Saturday, March 29, 2014

water's edge

The view this morning at Sandbridge - literally the sand bridge that connects Virginia Beach to North Carolina's Outer Banks - a nice scene but those clouds are signs of our unstable weather this weekend.  It is gusty and raining now, with thunderstorms forecast this afternoon.  Gusts in the twenties and low thirties with rain for the next couple of days.  Sailing will have to wait.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Played hooky today with the SailNauticus crowd, a windy day on the Elizabeth River.  Just their second time out this year, kids remembering sailing skills that they learned last fall.  I was glad for the 900 lb bulb keel on the Harbor 20's, it was a must on a day like today.

Unsettled weather is forecast for the weekend.  Sounds like our triple A opener may be rained out.  And gusty again on Monday.  It's been a long winter.  But it was good to get out for a while this evening.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

caught on the bridge

A lone tug headed up the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River this evening, causing a bridge opening and leaving commuters, including me, caught on the span in a swirling mix of rain and sleet.

Winter still has a hold on us.  Snow falls now inland, snow flurries expected here tonight.

The next few days call for a mixture of clearing and cold, then more rain, maybe clearing Monday.

I may sneak out on the water Thursday evening, work related of course.  But I'm hoping for Monday, when maybe I can sail beneath the bridge....instead of being trapped on top of it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

food, bagged and shelled

There is the Ascent 20 liter dry bag, picked up just the other day at Bass Pro Shops and now packed with a dozen freeze dried meals.  On a cold windy day, getting colder and windier by the minute, what else to do other than think about the spring trip?  The bag seems to be a quality product, with D-rings on two sides and a strap handle on just one side.

The yellow bag will replace the green bag, seen at right as Spartina leaves the Alligator/Pungo River Canal on day three of last fall's trip.  I kept that dry bag bungeed alongside the hull but it kept slipping out from underneath the bungee cords.  With the D-rings on the new bag I believe I will be able to position it more securely. 

I've had some questions about - as Baydog describes them - the crab garni mixed in with the steamed oysters from Wanchese.  Those are oyster crabs, knows as Zaops ostreus to scientists and as a delicacy to the gourmand.  These crabs (I've read it is just the females but don't know that for a fact? live inside the gills of both oysters and clams, using the shell for protection and living on bits of food that are brought in by the shellfish circulating water through its system.

Oyster crabs have a soft shell and can be steamed and eaten with the oysters, adding a little texture and taste.  My experience is that I will find one of two crabs in a dozen shellfish, but lately I've come across a higher percentage in locally bought oysters.  Sharing some Rock Piles with a neighbor the other day, we found crabs in about half of the oysters.  Steamed oysters from O'Neals SeaHarvest in Wanchese, above, came with crabs in nearly every shell, something the owner bragged about when we placed our orders.

Okay, okay, I get it.  A little bit squeamish about the tiny crabs?  Don't take it from me, but at least consider an article in the New York Times headlined "Oyster Crabs-The Epicure's Delight."  Yes, it's an old article - 1913 - but it talks about oyster packing houses collecting the oyster crabs and selling them in jars, either live the day there were collected or blanched and bottled to be served later.  Uncle Chuck, my shellfish guy, says that at one time they could be bought at New York's old Fulton Fish Market at a very dear price.

Speaking of oysters and Baydog, his recipe for oysters and shiitake mushrooms is on tap for dinner tonight.  I wonder if I will find any crabs in the oysters....

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Hardware for Spartina's downhaul arrives yesterday.  The tubular jamb cleat was shipped in an efficient manner - simply put in a small padded envelope and dropped in the mail.  The 5/6" bronze eye-strap, from West Marine, took a more circuitous route. 

Valued at $2.79 plus tax, the virtually unbreakable piece of silicon bronze was packed, heavily padded, in a 6"x6"x6" box.  A computer notification was sent to FedEx, who sent a truck two days later to pick it up in Fort Mill, South Carolina.  Later that night the package arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it stayed until the early morning hours and then left bound for Hagerstown, Maryland (maybe to visit my daughter who lives nearby).  After a brief visit in Hagerstown, the package was sent to Martinsburg, West Virginia, where it stayed for nearly a full day.  At that point somebody took the package and delivered it to.....the US Postal Service, who delivered it to me from there by way of first class mail.  A big box, lots of packing, five states, computer notifications and the post office.....all for free shipping.  Maybe they should have just put the eye-strap in an envelope and dropped it in the mail box in Fort Mill, SC.

You can see the hardware set in place on the foredeck above.  I'll wait until the next sail before I finalize the positions, but I think it will work.

Another sign of the changing seasons arrived on the waterfront yesterday, the Schooner Virginia left the yard and tied up at Town Point Park on the Elizabeth River.  A nice day, and a slow one at the office, I was out for an afternoon walk when I saw the tall masts coming downriver after the 1 p.m. bridge lift.

There is lots of rigging yet to be done.  Freshly varnished topmasts are in place, as is the boom.  Sails need to be bent on, along with countless other jobs.  The crew will be busy this coming week.  

Only day with sailing weather is today, when I have to work.  I'm off tomorrow when the winds will be gusting to 30 and the temperature will be in the 40s.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Our work-related trip to Wanchese turned out, as far as work is concerned, to be a bust.  But that's ok - waiting on the docks of a nice harbor on the first sunny day in a long time can be a pleasant experience.

The sun was glaringly hot, the water calm and almost no wind.  The first day of spring and lots of work was being done on the boats, both commercial and sport fishing.  Two men in a skiff motored up to a fish house and off-loaded ten bags full of wild caught oysters.  A deadrise pulled up to another fish house across the harbor, trailed by a flock of pelicans, to drop off their day's catch. 

Lunch at O'Neal's SeaHarvest was excellent, I had the fried oysters and my traveling partner had steamed.  A dock not too far away would be perfect for Spartina. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Oysters at O'Neals SeaHarvest in Wanchese.



Hints of spring yesterday, then fog and mist in the evening.  The forecast is not the best.  Chanceof snow Sunday, then again later in the week.  

Headed to the Outer Banks today to check out the catch coming in at the sport fishing docks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

something to celebrate in Onancock

Word comes from friend Maria that there was something more to celebrate in Onancock than just St. Patrick's Day.  Above you see Maria and husband John with the finally completed harbor master's office at Onancock Wharf.  

It seems like it has been forever since they tore down the old building.  Early last year on a visit I noticed that construction was underway.  In June, when I again visited Onancock, construction was still underway.  And so it was in July and August and through the fall to the point they had lost much of the boating season.  

But it is finally finished now and perfect timing for the upcoming season.  I don't have the details of the new facility but believe it includes rest rooms/showers and maybe laundry facilities.  

Above you see Maria and John aboard Spartina last June, an evening sail on Onancock Creek down to within sight of Chesapeake Bay and then back to Onancock with the setting sun.  Maria opened a nice bottle of wine to toast new friendships as we came within sight of the wharf.  That night I slept under the stars aboard Spartina rafted up to the Charlotte E. Foster at the dock behind John and Maria's home.

I look forward to getting back there this spring, seeing friends and launching Spartina for a nice sail on the beautiful creek.

Spring, when will you get here?

spot depths recovered, free shipping

After about 45 minutes on the phone with Garmin's support staff, including an "approved" discussion with a Mac software specialist, we have recovered the spot depths for Garmin's Homeport software on my laptop.

The two images above show Tom's Cove at the south end of both Chincoteague and Assateauge Islands.  Should we have north winds in May and I make sail from Chicoteague to Wachapreage Inlet, I would spend the night in Tom's Cove.  I knew it was shallow with sand bars at the entrance.  Having the information, both the visuals from the satellite and the spot depths on gps, will be helpful in planning.

The garmin tech asked why the spot depths disappeared.  I asked why they never showed up in the first place.  Who knows?  In any case the techs were very helpful and easy to deal with, and we got the job done.

The sat image above, and the chart above that, show Wachapreague Inlet, about 24 miles down the barrier islands from Chincoteague and Tom's Cove.  Again the spots depths will be appreciated as I do my planning.


An email from West Marine tells me a bronze eye strap is being shipped to me.  It cost less than $3.00 and comes with free shipping.  The shipping, by FedEx, seems like it would cost more that the hardware itself.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

a film, never-ending work and winter, heat

I came across mention of the film, not yet made, called Chesapeake.  According to their website the film is in development, fundraising and prepping for pre-production (pre-pre-production, if you will). That word "fundraising" makes it sound as if the production is tenuous, but I do hope the film gets made.  News reports say that it should be filmed this year. 

From the video on their website, which is worth watching just for the spectacular views of Chesapeake Bay and Tangier Island, it looks like their are trying to capture a very classic view of the Bay and its lifestyle - Tangier Island, watermen, working on the water.  I haven't been to a theater in years to see a film.  I would be first in line to see Chesapeake. 

Winter has returned with cold, windy days.  Rain is tapping at the window right now.  With no sailing to be had, I've been ordering some gear for Spartina and the spring trip.  Bass Pro Shops is shipping a 20 liter Ascend dry bag to their local store where I will pick it up.  This will replace a 20-some-year-old dry bag that is beyond patching.  I probably will not use the shoulder strap, but I do like the strap and D-ring on the side of the bag.   That should make it easier to fasten in place in Spartina, or give the option to attach something else - water bottle?? - to it.

For Spartina's mainsail downhaul, which Stuart has been telling me I really need (and he is right), I have ordered this right-handed bronze tubular jamb cleat, made by Davey & Company, from Green  I could have gone ways that are a lot cheaper, aluminum jam cleats cost less that ten bucks. I haven't worked out the details yet, but basically a line with run from the gooseneck through a bronze eye-strap and then back to the tubular jamb cleat.  I've convinced myself I need the tubular cleat because it is low profile and and it won't catch the other lines that run to the foredeck.  But really, I just like the way it looks.  

Work has been, well, a lot like work lately.  Very busy with a lot of time on the road and not much free time. The schedule is still up in the air, and may well be for the next several months.  I've given up on the idea of a Beaufort to Beaufort trip this year, I just don't know that I can get away for a couple of weeks or more.  I am locked in for a ten day trip this spring (if spring ever arrives).  You can see the two options for the May trip here.  

Fall will probably be a Pamlico Sound trip, maybe with visits to Ocracoke, Manteo, and Bath along with some of my other favorite places. 

Above a jalapeño peppers, roasted under the gas broiler.  The charred skin peels off easily, leaving the warm rich tasting flesh, which will add the heat to tonight's crawfish étouffée.  On a cold winter's day we need something with a little heat to it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


You can't get away with anything these days.  The image is from Eddie, who is building a Sooty Tern.  His brother, who took the photograph, must have been in one of the tall buildings in downtown Norfolk yesterday.  Thanks, Eddie.

Monday, March 10, 2014


A noticeable frost this morning.  Cold and clear, no wind.  No desire to compete with rush hour traffic, we took out time hooking up the trailer.  Down to the ramp a little after 9:00.  I planned to take my time rigging, checking each detail, each knot, each fitting as I went.  But somehow Spartina was rigged quickly as if the last sail had been last week, not three months ago.

Not even a hint of a breeze as we launched and motored down the eastern branch to the Elizabeth River.  Perfect for the first time out.  Raised the mizzen coming out from under the bridge, main and jib off the Waterside Marina.  And a light breeze filled in.  

A busy river, tugs and barges, a couple of loads of clean sand being hauled to Craford Bay to replace the contaminants cleaned up over the winter.  Downriver I could see a container ship coming into the terminal.  

Then more wind.  Spartina heeled, her freshly painted hull slicing through the calm water.

The mainsheet, now run between a pair of fiddle blocks for 4:1 purchase, worked well, putting less stress on the main boom and also looking nice.  A simple way to put a downhaul on the main was obvious, and I've sent off an email requesting information on a nice brass tube jamb cleat.

With even more wind, we headed back to the ramp under mizzen and jib, the tide carrying us along.

Only one other sailboat on the river, the yawl Precious Times which has been anchored there since last spring.  For the warmer part of the year there was a man living aboard.  I'm not sure he stayed there during our cold and long winter.  I do expect to see him soon, possibly rowing out in his plywood dinghy.

A pleasant day on the river, a first sail of the year that did not feel like the first sail of the year.


In Washington DC over the weekend my youngest daughter pointed out at the National Museum of American History the namesake for the original Spartina's design.  Drawn by Sam Devlin, he called it Nancy's China - the cost of building the boat being about the same as the cost of one setting of china for the Reagan White House.  

Other highlights of the museum:  Dorothy's red shoes, Kermit and Archie Bunker's chair.  It was a nice visit.

under sail


Saturday, March 8, 2014

maybe Monday

Wind is forecast to be a little stronger than I like for Monday, but maybe I'll get out for the first sail of the year.  Temperature and sunshine look just about right to me.

Work has kept me busy for the last couple of days, so I haven't had a chance to catch up on the Everglades Challenge.  Kristen finished in fine form after 5 days, 7 hours, 38 minutes.

Dawn came in at 5 days, 16 hours, 15 minutes.  From the tracks it appears she, along with others, may have sought shelter on a tiny island in Florida Bay as a storm, below, passed over.  Check out Dawn's blog for more details.  I stole the photo, shot by Santiago, from her site - stuck in the mud and apparently enjoying every minute of it.  

Hopefully Kirsten will be updating her blog too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

separated, stepping out of the cocoon

Kristen and Dawn have been separated for a while now, with Kristen taking the beach route south and Dawn going inside through the Wilderness Waterway, which includes a stretch called "nightmare."  Dawn's Spot has been missing in action since last night.  I'm sure that she is much further south and I don't doubt that the two, and their fellow kayakers, will reunite in Flamingo.  Kristen looks to be a few hundred yards from Flamingo now. 


Spartina is not the only boat to recently step out of the winter cocoon.  The Schooner Virginia slipped off the huge tent that has covered the deck for the past few months.  Winter maintenance is done, 12 coats of varnish on the deckhouse, masts and spars.  She was on her way to a dry dock at Lyon Marine this afternoon for painting and a Coast Guard inspection.  Captain Moseley tells me that she will be fully rigged and tied up downtown in just a couple of weeks.  I can't wait to sail near that sleek black hull.  

The schooner will be more of a local boat this year, spending six months out of her eight month sailing season on Chesapeake Bay.  She'll be in Norfolk and Portsmouth of course, but also Cape Charles, Deltaville, Alexandria and a few other places where I might be able to catch up with her.