friends including Bill T, a friend and colleague of over three decades. He grabbed a few very nice photos of SPARTINA as he headed downriver on a friend's boat.
Left the boat on the river, back out again tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Another rough night. Forecast to blow out of the north all night and I am jostled awake to see the lights from Canton Ridge - the eastern most of the three ridges of Tangier - out the back of the boom tent. Those lights should be off our bow. The wind has swung to the south. An opposing tide doesn't help.
Sail off anchor at 6:35 with a single reef tucked in the main and wearing foul weather bibs in case it is rough, wet ride. Just after 7:00 making 5.1 out of Cod Harbor. The wind slacks a little after 8:00 and I shake out the reef and slip off the foul weather gear with Watts Island to the northeast.
At 8:30 make a tack towards the Onancock Creek entrance channel, another tack at 8:45 and a third at 9:00. And the wind disappears. Under power.
Inside red marker "6" drop the main and the jib, the outboard carries us up the the glassy-calm creek past some crabbers working their pots.
Docked at the Onancock Wharf at 10:50 only to find it closed. There is a note saying I can leave a phone message if I need gas. And I do need gas. So I leave a voice mail. I figure I'll go get something to eat, only to find most of the restaurants closed. Only a bakery is open, and it is an excellent bakery I can tell you from past experience, but the line is so long I don't want to bother with it.
No response on my voice mail for gas so I check my phone to find a gas station a mile away. I put the gas can in a mesh bag with a shoulder strap and make the trek a mile up and a mile back.
Push out from the dock at noon, motor down the creek and sails up in a light breeze near the bright sandy beach at Parkers Marsh. A couple long tacks to get out of the creek, pleasant and pretty sailing while I have a can of tuna and crackers for lunch.
It's a beautiful day and with just enough wind to sail close-hauled along the beach that heads up towards Chesconessex Creek. Off the creek entrance at 2:45 making 2.3 kts. I tack off the point at Tobacco Island at 2:50, then tack back in. We slip past tiny Rogue Island, really just a little patch of marsh grass, at 3:15.
The next two hours is a delightful sail on the marshes of Pompco Creek. Depths are marked as shallow as two feet but the centerboard never touch bottom just ghosting the shorelines of the tiny little coves and bay. The wind is perfect and I am so glad Onancock was closed otherwise I might have missed this little gem of a marsh.
It has been too long since I have done this kind of exploring, standing in the cockpit, a hand resting on the main boom and a knee nudging the tiller. A perfect afternoon.
Anchor down Pompco Creek at 5:15. Pasta Roma for dinner, excellent.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
I sleep in a little later than usual after a rough night. There had been the one evening storm, which was a small one, and then a series of larger storms in the middle of the night. I had anchored for wind out of the north but instead the wind came strongly from the south and it must have been wind against tide as SPARTINA bounced around on the chop for a long while.
The Canadian cool front has arrived, clear, cool and dry air in the morning with solid wind out of the North. Sail off anchor at 7:00. Making 4.6 down the Honga River with mizzen, jib and single-reefed main.
Windmill Point at 7:45, 4.2. Bloodsworth Island on the horizon to the south just after 8:00, crossing Hooper Straits at 8:30 doing 5.5 with wind just aft of port beam. Shake out the reef at 8:45 with wind dropping, 4.1.
Making 3.7 at 9:30, Bloodsworth Island just a thin dark line to the east. Adams Island to the southeast. Next is Holland Island and then South Marsh Island, where I anchored the first night out, at 11:00, 4.2.
Solomon's Lump Lighthouse straight ahead as we enter Kedges Straits at 11:25, 4.8.
Pass the old unbalanced-looking lighthouse in very rough water at 11:40, the light never quite looking right after they removed the light keeper's house. Out of the straits and on Tangier Sound at 12:20, doing 3.5 to 4.5 in a rolling swell. Jibe towards Tangier Island, the water tower on Tangier showing as a tiny blue dot on the horizon at 12:50.
The wind builds and we are overpowered. Thinking of tucking in a reef or two but easier just to drop the main and sail under mizzen and jib, making 4 kts and better under the two small sails.
Wind drops a little and the main goes back up at 2:45, doing 4.6 to 6. East of Port Isobel, the little island just across the flats from Tangier, gps shows 7 knots riding a gust down a wave. Sail into Cod Harbor with a skiff running alongside. "I like your boat" says the waterman. Anchor down Cod Harbor at 3:45.
Boiling water for a freeze dried dinner I see a skiff come down the channel from the village. It's Ooker Eskridge, Tangier's mayor. "Are you ok?" he calls out across the water (as if I had not heard that one before). I tell him I am fine and introduce myself, reminding him I spent an afternoon with him at his crab shanty a couple years back. I tell him about my trip, ask him about the island. He says Tangier is doing fine, crab prices are "sky high" and that is good enough for him.
Another skiff comes by later, an older waterman. He circles SPARTINA, points at the hull, smiles and with a nod heads on his way.
Beef stew for dinner.
Monday, June 29, 2020
Calm clear morning at Knapps Narrows. A light west breeze forecast to continue through the day. Cast off 7:35, out of the entrance channel on the Bay side at 7:45 and ten minutes later all sails up.
I'm surprised by the wind, better than expected, and crab pot markers are showing an ebb tide which helps up head down the Bay. Weather radio reports a Canadian high coming overnight bringing cool air and a N wind. Off Black Walnut Point 8:45.
Easy sailing at 3.0 and I break out breakfast, an Rx bar, Tanka buffalo bar, cup of fruit and a ginger treat
At least a dozen deadrises working the clam beds at the mouth of the Choptank River.
By 9:30, wind dropping and getting hot. Sails down, under power at 10:05. And I start wondering why I had left Tilghman Island. Coulda, shoulda stayed there for another night. A day sipping iced tea in the shade at the Marker Five, sleep on board SPARTINA at the marina or maybe even pony up for a hotel (I am, after all, a man of means). But the morning breeze had caught my fancy so now I'm baking in the heat and motoring south.
I cast at a school of menhaden hoping for a striper lurking below. No luck. Passing Hills Point at 10:40, crossing the mouth of the Little Choptank by 11:00. Passing the eroded James Island as I watch a cormorant staying between SPARTINA and her six little chicks. I don't think I have ever seen cormorant chicks before.
At noon shut off the outboard and raise sails, hoping for at least a hint of wind. No luck. Getting hotter. Should have stayed at Tilghman.
Back under power at 12:20, the tide has turned costing us a half knot of speed. Out on the Bay I can see a deadrise and a large cruising catamaran heading north on the bay. There is a thin dark line on the water to the south and west. Wind?? Sailing up and making 1.2 for a while, then nothing. Back under power with the sails still up but just for shade.
At the north end of Fishing Creek channel, what I always call the Bamboo channel because it was lined by bamboo sticks about a decade ago when I first used it, at 2:20. The channel has become progressively shallower and narrower over the years. Looking east I see the channel markers are gone, all replaced by "danger" signs.
A southwest breeze comes at 2:55 just off the south end of Barren Island, 1.3 against the wind and tide. Motor sailing, hot, frustrated.
Under the bridge at on the Honga River at 4:00, anchor down at 4:30 just south of Wroten Island.
I hop in the water to cool off, then clean the hull of SPARTINA. Feeling much better I climb back on board and fix a self-heating O-Meal of hash browns for dinner, perfect after a long day.
I see a thunderstorm coming off the Bay and set up the boom tent. The storm arrives, rain and a little thunder, moves on quickly, leaving a rainbow as an evening gift.