Thursday, April 28, 2011

spot tracking page

Or copy and paste this link below into your browser....

Back in a while.....


the walkabout, and other trips

That's the forecast for the inner banks for the next four days.  Pretty nice don't you think?  I'll head down to Hobucken early tomorrow morning, hope to rig and load at Pate Boatyard and be on the water well before noon.  I can't wait.

Later today I'll post my spot tracking page for anybody that is interested in following the trip.

The chart above includes a lot of my sailing territory - the southern end of Pamlico Sound, the Neuse River, the bays behind Cedar Island and the north end of Core Sound.  I can't wait.

After a long, cold winter I'm glad to he heading out on the water.  I've only daysailed twice this year, the weather has not cooperated at all.  Normally I would have been out six or eight times before the first cruise of the year.  But after getting in over 600 miles of sailing in four cruises last year I think I'll be in good shape for this trip.

It's a busy time on the inner banks for small boats.  Friends Dave and Kristen (that's Kristen above and below) just did a very nice four paddle - also out of Shawn's place in Hobucken - that included Jones Bay, the Pamlico River, Beard Island and Belhaven.  (Can you find a place better than Pate's Boatyard to launch a small boat off of Pamlico Sound?  I don't think so.)

And on Monday, just as I'm heading north past the Bay River and Jones Bay Curt, below, will be arriving a little to the south of me on the Neuse River with his Drascombe "Annie" for a two week cruise that should include Beaufort, Cape Lookout, Core Sound and maybe Ocracoke.  I wish we could cross paths but I don't think it will work out this year.

It's good to be heading out on the water, it is good to see others heading out there too.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

in no particular order

Wind.  Too much wind.  No wind.  Tracing the path for the day's sail on stained pages of the waterproof chart book.  Raising the mizzen on Jones Bay, and leaving it raised for the next five days.  The drive on Hwy 17, a sausage biscuit from breakfast on the way down, a hamburger for lunch on the way home.  Trolling with my new lure shaped like a blue crab, which caught my eye and may catch nothing more. The taste of salt on my lips, from sweat, from spray over the bow.  Talking with Shawn and his waterman buddies at the boatyard.  Ordering a shrimp burger at Morris Marina.  Dew covered decks in the morning.  Scrolling through the waypoints to find the next destination.  Listening to weather radio for the current conditions in New Bern, Swan Quarter and Cedar Island, enjoying the automated female voice saying "CLOW-dee."

Sailing off anchor under full sail, jibing out of the anchorage as if I knew what I was doing.  The cool, sweet taste of syrup from the fruit cups on a hot afternoon.  Waking up late at night to see the the Milky Way glowing across the sky.  Calm mornings, breezy afternoons.  Not talking to anybody for a couple of days.  Watching the big sailboats head up Bay River to Gale Creek, northbound on the ICW.  Reading my book, but only after the cooking gear is stowed, bivy set up and log book filled out.  Ibises, white and glossy, stepping gingerly on the shoreline.  Blue skies and a hot sun.  Clouds.  Peppers and onions sizzling on the griddle.  The tangy taste of anchovies.  Pouring a gallon jug of warm water over my head on the last evening out.  Dolphins, coming from nowhere, then disappearing.  Coming home, sunburned and windburned.

Just a few of the things I'm looking forward to...


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

out there

If you are dreaming of being "out there", with white sandy beaches, green marsh grasses and blue skies then you ought to check out Kiwibird's post about the trip she and Dave made this past weekend.  Nice photo by Dave, aka Floatsome, below.

The beaches on Pamlico Sound, from my limited experience, are few and far between.  But the one above, on Beard Island along the south shore of the Pamlico River, looks just beautiful.  On the track below it would be at spot "41".

I had been planning to head north to Middle Bay or so, but this has got me thinking about going further north to the Pamlico River.  We'll see.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

88 good years

If you were to offer me 88 good years of living right now, I would take that deal.

Let's say I could be raised on a farm, tall and strong, surrounded by a firm mother and two sisters.  I could go off to be part of history, island hopping across the Pacific.  And I would come home, unscarred on both body and mind, to the farmland of my youth.  But only for a while.

I could leave for the deserts and mountains of Mexico, staying long enough to help the rancheros through a difficult time, long enough to learn the language and long enough to meet a beautiful woman as she walked around the town square.  Then I could bring my bride back to my home in the farmlands.

We could raise children, two daughters, and I would work outdoors in the heat of sun and the bitter cold of the winter.  And I would help the people on the farms and in town, watch my daughters grow into young women and savor the land around me.  As the seasons changed my daughters would go off to school, marry and start their own families.

And should I lose my bride too early in life, I could meet and love another woman.  And we would live in a white house that my family lived in a century before, up a tree lined road on what passes for a small hill in the midwest.  I would watch the weather and talk about crops and cattle futures over breakfast down the road at the cafe.  I could be known for both a hat stained by sweat and a shirt stained by tobacco from the pipe I carry in my pocket.

Each day I could drive from the white house past the little town that to most people doesn't look like a town, past the band stand and past the cemetery to the stone pillars that mark the entrance to the farm that has been been in my family for generations.  And I would feed the cattle, check the crops and talk to the stray cats and dogs, calling out to each with the Spanish names I had given them.

I would be respected and loved.  And I would be known for more than a few eccentricities.

Then, after 88 years of good living, I could slip away, peacefully and quietly, in the still of the night.

If you offered me that deal I would take it right now.  It seems like it would be a very good life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

friends on the water

I am taking care of family business on a cool grey day here but at the same time watching friends Dave and Kristen paddling down around Goose Creek Island.  They put in at Pate Boatyard in Hobucken, the same place I'll be launching out of a week from now.  I'm not sure how long they'll be out, but will enjoy watching their trip.  I have not met either of them in person, but have corresponded with both the last year or two.  
It looks like they may have stopped for the evening on a little beach (and from my experience that is the only kind of beach down there, very small) just west of Pamlico Point.  

Shawn at Pate Boatyard likes to keep an eye on the small boats that leave out of his marina.  He likes to know where people are, where they are going.  In fact last year when I did my fall trip out of there he was able to recount, on my return, where I had stopped not just for the evenings, but for lunches and afternoon naps along they way just from watching my SPOT track.
Dave must have mentioned to Shawn that I had Dave's SPOT track, Shawn emailed me asking for it this morning.  I sent it to Shawn and he replied that he could already see that Dave and Kristen had changed plans.  In fact they had changed directions, paddling an hour down Jones Bay (to mark "8" below) then reversing course back to the ICW and then heading north.  Why?  I don't know, but I'll be interested to find out when they return.

I'm sure they will have a great time down there.  I'll be covering some of that same area in about a week, then a few days after that my friend Curt will be sailing down there too.  Busy days in the Inner Banks.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

the walkabout / dreams

Shawn down at Pate Boatyard tells me he has room for me to come down and launch out of his place for the five day walkabout.  That's in a little over a week from now, I can't wait. That is Spartina headed down the tree-lined canal from the boatyard to Jones Bay.  I don't know what the weather forecast is, probably won't look until Monday.

I did ask Shawn about fishing, here is what he told me....

"there are some smallish croaker and spot running around right now...might see some flounder if the wind is right, or could even get into some redfish if you're close to the banks..."

I think I'll be chasing the redfish along the marsh.  I know it is early in the season, but I'll give it a shot.

Above is the first day's sail from Hobucken to somewhere around Maw Point.  In light blue is my track from last October.  The red and the white lines are alternate ways of getting to the same place.  The red shows the path going down Jones Bay to Ditch Creek and Dump Creek out onto the Bay River.  White shows the path heading up Jones Bay to the ICW, then down Gale Creek and the Bay River.  This is what I love about the Carolina waters, lots of different passages, bay, canals and creeks that give me a lot of different ways to get the same place.  Which way will I go?  I probably won't decide that until I cast off from the dock.

There is Shawn in his custom made trimaran seeing me off on the last trip.  Shawn, I'll look forward to seeing you in about a week.

It seems like I have spent half the winter dreaming about sailing.  For a nice journal entry about having dreams and then living those dreams, take a look at the latest post from Webb Chiles.


Sunday, April 17, 2011


I'm still working with the new camera, a Pentax Optio W90.  So far I will rate it as a good outdoor camera, not a great outdoor camera.  This camera is at least three generations removed for the Pentax Optio W20 that I have used for the last five or six years.  In some ways it is an improvement, in other ways it is not.

I'm trying to fine tune the settings to get the most out of the camera, minimize power consumption and generate the best possible image.

  Here is what I have done....

  • turned off the automatic review of images (waste of power)
  • turned off the sound (again, waste of power)
  • set the sleep time to three minutes (the minimum, I wish I could set it for one minute)
  • turned off the auto focus.  This camera searches a little too long before finding a point to focus on.  Notice the out of focus image above, and then the sharp image below, taken a second or two later when the camera found the focus.  I've set the camera to manual focus at about five feet.  With a 28 mm lens and the focus at five feet just about everything is in focus.
  • set the ISO to 400.  The camera defaults to an auto selection ISO between 80 and 1600 (I think), and it chooses the lowest ISO most of the time, resulting in a slow exposure in average or low light.  ISO 400 gives, as far as I can tell, the same quality image, so I'll leave it there to get a faster shutter speed with less chance of motion blur.
  • set the white balance to daylight, the auto white balance is a little too cold for my taste

All of these images were shot on the sail last friday at the default settings.  I made the changes while experimenting with the camera around the house yesterday.  It will take me a while - at least a good sail or two - to decide on the final settings for the camera.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

the alpha and omega

A nice card and brochure arrived in the mail from Sandy at Rolph's Wharf, the destination for our spring sail up Chesapeake Bay.  She noted our reservation for a room at the River Inn and a slip at Rolph's Wharf Marina.  

The brochure had details about the inn and marina, built around an 1830's Victorian farm house on the Chester River.  All rooms with private baths and air conditioned, plus a breakfast with home baked bread and fresh squeezed orange juice.  And don't forget the Sandbar, an open bar down on the beach.  I know where we'll be in the afternoon.  Rolph's Wharf sounds like a nice place to relax after a couple hundred miles sailing up the bay.

As for the start of the trip, I called the dockmaster at Onancock Wharf.  Launching is $5.00 and we can leave our vehicle and trailer there, just let them know how long we'll be gone so they don't get worried about us (why does that sound familiar??).

So I think we are set for the beginning and end of Bay trip.  A few more details to work out but we still have plenty of time.  Then we have to find out what happens in between.


Friday, April 15, 2011

a beautiful sail

Out for a very nice sail today.  Mid-60's, wind at 15 knots and nice blue skies.  Just my second sail of the year, it felt good to be out there with a good breeze.

The only snowbird in Crawford Bay was Gulliver out of Montreal, headed back north after what must have been a nice winter in the tropics.  The crew were very well-tanned.  We had just a brief exchange, complimenting each other's boats, and then a wave goodby.

The wind was very crisp at times, an unusual wind out of the ESE.  I sailed with a variety of sail combinations -  all sails up, single reefed with mizzen and jib and, at time, just mizzen and jib.  After a long winter I was happy to feel so comfortable with the sails.

I brought along some cruising gear - the SPOT and the gps.  To me neither is very intuitive to use and I wanted to test them both out.  For the SPOT you hold down the "ok" button for five seconds or more to start the tracking service.  With the gps I wanted to see how the tracking was working - again, it is not obvious to me how to set and then reset the tracking for each day (with my old gps I could indicate "save track since midnight" to give me each day's track, but that is not an option on this model).

Above is the SPOT track for today.

And here is the gps track.  The gps is of course much more detailed, taking a mark every three minutes as opposed to the SPOT marking every ten minutes.  You can see I launched from my usual ramp in downtown Norfolk, sailed north on the Elizabeth River to the James River and back again.  I covered, according to the gps, 22.9 nautical miles in five hours and 48 minutes.  My top speed was 8.8 knots, average speed was 3.9 (I'm happy with any average over 3.0).  I will be happy to have those numbers on any cruise.

This last photo is for Dawn.  She is planning a post-retirement adventure, paddling from Key West to Norfolk on the ICW.  The destination would be "Mile Zero" of the ICW, which is right in downtown Norfolk.  The buoy says "36", but as far as the ICW is concerned, that is "Mile Zero".  Start in Key West, keep the continent to your left, barrier islands to your right, stop when you see the marker above.  Sounds easy enough.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

two weeks

Just a little over two weeks until the walkabout.  Decided to sort and pack my food.  Of course I bought too much, I always do.  But I'll just roll the left over food over to the Chesapeake Bay trip which is about six weeks away.

 Above are the granola bars, one for each breakfast.  And the packs of cheese crackers, two for each day.  One pack goes with lunch, the other is a snack.

And cups of fruit in syrup, three per day.  As I mentioned a few days ago this is, because of the weight, a luxury item.  But for a five day solo cruise I'll have so much left over room it will be ridiculous.  Tons of storage space on the Pathfinder.  A cup of fruit goes with each breakfast, lunch and dinner.  After hours of sailing on a hot sunny day that fruit and syrup tastes just right.

That's lunch, small tins of tuna, chicken and ham salad.  It comes with crackers in a foil packet.  At the store the cans and crackers are all in a cardboard box.  I take them out of the box to save space, the crackers are kept in another container where they won't get crushed.

Anchovies, sardines and smoked oysters make for excellent appetizers while cooking dinner.  I don't have them every night, just now and then - just whenever I'm really hungry and I get the urge for the salty/tangy taste.  Rolled anchovies with capers are my favorites, I'll save the oysters for the last night out. (Hey, nobody said I had to starve myself out there.)

Just about all the food fits in these gallon jars from the Dollar Store.  Dinner is in the jar second from the left - single servings of spam and a couple packs of salmon (possibly supplemented with some fresh fish).  What is missing right now are the baggies of dried fruit and nuts for snacks - I'll put those together the week of the trip.  Two snack bags for each day.  And I'll get the fresh veggies the day before the trip - a couple of potatoes, three onions, one or two red peppers and some garlic.

There are a few other things I need to do.....

  • buy my North Carolina salt water fishing license 
  • send Shawn at Pate Boatyard a note confirming the trip, making sure he has room for me
  • print out a couple detail maps of a few spots - new anchorages at Little Oyster Creek and Swan Creek, plus that narrow winding channel at the north end of Core Sound.
Hope to get out for a sail Friday - forecast is pretty nice - to check out the boat, get comfortable on the water again and think about packing, stowage and having some fun.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

camera test

I saw this wasp sitting on the outside of the kitchen window (yes, yes, I know, need to clean the windows), a good chance I thought to try out the close up function on the new Pentax Optio W90 camera.  I had the mode set to the "microscope" setting and zoomed in a little at the minimum focus.  Pretty nice I think.

I hope to try out the camera on the water this Friday, a day off for me.  If this forecast holds it should be a very nice day for sailing.  I hope to get out once or twice before the spring trip in North Carolina.


Monday, April 11, 2011


I wanted to put together my waypoints for the walkabout in North Carolina and found it was so quick and easy that I also did the waypoints for the Chesapeake Bay trip too.

 It was easy because I found waypoints from past trips stored in my Garmin Roadtrip software files.  I simply had to add a handful of extra markers - Core Sound points for NC,  and the Onancock, Watts Island and Chestertown for Chesapeake Bay.

Roadtrip has a very basic US Basemap v2 map, a very rough map at best - it is really designed for planning highway trips.  But it is close enough that I can mark a waypoint then adjust latitude and longitude using a paper chart and inputting the information under the "advanced" tab on the new waypoint.  Not as simple as simple as Garmin's BlueCharts (which I don't have), but hey, it works.

I'll export the NC waypoints on to my gps tomorrow.


Cape Lookout

Found myself this morning looking at some photographs from last year's visit to Cape Lookout.  You can read about that here and here.  My only regret is that we did not spend more time there.  It was a beautiful place.
I've got to put another visit on the schedule soon.  Weekend trip this summer?  The fall cruise?  Next spring?