Saturday, June 29, 2013


Warm, humid air is moving up from the Gulf of Mexico, bringing stormy conditions for the next few days.  No sailing this weekend, at least for me.  The photos are from the Hampton Yacht Club as racers get ready for a regatta on the James River.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

on the not-so-big screen

Work is keeping swamped these days.  But give me about two more weeks and I'll catch a break.

In the meantime check out Kevin B's youtube video of the spring float on the Patuxent River.  You'll see everything from Barry's topsail melon seed (I've got to sail with him one day just to see how he rigs the topsail) to Kevin's Welsford Navigator Slip Jig and Mike Wick's Haven 12 1/2.  Looks like a lot of fine.  Nice video work, Kevin.


Monday, June 24, 2013


We missed out on last weekend's bayou bugaloo but made up for it tonight with crawfish and artichokes.  It's amazing what you can do with a pot of boiling water.


a sail through the military industrial complex, a new compliment

A large piling, lifted and carried by unusually high tides over the weekend, blocked the boat ramp this morning.  I got a line on it and attempted to pull it to the side without success.  Hopefully future high tides and winds will do the work for me.  As for today, I had to drive to an alternate ramp about two and one-half miles up the very military and industrial southern branch of the Elizabeth River.

It is an excellent ramp, but I do not enjoy motoring with so many tugs, barges and security boats.  There are cranes, massive dry docks for submarines, silos for grain, amphibious assault ships, railroad trestles, the remnants of an old fertilizer plant, etc.  I only took the one photograph above showing the historic "hammerhead" crane at Norfolk Naval shipyard, plus the tug, barge and crane I shared the waterway with on the way to the main part of the river.  Taking too many photographs, I have learned the hard way, is frowned upon by security types.

A treat for the day was sharing the water with the small boats from SailNauticus, which I have mentioned before.  There were four boats out, each with an instructor and four students -  all were having the time of their lives.  It was great to see the brightly colored sails out on the river.

The youngest daughter was along for the sail.  I had to wonder where she got an interest in taking photographs.

Here are a couple of her photographs below.

We decided to splurge and forked over $5.25 for a lunch time docking at the Waterside Marina, picking up a couple of subs and enjoying them under the shade of an umbrella at the waterfront park.

Early afternoon with a threat of thunderstorms moving in, I dropped the daughter off and motored up the southern branch to the alternate ramp.  Tying up a woman with a beer in one hand - green bottle, maybe Rolling Rock - and a cigarette in the other, walked by Spartina, paused for a minute and said  "Nice @ss boat you got there."

Spartina has gotten a few compliments over the years.  I'll have to add that one to the list.

The threatened thunderstorm never appeared.


Saturday, June 22, 2013


I was out with some of my science-type friends this morning as they counted birds, fish, trees and bugs at a restored wetlands off of Paradise Creek in Portsmouth.

The creek runs off the very industrial southern branch of the Elizabeth River.  Surrounding the wetlands are shipyards, super fund sites, highways and dock facilities.

Up until a few years ago the land was an vacant lot full of trash and debris.  It is amazing what people can do when they put their minds to it.

All the credit goes to the Elizabeth River Project.  Well done, guys.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Dit mon la verite'! *

Shaggy, the Crawfish King!

Didn't have time to wait around for the crawfish.  Instead grabbed a alligator/sausage burrito with red cabbage and black beans at the stand next door.


*tell me the truth! - a Cajun expression used when something is too good to be true

Bayou Bugaloo!!!

Six thousand pounds of crawfish on hand for the weekend.

dying batteries, portable power

The idea of adding more gear to Spartina makes me cringe, the idea of running out of batteries on a trip and not being able to take photographs makes me cringe even more.  So I don't really know.  I'll have to think about it some more. 

Below is a photograph I shot sailing into Crisfield on the the fifth day of a sail, with a dying battery in my camera.

Power for recharging batteries on Spartina has been an issue for years.  The cameras these days aren't so much cameras but really computers that seems to constantly drain their small batteries one way or another.  I've gotten to where I carry six batteries for my waterproof Pentax Optio W90 camera and even then I worry about running out of power on a week-long trip.  Often times when I go into a port to have a lunch, I'm going to the restaurant for their AC outlets as much as I'm going there for a sandwich and a glass of iced tea.

I have looked for reliable, compact and affordable solar power for years and may have finally found it.  I don't think I'll jump into all this year, but will buy (or at least consider buying) the system in a two-step process.  The first piece of gear would the Sherpa 50 power pack from GoalZero.  This battery pack, which can be charged by using AC power (wall outlet), 12v car adapter or solar panel, should give me the ability to recharge my batteries several times while out on the water.

There are cheaper power packs out there, but one issue I've run into is that other power packs are set up to charge devices - mostly cell phones, tablets - through a usb cable.  At least two types of the batteries I use can only be charged with a 110v wall outlet.  GoalZero has this ability as you can see with the optional inverter above that attaches to the side of the Sherpa power pack.  Cost of the power pack plus inverter is $250.

Getting the power pack with the inverter would be step one for this year's fall trip.  At least I think it will be - I want to research the device, read some more reviews.  But right now the reviews I'm finding are all pretty good.  

Step two of the process would be (might be, we'll see) adding next year a Nomad 13 solar panel, which is designed for charging the above power pack.  Apparently this is a new version of an older, less successful solar charger.  The reviews on this newer version have been very positive.  Cost is $160. (Waiting a year to buy might allow for additional improvements in the technology.)

At the very least I am glad to see that solar power is becoming more reliable and more affordable.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

taste of summer, plastic palm trees

I found my first ripe tomatoes this morning.  The small cherry tomatoes are nearly two weeks ahead of schedule, which is surprising considering the cold wet spring.  It is nice to have the taste of summer before summer even arrives.

I've been thinking about next spring's sail, mostly because the photographs I've stolen - above and at the bottom of this post - from Barry's web page are so enticing.  You can see more photographs here.  Barry and the spring float crowd spent their time sailing the Patuxent River on the western shore of the bay.  I've visited Solomons Island twice over the years, both times just passing through on much larger boats, one sailing and the other power.  I've never gotten around to exploring the western shore in Spartina, save for an overnight sail to the Magothy River during the Back to the Islands cruise.  That was an enjoyable part of the trip and makes me think I am missing out by not spending more time on the other side of the bay.

Maybe I could put in at my new favorite town on the Eastern Shore - Onancock - sail up Tangier Sound and the Hongo River, crossing the bay to explore the Patuxent River up to Broome's Island, and then back again, maybe sailing back down the bay outside of the Hooper Islands and Tangier Sound.

I still have planning to do for my fall trip down to Cape Lookout, but I do like to have an idea for the next trip rolling around in my mind.  Wouldn't you sail a couple of hundred miles to see plastic palm trees?


Monday, June 17, 2013

the channel, the timeline and a no-name storm

The ever-inquisitive Barry did a little research on the shoaling behind Metompkin Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore and found some very interesting information.  Using google earth he was able to track the channel and island over the past several years.  Starting in September of 2005 you see the well-defined channel with marsh on either side and the sand beach of the island.

By December of that same year the sat photo shows the sand beach moving east on top of what was, just a few months earlier, a marsh.

Eleven months later, by November 2006, the channel and island are much the same - marsh to the west, a well-defined channel and only the sand separating the channel from the ocean.

By July of 2007, 2007 the island is clearly being pushed to the west into the channel, with what appears to be the beginning of a new inlet or at least channels across the island where water could flow at high tides.

That year, 2007, caught my attention as I remembered spending four days down in the Outer Banks watching an unusually strong and - more importantly - slow moving nor'easter batter the beaches.  The fact that it was a slow moving storm - it hung off the coast from April 14 to April 17 - meant the beaches were battered by eight unusually high tides with accompanying high winds and surf, each high tide leaving the shore more vulnerable to the next.  It was a significant event for the Outer Banks and it confirms what many locals will tell you: no-name storm, the nor'easters, hang around longer than the named storms, hurricanes, and can do more damage than fast moving tropical storms that come and go in less than a day.  

Coastal changes are processes that happen over years or decades, and these changes to Metompkin Island are clearly part of an ongoing process.  But I do have to wonder if the Spring 2007 nor'easter is what finally pushed the island into the channel.

And here's Barry's last sat image with the channel disappearing as the island slides to the west.  This is pretty much what we found (the hard way) in May of this year.

Thanks for the research, Barry, and an interesting lesson in coastal erosion.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

a day for reefing

Steady strong wind with gusts to the high 20's buried in the breeze, a perfect day on the water.  The most sail put up was jib, mizzen and double-reefed main, making up to six knots.  Sailed a fair amount under just mizzen and jib doing five knots.  Early afternoon I almost had the lee rail in the water under m and j, had never heeled that much under two sails.

Had a special guest on board, she joined me with both the nice wind and father's day in mind.  I could not have blamed Grace if she joined me just for the wind.  I think she enjoys sailing as much as I do.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Onancock, again

How does a small town have so many great restaurants? This appetizer is from the Charlotte Hotel.

a beautiful day at the oceanfront

the inside passage: disestablished

If I am reading the press release below correctly, it sounds as if Virginia's inside passage behind the Eastern Shore barrier islands could be at an end.  This is of course the passage we tried to make in early May.  The trip ended prematurely when we found shoaling in the channel behind Metompkin Island.  That shoaling, I am now hearing, has been going on since Hurricane Isabel in 2003, with Hurricanes Irene and Sandy adding to the problem.  There is very little commercial traffic on the inside passage and with a shortage of funds it is hard to justify dredging the channels and maintaining the markers for a few recreational boats.  

The press release is a little vague.  It mentions navigation markers on Metompkin Bay, precisely where we found the shoaling, but at the same time it says the proposal includes removing 135 aids to navigation along 100 miles of the inside passage from Chincoteague to Fisherman Island.  That sounds like a lot more than just Metompkin Bay.

Bruce and I still plan on completing our circumnavigation of the Delmarva Peninsula, but we'll have to do it by sailing outside on the ocean from Chincoteague to Wachapreague Inlet.  I'm hoping the "disestablishment" process takes longer than a year - it would be nice to have channel markers south from Wachapreague to the southern tip of the Eastern Shore.

Coast Guard seeks public comment for disestablishment of Virginia Inside Passage

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard is seeking public comment on the proposal to disestablish the navigational aids along the Virginia Inside Passage inside of Metompkin Bay near Chincoteague during the next two months.
The proposed disestablishment is due to encroaching shoaling conditions, limited surveys and a lack of funds to dredge the passage.
Navigation along routes from east to west or the inlets that lead to and from sea will not be affected by the changes.
The proposal encompasses the disestablishment of 135 aids to navigation along approximately 100 miles of the Virginia Inside Passage from Chincoteague to the northwest side of Fisherman Island.
The Coast Guard is soliciting comments on the proposed disestablishment and the possible impact on business operations and navigation along the route.  It is also requested that the type of transportation used is included in the correspondence.
Comments may be sent to Albert Grimes via e-mail at or by mail at Commander (dpw), Attn: Albert Grimes, 431 Crawford Street, Room 100, Portsmouth, VA 23704-5004.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

something wicked this way comes

The storm was strong, but brief.  Lots of wind, a little rain.  I think we got off pretty easy this time.


small boats, small buses

I was out sailing yesterday, a guest of the new Sail Nauticus program on the downtown Norfolk waterfront.  My captain was Daniela, a young woman from Germany who is one of the sail instructors for the program.  Sail Nauticus will off sail training during summer camps, then after-school programs starting this fall that teach sailing with an emphasis in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts.  Sounds pretty cool.  Above you see us sailing out from the new small boat dock at Nauticus with the Battleship Wisconsin on the left and the Schooner Virginia (love the giant flag) on the right.

Sail Nauticus has six Harbor 30 sailboats, great little boats (I shouldn't say "little" as their length on deck is three feet longer than Spartina) with a 3 1/2 foot, 900 lb bulb keel.  Talk about stable (makes me think I was right to put that 100 lb steel centerboard on my boat).

What I like is that I'll be seeing a lot more small sailboats on the river this summer and fall.  With the six Harbor 20's and the Schooner Virginia tied up nearby, I think it will be a great summer on the water.


While I was in Onancock the other day I picked up a brochure form a STAR transit bus.  I had heard of this service but was never, until now, able to track down information about it.  This is the transit system for all the small towns on the Eastern Shore.  Some of the stops caught my eye - Chincoteague, Onancock and Cape Charles.  This opens up the possibility of sailing from one port - say Cape Charles - to  another - say Onancock, then catching the STAR Transit bus back to the ramp to retrieve the jeep and trailer.  Cost of that bus trip, if I'm reading the brochure correctly, would be $1.00.  This really opens up some opportunities for short, one way cruises.  Or even our next attempt at the last leg of the circumnavigation - Chincoteague to Onancock - then catching the bus back to Chincoteague.  A buck is a lot less than the cost of a rental car.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Onancock Creek

A nice picture of Spartina from Joe Valentine while sailing Onancock Creek the weekend before last.  Thanks, Joe!


Monday, June 10, 2013

father and daughter dinner

Grace handled the shrimp, I took care of the oysters.  Not too bad.


coming, going, staying

Went down to the Norfolk waterfront this morning with my daughter.  We were on foot, not on the boat, and I'm glad of that as I just saw some lightning outside the window.  There were a handful of tall ships around, including the Sultana which was arriving from a visit to Cape Charles on the other side of the Bay.  

The old Grand Banks barkentine Gazela out of Philadelphia was leaving from the Otter Berth with a few deafening blasts of her horn.  She took part over the weekend in the Harborfest event.

And the Schooner Virginia, who just returned from a winter down south, will be hanging around the Norfolk waterfront for much of the summer.  I can't wait to sail alongside of her.


ps - I just heard some more thunder.  Local radar shows a series of severe thunderstorms coming our way.  And we are under a tornado watch.  Yes, I'm glad we visited the ships on foot.