"When I think of all the fools I've been it's a wonder that I've sailed this many miles." -Guy Clark

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

a few more photographs

Near Cape Point the evening before the storm.

The working harbor in Avon with the wind blown out to the west.
When the water came back, it came back with a vengeance.

The ocean side of the dunes, shaped by the wind, near 
Hatteras Village, after the storm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

the broken coast

Back home after an interesting six days down on Hatteras.  As we rode the ferry into Stumpy Point other ferries were being loaded with relief supplies and workers.

We rode on the ferry Cape Point.  It was a strange feeling as our car was the only one on board.  Crew members came by to visit, making sure we were doing ok on the four hour trip, even making sure we had food for lunch and water to drink.  These same crew members were still cleaning up their own homes for Irene.  It was kind of them to check on us.

It was a breezy ride for the 32 miles up Pamlico Sound.  We were all glad for the wind.  After a couple of hot humid days on Hatteras with no electricity, no hot water and no air conditioning the breeze felt pretty good.

I regretted not having my gps and charts with me as we headed north on the Sound.   We left the docks in Hatteras Village about 11:00 a.m.  I stood up on the observation deck looking west for landmarks on the coast.  By 1:00 I could pick out the entrance to the Pamlico River with Swan Quarter on the north side.  By 1:30 we were off of Wyesocking Bay and thirty minutes later we were passing Englehard and Pains Bay.  It reminded me of a lot of fun sailing I've done in those waters the last couple of years.  I need to get back there soon.

Below is a photograph I shot last night, the last evening on Hatteras.  Storm clouds built the to the north. We pulled our chairs out on the walkway, sat in the evening breeze and watched the show as lighting erupted in the clouds.  We drank a couple of beers, laughed and talked about our visit to Hatteras, the storm, the aftermath and the good people on the island.

I have been on Hatteras for a few hurricanes.  I've been asked to describe them and I can't.  Words fail me.  Thinking about hurricanes this evening I opened my copy of Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen.  The opening scene takes place after a hurricane as Mr. Watson returns to Chokoloskee where he will be gunned down by an angry, confused mob.   Matthiessen talks of tattered birds, dirty in the somber light looking for lost seamarks. "In the wake of hurricane, the coast lies broken, stunned," he says in the eloquent novel.  That phrase caught my attention.

In Hatteras the coast is broken, literally.  But the people are not.


homeward bound

Four hours from Hatteras Village to Stumpy Point. We are the only ones on the ferry. It will return with relief supplies.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

spoke too soon

I spoke too soon.  Made it up to Rodanthe at the north end of Hatteras.  The road is washed out.  We are stuck on the island.  Good news is no one, as far as we can tell, was injured.

There are worse places to be stuck.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


The storm has come and gone. Rain, wind, waves, but little damage. I'm worried for my friends on the far side of the Sound. Severe flooding in Oriental, Hobucken, Swan Quarter and all those other little towns. Nothing confirmed, just rumors on the island. I hope everyone is safe.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Hatteras Friday morning

I've been busy but think I just heard that Irene is weakening.  A strong cat one or a weak cat two.  Much better than a cat three.  But it is still big.  The photo is from just after dawn.  Things look much different now.  Mostly grey and hazy.  The wind howls now and then.

Just saw live shots of New Bern on the weather broadcast.  Made me smile, reminding me of sailing to New Bern with Bruce in 2009 and with Bruce, Paul and Dawn last year.


struggle at the oceanfront

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

congratulations, it's twins

Here is a wonderful post about my friend Barry "birthing" two melonseed skiffs.  Beautiful photographs and words, do yourself a favor and scroll through all the images and read what the proud father has to say.  I particularly like his passage about the James River so I will copy that here....

During the final stages of construction I realized an odd little fact. I’ve lived in Virginia most of my life, in a dozen different places spanning well over 100 miles. But all of them were within walking distance of the James River, the same river that runs through our home town now. I was born within view of the James. I went to school in Williamsburg, and often rode my bike to the river to get a break from classes, or took the Scotland Ferry past Jamestown to Surry if I needed to feel I had actually gone somewhere.
My daughters were born in Richmond, where we crossed the Nickel Bridge every day on the way to their school. They learned to swim in the James, floating downstream face up through the rapids and chutes – long hair floating around their smiling faces like little Ophelias – until I snatched them up and set them on the rocks where they would hop and skip back upstream to do it again. This river, I realized, has run through my whole life.
So the first water to touch these boats had to be from the mighty James. They both got a generous dousing, scooped from our own Scottsville Landing, where we swim and fish; and where, if I chose to, I could launch a small boat and float downstream past all those landmarks from this life, to the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic beyond.

Barry tells me he may have his twins down in my area this fall.  I hope so.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

dog days

The Great Dismal Swamp is burning.  A 5.9 earthquake just shook the ground.  A hurricane is coming up the coast.

Are these really the dog days of summer?


watching Irene

I was really hoping for a nice sail this coming weekend.  The seasons are changing.  Cool, dry air is moving in from the north.  The photo above is from about this time last year.  Blue skies and white clouds, and a nice breeze out of the north.

Instead we are all watching Irene.  It looks like the entire East Coast is going to feel the effects of this storm.  A friend that knows a lot about weather compared this storm to Hurricane Donna which battered its way up the Atlantic coast in 1960.  That storm is still considered one of the top ten mostly costly storms to the US.

We are a few days out.  We'll see what happens.


Monday, August 22, 2011

smoke, Irene

The smoke from the Dismal Swamp fire was thick last night in Norfolk and on the Elizabeth River.  I was working, not sailing - but I don't think sailing would have been much fun.  The fire has been burning for a couple of weeks now.

The experts said it would take a lot of rain to put out the fire.  Rain may be on the way in the form of "Irene".  A hurricane is a rough way to put out a fire.


Sunday, August 21, 2011


I'm starting to focus a little more on the fall trip.  It is about five weeks away and I've got to do a little more research, start checking the food supplies, check the gear and work out a few details.  Right now it looks like it will be an extended walkabout cruise, sailing eight days out of Crisfield as far north as the Choptank River and as far south as Tangier Island, returning to Crisfield.

One of things I enjoy on a cruise is sailing through narrow passages - creeks, guts, channels - that cut through marshes.  They are paths that are less traveled, paths that reveal a different view of Chesapeake Bay.  They are used mostly by watermen, few sailboats go there.  But a Pathfinder is perfect for those waters.

Here are a few that I am looking at for this next trip.

Deal Island

Behind Deal Island is Laws Thorofare, marked in yellow above, that leads to Laws Cove at the very north end of Deal Island.  Just to the north of the Cove is the community of Chance on Scotts Cove.  From google earth there appears to be a good-sized marina there.  I don't know much else about it but I will do some research.  The bay at the south end of the Thorofare looks like it might make a nice anchorage for the first night out.

 Lower Hooper Island

At the southern trip of Lower Hoopers Island is another Thorofare, one that leads from the Honga River to Thorofare Cove, neighboring Cow Cove and the Chesapeake Bay.  I've sailed by the Hooper Islands four times over the past couple of years, but never visited the islands themselves.  This time I hope to visit Rippons Harbor, just north of the Thorofare, and also transit the Thorofare.  We'll see.

 South Marsh Island

I expect as some point I'll pass through South Marsh Island.  I've anchored there a couple of times on Little Pungers Creek.  The "x" on the sat photo above shows where Bruce and I anchored on Day Two of our spring sail.  I have only entered the creek from the Tangier Sound side.  Each time I've looked  to the north and thought I could sail across the island.  The yellow path above leads to Gunbarrel Cove.  That would be a nice name to have in the log book.  On our last visit I also noticed the narrow gut that goes east-west across the island.  It was narrow, but from the color of the water it looked to be deep and navigable.  It is marked in red on the map above.  I'll keep both passages in mind.

Smith Island

I've sailed across Smith Island a couple of times.  Bruce and I used the Big Thorofare, the red line at the top of the sat photo, in 2009 going from east to west.  And last fall I followed the path of the lower red line going west to east from Sheep Pen Gut to Rhodes Point, Tylerton and Tangier Sound.  There is a connecting waterway between the two passages that I have not visited.  That will be on my list too.

And of course there will be plenty of open water.  Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Sound, the Little Choptank and the Choptank Rivers.  It is fun to spend a few hours on wide open water and then thread my way through a narrow channel.  I can't wait.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

friends on the water, tropical weather

I've got college drop-offs with the daughters so I am missing some nice sailing weather this weekend.  But when I get a chance I am checking the SPOT track of my friend Dawn.  She and a few of her friends, including Dave (Floatsome), are off on a paddling trip.  They put in at Pate Boat at Goose Creek Island yesterday morning.

From the track you can see that they paddled north on the ICW, crossed the Pamlico River and then continued north on the Pungo River to Belhaven.  You can follow the track here.  That is Dawn, below.

I have never entered the Pungo River though it has certainly looked inviting when we've sail past on the Pamlico River.  The Pungo River and the nice little town of Belhaven, which I have visited by only by car, are high on my list for sailing next year.

This weekend I'm also visiting the WeatherUnderground's tropical weather page.  Right now it is showing four tropical disturbances in the North Altantic.  The one that should concern the Caribbean and US is called Invest 97L, the one at the bottom center of the map above. 

The storm is still a ways away, both in terms of distance and time.  But as Dr. Jeff Masters says in his blog, it is a good time to think about hurricane preparedness.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

island memories, disappearing

Artist John Barber sent me a few digital copies of his paintings today including "Island Memories", above.  From his message I also realized I was incorrect in my assumption that it was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background of "Harvesters."  I've replaced that painting in the post below with "Adventurer" which does show the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

John also sent a better quality digital version of "Tangier Afternoon," one with a better color balance and a higher resolution.  I've substituted the better version in the post.  Thanks, John.

The higher quality digital version illustrates a point made by Barry in a comment to the post.  He said that the digital versions do not do justice to the richness of light in the actual paintings.  I agree.  As Barry said, something is lost in the translation. If you like the digital versions, you would be delighted with the paintings.


My friend Kevin, of Slip Jig fame, commented on the sunken buy boat in Knapp Narrows at Tilghman Island, above.  He said the boat was called "Crow Brothers."  It was only when he mentioned the name that I realized I had photographed the same boat, at the time floating, two years earlier on the Crab House 150 trip.  That is it in the predawn photo below.  From that day's sailing log....

I was up before dawn, I always wake up early on the trips. Snuck out of the room with the camera and walked down to the old working harbor by the Tilghman Island bridge. That looked to me like a "buy boat" above, the kind of boat that ran around the bay and bought the catches of local waterman and carried them to market. There were lights glowing on it but I'm not sure if it was still in use or not.

Kevin also mentioned that the old boat, sunken since early summer, was finished off by a backhoe a couple of weeks ago.  Another memory gone.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

an artist's vision

I should have been focusing on my work but I could not keep my eyes off of the beautiful artwork that lined the hallways of the corporate offices I was visiting earlier this week.  Finally my host, the president of the company, said "You've got to take a look at our artwork!"
These were the beautiful paintings of maritime artist John Barber.  I had seen his work before, a poster here and maybe a print there.  Never had I seen so many pieces together.  I was overwhelmed by the work - each painting was a detailed history of life on the Bay.  The painting above is one of his recent works called "Offloading the Catch at Tilghman Island." I love the richness of the scene, the golden glow of the lights, the moonlight on the water and the classic Chesapeake Bay workboats.  It is a portrait of the golden age of Chesapeake Bay.

I was so touched by John's images that I visited his website that evening, then found myself emailing him the next morning asking permission to show some of the paintings here.  He gave me his consent in a friendly reply and at the same time complimented the look of Spartina.  (A maritime artist complimenting Spartina - I think I smiled the rest of the day.)

I spend a lot of time thinking about the classic days of the Bay when I am out there on the water.  There are hints of an earlier, more prosperous time along the shoreline.  Abandoned pilings and broken down piers, skiffs in the marsh and workboats rotting along the shore are remnants of the fishing industry that thrived in small towns all over Chesapeake Bay.  The photo just above, shot on day six of our spring trip, is from Tilghman Island, not too for from the site of "Offloading the Catch."  The old boats remind me of bushel baskets packed full of blue crabs, buckets of fish and piles of oysters hauled in by tongs.  Sometimes I can picture skipjacks painted bright white sailing under a burning sun and the buy boats, loaded down with the catch, headed for the port.

Looking through John's work I tried to find places we had visited that matched his artwork.  "Seen better Days" is a painting of a skipjack in the marshes of Deal Island.

Above is a photo Bruce made in the harbor at Deal Island, the skipjack City of Crisfield in the background.  I remember Bruce and I both looked in amazement as this working sailboat, a beautiful reminder of days gone by.

 In "Tangier Afternoon" a waterman works on his deadrise with the steeple of the old Methodist Church off in the background.

There is Spartina at Milton Park's marina, just a couple of hundred yards from where the deadrises are hauled out of the water at Tangier Island.

Back at Tilghman Island the beautiful "Tilghman Island Sunset", above, shows the drawbridge over Knapp Narrows.

Bruce photographed that same bridge when we sailed through the narrows in May.

Where you have water, you have weather.  The painting "Squall on the Chesapeake" capture the fast moving clouds over the bay.

 It reminded me of our trip on Pamlico Sound a few years ago when we were surrounded by squalls for much of an afternoon.  Squalls can be frightening, they can also be beautiful.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge can be seen in the distance beyond the Cherubini 56 Schooner Adventurer, above.   Sailing beneath the bridge on our way from Tilghman Island to the Magothy River was one of the thrills of our last sailing trip on the Bay, below.

The harbor in "Homeward Bound" has got to be St. Michaels.  I remember the shapes of the buildings on shore including a Hooper Strait Lighthouse just to the left of center.  I enjoyed sailing off that shore in 2009 at the small craft festival.  That is Bruce's photo of Spartina (one of my favorite photos) in the harbor, below.

John's paintings really touched my heart.  On this next trip, just about a month away, I will be seeing the bay through the eyes of an artist.  Thank you, John, for sharing your paintings and for sharing your vision.