Monday, December 30, 2013

day ten - no shoes, no trout burger

A comfortable, quiet night, lights glowing on a shrimp boat anchored in the wide entrance to Juniper. A heavy layer of dew covers Spartina in the morning.  Anchor up and it is perfectly clean, no need to rinse the mud off.  Must have been a sand bottom.  Full sail with a north wind carrying us south to Juniper Point then east towards Bluff Point.  Clouds ahead of us with shafts of light breaking through, blue skies to our stern.

Dampness everywhere.  Moisture fogs the lcd screens on the gps and the "waterproof" camera, drops of water hang inside the clear plastic that covers the radio dial.  

Reached Bluff Point at 8:25, a northwest wind carrying us around the point just yards off the marsh.  Heading northeast along shore towards North Bluff Point and Hog Island, we make over five knots with the escort of a single dolphin.  Points of land appear on the horizon, edging us farther to the east.  The water is calm, the wind perfect for a close reach.  I wonder how long the wind will last.  Clouds fall away, the sun warms and dries us we crossing the mouth of Wysocking Bay.  I stand and look with binoculars but cannot pick out Browns Island and Mt Pleasant Bay, favorite anchorages from past journeys, memories of of ibises on shore and schools of tailing puppy drum.

We pass Long Point a little after 10:00, then skirt the shoreline near Middletown Creek with Gibbs Point in the distance.  Skipping across the shoals at Gibbs Point we enter Far Creek to turn west. A crabber is hauling in pots, a yellow crop duster making hard angled turns over a field to the south as we approach the little town of Englehard. 

No cars are parked outside of the diner at Big Trout Marina, I can't see any lights on inside but maybe see a figure walk by the window.  Motoring downwind of the diner, though, I catch the smell of burgers and fries.  I wonder if I just missed lunch.  We circle back to tie up at the little dock.  Still not sure the place is open, I hop over a railing, walk up and open the door to find a packed restaurant.  My eyes connect instantly with the disapproving look of an elderly woman, she being dressed in her Sunday best - though it is Monday - hair done up,  cheeks rosied by make-up, jewelry, a pretty purple sweater and gold lame´ purse.  Sitting with her friends at a table, she looks from my face - sunburned, windburned and unshaven - directly to my oh-so-bare feet.  Her feelings are quite clear.  "Back in a minute," I say, closing the door.

I return, wearing sandals, to see Edna coming out from behind the counter.  "Do you remember me?" I ask.  She smiles, says "Of course," as if we had not seen each other for a few weeks though it has probably five years since I had sat down for a Trout Burger at the restaurant she and her husband run. "Where's Hot Dog?" I ask, using her husband's nick name.  "Out fishing" she says, bringing me napkins and silverware.  I order a Trout Burger - which is really a hamburger - with fries and a glass of unsweet tea.  She brings both a glass of tea and a pitcher.  I must look thirsty.

Back down Far Creek into Pamlico Sound a little after 2:00, grey clouds and a strong breeze.  Making 5.5 knots we pass Shad Point then cross Pingleton Shoal on our way to Long Shoal Point.  The water is deep right off the edge of the marsh and I enjoy the white sand beaches sprinkled along the shoreline.    

Approaching Long Shoal Point we are exposed to the wind-built waves rolling down Pamlico Sound.  The wind is increasing and we point up into the waves and then crash down into the trough.  It is fun sailing and I keep full sail up as I watch the water sliding up over the side decks to the coaming, salt spray running down off the jib.  The shoal runs out into the sound for nearly two miles, much of it being from one to three feet deep, shallower than I like for the rough conditions.  Looking at the gps I see in close to the point, very close to the rigging of a sunken shrimp boat, there is a gap in the shoal marked with a depth of five feet.  I turn back towards the shrimper, one eye on the gps and the other on the waves.  The wind is perfect and we slide right through the gap, saving ourselves a healthy sail out into the sound.

Clear of the shoal we turn west into Parched Corn Bay, following the shoreline to a little notch that holds calm, peaceful water.

I stay up late listening to a football game.  No moon and the stars are bright.  I stand up to look around and see the lights of three villages - Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo - glowing across Pamlico Sound on Hatteras Island.  Then something catches my eye to the southeast.  I watch for a while, check the charts, then look back again to see the beacon of Cape Hatteras Light, flashing every 7.5 seconds nearly 20 miles away.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

think "salty"

Shooting Point Salts out of Quinby on the Eastern Shore.  Farm raised inside the barrier island inlets, you can taste the ocean.  Perfect for a rainy winter day.

We have a howling wind out of the south that is bringing up all the moisture.  It is also bringing warm temperatures, warm enough to allow for touch up painting on Spartina's hull.  I am declaring the hull "finished."  Varnish work needs to be done, but that will wait until March.

Rik, who is building a Pathfinder on Aruba, asked about the downhaul I mentioned in the sailing log. At one time Spartina had a downhaul from the gooseneck to a cleat on the foredeck for tensioning the luff.  That went away when I added the slot for the mast and I substituted a non-adjustable shackle thinking that the simplicity - one less line, one less cleat - would be an improvement.  It was not.  I can never  completely remove the slack in the main's luff without the downhaul.  Early in the sailing season I will follow Stuart's advice and put a downhaul in place.

Brandons asked about the new outboard, a Honda 2.3 hp four-stroke.  I am not in the business of recommending specific products, but I am happy to share my experience.  I like everything about it.  It starts easily, runs very well.  The little bottles of two-stroke oil to be added to the fuel have all been given away.  Regular gas is much easier to deal with, and cleaner too.  I like the adjustable tension throttle grip.  Mileage seems very good, but I do not have an exact number on that.  The weight of the power head and the lower unit seems very well balanced, it is easy to raise and lower.  For maintenance the cowling comes off with a tug on a single retaining strap (my Nissan required removing about eight screws).   I had worried that the power head would be too large inside the cockpit, it is not.  The centrifugal clutch takes a little getting used to, but I'm used to it now.  (I once mentioned the centrifugal clutch to a friend, who said the proper term was centrifical, gently suggesting that I did not have a centrifuge - atomic, nuclear or otherwise - on board Spartina.  Looking at the owner's manual I see now that it is in fact a centrifugal clutch, and I'm proud to say the boat does have a centrifuge.  Who knew?)  I am happy with the outboard.  There are other outboards out there that might be as good or even better, but I don't have any experience with those.

Anybody seen the cocktail sauce?


Friday, December 27, 2013

day nine - wind, water and sky

Green Creek at dawn.  Overcast.  A dirty yellow glow behind the trees to the east brightens the morning.  Cool.   I turn on sports talk radio and get religion instead, it is Sunday morning. 

Rounding the shoal at Piney Point at 8:00 a.m., five knots with winds gusting to 18.  Broken clouds overhead, markers on the horizon appear and disappear with the changing light.  Looking at the luff on Spartina's gaff-rigged main I realize Stuart, my sailmaker, was right - I do need a downhaul.

A little after 9:00, Maw Point and Pamlico Sound, sailing NE at 4.3.  Across the mouth of the Bay River, Sound Bay and Jones Bay.  Sow Point at 11:30 and we feel a change in the wind.  The trolling line goes out at noon.  I think about it being Sunday again, and I think about last Sunday with the rain, mist and fog of the Alligator River.

Just after noon I see a marker I did not expect.  I look at the charts, pass close to the marker and realize I've crossed into a prohibited range around a bombing target.  A Sunday cease-fire and no harm done.  The clicker on the drag goes off, a brief fight and we reel in a lure bitten in half.

Waves out of the west crossing the Pamlico River.  The wind falls off, the boat rolls, rigging rattles and the centerboard bangs.  Wind fills in as we see the Swan Quarter to Ocracoke Ferry in the distance to the NE.  Wind swings NE, fails and we are under power.  Lose a small bluefish on the trolling line, then something larger bites another lure in half.  Wind returns, making 4.5 towards Great Island.

Wind falls off, under power on choppy water over a shoal.  I think the cb touched bottom, but maybe not.  The chart shows deep water but there was a definite bump.  Overcast.  Wind comes back out of SE, waves rolling out of the east coming down around the curve of Bluff Point to Swan Quarter Bay.  Dark, confused water that I share with a shrimp boat and a ferry bound for Ocracoke.

Juniper Bay.  Skies lighten.  A tiny cove on the NE side of the bay, shallow, with dolphins swimming nearby.  Anchor down at 5:30.  

Lying in the sleeping bag at sunset I look up to see a cormorant come in for a landing in the cove.  Coming in between the main and the mizzen, the cormorant doesn't see the topping lift - the line that goes from the top of the main mast to the end of the boom - until the last second and makes an awkward flare of the wings to avoid the line.  A minute later another cormorant does the same thing, or maybe it was the same bird.  And then a third time, wings splayed, feathers fluttering, feet spread awkwardly and a final near miss.  I fall asleep.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

day eight - thrown out of better places

Under single reefed main, jib and mizzen, hauling anchor pulls us up right next to the marsh.  A wave from Chip aboard his Pilgrim to the east, to the west beyond Rick's quiet Wharram the chop rolling down Turnagain is smaller and not as steep as yesterday.

Heading north on on Turnagain Bay we pass the entrance to Broad Creek.  From there the bay angles to the northwest and we make over five knots into the wind.  Blue skies, a cool and strong wind that comes with small craft warnings.

Out of the mouth of the bay onto the Neuse River, rolling mounds of water push down from Pamlico Sound, ruffled patches on the surface showing the gusts buried into the breeze.  I shake out the reef and think about reaching Rockhole Bay just inside the entrance to the Bay River.  I point up into the gusts and Spartina shudders and loses momentum.  Up hill into the waves and into the wind, I decide Broad Creek to the north-northwest might be a better destination with a chance for lunch and a chance to wait out the winds.

The main comes down entering the channel into Broad Creek.  Wind on the beam we sail west up the creek, turning south into a narrow channel that leads to new upscale homes and a marina filled with high-end boats.  The jib comes down and we motor along the marina looking for a place to eat.  A father and son out on a laser make a close pass and I ask them about a store or a restaurant.  They mention a little shop at the fuel dock, nothing more.

Back on Broad Creek I see Chip in his Welsford Pilgrim circling at the mouth of Burton Creek in search of Paradise Marina, tucked back in the canals, where he had launched days earlier.  We each make a wrong turn in the winding passages between houses, docks and small shrimp boats.  On a second look at a blind corner I find a narrow entrance that leads back to the marina.  I tie up for gas, Chip follows in to haul out at the ramp.  

In the little store I grab some cold drinks and talk with Debbie, who recently, along with her husband Scott, bought the marina.  I tell her about trying to find a restaurant across the creek at the fancy marina.  There is a restaurant there, she tells me, but you can only get in if you are dressed "right."  Looking at my salt-stained hat, wrinkled shirt and baggy pants, she smiles.  "We've both been thrown out of better places."

Debbie invites me to a pot luck dinner for sailors at the marina that night, but a quiet cove calls instead.  East on Cedar Creek, turning north on Green Creek I drop the anchor too close to the shore.  Tall trees block the wind - all of the wind - and the heat of the day settles down on Spartina.  I drift back from shore to where I see a light breeze caressing the water, dropping the anchor a second time on a perfect fall afternoon.

It's an afternoon of leisure, one of relaxing and listening to a college football game, an in-state David vs. Goliath struggle with the smaller school walking away with an enjoyable victory.

It is an afternoon of wading in the cool water, exploring along the marsh grass with blue crabs clinging to the stalks, making casts up along shore in search of fish that - at least for me - are not there to be found.

It's an evening of cleaning the boat and reading, and wondering why on a sailing trip I spend so much time sailing and not enough time anchored in peaceful coves.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"rock piles"

"Rock Piles" from Uncle Chuck
for XMAS eve.  Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 23, 2013

day seven - satellites and cells, unexpected company

A late morning, no rush as we won't be going far.  Tucked up in the tiny cove we tie in a reef, a second reef, then tightly wrap the main to the boom with no expectation of raising the sail on a windy day.  Small craft warnings, winds 20 to 25 mph out of the north.  Anchor up, sailing mizzen and jib across Thorofare Bay just after 8:00.  

Sailing south of Cedar Island we are protected from the waves, but I wonder about my friends, expedition racers staged six miles away on the north facing beach of Cedar Island and wonder what the waves must be like pounding in from Pamlico Sound.  Three hundred miles of racing ahead of them, small craft warnings for the next four days.

The strong winds carry us southwest to the curving entrance to Thorofare Canal, under the bridge and west northwest through the canal.  Ahead is a sloop tied to shore, the water calm but wind whistling through the cord grass.  It's Chip in his Welsford-designed sloop, a friend who I had met only through emails. Out for a few days sailing, he has sought refuge in the canal.  Mizzen and jib with wind on the beam, I tack back and forth as we talk about the wind and the forecast of continued winds for the next few days.  A brief meeting, then goodbye as I turn back west on the canal. 

A battering sail up West Thorfare Bay, exposed to the wind and waves and spray rolling down from the Sound, rounding Long Bay Point and west again towards Old Canal, Spartina's starboard side slapped by waves and salt spray.  Calm in the old canal, the wind hisses across the marsh.

At the west end of the canal we turn north on Turnagain Bay.  Steep, steep chop and wind on the nose.  The sky is blue and the white puffy clouds fly over us.  I start the outboard to push through the waves.  The jib, flapping loosely, is not helping, so I run up forward to bring her down.  The bow is bouncing up and down, the steep-faced waves casting spray and the jib snapping back and forth.  Kneeling on the foredeck, I look up to grab the head of the sail, the wind catches the broad brim of my Harker's Island hat.  I look back to see the hat falling into the cockpit.  I step back down, put the hat back on, climb back up on the foredeck and look up once again, the hat flying off and this time into the water.  And I question, but only briefly, my IQ.

Anchor down not yet late morning in a tiny creek off the bottom of Turnagain Bay.  A different world hidden behind a stand of trees - calm water, quiet and warm sunshine.  Brunch of eggs from a freeze dried pouch and smoked oysters on crackers, plenty of protein to make up for the long pounding up Core Sound.  

A text from my friend Paul on the beach at Cedar Island: start of race delayed.  Another text over the cell: race cancelled.  The organized event won't happen, competitors can launch at their own risk.  Knowing Paul, his family and friends, they will launch, it is just a question of when.

Hat - my other hat - tilted over my eyes, I fall asleep.

Shouting wakens me, worries me.  Up with a start, I see a man on a catamaran.  He waves, asks if he can can tie alongside.  Slightly confused, I say yes, wondering if something is wrong.  His name is Rick and he is from Raleigh.  The boat is a Wharram, a polynesian style catamaran that he built and now sails on the coastal waters.  The SPOT tracking device on Spartina was sending signals to a satellite thousands of miles out in space, the satellite receiving the signals, sending them back down to earth where each signal is translated to location on a web page.  From the Sounds Rick had used a cell phone to call his wife in Raleigh, asked her to look at the web page to see my location.  And there we were.

Rick is a nice guy who does a lot of sailing, and enjoys that sailing in a way that few people do.  We compare notes, talk about waters we have both sailed, take a look at each other's boat.  It is an enjoyable afternoon.  As we sit and talk another set of sails enter the creek.  It is Chip aboard his Welsford Pilgrim.  Now three boat rafted together on an unnamed creek, an unexpected pleasure.  Wind still howling, Rick decides to head out for a sail, his Wharram being comfortable in high winds.  Chip and I stay anchored in the creek, Chip breaking out a bottle of fine red wine.  Wine tastes good drunk from a coffee cup.

That night I go to sleep with Rick's Wharram anchored to the west and Chip's Pilgrim to the east.  Dark clouds pass overhead as the evening sun shines on the tiny little creek.  While the world feels a little smaller, the quiet marsh is a little more friendly.

on to the next project

Using my neighbor's two-ton car jack, I lifted Spartina this morning and moved the three supports, then painted the three spots on the hull bottom that I could not get to yesterday.  The painting is done, and I am very happy with the results.  It is interesting that for all the hours involved in the process - from unbolting or cutting off trailer hardware, sanding and painting - the actual painting was less than 10% of the effort.  Hardware took the most time, mostly because of rusted bolts, sanding took almost as much time.  Rolling on the paint was a piece of cake.

I will be paying a visit today to Portsmouth Trailer Supply, the toy store from all things trailerable, with my sketch of the trailer.  I need to pick up several bolts, u-bolts and pins for the rollers.  I'll also investigate what I need to do to replace the corroded leaf springs and axle mounts, which will be my job for January.

I may also visit Yukon Lumber, the toy store for all things wood, to price douglas fir 2x4x8s.  Replacing the trailer bunks would be easy to do at this point, and I might use douglas fir which is more rot resistant than the typical pine.  But switching woods depends mostly on the cost. 


Sunday, December 22, 2013

anybody ever seen the shellfish guy and santa in the same room at the same time?

Picked up some Christmas supplies at Uncle Chuck's, my shellfish guy.  Below is a Caison's Sandy Points "Rock Piles" oyster from Cherrystone Inlet, just north of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore's bayside.  I ordered 25 of those, with an earthy and subtle bayside flavor, for Christmas evening, to be served on the half-shell with cocktail sauce and slices of lemon, accompanying a big bowl of chili with a dollop of sour cream on top.  

I say I "ordered 25" because there is no telling me how many he put in the bag.  Chuck tells me he is a product of the Baltimore area schools where, apparently, math is an optional class.  I ask for six oysters, I get home to find 10 in the bag.  I ask for 10, I might get a dozen.  I mention math to Chuck and he tells me its his gd business and not to worry about it.  So I don't.

I did order six of Mark Sanford's Church Point counts from just inside the mouth of the Lynnhaven River.  These are huge, wild caught oysters, one of which you see at the right above (the other being a Rock Pile).  So you get an idea of how big they can be - and that is not even the biggest one.  I will serve those Christmas day with my poor man's Oyster's Rockefeller recipe, though "poor man's" is probably not a good description when it involves garlic butter, panko, proscuitto and basil.  Broiled in the deep dish of the shell, they become individual servings of a simple oyster loaf.

As I said, I ordered six of them.  Just looked in the bag now to find seven.  Maybe its the math, maybe generosity, or maybe the holiday spirit.  Thanks, Chuck, and merry Christmas.


before and after

Still some touching up to do, but I think she'll pass the pretty good looking 20 foot boat rule (stand 20 feet away and she looks pretty good).

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Using a combination of cinder blocks, wood blocks, car stands and a few choice words, Spartina is jacked up in the garage.  There are three support points, the forward-most seen above.  The trailer still sits a few inches beneath the trailer, but there is enough room that I can get a roller or at least a brush to the hull everywhere but beneath the wood blocks.  And those places can easily be done once she is back on the trailer.

Tomorrow appears to be the perfect day for painting with a high of 78 degrees, though some forecasts are calling for up to 82 degrees.  Lowest temperature will be sixty.  I hope to start mid-morning and be done by noon, leaving time for a Christmas dinner run to the butcher and Uncle Chuck the shellfish guy, and some NFL.  Just win, baby!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

day six - the ocean and forty tacks

Dressed from head to toe in yellow foul weather gear I stare at a mannequin with pink hair.  She stares back.  The predawn sky shows hints of quiet blue.  A light rain falls.  I walk the streets of Beaufort waiting for last of the ebb tide.

Low tide and sunrise within a few minutes of each other, we motor out of Taylor Creek and raise full sail.  Seagulls hover over eddies along the edge of the inlet.  The last of the tide carries us into the ocean.

A northeast breeze on a cloudy morning, green water and five knots towards Cape Lookout Bight.  Rounding the west end of Shackleford Banks, a first glimpse of the lighthouse.  The white sand beach is hidden in shadow and dwarfed by the sky above Beaufort.   

Two sails leave out of Cape Lookout Bight with dark clouds beyond the cape.  The wind picks up, I slack the mizzen.  There is a freshness out on the ocean, everything seems distant and I feel free.  

Birds feed on schools of fish in closer to the beach, another sailboat slips out of the bight.  I look along the beach on the Shackleford Banks for the wild horses but see none.   The wind is coming over the banks, the water is calm and Spartina surges towards the light.

Approaching the bight at 4.8 knots, sun and warmth.  We come in the inlet, sail south along the beach and round the shoal.  The dunes and calm water along shore are inviting.  I think about anchoring but the weather forecast urges me to keep sailing with a promise of increasing north winds over the next few days.  I jot "NORTH" in my notebook as we come about and head towards Barden Inlet and Core Sound.  

The flood tide helps us point up higher through the inlet, past the island rookeries and marshes with small flocks of ibis flying into the wind and going nowhere.  I cheat on the floating markers and hold true to those on pilings, losing my way at marker "30," the centerboard bumping on a shoal, then finding my way again.

Past Harkers Isand and Browns Island, forty tacks up the narrow channels of Core Sound, past Jarrett and Nelson Bays, past the clusters of homes and church spires of Davis and Stacy, Sea Level and Atlantic, past the barren dunes and shifting shoals of Drum Inlet, into the waves rolling down the fetch of the Sound.      

A last tack to round Hall Point into Thorofare Bay, finding the little cove of protected water on the north shore with the single dolphin rolling in the calm water to welcome us, setting the anchor as the sun goes down a dozen hours after leaving Beaufort.