Thursday, August 30, 2012

a three day pass

I received our three day ramp pass from Kent County in the mail today.  Having the pass in hand makes the trip seem very close.  It is close - just a little over three weeks until we launch out of Rock Hall.

I've picked up a few more items at the store.  Dried fruits, mixed nuts and almonds, cheese crackers and instant mashed potatoes.  We are set on AA batteries, but I need to check on the lithiums.  A fresh bottle of propane needs to be bought.  Fresh food will wait until a few days before the trip begins, but I should rough out a menu in consultation with Bruce (the chef).  I also need to check on the rental cars to see if we can get picked up at Chincoteague or Wachapreague.  Tides for all the inlets have been printed out, but I have not examined them closely.

The more I look at the charts for the first day's sail, the more I think we hit the road to Rock Hall at 4:30 a.m.  Whaddya say Bruce?

I hope to get out for a sail on Saturday, the forecast looks good right now.  Then I've got five or six days out of town for work.  When I get back I'll have two weeks to get our act together.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

river of grass

Back out on the Lynnhaven River again today.  The same river I visited with Paul, Ruth and Chris the other day.  This time I was with another friend, also named Paul.  We motored around a bit in his dingy, then hitched a ride with a waterman for a different look at the river.  

There were cast netters in search of bait, oyster farmers sorting the harvest.  Birds feeding, crabs crawling about and even a sea turtle sighting or two.

All of it surrounded by lush green grass known to scientists as Spartina alterniflora.  Nice name, don't you think.  The grass was so thick at times we got lost once or twice in the dinghy, but if you are going to be lost you want it to be in a beautiful place like this.

It was a nice day on the water.  Better than working for a living.


Monday, August 27, 2012

I might turn into an oyster....

I took my daughter to A.W. Shucks before she went off to school the other day.  We had their oyster hoagies, plus a half dozen oysters on the half shell from the Cape Charles area on the Eastern Shore.  Nice and salty.

Saturday evening we met friends at O'Sullivan's Wharf in Norfolk.  They promptly ordered a couple of dozen oysters for appetizers, these from the Kinsale area on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay.  Less salty, more sweet.

And then Sunday, I had a lunch of Lynnhaven oysters at the Dockside Restaurant overlooking the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach.  Very salty and sweet.

I might turn into an oyster.


weather windows

The unsettled weather has stayed in our area past its welcome.  High winds, thunderstorms and heavy rains Saturday.  Isolated thunderstorms roaming around Sunday.  And more of the same today.  I was fortunate to find a few hours on both Sunday and today to get out on the water and somehow avoid the storms.

I drove over to the Lynnhaven River Sunday morning to meet Paul Kral and Chris Bower.  I needed to take some photographs on the river and they very kindly offered to help out.  And to add to the fun, Ruth, Paul's wife came along too.
The early morning drive to the river was in a steady rain, but the skies cleared as I got to the ramp and we had a perfect morning for sailing.
Paul is a watertriber known as DogsLife.  He has competed in two Everglades Challenges and some NC Challenges.  His boat of choice for competition is the Hobie Mirage Adventure Island.  For yesterday's sail he brought his tandem Hobie Mirage Tandem Island, at right in the photo above, which had enough room for himself, Ruth and, for a while, myself.  The boat was very stable and made for a nice shooting platform.

Chris, above in his Adventure Island, is soon to be a watertriber.  He's in training for this fall's NC Challenge.  Those Hobies are nimble and fast.  I really liked the idea of being able to "pedal" the boats when there was no wind.

I had a great time and got a few nice photographs.  These are a few outtakes from the shoot.

Paul, Ruth, and Chris, thanks very much for taking me out on the water.  It was nice to have met you all.  And good luck in the NCC.

After our sail I went and had lunch at a nearby restaurant, a salad and a dozen Lynnhaven oysters on the half shell eaten while sitting on the deck overlooking the river.  Just as I finished the storm clouds moved in.  I drove home in the rain.


The weather was forecast to be clear by today, but somebody forgot to tell the weather.

I drove down to the ramp in Norfolk with clouds hovering about and virtually no wind.  I didn't care, I just wanted to get out on the water for a while.  I rigged and launched, motored down river then, with no apparent wind, raised sail for no apparent reason.

After a while I motored over to Crawford Bay to anchor and clean up the boat.  I had not realized what great summer I have had until I realized today that it was the first time I was anchoring because of lack of wind.  Somehow I got through June, July and most of August with plenty of wind.  I got out the sponged and scrubbed the deck, bunk flat and cockpit sole.  Then a nice little breeze arrived.

I sailed back and forth on the river in the light wind for a couple of hours.  It was nice and relaxing.  Then storm clouds began to roll up from the south.  I headed to the dock, hauled the boat and then drove the rain.  Perfect timing for the weather window.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

unsettled, lights, a new book

Thoughts of sailing this morning went away with a look at the unsettled weather.  Gusty winds, heavy rains and thunder have all come and gone in the past few hours.  I'm hoping for better weather on Monday when I have another day off.

My portable l.e.d. navigation lights arrived from Duckworks yesterday.  Below is the bow light clamped into position on the bow sprit.  The white stern light will clamp beneath the boomkin the same way.

Putting the lights on in the garage may be the only time they are in place.  Most of the year they will sit with the other cruising gear in my equipment closet.  During cruises they will be clamped to a frame either under the foredeck or behind the coaming where they will be out of the way.

Our sailing plan has always had us anchored before dark.  It should be the same on this upcoming trip, but with all the commercial traffic on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, plus all the warnings I've received about Delaware Bay, I thought the nav lights might be a nice piece of safety gear on board.

The New York Times has a very nice review of "Silver: Return to Treasure Island" by Andrew Motion, a former poet laureate of Great Britain.  The book is a sequel to Treasure Island, not to be confused with an earlier sequel called "Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder" by Edward Chupack.  I have always loved Treasure Island, it is one of those books I can go back and read every few years.  And I tend to like novels written by poets - the poets seem to use their works in an economical way, choosing fewer words and yet at the same time saying so much more.  I've already ordered my copy.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

asked and answered

Through skype and email we were able to answer a few questions yesterday.  

Kent County, Md. tells me we can get by with a three day non-resident permit to use their ramp in Rock Hall.  There are places where I can purchase the pass in town, but most likely will apply in advance through the mail and have the permit in hand to save time on launch day.

Researching Chesapeake City, which Bruce and I agree is well worth visiting, I found that they have public docks available at no cost for overnight stays.  I believe the docks are those to the left in the photo above, next to the park.  An easy walk to the small downtown and the Tap Room Crab House which offers, from the looks of their web page, a meal much like the one we had last weekend (I forgot the shrimp).  That will give us a choice of two places to eat - the more upscale looking Chesapeake Inn or the more family style Tap Room.

Bruce and I skyped last night to go over the route and a few other details.  We are leaning towards sailing across the mouth of Delaware Bay to Lewes and then going "inside" at Roosevelt Inlet (this would be the lighter blue path marked below) and taking the canal down to Indian River Inlet (marked in red).

Our goal will be to reach either Chincoteague or Wachapreague.  Both places have docks, ramps and nearby hotels for the night we get in, plus rental cars available in nearby towns (though I need to call and confirm that they'll pick us up).

We've got about a month until the trip.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ramps, restaurants, crackers and fruit cups

I've loaded up on fruit cups and cheese crackers on my last two visits to the expedition store - Wal-Mart.  We've got eight gallons of water in the nice round bottles that fit perfectly under the bunkflat on Sparina.  There are plenty of chicken salad lunches and tinned oysters in the food bins.  Batteries, propane and dinner foods are next on the list.

Searching back through the emails I found a note from our friend (and source of all knowledge on the upper Eastern Shore) Mary Lou about boat ramps at Rock Hall.  Several counties, including Kent County where Rock Hall is located, require permits to use their ramps.  Mary Lou sent links with information about their boat ramps.  I am hoping we can get a three day pass for $25, but I'll have to check to see if that is available for non-residents.  If not, we'll have to get annual non-resident pass for $60.  I've sent an email to the county for clarification.  In any case we'll probably use the Green Lane boat map right on the harbor at Rock Hall.  Mary Lou and Fred, who have helped us out on a few of our trips, have offered to let us leave the jeep/trailer at their house while we are out on the trip.  Thanks, guys.

Mary Lou also mentioned a couple of possible stopping places on the C and D canal.  We had planned to spend the second night at Herring Creek just outside the canal, transiting the canal the next day.  Mary Lou pointed out there was an anchorage at the Engineer's Basin in Chesapeake City and also transient docks at the Summit North Marina.  Below is a photo from the marina's website.

And below is a screen shot from Chesapeake City's website.  I've got to say that from their web page it looks like it would be a nice little town to visit for an afternoon.  And there appears to be a very nice restaurant called the Chesapeake Inn right on the basin.  Yes, Chesapeake City is looking better and better by the minute.

I'll have to look at tides and distances, but maybe we do part of the canal on day two, then finish the canal and get a early start down Delaware Bay on day three.  Bruce and I will talk about this, and the rest of the trip, during a skype session later this week.

Thanks, Mary Lou, for the information.  We are looking forward to seeing you and Fred.


ps - just found this photo below on the Chesapeake City website, a very nice picture made by Kevin Quinlan.  I could easily see Spartina anchored out there in the harbor....

Monday, August 20, 2012

that time of year....

Weatherunderground reminds me that it is time to start watching for tropical storms.  It has been a quiet August for the mid-Atlantic area, but that might be changing with the appearance of 94L.  Above is a map from Tropicaltidbits, a site I just came across.  And below are a variety of computer runs from weatherunderground.  The thinking right now is that this might be a Florida storm.  When was the last time we had a hurricane and a national political convention in the same place?  It could be interesting.

This time last year we started watching Hurricane Irene and that turned out of be a mess for Hatteras Island, the folks on the western shore of Pamlico Sound and states from the Mid-Atlantic to New England.  I would not mind taking this year off from the storms.

We are also a little more than four weeks out from the fall trip over the top of the Delmarva peninsula so I've got to start checking gear and food supplies.  Tonight I will order l.e.d. navigation lights from Duckworks.  I have not needed navigation lights on Spartina in the past, but with all the commerical traffic on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, plus Delaware Bay, I think it would be a good idea to have them on board.  We are generally anchored a couple of hours before dark, but you never know.

I've been buying food a little bit at a time and need to do a little survey of what I've picked up at the store.  And I need to check on batteries, propane, spark plugs and oil.  


Saturday, August 18, 2012

the three C's

Crabs, No. 1 Jimmies from Wicker's Crab Pot Seafood, an old family joint that has nothing but the best.  When they say the crabs are No. 1, meaning the largest size, they are not kidding.

Clams, one hundred littleneck clams from Uncle Chuck's Seafood, harvested late this week at Cherrystone Aqua-Farms on the Eastern Shore.

Corn, locally grown silver queen.

Toss into a steam pot with Old Bay spice, beer, garlic, lemons and whatever else I find around the kitchen.  Melted butter with lemon juice for dipping clams, crab meat or french bread.  Choice of cold beer or wine to wash it down.  Dinner's at 6:00.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

palm trees

As a child I sat on the beach blanket beneath these trees with Mom, Dad and the brothers, snacking on soda crackers and trying not to let the sand get on my coke can.

As a teenager I worked my first job hauling diving gear beneath these trees, then on days off dove on the nearby submarine canyon to take photographs of fish, squid and sharks.

As a college student I would drive my '64 VW van down from the campus on the cliffs above and take naps between classes in the park beneath these trees.

Now I take the family to the beach beneath these trees - but only once every few years when visiting home.  And while there I try to tell the daughters not too many stories of growing up beneath these trees.


La Jolla Shores

I read the other day that La Jolla is Spanish for "the jewel."  Good story, but not true.  It is a nice place on the coast where we have just now gone swimming with the leopard sharks.  No photos, you will have to take my word for it.


Monday, August 13, 2012

steve dreams of sushi (no more)

Tuna, urchin roe, yellowtail, spicy salmon roll, soft shell crab roll and scallop sashimi.  It all came and went so fast this was the only photograph I got.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

from the past

A nice little surprise on the visit home, a WoodenBoat apron that belonged to my Dad.  He must have bought it when building the mast - sitka spruce no less - for the original Spartina circa 1986.  I will wear it proudly.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

a feast for the eyes

UPDATE - We watched Jiro last night and it was a wonderful film.  Beautiful photography, sound track and sushi, it was a film about much more than the Jiro and his sushi restaurant .   steve

In a few days I will drive down Balboa Drive, make a left on Mission Bay Drive then make another left at the the fish taco joint.  I'll park across the the 7-11, walk back into the corner of the strip mall to one of the top-rated sushi restaurants in San Diego.  Strip malls and hole-in-the walls, isn't that where you can find the best sushi?

Sometime between now and then, courtesy of netflix, I will watch a documentary that will prove that point.  The film is called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" and it will become, no doubt, one of my favorite films about food.  Watch the trailer and you will see why.  Jiro is an 85-year-old sushi master who runs a sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway stop.  The restaurant seats just ten people.  Sushi as art, chef as artist.  I can't wait to watch this one.

I love "food" films and I'll mention a couple of my other favorites here.  "Big Night" with Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub (better known as Monk) is the story of two brothers from Italy trying to save a failing restaurant.  The movie doesn't have the visual artistry of Jiro, but the story is compelling, funny and quirky.  Tucci and Shalhoub are at their best, one a businessman and the other a purist in the kitchen.  I watch this film every couple of years and always find something new to enjoy.
With "Tortilla Soup", think of a latin version of Bon Appetit magazine (with Raquel Welch thrown in).  This film does have the visual artistry of Jiro.  The stories, light romances of the three sisters, take a backseat to the beautifully photographed cooking.  Fish and shrimp, rich red sauces and latin spices, soups with complex recipes and marinade brushes made of banana leaves.  Wow, I wish I could cook like that.

As for the trip to San Diego, sushi and Mexican food are already on the menu.  Maybe I'll have to sneak is some Italian too.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

reluctant outboard, too much is not enough

I almost did not go sailing on Sunday.  I drove to the ramp, rigged and launched Spartina and motored over to what passes for the dock near the ramp.  I tied up, parked the jeep, then returned to the boat only to find that the outboard, which had started easily minutes before, would not start.

I noticed the kill switch lanyard had become tangled and the yoke under the switch, the one you would pull out to "kill" the engine, was pulled slightly out of position.  I put the yoke back in position.  The engine would still not start.  I checked the fuel, pulled off the cowling and checked all the connections, replaced the spark plug.  Still no luck.  Maybe I had flooded the carburetor, so I waited a while.  I heard a voice saying "Everything ok here" and looked up to see two of Norfolk's finest looking down from the dock.  "Just having a little problem with the outboard" I explained.  They stood their long enough that I stopped fiddling with the outboard and asked them if there was a problem.  "No",  I was told, "we just don't see sailboats down here very much."  I thanked them for their concern and they left.

The wind was too good to pass up, blowing about 13 mph out of the SW - a perfect summer day.  No outboard, but hey, it's a sailboat.  I raised mizzen and jib, pushed off from the docks.  A tack or two to reach the eastern branch of the river where I raised the main.  Sailed to the bridge, used the paddled to get through the dead air beneath the bridge and went sailing.  It was perfect.

After a couple of hours I sailed over to Freemason Harbor to pick up my daughter for her last sail before heading off to school.  Most kids would jump or scream or do something when the boat heels and water sprays up their back.  But if they had sailed the boat since since their middle school years, if they had mixed pots of epoxy to lay up the eight wooden strakes that make up the main mast, if they had helped bend a thin wooden batten to the curve of a line of nails in a sheet of plywood to draw the shape of the bow stem - the first piece of wood cut to build the boat - then they don't scream or yell or jump.  They just enjoy it.

I dropped off the daughter and headed back to the ramp.  The wind was still out of the SW, just a little stronger.  I sailed back under the bridge and up the eastern branch of the river, dropped the main and sailed up to the dock under mizzen and jib.  Backed the trailer down, pushed the boat off from the dock and under mizzen and jib sailed out towards the river, came about and sailed up onto the trailer, dropping the jib at the last second.  Somebody watching from a distance might have thought I knew what I was doing.  If they had been up closer they would have seen the anxiety on my face.

While taking down the masts in the parking lot the two officers returned.  "Ever get the outboard working?" they asked.  I told them no, but it was too nice a day to pass up on sailing.  It is, after all, a sailboat.  And I thanked them again for checking on me.

Back home in the garage I checked over the outboard.  I removed the yoke from the kill switch and replaced it, still it would not start.  I remove the yoke again, gently pull the kill switch away from the engine about a quarter of an inch, reset the yoke.  The outboard started on the next pull.  Lesson learned, but I'm kind of glad I sailed that day with no engine.


Did I buy too much??

I came home the other evening to find a box with a dozen 5 oz. bottles of Cajun Sunshine on the porch.  This has been our family's hot sauce of choice for as long as I can remember.  A simple mix of red peppers, vinegar, salt, water and gum (though I am not sure what "gum" is).  It disappeared from our grocers shelves about a year ago and this has been a problem.  We use it a lot.  

We tried the other stuff and it was just ok, not great.  Tabasco has the name recognition, but I find it a little too thin and harsh tasting. With Cholula hot sauce I always get the feeling I'm paying more for the wooden bottle cap than the sauce.  Texas Pete?  That's more vinegar sauce than hot sauce.  None of them had the subtle heat and the thick consistency with chunks of red pepper that we found in Cajun Sunshine.

Steaks, seafood, eggs, roasted vegetables, sauces and, yes, salads - particularly with blue cheese - are all better with a little Cajun Sunshine.  It's a favorite for the cook kit on the boat - grilled fish, potatoes and onions would not be the same without it.

So I went online and found it at the The Cajun Grocer.   Priced at $2.50 a bottle, it was even cheaper if bought by the dozen.  Ordering a dozen and with shipping added in, it was still under $3 a bottle - cheaper than at the store.  We are set for a while.  I've already used it on steaks and the other night with crawfish etouffee.  A bottle will go off to college with the youngest daughter who was talking about mac and cheese with Cajun Sunshine.  And a bottle of course will be in the cook kit on Spartina.

Too much, I think I will find, is not enough.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

number one "Jimmies"

The biggest, meatiest, best blue crabs around.  Perfect for a hot summer afternoon.  Not my afternoon, unfortunately, but I know somebody will enjoy them.

Decent wind forecast for tomorrow.


Friday, August 3, 2012

ships, tall and not so tall

My friend Jim sent this photograph from the Schooner Virginia's facebook page.  After you are done looking at the tall ships take another look down low, left of center, and you will see Spartina.  This was taken during the departure parade of the OpSail ships.  We were out there sailing with friend Barry and my youngest daughter on board.

I know Spartina is a small boat, but she seems even smaller around tall ships.  The same thing happen last year at the Downrigging Weekend in Chesterton, which you can see here.  Yes, she looks small.  But I can't tell you how much fun I have sailing around the tall ships.

Thanks for the photo, Jim.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I made some screen shots today of the inlets that we could possibly go in through or come out of on the fall trip.  I'll make prints of these and put them together with the tide predictions for the corresponding inlets.  

Cape May

Making screen shots like this is something I did a lot for the first few cruises on Spartina.  They helped me translate the nautical charts and better understand what I was seeing from my vantage point a couple of feet above the water's surface.

 Roosevelt Inlet, Lewes, Delaware

I haven't make prints for the last few years.  But with these inlets and ocean tides I thought it might be nice to have a good visual representation on board.

Indian River Inlet 

As for my other jobs, I've printed out the tide charts but have not had the time to look at them closely.  I've also started buying food supplies - a 12-pack of fruit cups, tinned oysters and chicken salad/cracker lunches.

Ocean City, Md 

Finding a hotel for a break half-way through the trip has been a challenge.  Typically where we sail the harbor is the center piece of the town.  In places like Oriental, Beaufort, New Bern and Tilghman Island there are hotels within easy walking distance of the waterfront.  In this case the towns we'll be passing through - Cape May, Lewes and Ocean City - are beach resorts with the hotels located near the beach, not near the docks.  In Cape May, for example, the nearest hotel is a mile away from the marina.  We'll have to research the options a little more.  A break - a nice hotel with showers and washing machines to clean the clothes - would be nice.

Chincoteague Inlet

Getting ready for the trip is half the fun.