Tuesday, April 30, 2013

a mess, a possible solution

The garage floor is more of a mess than I would like, but I'll get it better organized over the next couple of evenings.  I realized I had not bought all the bottled water we'll need.  There were only three bottles in the storage cabinet and we need a total of eight one-gallon bottles.  

I drove to the dump and emptied all of the old fuel out of the two gallon tank, which dated back to last fall.  I'll fill both tanks, adding oil for a 50:1 ratio plus fuel stabilizer, tonight.

I do think I've found a solution for storing the second gas can by having it perched on the boomkin outside of the hull.  Held in place by a large cable tie and a piece of line fastened to an eye strap, it seemed very secure.

I'll think about it awhile before deciding if this is the right way to go.  If I am happy enough with it I may make it the standard place to store fuel while cruising.


packing day

I'm taking a comp day today to start sorting through and packing gear.  The wife has given me her half of the garage (Spartina occupies the other half) for setting out all the equipment, tubs, water and plastic jars of food.  I'll set everthing out - at least my gear, Bruce's will have to wait until he gets here - in relative position to where it will be stored on the boat as marked on the packing chart below. (That chart is a few years old and there have been a few modifications.  But as I look at it now it is surprisingly accurate.)

I did get a head start last night by mixing and bagging the last batch of snacks - dried mango slices and chunks of pineapple.  That has been a standard on just about all our trips.

I also went through the light kit putting new batteries in the anchor lights, emergency strobes, SPOT  and flashlights.

As for the weather, I'm clinging to the SailFlow forecast which shows light but steady winds out of the east.  Probably too light to sail outside on the ocean, but maybe just right to sail and motor-sail behind the barrier islands.  This is just a forecast and who knows what it will look like this weekend.  The final decision for our path will be made over dinner at Bill's Prime Seafood and Steaks in Chincoteague Saturday evening.

The forecast for the weather fronts show we should be starting under a high pressure system, not the strongest of winds but certainly comfortable for the start of the trip.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

no such thing as bad weather

Out for a last sail this morning before the spring cruise.  More wind and more sunshine than expected.  I'll take it.

The snow bird fleet is slow to pass through this year, most likely because of the colder than usual temperatures.  There was the beautiful ketch "Trade Winds" out of Rhode Island on the Portsmouth waterfront.  Just a wonderful looking boat.

I had my friend Tom on board for part of the sail today.  We had an interesting discussion about boats, weather and gear.  For almost three decades Tom was in the infantry of the United States Marine Corps.  He served everywhere from the Horn of Africa to the Arctic Circle, with a few war zones thrown in between.  Being exposed to the elements all those years, Tom says he learned there is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad gear.  If you have the right gear then everything is just fine.    Excellent advice, Tom.  Thanks for joining us today.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

there will be weather

If I could pick and choose my forecast for the start of the trip I would choose the intellicast version, above, with pleasant days and light winds.  I would skip the sailflow forecast, below, that calls for wind in the 20 mph range with guys up into the high-20's.

I had been thinking of the trip down the seaside of the Eastern Shore as two options - wind out of the north and sailing outside the barriers islands....or.....wind out of the south and motoring inside the islands.  One forecast I saw gave me a third option: wind out of the east giving Spartina the ability to sail south inside of barrier islands.  Wouldn't that be cool sailing through the narrow channels?

In any case the only accurate forecasts for the weather is that there will in fact be weather.  What kind?  We'll find out.

The forecast forecast for tomorrow is excellent - high 60's and 10 mph of wind out of the ese.  Perfect for a day sail.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Plantation Creek

I've added a waypoint for Plantation Creek, below, to the gps.  I've never seen it from water level, but from google maps it looks like a winding series of creeks and shallows.  I suspect there would be a nice spot to anchor overnight somewhere in there.

Those black rectangular shapes you see spread over the shallows are mesh covers for the farm raised clams which are propagated nearby and then put out in the bays and creeks to mature.  If not for the mesh protection, the cow-nosed rays would be having a feast on the beds of thousands and thousands of clams.

Adding Plantation Creek gives us three stopping points as we round the bottom of the Delmarva Peninsula and turn north - the concrete ships at Kiptopeke, Old Planation Creek and Cape Charles.

I would not mind spending a night at Kiptopeke or Plantation Creek and then reaching Cape Charles midday the following day.  Cape Charles is a nice little town, enjoyable for a nice walk with a couple of restaurants and an excellent marina.

Above are the concrete ships, WWII liberty ships that were sunk to create a harbor off of what is now a state park.  I hear that the tidal current rips through that area, but the spot just below the little hook in the land near the boat ramp looks like it would offer a spot for a comfortable evening.

The trip is a little over a week away.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I just returned from buying a second fuel can for Spartina, giving us a carrying capacity of about four gallons plus a quart of 50:1 gas/oil mixture for the two stroke outboard.  I do not like carrying that much fuel on board.  Usually for cruising a single 2 gallon 8 oz can will suffice.  But there is a chance, if the wind is out of the south, that we may have to do a lot of motoring in very narrow, winding channels.  Going inside the Chincoteague to Wachapreague, the only place on the seaside where we could refuel, could be as much as 35 nautical miles (40 statute miles) of motoring through the marshes.

Judging fuel consumption is not exact on a small boat.  It changes with the current and the wind.  On day three of the over the top we made a little over 10 nautical miles on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal by starting with a full tank and refilling just once, still having fuel in the tank when we reached Delaware Bay.  This was better than the usual mileage as we had a steady current going with us the entire time.

I found a brochure online for my outboard, the Nissan 3.5 two stroke, with the information in the screen shots above.  The integral fuel tank holds 1.4 liters but I never completely fill the tank (filling the tank completely would allow fuel leak out the air vent in the gas cap when the outboard is kicked up into the raised position, where it is always when sailing).  My estimate for what I consider to be a "full" tank is about a quart of gas.

The second screen shot shows fuel consumption of 1.7 liters per hour at full throttle.  I have never run the outboard at fuel throttle, it is usually at half throttle or less with Spartina making between 3.5 and 4 knots.  I estimate in typical conditions we get about 4 nautical miles per quart of fuel.  With the second gas can we should have a range of 60+ miles. 

As I said I do not like having that much fuel on board, but the idea of running out of fuel in the marshes is much less appealing.  I think with a little work I can arrange to store that second fuel can on the boomkin next to the transom - safer, easy enough to reach still but out of the way.  I'll experiment with that this weekend.

Motoring is a backup plan.  Hopefully we'll be sailing both on the ocean and through the marshes powered by a nice north wind.  We'll see.


Monday, April 22, 2013

hash tag "delmarva"

I have opted to link my SPOT "ok" messages, which are sent when we raise the anchor in the morning and drop it at the end of Spartina's sailing day, distributed by the twitter social network.  Why?  I'm not really sure.

Part of it is curiosity.  I've been in the communications business for over thirty years and I'm fascinated by the recent changes in the ways we communicate.  Starting this blog a few years ago was also inspired by curiosity.

I have added two hash tags - #delmarva and #easternshore - to the ok messages.  Those hash tags won't make much sense when posted here or in an email to friends and family, but it will link the "ok" messages, and this blog, to twitter followers on the Eastern Shore.  So what does that lead to?  I'm not really sure.  Guess we'll find out.

steve   (aka "@steve1188")


In the photograph below you can see some of our gear stored for the night on board Spartina just inside Indian River Inlet on day five of the Over the Top trip.  That's my  yellow duffel on top, Bruce's orange bag below with the cook and light kits to the left.  

Cold windy and rainy on my day off today, jsut the kind of day to pack gear from the coming trip.  I made up the trail mix, which was off the shelf trail mix supplemented with almonds, cashews and wasabi peas.  I counted out off the crackers, lunches, fruit cups, etc and stowed them in the one gallon plastic jars.

I sorted through the batteries, both AA and lithium AA, for flash lights, gps's, radios (vhf and am/fm).  Something makes me think I need AAA too, but I can't remember for what right now.

I also cleaned off the tracks and waypoints on the gps, then added all the eastern shore and Chesapeake Bay waypoints.

I also added our track from day one of the May, 2011 to the Garmin 62S gps.  Crossing that track, which is below, between Onancock and Tangier Island will mean we have completed the circumnavigation.  If our schedule stays intact we will have a day or to of sailing after that, primarily in search of crab cakes and soft shell crab sandwiches on Smith and Tangier Islands.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

testing, testing

I sent out a SPOT "OK" message this morning, one that goes to some family members and friends.  It is a pre-trip ritual where I both try to remember how the SPOT work and also test it to make sure it is working.  The OK message did go out and I'm now receiving confirmation of the emails.  The message includes a link to a map with my location.  Looking at that map just now I see that it is accurate to within about 40 feet.

I do realize some people have had problems with their SPOT devices.  Like all technical devices - let's face it, a gps device receiving locations from multiple satellites, then sending a location back to another satellite, is not that simple - I'm sure there are some out there that don't work properly.  That is exactly why I do this test before each trip.  But also I think some of the problems with SPOT come from the user interface.  I can't speak for the current models, but as for the older models like mine are not intuitive to use.  Some buttons do more than one thing, depending on how long the button is held down.  Flashing lights can mean a couple of different things, depending on the mode the SPOT is set for.  Again, this is another reason for the test - to remember if I know how to use SPOT.  Apparently I do.

Checking my SPOT profile I made the above screen shot for my BoatUS link.  (I just now sent in checks to BoatUS for both my annual membership - which includes on the water assistance, on the water towing and trailer towing - and insurance).  By linking the SPOT to my BoatUS account, a SPOT request for assistance goes directly to BoatUS, and I'm hoping they respond appropriately.  The two times I have used BoatUS services, on the road assistance for the trailer both times, saved me more money than the cost of the annual membership.  It was a pretty good deal.

The photo is at the top was sailing down Chincoteague Bay on day seven of the Over the Top trip.  We'll pick up where we left off on the Delmarva circumnavigation in about two weeks.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

sorting, sailing away

There is forecast to be a nice NNE wind this coming Sunday.  Looking at a handful of forecasts I see that they all agree on the wind direction, but wind speed varies anywhere from 11 to 17 mph.  I am hoping for the higher wind to see how the new sails feel in a stiff breeze.  Better yet, I would like to save that NNE wind for the first day of our trip.  It would be perfect to carry us outside down the coast for 24 miles from Chincoteague Inlet to Wachapreague Inlet.

I have begun sorting through the cruise gear, starting with the light kit, left, and cook kit right.  I was pleased to see that both the logbook, which you cannot see, and the Rite in the Rain notebook, bright yellow on top, have enough room leftover from the fall sail for this coming trip.  I need to put batteries in all the devices stored in the kit - flashlights, SPOT, radios, anchor lights, etc - and I need to do a test "OK" signal with the SPOT.  The cook kit was in good shape.  I added a new sponge.  Both lighters worked fine.  I do need to add the spices and olive oil to the kit, but that will wait until Bruce is here.

Work has been busier than I like, which gives me even more reason to look forward to the cruise.  The idea of just sailing away is more appealing each and every day.


Monday, April 15, 2013

yesterday and today

I had a debate with myself Saturday evening.  Should I sail Sunday, with clear blue skies and light winds, or Monday with cooler temperatures, grey skies and stronger wind.  I chose Sunday.   

I am feeling more comfortable with the new sails.  And just as importantly I'm feeling good about rigging the boat.  Each spring I relearn how to set the masts, run the lines and tie the robands.  It has taken me a little longer this year as the new sails call for some adjustment in the routine.  But yesterday everything went smoothly.

On the river with blue skies I listened to the fading cry of a lone seagull and thought to myself that was the sound of joy.  Joy was much on my mind having just read Webb Chiles latest journal entry about water and joy.  Thank you Webb for the very fine piece of writing.

After sailing much of the morning I dropped the main off of Freemason Harbor, once a commercial harbor and now lined by condos, to sail in under mizzen and jib.  I rounded up into the north wind and Spartina just kissed the seawall as if we knew what we were doing.  It feels good to be sailing again.

After a quick run for a deli sandwich I headed back out on the Elizabeth for a nice afternoon of light but steady breezes.  Yes, it does feel good to be sailing again.

To round out the day were pasta neck clams from my shellfish guy Uncle Chuck.  These are smaller than the little necks I usually get.  Tender and sweet, they were good, though I'm not yet convinced they are better than the little necks.

 Today I spread Spartina's boom tent out in the garage and re-taped the bolt rope that runs through the peak of the tent.  The tent is now five or six years old and the original tape had split or cracked.  This was easy enough to repair and the tent is now ready for the spring sail.

Snacks throughout the day were raw Watch House Point oysters from Chincoteague Inlet, also from Uncle Chuck.  Smaller than most other oysters (and less expense at .70 cents each), they tasted of the ocean.  An appropriate snack, I thought, as I prepared to sail out of Chincoteague Inlet in a few weeks.

The photograph of me taping the boom tent was taken with the Pentax Optio W90 camera in the interval shooting mode.  Powering the camera were new batteries from Amazon, supposedly a longer lasting battery for the camera.  At $12 each I purchased three.  Testing on video mode showed they powered the camera for at least three and maybe four times as long as the old batteries.  Pretty good, I thought.  I went back to Amazon to order a few more only to be told by big red letters that there was a "quantity limit"on certain batteries.

I emailed Bruce to conspire for a purchase of a few more via his California address.  For the record, the batteries will be used for taking photographs.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

still thinking about the wind

Thinking today more about the wind and the time of year I remembered it was early June of last year when we rode the Picton Castle from Cape Cod to Norfolk, much of that journey with a stiff north wind that carried us along the coast at 8 knots.

In April, May and early June the warm moist air from the south seems to battle the dry cool air from the north, the winds shift back and forth depending on who is winning the battle on that day.  So we'll hope for the best - a nice day or two with north wind - to start the trip.  Things always seem to work out.


Monday, April 8, 2013


I've been thinking about the wind all day today.  It has been blowing out of the south since yesterday morning, something I very much appreciate as it brings the warm air up from the south.  But in a few weeks we'll be hoping for wind out of the north.

Here are the wind compasses for Assateague Island on the seaside of the Eastern Shore.  To sail outside of the barrier islands we will need winds out of the north - anywhere from WNW to ENE would do.  The compasses say the odds are winds will be out of the south or SSW, which would means staying inside the barrier islands.

But there is a chance, even a decent chance, that we will get a north wind.  We'll be prepared either way.  Regardless of compasses or forecasts, the wind and weather will be what it will be.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

going nowhere fast

It was a beautiful day on the water, a beautiful day no matter where you were.  Blue skies and a steady south wind carrying the warmth of spring.  At 10 to 12 mph the wind was perfect for getting to know the new set of sails.  As you can see from the track above I spent the day tacking and jibing, sailing close to the wind and then trying to sail closer, running down wind and on any point of sail I could find.  Just the kind of sailing I needed.  

With all the warmth and sunshine I was surprised to have the river to myself.  There was the usual commercial traffic - barges and tugs - but very few pleasure boats.  The south wind did carry two snowbirds up the ICW - the first I have sailed with this season - including the interesting looking "Owl" from New York, below.

Out on the water for four or five hours I began to feel comfortable at the tiller.  With the trip just a matter of weeks away I'm working through a few of the details....
  • need to call the hotel in Chincoteague and move the reservation from saturday to sunday night
  • order new batteries from the Optio W90 waterproof camera (I've concluded that the power issue is not with the camera, but instead with cheaply made batteries that do not hold a charge for very long)
  • check the trailer bearings
  • on the Eastern Shore last week I did find an Enterprise car rental office in a auto repair shop in the tiny town of Keller, they said they would pick us up for a rental from Onancock
  • buy a new fishing license
  • print out the tide tables for the seaside inlets
  • while at Cape Charles the other day I did find the new restaurant Shanty right next to the marina where we'll most likely spend the night, sounds like dinner to me
  • I did find that fuel, should we have to go inside the barrier islands, is available in Wachapreague 

I did talk with Bruce on the phone about his flight reservations and a few other details.  There is lots to do over the next few weeks.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

live, from New Zealand

New Zealand green lipped mussels, steamed and served with shrimp over a bed of linguine and roasted grape tomatoes.  (Is there anything sweeter than grape tomatoes with olive oil and cracked pepper roasted in the over for about ten minutes?)

Mussels were courtesy of my shellfish guy Uncle Chuck.  The New Zealand mussels are vacuum packed, then have pure oxygen injected into the bag.  They arrive fresh and very much alive.  Thanks, Chuck.

Sunny and low 60's tomorrow.  I can't wait.


Friday, April 5, 2013

opening day

Who else would you expect in a Navy town for opening day?

(Okay, it's not really opening day.  That would have been
yesterday but the game was rained out.  Today just feels like 
opening day.  Play ball!)

I'm adding crab pots...

...to my list of yellow things - daffodils, gold finches and forsythia - that tell me spring is here.  The docks at Cape Charles harbor where lined with yellow pots yesterday.  As one deadrise left with a load of pots to set out in the bay waters I heard a captain on a neighboring boat shout "Throw 'em down in the water, we're all gonna be rich!"

The weather looks to be favorable for a sail Sunday


Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Work has kept me busy on the Eastern Shore the last several days, both Friday and Saturday I was there and then again Tuesday and today.  And I'll be back again tomorrow.  It is not a bad place to be.  Wachapreague and Cape Charles are on my schedule for tomorrow.

Each time I drive across the 20 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel I enjoy the view of the bay.  And as I leave the bay I always look east for the narrow channel between the southern tip of the peninsula and Racoon Island.  It is a pretty little channel with a few markers, marshes to the south and some woods to the north.  I have looked at the charts and have not been able to find a name for the waterway.  The water was spectacular today, clear and blue on a perfect spring day.  For over 20 years now that channel has caught my attention.  In just over a month Spartina should be heading down that very channel (marked in red above), leaving the water behind the barrier islands and entering Chesapeake Bay.  That will be the southernmost portion of the Delmarva circumnavigation.

Being a month out has got my attention.  I need to start making lists of things to do, things to buy, things to check on.  A month can go by quickly.