Sunday, March 31, 2013


The daffodils are up, the forsythia is blossoming bright yellow and I saw a flock of a dozen gold finches on my morning walk.  Spring is here.

Out on the water early this morning with my friend Jim, above, on his 1950's era boat.  We put in near the Great Bridge and ran up the river a ways.  A great start to the day and back to the house before 9 a.m.

The rain moved in mid-morning.  I ran to the expedition supply store - Wal Mart - and picked up our lunches, breakfast bars, anchovies and oysters for the coming trip.  I do need to sort through the food bin and do an inventory.  Plenty of fruit cups are in there, plenty of rice and meals in pouches.  I probably have as much as I need to get until Bruce arrives with the final menu.

And speaking of menu's, I've decided we'll end the trip at Onancock (after a visit to Tangier Sound of course) and probably check into the Charlotte Hotel just a few blocks from the waterfront.  It is probably pricier than I like, but it has a nice restaurant with a great menu.  The seared scallops with scallion potato cake and haricots verts sounds like a nice way to end the cruise.

Tomorrow it will be close to 70 degrees and I hope to be out on the water with Spartina.


Friday, March 29, 2013

the eastern shore

Visiting the Eastern Shore for a couple of days of work.  Dropped by a few places that we might see on the spring trip.

Above is Pungoteague Creek, just a few miles south of Onancock Creek.  We could stop here overnight on the way to Tangier Sound.

A nice little crab skiff tied up on the waterfront at Wachapreague on the sea side of the peninsula.  We would pass through here only if we need to go inside the barrier islands on our way south from Chincoteague.  If that's the case Wachapreague might be a good spot to pick up some fuel.  If we sail outside on the ocean we'll the waterfront town.

And sunset at Onancock, the final destination for the trip.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"6:45 almost no wind"

The notebook was open to a slow drift away from Abel Bay which came after a rough afternoon and evening of storm cells passing over Spartina, jottings from day seven of last year's Tidal 214.  Reading the notes about drifting in light wind, birds in the marsh, laughing gulls and schools of baitfish ruffling the smooth surface made me smile.  I stopped working for a while in the chilly garage, flipped through a few pages and thought about that trip which seems like such a long time ago. 

I was tidying up the day storage box this morning which included attaching a new pencil to the waterproof notebook.  Out for a cruise or just a daysail I always like to have a notebook nearby.  I threw out last year's sunblock and replaced it with a new tube of Blue Lizard sun screen from Australia, tossed some old tubes of lip balm, and removed some of the odds and ends always seems to clutter up the small storage space.

The jaws are done, looking pretty nice I think with the new leather.  The lines have not been trimmed yet, I'll do that after the next sail when I see how the new main sets.  I did find that the tiny cotter pin on the main boom goose neck was corroded and about to break.  I replaced with some heavy gauge copper wire, which was cheaper and easier to find that a brass or bronze cotter pin and should work just as well.

There are hints of sailing weather for Monday when I am off from work.  I'm ready to go.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

leather, weather

Nature seems to be heading in the wrong direction.

I just talked with a waterman friend on the phone about a planned crabbing trip I was going to make with him this week.  A few days ago the water temperature was 44 degrees and he was hoping it would edge closer to 50 degrees to get the crabs to "turn on."  The temperature, instead of increasing, has now fallen back to 42 degrees.  

We decided to talk about the trip in a couple of weeks when hopefully the temperature will head in the proper direction.

It is cold and rainy outside today with a chance of snow flurries tomorrow.  I put the last coat of varnish on the jaws this morning and started cutting the leather to line the jaws.  It is 4-5 ounce pearl gray leather, which I thought was a redundant name until I realized that "pearl" indicates the texture on the finished side of the leather.

A box cutter with a new blade and a straight edge was the easiest way to cut the leather.  I used both the old leather and the jaws for the pattern, the original leather was cut to instructions on John Welsford's website which are not long there.

I searched around at two hardware store for brass tacks, finally finding them and realizing that they are copper tacks.  The leather will go on tomorrow morning once this last coat of varnish is well set, using contact cement to glue the leather in place and then tapping in the copper tacks.  The first set of leather lasted seven seasons on the water, this should last just as long.

It is about six weeks until the spring cruise.  I do need to get out on the water some more before then.  And I do need to start checking on food supplies, batteries, importing waypoints and all those other little jobs - which I very much enjoy - before we head to Chincoteage.


Friday, March 22, 2013

the big chill

How I wish this photograph was from this year's sailing.  It is from last March, the 18th of March to be exact and the weather was much warmer than this year.  Right now it is 33 degrees outside.  Yesterday we had snow flurries.  The high this weekend will still be somewhere south of 50 degrees.

I'm noticing more and more "pouch" meals, sauces and side dishes at the grocery store.  Rice, from plain (Uncle Ben's) to Big Easy dirty rice New Orleans style (by Zatarain's); soups; tortilla stuffers with steak, rice and black beans (Old El Paso); and now sauces including Campbell's Fire Roasted Tomato with red bell peppers and chiles Skillet Sauce.  It seems to me that mixing some of the sauce with a package of poach of rice, then adding a little meat would make a pretty fine, quick meal on Spartina.  Reasonably priced, easy to stow and generating no more trash than an empty pouch, they seem perfect for cruising.

Bruce will be in charge of the menu on this coming trip.  When I see something like this on the shelf at store I send Bruce a note about it.  Last I heard he was experimenting, mixing and matching.  I can't wait to see what he comes up with.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

in search of spring, in search of the truth

The varnish on the gaff jaws is drying with the help of heat from a light bulb.  That seems to be the only source of warmth I will find these days.  Spring is arriving late - about two weeks late according to the weather experts.

I had planned on settling for five coats of varnish on the jaws and then sailing this weekend.  But my weekend - Sunday and Monday - have forecasts of rain all day.  This means I'll get seven coats on the jaws, which is for the best, before putting on the leather.

Someone in the marine business told me that local yards can not do much of their work on boats until they have three consecutive days of 60 degree weather.  If that is true it may be a while before much boat work gets done.


Dawn has just one more day on her paddle up the coast of Georgia.  Reading her posts from the trip led me to reread Nathaniel Bishop's Voyage of the Paper Canoe which included the coast that Dawn is now paddling.  It also includes much of the area I've sailed the past few years from Delaware Bay to Chincoteague, Core Sound to Harkers Island and Beaufort.  The book is a great adventure and a wonderful read, and it is available for free as an ebook from Project Gutenberg.  A new favorite quote from Bishop, trying to explain himself to a doubting man he met during his 2,500 mile journey from Quebec to Florida.....

"a traveller in search of the truth, 
upon an honest errand....."



Monday, March 18, 2013


Doing a little work on the gaff jaws this week, making adjustments so that I can attach the throat grommet of the main closer to the mast.  I peeled off the leather from the jaws which was showing the wear and tear of seven seasons on the water. 

Below are the jaws before I removed the leather which was held in place by contact cement and brass tacks.  I did find that the tacks allowed for some water intrusion into the douglas fir jaws.  I wonder if small screw would work better, allowing me to put some silicone sealant around the threads to block the moisure.  I'll have to think about that.

The leather, about a square foot of 4 to 5 ounce pearl gray leather, is in the mail from Sailrite and should be here by the end of the week, about the time I should finish sealing and varnishing the jaws.


I would like to say I'll be out on the water next weekend, but the weather forecasts that I am seeing shows that spring will be arriving late and a little on the wet side.  It is cold and rainy here today, cold and grey yesterday.  For warmth I will look to the south where Dawn and her paddling friend Nancy are paddling the coast of Georgia.  Dawn has an ipad with her and is posting daily as they go.  You can follow their journey here.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

sails, recycled

From the working waterfront of Portland, Maine came a package the other day.  Inside were three seabags made of old sail material courtesy of Sea Bags.  The bags, two totes with whale tails and gray stripe sea sack, were compensation for the three old sails from Spartina that I had shipped off to them, at their expense, about a month ago.

I heard about this company from Bill, who had also shipped off sails to be recycled.  I mean what are you going to do with an old sail anyway?  This is an interesting business model that you can read about here.  For each sail shipped to Sea Bags they will give you one bag in return, the rest of the material goes into making their products - anything from totes to wine bags to shorts - which they sell online and through shops in Portland and Freeport.

A note with the bags explained they are are made of used sail cloth and as such there could be signs of wear on the material, which there were.  And because of the variety of colors and weights of the sail cloth no two bags are exactly alike.

There is a lot of character to these bags, very fine stitching and excellent workmanship.  And though the material used to make these particular bags is not from Spartina's actual sails, they will be a nice reminder of all the fun we had out on the water with those original sails.  The totes will go to the regular crew and builders of Spartina - my daughters.  And I'll keep the sea sack for myself to carry my day sailing gear.

Bill, thanks for a very good idea.


Friday, March 15, 2013

the beginning and the end

I called our friends at the Waterside Inn on Chincoteague to make a reservation for the start of the spring trip.  The have a nice little marina, above, where we ended the Over the Top cruise last fall.  

Typically for a sailing trip we drive to the starting point, load Spartina and cast off.  This trip, because of tides and a few other issues, we'll be doing it a little bit differently.  We'll drive up the day before the start of the trip, rig and load Spartina, motor to the marina and spend the night at the hotel.  After a good night's sleep we'll cast off at dawn with the morning tide.

The hotel, a very nice place where I have stayed several times over the last 20 years, has an off site parking lot where they are very kindly allowing us to leave the jeep and trailer for the week that we'll be on the water.

We'll sail south on the sea side of the Delmarva, then turn back north on the bay side.  At some point we should cross our track from May 21, 2011, a sail from Onancock to Tangier Island, completing the circumnavigation of the peninsula.

Our final destination will be Onancock, but should we have time we'll head first to Tangier and Smith Islands for a visit - wouldn't want to pass up the crab cakes of Smith Island or the soft shell sandwiches of Tangier.  

The weather this weekend does not look promising for a sail, it will be cold and wet.  That's fine, I will use the time to modify the gaff jaws for a better fit for the new sails.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

a few words from the loft

Stuart, sole proprietor and sailmaker at Dabbler Sails, has sent a couple of emails with advice about rigging the new sails on Spartina.  He based his suggestions on a couple of photographs from last Sunday's sail, one which I emailed to him and another that he saw on this blog.  His observations and suggestions are very much appreciated.  I will start making adjustments as soon as I can get back out on the water.

I've taken the very nice photograph from Jameson and blown it up beyond its useful resolution so I can point out the details that Stuart mentioned in his emails.

He mentions that the luff of the main, while very close the mast at the tack is a some distance from the mast at the throat (1).  As such the luff describes a curve where as it should be a straight line parallel to the mast.  I will need to find a lower point on the gaff to attach the sail.

At the tack the main should be right next to the boom.  In the photo there is a gap of a few inches between the sail and the boom (2).  This is easy enough to adjust, and when adjusted properly the angle of the boom will more closely match the angle of the mizzen boom.

Stuart also saw what he describes as a common fault in rigging loose footed sails.  I had pulled the foot of the main taut with the outhaul at the aft end of the boom which resulted in horizontal wrinkles just above the foot (3).  Pulling the foot taut would be the proper thing to do if the foot was roped to the boom.  But in the case of a loose footed sail such as this the clew outhaul should be eased off, causing the horizontal folds to disappear and allowing the sail to retain an aerodynamic shape similar to the jib (which can be seen below).

And lastly, you will see the folds that go from the clew to the throat (4).  This, Stuart tells me, is a sign that the sail is not peaked up enough for the wind conditions.  Raising the main high enough to show wrinkles from peak to tack is the proper way to go.  When Spartina falls off the wind and begins sailing those wrinkles will disappear.

Much of this information can be found on the Dabbler Sails website under notes on traditional rigs.  And there is much more useful information on the Appendices page.

Thanks very much, Stuart, for the advice.  I will start making adjustment on the next sail, though I suspect it might take me a while to get it right.  Yes, thank you for the advice and thank you for the beautiful sails.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


It took a little inspiration from my friend Jim, the outboard guy, to get the job done.  I emailed him yesterday telling him that there was not even a drip coming out of my Nissan two stroke 3.5 hp outboard's tell tale.  No cooling water can be death to an outboard.  He suggested using a wire to clean out any possible clogs, which I did without success.  I tried air pressure, I tried water pressure.  I took off the lower unit and ran a coat hanger up the intake tube.  Still nothing.  I wrote Jim asking for more advice.

He replied with mentions of cylinder heads, gaskets and needing a shop manual for torque specs.  What's a torque spec?  This did not sound good.  I studied the online schematics, labelled in both japanese and questionable english.  I tried to call the local Nissan guy, getting nothing but voice mail.  I even researched a new outboard - $800 and a two hour drive.  I had the two hours, not the money.  No outboard meant no sailing, no cruises.  Was my sailing season slipping away?

Out to the garage again.  I pushed the wire in the opening, grabbed it with pliers and pushed harder.  It went in an inch, then an inch and a half.  Then two inches, then three.  I took a paper clip, which was slightly thicker than the wire, straightened it out and pushed it in repeatedly.  I pushed it in so far that I thought I would not be able to get it back out.  I set the outboard in a five gallon bucket filled with water and cranked it up.  Instantly water flowed.  It was  steady stream, not just the drip drip drip of the last couple of years.  The photograph shows the flow at idle.  When I throttled up it was like a jet.

It took a nudge from Jim to get the job got done, but it did get done.  Thanks, Jim.


Monday, March 11, 2013


There's this guy named Jameson.  He is a science guy at one of the local universities.  He has long red hair that he wears in dreadlocks.  He rides a bike and has an iphone.  I do not know him, never met him.  He has a friend named Martin.  Martin is a friend of mine.

The new sails were raised on Spartina yesterday making it an even more delightful first sail of the year. Clear skies, a comfortable breeze of six mph.  Being cooler in the morning than forecast was nicely balanced by being warmer in the afternoon than forecast.

I love the new sails.  Brilliant and crisp in the sunshine, they are like wings.  The main, mizzen and jib give, as Stuart of Dabbler Sails says, a visual harmony to the rig.

More importantly, as Stuart also points out, they make the boat go forward.  It will take some time on the water to know for sure but I felt that Spartina sailed certainly closer to the wind, and with more speed.  The higher peaked main reached up and grabbed the clean air, the fully battened mizzen held flat in the gusts and the jib seemed to slice through the breeze.

It will take me a while to learn these new sails.  I have some adjusting to do for the purchase points at the tacks and the clews.  I will tweak a few things today and see how they work when I'm out next weekend.

I do need to look at the outboard today.  They water pump was not generating much water.  It was no problem yesterday, I just motored a couple of minutes to get away from the dock and then a couple of minutes to run Spartina onto the trailer.  Save for those few minutes I was under sail and did not need the outboard.

At one point the wind did fall off and we were becalmed.  It did not matter, I had a tour boat loading passengers along shore to starboard and a tug with two barges to port.  There was nowhere to go and it was a pretty day.  A woman on the tour boat broke the silence by yelling "All that for one knot?" I took it that "all that" were the three sails of Spartina.  I did not reply.  The barge passed, the wind filled in and I sailed across the river thinking "No, all that to get away from people who do not know how to enjoy peaceful moments."

So I'm sailing back towards the eastern branch of the Elizabeth where the ramp is and this guy with long red hair in dreadlocks is riding by on his bike.  He stops, pulls out his phone, takes a photograph and rides away.  A while later I get an email from my friend Martin.  He says this friend of his named Jameson had photographed a boat on the river today and Martin, knowing I was interested in boats, wondered if I knew the name for this particular sail configuration.  I did.

It is a small world sometimes.

Thanks, Jameson, for the nice photograph.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

all in

The sun is finally showing, the wind is still blowing.  Wind has been constant since Wednesday morning.  My sailflow app shows the wind will fall off and swing to the east tomorrow, a day forecast to have sunny skies and temperatures in the low 50's.  A little chilly maybe, but it looks like a good day to try out the new sails.

All of my friends are in at the Everglades Challenge.  Dawn, below, finished the race after six day, five hours and 22 minutes on the water.  Kristen was about about forty minutes earlier at six days, four hours and 40 minutes.

And another friend, who I failed to mention earlier, Paul finished in his hobie mirage, below, at four days, four hours and 11 minutes.  I enjoyed sailing last summer with Paul and his wife Ruth and friend Chris.

And of course Paul and Alan have been in for  a few days now, finishing the race in a record setting two days and 2 minutes. (It must be nice to relax in Key Largo after a great sail.)

Excellent race, guys.  The Everglades Challenge seems to mark the start of my sailing year and it looks like it will do so again this year.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

hurry back home

Back home after a quick visit to Hatteras.  The storm seemed to spin off quickly, causing only minor flooding and some beachfront erosion in the vulnerable spots.  I'm glad.  The islanders are getting ready for the spring season with easter week not too far away.  That last thing they needed was more damage.

The deer was on NC 12, the island's main road, between Avon and Salvo.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cape Point

Cape Hatteras

details about the bent mast

Brief: de-masted 8 miles from the finish while exiting Stake Key pass as our spinnaker halyard blowing in the 15-20 kt wind was snagged by a channel marking stick as we passed it. In a microsecond our spinnaker in its bag went flying out of the boat, bow snapped around to port, the main mast bent in the middle and then snapped off cleanly at the top of its tabernacle. Sailed in at 6-8 kts using just the mizzen sail. Further details to be posted.

Currituck Sound

there's got to be more to this story

Just a quick post with some photos from Paul (thanks, Paul) of the record setting Everglades Challenge win on Dawn Patrol.  Very nice photos and I love the dark clouds, color of the water and sparkling sunlight in this first one.

I'm heading south myself today, going to Hatteras Island to see what becomes of the storm.  I'll be posting when possible.  It appears the storm may be weaker than forecast a couple of days ago.  We'll see.

I'm hoping after the storm moves through there might be weather for sailing here, but the temperatures look to be marginal for being out on the water.

This bottom photo with a bent mizzen mast tells me there is something more to this story.  I guess you can't set records without pushing the boat pretty hard.  I hope we'll read more about it on the Dawn Patrol blog.