Thursday, August 31, 2017

menu 18

I found myself on a hilltop in south central Virginia the other day with some very fine men and women of a field artillery unit of the Virginia Army National Guard.  An interesting day where they were learning to use new, upgraded howitzers.  Coming from a military family I have nothing but respect for these soldiers.  Getting to spend a day with this crew only increased my appreciation for what they do.  Not only did they talk about their weapons training, they also talked about the relief work they do every year during winter storms, flooding and hurricane season.  For all I know these folks could be on their way to Houston right now.

And from being around the military I am very familiar with the phrase "hurry up and wait."  The live artillery fire was no exception.  We waited and waited and waited until somebody said let's have lunch and out come the MREs (meals ready to eat, individual).  No time to search through the meals for a favorite, just grab the one on top and I got Menu 18, Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce.  Sounded good.  

So about the time I got the pack open, read the instructions, put the self-heating chemical packet in the bag with the ravioli and add the water that sets off the packet somebody yells that it is time to go.  So I wolf down my barely heated ravioli, which was a fine meal.  There were some packets leftover that I did not get to: Beef Snack (Hickory Flavored Beef Stick Chunked and Formed), Toaster Pastry with frosted brown sugar, and White Wheat Snack Bread TFF (I still haven't figured out the TFF part).  For fun I tucked them in with my 16 meal packets for the fall sail.  Might be interesting addition mixed in the the freeze dried meals from New Zealand and the cans of tuna from Italy.

It was a fine day with some very good people, and I was very glad to have been invited along.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

nice breeze

From Mike, who was on the Schooner Virginia
when we passed each other on the river last weekend.
It was a very nice breeze.


The reading list for the fall sail is set, a copy of Mark Kurlansky's "Havana, A Subtropical Delirium"
arriving tomorrow from Amazon.  I have been a fan of Kurlansky's histories for years with favorites including "Salt: A World History," "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that changed the World," and, most recently, "The Big Oyster: History on the Half-Shell."   If you want a different take on history, Kurlansky's books are where to find it.

Should I finish that book I'll have along "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, Ernest Himgway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961."  I kind of doubt I will get to the second book.  Darkness comes early in the fall and after a day of sailing, dinner, filling out the logbook, setting up for sleeping, a chapter or so of reading, etc, I find myself ready for a good night's sleep.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

a nice breeze and two gaffers

Just a great day on the water, and a real pleasure to share
 the river with the Schooner Virginia who was 
out for a training sail with her volunteer crew.  

August, sunny skies, a nice breeze and
 temperatures in the low 80s.  Nice!

The air was cool and dry, a hint of the coming fall.

Thanks to Lynn for the photo below shot from the schooner.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

two sailing friends, two fine sailboats, serene sailing

A couple of my sailing friends got together in the past few days in the Florida Keys.  Tom, left in the photograph above, sailed his Pathfinder FIRST LIGHT thirty-some miles from his home to get to Marathon Marine.  Webb sailed his Moore 24 GANNET 23,339 miles to from San Diego to get to the same place.  I am glad that their schedules allowed them to meet, I only wish I could have been there to join them.

I have known Tom for a couple of years through email.  We met in person just a couple of weeks ago and had an enjoyable sail on SPARTINA.  I also met Webb via email about six or seven years ago, and then in person not too long after. 

The Florida Keys, Webb taking a break from his circumnavigation, Tom getting a feel for this balanced lug rig Pathfinder.  No doubt there were some interesting conversations to be had.

Tom sent a note about his sail down to Marathon, talking about sailing double-reefed in the pre-dawn darkness, coping with lighter winds, wondering about FIRST LIGHT's ballast.  His description of sailing to the ramp in light winds was so enjoyable I will simply reprint it here.


To get to the ramp, I had to tack my way thru the boot key mooring field (take a look on google, it's a large field with about 100 balls), with very light winds 0-5 kts. Here I was a proud sailor, FIRST LIGHT performed admirably, shocking the habitants of the field. She pointed high in these conditions and in the slack areas she ghosted nicely. Each time I thought it was no use and reached for the oars, we would get another puff and managed our way thru.  Oh and there was a small current working against us too. I had to utter the words "Welsford Pathfinder" about 30 times as we sailed past some very interesting folks living there.  Shouting during serene sailing isn't right.

I told Tom he better get used to uttering "Welsford Pathfinder," he'll be asked about his boat a lot in the years to come.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Scuffletown Creek

The fog was just lifting this morning as I came back to the ramp on Scuffletown Creek after yesterday's eclipse sail.  A young woman was out jogging and stopped to make a photograph of SPARTINA, which she was kind enough to share with me.  I thank her for the pictures.  It looks to be a beautiful day and I wish I could have stayed out on the Elizabeth River, but work calls.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

eclipsed by clouds

Out on the river early afternoon to watch the eclipse.  Nice breeze and a few other boats out for the same reason.  My idea was to shoot a time lapse of the eclipse, a frame every two seconds from a camera mounted on the center board trunk.  I knew that the camera would not show the moon crossing in front of the sun.  We were expecting about 89% coverage here and that would allow enough light to make the sun still look like the sun.  My hope was to capture the changing quality of light.  I thought it might be fun and the mainsail moving back and forth would add to the images as I tacked back and forth on Craford Bay.

Unfortunately a couple of small, dark grey clouds had other plans, sliding in front of the sun just a few minutes before peak coverage, 2:47 local time.  The clouds stayed there long enough to obscure what I was trying to do.  Oh well.  But as I said, there was a nice breeze and it was fun to watch the eclipse for well over an hour through my Amazon glasses - remember, always practice safe viewing.  A nice day on the water.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

dining changes

There will be some dining changes on board SPARTINA for the fall cruise, courtesy of some sailing friends.  Lunches, which in the past have been cans of tuna salad with crackers.  That was fine until Tom gave me a can of Rio Mare tuna that he had picked up in Europe.  He said eat it right out of the can, it tastes better than the tuna we commonly get in the US.  I have not tried that tuna yet, I'm saving it for the trip.  I tried to buy more of the Rio Mare tuna at Amazon, but my initial search found only the Callipo variety so I ordered a nine-can pack of that.  I tried one can for lunch, it was excellent.  Going back to order more tuna the Rio Mare variety showed up in a second search at Amazon so I bought a half-dozen cans of that (it is almost twice the price of Callipo).  Italian tuna for lunch and the New Zealand freeze dried meals that Webb sent me for dinner, I will be eating very well this fall.

The other change will be in how I store my food.  Lorenzo sent me a digital copy of Tinkerbelle, the story of 47-year-old Robert Manry single-handing a 13.5 foot long boat across the Atlantic.  It was a a wonderful read.  One of the things Manry did was pack each day's meal in a sealed plastic bag.  In the past I have stored my food in one-gallon jars, i.e. a jar of dried fruit, a jar of breakfast bars, a jar of lunch kits.  So each evening I found myself opening multiple jars to prepare for the next day.  This coming trip I will pack meals for each day in one-gallon freezer bags.  I have yet to sit down and make a list but each freezer bag will contain something like a breakfast bar, three cups of fruit, some dried fruit, home-made trail mix and a can of tuna.  This should simplify things in the evening and allow for a little more time to read or just relax.  

So Lorenzo, Tom and Webb, thanks in advance for improving meals on SPARTINA.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Because of a little clerical error at work (mine) I realized just now that I don't have the planned 16 days off this fall.  Instead I've got 18.  Or at least I think I'll do.  I'll confirm this week with the office.

I had planned on two days in St. Michaels for the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, so I expected 14 days of sailing, two days at the festival.  Now I realized that I've got 16 days of sailing.  A nice little surprise.

I'll launch at Cambridge - nice, free ramp - head north to Havre de Grace at the top of the bay (pronounced "have-erdee-grayce according the the sailing guides) then do some exploring on the way back south.  There are some rivers and creeks I have passed by in the past - the Bohemia, Sassafras, Corsica Rivers, Fairlee Creek.  I have heard wonderful things about these places.  A couple of them have marinas, with laundry, restaurants, etc that I'll need/want on a long trip.

About six weeks until I head to Cambridge.  I'll start getting serious about packing around Labor Day.  Can't wait!

Monday, August 14, 2017

still a workboat finish

Don't worry, SPARTINA still has her workboat finish.  She is also sporting a new coat of Sea Green Interlux Brightside Polyurethane.  It is only in the last few weeks that I noticed how the hull paint, this last coat put on four or five years ago, had faded.  There were plenty of nicks and scratches, many from traveling on the highways, but also the finish had lost its shine.  I really like the way she looks now.

The forecast for yesterday and today (my off days from work) called for thunderstorms all day long.  I figured it was a good time to paint, wouldn't be missing much sailing with the stormy weather.  The storms so far have not shown up but that's ok, glad to get the work down.

Also spent some time thinking about bottom paint.  That should go on next spring I think, a semi-hard ablative paint (though I still need to research the options out there for trailered boats).  I've got some touch up left to do and just a bit of varnish work.  She'll be back together in time for an eclipse sail.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

no longer dismal

A dismal time for the Dismal Swamp Canal is coming to a close.  Shut down to boat traffic since hurricane Matthew passed over last fall, the Army Corps of Engineers says the old canal will reopen with the month.  

Crews are still dredging the canal but the major work of removing the downed trees, 350 of them, has been accomplished.

This is great news for this fall's snowbird, boats heading south for the winter.  No longer used for commercial traffic, the canal is narrower than the ICW and for the most part lined by tall trees along the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.  Scenic and peaceful, a lot of cruisers choose this alternate route for heading south.  

This is great news for Elizabeth City, located at the southern end of the canal.  Boats coming down the canal bring people, and of course people bring money.  So it is good for the restaurants and other businesses in Betsy Town.  But boats passing through is more than business for the little southern town, it is part of the culture.  There was a tradition, and I hope it continues, called the Rose Buddies.  This dates back a decade or two when a couple locals would come down to the free docks on the waterfront and welcome cruisers with roses, wine and cheese.  The original rose buddies have passed away, but as of at least a couple years ago the evening receptions for boaters were still being held.  

On my list of sails I still have plans for a local circumnavigation.  It would involve a fair amount of motoring with a little sailing mixed in, heading south on the Dismal Swamp Canal, sailing down the Pasquotank River to Albermarle Sound and then over to North River to head north along the ICW and back home.  Someday...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

father and son

A beautiful photograph titled "father and son" from Lorenzo's blog as they sail ASTRID near Sardinia.  Lorenzo has built one of the two finest (in my opinion) Pathfinders (the other being Tom's FIRST LIGHT), and he sails some of the most beautiful waters.  How cool is that!

Monday, August 7, 2017

FIRST LIGHT, fine dining

I had a guest on board yesterday, another Pathfinder builder.  That is Tom Head, above, who built the truly beautiful Pathfinder FIRST LIGHT.  He rigged her with balanced lug main and mizzen, a first for the Pathfinder I believe.  Tom lives in the Florida Keys and will no doubt have some wonderful sailing to do down there.  Here are a few photographs from Tom's Pathfinder, you can follow his build here on the WoodenBoat forum.  

Tom and I had been in touch by email for a year or maybe more.  He had plans to pass through my area and wrote suggesting we get together.  I already had plans for sailing on a day with a nice forecast, so I picked him up on the waterfront.  We have a lot in common, from Pathfinders to the Navy to Everglades Challenge friends and we each have two daughters that were born about two years apart (I share both his pain and his joy with that).  We spent a lot of time talking about the rigs and sailing performance, Tom saying that my gaff-rigged yawl sailed very similar to his balanced lug rigged yawl.  It took him a while to remember to handle the jib when coming about, both sails on his boat being self-tending.  

Tom was kind enough to invite me down to the Keys, an offer I hope to take him up on someday.  Maybe I'll sail with him on FIRST LIGHT or maybe I'll bring SPARTINA with me.  We'll have to wait and see.  Yesterday was an enjoyable sail and I look forward to sailing with Tom again.


And speaking of the Keys, a UPS package arrived from Marathon today.  Webb Chiles generously offered to share some of this New Zealand Back Country Cuisine and Outdoor Gourment freeze dried meals for the fall cruise.  He sent so many that I believe they will carry through to the spring sail also.  Lamb, venison, beef, roast chicken.  I will be eating very well.  Thank you, Webb.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

coming through

I had an excellent vantage point to watch another big ship, this time the Dwight D. Eisenhower, otherwise known as the "Ike," come through downtown.  The 25th floor penthouse is an enjoyable place to be.  Nice to have friends in high places, literally and figuratively.