Wednesday, July 29, 2015

a brief circumnavigation

Up before dawn, on the highway crossing the Elizabeth, James and York Rivers, countless creeks in between, farm fields, barns and churches, then the road bends left and the trees open up to a 1930s swing bridge across glassy Milford Haven.  Gwynn's Island comes earlier than expected.  Annie is tied to the small dock at the ramp, Barry is still on the road coming down from the mountains, Curt is nowhere to be seen.

Forty minutes later we are all aboard and a much too loud horn lets the entire island know we are coming through the bridge.  Around the point and into Hills Bay we raise Annie's sails, loose footed main and mizzen and jib.  A hesitant wind and we go nowhere fast.  On a peaceful cool summer Sunday morning no one complains.

Curt decides we should be moving and cranks up the outboard, heads for Jackson Creek and the Deltaville Maritime Museum.  We snake through narrow, winding passage up the creek to find the restored buy boat F.D. Crockett tied to the pier. 

And John England, the man behind the restoration of the Crockett, is heading off in a skiff but says he'll be back soon.  

And so we take a stroll around the museum grounds, familiar to Curt and Barry but all new to me.  Coming back down to the waterfront we find John aboard the Crockett and have a nice visit in the shade of the awning.

We wind our way back down the creek and head for Chesapeake Bay, the wind freshening as we go.  Barry and I take turns at the tiller, maybe I take more than my share of time but it's fun and interesting to sail a new boat.  The loose footed rig has a different feel and the sails are set with more "belly" than I am used to.  I keep wanting to reach up and pull the clew of the main aft, but we are making good speed out away from Gwynn's Island and Curt says the sails are set just right.  He should know after the many miles he has sailed in Florida, on the Sounds of North Carolina and on Chesapeake Bay.

Easy sailing, my favorite kind.  And we talk of boats and friends, trips we have made.  Our sailing lives have all intertwined in one way or another.  I first met Curt, he on his Annie and myself on Spartina, a few years ago on Swan Creek off of Pamlico Sound.  Baryy and I met at St. Michaels as we talked to our mutual friend Kevin.  Barry and Curt met somewhere on Tangier Sound on one of Kevin's spring floats.  Small boats, small world.  Curt talks about his maritime art and an upcoming show.  Barry, who seems to do it all - from design, photography, writing and video editing - tells us about the spring float on Tangier Sound.  We all have stories of moments we have enjoyed, and of other moments when we learned things the hard way.  It's all good out on the water.

We tack in towards the shallows of Gwynn's Island, then back out, working south along the eastern shore of the island.  Off long narrow Sandy Point Barry and Curt look at the charts and gps, trying to find the Hole in the Wall, the shoal-lined narrow southern entrance back into Milford Haven, dolphins keeping us company along the way.

Curt stands up at the main mast, looking for the markers he says but I think he enjoys the view and the wind in his face.  We spot the channel and zig-zag up the winding path, clearing the shoals with the wind on our stern.  Peaceful sailing back up Milford Haven and I mention I wish I had brought some oysters and crackers.  Curt directs me to a stowage area down below where I find chips and a tin of anchovies, Curt apologizing that they are not the anchovies wrapped around capers that I carry aboard Spartina.  The anchovies, salty and with a tangy bite, go down just fine with the cold cans of beer Curt pulls from a cooler.    

Back at the dock and I feel like I have left the world behind for much more than a day.  Sailing new water on the beautiful drascombe Annie with a couple of friends.  Thanks Curt and Barry, it was a treat.  My first sailing on the western shore of the Bay, it won't be my last.


Unknown said...

this had to happen. three great men and lives, so similar and yet dissimilar, and three great artistic blogs. Thank you all for all your posting.

S R Wood said...

Lovely and inspirational. Thank you, Steve.

Bill said...

Jeez, I wish I had known you were going to be in that neighborhood - that's where I do most of my (limited) sailing. You were within a mile or two of my boat in its slip on Queen's Creek.

That whole area offers some extremely beautiful sailing. Some of my favorite stretches of sailing have been coming into the Piankatank and into Hills Bay at the end of the day.

I would love to live on Gwynn's Island.

Glad you finally made it out there to take a look around - and I hope you'll be coming back before too long!