Thursday, June 30, 2011

photographs, an update

I've updated the photographs in three of this blog's posts - the boat, stormy and calm.  These are, by far, the most commonly viewed posts on the site, "the boat" being the most popular.  In "the boat" I use photos that show Spartina in her environment, plus details of the rigging, equipment, etc.  Below is one of the photos I added showing the sleeping pads stored up under the foredeck.  I've also added photos of her docked, at anchor, and washing dishes in the cook kit tub.  I guess the post is not just about the boat, but also about how we spend time on the boat.

Most of the new photos went into "the boat", only one (below) went in to "stormy".  Our last trip had good weather, not much in the way of "stormy" to photograph.  We had a couple of rain showers, but those were at night.  And just one windy, rough, slightly rainy morning sailing from South Marsh Island across Tangier Sound to Deal Island.

I added a handful of images to "calm", one of my favorite posts.  Like anyone who sails I enjoy the wind.  But those calm, glassy mornings and evenings are a special time.  Plus if you look through the post you'll see some mid-day calms.  Peace and quite - I'm all for it.

But enough about this site.  There are a couple of other sites that I'm following these days.  Webb Chiles is writing about his new small boat "Gannet", below.  I'm a longtime fan of his circumnavigations, his writing, his photography and his outlook on life.  I can't wait to see what he does with his new boat.  I admit I'm hoping for some photographs of her under sail - but that is easier said than done.  It took about three years before I had a nice photograph, shot by a friend, of Spartina under sail.

And if you like small boats, great writing and beautiful photography please take a look at my friend Barry's site.   He is building two melonseed skiffs and they are nothing less than works of art.  I won't even try to describe the skill that is going into these two beautiful boats - just take a look for your self.


Monday, June 27, 2011

first, turn off the gd smile locator......

I bought new camera, a Pentax Optio W90, this spring to replace my old, well-used and currently broken Optio W20.  I really loved the old camera, it worked well for four years or more in rough conditions, soaking rain and with a fair amount of abuse.  I was always happy with the images, very impressed with the nice files coming from a point and shoot camera.

I am not quite as happy with the newer model.  It is a good camera, not great.  It has some advantages - wider angle lens, larger file size, faster burst shooting.  But I don't think it is quite as sharp as the earlier model.  And the batteries do not last as long.  Batteries are important on a week-long trip.

Someone posted a comment - I apologize, I cannot recall who it was - suggesting I look at the focus options.  That was a great suggestion that put me to work experimenting with the setting and even reading the instruction manual.  There was some good information in the book.  (Who knew??)

So here is what I've done to get, in my opinion, the best images from the camera....

  • Set the Recorded Pixels to 12M
  • Set the quality level to three stars (the max)
  • Set the focus area to the small box set in the middle of the frame, turned off the "focus assist" which kept draining the battery while searching for the wrong point to focus on
  • Set the sensitivity to auto with a range of ISO 80 to 800
  • Turned off blink detection
  • Turned off the digital zoom, using only the optical zoom
  • Turned off the instant review
  • And most importantly switch the overall mode from Auto Picture to Program.  
  • The above allowed me to turn off the face/smile detector.  That smile detector, always looking to find faces with nice big happy grins, eats up the battery and causes me not too be happy.
  • Used the memory function to retain just about all of the above.
So far this seems to be working.  Image quality, focus and battery life have all improved.  I am much more satisfied with the camera.  Is it a great camera??  No.  But I like it more now that when I first started shooting with it.

I had some emails about Wild Fox, the boat I saw yesterday on the Elizabeth River.  This evening I did some searches trying to find information about the cat schooner.  All I came across were some images at the SCANMAR International website.  It is a Benford 37, a very stout looking vessel.  And I love the rig.  The website says Anthony Swanston is the owner - but I do not know if that information is up to date.  All I really know is that it was a beautiful boat.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

wild fox

Quiet but comfortable day on the water today.  OK wind in the morning, then it fell off about noon.  I had the chance to take some friends along for the sail and that was fun.  When the wind faltered we drifted off of Town Point Park and listened to Lil' Malcolm and the Houserockers at the main stage of the Bayou Bugaloo.  I wished we had had some wind, but with no wind this was a pretty nice way to spend the afternoon.  

Just one boat caught my eye today, it was Wild Fox with a homeport of Belfast, Northern Ireland.  At first glance I thought she was a cat ketch, then I noticed the main mast was aft so she a cat schooner.  Not only that, she was junk rigged.  Interesting boat and I'm glad to have seen her passing through.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

past, present and future

I've been living in the past during the evenings this week, sorting through the photographs from our last trip.  I'm involved in a little project that has me picking out the best images.  It has not been easy.  (How do you decide what is the "best" image anyway??)

I haven't looked to see how many photographs we shot during the nine days of sailing.  Several hundred I'm sure, maybe a couple of thousand.  (Shoot that many photographs and there is bound to be a good one in there somewhere.)
Putting together the log of the trip, the one that is published to the right in the sidebar, helped me narrow down the hundreds of photographs to about a hundred.  I went through the logs, picking out 48 images.   Then three evenings to pare it down to 18.

I'll finish up the project this weekend, tuck the photographs away and start thinking about the next trip.  That will be late September.  Where?  I'm not sure.  Solo or with Bruce?  Not sure about that either, we need to compare schedules.  All I know is that I hope to be on the water somewhere for a week in late summer/early fall when the cool dry air starts to move in from the north.  I've started buying food for the trip already, tossing a four pack of tropical fruit cups into the grocery cart the other day.  I'll worry about the other details later.

My current plans are for day sailing.  The forecast is good for tomorrow and I should be out on the Elizabeth River before 9 a.m.  The Bayou Bugaloo, Norfolk's waterfront Cajun festival, is going on this weekend.  I should be able to hear lots of good zydeco music sailing along the river, maybe even smell the crawfish boiling and corn roasting at the food stands.


While I'm daysailing this weekend my friend Dawn is out on a coastal adventure.  She is kayaking from Swansboro to Cape Lookout, making the trip up the coast "outside" on the ocean.  That's Dawn above on the right.  She says she is kayaking, but it kind of looks like sailing to me.  With wind out of the south or southwest she should have a great ride along the Bogue and Shackleford Banks.

She has published her SPOT track on her blog.  If I can't be out on a trip right now I might as well follow hers.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

an anniversary

I was emailing with my friend Paul yesterday when I remembered it was our anniversary.  Don't expect flowers, I told him, but it was a year ago and Spartina - crewed by myself and Bruce - shared a trip in North Carolina with Paul's Dawn Patrol - crewed by Paul and Dawn.

I won't go into details about the trip - they are all there just to the right under "Tag Team 200 Daily Logs" - but I did go through the logs and pulled out some of my favorite photographs.

At the top is Spartina crossing the Pamlico River in a nice, stiff breeze on the first day of the trip.  Below you'll see Bruce, Dawn and Paul relaxing on Bonner Bay as we rafted up on the second day.  Early in the trip and we were already fast friends.

We stopped in Oriental on the third day.  That, for me, is one of the best towns in coastal North Carolina.  Nice harbor, great coffee shop and very friendly people.

The fourth day was the longest day of our trip, and, I think, the most interesting.  Almost 50 miles of travel, wind on the stern, wind on the bow, no wind, open water, canals and a brief encounter with lightning.  That is a day I will remember for a long time.

And then Cape Lookout on the fifth day.  My biggest mistake in planning was not building an extra day into the trip just to hang around Cape Lookout Bight.  I can't wait to get back there.

We took the back road to Beaufort on the sixth day, Paul and Dawn leading the way with some great sailing.  That trip, finished by 11:00 a.m., was fast and furious.

Day seven ended with ice cold beers on Beard Creek.  A heat wave, long day on the water and a dinner of anchovies, cheese, crackers, fruit and a six pack of Carib -  does it get any better than that???

And then a nice run to Beaufort on a cool, comfortable morning.

The trip was just a year ago, but seems like it was too many years ago.  I'm glad for all the photographs we took, I'm glad for this log where I can look back and remember the trip as if it were yesterday.

To steal a thought from writer Louis L'Amour in his book "Off the Mangrove Coast", these are things that can't be bought, things that get in the blood, things that build the memories of tomorrow and give us the hours to look back upon.  I'm very glad for these memories.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

boat access, or not

I received an email from Bill out of Richmond a few days ago.  He was forwarding an email from Boat US about a National Park Service survey looking into boat access on Chesapeake Bay.  Bill said he was passing it along in the case that I was not a member of BoatUS or that I was not receiving their emails.  I am a member and I do receive their emails, but I completely missed this one.  Thanks for forwarding it Bill.

Below is what BoatUS had to say....

Do you think boaters need better public access sites around the Bay? The National Park Service wants to know. They are holding a series of public meetings at which boaters can tell them where facilities like ramps and dinghy docks should be located.  BoatU.S. encourages you to attend one of these workshops to share your thoughts in person.
The meeting dates and locations are:
Tuesday, June 21 – 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Fish and Boat Commission Headquarters (Susquehanna Room)

1601 Elmerton Avenue

Harrisburg, PA
Wednesday, June 22 – 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Ft. McHenry Visitor Center

2400 East Fort Avenue

Baltimore, MD

Monday, June 27 – 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Room A-10)

901 G Street NW

Washington, DC

Tuesday, June 28 – 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries Headquarters (Board Room)

4000 West Broad Street

Richmond, VA
If you cannot attend one of the public meetings please visit the National Park Service web for more information. Starting June 21st, 2011 there will be an interactive map of the Bay on this web site where you can pinpoint actual locations that need better boating access.


I cannot attend any of the meetings, but I am interested in having some input through their interactive map.  What caught my eye, and what I knew from previous research, is that there is not a lot of access to the bay on Virginia's eastern shore.  There are more ramps as you get into Maryland, but the closer you get to the Bay Bridge on Kent Island the more expensive it can get.  Even as far south as Crisfield we were told that a pass to use the local ramps could cost $40 or more. (A local hotel helped us out by letting us leave the jeep/trailer on their property for free.  There are some nice folks out there in the world.)

Looking at ramps, parking, security is always a major part of planning a trip.  Maybe I'll put in my two cents.  Water access is important to me.  I spend much of my time sailing in Norfolk, a city that once had the motto "City by the Sea".  Because of lack of boat ramps I sometimes think of it as "City where you can't get to the Sea."

I'll look into the NPS survey a bit more.  Thanks again for the note Bill.

But in the meantime, leftovers anyone??


Monday, June 20, 2011

dutch harbor, a geography lesson

I had a very nice daysail yesterday.  It was overcast and the wind was blowing out of the west.  A stronger and cooler wind than I had expected, it felt as if it was about to rain.
There must have been some sort of regatta going on at Hampton Roads harbor a few miles down the Elizabeth River.  All morning long a steady stream of 30 to 40 foot boats came out of the marinas and headed west.  I had plans to be at home early in the afternoon so stayed down near ICW mile marker zero, finding myself content to tack back and forth watching the passing boats.

I visited Crawford Bay, the anchorage for cruisers, to take a look at this week's cruising fleet.  The cutter above, Alice of Penrhyn, will be one of my favorite cruising boats seen this summer.  She is a Bristol Channel Cutter 32.  I have seen and admired the BCC 28's designed by Lyle Hess.  I read that he had designed a 32 foot version but did not know that any had been built.  I'm glad to have seen it.
This was my first geography lesson of the day.  The home port was listed as Beaumaris.  After having read countless books about sailing all around the world I thought I had heard of most ports.  But not this one.  A little research when I got home showed me that Beaumaris is a town on the island of Anglesey in Wales.  And more research continued the Welsh connection - Penrhyn is the name of a castle built in the 1780's in Wales.  I said a quick hello with the owner, a moment to trade compliments and well wishes, then sailed on.

I later saw the owner of the BCC rowing his dinghy over to this nice wooden cutter - Paviti Tern out of Westport Point, Ma.

Of the nine boats in the anchorage two were from the Netherlands, Mauyva, homeported in Amersterdam, and another boat that I did not photograph.  Then I saw I third Dutch boat, a very serious world cruiser call Abel T. from Makkum.  I did not know where Makkum was, but recognized the flag as being the same on the other boats.  The internet later showed me that Makkum is in the Friesland area of the Netherlands, the very place where much of the action of classic spy and sailing novel The Riddle of the Sands takes place.  While the boat was very serious looking, the family aboard looked very friendly and relaxed.  I found, but do not know how to translate, their blog. At least you can see a photo of the family there.

Sometimes I feel like the character in The Shipping News, keeping track of the boats in the harbor.  I don't know why I enjoy getting to know something about these boats - I just know I enjoy it.

Eventually I headed east on the Elizabeth River and entered the High Street Landing in Portsmouth, right behind the schooner Spirit of Independence.  I've enjoyed seeing the schooner for a couple of years now, we've traded tacks a few times.  I tied up nearby to get a sandwich from a coffee shop.

While I was having lunch on the docks the schooner's owner walked over and introduced himself.   We exchanged phone numbers and have made plans for some sailing together - he'll have me as a guest on the schooner for part of a day, then we'll switch to Spartina where he will be my guest.  Sounds like fun to me.

Mixed in with all the sailboats were a large number of commercial boats including this freighter below.  Barges, tugboats and all sorts of work boats, it was a busy day on the water.  The wind pick up in the afternoon and I decided to head back to the ramp.

We had Father's Day plans for the evening.  The celebration included a card from my daughter admitting she was difficult, challenging and a real pain in the butt to raise, but it also pointed out that I was no cake walk myself.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Diggy Liggy Li and Diggy Liggy Lo

A little bit of Cajun country arrived at our house yesterday when a styrofoam cooler from Louisiana Crawfish Company showed up mid-morning. Twenty pounds of "select" crawfish, with 12 to 15 crawfish per pound, translates into almost 300 very much alive mudbugs.  Cost was around $125 which included the crawfish, overnight shipping, spices, instructions, mardi gras beads and bibs.

I have to say that when I opened the cooler I wondered if there were any live crawfish in there at all.  Or were they all dead?  It was a very pungent smell that came out of the box.  But that seemed reasonable when I realized that the crawfish had been netted from a Louisiana pound, silt and algae filled I'm sure, a little over 24 hours earlier.

The occasion was my youngest daughter's graduation from high school.  Soon both our nest and our bank account will be empty.  Might as well celebrate.

I followed the instructions and rinsed down the bag of crawfish with cool water.  The crawfish, in a dormant state from being shipped surrounded by ice packs, were soon very active.  The mesh bag seemed to squirm as the crawfish moved about.
I would not be cooking the crawfish for about eight hours so I put them in a larger cooler, the mesh bag resting on top of a layer of ice.  The instructions said "Don't open the mesh bag!" which means I had to open it right away to take a peek.  After photographing some of the crawfish I closed the bag up again (I thought).  Soon there were scratching sounds from inside the cooler as crawfish were escaping the bag and looking for a way out of the box.

I read and reread the instructions for cooking crawfish.  Boil for three minutes, soak in the seasoned water for 15 minutes.  Then put them in a cooler to steam away along with piles of seasoning.  Below you see a batch of crawfish, fresh from the steamer.   I had to do four separate batches on the stove top.  Next time I'll consider renting one of those gas outdoor cookers.

The crawfish kept me busy a good part of the day - rinsing them down, icing the cooler, purging the bag full of crawfish four times in fresh water - but I enjoyed it all.

Seasoning is the key for crawfish and the company sent plenty.  It is basically salt and cayenne pepper with a few other ingredients thrown in.  I did not use all of the seasoning - next time I will.  Most of the spices are mixed in the boiling water along with a couple of lemon halves, the rest ends up with the boiled crawfish in the cooler.

My daughter is a longtime fan of crawfish, we've eaten them for years at the waterfront Bayou Boogaloo Festival.  But we weren't sure how her friends would react. We made sure we had plenty of other food available - corn, grilled kielbasa, pasta salad and bread.  I explained to her friends that were not obligated to eat, or even taste, a crawfish.  They are, after all, labor intensive and considered to be an "acquired" taste.  Eat what you enjoy I told my daughter's friends, relax and have a fun time.

While eating crawfish was option, it was mandatory that they all put on their crawfish bibs for at least a quick photograph.  They were at least willing to do that.  My daughter Grace is the one in the middle.

Our concerns about the crawfish were a waste of time. Soon everybody was loading up their plates with the bright red, steaming mudbugs.  My wife had dug out our old Cajun cd's - Beausoleil, Professor Longhair, Buckwheat Zydeco and the Alligator Stomp - and with the chanky-chank music playing in the background everyone had a great time.  It is a very social food, something like artichokes, fondue or crab picking.  It is a fair amount of work for a little bit of food, but there is a lot of great conversation that goes along with it all.  I see an annual tradition in the making.

If you are looking for a different kind of cookout, something fun and entertaining, give crawfish some consideration.  I don't think you can go too far wrong.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Papa's got a brand new bag....

My new Eton Emergency Weather Radio arrived yesterday via UPS from LLBean, and it came with a new a new canvas Boat and Tote Bag.  I've been looking for a canvas boat bag for a while now, while ordering the radio I did a search and found the perfect bag for Spartina at LLBean.

Whenever I go daysailing I find myself walking to the jeep with a handful of items - radio, my old XM satellite radio (if there there are some good sporting events that day), camera, newspaper or book (in case the wind doesn't show up), sandwich or bag of trail mix and whatever else I might need.  I've often thrown it all in an old plastic shopping bag.  This will serve me much better.

This is made in Maine (gotta buy from the USA when possible) out of 24 oz canvas, double layer straps and bottom with double stitched seams.  It is a very stout bag.  I got the small size, just right for the items I carry, with the short handles.  There was a choice for colors on the bottom and handles, I chose the dark green which matches the hull color of Spartina.  Cost for the bag was about $25.00.

They even offer an option for monogramming.  For fun I typed in Spartina to see how it would look.  I liked it, adjusted the order to have the name sewn on in matching dark green thread and then promptly deleted the monogramming request.

Colors that match Spartina's hull color, that's okay.  The boat's name stitched on the side of the bag?  That's a little to cute for my taste.  What was I thinking?

I did get the zippered version of the bag to prevent items from tumbling out.

I'm typically reluctant to add gear - any gear at all - to Spartina.  I like things simple.  Less is better.  But this is one item that will help me keep organized.  I think will be the perfect bag for daysails.

UPS brought the bag and radio yesterday, then this morning Fedex shows up with 20 pounds of very much alive crawfish fresh from the Louisiana bayous.  More on this later, but for now I will just say......

Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day Nine - the river run

Up early, a beautiful sunrise beneath a line of low-lying clouds, a Chesapeake Bay dawn at its best.

We sailed off anchor at 6:30, passing the dozen or so boats anchored out on Reed Creek.  A light breeze, leaving the anchorage at just a knot or so, my favorite way to begin the day.  We followed the channel to Grove Creek, then out on the Chester River.

By 7:40 we were making three knots towards Spaniard Point.  Bruce had taken the tiller and would keep it most the morning.

I relaxed, caught up on my sleep and enjoyed the sail up the river.  No navigation was needed here, just keep one river bank to port and the other to starboard.  Chestertown was up ahead.

This was our longest sail we have ever made on a river, the wind behind and simply following the gentle curves of the Chester between farmlands and modest homes perched on the banks.  A light overcast with the sun sometimes breaking through, the wind was out of the south.  We made anywhere between 2.8 and 4 knots, sometimes with the wind over the starboard quarter, sometimes sailing wing and wing with the wind on the stern.  

Spaniard Point, Shell Point, Melton Point.  We rounded the gentle curves of the river finally turning northwest at the appropriately named Northwest Point.  And there, two miles ahead, we could pick out the 1800's farmhouse at Rolph's Wharf, our final destination.

We did not talk a lot during the last miles on the river.  With such peaceful sailing between the banks of the narrow river it was easy to get lost in thoughts about the trip, the places we had seen, the adventures we had shared.  But we made sure to take a photograph of the two of us together.  

Somewhere on that last stretch towards Rolph's Wharf I took the tiller.  We passed by the wharf and continued up river toward Chestertown.  Rounding Primrose Pointed we saw two masts coming around the bend.  It was the schooner Sultana out for a sail.  We tacked towards her as she nosed into the wind and began to raise her sails.  And then we sailed alongside - what a treat!  We followed for a while, me at the tiller and Bruce shooting photographs.

We turned downriver towards Rolph's Wharf, talking about our good fortune coming across the Sultana under sail.  There was a shout of "Ahoy" and we looked back to see the captain of the tall ship hailing us.  "Are you a wooden boat?"  "Where are you from?"  We tacked back toward Sultana and shouted our answers across the river.  "Yes, we are a wooden boat, nine days out of Onancock."  I could tell that the captain and crew could not understand every word, but they understood the journey, they could see we were out on an adventure.  Waves, thumbs up and well wishes, we sailed downriver as they turned back to Chestertown.  I can think of no better way to end the trip than sailing alongside a beautiful ship like Sultana.  Two boat so different yet enjoying the same water and the same breeze.  It was something I'll remember for a long time to come.

Minutes later we tied up at Rolph's Wharf and the trip was over.  There was still more fun ahead - seeing our good friends MaryLou and Fred, and a nice unexpected visit with the Sultana - more on that later.

For now, thank you to everyone who has taken time to follow this log.  Thank you for your time, thank you for your comments.  We enjoy the sails, we enjoy sharing our experiences.  And we are happy if you find the stories interesting.

for the day.....

distance traveled     15.9 nautical miles
moving average       2.8 knots

for the trip

distance traveled   234.5 nautical miles, 270 statute miles