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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

separation anxiety no more

The sails arrived from Stuart's loft and I am very glad to have them back in hand.  Bending the main and mizzen on to the spars today, making a few adjustments suggested by Stuart.  It amazes me that he can just look at the sails and tell from their appearance how I rig them.  

The weather outlook for the next couple of weekends is not good.  Cold and rainy, wind out of the north.  February is typically when we get the little batches of warm days.  I will be rigged and ready.

My escape from the cold, a work related trip to Hilton Head, has been cancelled due to budgetary considerations.  Bummer.  The "working" point of the trip was to go fish for a great white shark.  Yes, sure that sounds like fun.  But mostly I was looking forward to seeing Webb and GANNET at their new island home.  That treat will have to wait until later.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Staniel Cay, circa 1980 / extended family / creek sailing

I had reason to see my sailmaker, Stuart Hopkins, last weekend.  It was a fun drive up through tidewater Virginia, across the York and Rappahanock Rivers, over the beautiful winding Piankatank and through the little towns of what is known as Northern Neck.  Though I had emailed with Stuart many times over the last few years, I had not talked to him in person since picking up my finely crafted set of sails. 

Because of a post I had done a few day earlier (that's my photograph below of a sloop near Port-au-Prince),  Stuart and I talked about each of our experiences relating to Haiti.  Stuart brought out a work of art - though it wasn't originally meant to be art - a wooden mainsheet cleat, worn by a taut line, the sun and the salt water, that he recovered from a sunken Haitian sloop at Staniel Cay in the Bahama Islands.  Stuart told me he made repeated dives to loosen the cleat from the sloop while Dee, his wife, sat in the cockpit of their ketch SEA WIND and made a sketch of the sloop, which you see above.  


SPARTINA'S sails are now five years old.  They have seen a lot of wear and tear during that time, including quite literally a tear between the bolt rope and sail cloth on the mizzen, something that happened when I hooked the sail on a line cleat a few years ago.  Stuart will repair the small tear for me and offered to check over the stitching on the sails, which is very kind of him. 

While looking over the sails I lamented to Stuart about my failed plans for SPARTINA.  I told him I built the boat so I could go sailing and get away from people.  Instead, I went sailing and met some very creative and interesting people who have become my best and truest friends.  Stuart, who sometimes reads this blog, nodded and smiled, telling me he was well aware of my "extended family."  I had never thought of it that way, but yes, an extended family.  I went sailing and found my extended family - which of course includes Stuart and Dee.


Webb has completed his sail from Marathon in the Florida Keys to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  It was a much shorter sail, if you go by mileage, than Webb's typical sail.  And it was an even shorter sail by time if you go by Webb's expectations.  You can read his passage log here.  Below you will find part of the log which makes me smile, most likely because it reminds of my kind of sailing.

"Coming into Skull Creek for the first time was beautiful.  A sunny sky.  Wind light.  Mansions along the shore.  A flock of birds standing on a sand spit off the Pickney Island Nature Reserve to the north.  A dolphin broke the surface and came and swam companionably beside GANNET.  A pelican glided past."

Monday, January 22, 2018

north to Hilton Head

Webb's Yellow Brick track shows he is making incredible time on his way north to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Winds will be picking up on GANNET'S stern tomorrow.  I wonder if he will make it in before contrary winds Wednesday.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

gone, sails so bright

Webb is gone, leaving out of Marathon on GANNET sometime around 9:00 or 10:00 this morning, on his way up the coast to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  You can read about his plans here.  If you read this earlier journal entry you will see that he will be doing coastal sailing this year, including, if weather cooperates, sailing up to Chesapeake Bay and St. Michaels where he will be the guest speaker at this fall's Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  That will be an interesting talk.

You can follow Webb on his Yellow Brick here.  


Most of the mildew is gone from SPARTINA'S mainsail, courtesy of a 30:1 water:sodium hydrochloride mixture.  It was easier than I expected.  I appreciate all the advice that was given to me, particularly some thoughts from Dory Man.  

I used a spray bottle so that I could apply the solution to specific areas, avoiding the threads that hold the sail together.  Less than an ounce of sodium hydrochloride was used.

Excuse the color balance shift in these before (above) and after photos, that has to do with the light, but look closely at the top image and you will see specks of mildew.  They were gone about 10 minutes after the solution was applied. I used that little piece of tape to make sure I photographed the exact area before and after.  Not too bad.  After general washing with woolite and vinegar, plus the spot mildew work, the sails are so white, so bright, I'm gonna need to wear shades.

Friday, January 19, 2018

five winter coats

Just got the fifth coat of varnish on the refinished gaff jaws, two more to go.  You can see the double sets of dowels, each set put in each time I replaced the leather.  It may look a little messy here but all those dowels will be covered by the new leather.  

Using my sailing duffel bag, made out of used sail materials by Seabags, I did of test of the 30:1 water:sodium hydrochloride solution.  I sprayed the solution on a patch of white sail material that had tiny dots of mildew, let it sit for an hour then rinsed it off.  I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the dark spots gone.

Washing the sails in Woolite and vinegar worked so well that I had considered forgoing the mildew treatment.  But looking closely I found two areas, probably not even a square foot in total, on the sail worth treating, both on the lower panels of the mainsail.  I will spray those areas this weekend, making sure I spray only the sail material and  avoid the stitching, let sit for an hour and then rinse with fresh water.

There will be weather for sailing this weekend.  I thought about rushing the work Saturday to be ready for a Sunday sail.  But instead I will take my time and use the good weather to get SPARTINA put back together just right.  There will be plenty of sailing to come.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

enough with the snow!

Three coats of varnish on the gaff jaws, four more to go.  Leather, whipping line and brass cut tacks in hand to finish the jaws.  Sodium hypochlorite arrived from Amazon for the last part of sail cleaning this weekend.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


hung out to dry

Mizzen and jib hung up to dry in the garage yesterday, main will be put up there today.  While in sail cleaning mode I decided to skip sailing this weekend and ordered the sodium hypochlorite solution to do the mildew work this weekend.  Not soaking the entire sails in the solution, just spot cleaning with a brush.  It's really just a few spots on the lower panels of the main and the jib.  Might as well get all the sail work done at once.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

drilled, doweled

Kind of messy with the epoxy.  Had to bring the resin and hardner inside to warm it up.  Then mixed inside and back out to the 20-some degree garage to put the dowels in place.  It will look good once the dowels are trimmed, coated with clear epoxy, sanded, varnished and leathered.  Pressure is on to get it done this week - there just might be a day with sailing weather next weekend.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

scary, trusting a compass

Began the winter maintenance today.  Washing sails, replacing the leather on the gaff jaw and doing some touchup epoxy and varnish work.  Not doing all that today, just getting started.  Above is the leather and bronze tacks off the gaff jaws.  Kinda scary looking.  That was the second piece of leather on there, the first one lasted five years, about the same with this one.  I've got to drill out the holes left by the tacks, tap in 1/4" hardwood dowels, trim the dowels, epoxy and varnish.  Hope to get that done over the next few days.  Putting the leather back on is easy, based on directions years ago from John Welsford.  Here is a post from the last time I did it.  

Because of space I am washing the sails in two batches.  Started with the mizzen and the jib today.  Put them in a 32 gallon trash can with 16 gallons of water, eight cups vinegar and two cups of woolite.  Will leave them in there for a couple of days, stirring two or three or more times a day.  This should clean up the sails but will not remove the mildew.  That will come in a couple of weeks.


Virginia inaugurated a new governor, Ralph Northam, today.  He is the state's second governor from the Eastern Shore, the first serving during the civil war.  Below is part of his inaugural address.  I think he will be a good governor.

As a kid I spent hours behind our house, crabbing and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay. To this day that is where I find peace.

When I was just old enough to take to the water myself, my dad helped me build a rowboat and launch it, with strict instructions: stay close to home.

As I grew and became more comfortable, I began to take longer trips away from the shore, until I was ready to head out into the open water.

I remember standing with my father as I prepared to embark, and like all good Dads, he knew I was nervous even before I did.

He said, Ralph, remember—when you get out there, you can always trust your compass.

If things get dark or foggy, if you can’t find your way—keep your eye on the compass.

It’ll always bring you home safely.

He was right about that compass.

Friday, January 12, 2018

not gonna get political here, but....

Received a text from a friend, you'll find her photograph
at the bottom of this post, reminding me that eight years
ago we were headed to Haiti.  It as an experience that, 
for a lot of reasons, I will always remember.


Not here to argue, just sayin'.....

Thursday, January 11, 2018

stocked up, spring sail, so far away

Because of snow the package arrived five days late, but it did arrive.  A package from REI containing Christmas gifts from the oldest daughter, four self-heating OMEALS and three freeze dried Good To-Go meals.  Added to the supplies already on hand I have about 24 dinners which should see me through my cruises this year.  Courtesy of Webb and Graeme, I still have some New Zealand Back Country Cuisine dinners, plus I've got a nice supply of Mountain House dinners.  There will be some fine dining in my future.

The fall sail, as I mentioned recently, will be north from Cambridge to the Chester River and back down to St. Michaels.  The spring sail I've decided will be Tangier Sound, from Onancock in the south to the Honga River in the north.  I'll probably put in at Crisfield, but possibly Onancock.  Plenty of time to figure that out.

Looks like I'm losing January to weather and work.  SPARTINA'S maintenance - trailer work, some epoxy and painting, and possibly sail cleaning - will have to be in February.  I would like to have the boat in shape for those first few warm days that typically arrive late February/early March.  

Snow and ice still on the ground.  Sailing seems so far away....

Thursday, January 4, 2018

wish it was sea drift, not snow drift

I'm hearing about nine inches snow so far, 30 mph gusts.
Cold and colder this weekend so it will stick around.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

tomorrow morning

They are saying maybe eight inches of snow.  Photo below
is from yesterday, a sprinkler gone wild.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

the river

I have sailed on her a few times, anchored in her creeks and slipped upstream with her tide, but I have never really explored the Chester River.  I think I will do that this fall.

The fall trip, like last year, will be based around the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.  I will sail there, most likely putting in at Cambridge, an excellent free ramp, and work my way north to the Chester River.  The river's mouth is between Love Point on Kent Island and Eastern Neck Island, but I'll probably slip on to the river through Kent Narrows.

What I found last fall was some excellent fishing, bringing in several striper large and small.

And some excellent anchorages too.  That is Hail Creek, above tucked in the southern end of Eastern Neck Island.  The creek winds its way back into the marsh where SPARTINA was surrounded by water, cord grass, trees and sky.  Probably my favorite anchorage of the trip.  

Across the river is Queenstown Creek where I have anchored a couple of times.  The first time I anchored on the creek at the mouth of Salthouse Cove.  This last time I went farther up the creek to Ditchers Cove.  Too shallow for larger boats it is protected by trees on all sides, quiet and peaceful.

If I do leave the river I won't go far, just a few miles north to Rock Hall, above.  My friends there, Mary Lou and Fred, once gave me a tour of a couple of the Chester's creeks, Grays Inn Creek and Langford Creek, by car.  I've seen those creeks from shore, never sailed them.  Maybe this time.

I have anchored a couple of times in Reed Creek, below, but never in neighboring Grove Creek with its narrow entrance.  Maybe I should make time to find my way in there.

The Corsica River, a friend named Bob tells me, is the Eastern Shore's prettiest river and he may well be right.  I anchored there just off Emory Creek, below, last fall.  I did not make it up to the town of Centreville but might well do so this time.

Up above the Corsica River the Chester Narrows and turns to the northeast.  I sailed up there one time many years ago, the tide and a light breeze carrying SPARTINA past tiny coves and creeks.  Just past Southeastern Creek is Rolph's Wharf with the classic SandBar, below.  I remember a great burger and a cold beer.  Beyond the wharf is Chestertown.  It has been too long since I have been there. 

It is 15° outside, winter has just begun, there's a good chance of snow this week.  Fall is a long, long way away.  With the bitterly cold winter it is comforting to think about four or five days on the Chester River.