Monday, August 31, 2015

a brief and tragic history

The cruise bookshelf is complete with the arrival of "A KINGDOM STRANGE, The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke" by James Horn.  

The story of the 118 men, women and children who tried to establish England's first colony in North America has always fascinated me, and that fascination has grown since since I've spent quiet evenings walking the grounds of the colony on Roanoke Island.  I've read a handful of books about the disappearance, with many speculating that at least some of the colonists went south to Hatteras Island and assimilated into the Native American tribes there.  One book suggested that a few members of the colony were sold into slavery and used to work mines in copper mines in the mountains.  And yet another reported that the colony headed north and built a village just a few miles from where I am sitting in my home north of the Virginia/North Carolina line.

Like many good mysteries, the disappearance of the colony might be solved with a clue that was hidden in plain sight.  John White, the artist, ethnographer and governor of the colony on Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks, had drawn a map known as La Virginea Pars.  The 1585 map, which shows the area from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay south to Cape Lookout, had two paper "patches" covering small portions of the chart.  Thought to be put in place to make corrections to the map, recent studies show that one patch covered up the symbol for fort or colony site at Salmon Creek, just across Albemarle Sound from present day Endenton.  The distance from Roanoke Island to Salmon Creek is about 50 miles.  John White, after the disappearance of the colony, gave testimony about a possible colony site 50 miles inland.  Now labelled Site X, archeological digging has found evidence that members of the colony may well have been there.    

The New York times recently published a story about the dig near Salmon Creek, which you can read here, though I will take exception to the author's description of "two cypress swamps teeming with venomous snakes."  I've been in a lot of cypress swamps.  Yes there are snakes there and yes some are venomous.  But "teeming" sounds a little excessive.

A KINGDOM STRANGE was written two years before the discovery of the hidden fort symbol, but the author, Mr. Horn, has been involved in the current research and it will be interesting to see how he wrote about the colony prior to learning of the Salmon Creek site.  

The other book on Spartina's shelf, or rather in a plastic tub, will be T. C. Boyle's SAN MIGUEL.  One book about Roanoke Island, the other about one of California's Channel Islands, I must like islands.


I bought a dozen mini-cheese rounds, about one ounce each and wrapped in wax.  They store very well without refrigeration and make excellent afternoon snacks when sliced and put on crackers.  And I bought a half dozen one ounce packets of peanut butter and honey, which should also go well with crackers.  

A pack of 20 lithium batteries will be arriving this evening from Amazon.

I've drained and recharged the GOAL ZERO power pack two times to keep it fresh.

The Honda 2.3 hp outboard has new oil and spark plug.

All the gear is migrating to my youngest daughter's old room, where it will stay until I do a final packing in about two weeks.

I have my two Luminaid lights near the window to charge, but suspect they were still fully charged from the spring cruise.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

test sailing the new camera

Trying out the new camera on a beautiful August day with unseasonable dry, cool air and an east wind (I'm thanking El Nino for that).  As of Thursday evening the forecast was for clouding with five mph of wind here or seven mph wind in Elizabeth City and I was going to make the drive just for the two extra mph of wind.  By  Friday evening the forecast had picked up to 10 to 12 mph with clear skies, so I sailed on the Elizabeth River.

My friend Ryan's Hans Christian "Mistral" was anchored out in Craford Bay, as it has been all week.  That was Ryan and his wife rowing in from their anchorage in an earlier post this week. 

Just a wonderfully pleasant day with steady breezes and the occasional strong puff.

Very happy with the camera at this point, though I do see why some reviews mention the camera does not have a good "grip."  I can work with it, just takes a little getting used to.

The waterfront shot with the easy panorama setting, and it really was easy.

My friends on the American Rover were photographing me as I photographed them, we'll have to swap images sometime.  I like the shadow detail with the camera, plus the color balance.

The lanyard worked out well, sometimes hooked to a bungee and sometimes to the eye bolt that hold the boomkin in place.  If this one goes overboard it will take some work and I'll deserve all the blame.

And there is Ryan's Hans Christian sailing off anchor and headed to the marina on Little Creek.  What a nice day on the water.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Swash Bay

"I don't understand" said the voice over the scratchy connection with Chincoteague Island.  "You say you've got a small boat, and you say your going off for a week or two?"  

All I wanted to know was if I could leave my jeep and trailer parked at the harbor after I launch for the fall cruise, but "small boat" and "a week or two" did not jibe for the gentleman at the other end of the line.  After explaining that I've done this sort of thing before, I know what I'm doing, the resigned voice said I could leave my trailer there if I had the ramp permit and if the trailer was hooked to the jeep.  Might want to leave a phone number at the office too.

I've been looking over the charts at Swash Bay, the marshy area south of Wachapreague Inlet and behind Parramore Island on the seaside of the Eastern Shore.  If the wind is out of the northern quadrant I will sail out of Chincoteague Inlet and come into Wachapreague Inlet, then sail south through the shallow winding channels.  There are two passages, the marked channel, in red, and what seems to be an unmarked but deeper channel to the east, in purple.  The unmarked channel is more direct, and with a north wind it would be a nice sail.  

From past experience sailing inside the barrier islands I know that the channels, shallow and with running tides, don't always match the charts.  It can be interesting when trying to decide to go through this opening in the marsh, or that one, or maybe there is another farther beyond.  Miss a channel entrance and there not much room to come about and head back.  The more waypoints the better.  

Here is the satellite image of the Swash Bay.  Looks like open water.... I wish.  There is most likely a channel through there, or at least there was when the chart was made years ago, and with a high tide it might be a good passage.  But at low tide, it might be a sand flat, or worse, a mud flat.  We will see.

So Chincoteague is good for launching and leaving my jeep and trailer.  A call to the harbor at Cape Charles, the alternate launching point, told me the same for their ramp.  Just please leave a phone number at the office.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015


A couple of very nice sailing photographs.  The recently launched three log canoe Bufflehead from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, above center, sailing with some of the larger log canoes.  Aren't those sails beautiful.  And below, from Rik, his Pathfinder Vanessa sailing with what looks like a reef or two tucked in the main.  

No sailing for me this weekend, I'm headed to Charm City for some seafood and an O's game.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

orange is the new black

Maybe it is just an orange silicon skin on a black camera.  Or maybe it's me trying to relive my youth.  I don't know.

My new Nikon 1 AW1 with the orange silicon skin arrived on the front porch yesterday.  Waterproof, shock proof and with a full range of digital features (save for built in wifi), it should be an excellent camera for cruising.   

I love my GoPro with its ability to be controlled remotely by an iPhone, the interval shooting feature, simple waterproof housing and crisp clear images.  But it only shoots very wide angle images.

I love the Fuji X-20, below, with the Leica looks, optical viewfinder and wide-to-short telephoto zoom lens.  But it is not waterproof.  (And some of my favorite photographs are taken when things get pretty wet.  See "stormy" for some examples.)

The Nikon 1 AW1, being waterproof and with a 11-27.5 zoom lens, should be perfect for when things get interesting on Spartina.  

Just as the Fuji reminded me of my old Leica M3, the Nikon AW1 recalls the Nikonos cameras that I used from the teenage years through my early 20s. (ok, definitely reliving my younger years.)  I owned a few of them, including this old no-longer-working Mk ll that I found tucked away in an old camera bag in the closet (the rest sold on ebay in the early 90s).  They were great, simple, sturdy waterproof cameras.  I had a lot of fun with those cameras while diving in the kelp beds off San Diego, the Florida Keys, offshore of the Philippines and in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest.  Might have even taken a good photograph or two, but that might just be my memory playing tricks on me. 

The AW1 comes in three colors: black, white and silver.  And there are three different colors of silicon skins: orange, black and khaki.  I chose the black body with orange skin in honor of the last Nikonos I used, an orange and black Nikonos Mk V.

The orange lanyard in the top photograph is of my own making.  My last waterproof camera, a nice Pentax Optio something-something (can't remember the numbers that went with it), now lies at the bottom of the Pasquotank River with some excellent photographs from crossing Pamlico Sound during small craft warnings.  Hopefully this lanyard and bronze clip with save the AW1 from a similar fate.

I can justify the new camera, it wasn't that expensive.  But if this trend of trying to relive my 20's continues, I may find myself in the market for a 1964 VW camper bus.  That might be a tough sell at the kitchen table.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

barely a breath

The forecast for little or no wind was accurate.  My forecast of relaxing under the shade tent, reading the NY Times, enjoying lunch and then a peaceful nap was equally accurate.


a "to do" list:

check dates on flares
check date on fire extinguisher
call the Cape Charles marina
shorten downhaul for the main (??)
fishing license

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Uncle Chuck and the seafood girls, wind, strawberries, an opening

For years I have bought crab meat at the chain grocery store a little down the highway.  Why not?  It was fresh, local and sold at a cheaper price than the crab meat at seafood shops.  Now it turns out that the crab meat may not have been from our local blue crabs after all, something that should be an affront to any seafood lover.  More importantly for that crab house, which will go unnamed, it gets the attention of both NOAA and the FBI.  And just like that, fresh not-so-local crab meat has disappeared from the grocery stores. 

Uncle Chuck, who has connections all over the bay, comes to the rescue with eastern shore crab meat from Nandua Seafood, one of the very few crab houses remaining in business on the shore.  Yes, pricier that the faux crab meat, but well worth it.  Sampled a bit as I was just now making crab cakes to cook up the evening.  Excellent texture and taste.  Can't wait.  


Forecast for tomorrow is for beautiful blue skies, and not much wind.  I will hope that the breeze surprises, as it sometimes does.  And if not, I'll put up the shade tent and take a nap out on the river.


I picked up two packets of dried strawberries, a favorite treat while cruising.  Sorted through the freeze dried meals again.  This afternoon I'll start packing some clothes and maybe sort through the hypothermia kit.  A little over a month to go.


My friend Curt, who told me a few years ago that he wanted to experiment with maritime art, seems to be doing very well.  Just received notice that he has a one-person show at the Urbanna Harbor Gallery.  We look forward to enjoying the show.  The painting above is called Out the Hole in the Wall, and it shows two deadrises heading through the shoaled area that we passed through on Curt's drascombe Annie just a couple of weeks ago.  Beautiful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


a favorite time of year

northwest wind

There was a beautiful, steady northwest wind as I walked along the waterfront this morning, a wind that would have been perfect to sail outside from Chincoteague to Wachapreague Inlet.  I can only hope to have a similar breeze in about five weeks.  

I've begun doing little chores, though I should not call them chores as I enjoy them, to get ready for the trip.
  • photographed and printed out charts of the eastern shore barrier islands south of Wachapreague Inlet.  I'll mark the channels and note my waypoints on the charts.
  • bought two more freeze dried meals, Mountain House beef stroganoff and chili mac with cheese, I should have enough for the trip
  • bought 36 fruit cups of varying varieties and stored them in the food jars
  • added the oyster knife to the cook kit
  • updated my SPOT profile
There is much left to do, including
  • buying a new VA fishing license, which will work in Maryland waters too
  • check battery supply
  • check with the ramp at Cape Charles, my alternative launch point should the winds not be favorable
  • buy fruits and nuts 
  • start sorting through clothes and safety gear
  • register for the Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival

The photograph at top shows a group of classic Chesapeake Bay Buy Boats tied up in Coinjock, which was my reason for sailing down on the North River last weekend.  Aboard the F.D. Crockett was longtime friend Curt and new friends John and Vera England.  Also in the fleet was the Thomas J., which I saw and photographed at Rolph's Wharf many years ago.  

Monday, August 10, 2015


This was the view from yesterday's sail on the North River just across the state line in North Carolina.  It was a couple of miles down the ICW canal from the ramp, a very nice ramp protected by trees on all sides, then up the winding, deep river where, at times, the only man-made object was Spartina.  Nothing else but blue sky with a few white puffy clouds, water reflecting the sky, and trees along the shore.  Strong, steady wind out of the north, a double reef tucked in the main. It was a magical day.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

warm blue silence

"This is a day to be remembered.  We drift dreamily under the quiet pressure of the sails along the lee shore until the coast falls away to the south enabling us to free off.  By noon the wind has left us, and we are floating again in a blue world of water and air, the horizon only a misty line with the barren high ridges of Idhra wavy in the heavy light."

"Halfway across the channel we throw out the sea anchor and dive into the void of cool deep mauve.  It wraps itself like velvet round our skins, and once more we peer down into the indigo depths, then up at the burning blue of the sky.  It is ours, this world of warm blue silence: ours alone for a brief spell, with no human to interfere.  We drift for an hour, two hours, soaking in the sun...."

- from THE LUGWORM CHRONICLES by Ken Duxbury

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jackson Creek

A nice photo by Barry as we wound our way up Jackson Creek aboard Annie, on our way to the Deltaville Maritime Museum.  You can see more of Barry's photos and read his report here.

And Curt weighs in too (three bloggers on a boat, what do you expect?), with a nice photo and a very fine painting from the Hole in the Wall.  Great memories, thanks Curt and Barry.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I'll take my victories where I can

The new ramp at Elizabeth River Park on the southern branch had it almost perfect.  Nice paved parking lot, good ramp and piers, snack shop where you can get a cold drink, and nice clean restrooms.  And plenty of cleats, just not in the right place.

There are six pilings on the piers on either side of the boat ramps.  For some reason, maybe the installers liked the symmetry, all the cleats were mounted on the pilings farthest out on the pier, two to a piling.  And no cleats for small boats at the base of the piers.

For three weeks in a row I mentioned this to the guys in the snack shop.  There's no need for two cleats to a piling, why not take one from each and move it in closer to shore.  I received varying responses from "interesting idea" to "there's no way that will ever happen."

Well, it happened.  How nice.

Nice day on the water with a pleasant north wind, unusual for August, and accompanying blue skies.  Even dodged the afternoon thunderstorms.  Life is good.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I didn't even know what a "selfie" was

It had been a great day on a wonderful trip.  Raised Spartina'sanchor in Little Pungers Creek on March Island, crossed Kedges Strait to the west side of Smith Island and on the first pass missed Sheep Pen Gut.  Found the narrow opening in the marsh grass on the second pass, followed the narrow channel to Rhodes Point and then over to the town dock at Tylerton.  Lunch - crabcake sandwich of course - at Drum Point Market - then down Tyler Creek to Tangier Sound, north along the eastern shore of Smith Island, finally dropping anchor in Back Cove in marshy Martin National Wildlife Refuge.  After a light dinner I jumped over the side for a swim.  Such a nice moment on the last evening of a wonderful trip - eight days, 220 miles and fair weather all the while - that I decided to take a photograph to remember it by.

I did not know it at the time, probably because I had never heard the term, that I was shooting a "selfie."  Regardless I'm very pleased to see that the picture is being used in a promotion to solicit images for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's "Snapshots to Selfies: 50 Years of Chesapeake Summers."

On a good day, when the light is right and fortune favors me with a nice moment, I sometimes think of myself as a photographer.  As such, the terms "selfie" and "snapshot" make me cringe just a little.  But language is a little like tooth paste, once it is out of the tube there is no way it is going back in.  Selfie and snapshot are here to stay.  Deal with it.

The idea of the exhibit is a great one.  Fifty years of memories on Chesapeake Bay, all caught in photographs.  Just imagine the ragged-edge black and white prints of the 60s, those old faded slides of the of the 70s, the yellow-hued polariods from the "instant" cameras, the instagram photos that are being shot with iPhones as I write.  There have got to be some wonderful photographs out there.

Submitting images for the exhibit is simple enough.  So dig back in into the photo albums and find some nice memories.  Kevin, 20-some years at the mascf, you have got to have some.  All the Chesapeake float guys, you too.  Don't be shy.  Brian, that classic catboat?  Roger, the Herreshoff at Downrigging weekend?  Dave, your Dad working on Sultana?  Stuart, you and Dee on the water with the Muskrat?  Mary Lou and Fred, something from Rock Hall?  Mike, something from one of your many interesting boats?  Eddie, a shot from Mobjack Bay?  Bill, the Piankatank?  Curt, how about something from the hippie days.  And Barry, I promise not to tell anyone about the photo of you on the beach at the grandparents house wearing the white turtle neck and the, uh, peace sign necklace.  (Ooops.)

How they will sort thought all the photographs from five decades on the Bay and her tributaries, well I don't know.  I think they want to boil it down to 70 or so for the exhibition.  I do know that the end result will be an interesting document of our lives on Chesapeake Bay.  Can't wait to see it in 2016.

Here are the basic rules.  For more information visit the museum's site here.

Snapshots to Selfies submissions must:• Document a summer moment
• Be taken during or after 1965
• Feature the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries
• Include a person (no landscapes, please!)
• You can be an amateur or professional photographer
Individuals can submit up to three photos, along with a brief explanation of the stories behind your photos. Photos may be submitted through November 30, 2015.