Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the book of days

My Wooden Boats calendar arrived in the mail yesterday.  I opened it right away to "May" and marked down the proposed dates for our Spring cruise on Chesapeake Bay.  It's fun to look over the coming year and see what might be going on.

And I'll mark down some other dates too, including the fast approaching annual striper fishing trip.  I've gone out on an annual 1/2 charter with some buddies for about a decade now.  We've had some great years and some slow years.  But we've always had fun.  Below is our best trip, a limit of stripers in two hours.  Total weight of the 16 fish --  399 pounds.

We've always fished out of Oregon Inlet in the outer banks of North Carolina.  The last couple of years we have gone down there but the fish have not.  For some reason the stripers, which had been thick in the shoals of Oregon Inlet for years, have decided to stay up north at Cape Henry near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.  So this year we'll take a boat, the Gannet, out of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach.

I was a guest on the Gannet a year or two ago as they fished off of Virginia Beach.  That is a nice striper going into the box, above, on that winter morning.  And there is a photo of the boat, from their website, below.  We've rented a bungalow somewhere down at the beach for the night before the trip and we'll grill some steaks, have a few beers and share some laughs.  Then we'll head out fishing the next day.  Can't wait.

As for sailing trips, the Spring trip is on the book for late May.  Still working on the details but we'll probably go from Onancock in Virginia to somewhere between Cambridge and Chestertown in Maryland.  I'll start looking at mileage and routes sometime after the first of the year.

For the Fall trip Bruce and I have talked about sailing north to the top of Chesapeake Bay, starting somewhere around Cambridge and ending up at Chesapeake City, Md on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  I've heard that John Welsford, designer of the Pathfinder, Navigator, Scamp and dozens of other great boats, might be at the St. Michaels Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival in early October.  If that is the case then we'll try to plan the fall trip with a stop in St. Michaels to say hello to John.  But all that planning is a long ways off.  Below is a nice photo Bruce shot of Spartina at the Small Craft Festival.

I would also like to sneak in two walkabout type trips, short trips that are four or five days long down in North Carolina.  Those would be out of my favorite marina down there, Pate Boatyard in Hobucken.  Maybe one midsummer (yeah, I know it will be hot but the fishing should be good) and maybe another in October.  An Octoberfest cruise, like that one I did with Paul and Dawn, might be a nice little tradition.



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

thawing out

Above is our deck Sunday night.  I put a yard stick in the pile of snow on top of the table and it was 14 inches deep.  And it snowed two more hours after that.

Here is the view from the garage today, with the bow sprit and mast of Spartina and all the snow and ice left behind from the storm.  I've got lots of work to do to get ready for the next season, but probably won't get after it until the new year.  I've got just four coats of varnish on the mast, I'll be hoping for some warm weather to get a few more coats on.  I've got to get the outboard worked on, check the trailer lights and bearings.  Lots of stuff to keep me busy.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

snow drift

The last time I checked we had 14 inches of snow.  And it is still coming down.  This is the most I have ever seen here.  Above is a sailboat tied up near the public ramp at the Great Bridge Locks.  Unusual to see a boat there.  I'm not sure what the story it.
I had hoped to get some more photos along the waterfront.  But the roads were a mess.  Maybe tomorrow.

And there is the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, part of the ICW.  The snow birds are long gone.

And there is Jack, a short dog in tall snow.

I'm with Jack on this one, it's a good day to stay indoors.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

taking a bearing

"Where are we? Answers drift across the woods and salt marshes in John Casey’s beautiful, elegiac new novel. One person after another takes a bearing, sets a course, loses the way, makes a correction."

- Dominique Browning

I just came across this NY Times review by Dominique Browning of John Casey's new book Compass Rose.  This is the sequel to Spartina that I mentioned a couple of posts ago.  I wish I had the book right now, it would be great reading for a cold, grey day.

I really love the line in the review about bearings and courses, losing the way and then making a correction.  Sounds like life to me.


Friday, December 24, 2010

winter on the eastern shore

I ran over to the eastern shore to visit some friends today, all the way up near the Maryland state line in the little town of Greenbackville (great name!).  This is on the seaside of the peninsula, about 15 miles north of the more famous Chincoteague.  It's an old fishing and farming town that was once a bustling community but now, like most places on the eastern shore, is very quiet.  Above is the harbor at Greenbackville, a mixture of pleasure and fishing boats.  A thin layer of ice on the water, patches of snow here and there.

Most of the waterman's boats had been pulled for the winter, but not all.

And crab pots were stacked nearby, waiting for the next season.

It was my first visit to the town in about 15 years.  There are so many little towns like this on the eastern shore, I'll never get to visit them all.  But it was nice to visit just one today.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Spartina", revisited

I was emailing with a friend just this past weekend and the topic of John Casey's "Spartina", the book that is partly the reason for my boat's name, came up.  I said I had heard at one time, maybe back when the book was published in back in 1989, that it was supposed to be the first book in a trilogy.  "Too bad",  I said "that the trilogy never happened."  Maybe I spoke too soon.  

I was browsing around last night and came across the book Compass Rose, also by John Casey, the follow-up to Spartina.  How had I missed this?  I was published just a few months ago but apparently never got the attention that Spartina received.

In the late 1980's Spartina was the winner of the National Book Award.  I bought it based not on the award, but instead on a review in (I think) Small Boat Journal.  I read the book and loved it.  No, it is not a perfect book.  But there are several things caught my attention in book.  Here is the description from the National Book Award...

A classic tale of a man, a boat, and a storm, Spartina is the lyrical and compassionate
story of Dick Pierce, a commercial fisherman along the shores of Rhode Island's
Narragansett Bay. A kind, sensitive, family man, he is also prone to irascible outbursts
against the people he must work for, now that he can no longer make his living from the

Pierce's one great passion, a fifty-foot fishing boat called Spartina, lies unfinished in
his back yard. Determined to get the funds he needs to buy her engine, he finds himself
taking a foolish, dangerous risk. But his real test comes when he must weather a storm at
sea in order to keep his dream alive. Moving and poetic, Spartina is a masterly story of
one man's ongoing struggle to find his place in the world.

So I am glad to see that a sequel is out.  I've added it to my reading list for next year.  And hope that I won't have to wait as long - over twenty years - for the third book of the trilogy.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

the protein factory

Whenever I have oysters.....

or bluefish

or rockfish

or crabs for dinner...

I can't help but think of the quote from H. L. Mencken.....

"Baltimore lay very near the immense protein factory of Chesapeake Bay, and out of the bay it ate divinely."

The bay has been struggling for years.  It won't ever be the protein factory it once was, but let's hope it is at least on the mend.

Thanks again for the oyster recipe Baydog.


what could have been...

I had to laugh when I checked out DanceswithSandyBottom's blog today.  Paul and his wife Dawn (SandyBottom) were our sailing partners for the Tag Team 200.  And they are of course part of the article I mentioned yesterday in No. 67 issue of Small Craft Advisor.  Paul did a very nice post about the story.   I was glad to read his post - he has seen the published version, I haven't.  He put an image of the magazine cover, below, in the post.

Paul also did an alternate cover, below, for the magazine with his idea of what should have been out there for all the world to see - a nice photo of Dawn Patrol.  I kind of like it.  But I can't blame SCA for putting SCAMP on the cover.  After all it, SCAMP, is the result of a collaboration between Small Craft Advisor and designer John Welsford (who also designed my Pathfinder, the Navigator and countless other great boats).
At one point the editors had told me that a photo from our trip - not sure if it was a photo of Dawn Patrol or Spartina - had a chance at making the cover.  But then the first SCAMP hit the water.  SCAMP is a great boat and that is an exciting photograph of her out on some rough water.  Oh well, maybe next time. 

Thanks Paul for the post.  And as far as I'm concerned you have added to your resume - professor, statistician, sailor, boat builder and - now - magazine designer.  Well done.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

life on the half shell

What to do when it is too cold to go sailing?  Have some oysters, prepared according to BayDog's recipe!  I fixed this dish awhile ago and really loved it.  But the oldest daughter was away at school at the time.  I know she is a big oyster fan and this will be just right for her winter break homecoming.  This time I'll mix some Kellum oysters from the Rappahannock River with Saltworks oysters from the eastern shore.  And I've got a handful oysters in the shell (forget right now where they came from) for the extra liquid (and I might have one or two on the half shell while cooking).  All were bought at Uncle Chuck's seafood at the farmer's market at a very reasonable price.

It has been a great year and of course when I look back one of the highlights will be the Tag Team sail with Bruce, Paul and Dawn last June (a very hot June) in North Carolina.  I'm very happy to hear that Small Craft Advisor is publishing a story I wrote about the longest day of that trip, Day Four, from Oriental to the Swash on Core Sound.  Below is a low resolution proof that I saw a while ago. Things may have changed since then, and I haven't seen a published copy yet.


Small Craft Advisor is my favorite sailing magazine, and not just because they have published a couple of stories about our trips.  Their stories tend to be a sailing on a small, manageable and affordable scale.  It's not about huge yachts or exotic woods.  It is about something that I can do.  I can't wait to see this new issue.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

cold Duck

I had to run down to the Outer Banks today for a quick visit to the town of Duck.   It was very cold.  Ice,  pushed by the northwest wind, piled up for about a hundred yards off the soundside shore.  This is very unusual, particularly when you consider that it is not even winter yet.

Icicles hung down beneath all the piers.  It has been cold for almost ten days now.  More snow, sleet expected tomorrow and then again the following week.

The town of Duck is a tiny vacation spot on the narrow barrier island between Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.  In the summer months it is a hopping place, packed with vacationers.  But today it was very quiet.

It was kind of pretty, but with two more storms on the way I don't know what to expect.  It could be a long winter.


Monday, December 13, 2010

planning, and a camera

We are in the early process of roughing out the spring trip.  (I need to talk about spring right now as it has been snowing all day here, I need something to look forward to.)  Bruce and I agreed on sailing the middle part of Chesapeake Bay from Tangier Sound in the south to Tilghman Island in the north (or possibly higher on the bay).  
This would be some of the same area that we covered on the Crab House 150, and also some of the same area I visited on a solo sail last September on the Bay Days 220.  On the Crab House we were on a tight schedule heading up the bay and just sailed north on open water, bypassing a lot of interesting creeks, rivers and bays.  This time we'll meander up the coast, checking out those places along the way.
Starting places could be either Onancock (in Virginia) or Rumbley (in Maryland).  Possible ending points could be Cambridge, St. Michaels or, if the wind favors us, as far north as Chestertown on the Chester River.  All three of those possible stopping places have what we need to complete the trip - a nearby car rental spot so we can rent a car to retrieve my jeep and trailer for the drive home.

I came across an interesting camera the other day that I briefly considered as a replacement camera.  It is the GoPro HD Hero, a camera designed for adventure photography (both stills and video).  It is a video/still camera that comes in a housing with a variety of mounts.  They are available to mount on cars, surfboards, bikes and helmets.  The one I looked at, without mounting attachments, is called the "Naked" version.

Pluses of the camera are....

  • designed for the wear and tear of the outdoors
  • impact resistant housing good to 180 feet
  • 170 degree view (and from their sample photos there is little distortion)
  • presets for interval shooting of still images
  • hd video

Minus are....
  • that very wide angle lens is a fixed lens, no zooming
  • no preview window
  • very few controls
  • no flash
  • no close-up feature 

It is a pretty cool camera, take a look at this clip. (Keep in mind that is a low-rez stream, go to their home page for higher resolution.)  It might be perfect for adventure racing (I wonder what the EC crowd would think of this - maybe mounted on the nose of a kayak or a multihull sailboat??).  And it might be nice to have one of these as a second camera to mount somewhere - on the mast, on the end of the boom, on the bow - and forget about.  But I don't think it has the flexibility that I would like for a primary camera on cruises.  So right now the Pentax Optio W90 is the frontrunner, but I'm still doing some research.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

more old photos, a new book and a close finish

The post below called "the boat" is another little gallery of old photos - just about all published here somewhere on the blog - that will be found on the right side of the page under "some photographs". Now I've got some of my favorite storm, calm and boat photos easily accessible for me to look at on a cold winter day.

I had planned to do the just the two weather collections - calm and stormy - but then started thinking about all the views of Spartina that I like so much. Plus I know that some builders like to look at existing boats for ideas. I know I studied every detail of every Pathfinder photo I could find while I was building Spartina. Maybe somebody will see an idea that they like (or not) in the photos.

My friend Kevin B., builder/sailor of the legendary Navigator Slip Jig, sent me a note about a new book out about Navigators. The book is Something About Navigator, The Welsford Camp Cruiser by Robert Ditterich. You can read about the author, the book and the construction of a Navigator at Robert's blog called "what was the middle thing?".

From the blog is appears Robert is a busy guy. A boat builder, violin maker and writer - plus a lot of other interests thrown in.

I haven't seen the book myself but, from what Robert says on his blog, it contains some writings by some very experienced small boat sailors (I believe that is David Perillo's "Jaunty" on the cover and I've always considered David as the guy that set the standard for adventure sailing on JW's small boats). Here is Robert's description.....

Correction from Robert:  The cover pic is actually Dave Johnstone's 'Korora' from NZ, and his boat pics are absolutely terrific.
Thanks Robert for helping me getting that straight.  Dave, my apologies.  Beautiful boat!

Now here is Robert's description....


The book gives a bit of an outline of the development of the design, and a bit of an analysis of the things that maybe have made it such a happy and successful boat enjoyed in so many ways, in so many places, then there are some stories by Navigator owners and sailors and some builders.

The other voices though were given so generously and with such a co-operative and helpful spirit, and the essays they contributed lift this little book off the page and out yonder onto the no particular order, Steve Parke, Owen Sinclair, Richard Schmidt, John Welsford, Chuck Leinweber, Kevin Brennan, Martin Welby, Dave Perillo, Dave Johnstone Barrett Faneuf....

Sounds like a good book about John's second best design. (I'll let you guess what I think is his best design.) I just now see that it is available through amazon here.

And speaking of small boat adventures, my sailing friend Paul, aka DanceswithSandyBottom, has put together a very nice series of posts about this year's Watertribe's NC Challenge. You can find them here.
Lots of great photos, maps, data about wind, currents and boat speed. It is a lot of fun to read. My favorite post is called Sprint to the Finish. It is a exciting story about, quite literally, Paul and his sailing partner/son Alan sprinting with their boat Dawn Patrol over sand flats to the finish. There are wind shifts, back channels, rowing while sailing and a little luck thrown in for the final stage of the race. I was lucky to hear about the race and the finish first hand from Paul when I sailed with Paul and Dawn in October. I remember enjoying the story then, and it reads just as well now. Thanks Paul.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

the boat

Elizabeth River

Pasquotank River

Elizabeth River

Elizabeth River, photo courtesy of Lynn

Sassafras River

Chester River

Pasquotank River

Miles River

Waterside Marina

Elizabeth River

Cox Creek 

Scuffletown Creek


Deep Bay

Elizabeth River

Reed Creek

Elizabeth River

Scuffletown Creek

Elizabeth River

Waterside Marina, photo
courtesy of Barry

The Elizabeth River

Elizabeth River
photo courtesy of Curt Bowman

Pasquotank River


Jones Bay

the Elizabeth River

Old House Cove

Elizabeth River

Reed Creek, off of the Chester River

Pasquotank River

Abel Bay

Pamlico Sound

Elizabeth River

Chincoteague Channel

Sillery Bay

Pasquotank River

Holland Island

Elizabeth River

Langford Creek
photo by Curt

Neuse River

Choptank River

Pasquotank River

Tangier Sound

the garage

Chesapeake Bay

sleeping pads under the foredeck

Chesapeake Bay

Knapp Narrows

Bonner Bay

Core Sound

Big Trout Marina, Engelhard

Elizabeth River

Bivy's under the foredeck

Mt. Pleasant Bay

Tilghman Island


Hatteras Inlet

Chesapeake Bay near Rock Hall

Neuse River

The Elizabeth River

Pamlico Sound

Caffee Bay



Wainwright Island, Core Sound

Pamlico Sound

East Bluff Bay

Elizabeth River

Pamlico Sound

the garage


Big Trout Marina, Engelhard

Scuffletown Creek


Pasquotank River