Friday, January 31, 2014

casting off

I spent time on Navy piers growing up,
now I spend time on Navy piers for work.

It never gets old, and it always brings
back memories which I treasure.

Hugs and kisses, smiles and tears.
Sadness.  Excitement.  It's all there.

Traditions like Cracker Jack uniforms,
proud parents, a young ensign
on her first deployment,
gotta love it.

Writing this just now, thinking about then,
thinking about today, I wonder if this is
why I like casting off myself.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

the voice of experience

He talks of azaleas, camellia bushes, live oaks draped with moss, and camping at night at the shelter dock.  This is the voice of the late great Frank Dye, a remarkable open boat sailor known for sailing a Wayfarer Dinghy from England to both Norway and Iceland.   The Telegraph newspaper's obituary for Dye, who passed away in 2010, described him as a cult figure and I think that is exactly the right term.  

I have read and reread his book "Sailing to the Edge of Fear,"  where he writes about sailing his boat "Wanderer" from Florida to Novia Scotia and the western reaches of the Great Lakes.  Sometimes with his wife Margaret along, mostly single-handed, he sailed without an engine and very little in the way of technology.

His chapters of sailing from Norfolk to the top of Chesapeake Bay were, and will be in the future, source material for planning trips on the Bay.  His discussion of sailing Delaware Bay played an important part in researching the Over the Top 200.  Now I am reading earlier chapters in the book, those where he sails from South Carolina to Beaufort, NC.

Dye talks about about a thick sea mist, no buoys, no sound, no nothing.  A big channel joining a sound from the left, with the ocean invisible on the right, and multiple streams causing cross-currents.    "We have no idea what the tide is doing" he says.

In Charleston the day goes from an afternoon sky to semi-darkness, then black and blacker, and finally "evil purple black" under the threat of a tornado.  Dye was traveling up the mid-Atlantic in spring, the season for tornados.  I hope to make my passage in the fall, and tornados should not be a problem, but of course hurricanes could.  

"The marsh, swamps, and reed beds of Georgia and South Carolina are vast and lonely; the creeks tortuous and tidal with the main channels occasionally marked by beacons, but it's easy to get lost if we don't keep the position up to date on the chart."

I do need to get hold of a chart book and start tracing his trip.  The log mentions Georgetown and Wynah Bay with wind against tide, and the emerald green water of the Waccamaw River.  There are lots of details in the book, details that will make much more sense once I have a chart in front of me.

Work schedule is still up in the air, so I can't do any serious planning right now.  But I do kind of like the "vast and lonely" part.  

If not this year, maybe next.


*Freeze dried meals have been ordered from Campmor and should be here, if they can make it through the snow, as soon as tomorrow.  There will be enough for three weeks of sailing.

*This blog has been under attack by bots.  The "hits" have soared to over a 1,000 a day, but they are from automated bots, which I don't completely understand.  I've read that they cause no harm.  I hope that is true. 

*Still no word on the leaf springs needed for Spartina's trailer.  I will give the shop a call early next week. 



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

waiting on the snow

Bells Island, North Carolina. Ice along the edge of 
the marsh. Cold, grey, wind out of the north.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

bags, batteries and how about a nice day sail?

This morning at Walmart I bought a box of 10 two gallon freezer bags and a box of 25 quart-size bags, my first purchase for this year's cruising.  I glanced at boxes of breakfast bars and fruit cups, those will wait a while.  The two gallon bags are perfect for clothes, charts and trash storage.  The quart size bags hold food, electronics and just about anything else I want to tuck away under the thwarts.  The photograph above is a close-up of the quart bags.  Or maybe it is the light at the end of the tunnel.

I do plan on ordering freeze dried meals from Campmor this weekend, possibly enough for both the spring and fall sails.  And I need to pick up another canister of the Jet Boil fuel, which is sometimes hard to find in my area.

I do need to get another long-billed cap like the one above, which blew off my head into Turnagain Bay on a very windy day.   That hat was from Billy's, the grocery store on Harkers Island.  Snagged it for eight bucks and miss it to this day.  And my foul weather jacket, which is probably four years old now, is showing signs of delaminating.  I might pick up a new one, maybe a better quality one, this spring.

With cameras we are set.  I'm very happy with my Fuji X-20 digital rangefinder.  Is it the perfect camera?  No.  But it works fine for me in most situations.  I do wish it held shadow detail a little better.  I'm told I can improve that by adjusting the HDR setting in the menu, but I have not the time to experiment with that.  Just about all the photographs in the log from the Inner Banks 425 were shot with the Fuji, save for a few on rough or rainy days where I used the Pentax Optio 90W. 

For the waterproof camera I briefly looked at the new waterproof Nikon 1 A1 camera and decided it was both too large and two expensive for my purposes.  And even if I wanted the camera I would wait for a generation or two, preferring to let somebody else road test the camera for me.  My current Pentax Optio 90W works for me.   If I had to replace it I would do so with the newer version of the same camera, the Pentax Optio WG-3.

Why I took a photograph of myself in the bathrooms on the Beaufort waterfront I don't know.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I'm very happy with my GoalZero Nomad 13 solar charger and Sherpa 50 battery pack.  I used the solar panel both while anchored and also while sailing on calm, sunny days, charging the Sherpa 50 while charging camera batteries at the same time.  I kept all my camera batteries fully charged, Sherpa 50 never dropping below 80% capacity.  There is a newer battery pack available, the Sherpa 100, but this seems to have sufficient power for my needs.

The SPOT tracking device, above, left, has worked very well for me.  I know that other people have had issues with them and admit that they are not intuitive to use, but my SPOT has always worked.  Mine is the original model, and before every cruise I need to relearn which buttons to push, push a second time, or hold down for five seconds to switch between "ok" messages and tracking mode.  I have considered looking at the newer models, but see no reason to switch.

Spartina is in great shape with a nice new coat of paint.  Still waiting on the leaf springs for the trailer, hoping they will show up this week.

I suppose I am getting ahead of myself with all the thinking about cruising and gear.  The thought of a nice day sail is enough to make me smile.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

the low country

The Beaufort, NC to Beaufort, SC idea has caught my attention to the point that I'm thinking of adjust ing the spring cruise down from a two week trip to a nine day trip, saving those days for a fall trip down the coast.  The schedule at the office is in flux these days, I won't be able to make a more decision until things settle down a bit.

I have started doing a little research for the trip.  Amazon offers the chart book above for a little over $50.  It appears to have all the charts I would need, but my guess is that it is at that price it is probably not waterproof.  Paper charts are useable, but waterproof charts are a plus on an open boat.  

Amazon also lists a couple of waterway guides, above and below, that offer a lot of detailed information about anchorages, navigation, marinas, etc.  Useful information, but probably designed for bigger boats and a different sort of cruising lifestyle.  

The photograph at the top of this post and the one above are from the low country of South Carolina, stolen from by friend Barry's blog.  In the search box at the top of his site I typed in "Beaufort" and found a little treasure trove of information about the area.  My favorite entry is called Salt Marsh Prairie and talks about the huge expanse of salt marshes along the South Carolina coast.  I'll quote two paragraphs below (if I'm stealing photographs, I might as well steal words too).


Seemingly endless expanses of salt grass stretch from horizon to horizon, dotted with distant hummocks - small islets of pine, live oak and palmetto.  These spartina marshes range all along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Florida, but there are more here than anywhere else - covering 600 square miles in South Carolina along.

You can wind through the creeks for hours at a time here, and never see a single other person.  The marsh is full of life, and its very monotony is beautiful in ways that are almost surreal.  In the summer, armies of fiddler crabs clatter across the mud through the reeds, making a sound like rain.  Oysters, clams and worms snap shut with a squirt, making little fountains as you pass.  Dolphins wander up the creeks in small pods, driving schools of fish up onto the mud, sliding up the banks after them.  Shrimp and blue crabs, catfish, dogfish and sting rays.  Mullet jump sometimes completely over the boat.

-Barry Long


It sounds as if the low country was made for me, or maybe I was made for for the low country.

Barry, who has visited the area years and has family living in the area, has offered guidance and hospitality for the trip.  And my friend Chip, of Charleston, who has sailed his Welsford-designed Pilgrim in the area, has also offered assistance.  Thanks guys, you'll be hearing from me as plans evolve.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

boh-fert to byoofert

The strong north northeast wind that is dropping temperatures about 40 degrees and leaving a layer of snow tonight has got me thinking about a trip I sketched out over the weekend.  Beaufort, NC (pronounced boh-fert) to Beaufort, SC (pronounced byoofert).  

Beaufort, NC, above is the southernmost point I've sailed on Spartina.  The great little down town near Cape Lookout is at mile marker 204 on the ICW.  Heading south from there, Wrightsville Beach is at marker 283, Bald Head Island at 308 and into South Carolina at Little River/Calabash at marker 342.  Myrtle Beach is at 359, Charleston Harbor at 469 and then Beaufort, SC at mile marker 536, leaving 332 miles of icw - marshes and creeks and rivers - between the two Beauforts.

I have never been to the southern Beaufort, but from this photo I found on the internet, it looks to be my kind of town.  And the places in between on the icw - the Crystal Coast, Sunset Beach, Cape Fear, the Georgetown waterfront, Toogoodoo Creek and the Ashpoo River just to name a few - sound like my kind of places.  I wonder where I would see the first alligator sunning on the shore.

A fall trip, catching the predominant winds out of the north and northeast (hopefully not as cold nor as strong as tonight's wind), should make for a downhill run.  November, after hurricane season but before the first frost, would be a comfortable time with average high temperatures in the sixties and average lows in the forties.  Ok, maybe another set of thermals would be a good idea.

And Beaufort, the southern one, has the true friend of a single-handed sailor - an Enterprise rent a car office with one way rentals.  Tow Spartina to Beaufort, NC, sail south for a dozen or so days, tie up, take a one-way rental back to NC to retrieve the jeep and trailer.  Yes, I know, a lot of driving back and forth at the end of the trip.  But Hwy 17, known as The Ocean Highway, is a pretty drive that I have made a few times, with trees draped in Spanish Moss, blues music on the local radio station and barbacued chicken stands on the side of the road.

Vacation schedules are still a little sketchy at the office, we'll have to see how things work out.  For now, on a cold, snowy night, I will settle for just thinking about a sail south next fall.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

winter blues

If I did not have to work and if Spartina's trailer had wheels, I might be out sailing tomorrow.  Warm with a decent breeze out of the south is the forecast.  I would like to be a January sailor, but it won't happen this year.  We are still waiting on the leaf springs for the trailer.  But that is all I'm waiting on.  Give me some time and some weather, and we are ready to go.

There are no fish off the beach this winter.  That may change later this season, but as of now it makes two years in a row where stripers have not made their annual appearance.  Last year 179 teams fished for three days off the Virginia Beach oceanfront in the annual fishing contest, and only one fish was caught.  This year the results were even less.  Yes, zero fish were weighed in.  

For over a decade friends and I had made a mid-winter fishing trip, sometimes successful, sometimes no.  But we always had fun.  Both last year and this year scheduling conflicts got in the way and we did not book a boat.  There were no fish to be caught so we did not miss out on that, but I still do miss the annual gathering with friends.  I suppose we could all get together, grill some steaks and enjoy the evening, but without the anticipation of fishing at dawn it would not be the same.

The schedule calls for football this afternoon, then the super bowl in two weeks.  Hopefully in between the leaf springs will sarrive and be put in place, making Spartina's trailer whole again.  Then a trip to California for a family visit and maybe even some sailing, back home in the middle of the month.  Maybe I will be a February sailor this year.

Nice weather tomorrow, snow flurries forecast for Tuesday.  Winter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

a little light from down under

There was a light rain for this morning's predawn walk, warm with a touch humid air and a south wind carrying up memories of winter on the gulf coast.  By mid-morning it was a steady rain with temperatures dropping.  Cold and dreary all afternoon.  Now clear and cold with a full moon for the evening walk.  

The winter day was brightened when I found these images of a sailing trip on Richard Schmidt's Navigator "Bootstrap."  I found them by way of Arwen's Meanderings, a navigator blog from my friend Steve across the pond in England.  Steve was looking into boom tents and made a reference that led me to these photographs here.  Thank you, Steve.

Richard is in New Zealand.  I do not know anything about the cruise other than it was done a little less than a year ago.  I have mention Richard's boat and cruising before, and at the time he had given me permission to borrow his photographs, which I hope still holds.  Richard is not in any of these photographs, but you can see him here in the photo album from the sail.    

I like the beautiful beaches and clear water, not to mention the well built and well sailed Navigator.  Bootstrap reminds me of David Perillo's Navigator Jaunty, which led me first to John Welsford and then to John's Pathfinder design and Spartina.  David for a long time maintained a website called Open Boat which showed photographs of small open boats from all over the world.  I don't believe the site exists any longer, but I do remember poring over those pages of great photographs and dreaming about sailing a small open boat.

On the way home this evening I dropped by the boat ramp to see what shape it is in.  That's the dock, in bad shape, and the ramp is not any better.  But it is convenient and I have figured out how to use the ramp and dock with fairly consistent success.  I hope to be using the ramp in a matter of weeks.


Monday, January 13, 2014

crossing paths

Paul of Dawn Patrol fame has sent me two GPS tracks of Dawn Patrol's sailing in North Carolina last year.  I have overlaid them with Spartina's track, in white, above, to see how our trips compared.  The red and blue track is from a scouting trip by Paul and Dawn, photo below, in preparation for the 2013 Watertribe North Carolina Challenge.  The yellow track is from Paul and his son Alan sailing Dawn Patrol after the NC Challenge was cancelled due to high winds.

Though we keep in touch by email, I have not seen Paul, Dawn or Alan for a couple of years.  Paul tells me they did get a glimpse of me, or at least of Spartina, last October.  More about that later.

Both of us, in a sense, lost the Alligator River to weather.  For me it was a river hidden in rain and fog, the second day of the fall trip.  From what I could see, I want to go back again and do some more exploring.  

Paul and Dawn, you can tell from their north-bound track, were tacking into the wind, wind at 20 to 25 and gusting.  They clung to the western shore to avoid the three foot swells out on the main part of the river.

The boats took alternate routes heading east to Core Sound.  I sailed outside to Cape Lookout, then through Barden Inlet and up Core Sound.  Paul and Alan, sailing aboard Dawn Patrol after the NCC had been cancelled, threaded the shallows south of Bird Shoal and beneath Harkers Island.  

We headed up Core Sound within a few days of each other, both dealing with the strong north winds that led to the cancellation of the challenge.  We all got our share of tacking in on our way north.

Our closest encounters were in the canals behind Cedar Island.  Paul tells me that they were crossing the bridge over Thorofare Canal on their way to breakfast in Atlantic and saw Spartina's sails - just mizzen and jib up in the strong wind - heading across Thorofare Bay.  It was later that day when I was anchored off Turnagain Bay that Paul txt'd me that the NCC was cancelled, any sailing would have to be done on their own.  They did wait a day before launching and Paul tells me they may have again seen Spartina's sails in the distance crossing the Neuse River.  I did not see them, I was too busy looking at the waves in front of me on my way to Broad Creek

Paul and Dawn, during their spring exploration, enjoyed the hospitality of Big Trout Marina, something that I also did on the fall trip.  Dawn talks about a seafood dinner with beach music playing in the background.  I will always remember enjoying a trout burger after receiving a withering look because of my bare feet.  Big Trout Marina is a great place to visit, run by wonderful folks.  I would mark a waypoint at the mouth of Far Creek if you are sailing or kayaking that area of Pamlico Sound.  

At Long Shoal Point, Spartina and Dawn Patrol each had wind on the nose and a desire to avoid sailing out around the very long Long Shoal.  I was sailing north with strong north wind, cutting inside the shoal through the shallows near a wrecked shrimper.  Paul and Dawn on Dawn Patrol were heading south with south winds, also cutting inside the shoal.  Dawn reports see two shipwrecks.  (It looks like they were much closer or maybe even inside of the shipwreck I saw.)

It is fun to compare these trips, I will spend some more time looking at our tracks.  I had in fact hoped to see Paul, Dawn, Alan and maybe a few other friends from the Watertribe, but the weather put an end to that.  Maybe someday we will cross paths on the water, hopefully close enough to say hello.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

a couple of thoughts on spring

Spring is getting closer and Spartina, save for a couple of leaf springs for the trailer, is ready to go.  I've been thinking about a late May/early June trip on Chesapeake Bay - soft-shell crab season, you know - and I've sketched out a couple of ideas.  Two weeks out on the water sounds appealing right now.  

One idea, above, would be the completion of the Delmarva circumnavigation.  Having two weeks would give me the option of behind anchored at Chincoteague Island - probably in Tom's Cove at the very south end of Assateague Island - waiting for favorable winds to carry us outside on the ocean to Wachapreague and then down the inside passage to the tip of the Eastern Shore.  If winds work out, there might conceivably be time to sail south around Cape Charles and then explore the mid-Bay area for a while.

The other option would be to put in at Onancock and simply sail north to the top of the Bay, heading up on on one side of the Bay and then coming back down on the other side.  I have not spent much time sailing on the western shore, so I need to do some exploring over there.

Maybe I can plan and be ready for both trips, choosing the one most favored by the forecast in the few days before the start of the trip.  It's something to think about.


Monday, January 6, 2014

a "B" cup

It was marks on the races and corrosion on the bearings that told me I had some work to do on Spartina's trailer.  The original bearing protectors - an off brand that came with the trailer - had failed.  The protectors are spring loaded pistons that keep a slight amount of pressure within the hub, which keeps the axle grease in and the water out.  Salt water had gotten into one hub, mixing with the marine grade axle grease and causing corrosion.  About $50 later I came home from the trailer store with new seals, races, bearings and Bearing Buddies, not to mention the rubber cap that goes over the bearing buddy, something known as a Bearing Bra.  Spartina's trailer, it seems from the product code on the package, requires a B cup.

Now I just need the leaf springs, which should be in at the shop in the next couple of weeks.  Once those are in place, I can remount the axle, guide posts and trailer lights.  All should be done by the end of January, and then it is just a matter of waiting on warm weather (which is typically early March).  

Trailer work has been more extensive than I had planned, but after eight years of trailering, eight years of being exposed to salt water weekly from March through November, it was time for something above and beyond the usual maintenance.


I did not realize, until I read Stuart's News From The Loft, that my sails were the first set of sails made at the Dabbler loft last year.  Stuart refers to the past year as the "Year of the Yawls," with a total of three sets of sails for John Welsford Pathfinders, sails for a Herreshoff cat yawl Coquina and sails for some Ian Oughtred yawls.  Stuart made 49 sets of sails during the year, impressive for a one-man loft, and says he has a handful of sails in the making for the new year.  Ordering those sails for Spartina was one of the smartest things I did last year.  Thanks, Stuart, for putting them at the top of your list.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

day twelve - the crossing

Sunrise, an orange ball on the horizon, the silhouette of a crabber working his pots north of Roanoke Island.  Sailing off anchor we follow more crabbers racing their skiffs out and around Caroon Point.  We trace their path, weaving between the stakes of the pound nets in the shallows.  A light breeze behind the tall stand of trees.

Past the point and away from the trees the wind fills in out of the west northwest, making 4.5 knots on the dark-stained water of Albemarle Sound.

I look to the southwest, to where the mouth of the Alligator River is hidden the the dark line of trees on shore. And I think about crossing the sound on my way south, it seemed like a couple of days ago and it seemed like a year ago.  I think about the stilt houses and guy with the guitar, and the rainy, foggy day down Alligator River.  I smile. 

Steady sailing across the sound, a steep chop that has earned a reputation for the body of water.  A ketch passes by south of Spartina, going from east to west, maybe after visiting Manteo and now heading towards the Alligator River and the ICW.  A mega yacht, gleaming white and the size of a small building, comes of the the northeast, crosses Spartina's bow.  Twenty miles across the sound, sails on the horizon to the west and north east, all headed to the Alligator River.  I feel like we are sliding to the east but a check with the gps shows we are on right on track for the wide mouth of the Pasquotank.  Out in deeper water a lone crabber in a deadrise work his pots, the diesel rumbling.  

A cloud seems to hang on the horizon.  Checking the charts, checking with binoculars, I see it is not a cloud, but the huge hangar at the blimp factory on the south side of the Pasquotank River.  The end of the trip is in sight.  Another hot day, but one with a cooling breeze.  I turn on the radio and pick up stations from Norfolk.  

Late morning we sail through fields of crab pot markers, sharing a path with a crabber in a white boat with blue trim.  A crewman reaches out with a hook, snags a line and hauls in a pot, the boat rounds up while the crewman shakes crabs out of the pot and adds fresh bait, then tosses the pot back in the water.  And then on to the next pot.  We stay within a hundred yards of each other for about 30 minutes while they work a string of pots, then a wave goodbye as they head off to another string. 

The wind lightens, then swings to the southwest as we enter the Pasquotank River.  Wing and wing we sail, a Coast Guard helicopter hovering low over the water.  It is hot and sunny, I'm glad for the brief shade of a passing cloud.  The wind falls off and we are under power.  

Mid-afternoon and we receive the gift of a last bit of wind.  The Elizabeth City waterfront in sight, the breeze carries us to Cottage Point and the little dock where Millie is waiting to welcome us back.   A last motor to the ramp, haul out and then breaking down Spartina's rig.  After a quick change to clean clothes, a waterfront dinner with Millie where we sit on the porch over the river and I trace out the trip on my salt-coated chart book.  And then, in darkness, on the road home.