Wednesday, April 28, 2010

seize the day!

Going over the schedule at the office today I found out they had given me four days off next week (Tuesday through Friday) when I had only asked for three (Wed. through Friday). I pointed out the error and was told "you can take that extra day if you want." I took it!!! That will give me one more day for the weekend trip.
(Bruce keeps asking me why I call it a weekend walkabout. "You're sailing, not walking" he says. And now that I think about it, a Tuesday through Saturday trip really isn't a weekend trip. Oh well.)

I'll probably take the extra day to explore Big Porpoise Bay, Middle Bay and Jones Bay (above), all just south of Mouse Harbor. It looks like interesting territory and there are a couple of canals leading south from Jones Bay that I want to look at for possible use on the June trip with Bruce.
I've started organizing gear. The food is packed (I'll need to add another day's worth). And I made up the trail mix with mixed nuts, raisins, dried cranberries and wasabi peas. I don't know what to call the mix but I don't think I need to worry about urinary tract infections:).
I emailed with Wally VanHorn of VanHorn's Campground and Marina in Germantown, he says he's got a nice ramp and plenty of room for the jeep and trailer while I'm out. I need to buy my NC saltwater fishing license ($10 online I think) and add waypoints for Jones, Middle and Big Porpoise Bays.

Below is an unfortunate reminder to get that insurance premium check in the mail before the trip. Three boats destroyed by fire on Pretty Lake (the Little Creek area off of Chesapeake Bay) early this morning and a couple more boats damaged.

And below is a nice photo by Bruce of Spartina at the end of last's fall's cruise to St. Michaels. Can't wait to start the next cruise.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

packing chart and a couple of other things

I put together the packing chart for my weekend trip. It will be easy to pack Spartina for just one person. We've found that there is plenty of storage space on the Pathfinder for two people, I doubt that I'll use 25% of the possible storage just for myself. You can see what Spartina looks like packed for a solo sail here.
This isn't a detailed list of everything I'll have on board, a better list for that is the old Watertribe Required Equipment list. I have a hard copy of that but can no longer find the online pdf for it. But here is a detailed article about the gear for the Watertribe (and, from my point of view, almost any adventure on the water). The night before the trip I'll have both the chart below and my printout of the old Watertribe list in my hand as I sort through the gear.

I think the chart, while pretty rough, is easy enough to understand. Lots of room under the foredeck, both on the cockpit sole and in bungees under the deck, for the head, anchor, gas, boom tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and bivy. When both Bruce and I are cruising I'll put my clothes and hypothermia kit in one big 35 liter watertight duffel bag. By myself I'll split up the clothes and the hypo kit, using a 20 liter bag for each. (And my thanks to the Watertribe folks, again, for their hypothermia kit list).
You'll see I've got eight gallons of water on board, way to much for one person for three or four days. But then again I almost always have eight gallons on board. It is part of the ballast. During my first cruise I noticed I liked how the extra weight down low under the bunk flat helped stiffen up the boat. I've kept water there ever since.

I did receive a note from Steve H. up in Pa. reminding me to "remember the ancients" as I sail down on the Pamlico. I had mentioned that I often wonder about the history and traditions of the area as fishermen worked the Sound for decades. Steve suggested I think back to the days before the sailors came across the Atlantic and wonder what it was like for the Natives that made their living on the Sound. Good thought, Steve. Thanks.
Steve will be doing some sailing down there soon in his 19' Mariner. He'll put in at Engelhard - Big Trout Marina I assume - and sail to Roanoke Island and back. That should be fun, I've had that same trip on my list for a while.

And while I was looking over my bills from BoatUS I decided to check on my SPOT membership. My annual fee, about $150 with the tracking feature, is not due until mid-summer. But while looking at their website I noticed the option listed above for third-party assistance. I need to call them to get a better explanation. It appears that if I put out a "need assistance" signal it will got directly to BoatUS. Right now if I use that button a message goes to my brother and he'll contact BoatUS with my location and membership number. I'm not sure which is the best way to go. I'll give SPOT a call and check on the details.

I got my two books to read during the trip, Vicksburg 1863 by Winston Groom (most famous for his novel Forrest Gump) and Under Cover of Daylight by James W. Hall (that was a penny book from Amazon's used book store, plus $3.99 shipping). I, of course, am able to resist anything but temptation so the books sat on the side table for just two days before I was reading both of them. That's ok, there will be plenty left to read during the short trip. From the opening chapters I can tell you both are excellent books.
I had read Under Cover of Daylight when it was published in 1987, but it was so long ago I can barely remember the story. It deals with some locals trying to fight development on Key Largo, the fight being financed with some smuggling. I remember liking the book because it was very well written (Hall is a poet, so you know his words are chosen carefully), it captured the feelings of the keys and it was an area that will always have a special place in my heart.
In the first few pages of the book Hall mentions Caryfort Reef Lighthouse as a landmark. Just the name of the lighthouse brought memories of August 1978 flooding back to me (wow, was it really 32 years ago???). I spent that month working with scientists studying the coral reefs off of Key Largo. We lived on an old converted fishing trawler called The Sea Angel, using smaller boats to run out to particular reefs each day. A lot of the work was right in the vicinity of Carysfort Reef Lighthouse and in fact I got to spend a night or two sleeping in the old cedar (or was it lignum vitae) lined living quarters of the beacon. Long days on (really in) the water, sun burn and salt spray. Hard work, barracudas hovering in the shade beneath the workboat, lightning storms in the middle of the night. Working with some good people who gave me a chance. And trying to remember the location of a coral head in the days way before GPS. It was difficult enough to find the same reef, let along the same piece of coral.
I've had the good fortune to do some interesting things in my life but that month of working in the Keys will always stand out in my mind. This will be a great book for the trip -- I'll be remembering my time in the Keys while sailing on Pamlico Sound. Can't beat that.

And lastly I read this morning that Chuck from Duckworks (that's his Caprice above sailing on Texas waters) will be coming to North Carolina to take part in the OBX130. Chuck is a busy man. He runs an online marine supply store, an online sailing magazine, he has competed in the Everglades Challenge AND he is the founder of the Texas 200 sailing even (So Chuck, what do you do in your spare time?). I bought my Pathfinder plans from him (he represents designer John Welsford in the states) and then bought all kinds of stuff - from hardware to leather - from his shop as I was building Spartina. I've corresponded with him, but never met him. And I'm sorry to say I won't be able to see him at this year's OBX130 as I've got a scheduling conflict. But someday I do hope to meet and hopefully sail with him. Have a great sail Chuck.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

two weeks out

In two weeks I should be on Pamlico Sound. This little cool spell we are having right now reminds we we aren't completely in the summer weather pattern and I ought to bring a long sleeve shirt or two for layers. The bivy and 30 degree sleeping bag will be find for sleeping, but if a front rolls through mornings can be very chilly.
I made prints of my satellite images from google earth and laminated them at Kinko's. I've got gps waypoints marked on them plus all the names for coves, bays and narrows that I could find. When I sail by a spot I want to be able to know that it is Cunning Harbor Bay or Voliva Cove or Bernice Creek. Why? I don't really know. I guess the names make me wonder about the history and tradition of the area, the people who worked the water for a living and what life was like down there in the past.

Those sat photos will live in a two gallon zip loc bag tucked behind the blade of Spartina's oar until they are needed. Below is the bag with my chartbook, sat photos and top spot chart. I don't think I'll get lost.

Thinking about where the charts are kept on Spartina reminded me I need to redo the packing chart for this solo trip. Below you'll see a scan I did from Spartina's drawing on John Welsford's site. I've got a copy (that I've shown in the past) where I marked out all the areas for stowing the gear. That was for both Bruce and myself on board. I need to redo that chart with just my gear on board. I'll have less gear, less food and some extra space. So things will be arranged a little bit differently.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

caught on camera

My sailing partners from Sunday, Mike and Claire, sent me a photo and a quick video clip. Both were shot early in the day when I had a reef tucked in.

A few minutes later I shook out the reef and Mike tracked me with the tug and found I was doing 6.2 knots.
This is the first video I've uploaded, so let's see if it works.

Thanks Mike and Claire, I hope to see you guys on the water again soon.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

the bills are coming due

I launched Spartina in June of '06 so it was in April and May of that year that I was doing all the paperwork, handling registration and getting insurance. So this time every year I get some bills in the mail from BoatUS. BoatUS is of course the on water version of Triple A. Need some fuel? New a tow? Need help? They will take care of you. I wouldn't go on the water without it.
My plan includes the basic membership, unlimited on water towing and 100 miles of trailer towing for about $140. I have never used the on water towing, but twice I've used the trailer towing and each time the membership paid for itself. I got hung up on a ramp a few years ago and they sent a tow truck to help me out. I saw the bill sent to Boat US -- $180. Right there I came out 40 bucks ahead.
I also insure my boat through Boat US. Since it was a home built boat I had to provide some extra documentation. But after sending photographs and receipts for materials they agreed to insure the boat. I've got Spartina covered for all the materials, including sails and outboard, plus a couple of thousand dollars for labor. Hopefully I'll never use it but I'm glad to have it.

I was out for a sail today on a colder, windier day than expected. I saw a tug boat chasing me down and knew right away it was a Sam Devlin designed Godzilla tugboat. In fact that very boat had spent some time in my friend Jim's garage (Jim is building a Navigator) just a block from my house while under construction a few years ago. On board were Mike and his wife Claire. Mike had started building the boat and eventually sold it to a friend. But he still gets to use it now and then.
They were out on the river to see off the schooner Spirit of Independence (below) as she left on a trip to Bermuda. I often sail in company with the Spirit and we trade tacks (for as long as I can keep up) heading down the Elizabeth River. She left Portsmouth a little after noon. I'll look forward to seeing her back in town in a few weeks.

I took Mike and Claire on board for a short sail (Mike said they had been "shanghai'd) then anchored in Crawford Bay where they ran me around in the tug so I could get some photos of Spartina. Below you'll see her with Norfolk in the background.

And another view showing the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in the background. The hospital was built in 1823 and is still in use (the hospital facility is now in a new building but the administrative offices are in the original building).

As I said it was colder and windier than expected and I eventually put on my foul weather gear just to keep warm. There is my gear drying on the mast at home after a fun day on the water.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

packing the lunchbox

I packed most of my food for the weekend walkabout trip the other day. With just me on board and four days it was much simpler than usual. I had most of the food on hand already, borrowed from the supplies I've been buying for the June trip with Bruce (dont' worry Bruce, I'll replace it.) Below is a day's worth of food, you can see I won't be going hungry. Breakfast will be two granola bars and a cup of fruit. Lunch is the tuna salad with crackers and a cup of fruit. Dinner will be boiling bag rice or asian noodles, fresh fish (maybe) and a cup of fruit. If the fish aren't biting I'll have foil packs of fish or chicken for dinner. You also see a little GU Energy Gel there on the right. If it is a long, hot day those can help pick up the energy level a little bit.
What you don't see here are some individual bags of trail mix. I'll buy a premade bag of mix next week and add some of my favorite stuff - rainins, dried cranberries, dried strawberries and wasabi peas - to round it out.

I packed the food a little differently than usual. For a longer trip with two of us on board I'll put the food in six one-gallon jars that I got at the Dollar Store. Each jar will have basically one type of food in it. One jar will have the breakfast bars, one will have the rice and potatoes, one will have the fruit cups and so on. For this trip, just one person for four days, I put a day's worth of food in each jar (below).
(I'll also have two heater meals tucked away, so there is extra food should I get caught out there by the weather.)

The meals I'll be fixing will be a return to the menu from a few years ago, before Bruce joined the crew. My cooking level is pretty basic, I think I'll do fine with rice or noodles and some fish (fresh or otherwise) on the griddle. On our first cruise together in '07 Bruce said he enjoyed the sailing but needed to upgrade our food. And so he has. Read through the logs of our last couple of trips (off to the right on this page) and you'll find some very nice meals that he has made. When I think of Bruce cooking on our trips I get this recurring image of him using a razor blade to cuts paper thin slices from a clove of garlic. No, he hasn't done that (but I wouldn't put it past him). The meals on my solo trip will be much more basic.

The other dinner items that I'll pick up the night before the trip will be onions and peppers. They'll be stored in the little mesh hammock on the starboard side under the foredeck. No, I won't get wine or potatoes as shown in the photo below, just onions and peppers. Even I know how to cook with those.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

three weeks

I'm very happy to note that three weeks from tonight I'll be packing the jeep and hooking up the trailer for the spring weekend walkabout sail. I expect I'll get a couple of more weekend day sails in between now and then, but this three or four days on the water can't come soon enough.
Leave out of here by 6 a.m., get to the marina by 8:30, rig and load the boat, cast off and sail south! (Below is a google earth map showing my waypoints for the trip.)

I've got the gear and food. Need to check my water and batteries. Hoping I get that last book from Amazon in time. I check out the SPOT last week on the Pasquotank River and have printed out my satellite photos of various possible anchorages. I'm ready to go.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

legalities and realities of an M-16

Very nice sail today that included sunny skies, some nice wind, a good nap and an interesting exchange with a sailor cradling an M-16.

I do most of my day sailing on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia. It is an industrial/military river no doubt, it has been so since the colonial days almost 400 years ago. That's fine. I enjoy it. I'm the son of a career naval officer and enjoy being around the military. We get lots of commercial traffic - barges, container ships, tugs - and I find that interesting. And then you'll see the warships, Navy SEALS in their sleek black boats that don't make any noise, coast guard fast patrol boats. I never know what I'll see on a given day.
But today I got chased down by a young petty officer in a launch. I was passing bay a warship in a shipyard and he had seen me looking through my binoculars (in the opposite direction of the warship).
"Sir, may I ask what you are doing?"
I glanced around at Spartina. I had my sunblock on, hat, bottle of water. Starboard tack, feet up on the coaming. Was I missing something? "I'm enjoying a day of sailing" I said.
He told me, cradling his rifle in his arms, that my use of binoculars in the vicinity of a warship made me look suspicious.
I guess I could have argued with him, pointed out that I was well within the main shipping channel, pointed out that a tourist boat with dozens of visitors, all armed with binoculars, cameras and even - my gosh - video cameras, had just passed within range of his warship. I even considered raising my camera and taking his photograph. But then again, even knowing I was well within my rights, I could have spent all afternoon sitting in an office until they figured out I was, in fact, within my rights.
So I said "Have a nice day" turned my back and kept on sailing.
He was just a young sailor trying to do his job. (When I was his age I was trying to figure out how to use a cash register. He gets handed a weapon and is told to defend a ship against terrorists.)

I sailed for a few hours with very nice winds. Headed back to Crawford Bay and even though the wind was still very nice I dropped my anchor, put my feet up and took a nap. It felt great.

When I fell asleep I was the only boat in the bay. When I woke up the cutter above was anchored nearby. He was out of Hays, Virginia, up on Mobjack Bay about 30 or 40 miles north of here. And heading in I saw this interesting boat just off the Norfolk waterfront.
It was a nice day out on the river.
I did get a phone call from the prodigal sailor Bruce yesterday. He was between adventures, though I'm not sure which ones. He mentioned humming birds, Death Valley, rivers and boats in the conversation. But he wanted to go over a few details for the spring cruise on Pamlico Sound. We were in agreement on all the details. He's handling food, as usual. We are trying to minimize our gear. He agreed with the overall sailing plan. And Bruce insisted on shrimp and grits at The Chelsea when we get to New Bern. Sounds good to me.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

a spy's last meal

The girls are on a college road trip so it was just Jack the dog and me home for dinner tonight. I made steamed little neck clams from Cherrystone Aqua Farms over on the eastern shore, a handful of wild caught North Carolina shrimp, an artichoke and dipping sauce made with drawn butter and a couple of mashed up anchovy filets to make it a little tangy (an idea I stole from Bertha's Mussels in the Fells Point area of Baltimore).

Whenever I have clams I think of the last dinner for retired spy chief William Colby. From the New York Times.....


ROCK POINT, Md., May 2— Jack Yates, the proprietor of Captain John's Crab House on Neale Sound, says hardly anybody knew the gray-haired gentleman in the house at the end of Hill Road used to be a spy -- the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, no less.
Now the disappearance of William E. Colby in the murky waters at the confluence of the Potomac and Wicomico Rivers has people talking of little else, says Mr. Yates, Mr. Colby's neighbor and one of the last people to see him alive on Saturday, April 27. He sold him what may have been his last meal, a mess of clams.

At his weekend home on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay they found a bowl of clam shells and an open bottle of white wine. Now I would like to live forever but all the research tells me that's not going to happen. So when I go I would be very happy if it was something along the lines of Mr. Colby. Steamed clams, a nice bottle of wine and a paddle down a creek towards the Bay. Sounds pretty good to me (but just the same I would like to hold off for a decade or two or three).

Weather looks great tomorrow. Weatherunderground shows winds 5 to 7 mph, Windfinder thinks it will be over 10 mph. I tossed the polypropylene tether into Spartina this evening. I usually don't use it on day sails. But last week when I sailed down the Pasquotank to Albermarle Sound I had kind of wished I had it on board.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

published at last! (and a couple of other things)

Josh and the good folks at Small Craft Advisor have been nice enough to publish a story about our Skeeter Beater trip in the May/June issue. I'm very excited about this and can't wait to get my hands on a copy. I just rec'd an email from Barry (he's building two Melonseed skiffs) who just gotten his copy in the mail. I'll run up to the bookstore to see if they are on the shelf yet.
Below is a very low-rez copy of a proof that Josh sent me a little while ago. Bruce shot both of those photos (that's me on the left as we sailed up the Pamlico River to Bath, and there is a nice evening shot of Dixon Cove on the right) and I think he might have a couple more nice images in the spread.

Small Craft Advisor is a great magazine and I really like their emphasis on small, affordable boats and small boat adventures. Back in the 80's I was a huge fan of Small Boat Journal, in fact I've got a few copies tucked away. That journal is no longer being published, but Small Craft Advisory has picked up right where they left off. It makes me feel good to think that our trip fits in with all those adventures I've read about over the years.

A couple of other notes for upcoming sails. The fishing report at Cape Lookout Charters says the creeks and marshes are warming up. This gives me a little hope for the fishing possibilities during the upcoming weekend walkabout. Here is the report from last weekend.....

Reds in the surf and marshes. The speckled trout fishing have picked up in the ditch and creeks where the water temps are in the high 60's...

And I'm happy to see SandyBottom is reporting on a recent NC paddle and I think she'll be reporting on her EC Challenge soon. Dawn passed on some good information about Pate Boatyard off of Jones Bay. It surprises me how difficult it can be to find out about the boatyards spread out on the creek and bays of Pamlico Sound. I've googled and read every list of Carolina marinas that I could find and have never heard of this one. Bruce and I will pass nearby Jones Bay on our Spring trip and I always like to have a list of marinas/boatyards close to our route in case we need to stop in for fuel, repairs or just a cold drink. I'll add Pate Boatyard to our list. Thanks Dawn.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Betsy Town blues

I knew Baltimore was Charm City and New Orleans was the Crescent City. But I never heard Elizabeth City (NC) called Betsy Town until I read the (free) sample of Bland Simpson Simpson's "The Inner Islands: A Carolinian's sound Country Chronicle". I'm very glad to see just today that the paperback version is out for $13.60, I could not afford the $30+ hardback edition. I'll order my copy soon.

I mentioned in my last post that I saw during my Easter sail a cruiser that I had met almost 20 years ago when I kept my old boat in an Elizabeth City marina. Thinking about meeting that cruiser two decades ago got me nostalgic about Elizabeth City so with a day off and a great forecast I trailered Spartina down to Betsy Town. I called this post Betsy Town blues but the only thing blue about it was the sunny blue sky. What a great day!

Elizabeth City is one of those great little southern towns. Crepe myrtles, magnolias, classic old houses with wrap around porches, old brick buildings and a waterfront that has seen better days. You can read Bland Simpson's eloquent description here.

They have a nice waterfront park with a great boat ramp and dock, above. I used to keep my old boat, a Sam Devlin designed Nancy's China, tied up at the pier you see jutting out from the corrugated metal boat house. I had a lot of fun sailing down there. Back in the late 80's I did not have a regular work schedule, I was basically on call six days a week from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. But I did get one day off a week and I would drive down to Elizabeth City, throw off the docklines and sail. It was a great time and I met a lot of fun people. Sailing down there today brought back a lot of memories. Everything from the classic old Moth boat races to baking under the sun on windless days and coming down to the dock in February to find the river frozen over. Mix in with that some fantastic spring and fall sailing and you'll get the idea of what it was like.

The Pasquotank River runs from northwest to southeast. When the summer weather pattern moves in (like it did today), hot air moving in from the southwest, you've got a beam reach up and down the river. I sailed 15 miles down river to the mouth of Albemarle Sound on a starboard tack, came about and sailed 15 miles back on a port tack. Great wind, I sailed along averaging 5 and 1/5 mph.

I saw a couple of cruisers heading up north bound for the Dismal Swamp Canal (the smaller alternate to the Chesapeake and Albermarle Canal portion of the ICW). This Pacific Seacraft 37 (above) out of Texas maneuvered towards me and I headed towards her for a nice port to port pass, I guess she wanted to take a look at Spartina as much as I wanted to take a look at her.

And there is a nice bow wave as Spartina approached the Albemarle Sound. It was a good sail and I felt very comfortable with the boat. The spring walkabout cruise is less than a month away, I feel like I'm ready to go right now.

(I know, I know, you get tired of seeing this photo looking up towards the bow of Spartina. But I never get tired of shooting it. We'll just have to live with it.)


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter sail

A very nice day on the water today. High 70's. Started out with light winds, then it picked up a bit (see below) for a couple of hours, then lightened again mid-afternoon.

This is the first snow bird I've sailed with this year. I did not talk to them, but I could tell they had been cruising for a while. Got a nice thumbs up from the skipper. I like boat names and often jot them down in a note book. I would have written down this boat's name but it was too easy to remember. Grace, the same as my youngest daughter's name.

I sailed by the schooner Virginia. Usually by this time she is rigged and ready to go. But the economy has her tied to the dock, topmast down and wrapped in tarps. I hope the economy picks up soon.

This boat, a Fisher 25 motor sailer, brought back a few memories. Her name in Halcyon and she is out of Philadelphia. In the late 80's and early 90's I kept my old boat, a Sam Devlin designed Nancy's China, in a slip at the Riverside Shipyard in Elizabeth City, NC. I remember seeing this exact boat, and talking to the owners, 20 years ago as I did some painting on my old boat down at the boatyard. I believe they left out of Philadelphia in the fall and headed to Fort Myers, Fla, returning in the spring. It was good to see the boat still making the journey after all these years.


Friday, April 2, 2010

leaving Morehead City

Leaving Morehead City on board the USS Bataan. That is what the narrow channel looks like when viewed from what they call vulture's row.

The channel is narrow and we passed very close to the point of land on the western side of the inlet. Beautiful day, everyone on board is happy about heading home.

And looking to the east we could see Beaufort. Bruce and I should be sailing in to there in June.

In the distance you can see Cape Lookout Light. It was nice to get a good look at the entrance channel. If the weather cooperates Bruce and I will sail Spartina from the bight (where the lighthouse is) across Onslow Bay into the channel on the June trip.