Friday, December 30, 2016

a challenge and a sanctuary

I've read and reread very fine piece of writing in Angler's Journal about striper fishing by a man who spends much of his time in war zones.  It is about much more than fishing, it is about raising a family and making choices.  It is a pleasant story, peaceful and rich in texture.  The fine photographs are by his wife. 

The writer observes that the sea is both a challenge and a sanctuary.  That same description fits the writer's life: half the time in combat zones and the rest living in a home in New England, surrounded by children and wife, fishing for stripers, raising chickens and growing vegetables in the garden.

I read the Angler's Journal story yesterday morning.  In the evening I was reading the New York Times and found myself drawn into a long in-depth story about the costs of war.  Once I began reading I could not put it down.  Finishing the story I saw the by-line, it was the same as the Angler's Journal by-line.


I received a text from my outboard guy.  He's an ex-submariner (which means he is precise about everything he does), loves boats and lives just a couple of blocks away.  He had noted during last year's annual maintenance on my Honda 2.3 outboard that there was some corrosion on a screw at the bottom of the carburetor bowl, #6 in the image above.  I took a look and saw the rust, and noted some rust on #8.  I ordered both from Honda and will drop them and them outboard off to Jim in a week or two.  The outboard should be ready to go soon after, looking for those warm days that sometimes show up in February.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

fevered dreams

Deep in the night I could picture Spartina tied up on the Elizabeth River ready to sail.  With a forecast of sunshine, mild temperatures and wind I could see a simple sail across the river and back, the idea of a final sail for the year appealing to me.  But curled up in bed and shaking with fever and chills I knew I could at best manage the sail, but not the run up the river under power to the ramp.  And I certainly did not have the strength for hauling her onto the trailing and dropping her rig.  And my mind turned from making a sail to how would I get Spartina off the river.  Would she sit there for a few weeks, through the rain and blustery weather, maybe snow?  Trying to resolve that I woke with a headache, clearing my head long enough to remember I saw Spartina in the garage yesterday.  It was all a feverish nightmare.

The flu arrived like a virulent lump of coal Christmas morning.  We made the most of the morning, then the girls off to see a film and home in time for me to coach them through fixing Christmas dinner, traditionally one of my responsibilities.

The Pilgrim, who understands such things, showed me how to log on to a website through our health insurance program.  Soon I was face to face with Dave, who specializes in emergency medicine, by way of computer screen.  A few minutes of questioning and he told me what I already knew, I had the classic flu symptoms and could do not much more than wait it out.  He did prescribe something which has alleviated the worst of it.  About five to seven more days of this is possible.  I did, for the record, get a flu shot this past fall.

So I am glad the Spartina is in the garage and not sitting lonely and unprotected on the river.  And I am looking forward to the new year bringing health and joy to everyone.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

all my favorite places and things....

Chesapeake Bay, Cape Charles, Chincoteague, Smith and Tangier Islands, Ocean City, Kent Island, Easton, St. Michaels, Cambridge, Chestertown, the Solomons, Baltimore, Urbanna, Deltaville, Northern Neck, all on a hand-made towel.  Old Bay, skipjacks, rockfish and a giant crab.  What a great gift.  Is it ok to frame towels?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

late December on the water, for the neighbors

It has been a great holiday week on the water.  Out with some scientists on the Eastern Shore's barrier islands Wednesday, a guest on a SailNauticus boat Thursday and sailing Spartina out of Elizabeth City Friday.  Not bad for late December.

Thursday I was the guest of sailing friend Lynn on one of the SailNauticus Harbor 20s.  (Lynn has a great view of the Elizabeth River from her home and when I post photos of Spartina out sailing they are often from her.)  There she is above on Spartina in late November, hopping on board to work towards her goal of 200 days on the water this calendar year.  That is not a typo.  "200" as in two hundred.  I'm happy to say a few of those days were on Spartina.  Thursday, a gusty day, was her 198th day out.  I have sailed the Harbor 20 before but not on such a windy day and I must say I felt very uncomfortable at the tiller.  I am so used to the three sails of Spartina with the gaff-rigged main that I did not have a feel at all for the sloop rig.    I knew it was breezy when we went out but I expected the boat's 900 lb bulb keel (Spartina weighs about 600 lbs total) would make it very easy to handle.  Not so, but with Lynn's coaching I started to get the hang of it.   

Friday it was down to Elizabeth City for a sunny day with light breezes.  Just right for me, a perfect way to end the sailing year.


Back early afternoon from Elizabeth City it was time to make the Christmas gifts for the neighbors.  

Salmon, salt, sugar, brown sugar, pepper, sliced peppers, lemon slices and a couple of hours on the smoker.  

I wished I had made a little bit more so that we would have plenty for ourselves.  Maybe New Year's Day.  

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

where we caught our ride to the barrier islands

Wachapreague, a great little fishing village.  If you ever pass nearby stop in at the Island House for some great food and a great view of the marshes.


I almost said "no"

A colleague asked yesterday afternoon if I would switch work schedules today.  She had a day shift with a trip to Wachapreague on the Eastern Shore.  But I had work late Monday night, Tuesday night and I knew I would have a late shift on Thursday.  I was tired.  I almost said "no."  A day on the water between the barrier islands?  Sure, I'll switch.

We visited Wachapreague Inlet, a narrow stretch of open water between the north end of Parramore Island and the southern end of Cedar Island.  In between the two is a sandy shoal, above and below.

Below is the inlet, Parramore to right and the shoal to the left.  I was surprised to find the entrance so narrow, but very glad to have seen it as I hope to sail Spartina through there some day when I complete the Delmarva circumnavigation.

And just for the record, there were a couple of science types on board.  Looking out over the wetlands they talked about spartina, the cord grass in the marshes.   They pronounced the word with a long "I".  So repeat after me.....spar-TI-na.  It was so nice to hear someone other than myself pronounce it that way.  Maybe I'm not wrong about the name of my boat after all.

What a great afternoon on the water.  And I almost said no.  What was I thinking?

Monday, December 19, 2016

spring, art from the ashes

It's 36 degrees and overcast, a little drizzly.*  Time to think about Spring.  I've got a nine day window, maybe ten if I'm lucky, sometime in May.  My last two sailing trips down there have been fun, but both impacted by remnants of early season tropical storms.  It can't happen three years in a row, can it?  We'll see.

(*It was exactly this kind of day over a decade ago that I was killing time browsing the web when I came across this cool little yawl called a Navigator designed by a guy named John Welsford.  I guess cold rainy days are good for something.)

I've got to check in with Shawn but I'm pretty sure I can launch out of Hobucken and I want to explore the shores of central Pamlico Sound and the Pamlico River.

There are countless little creeks and rivers, like North Creek, above, that I haven't been to in a while.  There's some good fishing at Pamlico Point, Caffee Bay and Wysocking Bay.

Oriental and Belhaven, below, are always fun places to visit with nice town docks, friendly people and fine little restaurants.  And I do want to sail up the Pamlico River to Washington, maybe stopping in Bath on the way.  

I did stop in Bath last spring, but in a heavy rain storm wearing full foul weather gear.... well that doesn't count.

And Ocracoke, with the nice harbor called "the ditch" by the locals and Silver Lake by the tourists.  Yes, heading south in the spring.


Speaking of Pamlico Sound makes me think of my artist friend Curt.  We met in person there,  first at a ramp off Whorton Creek and then later anchoring for an evening on Swan Creek.  We had been in touch for a while over the internet, Curt planning on trailering up to the Sound and sailing his Drascombe Longboat Annie.  Since then we've become close friends.  He has done some nice sketches of Spartina, below.

Sad news on his blog that his studio/workshop burned down about a week ago.    Inside were his tools, over a hundred paintings, mementoes collected over a life time and, painfully for the sailor, Annie's spars and sails.  Quite a blow.  Curt writes that it will be a long process of getting his creative life back together.  I know he has already tracked down a set of measurements for replacements sails for Annie, but that is just a beginning.  He says he is holding fast.

It will be a struggle, no doubt, and a few of us have offered to help where and when we can.  Curt tells me he looks forward to the day when he can once again paint.  Adversity can lead to creativity.  I wonder what sort of art will rise from the ashes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Very cool to see Barry getting some well-deserved attention in the December issue of for his Melonseeds and the innovation he and Stuart of Dabbler Sails made to add the topsails.  I've seen one of the Melonseeds in person but only on the trailer, never under sail.  He's a regular with the Chesapeake Floats, you can read about some of his Melonseed cruising here.  

Yep, cold and getting colder.  That's why I'm not sailing and instead browsing the web.  So when is it supposed to warm up again?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

beautiful waters

With hard frosts in the morning and high temperatures not reaching 50 degrees, there is no sailing weather within sight.  I was spoiled by last year's warm winter, somehow I don't think I'll be so lucking this year.  So instead of sailing I've been catching up on some of my favorite blogs, including Lorenzo's B's blog about his finely crafter Pathfinder Astrid.  Lorenzo, who I have written about before, lives on the Mediterranean Sea and has some absolutely beautiful water to sail on.  The photograph above shows Astrid as Lorenzo and family explored the northeastern coast of Sardinia.

Above is the water crystal clear water of Sanary Bay, just 15 minutes from his home.  Lorenzo talks about sailing, picnics and snorkeling with his family.  

And there's Astrid sailing along the island of Burano near Venice.  Wow.  Just looking at the photographs makes me feel a little warmer on a cold day.  Thanks, Lorenzo.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

from a couple of weeks ago

From Walter, aboard the schooner Virginia.  Nice light on the water, don't you think?  That's sailing friend Lynn at the tiller.  Current weather tells me that tee-shirt days are over.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

can you see me now? / dinner menus

Two days of December and two good days of sailing.  I'll take it.  Thursday, with a steady west wind coming in behind a week cool front, had Spartina on the Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City.  Something about the shape of that winding river keeps the water almost glassy calm with winds out of the west.  Warm and comfortable, it was a perfect day on the water.

Yesterday, cooler and with less wind early in the day, we were out on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk.  Light winds in the morning completely disappeared by noon, then the wind came back strong, a cooler wind out of the southwest.  Chilly enough that I slipped on the new Helly Hansen bib pants.   Yes, I was the source of that glow you saw over the horizon yesterday.  I was very happy with the design and make of the pants, so much so that I came home and ordered a Helly Hansen jacket to go with it, in bright orange of course.


Eddie had asked me a while ago about the freeze dried meals I take on cruises.  All of my favorites come from Mountain House, which I buy in batches of 20 that earn a 10% discount at Campmor.  To name a few:  beef stew, breakfast skillet, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff, chili-mac with beef, biscuits and gravy with sausage crumbles.  There are a few with mashes potatoes too but I can't recall exactly what they are right now.  I stay away from meals that have rice, somehow in my experience the rice never reconstitutes with a rice-like texture.  I stay about from meals that are listed as "spicy," spicy meaning there is probably a lot of salt in there.  From Webb I have learned to add a little more water than called for, and a little more time cooking in the foil packet.  From Curt I learned to dress some of the meals with a little olive oil.  And because I do like spicy meals I always add my own spice with a few splashes of Cajun Sunshine.

The freeze dried meals I would really like to get come from Back Country Cuisine in New Zealand.  Their meals sound excellent, using beef, lamb, chicken and venison.  Unfortunately at this time they do not ship to the US.  Maybe someday, they told me by email earlier this year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the future's so bright

The future's so bright
I gotta wear shades

I will never forget Capt Steven Briggs of the tugantine Norfolk Rebel singing those Timbuk3 lines out across the water as I sailed past with Barry on board wearing his bright (and bright is an understatement) orange Helly Hansen foul weather gear.  They are a brilliant (or vivid, bold, strong - just pick your favorite synonym) orange as if they had been plugged in and charging all night long.  

I saw Barry this past fall at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival wearing, of course, his bright orange jacket (Barry getting a really really good deal on both pants and jacket).  I reminded him of the captain's comment, Barry smiled and said "Hey, I wanna be found."  

Well I wanna be found too, particularly if somebody like the Coast Guard is looking for me, so I ordered a pair of Helly Hansen Newport Bib pants today from Annapolis Performance Sailing today.  A good deal - 20% off and free shipping (still not as good as Barry's deal but I'll take it).  The jacket will have to wait, but they are on the list for someday.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I just found this photograph on my phone, one which I had posted a couple of years ago but had completely forgotten about.  It took me a while to remember a fishing trip just off the beach, a summer rainstorm and coming home with nothing more than a photograph I like.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

still digesting, and I haven't even eaten yet

I'm still trying to digest the fall sail.  Busy with work and fall day sailing, I did not have time to work on the daily logs until weeks after the trip (though the first draft of the logs were written each evening on the cruise).  I think the time between the sail and posting allowed me to better appreciate what a really different type of journey it was for me.

Certainly more social than any other cruise with attending the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  And more time on land too, three days for the festival at St. Michaels and a day at Tilghman Island.

The weather was just the way I like it, a little bit of everything: great wind and blue skies; stormy; cool nights with starry skies; gusts suitable for a double-reefed main; rain; fog; calm.  I loved it all.

Though I sail alone I found myself, by chance and hospitality, three times in the company of world cruisers Michaels and Sheila on Kantala.  I still can't get over the surprising stormy evening text from them where we realized we were only a couple of miles from each other.  And then a couple of days later I saw them in St. Michaels, walking the streets of the fine little town and enjoying the company of friends MaryLou and Fred.  Later, with an approaching hurricane, we met again off Oxford.  I very much enjoyed their company.  This fall, day sailing on the Elizabeth River, I've often looked down Town Point Reach to see the snowbirds come around Lamberts Point on their way south, wondering if I might see Kantala.  I did not see the ketch and have not heard from Michael and Sheila since our lunch anchored on the Tred Avon River.  I suspect they have already gone south, and I wish them well.


There is a fine first person story by environmental writer/photographer Dave Sherwood in the New York Times.  He fished every day this summer, and even a little into the fall, for striped bass on the Kennebec River.  With family and work commitments, he was often casting off at 4 a.m. and always back to the dock at 7 a.m.  It is an excellent, peaceful read.  


Friends at Small Craft Advisor are putting together a piece on perfect small boat cruising areas around the country.  I was very glad to hear that Pamlico Sound, with neighboring Neuse River and Cape Lookout/Beaufort, is included.  (If you have sailed the area you will know it had to be included.)  They asked me for a few photographs.  I believe the one above, taken on a little cove on the south side of the Pamlico River near where it opens out onto the sound, is the one that they will use with the story.  


Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

somebody had to sample them...

Oysters from a new spot - near Wallops Island on Va.'s eastern shore seaside - and from the new shellfish guy.  For tomorrow but just to be safe somebody had to try them out.  Salty!  Excellent!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

day nine - back to the ramp

We drift off anchor just after 7:00.  "Drift" because we are tucked in close to the trees that shadow us from the wind.  I sweep the tiller back and forth, the rudder nudging Spartina out to where the wind can touch the double-reefed main. 

Out of the cove into the main anchorage and onto the the creek, the sun comes over the trees.  A deadrise is already working a trotline, a second deadrise rigged for oystering is headed towards the Choptank.  A NE wind carries us down the creek past the stout channel entrance markers,  5.5 kts to Cambridge.  Past Howell Point wind is on the port beam to Hambrooks Bar, then we fall off with the marina in sight. 


Rounding up off the ramp the Choptank is rough.  Jib and main down, then mizzen, we motor downwind.  Inside the the little breakwater I lean out and catch a cleat with the stern line.  Tied up fore and aft I check the gps.  The last entry in the notebook: 185 miles, 49.36 hours sailing time.  A nice little escape.


We sailed past the schooner Virginia Saturday as her crew of volunteers, along with deckhands from the American Rover and Harvey Gamage (schooner crews tend to help out other schooner crews), brought down the booms, gaffs and topmasts for the winter season.  She'll be put under a cover soon, though I expect work will continue on board throughout the winter.  Her spars will be taken to the nearby cruise center where they will be stripped down and varnished.

I wonder how much more sailing I will get in this year.  Last year was unusually warm and I sailed through the winter into the spring.  I hope for at least another sail or two, maybe get in one early in December.  No major maintenance is planned for Spartina this winter, so she - and I - are ready to go.

Saturday, November 19, 2016