Thursday, December 31, 2009

new year's day

"January 1st, 1913. New Year's Day. Comes pouring rain, and at 2:30 a.m. for mine. Got Mascot afloat but couldn't handle her alone in the tideway and had to call H. on deck. Hanged if the boy wasn't asleep again. Soon snugged up and after a hot mug-up turned in for some good rest. Turned out about eight and felt fine. Barometer rising. Sky clearing. Wind a beauty at northwest and just what the doctor ordered....."

From "The Boy Me and the Cat" by Henry M. Plummer, a sail down the coast in 24' Cape Cod catboat Mascot.


I'm working on my strategy to get through winter. It is my least favorite season and even after 20 years on the mid-Atlantic I can't get used to the long nights and cold weather. So I try to ways to mark the time and keep myself busy.

I still haven't completely sorted through the photographs from the Crab House 150 and Small Craft Festival. We shot our images in a raw format as is produces the largest, highest quality files. That is good in that the files are huge and have lots of data for color balances, shadow areas, etc. But it is bad because it means I have to go through a two step conversion process (raw to .dng (digital negative) and then .dng to .jpeg) for a photo I can email to somebody or post on the blog. I think before the next trip we'll see if there is room enough on our storage cards - Bruce has several and I've got a couple - to shoot in the setting that gives us both the .jpeg and raw files. (For the difference between raw and .jpeg consider the raw file as a very large cube of data while the .jpeg is only a two dimensional slice of that data cube.)
The photo above moving to the dock at Ruke's, the one below is before dawn on Tilghman Island. I do need to edit all the images, we're thinking of doing a Blurb book on the Crab House trip. I might even try to import the daily logs from the trip in to the book to make it more complete (the last book I did was photos only).

And then there is baseball. A friend at work walk by the other day and said "Six weeks". That's all he needed to say, I new exactly what he meant. Six weeks until pitchers and catchers report for spring training. I'm a casual fan when it comes to baseball ( I do confess to chasing Frank "Hondo" Howard down the street in St. Petersburg a few years ago to get his autograph - he was very nice about it but would only sign the baseball if I sat down and talked with him for a few minutes. What a class act.) but I do enjoy listening to a day game while on the road for work or a night game while working on the boat in the garage. The grapefruit league is a sure sign that spring is on the way.
I do need to make a one-day road trip to Bath, Belhaven, Swan Quarter in late February, early March to check out marinas for this spring's trip. I ought to make sure I do that when there are some good ball games on satellite radio.

The Watertribe Everglades Challenge, March 6-14, tells me that my sailing season is just about here. I follow this race on the web like it was a baseball game (one that takes several days to complete, of course) and enjoy tracking the various competitors as they sail or paddle down south. This will be the fourth or fifth year I've followed the race. I don't ever expect to compete in the event but maybe someday I'll do a cruise down there and see those islands on the west coast of Florida for myself.

The tough economy is still with us and the boss just gave us a couple of more unpaid days during the winter. I combined mine on the schedule with a late February weekend for four days off in a row. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I can get all (or most ) of the painting done on Spartina for a mid-March launch.

Oh, and another thing that will help me get through the winter......hopping on a jet tomorrow to fly to San Diego for a week to see my Mom. That will be fun. Plus I'll get together with Bruce for some planning for next year and make the annual expeditions to REI and West Marine.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

there's a hole in my boat

And I'm the one that put it there. The one area where I ignored John Welsford's instructions was putting a drain hole underneath the mizzen step. I mean how much water could run down the the mizzen and end up pooling in the step and surrounding case? A lot, I found out. One decent little rainstorm could fill that box. No big deal on a day sail. But when out for a few days I didn't like the idea of the bottom of the mizzen sitting in a few inches of water for the extended time. Should have listened to John in the first place. I've drilled the hole (about 5/8 inches diameter) and now need to seal the wood with epoxy and then paint it. I'll do that along with the other epoxy work and painting I need to do this winter.
I did get a nice West Marine gift card for Christmas from one of my brothers (thanks, Tom). I ran right to the store and picked up some line, spark plugs and eye straps. The red line is for reefing outhauls. I've used odd pieces of white or green line in the past. I figure it is time to make outhauls just the right size and have them in red so they are easier to spot. The white line is to replace some sail ties that have frayed. The eye straps will be used with bungee cords to hold the fire extinguisher next to frame number two under the front part of the coaming. And I usually go through three spark plugs each year - one each for spring, summer or fall.
When I shot the photo of my West Marine supplies I found some other photos on the card from a summer sail. They brought back some nice memories of last season's sailing.
The photo below shows one of the guide posts on my trailer. On trips I try to gather those Euro style stickers from each town visited. I've got quite a few on the trailer now. On this post you'll see stickers from Beaufort (the SkeeterBeater trip), Eastern Shore of Virginia (Tangier Sound trip) and Cedar Island (fall '07 sail) . I hope to collect a few more stickers next year.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

good friends that I've never met

I did my usual visit to David Perillo's Open Boat website out of New Zealand and was very happy to find a photo showing both Spartina and Kevin B's Slip Jig in the latest photos gallery. Bruce shot that photo as we sailed alongside each other from Dividing Creek to St. Michaels on day seven of the Crab House 150. It was nice to have two John Welsford designs, Kevin's Navigator and my Pathfinder, sailing together.
I scrolled down a few photos on the Open Boat page and found David had published another photograph from Spartina, this one from Spencer Bay (site of the battle of "Mosquito Creek") during the SkeeterBeater.
It makes me feel good to have some photos of Spartina published on Open Boat, thanks very much David. While building Spartina and dreaming about cruising I was visiting Open Boat every week, reading about David's weekend sails on his Navigator Jaunty and studying all the reader-submitted photos of open boats.

I've never met David, he lives on the other side of the world. But he has taught me a lot about small boats, sailing and enjoying life. In fact it was through his story about sailing a Navigator in the Fiji Islands that I first heard about this boat designer named John Welsford. I googled JW and less than a month later I was shaping the stem and cutting frames for Spartina.

Last I saw David had sold Jaunty and was building a new boat. His site shows a lot of progress, I hope he launches her this season. There he is below with his AWOL design (also from the boards of John Welsford). I can't wait to see what adventures he will have on that boat. (David, hope it is ok that I used the photo.)

And speaking of people I've never met that affected my life, we got an comment posted to the blog from Doug Cameron the other day. He said he enjoyed our Chesapeake Bay trip and had a question about the bivy sacs we use on Spartina. Something about his name caught my attention but I could not place it. So I looked at his profile and saw he had completed some Everglades Challenges and the Watertribe NC Challenge. I finally made the connection when I went to the Watertribe Rogues Gallery and found out he was RidgeRunner. I then knew exactly who he was and that he had a direct effect on the first sail Bruce and I did together.

That is Doug/RidgeRunner above, left getting ready for the 2009 Watertribe NC Challenge in his Core Sound 20. (Doug, I borrowed a couple of photos. Hope that is ok. If not let me know and I'll take them down.) And below is a beautiful photograph from, I think, one of his Everglades Challenges.

Doug/RidgeRunner changed the plan for the sail I did with Bruce in 2007. At the time this was to be my second cruise on Spartina and the first ever sailing for Bruce. We had planned to put in at Harkers Island and sail just the lower part of Core Sound and Shackleford Sound over to Beaufort and back. I figured we would learn about cruising together with sails of a few miles a day. But then I read Doug's piece about his sailing the 2003 Everglades Challenge. He mentioned in the very well-written story that several participants, including himself, were grandfathers.

I emailed Bruce that night and said we have got to change our sailing plan. If a grandfather (obviously one who is adventurous and in great shape) can do a 300 mile sail single-handed, then we can certainly do better than a few miles a day. Soon I sent Bruce a new route that had us sailing up Core Sound, across the bottom of Pamlico Sound, down the Neuse River to Oriental and then down the ICW to Beaufort and back to Harkers Island. Certainly not the 300 miles of the EC, but at about 100 miles a pretty good sail for a couple of newbies like us. You can read about that trip here. (I'm not sure of Doug's age, he may be a few years older than me, maybe not. But grandfather or not, after reading about his EC's and other races I would not want to compete against him).

So thanks to David, whom I have never met, for telling me about Welsford boats. And thanks to Doug/RidgeRunner, whom I have never met, for inspiring me to be a bit more adventurous out on the water. I hope someday I get to meet you guys and say thanks in person.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

spring cruise

We are at the southern end of the nor'easter that is hammering the mid-Atlantic right now. Some flooding in Norfolk I heard, but otherwise just cold and rainy (the snow is all north of us). So what else to do on a dismal day but tweak the route for the spring cruise. This will be the last time I mess with the charts until Bruce and I sit down together in San Diego right after the first of the year to talk about it.

The main change is taking an extra day to get to Oriental and then a day less to get from Oriental to Cape Lookout.
We like to do relatively short sails on the first day of a cruise. That first day usually involves getting up at 5:30 a.m., loading food and last minute items, hooking up the trailer and driving (in this case about 2 and 1/2 hours) to the boat ramp, rigging the boat, loading the boat and then casting off. So after all that it is usually about 11 a.m. and a nice, easy afternoon sail to the first anchorage is about right.
Deciding where to stop that first night on this trip is complicated by the width of the Pamlico River. It is either 17 miles to Dixon Creek (south of the Pamlico River) or 10 miles to Currituck Point (on the north side of Pamlico River). Sailing just 10 miles on the first day is shorter than I would like, but at the same time that means we don't have to rush to drive, rig and load. Plus Bruce will have more time to make his beef/fresh vegetables/red wine stew (a traditional first evening meal that can simmer for well over an hour to reach perfection).
Then we can cross the Pamlico River on day two, transit the Goose Creek stretch of the ICW and end up somewhere around the mouth of the Bay River (I marked Dipping Vat Creek on the chart).
This approach gives us sailing days for most the trip somewhere between 25 and 30 miles. There are two short sails in there, the days we get in to Oriental and Beaufort. It is nice to get in those towns early in the afternoon, have a chance to clean up (both ourselves and the boat) and relax on the waterfront.
Total "as the crow flies" distance is just short of 160 miles.

I'll see what Bruce thinks about all this in a week or two.


Friday, December 18, 2009

author, author!

Ok, it's not going to make the NY Times best seller list, but I did have fun putting together a nice book with photographs from the SkeeterBeater and the '07 North Carolina cruises. The idea had been in my mind for a while and when I was laid up with a bad foot a couple of weeks ago I got on the internet, imported the images and designed a nice softback book. Below is a screenshot showing part of the layout.

I used Blurb, one of several online book publishers. There other one I've heard about since is These are online, on-demand publishers. It was a matter of downloading some free software, importing the images and designing the layout. What I put together was a pretty simple 8x10 book with one image per page (about 5x7 inch image size) and a little tag-line saying where the photo was made (i.e. Dixon Creek, 2009). There are a total of 80 images on 78 pages plus cover. I spent about three hours on it that first day, then another hour the following day, then uploaded the design and images to the website (about 45 minutes on a dsl connection). The books, I ordered three copies, showed up yesterday and I was thrilled with the result. Very nice quality paper, printed exactly as I had designed and with great color/contrast reproduction. The same quality of just about any photo book you might find in a store. I could even order it in a hardback version if I wanted to spend a few more bucks.
Cost came to about $25.00 per book. Not bad when you consider consider the cost of buying a photo album and 80 5x7 prints could be much more than that.

This online journal Bruce and I put together is fun and I do enjoy going back through the logs of our trips every once in a while, but having a book to hold in my hands is really pretty cool. There is something "permanent" about it. And I don't need to boot it up or plug it in to have a look at some of my favorite photographs. It just sits there on the table waiting for me to flip through the pages (what a concept!!).
Blurb even offers the book for sale to the public at their on-line book store. But truth be told I don't want anybody to buy this book, it is just something for me, Bruce and our families.

I would much prefer that you have your own adventure and publish your own book.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

hard aground

Sad news from the Schooner Virginia today. The slow economy has caught up with the tall ship. It has been recalled from the Virgin Islands, the crew will be laid off and the schooner will be stored until the financial situation improves.
I had the pleasure of sailing aboard the schooner twice on the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. That is the Virginia in the background of the photo below tied up at Baltimore's Fells Point before the start of this year's race.

She was built on the Norfolk waterfront right next to where my daughters and I launched our first Spartina. Getting back to the ramp one afternoon a volunteer guide took us in to see her under construction. He gave us a sharpie and allowed us to sign each of our names to a frame, number 13 on the starboard side if I recall correctly, and below that we identified we ourselves as "the crew of Spartina." It was a very nice moment with my daughters.

And this photo was taken at the end of the 2005 race as the ship came the Elizabeth River. I'm sorry for the ship and I'm sorry for the crew. Fifteen people, very good people with a great sense of adventure, will be let go.

The foundation that operates Virginia says that this is a temporary situation. I hope so. There is a lot of our heritage in the tall ships. I hope it is not too long before the Virginia sails again.


a couple of more photos

I've been surprised by the reaction to the fog photo from yesterday. I got a couple of comments here on the blog, some emails and even some phone calls. Made me feel good.
This spot is just a couple of blocks from my office. I sometimes stop and walk by the water before going in to work. Here are a couple of more photos from that morning.

The area is called Wisconsin Square. The statue is called The Lone Sailor.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

grey day

The water is cold, warm moist air coming up from the south. A pretty morning on the river.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

"like an old man trying to send back soup"

"The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."
-faux marine biologist George Costanza while explaining how he saved a whale - "a great fish" - from a golf ball

The ocean and fish did not cooperate this morning. A front was moving up from the south with gale force winds and heavy rain.
We had a great evening last night with steaks and lobster tails, baked potatoes, wine and all around good company. Up at 6 am and at the dock by 6:30. The captain of the Sea Era met us there and gave us our options. He had been out off of the beach from the Oregon Inlet shoals north to Kitty Hawk the day before and found the waters empty of both stripers and and bunker (also known as menhaden, fatback), the baitfish they feed on. He offered to take us to Croatan Sound to fish the bridges on the west side of Roanoke Island. There could be some small striper there. But with the weather moving up from the south we would have a rough ride back to the docks (and even then catching fish was a maybe). Or we could cancel out and get a full refund on our deposit. With a quick vote we decided to cancel and save our money for a better day.
I cannot say enough good things about Sea Era and Captain Dean Johnson. The captain built the boat himself, a beautiful job. And he was very upfront and honest about our chances for catching fish. Seasons like this can be tough on charter captains - even if the fish go away, their bills don't. But he wanted us to be happy, accepted the cancellation with a smile and a promise to contact us if the fishing improved. We will definitely keep him in mind for our next fishing expedition.
I did make a little progress in getting ready for next spring's trip (or trips - if I work out the weekender in May), buying a Top Spot Pamlico Sound waterproof fold out chart at a tackle shop in Kill Devil Hills. This is a well made, easy to read and durable map. I'll bring along the waterproof chartbook on Spartina too. But I do think this will be a nice addition for our navigation gear. (And I'll take it to California in a few weeks so Bruce and I can sit down and look at the possible routes for our trip.)
So it was back to the condo to clean up, grab our gear and head home. A couple of the guys needed some rest - canceling a fishing trip and having a nice breakfast can be exhausting. I wish we had gotten out on the water - but it was a good trip to the outer banks and a nice chance to visit with some friends.


Friday, December 11, 2009

this is how internet rumors get started....

I got an email from a friend/pathfinder sailor yesterday. I just want to say there is no truth to what he thinks he saw.

"I did notice your wench hooked to your centerboard and wondered why..."

It is true that I am doing a little work on Spartina. I'm changing out the centerboard pendant block, substituting the original one on the right for the new one on the left. The original was undersized but it did work for four years. The new one is the right size but I'll need to make a wooden spacer to get it fastened properly in to place.

And I think with the change I'll be able to put the centerboard trunk cap in place. The Pathfinder plans call for the top of the trunk to be open. But I've found at anchorage people like to sit on top of the trunk and this will make it more comfortable. Plus the piece of varnished wood looks nice inside the grey cockpit. I made the cap when I built the boat, just never got around to putting some hidden bungee hooks in place to hold the cap down (it will be easily removable if I need to access the trunk).

I was surprised at how clumsy the tools felt in my hands. I was never a woodworker of any sort, but after a layoff of a few years it seemed like I had never used a saw before.

This winter I want to also make a slight modification to the tiller, add a drain for the mizzen mast step (I've already drilled the hole in the bottom of the boat) and do the painting and touch up work that I started a few weeks ago. The temperatures, dropping in to the thirties as I write, aren't helping. I think I'll wait for a warmer day.

And for the record, I don't have a wench.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

crazy heart

"Life, unfortunately."

Watch this movie trailer and you'll hear country singer "Bad" Blake explain to a reporter where he gets most of his songs.

I haven't set foot in a theater in years but I am looking forward to going there soon to see the Crazy Heart. Why would I bring up a film about a broken down country western singer on a blog about sailing? Reading books is one of the true joys of sailing - particularly those quiet evenings when single-handed sailing and there is nobody around for miles - and I read Thomas Cobb's Crazy Heart in 1988 on my first ever cruise on the original Spartina, a modified Sam Devlin-designed Nancy's China (below).

I, along with a lot of help from my Dad, built the Nancy's China in 1986-87 while I was living in Waco, Texas. I'm a southern California boy but spent seven years living in Texas and loved every minute of it. To this day I miss it all - the weather, the food, the music.

Trying to get information about boat building and cruising in the middle of Texas was difficult in those pre-internet days. I scoured every page of WoodenBoat Magazine and Small Boat Journal that I could find. Asking about epoxy and marine plywood at Dallas marine suppliers would get me nothing more than eye rolls and vague answers. But with Dad's help I got the boat built. I left off the cabin that Devlin drew for the boat (even back then I knew I wanted to do open cockpit cruising) and used a gaff rigged main instead of the sprit rig (the heart of Texas in the 1980's, a couple of hundred miles from the coast, was not the place to get advice on the intricacies of handling a sprit rig or, for that matter, anything else about sailing traditional wooden boats) .

I launched the boat in December of '87 on Lake Waco, and in late May of '88 trailered it five hours south to Padre Island for a five day cruise behind the barrier islands of Texas. In retrospect I was very poorly equipped and poorly trained - basically I had a camp stove, boom tent, flashlight, sleeping pad, bucket and cheap rain coat. But fortune favored me, the weather was good and I had a great time. And to this day I remember sitting in the cockpit in the evening, a baseball game out of Houston on the radio, reading Crazy Heart.

There is some great sailing territory along the Texas coast. The area I cruised is part of the territory travelled each year by the Texas 200 fleet. Someday I hope to join Chuck and the rest of the sailors for that event.

At the time of that first cruise I planned to be a regular visitor to the Texas coast. But less than three months later I was unexpectedly trailering Spartina across the country to a new home in Virginia. It was "life", as Bad Blake says, but I'll leave off the "unfortunately" as this life on the mid-Atlantic coast has worked out pretty well for me.

As for the original Spartina, I sailed her for couple of years in Elizabeth City, NC (just across the state line), then put her in the garage when kids (and responsibilities) arrived. I refitted her about seven years ago when the girls were old enough to sail with me. Then sold her to a guy from South Carolina to help pay for building my Pathfinder. The new owner moved to Missouri and then sold her to someone in Fort Worth, Texas. Then that guy sold her to someone in Dallas. I haven't heard from that latest owner in years, but I'm glad to know that the original Spartina made it back to her home state of Texas. I hope she is doing well.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Webb Chiles on FurledSails

Noel left a comment on my Webb Chiles post with links to FurledSails podcast interviews with Mr. Chiles. I'm listening to (and enjoying) the first one right now, I'll catch the second one tomorrow. Here are the links for those that don't look at the blog's comments section......

Hearing his voice really helps round out the portrait Mr. Chiles paints of himself on his website.

And FurledSails also has another of my favorite interviews, this one with Pathfinder designer (and of course the designer of many other fine boats) John Welsford. Here are the links for both parts of that interview (the photo you'll see there is Spartina off the beach of Watts Island on Chesapeake Bay)...

Thanks Noel

Sunday, December 6, 2009

the brush strokes of a life

I'm pretty pedestrian in my outlook on life and my views of certain things are straight forward. Art, for example, was a painting or sculpture, maybe even an performance. But as I get older I'm coming around in my mind as to what might be considered art. (In the words of Guy Clark "the more I learn, the less I seem to know".) I came home from a sail a couple of summers ago and told my wife about a man I saw on the shore at Town Point Park. He stood there gazing out over the river deep in thought. With his body english and the intensity in his eyes he looked exactly like a man studying a painting in a museum. And it occurred to me then that maybe that scene on the river was a kind of artwork. And maybe the bent wood and taut white sails of Spartina played a small part of that composition.

That afternoon was brought back to my mind when I came across the online journal of Webb Chiles, one of my all time favorite small boat sailors. He says quite clearly he doesn't consider himself a sailor - he thinks of himself as an artist.

His attempt at sailing around the world single-handed in an 18' open cockpit boat is what first caught my attention in the 1980's. I've read and reread his two books about that journey countless times - Open Boat: Across the Pacific and The Ocean Waits. Open Boat recounts his sail from (my hometown of) San Diego to somewhere between the Fiji Islands and the island nation of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) where he cut the lines to his swamped Drascombe Lugger Chidiock Tichborne and drifted off in an inflatable dinghy. The Ocean Waits resumes the journey from Port Vila west to Australia, the Indian Ocean and to the Red Sea where he was imprisoned (falsely) as a spy. Below is Chiles in his ocean crossing boat. I still can't get over the idea that he made across the Pacific Ocean in that boat.

The open boat journey is just one of many circumnavigations for Chiles, below is a chart showing some of his other journeys.

Why does he consider himself an artist? Go to his website and take a look at his poetry, fiction and photography. (He has a great eye for color and design. I had hoped to show some images here but they are locked up. But please go to his site and take a look. His photographs of islands are very nice, but my favorites are in "the mooring", "the condominium" and "other".). But beyond that he considers his life, his sailing a work of art. He says it best.....

"People who know of me at all probably do so as a sailor; but I have always thought of myself as an artist, and I believe that the artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports."

His voyages, his writings, his photography and his life are his reports from the edge.

Sometimes in the mid-90's Webb Chiles did a series of speaking engagements for (I think) West Marine. My folks were in town and Dad and I went to hear him speak at a hotel on the downtown waterfront. It was a fascinating evening where he told stories, many very personal stories, about his life and journeys. I did not get to meet him in person, but from a distance he seemed modest, personable and very interesting (he comes across the same way in his journal). He concluded his talk by saying that later that evening he would raise a glass and say a toast to all the sailors in the room, hoping that they fulfill their dreams.

I sometimes think of Webb Chiles and that evening when I'm out on Spartina. And I thank him for making that toast.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

injured reserve

I'm on injured reserve for a few days, tripped on something at the office, stumbled and bruised my foot. It will give me a chance to catch up on some writing and other things at home.

I'm still putting together some options for the spring trip. Looking at the charts and satellite photos I came across a canal and a small island that I would like to incorporate in to the trip. Below is the latest version of the plan. The measurement on straight path sailing is 158 miles. The sail goes from Belhaven, at the top, to New Bern, on the left. Stops with hotels - Beaufort and Oriental, are marked in yellow, camping out - five nights - is marked in green.

The last plan had us going from Dixon Creek to The Thorofare, down Core Sound to Cape Lookout, Beaufort and then eventually Oriental. This new version has us going to Oriental early in the trip and then heading east to Core Sound. What makes this possible is the Old Canal, at left in the satellite photo below. I had looked at charts of this area for a long time while Bruce and I had planned our '07 trip around Cedar Island and never noticed this little waterway. We could stop at Oriental the second night of the trip, then head almost due east to Turnagain Bay (great name), go through Old Canal and anchor in West Thorofare Bay.

From there head south down Core Sound and after a night somewhere inside of the Core Banks (lots of anchorage there perfect for shallow draft boats) sail to Cape Lookout Bight. The sail from the Sound Anchorage should be just 10 miles or so, I would want to get in the Bight early enough in the day to walk on the beach, explore, relax.

Heading west from the Bight to Beaufort we've got a choice of sailing in the ocean - Onslow Bay - or inside of Shackleford Banks. A lot of that depends on tides. I would not want enter Beaufort Inlet on an outgoing tide or when the tide is running full tilt in a direction opposite of the wind. So I'll need to do some research on that. And if that doesn't work out that is fine, the marshes behind Shackleford Banks are very pretty (but it is a good place to have gps - on our '07 trip I got completely confused by the markers on the narrow intersecting channels and it took Bruce and his gps to get us back in to the channel).

From Beaufort we would head north on Adams Creek Canal (the ICW) to the Neuse River and head for tiny Great Island on the south side of the river near the entrance to Club Foot Creek. Again, I've looked at the charts for a long while and never noticed this island until now. It looks like a nice protected, isolated spot. From there is would be a straight shot up the Neuse River to New Bern.

This is just another idea for the trip, I enjoy this part of the planning process. I'm heading to California the first of the new year to see my Mom and I'll see Bruce there too. I'll bring along the charts and will go over the different options - he has had some good input on the last couple of trips. And during the trip itself we'll make adjustments depending on wind, weather and whatever feels right (on the Crabhouse 150 a couple of days involved some unplanned anchorages and sailing).

It is cold and rainy, my daughter just emailed a photo from college, up in the mountains, with snow falling. Good day to look at the charts and think about spring time.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wanchese slippers

Now that we are past Thanksgiving it is time to get ready for the annual striper fishing trip to the Outer Banks. We'll need, of course, basic survival gear - half a dozen rib eye steaks, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, beer, chips, Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and, for breakfast out on the water, Jack's secret Bloody Mary mix. It could be cold and wet, so I'll wear foul weather gear and my Wanchese slippers (above). That name came from Viv, the very fine mate on the Sinbad out of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center (Viv is a real pioneer, one of the first female mates in the fleet, she has some interesting stories to tell). The white rubber boots are ubiquitous in the nearby fishing village of Wanchese ( I don't think they wear them with their pajamas - but then again I could be wrong).
Ocean stripers start arriving in the shoals off of Oregon Inlet late November. Six of us have been heading down there for a Sunday morning 1/2 day trip for years (nobody can remember how long we've been doing it). But it has always been fun. We head down the afternoon before the trip, stay on the oceanfront and grill steaks and act like teenagers. Some times we catch a few fish, sometimes we limit out and sometimes we get skunked. But hey, it is a nice way to spend a weekend.
The stripers hang around the shoals (the lighter area in the satellite photo below, water just a few feet deep) just outside of the always rough Oregon Inlet (I've heard it called "the washing machine" out there). Charter captains will edge their boats up near the shoals to cast the bait - free-lined live eels - right up in the surf. You wait for the waves and current to carry the bait to the edge of the shoal and hopefully there will be a nice fish waiting to grab it. The first charter captain we used, a guy named Cato, would bring us sometimes a bit too close to the shoals. "Hang on!" he would shout and the waves dropped his 40+ foot deadrise right on top of the sand.
The photo below was from back in the hey days of winter stripers in the Outer Banks. We were out with Cato that year. We had been skunked the year before and this trip wasn't looking any better. It was barely dawn when Cato came down from the boat's tower to tell us we were the unluckiest bunch of s.o.b.'s he had ever fished with, we should head in right then and he would take half the fee for fuel costs and get us off the boat (I'm not kidding, he was screaming at us - I don't think he wanted us to ruin his reputation). But as he was yelling he glanced past the stern at a seagull that dipped its wing over the water, a sign that baitfish were schooling. Within two hours we had sixteen stripers on board, total weight (we found out the hard way when we paid by the pound to have them cleaned) was 399 pounds.
The fishery for some reason has since moved north to Cape Henry at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Some say the winters have been too mild, but for whatever reason the big schools of fish stay up north of the outer banks. A few stripers, usually big ones, still show up at Oregon Inlet, hopefully we'll find them this year. It is not like it was four or five years ago when the fish were thick and demand was so great you had to book the charter a year ahead of time. But we still head down to the Outer Banks for the overnight trip - fishing (and catching) is fun but I sure do enjoy the evening before grilling steaks on the beach and relaxing in an oceanfront condo.

In the meantime I kept on with the boat work by ordering some Interlux Brightside "Sea Green" paint from Jamestown Distributors - $26.99/qt. (ouch, but even with shipping it was cheaper than West Marine's price tag).