Monday, September 30, 2013

Sailing to Parched Corn Bay

Over 40 miles with perfect wind. Chose the anchorage just because I liked the name. steve

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Juniper Bay

Covered 38 miles today up the Neuse River and across Pamlico Sound. steve

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Green Creek

Anchored, waiting out the wind. Might be a nice place for a swim. steve

Friday, September 27, 2013


Anchored in a little creek off the west end of Old Canal near the bottom of Turnagain Bay. Too windy to sail up the bay, even windier on the Neuse River. I'll stay here for the day, clean up, charge batteries, read, fish and maybe take a nap. steve

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

a preview

Predawn tomorrow I'll have Spartina in tow on the way to Elizabeth City.  By chance I had to go there today for work.  I dropped by to see my friend Millie who will be helping me as I set off.  Her dock, below, is about a mile from the ramp.  I'll rig, launch head to the dock.  Millie will meet me there, give me a ride back to retrieve the jeep and trailer, which I will leave at here place.

The weather looks good for the start on the trip.  If the forecast holds, we'll be heading into the wind down the Pasquotank River and cross Albemarle Sound to the Alligator River.  That is my goal for the first day - reach the Alligator River.  The following day, as a front rolls through, the wind wing swing to the north and stay there for a couple of days, pushing me down the ICW towards Beaufort and Cape Lookout.

I plan to make a few stops during the cruise, but not too many.  Hobucken, to see Shawn and pick up a cold drink, Beaufort for laundry and food supplies, Atlantic for a shrimp burger, possibly Ocracoke (if the weather works for that) and Manteo on Roanoke Island.

As I said, I had to go to Elizabeth City for work today, but somehow forgot to go back to the office this afternoon.  The gear is going on Spartina and into the jeep, the batteries being charged and checked, all in a leisurely fashion.  It feels good to be on vacation.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

the gold standard

Every trip I use a Watertribe checklist to make sure I have the gear on board Spartina for a safe trip.  Each trip I use a different mark to check off each item as I go down the list.  I have used "ok", "#" and check marks red and black.   The photo above shows just one side of the page, the right side has another set of marks for a few more trips.  This evening I found a gold pen, a remnant I suspect from the girls' high school years.  I marked off each item with a gold circle.  Everything, and a little bit more, is ready to go.



Heavy traffic in the morning so took a different route to work.  I'm glad I did.  Saw the mist on the ICW crossing the Great Bridge bridge.  

Here's the forecast for the first couple of days of the trip.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

busy, but not that busy; gear; tracking page

Here is my SPOT tracking page.  Or you can copy and paste the url below and it will take you to the same place.  Should you go there now, you get a message that there are no tracking messages to display.  Go there this weekend and hopefully there will be messages.

I have also added a "gadget" at right, with this same photo as an icon that will take you to the tracking page.  Just click on the picture.  


It seems like there should be more gear than this, and there is.  The eight gallons of water, boom tent, sleeping gear (bivy, mat and sleeping bag), fishing tackle, flares, spare parts and a bunch of other stuff are already on board.  This trip is unusual in that the drive to the ramp is so short - only 45 minutes.  Much of the gear, food and water will be in place on Spartina as I make the pre-dawn drive to Elizabeth City.


I've got a lot going on between working, packing and planning.  But not so much that I would pass up on a nice meal.  My shellfish guy, Uncle Chuck, forced a couple of Church Point oysters on me the other day.  I tried to turn him down a couple of times, nearly got away, was climbing into the jeep when he comes running across the parking lot.  "Look at the size of these gd things!"  They are wild caught oysters from just inside Lynnhaven Inlet.  I did not measure them, but to give you an idea of size, that is a full-size steak platter in the photo above. 

Like I said, I'm busy these days.  But some garlic butter and panko, a few minutes under the broiler, served on a bed of roasted potato and sweet onion.  Yeah, well, better get back to work.


headed south

By way of Facebook and Barry, a beautiful photograph of the Schooner Virginia on her way south from New England.  Spartina should sail with her mid-October as the fleet from the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race comes to the Portsmouth waterfront, then a couple of weeks later on the Chester River at Sultana's Downrigging Festival.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

toothpicks included

One of the unexpected benefits of purchasing sails from Dabbler Sails, above and beyond the craftsmanship of very well designed sails, has been an email based friendship with Stuart Hopkins, sole proprietor and sailmaker of the loft.  We have found, through occasional exchanges, that we share a few common interests.  One being an admiration of the southern naturalist painter Walter Anderson, which I mentioned here, and another being fond memories of using Leica cameras.  

In an earlier post I had mentioned my memories of using a Leica M3, which inspired me to get the Fujifilm X20.  Stuart's memories were of the Leica IIIC, below, one which he used as a journalist and also while sailing his boat Sea Wind in the Bahamas.  His darkroom was the shuttered head of his sailboat - can you imagine that?  Above is one of his photographs which he describes as a smack "bilged on a 50 gallon drum for caulking."

With memories of his old Leica, Stuart had purchased a Fujifilm X20 too (Fuji new exactly what they were doing when they designed that camera to look like an classic camera).  I believe he likes the camera, but was unimpressed with the camera strap.  So he made his own camera strap, and one for me too.  Thank you very much, Stuart.

 The strap was sewn to the exact length I requested, and it came with circlips which Stuart said he made with an old technique he used in the Sea Wind days, "utilizing the ubiquitous/free ss spring wire core of outboard shift/throttle cables".  Stuart included instructions for feeding the circlips through the camera lughole, which involved a toothpick - and the toothpicks were included too.  How nice is that?  The strap is now on the camera, and I love it.

One more photo from Stuart's Bahama days, which I'll let him describe.

"The image is a typical working smack boat, beached at a ramshackle dock in the Berry Islands. She was up from Nassau, and would take the catch -- grouper, conch, spiny lobsters -- back to the Nassau waterfront and sell it live from the fish well. Hanging on a line, drying in sun, are pieces fish and conch, food for the crew. Reconstituted in a stew, or chewed as is when out fishing. 
These images from the early ‘70’s.  Very few such craft left except those built for the famous Georgetown, Exuma regattas. Often shared anchorages with the like, in the out islands, awaking to the sweet astringent odor of the sea grape wood cook fires, made in a little tin box on deck."

So I order new sails and I get a camera strap, stories of the Bahamas and a friendship too.  Or I should says "friendships" as I will include Stuart's partner, author and artist Dee Carstarphen - who has her own share of sailing stories to tell.  I hope to be writing about her artwork and her books in the future, but that will have to wait - I need to get back to packing for the trip.


a mess

gas can, fruit cups, self-heating meal, jetboil fuel cannister, SPOT, alligator sunblock, pelican case, emergency strobe, water bottles, tp, anti-bacterial wipes, flash light and spare spark plugs in the brown bag......and all the other stuff is in the living room.....

Monday, September 16, 2013

I can see clearly now, sharing

Busy, busy, busy.  Picked up spare spark plugs, two jetboil fuel canisters, a spoon and a spork for my freeze dried meals (though I'm told a spoon is the more efficient way to go I figure I can experiment at a cost of .79 cents) and a new pair of prescription polarized sunglasses.  I don't like to wear sunglasses and have not owned a pair for years.  But as of late, and maybe because of age, I find my eyes aching in the late afternoon sun.  I hope these will help.

I did a test charge of a dead Fuji X20 battery with the Goal Zero sherpa battery and solar panel.  On Sunday, a bright sunny day, the X20 battery went from dead to fully charged in about two hours, and the sherpa battery pack returned to a full charge in another 30 minutes or so.  This was in optimal conditions, so I won't expect that result every time.  But I do think the idea of keeping my batteries charged is feasible.

A note from SandyBottom lets me know I had the wrong start dates for the Watertribe Pamlico Challenge.  It begins a week from this coming Friday - I had thought it was scheduled to begin this coming Friday.  What does that change for me??  Location is all.  I had expected to possibly run into some of the fleet Monday or Tuesday on the ICW somewhere between the Bay River and the Alligator River.  Now I might run across the fleet the anywhere from the Neuse River to Beaufort or on Core Sound - early in their trip and mid-way through mine.

Thinking about the kayakers in the EC, from whom I have stolen many equipment ideas over the years, I was realizing how much more storage space I have on Spartina as compared to a kayak.  I still don't know how they pack gear and food for a week on those kayaks.  I have the the luxury of space - lots of space - and that is what allows me to carry little goodies like the cups of fruit that I enjoy with each meal.  With this is mind, if any Watertribe kayaker comes within hailing distance please give me a shout and I'll share a cup of fruit and sweet syrup (as long as supplies last).  It's only fair to share.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

where did summer go?

Flying V-shaped squadrons of geese have been flying overhead.  A man fishing along the old concrete rip rap on the eastern branch of the Elizabeth pulled in a nice speckled trout.  And there were 20 mph gusts buried in the steady wind that rolled straight down the Elizabeth River yesterday morning.  All signs of the coming fall.  I had to wonder where had summer gone.  Maybe this evening I will scroll back through this summer's posts to remember what it was like.

It was a beautiful day on the water, starting out under a double reefed main, then single reef and then full sail as the winds evened out mid-morning.  No clouds, plenty of sailboats big and small enjoying the cool dry air.  The Coast Guard barque Eagle drew a crowd to the High Street Landing on the Portsmouth waterfront.  There was a music festival on the Norfolk waterfront, the Sail Nauticus boats were out for an afternoon regatta and I must have counted a half-dozen kayakers paddling the river.  Just a great day.  

Packing starts this morning.  I'll sort through the cook and light kits, check the hypothermia bag.  I'll open all the deck plates, taking out the day sailing gear and replacing it with cruising supplies.  The boom tent will take the place of the rolled up sun shade beneath the foredeck.  The bivy, sleeping bag, sleeping pad will all go into their stuff sacs.

I need to count my food supplies.  The trail mix I've made up is too salty, I'll add some dried cranberries to make it less so.  I'll buy some more cups a fruit, a luxury on board because of their weight but I do enjoy a cup of fruit with breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I've found two new favorite flavors - mango and mango/pineapple.

A dead battery for the Fuji X20 will be charged today - another nice sunny day - using the solar panel.  I've done a couple of tests recently and found that I can charge a battery and have the storage battery back to 100% in a matter of hours.   

I'll drive a circuitous route to Uncle Chuck's, my shellfish guy, taking me by two places that should have fuel canisters for the jetboil and West Marine where I'll pick up a spare spark plug for the Honda outboard.  (At Uncle Chuck's I'll pick up some Argentinian deep water shrimp which I'll substitute for lobster in this nice recipe from the NY Times.)

I'll count batteries, pack clothes, maybe check the ten day weather forecast but probably not as it is not very reliable.

Lots of things to do on a pretty day that feels like fall.  Where did the summer go?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I've been wondering about fuel consumption lately, particularly with the new Honda 2.3 four-stroke outboard.  I've had the outboard for about a month now, but my only use has been to get away from and then return to the dock at the ramp.  We haven't done any long distance motoring and I've had a difficult time trying to get a grip on the fuel to miles covered ratio.

I should have three canals to transit on the fall trip.  The Alligator River to Pungo River Canal being the longest at, according to the internet, 21 miles; the Goose Island Creek Canal being the shortest at 10 miles; and the Adams Creek Canal to Beaufort at 15 miles.  We have passed through the Goose Creek and Adams Creek canals a couple of times over the years.  The Alligator River to Pungo River Canal would be a new one.  

So I turned to my best source, Paul, aka Dances with SandyBottom, for his experience.  Who else but a statistician would have great numbers easily at hand.  Paul tells me that on the Tag Team Trip (too many years ago) Dawn Patrol used .95 of fuel to cover 33.3 miles in 9.4 hours.  

I will start the trip with a full internal fuel tank - .29 gallons - and 2.5 gallons in a gas can for a total of 2.79 gallons on board.  

My 2.79 gallons, using Paul's numbers, could carry Spartina nearly 100 miles.  Paul warns that "mileage may vary," but his numbers, plus the fact that I'll be able to refuel along the way, put my mind as ease.  Thank you, Paul.

I did try to buy two fuel canisters for the jet boil today, only to find they were out of stock at the sporting goods store.  I've got a couple of other local sources for the canisters and will pick them up by this coming weekend.

The forecast calls for a steady north wind and temperatures as low as the 70's this coming weekend.  Sounds like a day or two on the water.


Sunday, September 8, 2013


The breeze, one that had been blowing steadily out of the north as I rigged Spartina, died just as I raised sail off of Waterside Marina.  I did not mind.  It was a beautiful day, clouds giving way to blue skies and a definite feeling of fall in the air.  I had already accomplished some of my goals at the ramp, adjusting the starboard shroud and achieving better tension on the bow stay with a couple of new shackles.  The main and jib, I could tell even without much wind, set better with the changes.

I was happy to see, for the first time in months, the SPOT tracker on board.  Having the GPS and SPOT side by side reminded me of a lot of good days cruising.  The SPOT was along for a test and below you can see the resulting tracking page.  I will publish the url, the same one I have used for several trips, a couple of times in the next two weeks.

A handful of friends and family received an email with a link which gave them the map and message below.  I'm not yet having a great time in the sounds but I wanted to test the SPOT messaging system, one that I will use first thing in the morning and again in the evening when I drop anchor.    

I tied up to grab a sandwich for lunch, then back on the water to find the promised breeze finally filling in, plus small boats coming out of Sail Nauticus for an afternoon regatta.  The breeze never amounted to much, but it was enough to accomplish my goals for the day.  

Just one day sail left before heading down to North Carolina.


no wind, no complaint

Where else would I want to be on a pretty day?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

the call of the marsh hen

I had once thought of bringing an alarm clock on sails, but soon found that nature has her own alarm clock.  In the Sounds of North Carolina it is the marsh birds - the herons and egrets, marsh hens and ibises - that start chattering nearly an hour before sunrise.  The noise will wake me, but I will know there is still time to enjoy the warmth of the sleeping bag.  At a certain point, when the cackling and cawing reaches a peak, it is time to get up.  

On the best of days, when air is comfortable, the decks not slickened by a heavy coat of dew and the bugs nowhere to be found, I can have the sleeping gear packed and be sailing off anchor before the sun breaches the horizon.  That is how it was on the 2011 walkabout when I cast off from Maw Point under a reefed main, mizzen and jib, above. 

This evening I downloaded the tides for both Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout Bight for a five day period late September and early October, which include the sunrise/sunset for each day.  I will have roughly twelve hours of daylight during the trip, the sun rising around 7 a.m. and setting at 7 p.m.  That will literally be my day - sailing with the sunrise, slipping into the bivy at sunset.

I've also updated my SPOT messages, adding emails and fine tuning the boat description with information about safety gear and my tow vehicle location.

The weather looks good for a sail this coming Sunday.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013


On the edge of Albermarle Sound, a 1929 boat brought down from Chesapeake Bay - I'm told - and restored.  Very pretty.


Monday, September 2, 2013

food for the mind, body

A box arrived from Campmor with seven freeze dried meals.  I had already purchased seven locally, but there was a limited selection at our outdoor stores.  Ordering from Campmor, a suggestion from sailor, writer and freeze dried chef Webb Chiles, allowed me to find more variety, and at a lower cost even with shipping costs added in.

Most of my dinners will be freeze dried camp meals on this trip.  Energy in the evening is a precious commodity and using these meals from Mountain House, Backpacker's Pantry and AlpineAire Foods will save both time and energy.  Heat two cups of water on the jetboil, pour the water into the aluminum pouch, stir, seal the pound and wait eight to thirteen minutes depending on the meal.  The waiting time will be perfect to pack up the jet boil stove and stow it away.  Eat dinner, wash the spoon and then move on to the next tasks for the evening: setting up the bivy, filling our the day's journal and maybe a little reading (see below).

I do need to reconfigure the cook kit, which will have less gear and less cooking supplies.  The coleman stove with griddle will, sadly, be left behind.  I've had some great meals, including fresh caught speckled trout, striper and blue fish from that griddle.  I will have a frying pan and some oil and spices in the kit.  Should I catch a fish, it could become dinner.


I have ordered the third book that I will be bringing on the trip.  I most likely will read only one book, maybe two, but I like to have a selection on board to suit my mood.  After leaving the dock there will not be very many bookstores along the shores of the NC Sounds, I want to have a good selection along.  Those not read on the trip will be for fall reading on the couch.

I already have Train Whistle Guitar and Goodbye to a River in hand.  The third book, just now ordered, is Totch, A Life in the Everglades.  Here is a review of the book.

A commercial fisherman, marijuana smuggler, and alligator hunter and poacher, Totch is a native son of Florida's southwesternmost coast, the Ten Thousand Islands. His natural-style storytelling enlivens his and his family's history of eking out a living on the edge of the Everglades. These memoirs--which begin with his pioneer grandparents in 1880, proceed to his childhood in the 1920s, and end up in the 1990s--give us a glimpse of a hard life of poverty and pride, honesty and crime. Totch lives by his own rules; he doesn't glorify or excuse his lifestyle but lays it out for us so that we can understand the strength it takes to survive on the edge. Recommended for folklore, ecology, and Florida history collections.

Between a fictional book about coming of age in the South - Train Whistle Guitar - a tribute to a Texas river that was about to be broken up by dams - Goodbye to a River - and a story of the days of old along the Ten Thousand Islands of Florida, Totch, I think I will find something to read.