Sunday, December 30, 2012

too cold

The epoxy coated rub rails, bow sprit, boomkin and tiller have all been sanded.  I had hoped to put on the first of seven coats of varnish today but it is simply too cold.  The high might be 42 degrees, but with a howling wind and a north facing garage I don't think the temperature in my work area will be anywhere near that.

The WeatherMap+ app shows Tuesday afternoon might get to 50 degrees, maybe I'll get the first coat on then.  This coming weekend should be in the 50's and 60's, I'll hope for one coat on Saturday and then another Sunday afternoon (with the annual striper fishing trip squeezed in between).

Looking over the calendar I see that because of quirk in my work schedule I've got a four day weekend in early March.  In the eight or nine weeks between now and then I need to finish the varnish work, replace the deck hardware, buy new flares (which just expired), rewire the trailer lights and repack the trailer bearings.  That four day weekend might give the chance to wrap up the above jobs and maybe get Spartina out on the water for the first time this year.

I've got a lunch date tomorrow with my sailor/writer friend Paul.  Years ago he took a sailboat up the inside passage on the eastern shore, sailing and motoring behind the barrier islands.  Bruce and I will be sailing down the eastern shore this spring, possibly inside of the barrier islands or possibly outside depending on the weather.  I'll bring my barrier island chart to lunch with Paul and get him to tell me a little about his trip.  You can see from the satellite photo above that the water behind the barrier islands is, to say the least, interesting.  With winding creeks and running tides, I'll take all the advice I can get from Paul.


Friday, December 28, 2012

news from the loft

Stuart Hopkins of Dabbler Sails gave Spartina a nice mention yesterday in the news from the loft section of his web page.

The sailmaker is, like all of us, wrapping up 2012 and preparing for 2013.  He mentions that he made 55 sails this past year, a impressive average of more than one sail per week -  beyond impressive I would say when you consider that quality craftsmanship that goes into each sail .  The 55 sails of 2012 brings the total sails produced by the loft to 1137 in the past 21 years, an average of 54.14 sails per year.  If you want a sailmaker with experience, Dabbler Sails is where to find him.

"A justly popular beach cruiser" is how Stuart describes John Welsford's Pathfinder design (I agree completely), and he mentions a three way conversation about sails for the Pathfinder.  Stuart and I are two participants in that conversation, the third participant being my friend Seth who is working hard on his Pathfinder up in the mountains of Virginia.

Thank you for the mention, Stuart.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

coping, the keys, the test

It is winter here in the mid-Atlantic and I have begun my annual efforts to cope with my least favorite season.  Looking forward is one way to cope.  In my case I'm looking forward to the annual striper fishing trip in early January, a trip to San Diego a few days after that, and a brief trip to Florida in February.  Mixed in with all that will be the winter maintenance on Spartina.  The deck is painted.  I still need to varnish the rub rails and paint the top plank, which is white, on both port and starboard.  And then the hardware needs to go back on.  Then - at some point - the new sails should arrive.

I also cope with winter by sailing vicariously on other people's adventures, in this case an open boat sail from Key West to the Dry Tortugas by my friend Mike, below, and Kevin aboard Kevin's Marshcat "Little T".  Mike, who I see now and then at the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, sent me a rough draft of notes about the trip.  Below are a few paragraphs from his notes.  When it is published in full I'll put up a link to the log here.  I am quite happy now to read of light breezes, crab pot markers leaning in the currents and nice little anchorages. 

"In a light breeze from the NorthEast, we rounded Key West and were swept down on Kingfish Shoal by a strong South going current.  We just barely missed the shoals around  Cut “A”  Range Markers but, by reading the water, worked North enough to fetch the gate South of Mule Key that begins the Lakes Passage. There’s lots of shallow water on Lakes Passage, but it is mostly fairly uniform in depth except for Gates off Mule Key, Archer Key, and Boca Grande, and the channels are well marked and easy to see. There was quite a crowd on the protected beach on the northwest corner of Boca Grande Key, mostly high speed flats fishing boats, nosed up on the beach. We entered Boca Grande Channel in a light Easterly with deceptive visibility. We approached Gull Rocks and were within a mile and a quarter without seeing any sign of the Marquesas, although they are quite large and high. Then the fog lifted and there was land everywhere to the North of us."

"Beautiful day for the big push, wind southeast and mild, Rebecca shoal abeam at 0930. More than halfway to our destination. At 1100 we sighted YANKEE FREEDOM III, the daily ferry from Key West, passing to the north of us. We had both my Garmin 76 Cx and Kevin’s more basic GPS. Either set had plenty of information for this kind of trip. We just kept adjusting for tide, observing the set on passing crabpots and the plot on the little screen. By 1230 we had made landfall on Fort Jefferson, then the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key, then East and Hospital Keys. By 1330 we were anchored off the dinghy beach in the Garden Key anchorage, a bit tired of our own cooking, rushed for our wallets and waded ashore to buy our lunch from the ferry. A fifty mile passage at 4.8 knots, moving average. We were glad to have left early and were halfway." 

"We caught a whisper of Southeasterly through an intricate channel into Mooney Harbor and sailed as far as we could around the harbor, a chance to breathe now we are down off the mountain. Once we had found all the parts of that sector that we could float in, we went outside and found a nice beach to swim and explore off the boat for a bit. In the interim, the wind had picked up rapidly and we used the chance to tuck in a single reef on the beach. A fast crab across Boca Grande Channel brought us in a little North of Boca Grande, and we found the lakes passage a little too shallow for upwind work with any centerboard, so we ran off to the north and searched for an anchorage. First we tried Cottrell Key, off the Northwest Channel leading into Key West, but there were dive boats and mooring balls, so we figured they didn’t want any catboats interfering with their diving. We crossed the middleground and found a nice little anchorage just off Fleming Key with company but nowhere as much company as you would find there in February, when the snowbirds had had more time to really flock South."

Thanks for passing on the notes, Mike.  Let me know when and where the full log is published.


I received a note from Stuart at Dabbler Sails suggesting I perform a mast bend test on Spartina's free standing mizzen mast.  Stuart incorporates the bend of the mast into the design of the sail on that mast (talk about attention to detail).  The instructions for the test, plus a lot of other interesting information, can be found on Dabbler's Appendices pages.

I performed the test Christmas Eve.  Supporting the mizzen mast on two saw horses, one at the top of the mast and the other at the point the mast passes through the mast partner of the aft deck, I hung a bucket containing two gallons of water at the midpoint between the saw horses.  A quarter of the length of the mast above the mast partner the mast deviated by 5/8 inches.  At the midpoint the mast deviated 1 inch.  At the three quarter mark the mast deviated 1/2 inch.  I passed this information off to Stuart.  He replied that these were very normal mast bend numbers, and that he is up to date with all the information he needs for the new sails.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

ok, I was never much on presentation

but there were not a lot of complaints.  Dave, I'm open to some coaching.


a shellfish kind of day

Broiled lobster,

stuffed with shrimp,

and a handful of steamed clams.  Oysters on the half-shell 
as appetizers.  There'll be some veggies in there too (promise).


searching for Santa

Merry Christmas!

Presents this morning, then off to work for a while.  Cooking starts at 2:00.


Saturday, December 22, 2012


It was not the first time that I had fallen for gentle curves, but never had I fallen so hard.  With the tattered relationship now at end I can only look back and wonder how I let myself be deceived for so many years.

 If the sails had any flaws I could not have seen them - I was blinded by the brilliance of a reflected sun.  I was young, na├»ve and thrilled to have a set of sails cut just for me.  Main, mizzen and jib, they were made for me and only me.  And I was made for them.

But it was whispers amongst friends – and this is how you know who your real friends are – that told me that something was not right.  Questions about details and measurements, doubts about sail cut and shape.  These whispers I did not want to hear.  Stuart talked of misgivings.  Seth said there were better sails out there to be had.  And Barry, he was already urging me to move on. 

“HOW COULD YOU THINK THE SAILS ARE WRONG?” I raged.  “Haven’t I told you how we danced together along the edge of the rich green marsh, caressed white sandy beaches and shared the rhythm of the bow rippling through calm waters?”  It was all so right.  How could anybody – especially people who call themselves friends – find something wrong with that?

Stuart pushed back with questions about the leech and luff, grommets and goosenecks.   He wanted the details.  “I DON’T KNOW,” I shouted, turning away to hide my shame.  “I just don’t know.”  In anger I picked up the sails and threw them at him.  “Take them” I said, “tell me what you find.”

The intervention was done with clinical precision, like a passionless doctor calmly saying the condition was terminal.  The sails, the ones I had trusted so completely for so many years, were wrong for me.  I was in a state of disbelief until Stuart grabbed some pencils and sketched out the ugly truth.  The main, the one I had fastened to the boom and gaff many years ago on a clear cool spring day before Spartina’s hull ever touched the water, was shy of luff and short of leech.  The gaff angle was too narrow, the diagonal too long.  The roach was not deep enough and the reefs were all wrong.  Simply put, these sails were imposters.  Beautiful, beguiling imposters.

This was what I got for being too trusting.  Looking at the sail plans, looking at the numbers, I felt betrayed.  I thought of us - sailor and sails - as being one for those many years on the water.  Riding out the storms, ghosting in the calms – life felt so good I never bothered to ask the hard questions.  Ignorance is bliss, and this was a beautiful bliss.  Yet confronted with the evidence I knew I must move on. 

Barry, both counseling and consoling, said a new relationship was the best thing to make me forget the last one (saying that with a wistful look as if he was speaking from experience).  I knew he was right, but I also knew that it could be weeks, maybe months before forging that next bond.  It will be a long, cold and dark winter.

Years from now I hope I will be able to look back and forget the bitterness and anger over the deception.  We did have some good times together.  The sails did have their flaws, as I had mine.  Maybe that’s what brought us together.  After years of sailing, we found, the stresses took their toll.  The relationship began to fray and the romance unravelled like the stitching on the main.  Then one day, unsuspecting, we were done.

Across bays and down rivers, offshore of the beaches and through quiet peaceful marshes, we did have some special moments together.  And that’s what I want to remember.