Friday, June 21, 2019

day eight - back to North Creek

I wake early, way too early.  Maybe 4 a.m.  A calm, cool, peaceful night on the creek.  The moon glows the west.  Even the jib glows, lit by the anchor light hanging beneath the bow sprit.

Sail off anchor 6 a.m., steady wsw wind.  1.6 on Durham Creek, a maple sea salt bar for breakfast.  Out on the river and making 3.7 at 7:00, soon 4.8 sailing along the south shore.

Tack west of Long Point at 7:55.  Motor sailing at 8:10, SPARTINA rolling from side to side in the chop, sails hanging loose.  

Wind fills in and we sail across the river.  Just after 9:00 in the creek, wind blocked by the trees and under power.  I check the gps coming in to the dock, 198 NM.  Approaching the ramp Conway waves from a neighboring pier, welcomes us back.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

day seven - up and back

Anchor up 6 a.m., the sails go up as the sun peeks over the horizon.  South wind.  Quiet, just the sounds of rippling water and the creak of the gaff jaws agains the mainmast.  Apple Cinnamon Rx bar for breakfast.  On the Pamlico River 6:25, 2.7 kts.  Whichard Beach by 7:00.  An osprey takes flight from Marker 16 talons clutching a fresh caught fish, a young chick left behind on the nest.

The trestle in sight at 7:40, 3.3 then the wind freshens, making 4.7 at Marker 17.  Sailed through the old rusting trestle, docked Little Washington waterfront 8:20.  

Washington is a nice little town that, like most places on the North Carolina sounds, has seen better days.  With a rebuilt waterfront and a handful of restaurants nearby, the town is showing signs of life.  

I grab an iced tea from a bakery a couple blocks inland, then walk back to the river and enjoy the tea while sitting in a rocking chair on a porch.  I catch up on the news, send some photographs to friends and family.  For lunch I visit Ribeye's, the steakhouse I had been pining for the evening before.  The salad bar makes for a light lunch while I sit in the shade on the patio.

Just after noon we push off from the docks, raising just mizzen and jib with the thought of putting up the main once we are through the trestle.

Out in the channel past the trestle I am surprised by the strong west wind, making 4.5 under m and j.  No need to raise the main for the downwind sail.  GPS shows 13.49 NM to Durham Creek.

Partly cloudy skies, water ruffled by gusts out of the SW.  We make out way across the river to the south side where there is plenty of wind and calmer water.  Off Broad Creek at 1:50, Maules Point 2:35, making a steady 5.0.  Passing Nevil Creek at 2:55, wind over the starboard quarter.  Slide in close to shore, 2.5 kts.

Round the shallows into Durham Creek at 4:25.  Could have and maybe should have put up the main but I'm in no rush, tacking back and forth on the quiet, tree-lined creek with just mizzen and jib.  Catch the cb on the shallows near a point, work my way off.  

A few more tacks, passing Horse Point at 5:15.  Anchor down 5:35.

Marinara with crunchy penne (my fault as I misread the instructions) and a can of tuna for dinner.  Cup of mango for dessert.  Read my book under a bright moon, then slip into the bivy.  Last full day on the water.

Running totals of 187.2 NM, 45+ hours of sailing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

day six - a day in a life

Sails up 6 a.m. after a calm, clear and peaceful night.  Light west wind, a gentle sail down Snode Creek at 1.5 kt.  Two dolphin roll in the water near a point on the south shore.  Two more alongside SPARTINA.  And looking aft I see a few more.  We reach Goose Island Creek at 6:30, a crabber working his pots, a single sailboat motoring north on the ICW.  Southwest wind, 3.7 on the creek, then 4.3 approaching Pamlico River at 7:00.  Two ospreys on the hunt near Reed Hammock, hesitating up the the air then dropping quickly to the water's surface.  A buffalo stick and a mixed berry Rx bar for breakfast, steak and eggs.  Checking the forecast I hear I'll be heading into the wind all day long.

Off Indian Island at 7:40, the water very choppy and I make 2.8 to 4 knots depending on the waves and chop.  

8:30 calmer water and making 3.5 at  in the middle of the Pamlico River.

9:10 tacking near the ferry docks

9:45 tack just past the ferry dock on the south shore

10:10 tack east of Gum Thicket, wind swinging to the west

10:35 tack off the phosphate mines

11:05 tack off Bayview

11:45 tack east of Core Point, thin white clouds above

12:00 tack west of Bath Creek entrance, can of tuna and a cup of mixed fruit for lunch

12:25 light winds in the middle of the river, making 2.5

12:40 wind swings to the north and we make better progress up river

12:55 tack near Tripp Point

1:20 tack east of Rugged Point

1:40 tack near the mouth of Nevil Creek, white sandy beach

2:00 tack along the north shore

2:15 tack at Maules Point, better wind though out of the west, making 4.8

2:30 tack off of Goose Creek state park

2:50 tack inside the eastern edge of Blounts Bay

3:00 tack mid-river back toward Blounts Bay

3:30 tack near the mouth of Blounts Creek deep inside the bay

4:05 tack at Broad Creek Point, afternoon gusts arriving, strong blasts of wind out of west and southwest

The river narrows approaching Washington with Whichard Beach to the south and the north shoreline about a mile away.  I start make short tacks in the gusts but I also start thinking about a medium rare steak at the nice little steakhouse near the Washington waterfront.  I'm hungry and tired and dinner sounds good.  I see another gust approaching, a strong one, but instead of heading up into the wind I tighten up the main trying to get the most out of the wind.  The gust arrives and quickly the port coaming is under water, the tea-stained water of the Pamlico River coming aboard.  Maybe 30 or 40 gallons, the most I've ever taken on board.

SPARTINA quickly rights, the chart book, cook kit and other gear floating in the water.  I let the jib go free, slack the main and begin pumping out water.  We slide across the channel but no traffic so I focus on getting the water out.  I make some progress with the hand-pump but not enough.  Maybe continue sailing to Washington and clean out there?  Checking distances on the gps I realize with the strong west wind I probably won't make it past the railroad trestle and into the anchorage until dark.  And once anchored I would still have a lot of water to pump out, a lot of gear to dry.  We turn back downwind and head for Blounts Bay.  

Anchor down along a wooded shoreline 5:35.   About 20 minutes to pump out, scoop out and sponge out the water.  I find the gear in the light kit - nearly all of it bagged - is in good shape.  I dry out the cooking gear, hang up the foul weather gear and cushions to dry.  I am pleased to open the bunk flat and thwart hatches to find the storage areas (which provide positive flotation) are completely dry.  Cleaning those o-ring seals paid off.

Light snacks for dinner in place of a fine steak, a little reading and then slip into the sleeping back as the sun goes down.  Dry, rested and ready for the next day.

Running total 162 NM and 46+ hours of sailing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

a sailor at sea

A stunning photograph by Webb Chiles from the last leg of his circumnavigation on the Moore 24 GANNET.  For more see here.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

day five - a quiet creek

Sail off anchor 6:20 under mizzen and jib.  Chilly, maybe under 50 degrees, and blustery wind out of the north.  Out in the open water of Mouse Harbor raise a single reefed main, sail to the sunrise with lots of spray coming off the bow.

Very strong north wind, tack just after 7:00 towards Pamlico Point.  Past the point big waves coming across the width of the Pamlico River in groups of three.  Sailing along Cedar Island I look for a spot between waves to come about, hoping to tack my way across the river and into the Pungo River.  We come about just as a strong gust hits.  We round up but not quick enough, the starboard coaming slips under the water.  Round up again, use the bilge pump and a sponge to clear out the water.  Sailing again I look at the wind and waves.  We're not going to make it to the Pungo today.  Come about one more time and fall off towards the entrance to Goose Creek Canal.

In the canal at 9:00, anchor down in Dixon Creek 9:45.  Strip off the foul weather gear and spread it out to dry.  Self-heating brunch of GoMeals Hash Browns and a can of tuna.  Then a nap in the warm sunshine.

I wake a little after noon.  Sails up and out on the canal.  The wind has disappeared, just light shifting breezes.  Perfect for a day sail!  We tack back and forth on Goose Island Creek, track the eastern shoreline casting for trout.  Hook a small fish but lose it quickly.  Glancing at the chart I notice a creek across the way.  Snode Creek.

We sail past the house on the point, follow the shoreline and the creek's entrance disappears behind us.  Nothing but blue skies with delicate white clouds, trees, marsh and water.  Just beautiful.  I make a few casts along the shoreline but decide instead to just enjoy the afternoon.  How could I have gone down Goose Island Creek so many times over the years and not seen this wonderful water?  We follow the winding shoreline, the breeze steady, water calm.  SPARTINA, and I, were made for this kind of sailing.  Fish jump along the cordgrass, a snake swim's across the bow.  Great blue herons watch from along shore, ospreys circle above.

Anchor down 4:30.  Venison Casserole and a cup of mango for dinner.  Well-rested from the nap earlier in the day, I stay up late reading my book on the little yawl tucked back in the creek. 

Running total of 120.9 NM, just over 35 hours of sailing.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

day four - back north

I wake in darkness, well-rested and ready to go.  Only after I have slipped out of the bivy and into my clothes do I check the clock on my phone.  It is only 4:30.  I think of crawling back under the sleeping bag but instead take my time packing away the sleeping gear, folding the tent, putting everything in place.  

Sails up just after 6:00 just outside the breakwater.  Broken overcast, north wind and making 2.5 kts.  It is cold so I layer on a light jacket and slip on my foul weather bibs.  Mango pineapple bar for breakfast, wind improves giving us 4.5 towards Piney Point on a pretty morning.  

A mango fruit cup as we sail by crabbers working pots about mile offshore.  The wind is better than forecast.  Just before 8:00 doing 3.8 off of Gum Thicket.  A high overcast with banks of lower clouds to the north.  Perfect wind lets us sail parallel to shore.

Off Broad Creek the wind begins to fail, 2.2.  Under power at 8:40, skies beginning to clear.  Rounding the Lighthouse Shoals I stop to bring down the main and jib.  At 9:00 I top off the outboard tank and strip off the foul weather pants and jacket.  At Maw Point boats on the ICW turn into the Bay River while I continue on north.  Patches of wind here and there, nothing sustained.  What looks to be a small raft with red strobes floats in the distance.  I wonder if it connected to the military.  Getting closer I see this it is three or four mylar birthday balloons, the light catching the red mylar looks like flashing strobes.  I grab it and stow it in the trash, glad to remove some debris that might eventually kill a turtle or a whale.

More hints of wind at Boar Point.  Sow Island Point at 11:30 and soon a light SE breeze.  Sails up, making 3.0 with wind over the starboard quarter.  Tuna fish and a fruit cup for lunch just after noon.  Making 2.4 across the mouth of Big Porpoise Bay. 

 We sail under a low, dark cloud, the water shivering beneath the cloud but calm all around.

Casting for trout at Big Porpoise Point, no luck for me as I watch a couple guys who have beached their boat and cast from the marsh shoreline, bringing in six nice fish in the time it takes me to sail by.

Just before 2:00 the SW wind comes in strong and hard, then swings to NW, making 5 kts.  Very, very gusty.

In Mouse Harbor at 2:45, drop the main at 3:00, sailing under mizzen and jib, looking for an anchorage protected from the NW wind.

It's fun sailing under the two small sails, tackingback and forth along the marsh line makes for a fine afternoon.  Anchor down 4:00 in Southward just below Hog Cove.

Running total of 101.9 NM and 28 + hours of sailing.

AlpineAire Sausage Pasta and a mango cup for dinner.  High winds out of the N forecast for the early morning hours.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

day three - the shoal/cocktail hour

Sail off anchor before 6:00.  I had thought I had heard a "hum" when I woke in the middle the night, worried that I would find SPARTINA covered in mosquitoes in the morning.  No mosquitoes, maybe it was the wind in whistling through the pine trees.

Overcast with a light westerly breeze that carries us down Gale Creek.  Blueberry bar for breakfast.  A patch of blue in the sky.  On the ICW by 6:10, making 3.7 on the canal, then over 5.0 past Gale Point. 

Sun breaking through on the Bay River, 5.5.  Approaching Maw Point at 7:00, sun breaking through and rounding the point at 7:10.  Sailing 50 yards off the rich green marsh, pelicans diving for baitfish between us and the cordgrass.  The shore falls away to the west.  7:25 tack NW back towards shore and calmer water.  Overcast sliding up the Neuse River from the south, 5.4 kts.  Tiny Swan Island to the west, bright sandy beach, Piney Point to the southwest.

Tacking out away from shore, big waves coming up the Neuse in groups of three, low grey overcast and dark grey water.  Tack back towards shore, see a line of breaking waves ahead.  Just as I realize it is a shoal the cb touches bottom and the rudder pops up.  I wait until SPARTINA heels and raise the cb a few inches, tacking back towards the center of the river where there is plenty of deep water.  Cb back and rudder back down I continue sailing SSE.  The waves are big and the wind is strong.  I think about reefing but decide to push the boat (and myself) a little bit harder.

Tack back WNW at 9:15 and find calmer water close to shore.  A series of tacks and the entrance to Oriental in sight at 11:00.  The wind seems to be moderating.  Overcast is gone, blue skies and white puffy clouds.  Pretty sailing.  Tied up town dock in Oriental 12:40.

Sitting on the porch at The Bean having a glass of iced tea I see a trawler come up to the town dock.  A 30-some foot sailboat on one side, SPARTINA - with a sparred length of 24' -  takes up the other side.  The trawler backs away and comes back to tie up along the seawall.  I run over to catch the lines but with the bow-thruster going the captain can't get the trawler in close to the wall.  The boat is touching the bottom.  I hear the captain tells his wife "We'll just have to go back out."  I tell them that is my little boat on the far side of the pier, why don't we trade places?  He says "If that's ok with you."  And it is. It seems like no being deal to me, but a very big deal to them.  He makes me promise to join them for their cocktail hour.

A couple hours later it is the cocktail hour on the trawler, the captain and his wife turn out to be friends of friends.  A beer and some very fine single malt whiskey for Islay mixed with enjoyable conversation.  We sit on the aft deck of the trawler watching a storm skirt the harbor.

Dinner at the Toucan Grill is Tuna Tataki, a fine meal washes down with a glass of wine.

Running total of 70.85 NM, 18 hours sailing.

Monday, June 10, 2019


I found on the spring sail that some of my gear is getting old.  A lot of it has been in use for a decade now so it is worth updating for the fall trip.

SPOT was offering what seemed to me to be a really good deal.  With credits on both the SPOT Gen3 and a year's service, I was able to get the new tracking device and a year's service for less that the annual service fee coming due in July for the original device, left above.  The folks at SPOT were not happy when I called in to cancel the service contract on the original device, they said the sale was based on the idea of SPOT users having a second active device and it was expected that I would continue both contracts.  I only need one device, much to their displeasure.  Advantages of the new SPOT are that the user interface (ie buttons) are easier to use, it is smaller and it seems to be more accurate with the gps locations.

My old radio, left above, which I use mostly for weather reports and the occasional bridge opening, began losing the broadcast signal on the last trip.  Sometimes I would have to hold it at a certain angle to be able to get the weather.  I replaced it with a Cobra Marine HH350, which is lighter and a little smaller.  It had good reviews,  I hope it is a good radio.  I'll tuck the old radio away in a dry bag as an emergency backup.

And because of another good deal ($100 credit on any digital camera working or not sent to GoPro) I upgraded from my Hero 3+ to a Hero 7+.  I've done just a little testing with the new GoPro but so far it appears to be an amazing camera.  It will shoot "linear" images (as opposed to the traditional "curved" GoPro images, it responds incredibly well to voice commands (we'll have to see how that works on a breezy day) and the video is extremely high quality with built in stabilization.  I don't shoot that much video as of now, maybe that will change.  The old camera I sent it for the discount was a non-working Pentax Optio, so I 've still got the old GoPro as a backup or even a second camera.

Next on the list - Garmin GPS....