Thursday, April 30, 2015

south then north then south/the ocean always wins

Down in Nags Head for the first time in nearly a year. Can't believe it has been so long since I've been to the Outer Banks.  I'll head north to St. Michaels tomorrow, then back south Monday to hook up Spartina's trailer and drive to Hobucken, NC for the spring sail.  I'm glad I chose Pamlico Sound for the sail,  I've been away too long. 

The reason for the visit to Nags Head is to see six south Nags Head homes, claimed by the ocean, being dismantled.  A 2009 storm severely damaged the homes and they have been in legal limbo since.  Condemned for years, the legal fight has been resolved and what was a stretch of homes will now be sand and ocean.  Years of watching hurricanes and nor'easters down here has shown me that the ocean will always, always win.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

the itinerary

First, north on Chesapeake Bay,
then south to the sounds of North Carolina

Cambridge, to check out a ramp and a nearby marina, 
maybe lunch at Snapper's 

St. Michaels, to meet my daughter and enjoy the 
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, maybe have
a beer with Kristen

Charm City, for an O's game,
but only after dinner at Bertha's Mussels 

Hobucken, NC, to see Shawn and put Spartina
in at Pate Boatyard

Ocracoke  (hoping for a southwest breeze)

Pamlico Sound


and Jones Bay, plus a few other coves and creeks

Not a bad way to spend a few days off.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

the workout

Cool and brisk, it was an unusual northwest wind blowing down the Pasquotank River yesterday.  The forecast was for 12-14 mph winds with gusts to 18 or 19.  A decent breeze, something I had not yet had this year.  

For fun I mounted the GoPro beneath Spartina's bow sprit to get a view I had never seen before.  I love the look of the Navy star with her seven coats of varnish glowing in the morning light?

With the spring sail a little more than a week away I brought along the SPOT just to make sure I remembered how to use it.  I've got the first generation device, one know for not being intuitive.  But after a couple of minutes sitting dockside I remembered that holding down the "ok" button for five seconds tells the SPOT to beginning tracking.  I'll publish the track URL this coming week in case anyone wants to follow along.

That 12-14 mph forecast with gusts below 20 came up short I found as we sailed down the river past Brickhouse Point.  Full sail, single reefed, double reefed and then just mizzen and jib as the wind barreled down the river, the gps showing Spartina make five knots or better under each combination of sail.  (Home later in the evening I checked the wind records to see that it was 18-19 mph wind with gusts into the mid-20s.)  An excellent workout for me, my hip and my reefing skills, one that I was glad to have with the cruise coming up.  Getting a smooth main when double reefed always take a little bit of extra effort for me, but it really makes a difference.       

Elizabeth City is proving to be a very friendly town.  Back at the ramp Jim, who built a Navigator, dropped by to talk.  Then I drove to see my friend Millie and along the way met up with Claughton and his son-in-law Scooter, who I sailed alongside a couple of weeks ago (you'll see his Lightning at the bottom of this post).  

Getting on the road late afternoon I looked out over the river and the wind had dropped, the chop was gone.  It would have made for a great evening sail, but it was time to head home.  I'll have plenty of evening sails coming up in a week or so.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

these days

These days I walk along a river I miss.  The shipyards hum, ferries sound their horns and tugs rumble down current.  Cormorants, egrets and river otters keep company as I walk at an easy pace along the concrete edge of the water.  Some mornings it is chilly, other mornings warm and humid enough to make me think of summer.  Snowbirds, the boats from down south, trickle through.  A few tie up at the marina, others anchor out in Craford Bay.  Gazing across the river I remember sailing through the moored fleet each morning at the start of a day's sail.  I miss doing that.

My Elizabeth River ramps are closed.  The favorite one, tucked behind left center field at the ballpark, appears to be closed permanently.  The other, a mile or so down the southern branch past the shipyards and armed security boats, is at a waterfront park that is being rebuilt.  Those ramps should open late May.

I am surprised at how much I miss the river, but I am also surprised at how much I enjoy sailing out of Elizabeth City on the Pasquotank.  Once the ramps on the southern branch reopens I will divide my sailing time between the two Elizabeths, the river and the city.  A bustling industrial river in Norfolk and a peaceful tree-lined river on the other side of the state line, a pleasant pleasant choice to make.

As for tomorrow, which has a fine forecast for sun and breeze, it will be Elizabeth City.

Monday, April 20, 2015

from Barry, updated with video

Here are some wonderful photographs by Barry from our sail this past weekend.  Visit his site to see more images and to read his description of the day. 

I tend to see the obvious, and find myself content with that.  Barry always looks beyond, and finds much more.  Great photographs, Barry.  And thanks for coming along.  

(Updated with Barry's video, below)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

the conversation

Barry was have none of it.  I had suggested the evening before the sail that he look at the Elizabeth City forecast, with decreasing wind and increasing cloud cover, and decide if it was worth the four hour drive from his home in the mountains for a sail.  His replay email began "Nope."  He was coming anyway, and I'm glad he did.

I had planned on sailing regardless of weather, wanting to get some more time on the water with the spring sail just a couple of weeks away.  Sails up before 9 a.m., I came back into the dock on the Pasquotank River an hour later just as Barry arrived.  Soon we cast off.

Barry is among that group of friends that I have met through boats and this blog that I typically get to see just once or twice a year.  We've got a lot of shared interests and during those once or twice a year meetings it is difficult to finish any one conversation before starting the next.  

The wind did cooperate for a nice discussion, a light breeze which made for easy sailing (much different from our sail in late 2013 on a day so gusty there was little time to talk).  We had plenty of time to visit about..... boats - my Pathfinder and his two beautiful melon seeds, and those belonging to friends; cruises - he has a Tangier Sound sail coming up with on the Chesapeake Float and I've got the Pamlico Sound trip; family - he has two daughters finding their place in the world, just as I do; books; digital publishing - we've both been involved in the publishing industry for years; friends we have in common scattered over the Mid-Atlantic; places - St. Michaels, Tangier and Smith Islands, Chestertown, Ocracoke, Swan Creek, Belhaven, Cambridge and Deal Island just to name a few; food - I had snagged Barry some scallops and oysters from Uncle Chuck, he brought down a bottle craft cider made from Blue Ridge grown apples and a can of his favorite cajun spice; sails - Stuart of Dabbler Sails is the sailmaker of choice for both of us; and, uh, well, the list goes on...and on.

Mid-afternoon the weather became a point of discussion as thunder rumbled and dark clouds with rain showers moved in over Elizabeth City.  We tied up for briefly at the old Elizabeth City Shipyard, now in a sad state of decay, to look at the boats - some battered by storms and others covered by barnacles, and to get off the water as the storm moved through.

Back out on the river with clearing skies Barry took the tiller for a few runs up and down the Pasquotank.  It turned out to be a great day and a nice chance to talk with a long distance friend.  Thanks for making the drive, Barry.  I'll look forward to seeing you again.  Maybe St. Michaels at the small craft festival??

Friday, April 17, 2015

sand, varnish, repeat

Part of the daily routine is sanding and varnishing the new Navy star on Spartina's bow.  I enjoy doing the brightwork on Spartina, but with 15 small surface on the star this verges on the tedious side.  But that's fine.  The between coats sanding began with 120 grit paper, then 220 and now the very fine 400 grit paper.  I think I have five coats of varnish on now and will have at least seven by the time I am done.  The fact that I think I have five coats on there should tell you that the work is being done to my usual not-very-precise workboat finish standards.  The star will look very nice when done. 


Her name is Cathy.  It is only now, seven months after a brief meeting, that I know her name.  She had stopped to look at Spartina when we were tied up in Cambridge on a cruise last fall.  I asked her where I could buy some bottled water and she instead she gave two bottles of sparkling water from her own supply.  A gift from one sailor to another.  It was very kind of her.  The sparkling water was very refreshing and I drank it with my dinners for the rest of the trip.  

I mentioned gift in the Chesapeake Bay Magazine article, which has gone out in the mail to subscribers and should be on the shelves at bookstores soon.  Cathy, apparently a subscriber, read the story and recognized herself.  She took the time to track me down by email to say thanks for mentioning my appreciation of the water.  I am glad to know her name, and glad to have the chance to thank her once again.  Thank you, Cathy, for the kindness.  It's those little moments on sailing trips that make the journey so special.

Monday, April 13, 2015

boundaries, a speech

Glancing at the calendar I was surprised to see the spring trip is exactly three weeks away.  Preparations are complicated by the fact that I will be on an Eastern Shore/Baltimore/Bertha's Mussels/O's game road trip with my oldest daughter during the three days preceding the trip.  This means I will need to have Spartina packed and all the other gear stacked and ready to go about four days prior to setting sail.  I'll begin sorting gear and clothes later this week, pack the following week and organize the food in the days before heading to the St. Michels and Charm City.

For the Pamlico Sound sail I'll put in at Shawn's place in Hobucken and then head whichever way the wind will carry me, the unshaded area above being my sailing grounds.  I would like to make it to Ocracoke, if possible, but I would also be very happy visiting Wyesocking Bay, the Pungo River, Belhaven (lunch or dinner at Fish Hooks Cafe??), Mouse Harbor and the Bay River.  I've got plenty of open water, a good book and about six or seven days, I don't think I can go too far wrong.


Below you will find a speech by Webb Chiles, read for him at a meeting of the Ocean Cruising Club in England and read by him at a luncheon in Whangarei where he was awarded the organization's Jester Medal.  Congratulations to both Webb and the fine boat GANNETT.

       GANNET and I thank the Ocean Cruising Club for awarding us the Jester Medal for 2014.  That this is in a way from one small boat to another is especially pleasing.  
        I have never owned a boat larger than 37’, nor one costing more than a mid-priced car.  Yet I have owned three great boats, and two of them were small.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, a Drascombe Lugger, an undecked 18’ yawl built in Devon; and GANNET, a 24’ ultralight Moore 24 sloop from California.
        I have great affection for small boats which are capable of far more than many expect, with an immediate and intimate experience of the sea—sometimes too intimate.  And as I learned while sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, once you arrive in port, the view is the same from an 18’ boat as one many times that size, and the mooring charges less.
        GANNET has only two feet of freeboard.  What I like to call her Great Cabin has little more than three free of headroom and a maximum beam of 7’2”.  I am a relatively tall man and can sit upright only on the cabin sole.
        Solving how to live in that space has been an interesting and satisfying exercise.  Thanks in part to technology—I carry more than three hundred books and six hundred albums of music in my iPhone and iPad mini, which are also my chart plotters, I can live indefinitely on GANNET and, by my standards, live well.  I can sail, write, read, listen to music, take photographs.  I can fit every important part of my life aboard, except Carol, my wife, who doesn’t want to fit aboard anyway.
        Once I likened CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE to a small, brave dog:  the terrier, if not the terror of the seas.  GANNET is perhaps most like her namesake birds who I enjoyed watching hunt in late afternoons from the mooring on which I kept my previous boat in The Bay of Islands:  beautiful and, as any who has seen them dive knows, capable of stunning acceleration.
        A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.  I wish all of you the joy of creating your own masterpieces.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

coming to your newsstand soon

I'm very happy to see that Chesapeake Bay Magazine will be publishing an article I wrote in their May 2015 issue.  It's not so much an article, but really notes from last fall's cruise from Crisfield to St. Michaels and back.  Much of it is based on the log published on this site starting here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

a star is born

Two years ago my neighbor, a fine woodworker, told me he wanted to make something for Spartina.  We bounced ideas off each other for a couple of months, finally settling on a navy star, one that would remind me of my Dad, a naval aviator, and my Mom, a navy wife.  Over a year ago I gave him a left over piece of quarter sawn douglas fir to match the end boards.  And, finally, last week, he made the star.

I don't know what took him so long.  Oh sure, he's got his own career in the navy, plus two beautiful children to which he added a third early this year, and the two overseas deployments.  And then there's the chickens he raises in the backyard along with the stacks of bee hives.  And the boat he takes his kids fishing on, and the old truck he's fixing up.  He apologized for taking so long.  There was no need to apologize.  It is a gift I will treasure.

Few will see it tucked up under Spartina's bow sprit, which I had told him before he did the work.  I know it is there and I know what it means, both in family and friendship.  For me, that is enough.

There is just a layer of epoxy on there now, which needs to be sanded smooth.  Then the seven layers of sanded varnish should give it a fine glow.


I had a nice sail this past Monday in Elizabeth City.  A relaxed morning on the water with a friend who was visiting here family down there, then solo sailing in the afternoon with a building breeze.  We shared tacks with a Lighting class racer, catching afternoon gusts kicking in from the south.  At the ramp my sunburned skin reminded me I need to buy a new bottle of sunblock.  

High winds and a chance of thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow, my only day off this week.  No sailing, but I should be able to get a start on sanding and varnishing the star. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

a postcard from Belhaven

from Mike Wick....

 It was late March, but it had been a long winter, and the boats seemed to call to us. The weather in the Outer Banks appeared to be warmer, and in spite of the distance, a little over 500 miles, Pamlico Sound would be a fine venue.  We were five sailors in three boats. At first  Curt was supposed to ride with me on JACKAROO, but he decided to commission ANNIE, and then my trailer needed maintenance, so he invited me to ride with him with the extra incentive that we could do some sketching on the side each day. Curt is an accomplished Maritime artist, and I am a stark neophyte. My accomplishments were modest, my enthusiasm was quite recent, but  I made a start under his tutelage. The Caledonian twins, Peter Gottlund and John Shinaberger, who had left his sistership, DELIGHT at home, to ride on Peter’s Caledonian Yawl, NIP, and Eddie Breeden sailed his Sooty Tern, UNA.

 Sunday noon, we met in Belhaven, the only large town for miles around. The wind was brisk from the North, and we were cautious about the cold water, 50 degrees,  but we were in protected waters in the Pungo River, off Pamlico River, so we launched and set sail, out of Belhaven Harbor and west into Pungo Creek, really just  a few miles, but there we found a lovely beach right at the entrance of the creek. We nosed up on the beach and broke out our various rations to share for a late lunch. This is a favorite tactic of small boat sailors. After a long drive South , we were ready to stand down  and snooze in the warm sun. Later, we sensed that it would be cold, so we headed off the beach, anchored,  and broke out various boom tents for the night. Boom tents are a small but creative industry, all amateur and all different. When boats are small, a full cabin can be an impediment, and a watertight tent is more handy if less airtight.  That night  I started with a fleece blanket inside my sleeping bag, but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t get warm enough to sleep.  Both Curt and I got up and made coffee in my Jetboil for a short break and I got out and put on my raingear. That did the trick. Raincoat inside sleeping bag was just warm enough. Maybe it’s a little crowded .  but uncomfortable and warm is better that shaking from cold. (Eddie has a picture of our fleet anchored and under boom tents.)

 Monday was windy from the Southwest with reports of steady rain. We considered heading out to Pamlico, but Pungo Creek was so cozy. We sailed up the creek and found the Cee Bee Marina, a little down home,  but it had a remada type recshed that would keep us out of the rain. There were showers and toilets, and they were reluctant to take any money from such small boats  who were visiting so early in the season. We had found our spot.  Peter had brought  along a Pennsylvania delicacy, Bag Balogna; not the horse _________ of my Navy days, but more a rich  salami that he sliced with a sheath knife. It went down  well as we watched the rain .  There was  wine and beer and Cornish Pasties enough for all as we sat under cover and remembered past trips and planned future passages.  We groaned about the long winter and the cold   that had kept us from the pleasant winter tasks of sailors. We had had a  hectic week getting boats ready for this trip, but we were glad we had made the effort. All were graduates of either the MASCF regatta in Saint Michaels or the Small Reach Regatta in various parts of Maine. The boats were a little crowded for sleeping, so John and Eddie set up their tents on shore for the night. We were all glad that the weather was a little warmer, and as usually happens we slept soundly on the second night of the trip. First night of camping  takes some adjustment, but you make up for it the second night. I am always surprised that I can go to sleep at dusk and sleep the clock around when I am small boat camping. I bring along an old paperback and a headlamp, just in case, but it almost always stays in the bottom of my drybag.

 Tuesday was gorgeous. After changing crews around: I rode with Peter while John sailed with Curt. We made a leisurely start  in a brisk Southerly and beat down the river toward the Pamlico, but there was enough swell and spray to make us reluctant to face  a long haul to either Bath or Rose Bay. We dhose  to turn downwind and  go up the head of the  Pungo, above where the Intracoastal splits off to the Aligator-Pungo Canal, South of Leechville. A couple of bends in the river  would offer protection from the steadily building southerly.

 In flotilla sailing we tend to stay close together, and that turned out to be fortunate.  Peter and I had a reef tucked in but still were a little anxious about jibing as we went upriver. Going downwind it is easy to overlook a steadily building wind. The first jibe went smoothly, but NIP  quickly tripped on the second jibe and swamped in a moment. She was on her side, and we were swimming. Peter immediately loosed the halyard and brought the main down, and I swam around to get the centerboard. I worried that it might slip back in the trunk, but there was enough board down so  I could grab the edge and extend it. Peter climbed up first then we both stood on the board, and she slowly righted. 

Curt had dropped sail and powered alongside so the two boats were parallel. He and John then helped us aboard ANNIE, anxious it might be hard to get us up, but Curt said I wiggled up just like a Salamander. There was an incentive program operating, and I was glad to be out of the water.  We got a bow line on NIP and put the bailing bucket in action. The boat was full of water and we were anxious that she might fill again through the centerboard trunk, faster than we could bail, but that was not the case.  Peter dug into the bow and found the second bucket (secured by its lanyard). Curt steered, while the rest of us held NIP upright and bow up, and bailed as fast as we could. It was fast enough; we didn’t have to lift the water much and soon had the trunk above water.  Peter led the action. He carefully climbed aboard NIP and struck the mast which we brought aboard ANNIE. Meanwhile, Eddie, now reefed, was going  around recovering the loose gear that had drifted away. A fisherman friend, John Jenkins, a new friend but a good one,  had the courtesy to stand by and watch us recover, then he offered to lead us to a nearby launch ramp.

Peter was shaking, still in his wet clothes, so we brought him aboard ANNIE, stripped him down, put him in a sleeping bag and fed him hot tea. His work was done, he’d recovered NIP. Our capsize drill was over, nothing broken, nothing lost. He seemed to like the idea of a launch ramp.

John Jenkins offered to drive us to Belhaven to get our trailers. We drove back two trucks with trailers. There was a kind of feeling that our trip was over, so NIP and UNA were strapped to their trailers and headed toward home. Curt and I decided that jthere was still food and a heel of Schnaps in a bottle, so we headed out and anchored for the night. Next day, Belhaven.

We have learned new lessons from our capsize drill, and they will stand us well in future events.

Thanks, Mike.  More about the sail can be found Eddie's blog and at Curt's page.