Saturday, July 31, 2010

dept. of redundancy dept.

I got my old vhf radio back from the ICOM repair guy in South Carolina. The radio, which I've had for eight years, died the day before the spring Weekend Walkabout (I'm really glad I turned the radio on to test the batteries as I was packing up the boat). I did not want to go on a trip without a vhf radio so I ran to West Marine and picked up a new ICOM vhf 150 (at right, below).
The idea of having a backup radio on appealed to me so I sent the old radio off for repair. Got it back for a few days later for $80, a fair price I think to have the second radio (below, left) on board. I'll probably put batteries in it, seal it in a bag and then tuck it away in the emergency back or hypothermia kit bag.

The other piece gear I would like to have a as a backup is a gps. On the first day of the Walkabout I dropped my garmin legend etrex a few inches to the deck and the screen when blank. That caught my attention. Fortunately is was just a battery that jarred loose (I think). I had planned on upgrading to a Garmin Etrex Venture GPS this winter. When I do that I'll tuck the old gps in with the old radio.

(Quick question: Why do they always make the handheld radios black? My SPOT is orange, the current gps is a clear aquamarine, the new gps will be yellow. How about a nice bright color for the radios so they are easier to fine?)

I've also been doing the pre-trip shopping, picking up some food here and there when I do the regular grocery shopping. I'm in good shape on breakfast bars and lunches. And I've got a pretty good start on fruit cups and dinners. I also stopped by the Bass Pro Shop to pick up two Heater Meals, I always like to have those on board in case of rain (don't want to use the stove with the boom tent in place) or if I'm just too tired to cook.
I'm about six or seven weeks out from the trip and all the planning seems to be on schedule.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

supply stop

The plans for the fall trip up Chesapeake Bay is starting to come together. I think the basic outline I showed on this map will work pretty well. I see this as an extended walkabout, maybe eight or even nine days with lots of exploring coves and bays like I did on the May weekend walkabout.

I'll camp out on the boat each night, no hotels this time, and stop once or twice to resupply in towns or villages along the way. It looks like the northern most point of the trip, and also the half way point, will be Oxford, Md. This is a great little (upscale) town on the Tred Avon River just off of the Choptank River. Bruce and I drove through the town, with Spartina in tow on the trailer, after the Crab House 150. We added it immediately the list of places worth visiting by boat.
This will be the perfect place to resupply with fresh vegetables, water, etc. In fact during our visit their Bruce and I stopped at the Oxford Market on South Morris Street in Oxford and that shop had a great selection of fresh vegetables and groceries plus a very nice deli. Wouldn't it be nice to get some fresh onions, peppers and tomatoes and have a nice sandwich with a cold drink too?
The trick will be finding a place to tie up. This is an upscale town and the waterfront is lined with some very nice marinas. I may have to pass Spartina off as a dinghy for one of the nice boats tied up on Town Creek.

The other food source for the trip will possibly be fishing (don't worry, I'll have plenty of canned food on board in case my usual luck holds). Fall on Chesapeake Bay means that the blue fish and stripers start schooling and chasing bait fish just below the surface of the bay. They can be easily spotted by the birds that come down to feed on the small fish as shown in this photo by Bruce.

We saw a handful of feeding frenzies like this on the Crab House 150 but just fished one of them, catching a nice selection of both stripers and blues. Maybe I'll get lucky again this fall. I'll be sure to have the filet knife packed in with the cook kit.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Joe Patti's (again)

Baydog, you were right on the money with your observation about putting on a brave face. I dropped by Joe Patti's again this morning before leaving to get a tee shirt and have a glass of that great raspberry tea. I asked the woman behind the counter about business. She said their season was lost, all workers had their hours cut, just surviving on local business and not the usual tourist season. What a shame.

I mistakenly saw seafood counters full of fresh fish, clams, oysters, crabs as a sign of steady business. But you are right, they were making the best of a tough situation. They showed a lot of class with their nice smiles and friendly service.
Let's hope they have a great season next year.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

on the list

Looking east down Santa Rosa Sound from Hemingways Island Grill on Pensacola Beach. This is on the cruise list for "someday," maybe from Ocean Springs, Mississippi to Cedar Key, Florida.

Joe Patti's

Down in Pensacola, Florida for a couple of days. Dropped by Joe Patti's, the classic gulf coast seafood house. Lot's of seafood (and no mention of oil.) Steve


steamed crabs


Friday, July 23, 2010

the unknown shore

Had a trip over to the Eastern Shore of Virginia today, a hot humid summer day. We were visiting an farm, a plantation really, that dated back to the late 1700's. There was an old brick house that was over 200 years old (with a "new" addition that was finished in the early 1800's), a tavern, a causeway on the creek that was built in colonial times and a ten-sided brick oyster house with a huge fire place and an iron grate on wheels for rolling in the rack full of oysters for roasting. We were the guests of a gentleman farmer with a white shirt stained by sweat and the corn cob pipe he carried in his shirt pocket when not puffing on it. I felt like I had stepped back in time a few decades. The tavern, where the farmer lives now, was stacked with books, thousands of books.

What caught my eye was the dammed up pool of water at the top of a salt water creek leading to the bay. Below the dam was saltwater, home to striped bass, red drum and flounder. Above the dam rain water pooled for a freshwater lake filled with large mouth bass. Shadows of the fish could be seen swimming through the thick algae.

You can see our track as we rowed a small aluminum boat across the water.

Daisy the dog jumped in for a little swim too.

Every time I start to think I know the Eastern Shore I find that I don't know it at all.



Is this the house you are talking about Ken? I think that sat out there for a long time. The other item that ended up out there but was never found was a classic old dead rise waterman's boat that had been on display near the community center in Hatteras Village.

This is back in Buxton the morning of the storm with the ocean coming over the dunes across the island and into Pamlico Sound.

It always suprises me how many people stay down there for the storms. But I've got to admit that at times it can be a pretty spectacular show. Some people stay because they want to, others stay because they have no other place to go.

The worst part of the storm, when it was too dangerous to walk outside because of wood, metal, plastic - whatever - flying about in the wind, lasted just a few hours. Then we went outside to see what had happened to Buxton.

And there is a dolphin swimming through the newly formed inlet with "Little Hatteras" in the background. The weather the next day was beautiful.

Anybody interested in Hurricane Isabel and the Outer Banks might want to read Hatteras Blues by Tom Carlson. I've mentioned this book before. Is it a great book? In my opinion, no. But I think it is a good book and if you are a fan of Hatteras Island and people who make their living off the ocean then it is well worth reading. I read it and enjoyed it, and I do find myself picking it up now and then to reread a passage here or there.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

hurricane season

The storm season will arrive a little early for me this weekend as I fly down to Pensacola, Florida to meet my brother and check on my aunt. Pensacola is just slightly east of the forecast track for Tropical Storm Bonnie. When I arrive saturday evening the storm should be due south of me but far enough out in the gulf that I don't think we'll feel any of the effects.

While it seems like the gulf coast has taken the brunt of the storms the last few years we've also had a few up our way. Below is a photo of the old Sea Gull Motel in Hatteras Village the day after Hurricane Isabel passed over in 2003.

That part of the long, narrow Hatteras Island became known for a short while as Little Hatteras as the storm cut an inlet just north of Hatteras Village isolating the town residents from the rest of the island. (For a while local officials insisted it wasn't a deep cut through the island, it was only overwash. Opinions changed when dolphin were seen swimming through the "overwash.")

And below is a photo from Buxton, the town near Cape Hatteras Light, as storm waters rushed up over the dunes a few hours before Hurricane Isabel came ashore.

My favorite source is information about hurricanes is the Weather Underground's Tropical Weather page. I check it almost every day from now until early October. On that page you'll find Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunderblog, a great running commentary on storm development. Masters pointed out last week that this could be a busy storm season due to a dramatic shift from El Nino to La Nina. Here is what he said....

"The last time we had a strong El Niño event followed by a La Niña event in the same year, in 1998, we had a Atlantic hurricane season 40% above average in activity, with 14 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes. The season was relatively late-starting, with only one named storm occurring before August 20. I'm thinking this year's season may be similar, though four or more intense hurricanes are a good bet due to the record warm SSTs (surface sea temperatures)."

Above are the storm tracks from 1998 and you can see it was a busy year. Two of those storms came through our area - Earl, a poorly formed storm that went from the gulf coast inland to the east coast, and Bonnie, which came ashore as a hurricane, became a tropical storm and then re-intensified to become a hurricane as it moved up coastal North Carolina and Virginia.

So it could be a busy season. I'll wait and watch.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

islands and rivers

I've been doing a little research for the fall trip and mapping out possible routes and distance. For eight days of sailing from the little community of Rumbley (1) on Goose Creek north to Oxford (4) then back south to Smith Island (7) I've got sailing distances each day anywhere from 17 miles to 30 miles. Sounds reasonable. Above is a photo Bruce shot of me sailing up the Chesapeake Bay west of the Hooper Islands last fall. On this trip I hope sail inside and explore the Hooper Islands. More on that in a minute.

For my first stop I had been looking at Bloodsworth Island (2) but noticed on the charts it was marked with danger zones. For decades it was a bombing range and although that has ended for the most part there are concerns about unexploded ordnance around the island and just offshore. Somewhere I read it was best (or possibly mandated by law) to stay at least 75 yards off of the beach.

I asked our friend Kevin B., sailor of the Navigator Slip Jig (below), about this. He has done some sailing in the area. His suggestion was not to venture too close in Spartina, wouldn't want that steel plate centerboard clanking against something that had a fuse. I might be better off, he said, stopping at South Marsh Island just below Bloodsworth Island. Good suggestion I think. Below is a photo of Kevin from when we met him at Dividing Creek for the Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival last fall. (He did a really nice job of building Slip Jig, beautiful boat!)

The other thing Kevin mentioned in his note was the the Honga River is one of his favorite places to sail. From looking at the sat photo I can see why. A wide river protected from the Bay by the three Hooper Islands to the west, plenty of small coves and creeks plus a couple of small towns.
For the trip I had thought about sailing one direction on the Honga River and then sailing the other direction outside the Hooper Islands on Chesapeake Bay. But the more I look at the river the more I think I might just explore the river heading both north and south.
Here is a very nice article I found on the Honga River at Lots of good information there including details about a couple of places to get food. I'll be camping out each night of this trip but the idea of stopping somewhere - in this case either Old Salty's at Fishing Creek or Rippons Bros. Seafood at Rippons Harbor - to get lunch or a nice cold glass of iced tea sounds pretty appealing.

And speaking about stopping for lunch I would not mind timing a visit to Tylerton on Smith Island, probably the southernmost stop on the trip, for lunch at the Drum Point Market. I've read great reviews of their crabcakes and a Smith Island cake (10 layers!!). Last fall on the Crab House 150 Bruce and I stopped at Ewell a little to the north on Smith Island. Ewell was an interesting little town, I hear that Tylerton is a great place too.

I'm enjoying looking at the charts, roughing out the plans. Seven or eight weeks until the trip, plenty of time to make adjustments.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

not ready for prime time

Great day of sailing today. I even shot some video with the Pentax Optio W20 camera. I still don't understand the formatting and compression with online videos, but here is a first attempt.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

show boat

I had to work today but got to spend some time around the water anyway. It was the first ever Sail-In at Nauticus, Norfolk's maritime center.

They invited a lot of the local sailboats to come dock near Nauticus and the Schooner Virginia for a day to celebrate community sailing. Cool!
The nice thing was the boats didn't spend a lot of time docked near the center. They were out sailing. The wind was perfect, right across the river so the boats could sail up and down past Nauticus.

Everything from sunfish to classic yawls, and even a tugboat too.

There's a nice friendship sloop in the foreground and the Schooner Virginia in the background.

And below is my favorite boat of the show, Spartina, right, alongside a Penobscot 14. Like I said, I had to work, so I couldn't hang around too much. But I was up before sunrise launching Spartina and getting her docked. I didn't get to sail with all the other boats, but it was nice to have her out there for the show.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

thou shall not covet thy neighbor's camp stove

One of the many nice things about the trip with Dawn Patrol was that we could talk about cruising/camping gear. We seemed to touch on equipment just about every evening as we rafted up together. Camp stoves were one of the first topics to come up.
I had seen photos of Dawn Patrol's camp stove (below), a Coleman "fold and go" propane stove, in one of her blog posts before the trip. It looked small, light and very practical.

I use a Cole grill stove that is a few years old (that's Bruce cooking dinner on the Crab House trip below) with one burner and a griddle. It is much larger and heavier's than Dawn Patrol's. I started trying to figure out how I could wear my stove out so I could justify buying a new folding model (good luck wearing out a Coleman stove).
But at the trip wore on Dawn said she saw a few advantages to my older, larger stove. For one thing, it had built in wind screens on three sides. Her stove did not have wind screens and I think the wind may have interfered with the flame. She also said that the cooking grates stood relatively tall on her stove, something that you don't want on a rocking boat. So in the end my old stove wasn't so bad - I guess I'll get a few more years of cooking out of it.

Along with his usual good ideas for cooking, Bruce had the great idea to bring along tortillas. No refrigeration needed, they keep for days and can be used with just about any sort of meal (including the shrimp tacos below). They'll be on my list for the next trip.

And another favorite piece of gear was the Danforth compass, a gift from my Mother. Thanks Mom! With a grey color it looked like it was made to match the interior of Spartina. And it worked very well mounted on the centerboard trunk. We used it constantly. I always carried a small hand held compass, but this was much nicer and easier to use. It certainly helped maintain our course when pointing high up into the wind (something I'll mention below).

If we are going to talk about comparing stoves, how about comparing boats. Dawn Patrol is a Graham Byrnes designed Core Sound 20. Spartina is a John Welsford designed Pathfinder. Dawn Patrol is a cat ketch. Spartina is a gaff rigged yawl.
It was really fun to sail with another boat. I had never done that before except for the occasional 200 yard sail alongside another boat while out on a day sail. I learned quite a bit by watching the performance of another boat (and the crew that sailed her). Funny thing is it never felt like a race (the old saying that anytime two boats are on the water together it is a race did not hold true on this trip). Dawn Patrol is a faster boat than Spartina, I could have told you that just from comparing length of the waterlines. To me this was more of a shared journey, watching the other boat on the opposite tack, learning from their tactics, enjoying the beauty of their sails.

The one interesting thing to me was during the trip I felt that Dawn Patrol was pointing much higher in the wind, but now that I look at our tracks I see that we were not so far apart. This is one area - pointing up high to the wind - where I think we really benefitted from watching another boat. Seeing Dawn Patrol up ahead set us goal for us to aim for. Out there by myself it is easy to fall off a bit and pick up speed. But watching another boat made me conscience of pointing up and getting the most out of the wind. (Thanks for the sailing lesson Paul.)

Which boat is better? That's impossible to say. I wouldn't give up my Spartina. I love the lapstrake hull, the gaff rig, the narrow forefoot, the lazy jacks, the positive floatation and the wide coamings to lean back against during a long day at the tiller. I'm sure if you asked Paul and Dawn they'll quickly give you a list of things they love about Dawn Patrol.
Let's just say I'm thrilled whenever I'm out sailing Spartina. And I'm even more thrilled when I'm out in Spartina sharing tacks with Dawn Patrol.


Monday, July 12, 2010

your bait sucks and your boat is ugly

This morning as I rigged Spartina for a day sail I was enjoying the bumper stickers I've collected and put on the guide posts of the boat trailer. When we go on cruises I try and pick up new stickers in each town along the way. Below is my new favorite, it is from New Bern and says "YOUR BAIT SUCKS AND YOUR BOAT IS UGLY". It is from a bait and tackle shop but I found it at a gift shop in downtown New Bern.

Here are some other stickers from past cruises, top to bottom you see Hwy 12 (which is the main road down the outer banks) from a Pamlico Sound trip, Oriental Needs Care from the Skeeter Beater, Somers Cove Marina from the Crab House and Tilghman Island also from the Crab House. The posts are getting full, soon I'll have to start overlapping the stickers.

I've been thinking a lot about the Philadelphia duck boat accident where a 250 foot long barge ran over a tourist boat. I day sail on the Elizabeth River, a very industrial river, and deal with barges, tugs, container ships, war ships and colliers on every sail. Today after I launched I came around the corner of the pier and found a tug pushing a YRBM (which is a repair, berthing and mess barge for military ships undergoing repairs in a shipyard). At first it wasn't moving and was crosswise in the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River where I launch.

I used the radio to call the tug - "Sailing vessel Spartina calling the tug off of Harbor Park". It took a minute or two but the captain came on the radio. I explained who I was, where I was and asked his intentions so that I could stay out of the way. He said he was waiting for a 9 a.m. bridge lift and he would appreciate it if I could stay astern of him until he was clear of the bridge. I said I would and that I would also continue to monitor channel 13.
Over the years I've talked to tugs, colliers and war ships in this sort of situation. Every captain has thanked me for contacting him, they appreciate the communication and awareness. Let's face it, these vessels are so large and have so much momentum they can't stop even if they wanted too. When I'm around heavy traffic I always monitor channel 13.

I've been focusing much more on the fall sail than I would have expected, thinking about it during my morning walks or on day sails. Maybe it is the emails from friends - Seth, who offered some hospitality around Chestertown; Barry, who wanted to know if I would be at the Mid-Atlantic Small craft festival (I met him there briefly last year); and James, who will be sailing the upper part of the bay in late September.

So how's this for a plan. Start at Rumbley (1) and sail to Okahanikan Cove (I gotta figure out how to pronounce that before I go there) on Bloodsworth Island (2) then follow the Honga River inside the Hooper Islands to Punch Island Creek (3) and head around to Oxford (4) on the Choptank River. Go from there through Knapp Narrows on Tilghman Island and down to the Little Choptank River (5), then outside of the Hooper Islands coming in at the southern end (6) before sailing south on the sound to Tangier (7), Smith or maybe Watts Island or even Onancock.
That's a start. I'll have to think about it for a while and start measuring distances.

Above is Spartina on the beach at Watts Island, a now unpopulated island a few miles east of Tangier. At one time it was large enough to support a plantation, now it is a narrow sand island with some trees and thousands of birds.

As I finished my sail today I came by the ketch Hulamae out of Key Largo, a very stout looking boat. The captain and I each had a laugh as we realized I was taking his photograph while he was taking mine. "That's a beautiful boat" I said. "Yours too" was his reply. I wished him well on his journey and he wished me well. A nice way to end the day on the water.