Saturday, July 30, 2011

grits, seaweed and other delicacies

Looking through my food bin today I was happy to find a pack of Annie Chun's Roasted Seaweed Snacks.  I buy food bit by bit, tossing in an item or two in the grocery cart while doing the weekly grocery shopping.  I don't remember buying the seaweed snacks but I am glad I did.  These are tissue thin squares of dried seaweed seasoned with wasabi.  If you like sushi, which I do, you'll like these.  Tangy, salty and with a bit of a bite to them, they are excellent snacks.  I savor one or two slices while cooking dinner.  

I was happy to see that I've collected most of the food that I will need for the fall trip.  Plenty of fruit cups, breakfast bars, canned tuna fish lunches, pasta, cous cous and instant mashed potatoes.  I've added a new dinner item, below, grits.  How southern can you get?  Grits are sold as a breakfast item, but anyone who has ever had shrimp and grits knows that they can be used for dinner.  I don't know that I'll have shrimp with the grits, but by adding some grilled peppers, onion, bits of bacon and maybe a couple pieces of fresh caught bluefish I might have a pretty nice meal.  At less than two bucks for six servings (that package says 12 but I'll double up for dinners) they are a good deal.

I've ordered a couple of books for the fall sail.  The Calling, by Sterling Watson, I found used for a dollar.  Maybe it crosses the threshold of "southern gothic", I don't really know.  But it appears to be a novel that is about as southern as grits.

And Skeletons for Sadness, a book I have had on my wish list for about a years, has been ordered new.  With two novels on board I should have plenty to read.  I may still order one of those real life adventure/exploration books, something along the lines of The Lost City of Z that I read on my solo trip last fall.  Typically I'll read just one book on a trip - I'm tired at the end of a sailing day and don't stay up too long.  But I'll carry a few choices to make sure that I have a book that matches the rhythm of the trip.

I ordered some empty books too, Rite in the Rain No. 393 journals.   The 4 5/8" x 7" notebooks are perfect for jotting down weather, location and observations throughout the day.  I've filled up all the notebooks that I have and my local supply has dried up.  These will come from Amazon.

Wind forecast for tomorrow, which was very light as of this morning, is improving.  I'll pack the boat and a lunch tonight.


Friday, July 29, 2011

did I tell you I was in Cape Charles the other day?

I was over in Cape Charles, the southern most town on Virginia's eastern shore, a few weeks ago.  I meant to post some photographs but completely forgot about them.  I just now found the files.  Here they are.

Cape Charles is an old railroad/fishing/farming town.  When we got here in the late 80's the town was down on its luck.  It has since revitalized itself - nice restaurants, new marina, great little downtown.

The pictures above and below are from Kelly's Gingernut Pub.  Great food, friendly service there.  I will be back.  It is inside of a couple of the old brick buildings on the main street of town.  One of those buildings was a bank.  I had lunch in the vault.

Watson's Hardware is the center of the little downtown, it's a local hangout for the locals.  You can find just about anything you need in there from hardware to fishing gear to real estate.  A nice little gourmet food shop is just down the block.

The working marina and the new marina overlap in a pleasant sort of way.  Big yachts come and go, watermen run by in their deadrises bringing in the catch.  It is a very relaxed waterfront.  They do have some excellent ramps over there, I need to tow Spartina over there for a two or three day trip someday.

Part of the town, some of the nice houses, look out over a beach on Chesapeake Bay.

I don't know why I took this photo below.  That truck has been sitting inside of that old building for years.  It is about the first thing you see when you drive into the town.

Below is the brand new marina.  I can't believe the changes I have seen over there over the past 20 years.  If we had been smart - and had more money - we could have bought one of the old bay front homes years ago for almost nothing.  Now they go for a million bucks. It's a cool little town.  Quiet, friendly and very accessible.

In a couple of years Bruce and I should sail through there on the last leg of our three-part circumnavigation of the Delmarva Peninsula.  But that is a couple of years away.  I need to get Spartina over there sooner than that.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

the paper canoe

Had to drive to the upper part of the Outer Banks for work yesterday.  Yes, sometimes work is kind of fun.  And it is always a treat for me to visit the Outer Banks.  I was up in Corolla, the northernmost town with a paved road.  Also made it up to Carova, which is further north but has no paved roads.  You'll need a boat or a 4x4 to get there.

On the beach I saw some of the beautiful wild horses that roam the area.  These are descendants of Spanish mustangs that can be traced back to the early explores of the 1500's.  They can be found on barrier islands from the Shackleford Banks in the south to Assateague Island (Maryland) in the north.  Ocracoke Island has a herd that they keep in pens, they roam free on Carrot Island and the Shackleford Banks near Beaufort, NC.  In Corolla Beach and Carova they are kept from heavy traffic areas by cable fences.

Beautiful animals, but they are still wild mustangs.  It is safest to enjoy them from a distance.  On hot summer days like yesterday they come out of the dunes to stand at water's edge and enjoy the cool ocean breeze.  Can you blame them?

Driving through Duck I saw a restaurant that I had not noticed before.  Maybe it was new.  Called The Paper Canoe, I had to wonder if any patrons knew that the name paid homage to Nathaniel H. Bishop.  Bishop paddled just west of the restaurant's location, probably within sight of the land, on Currituck Sound in late December of 1874 in his paper canoe "Maria Theresa."

Though I knew the history behind the name I suspected the yawl shown on the restaurant sign was selected just because of the nautical look.  That, I knew, was not the paper canoe.  But on looking at Bishop's book  The Voyage of The Paper Canoe, A Geographical Journey of 2500 Miles From Quebec To The Gulf Of Mexico During The Years 1874-5  I saw that Bishop had used that exact drawing (below) to explain the heritage of his paper canoe.  That is a Nautilus Canoe, a type of canoe that was popular in England and was brought over to the U.S.  Bishop explains that his paper canoe evolved from the Nautilus canoe, and that all canoes are simply modern versions of kayaks used in the Arctic.

My hat is off to the restaurant owner for knowing his business, both restaurant and nautical.

Below is a drawing of Bishop's paper canoe.  He, along with a few other people he mentions in his book, were way ahead of their time when they used this wooden frames, paper and lacquer to create lightweight, strong and seaworthy boats.  He described the process in detail in the book - what kinds of paper are used, how to make the material conform to the frame and then make it waterproof with lacquer.  I can't help but think about the strong, lightweight (and expensive) kayaks I see out on the water today, made with very high tech materials.  And there is Nathaniel Bishop traveling 2500 miles in a 58 pound boat made at very modest expense over 130 years ago.  I find that fascinating.  And at the same time, I have to wonder why that technology seems to have disappeared.  (Why am I just now picturing a young Dustin Hoffman listening to a man saying "There is a great future in plastics!")

Bishop made two great journey on the water in the 1870's.  He describe the second journey in his book Four Months in a Sneak-Box, A Boat Voyage of 2600 Miles Down the Ohio And Mississippi Rivers, And Along The Gulf of Mexico.  The map below shows both of his voyages, The Paper Canoe down the east coast and the Sneak Box down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then west to Florida.

That last leg of Four Months in a Sneak-Box, from New Orleans to Cedar Key, is something I would like to do in Spartina some day.  I've read and reread that part of the book, I've even got some charts tucked away in a trunk upstairs.  Someday....

Anyone interested in small boat voyages ought to take a look at Bishop's books.  They are available free on the internet.  He was a true pioneer, a man who accomplished great journeys with very simple gear.  He chose his boats well, knew what he was doing and had the perfect attitude for long, sometimes difficult journeys.  And he took delight in everything that came his way.

Seeing the restaurant made me smile.  Next time I'll stop in and have a bite.


Monday, July 25, 2011

off topic, I know

The heat wave broke last night with heavy thunderstorms and steady rains.  One of the things I like about living in the south is dew covered gardens in the morning.  The air is thick, everything seems so rich, so alive.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

I think it is called "wind"

We had a series of small thunderstorms come through yesterday evening.  The heat wave did not break, it only bent a little.

I did not fulfill my plans to be on the road by 6:00 a.m, an hour later seemed much more reasonable and still fairly cool.  After yesterday's storms both the temperature and the humidity had dropped.

And there was wind.  It had been a while - I did not recognize it at first.  Not a lot of wind, but steady wind between 5 and 10 mph.  Plenty for a relaxing day of sail, enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable.
It must have been hot out there Saturday.  This cruiser by the name Thari had excellent canvas that must have helped block the sun, but the humidity must have been rough.  A good day to take the dinghy into Portsmouth and enjoy the air conditioning at a restaurant/bar/theater/library.

This cruiser below by the name of Voyager was on the way north, headed home to Toronto after a couple of years in Florida and the Caribbean.  The boat was a little worn, the captain was well-tanned and very relaxed looking.  It must have been a nice couple of years.

I broke out my old crumpled panama hot to deal with the heat, that along with the upturned collar of my shirt and thin pair of synthetic sailing pants kept me comfortable.  It wasn't too bad at all.  Back at the ramp it was a different story, it was just a minute or two breaking down the rig before I was soaked in sweat.  That's fine, after all it is summer in the south.  And a little sweat was a price I did not mind paying for a nice day on the water.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

sealed with a kiss

I had to explain the brown cardboard box that arrived on the porch the other day.  The red lips raised questions in the household.  It was just my Icebreaker thermals arrived from MooseJaw, the Michigan-based dealer for Icebreaker.  They had, as far as I could tell, a decent price on the base layer leggings and shirt.  There were initials on the lipstick motif sticker, indicating (maybe) that the contents were checked and inspected before shipping.  Good price, good service from MooseJaw.
It will be probably reach 100 degrees in a couple of hours, I won't need the thermal gear for a while.  I'll pack them into my hypothermia kit for the fall sail.  And I'll plan on wearing them in late October for an overnight trip towards the north end of Chesapeake Bay.

Speaking of good service, I emailed Outdoor Research to find learn how I could replace the tent pole for my bivy.  One of this metal tube that connects the pieces of the delrin tent pole cracked during the last trip.  I wrapped tape around the broken tube and the pole worked fine.  The bivy is such an important piece of gear to me that I wanted to replace it.  The reply from Michael in the consumer service department said a new pole was in the mail.  Service doesn't get any better than that.  Here is a link to the bivy that Bruce uses.  Mine, a simpler one with just one pole instead of two and a little bit smaller, is not shown on their product chart.  I'm not sure if it is available anymore.

Above is a photo from SailingAnarchy that shows a 35 foot boat that capsized in a severe thunderstorm in the Great Lakes.  Six people were rescued, two were lost.  Webb Chiles discusses the incident in his journal here.  When reading a discussion thread I found it interesting that the coast guard first learned of the capsize from two personal locator beacons that were activated on the boat.  The thread does not mention the type of plb used, it could have been SPOT.
This confirms the value of having a SPOT on board.  There has been some question about how long a SPOT would work in the water.  I hope I will never find out the answer to that.  But just the single emergency message, sent with a location, is enough to get a rescue effort launched.  The idea that I can trigger a rescue effort with the push of a button gives me piece of mind.

The capsizing of the boat confirms that Bruce and I took proper action last Spring as we sailed up Chesapeake Bay on day two and heard severe thunderstorm warnings on the weather radio.  We cut short our sailing day, anchored in a protected cove.  The thunderstorms never arrived, but none the less we did the right thing.  Had we continued on our path that day we would have been on exposed water with no protection available, there would have been nowhere to hide.

There were severe weather warnings on two other days when we were sailing in waters that offered several protected areas.  On those days we continued sailing while watching the sky and monitoring the weather radio.  The storms did not appear on those days either.

I've been caught only twice on the water by fast moving thunderstorms.  I was solo daysailing on the Elizabeth River when a small storm came in over Craney Island.  I recognized it by the wall of dust it was kicking up on the island.  I dropped the main and tied it tight to the boom to minimize wind exposure, then waited out the wind under the mizzen.  It passed in about 15 minutes.  The weather station across the river showed that the wind went from 15 mph to 32 mph in under two minutes.

The biggest storm for Spartina was last fall leaving Jones Bay to head south on Pamlico Sound.  I could see the black sky to the west, used in the wind in front of the storm to get around Boar Point as quickly as possible and anchored a hundred yards off the shore.  I do not know how high the winds were but it felt much stronger than the 32 mph of my earlier experience.  The winds and heavy rains lasted for almost an hour.  I kept busy with the bilge pump.  I will always be glad that I was not out on the open sound in that storm.  The X in the map below shows my anchored position and the orange color indicates the most severe area of the storm.

There are good winds today accompanying the 100 degree temperature.  I'm staying indoors.  Winds will be lighter tomorrow, the temperature a little cooler.  I hope to be rigging Spartina at dawn so I can sail in the (relative) cool of the morning.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

a little history

I've been spending some time around ships made of metal the last couple of weeks.  From the pilot boat to a collier to the famous civil war ironclad USS Monitor.  Several pieces of the Monitor, which sank off of Cape Hatteras in a storm, have been recovered over the last couple of decades.  The recovered items - the engine, propeller and shaft, anchor and, most interesting to me, the turret - are being preserved at the Monitor Center in nearby Newport News.
Pieces of the ship, which have been on the seafloor for nearly 150 years, are of course well corroded by the salt water, covered in marine growth.  Most of the time they are kept in tanks filled with water.  Periodically the water is drained so that preservation work can be done.  This is what was going on last week, I received an invite to come over take a look.  Above is the turret, which in an inverted position.

By a quirk of knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time, I was out on the barge with the navy divers when they lifted the turret off of Cape Hatteras a few years ago.  It was a summer-long adventure with hard, dangerous work for the divers, time constraints, running low on mixed gases for deep diving and a threatening storm.  You can read about all this - both the history land the modern day recovery - in the book Ironclad by my friend Paul Clancy.  After all that work - the process had started years earlier - there was an incredible amount of jubilation as the turret broke the surface of the ocean.

There was a fascinating connection that these modern day sailors had with their civil war brethren.  They looked at is as bringing some sailors home.  In fact the remains of two sailors were found buried the coal that was inside the inverted turret.

It will take years of delicate work but the turret will be preserved.  If it had been left on the seafloor it eventually would have decayed and fallen into pieces.

As they dig through the corrosion and bits of coal (the ship was coal powered, when it turned over while sinking tons of coal fell into the turret) they find small artifacts.  Silverware, coins, tools and decorative items have been recovered.  As they chip away at the concretions on the turret they sift through all the materials looking for items like this star-shaped piece of metal below.

A common misconception about the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac is that the innovation was in the use of metal armor on ships.  This had already been done been during the Crimean war.  The true innovation was the Monitor's rotating turret.  Earlier ships had to turn their hulls to orient their guns.  The rotating turret of the Monitor allowed the guns to be aimed without turning the entire ship.

The Monitor fought only one battle, a draw with the ironclad Merrimac, renamed the CSS Virginia by the South.  Below you see an artist's drawing of the battle, there are no known photographs.  A historian pointed out to me an interesting detail of all the drawings of the Monitor Merrimac battle - the color of the smoke was typically used to indicate the "good" ship.  The representation below would have been from an artist sympathetic to the North - the Monitor has white smoke and the Merrimac has the dark smoke.  Drawings from the South often have white smoke with the Merrimac, black smoke with the Monitor.


I've started buying food for the fall trip at the expedition supply store that opened just a few a few miles away - Walmart.  I've never thought of myself as a Walmart shopper but in this economy there is not much choice.  The argument against buying from Walmart is that you are taking away money from local businesses.  Of the two major grocery store chains in my area one is based in Michigan and the other is in North Carolina.  They don't sound like local businesses to me.  Plus I can't afford to pass up the 20, 30 or 40 percent savings on identical canned and boxed foods that I'll need for the trip.

One area where I will splurge is fruit snacks.  I stopped by The Fresh Market store in Virginia Beach the other day to check out the bulk supplies of nuts and dried fruits.  I love dried tropical fruit and find it makes the perfect snack for sailing.  The Fresh Market had an excellent (and pricey! I certainly can't afford to shop there regularly) selection of dried pineapple, kiwi fruit, figs, papaya, mango and who knows what else.  I will save on the staples at Walmart and treat myself well at The Fresh Market.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

a few photos

Finally out on the water yesterday, but not on the sailboat.  I got an invite from some friends to head out with a pilot association boat.  Pretty cool.  They were bringing in one of the largest container ships ever to visit Hampton Roads.

I see these orange launches all the time when sailing, they drop off pilots to guide in all the big ships, both commercial and military.  It is an interesting moment when, running at 10 to 15 knots, the pilot has to step off the launch and grab onto a rope ladder.

Every once in a while I'll talk to the pilots while I'm out sailing.  If I see a ship coming my way on a narrow part of the Elizabeth River I'll call on channel 13, the standard channel for bridge to bridge communication, to ask their intentions.  The pilots have always been more than happy to communicate their plans.  Once I know what they are doing, where they are heading, I'll give them plenty of room.  These ships don't have brakes.  I like to stay well clear of their path.

We picked up the ship just off of Cape Henry, then followed it past the Lynnhaven anchorage, through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. We entered the James River then turned into the Elizabeth River, my weekend sailing grounds.

It was good to be on the water, good to get a different perspective.  Thanks for the ride.


Monday, July 18, 2011

mixed nuts

I bought some mixed nuts, lightly salted, at the grocery store the other day.  They were on sale and had a "good until" date sometime in 2013.  They will keep fine for the fall trip.  Mixed with the 20 oz of cranberry trail mix I have also bought - peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, cranberries, pineapple and almond - they will make for excellent afternoon snacks.  I'm looking at an eight or nine day trip right now which means I'll want to pack 16 or 18 baggies of snacks.  Half will be a mixture of the mixed nuts and trail mix, the other half will be dried fruit which I'll buy when the trip is closer.

I also ordered some thermal clothing for future trips.  I bought base layer thermal pants (they call them leggings) and a shirt made by Icebreaker.  I chose them based on a recommendation from Kiwibird, an admitted gearhead who has given me excellent advice on equipment over the last couple of years.  Thank you for the advice Kristen.
Icebreaker uses pure New Zealand merino wool. ( Now that I have written that sentence I realize I should not be surprised that Kristen, a Kiwi, would suggest Icebreaker. )  Merino wool, wikipedia tells me, is a finely crimped and soft  material that comes from the merino breed of sheep.  The wool is used in athletic clothing because of its ability to regulate body temperature while wicking moisture away from the skin.  Like cotton, the wool absorbs water.  But unlike cotton, wool retains warmth when wet.  The wool is known for an excellent weight to warmth ratio and has antibacterial properties - a nice feature when wearing them on a boat for a few days in a row. 

Why do I need base layer clothing?  I hope to spend a couple of days on Spartina late October up on the northern part of Chesapeake Bay.  It will certainly be cool by then, possibly cold.  The latest I've cruised is mid-October, that was last year with Paul and Dawn in coastal Carolina.  It was fun to sail in brisk winds and cool weather.  I think a fall weekend on the Delmarva Peninsula will be very nice.

In addition to the October trip, the Icebreaker gear will become a standard part of my hypothermia kit.  Right now much of the clothing in the kit is cotton.  The wool base layer should be much more efficient. I've never had to use any of the gear in my hypothermia kit and I am glad for that.  But I do want a good hypothermia kit on board, one that will keep me warm when I really need it.  Here is some good advice from the Watertribe about putting together a kit.

I did not go sailing this weekend.  I considered going Sunday, even puttered around the boat a bit as if I was going to trailer it down to the ramp.  But the wind were calm or, at best, very light.  Instead I stayed around the house, started a long term project I've been thinking about for a while, relaxed and napped.  Not a bad day at all.

  Above is the wind chart from yesterday, confirming that I made a good decision.  The purple line is the forecast, the blue line is the average.  The wind was between zero and five miles an hour much of the day.  I don't mind drifting around a bit, I did that last week.  But now I'm ready for some wind.