Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a day off

Fantastic sailing with strong winds, big waves and small craft warnings. We are a full day ahead of schedule as we reached our northern most point, Rock Hall,yesterday afternoon. Very happy to be met at the dock by friends Mary Lou and Fred, nice dinner at Waterman's.
We'll take a day off and relax, start back south to the Wye River tomorrow.

Seth, we'll give you a call later today. We will be around the marina (next to Watermans) or the Mariner Motel this afternoon. We'll call to see if you can drop by for a bit.


Thursday, September 24, 2009


Boat and jeep are loaded, ready to go. Just now checking the weather. Below is the hourly forecast for Crisfield, Md for tomorrow. Looks like we'll have a nice run to Smith Island with wind over the starboard quarter. If the wind is at 16 we'll probably start out with a reef in the main, no reason to get overpowered.

The forecast for day two looks just as good. We'll be heading north with the wind out of the ESE. Could be a little rough as we start out but should calm down as we move into the leave of Hooper Island.

But those are just forecasts - we'll find out what the weather will be when we get there. Hope to see some of you in St. Michaels.


got the EPIRB, SPOT AND AMB(*)

Got all the gear from the EPIRB to the SPOT and the AMB set out on the garage floor with food, notebooks, fishing gear, fuel, flash lights, and on and on. We are about ready to go.
Bruce flew in last night from a three-week safari in Africa (what a life). He is cleaning the photos off his 8 gig memory cards right now, plus trying to adjust to the time difference and jet lag.
Did a little shopping this morning, Bruce picked up a new Leatherman tool to replace the one he donated last spring to the TSA.
Food is bagged and stored in the gallon jugs that will sit in the watertight storage under the thwart. It gets easier each time as we set out the gear and pack the boat.
Forecast is good for the next week, but who knows what kind of weather we'll see. Very excited about this trip. We'll leave here about 6 a.m. tomorrow, plan to be sailing out of Crisfield by 11.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SPOT tracking page

I've added a photo (at top right) that will link you to our SPOT tracking page starting Friday, 9/25. Here is the direct url.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

a little more information

Got a little more information for the trip yesterday from Kevin B. (thanks Kevin)

I've been looking at anchorages for day two and the northernmost spot would be Punch Island Creek. Kevin had alerted me that some jetties had been built near the mouth of the creek (an effort at erosion control).

Yesterday he sent a map of the jetties and said the phase 1 jetties are now in place. Those all appear to the north of the creek. I'm very glad to know exactly where they are located. I'll make a print of the map and bring it along with us.
I took over the garage yesterday and started laying out the gear and supplies. Got to head out of town now for an overnight trip. I'll be back just about the time Bruce flies in and then we'll get set to go.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

"you aren't hungry"

Had to run over to the Eastern Shore yesterday to meet some oyster farming friends. I visited Willis Wharf on the ocean side of the Delmarva (as in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) Peninsula. Also got out on Nasssawadox Creek, below, on the Chesapeake Bay side. Very nice places to visit. Good people, hardworking tradition that goes back generations. The trip made me think I've got to do some more exploring with Spartina on the Bay.
They have an interesting way of marking time on the shore. Below is the the corner of an century-old shucking house in the community of Bayford on the Bay side. For the Eastern Shore, much like the Outer Banks, people recall events dated by the storms.
And below is a nice farm-raised oyster from Nassawadox Creek. Salty and sweet I can tell you. I've still got a few of them in the fridge to share with a neighbor tomorrow. These oysters were excellent. And the ones from the sea side were even saltier.
Just now reading John Steinbeck's "Sweet Thursday", his postwar follow-up to Cannery Row. I came this across great line. "You aren't hungry, but you're starving."

I'll have to think about that one for a while.


no time to monkey around

The trip is less than a week away and I've got a lot of work to do. Picked up some pork chops today, also some double A batteries and a new tank of propane for the camp stove.
We've moved in to the early fall weather pattern, cooler and drier than summer, very pleasant. I hope it stays that way.
I'll start spreading out the gear in the garage monday afternoon, but then I've got to go out of town for an overnight trip. I'll get back the same day that Bruce flies in. We'll spend Thursday checking the gear and packing, hit the road Friday
I've been reading my Chesapeake Bay chartbook every night like it is a best seller. I can't wait for this trip.

My colleagues put the picture up on the wall in one of the offices where I sometimes work. Fine.
But did they have to caption it "Monkey, left, and Steve"?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

bootstrap in the sounds

There is a great read called Bootstrap in the Sounds on Duckworks Magazine. Anyone up for small boat adventures will enjoy reading it. I have been a fan of New Zealand sailors (and kayakers too, KiwiBird)for the last severals years, they always seem to have a great time on water.

Richard Schmidt of Wellington, NZ and his nephew Ralph took the Navigator Bootstrap on a seven day trip. It sounds like they had a little adventure and a lot of fun.
It is perfect timing for me to read this story - our cruise on the Pathfinder (slightly larger version of the Navigator) is just about a week away. Lots of great inspiration here. Be sure to check out their photo album - beautiful boat and beautiful sailing area.
Their trip is just another testament to the great designs by John Welsford. John's boats, particularly the sailboats from 14 feet to 17 feet in length, are great for day sailing and spectacular for camper cruising. I know we'll be appreciating John's seaworthy, comfortable design while we are out on Chesapeake Bay.

Thanks Richard (and Chuck) for the great story (I hope you don't mind that I borrowed a couple of photographs!)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

survival bag

I've been trying to figure out what needs to go in our survival kits that I mentioned a while ago.
I think SandyBottom has done the thinking for us. She is busy organizing the Water Tribe NC Challenge which will be going on as Bruce and I head north on Chesapeake Bay. In a post on their discussion forum she said.....

My hypothermia kit is a small drybag and contains a couple of waterproof matches, a couple small pieces of a starter fire log, space blanket, emergency heat packs, wool cap, energy bar. All fit in a small pack attached to the back of my PFD.

Add to that a couple of signalling devices and we might be in pretty good shape. Thanks Dawn for the advice. Have a great race!


punch island creek

Below is a satellite photo of Punch Island Creek, the northern most anchorage I mentioned yesterday as a possible stopping point on day 2. It looks like a nice wide creek with a couple of channels that run off to the shallows on the north side. I think I'll add this to our list of gps waypoints.
I felt like a federal parolee tonight as I clipped my SPOT satellite beacon on to my belt while running a few errands. Big Brother in the sky was following my moves. I wanted to make sure I had the profiles set right. I had to mess around with it a little but got it working. We'll put a link to the shared tracking page at the top of this blog next Thursday right before we leave on the trip.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the big broads

I spent some time early this morning printing out tide/current predictions for the Bay and looked at some possible anchorages. The first night we'll be at the Ewell Tide Inn on Smith Island. The second night we'll be anchoring out north of Smith Island somewhere along (at the southern end) Upper Hooper Island or (at the northern end) Taylors Island. I can see three possible anchorages.
Starting at the bottom X there is Barren Island just outside of Fishing Creek. Looks like nice protection but I would prefer to get beyond that point by the end of day two. Further north, past the shallows called the Barren Island Gap, is the interestingly named stretch of sand call The Big Broads. And at the top is Punch Island Creek. I've got to say I would really like to have either The Big Broads or Punch Island Creek as an anchorage in my log book.

From the chart books the water inside The Big Broads looks to be pretty shallow and there seems to be even less water over the Barren Island Gap. But I have sailed and anchored in similarly marked waters down at both Tangier and Great Fox Islands. Spartina needs just 18 inches of water or so to get a little bit of the cb and rudder down and she does just fine with that.
Here is the satellite photo of The Big Broads. The piers and boats along shore seem to indicate enough water to get in there and anchor. It does look to have good protection from all directions, plus that nice stretch of white beach might make for a nice evening stroll.
The entrance to Punch Island Creek does appear to be deeper and better marked, so that might well be where we drop anchor. We'll just have to see how far north the winds will carry us.
On the way from Smith Island to Taylors Island we'll sail about two miles off of the eastern shore and try to track these closely stacked contour lines. When the lines are that close together it indicates a nice drop-off, in this case one that goes from 28 feet to 112 feet in the width of a couple of hundred yards. My fishing friends tell me that is where we should be trolling for rockfish and blues. (As I said before, no fish will be harmed during this experiment.)


Sunday, September 13, 2009

real men don't reef

Had a very nice day sail today on the Elizabeth River. Cool and breezy, it was cloudy in the morning. I guess I was getting to comfortable with rigging the boat - once out on the water I found I had made a couple of mistakes. To start off with I had switched the lines that run from the top of the mizzen to the mizzen lazy jacks (seen in the photo below). This meant I could not raise the mizzen through the crossed lines. So I had to unclip the lines and switch them. (I have lazy jacks on both the main and the mizzen, they really simplify handling the sails for the single-handed sailor.)
It was breezy enough that I decided to tuck in a reef at the ramp. (Real men don't reef, but smart ones do.) There I made my second mistake, putting the reefing hook in the grommet for the second set of reef points instead of first. So I had to take care of that also. Maybe I was enjoying life too much and not paying attention to the details.
No harm done, but it was a good reminder to double check the rigging before getting out on the water.
I also took along my gps, an old Garmin Etrex. I wanted to make sure I remembered how to set up the trip computer and tracking functions. Below is part of today's track imported into Google Earth. I sailed a little over 18 miles today, according to the computer, with a moving average of 3.7 knots. (Not bad. My typical moving average from cruises is usually 3.0 knots - though with the great wind on the Skeeter Beater we did 3.3 knots over the seven days).
We'll have Bruce's newer Garmin gps on the Crab House 150, it has the high resolution maps. Much nicer than the simple black and white charts on mine.
A lot of boats out on the water including a fleet of dinghies from Old Dominion University. It looked like they were having fun. They said on the Elizabeth River just east of where the Lafayette River joins the Elizabeth.
By late morning the clouds had moved on and I had sunny skies and a great breeze. You can see I still have the reef tucked in. Just about noon I shook out the reef and had a great sail back to downtown Norfolk
Less than two weeks before we leave on the Crab House 150.


Friday, September 11, 2009


Got a great tip and a question from Kevin B. of the navigator "Slip Jig" fame today. That is Slip Jig below. Beautiful boat, can't wait to see it at the Small Craft Festival.
Kevin's tip was that Dogwood Harbor, home of the iconic Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks, is within walking distance of where we will be staying on Tilghman Island. I have seen a couple of the beautiful boats, but only at museums. Apparently those at Dogwood Harbor are the last few of the working fleet. We will definitely make an effort to walk over and check them out.
The X at the upper left is where we plan to stay, the X at the lower right is Dogwood Harbor. Looks like a nice stroll before dinner. I can't wait.
Kevin's question was about tracking us. Yes, we will post our SPOT tracking page. A link to it will be on the blog at the upper right (I would like to add the tracking map directly to the blog but the technical issues are beyond me). I haven't set it up yet but it will most likely be an image of the orange SPOT satellite beacon. Click on it and it will take you to our tracking page. We are undecided about adding our "ok" messages to the blog. When we got back from the Skeeter Beater the blog looked pretty boring - lots of "ok" messages with links to maps. It seems like the tracking page would be more up to date and more interesting. I'll see what Bruce thinks.

I also got an offer of help (plus a cell phone number!) when we are in Rock Hall from Seth. Very nice of you Seth, thanks very much. We'll add your contact number to our cruise info. We'll look forward to seeing you at the festival, if not sooner.

Thanks Kevin and Seth, see you guys on the water.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

details and a nice Pathfinder

Here is a nice photo I just received from my friend Tom W. A very nice Pathfinder, love those tan bark sails. Thanks for the photo, Tom.

Two weeks from tonight we'll be packing the boat and jeep so I've got to get to work on the details. I printed out google map screen shots of a few of the places we'll be visiting. With good charts and two gps's we'll certainly find the harbor or cuts. But these satellite photos will help us recognize marinas, breakwaters and shallows. I'll laminate them and have them in the aft cockpit for a quick reference as we come in to the harbors. I've never visited any of the places, our first view will be from water level.

That is Knapp's Narrows below, we'll be staying at the Tilghman Island Inn which (I think) is the first marina on the south side at the west end of the cut. We hope to be there by early afternoon. High tide is around noon. When the tide is running it can get up to 5 knots according to the people at the Inn. I would like to come in from the Chesapeake Bay side (at the left) before 1 or 1:30. If we come and go by the bay we won't have to deal with a bridge lift.

Below is Kent Narrows, again another spot where the tide moves pretty quickly. But if we time it right we'll arrive there from Rock Hall before the tide is moving too fast (but we will have to get a bridge life as we transit from north to south).
And that is Rock Hall. Our marina is the one just below the word "more". The hotel is right there and the crab house is just a block away. I can smell the crabs steaming right now.
I need to start checking batteries, remember how to work the SPOT (I love my SPOT, but they are not very intuitive so I need to relearn it for each cruise), check out the stove and start sorting clothes. The two weeks will go by quickly.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

sunday sail and gear test

I did well to ignore the weather forecast - winds 2 to 4 mph - and went for a fantastic sail today on the Elizabeth River. Wind was a very steady 10-12 out of the NE and I had a great reach down the river to the James River and back - about 20 some miles I expect. I had flown over the river last night (photo below) and it was very calm but decided to go sailing anyway as I wanted to find out how a few new pieces of gear fit on board.
That's the Elizabeth River below with the Norfolk Southern coal yards in the foreground. The James River can be seen in the upper right. Right across from the coal pier is Craney Island and Craney Island Creek (for history buffs that is where the ironclad Merrimack - known as the CSS Virginia to the confederacy - was beach and destroyed as the union forces moved up from the Outer Banks to retake Norfolk and Portsmouth. The battle between the Monitor and Merrimack occurred a few months earlier just a few miles to the west on the James River.).
I made a small change to Spartina, seen below. I added a couple of hammock hooks to bulkhead No. 1 up under the foredeck. The hooks will hold this mesh laundry bag which will hold a two gallon ziploc trash bag. I am always surpised about how much trash we generate on a cruise. Wrappers for breakfast bars, plastic cups from fruit cups, aluminum tuna fish cans, baggies from trail mix, etc. It really adds up. We keep a one gallon ziplock bag in the cockpit for our daily trash. We'll compress that bag each evening and stow it in the two gallon bag stored in the mesh bag below.
Below are the two 4 liter bags that will hold our survival kits I mentioned in the lifeboat post. They are hooked on a bungee cord that runs below the deck and behind the coaming on the port side of the aft cockpit. We'll figure out what goes in the bags once Bruce arrives in town.
And that is the new Pelican camera box. The idea for the box comes from day four of our last trip. It was a very wet day with lots of spray coming over the bow. At one point we looked down to see the bag containing Bruce's camera and lenses sloshing around in a few inches of water. Not good. The gear did fine that day, but we decided that a Pelican case - both waterproof and shock resistant - would be a good investment. It will hold one camera body and two lenses.
So I had these pieces of gear on board today just to make sure they fit and did not get in the way. I've marked in red the new pieces of gear, plus an extra long docking line we've added, on the packing layout below.
Everything seems to fit just fine. I do think we are approaching full capacity for Spartina. The boat is living up to John Welsford's goal - enough room for two people and supplies for two weeks. We can easily do that. But in the future when we decide to add another piece of gear we'll need to decide what other piece of gear needs to be left behind. That's ok by me, no need to carry anything more what is needed to be safe and comfortable.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

the inner islands

As I was writing the post below I went to SandyBottom's blog to get her link and came across her post of "the inner islands, A Carolinian's Sound Country Chronicle" by Bland Simpson. Wow, what a great book that has to be.
Here is Amazon's description....

Blending history, oral history, autobiography, and travel narrative, Bland Simpson explores the geography and biodiversity of the islands that lie in eastern North Carolina's sounds, rivers, and swamps. The fifth in a series of books by Simpson examining the natural and human history of the region, The Inner Islands presents Simpson's signature reportage on territory often bypassed by tourists and scholars alike.

I don't think you can go wrong with chapters titled The View from Bird Shoal, A Rose for Roanoke, The Purchace Iles and The Defense of Huggins Island. I've have the pleasure of visiting and sailing near some of the place mentioned in "the inner islands", but I know they will have an entirely new feel once I have read this book.

Thanks, SandyBottom, for the tip.


nc challenge tune-up

Here is a very nice report from Paul Stewart, also known as Dances with SandyBottom, about a scouting trip for the Watertribe NC Challenge that he and his son Alan (in the bottom photo) made aboard their Core Sound 20 "Dawn Patrol."
They covered 65 miles out of the 100 mile NC Challenge course. They also got some unexpected practice righting a capsized boat when an gust of wind caught them in a deep trough and put the boat over on its side. Paul's report is worth reading just for the detailed description of the recovery. Impressively, they were back under sail in 20 minutes.
I have not met Paul or his wife SandyBottom in person, but I've exchanged emails with both over the last several months. They take a very methodical approach to their journeys. I've learned a lot of lessons from them both. I do look forward to meeting them out on the water someday.


tidal flow

A buddy told me about a great new website for tides predictions. It is called ProTides. The cool thing about it is that you can search location by name or, better yet, by Google maps. Below is a screen shot for their tide location predictions for a section of the Chesapeake Bay. You can see their Maryland map here.
They have 27 maps for coastal states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. I'll be mostly interested in their Maryland map for this upcoming trip (it has tide locations for Smith Island, Kent Narrows and Tilghman Island - perfect!). But I'll also be using their Virginia and North Carolina maps on future trips. Maybe someday I'll get a chance to use their Florida and Texas pages.
Pick out your location on the map, click it and you'll get a calendar like the one below. You can see they have tides, moon and sun information all right there.

Click on a specific day and you'll get the information in both graphic and tabular forms.
It is amazing what can be found on the web for free.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

fishing (*see note below)

Cool and dry today, made me think of fall. And thinking of fall made me think of fishing so I decided to rig some lures for The Crab House 150. Fishing will be a little different from the last couple of trips. In the sounds of North Carolina we typically cast small lures around the marshes in search of speckled trout or puppy drum. On the bay we'll be trolling out in the deep water from rockfish (also known as striper).
We'll be using a couple of lures on each rig along with a three way swivel. The larger lure (six ounces), with a soft rubber "grub" and a skirt works as both a lure and a weight to keep the rig down in the way (When fishing in the deep water and strong currents at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay that larger lure can weigh up to 20 ounces and is often called a "mojo.") The second, smaller lure weighing only 1/4 ounce, will trail behind the larger lure. For line we'll be using braid as opposed to the more common monofilament fishing line. Braid has less drag, cuts through the water easier and allows the lures to sink deeper. (If we were really serious we would be using "wire" instead of line. Wire cuts through the water better than anything, but it requires a rod with a roller tip and that gets expensive.)
I've checked the regulations. Bruce will need to get an out of state short term license for Maryland water. My Virginia license will work for me, I'm told (but need to confirm) that Virginia and Maryland recognize each other's license.
We'll be looking for rock that are 18 to 28 inches long, just one should make a nice meal for the two of us. If we hook anything bigger, like the one above, we'll probably let it go. But who knows.


(*Note - Past experience indicates no fish will be injured during this experiment.)