"When I think of all the fools I've been it's a wonder that I've sailed this many miles." -Guy Clark

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 in review: best, worst, newest, kindest and most joyous

Favorite First Steps:  Walking to Spartina without the use of a cane just over two weeks after hip replacement surgery.

Best New Star that No One Ever Sees:  The wooden Navy star, in memory of my parents, made by my neighbor and friend, that sits below the bow sprit where it is not easily seen.  I told him the star would be seldom seen, but I know it is there and that's all that matters to me.

Most Delightful Sailing Companions:  a couple of dozen dolphins playing near Nassawadox Point on day one of the Threatened 320 fall sail.

Best Diesel Engine doing the Job of an Alarm Clock:  waking up to the diesel engine of the crab scraper Davey III on Jenkins Creek on day four of the Threatened 320.

Best Physical Therapy: a morning spent bending, crouching, kneeling, reaching up and under the side decks of Spartina for some sanding before the spring painting.

Least Hospitable Place on Tangier Sound:  A spot about two miles WNW of Island Point at the mouth of the Little Annemessex River where I had to turn back two days in a row because of high winds out of the NE and high waves out of the NW during the Threatened 320.

Kindest Gift from a Waterman:  I asked to buy a half-dozen oysters but Ben of Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company counted out a dozen, refused to take any money and gave me a bag of ice.  He then offered to let me tie up in his marina and asked if I needed a ride to a store or a restaurant.   I thanked him for his kind offer, then headed back across the river to enjoy the oysters and wait out the weather. 

Worst News I had to Deliver to Dawn Patrol:   As shore contact for Paul and Alan on board Dawn Patrol I called, emailed and texted to tell them the Everglades Challenge was cancelled due to a number of rescues on the first morning of the race.  They were off to a great start.  Better luck next year.

Best Bow Wave:  Splashing through the waves off Trippe Bay on our way to the Choptank River and Oxford on day seven of the fall cruise.

Roughest Night:  The last night of the Threatened 320, anchored in Warehouse Creek, with high winds, torrential downpours and chop so steep that Spartina was pounding hard enough that I had wondered if we had dragged anchor and were bouncing on the shore.

Most Generous Hospitality by Someone Who Had a Few Other Things to Worry About:  We arrived at St. Michaels with a high pressure system to the north, a stalled low off the Carolinas and approaching Hurricane Joaquin.  Kristen, president of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, had to worry about a) the upcoming Small Craft Festival b) the museum grounds which are susceptible to flood damage c) the museum's floating fleet of classic Chesapeake Bay boats d) her family and e) who knows what else.  Nonetheless she took the time to greet us when we arrived, took me out for lunch, got some of her guys to help dock safely in the middle of the museums fleet and constantly check on me in person and by text.  How wonderful.  She even offered a place to sleep at her home.  I opted to sleep on the protect porch of the museum's office building so I could be near Spartina.  Thanks,  Kristen, for the hospitality!

Most joyous day:  A March 21 sail in Elizabeth City, my first sail of the year, timed to coincide with Webb Chiles' sail on the other side of the world.  Webb had invited, through a entry in his journal, for readers to seek a day of joy.  I sought and I found.

First Ever Launch at a Rebuilt Boat Ramp:  Spartina going in the water, the first boat to launch at the rebuilt ramp and newly opened Elizabeth River Park.  The park staff declined to give me a plaque (which I thought I deserved), but they did take a photograph of Spartina.

Best Art Show Opening:  Curt's opening of his one-man show "Return to the Great River, Maritime Paintings" in Urbanna.  Wonderful paintings and then a great evening with Curt, his wife Eleanor and new friends John and Vera.  It was there that Vera shared her pearl of wisdom:  Men choose both boats and women by the stern.

Favorite Sail on Calm Waters:  An afternoon of sailing on Cox Creek with strong steady wind on the narrow creek's calm waters on day nine of the Threatened 320.

Best Use of Mizzen and Jib:  Unable to sail in high wind and waves up Tangier Sound we took the back way up the canal behind Janes Island and sailed under mizzen and jib in the lee of Frenchtown-Rumbly, Deal Island and Bishops Head to reach Fox Creek off the Honga River.

Best gift from my shellfish guy:  A half-dozen York River oysters from my friend Uncle Chuck, with him telling me I would be doing him a favor by letting him know how they taste (as if he did not already know).

Best Food "to go" on a boat:  A pound of boiled crawfish from my friend Shaggy the NOLA Crawfish King as I tied up on the waterfront behind the food tents at the Bayou Bugaloo.

Favorite Family Reunion With a Family I Did Not Know:  A delightful July day when my friend Claughton invited the crew of Spartina to take part in his family reunion at the family's civil war era house on Forbes Bay off the Pasquotank River.  Good food and plenty of southern hospitality.

Most Beautiful Hidden Sailing Grounds Just A Few Minutes Away:  The North River, just about 25 minutes away with a ramp and a nice waterfront restaurant in the nearby town of Coinjock, NC.  Pristine water lined by trees with sky above....nothing else.

Academy Award Nominee for best Cameo Appearance by a Yawl in a Short Documentary Film:  Spartina's brief (watch closely at 2:41 or you'll miss it) appearance in a film about downtown Norfolk.  Can't wait until they open they envelope on that one.

Most Dismal Forecast:  Gusts up to 49 mph and heavy rains forecast for Chesapeake Bay during this fall's Threatened 320.  Now you know where the cruise got its name.

Best Advice from the Pilgrim:   Frustrated that I was taking a weather day at Tilghman Island because of forecast high winds and heavy rains, the Pilgrim told me over the phone not to worry about it, just enjoy whatever happens and go with the flow.  I hung up the phone, walked into the office at the Knapps Narrows Marina and found a flier on the bulletin board for an evening wine tasting at the Tilghman Island Country Store.  I went with the flow.  Literally.

Best Evening Painting the Harbor Red:  Watching my gps turn the chart of Silver Lake red as I tacked back and forth under a lovely warm breeze while watching the setting sun on the storm-shortened spring sail.

First Ever Sail with a Pathfinder Builder/Sailor:  A fun day with Rik as he was in town to do some serious offshore sailing.  He built and sails the Pathfinder Vanessa in the strong trade winds of his native Aruba.

Prettiest Sight Seen on the Morning Walk Before Work:  A jellyfish and reflected clouds on the Elizabeth River.

Second Favorite Lapstrake Boat on the Elizabeth River:  The home built New Jersey Sea Bright Skiff that we crossed paths with on the Elizabeth River in November.

Most Hard to Get New Sticker for the Boat Trailer:  the GCI sticker for Pate Boat Yard which reminds always me of my friends Shawn and Beth and all the wonderful sailing I have done out of Hobucken.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Peaceful morning on the Dismal Swamp Canal.  One of these years I want to do a circumnavigation, heading south on the Dismal Swamp Canal to Elizabeth City, down the Pasquotank to Albemarle Sound, east on the sound to the North River and then back up the ICW Chesapeake.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas, 1912

Christmas.  Turned out to be a bright, frosty morning with a skim of ice in pans on the deck.  Great excitement, for there hung our two stockings filled with presents which we had hung up last night.  Looked kind of Christmasy anyway.

Breakfast over, we opened our bundles, dolled up the cabin with two little red paper bells and would have decked Scotty out with a red ribbon, but just then she heard something like a train of cars somewhere and flew to snug quarters in the lazaret.  Took things easy, but put in an hour or two on launch.  At 3 p.m. began preparations for grand feast.  Menu to be, raw oyster cocktail, roast pork, applesauce, spuds and a mince pie.

Everything going like mice when, just as pie went into the oven, round came the wind and away went my fire draught.  After hours of coaxing we finally sat down to some pork scraps stewed in fry pan and boiled spuds at 8 p.m.  Pie did finally dry up enough to be called cooked and was not so bad.  Scotty appeared this p.m. and with her pretty new ribbon around her neck, enjoyed a little oyster stew made of three oysters.  So ends Christmas 1912 which I had expected to spend in Jacksonville.

-from The Boy, Me and The Cat by Henry M. Plummer, December 25, 1912, from somewhere somewhere north of Cape Fear, North Carolina

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Have a great Chesapeake Bay Christmas 
(like the one Kristen sees, and photographs, each morning)

Monday, December 21, 2015

a Scamp headed for Tierra del Fuego

I just came across this press release on John Welsford's blog.....

In February 2016 sailor and explorer Howard Rice will attempt to voyage south on the Straits of Magellan and out into the Southern Ocean to explore the remote southwest islands of Tierra del Fuego. Howard Rice sailed the eastern part of the Beagle Channel and south rounding Cape Horn in a fifteen foot wood canvas sailing canoe in 1990. He returns to explore further. His voyage began with the construction of the boat he will sail and Lutra Productions has documented portions of the build to incorporate into the planned film “Below 40 South, A Voyage To The Dark Side Of The Moon.” Rice’s actual voyage begins in January 2016 on arrival of the crated boat in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Rice and the boats designer New Zealander John Welsford will test sail the boat on the wind swept waters of the Straits of Magellan. Lutra Productions will be there to film the launch and test sailing before Rice sets off alone south into the wilderness of Tierra del Fuego and the storm wracked Southern Ocean. There will be no support boat and no film crew following him. He is sailing solo, unsponsored and will be operating a range of small GoPro cameras to record this amazing and historic small boat voyage. Some men and women may choose to cross oceans in small boats but all sailors know near shore navigating is by far the most hazardous, Tierra del Fuego below 40 south is considered the most dangerous ocean environment in the world and is home of the infamous Cape Horn.

Rice will have one year of opportunity to explore the region but hopes to conclude his voyage within six months of his departure unless more time is needed. The southern winter begins in May and Rice has equipped his 12 foot boat with a wood stove should he need it for warmth and is prepared to sail in winter if needed.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

red and green

A little Christmas cheer going on the smoker
for the neighbors, with a little left over for us.

the Chickahominy

Barry has some very fine photographs (as always) and very fine writing (again, as always) on his site about a late October/early November sail with a few friends on the James and Chickahominy Rivers.

I don't know all the sailors involved but I recognized Eddie with his Sooty Tern and Kevin in his Marsh Cat, and of course Barry's Melonseed Caesura flying a topsail. 

Wonderful sailing under beautiful fall skies.  Great stuff, Barry.  Thanks for sharing the trip.

Winter is close at hand and a north wind has brought cool weather to the mid-Atlantic.  But by the day after Christmas the temperature could be 70 degrees.  Could we have an early winter sail?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

a gathering of yawls

I heard from some sailing friends that they thought they saw a yawl party on Craford Bay.  It is true, there was a gathering of yawls this past Saturday.  I was aboard Spartina and had the joy of sailing with a Mikesboat and a Drascombe Dabber.  Unplanned and unexpected, it was fun to sail, if just for a few moments, with some other small yawls.

Steve and Scott are "Team Scout" and they are in training for the 2016 Everglades Challenge.   Steve I have known for a few years through meetings out on the river.  He seems to have a fleet of boats, a power boat and at least of couple of sailboats including the Dabber.   For the Everglades Challenge they will use the Mikesboat, above, which Scott bought as a hull and rigged with the masts and polytarp sails.

Check out their Facebook page and you will see that they have been doing some serious training.  They even went down to North Carolina last fall to talk with the watertribe sailors competing in the Blackbeard Challenge, which was a very smart thing to do.  

This season has been very mild so far and I hope it will continue this way, making their training a little bit easier.  There's Steve above in the Dabber.  They say they will be out on the water a lot this winter.  Maybe we'll cross paths again and have another gathering of yawls.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

choose your synonym

This photograph appeared on my phone, sent from a number I did not recognize, Friday afternoon.  I did recognize the area code as being from Richmond and then guessed the photograph came from Eddie.  He has a brother who apparently works in one of the tall buildings downtown and, on occasion, looks out over the river and takes photographs with his phone.  I'm not sure of the cause for the vignetting, but I love both the photograph and look of Spartina's sails from that angle.  My thanks to both Eddie and his brother.

I sailed both Friday - low 70's, 8-10 mph wind and a mixture of light overcast and full sun - and Saturday - a record setting 76 degrees, light wind and sunshine all day long.  Considering that we approaching mid-December, the two days of sailing were (choose your synonym) glorious, marvelous, magnificent, sublime, spectacular, lovely, fine, delightful, tremendous.......

Thursday, December 10, 2015

thank you, el nino

The forecast for Friday, which is getting very near to mid-December, calls for 71 degrees, sunshine and a southwest wind of about 10 mph.  How great is that?  The cause is el nino, which is characterized by unusually warm surface sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.  I don't understand el nino and how it causes warmer winters for the mid-Atlantic.  I am just glad for it to happen.  

The forecast for Saturday is 72 degrees, sunny, southwest wind.  Maybe I'll get out both days.