Monday, December 30, 2019

sea of green

SPARTINA, surrounded by duckweed at the dock in Elizabeth City Sunday morning.

Friday, December 27, 2019


A quick trip to the Eastern Shore today.  Worth the drive to Cape Charles just to see the fog.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas day repairs

A great Christmas day here.  Out for a walk just after dawn with the oldest daughter.  Then the gift exchange.

And then, with an extra set of hands in the house, a little sail repair time with the youngest daughter.  With the jib back in shape, hope to get out this weekend.  Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

the best, the worst, the most memorable of 2019

Best Description of SPARTINA:  "A smile on the water," said by his wife and relayed to me by Rick Lapp as they passed by SPARTINA on their Blue Jacket 28 CAILIN FIONN near Rolph's Wharf on the Chester River.


Least Favorite Description of Me: "You ignorant bastard!," delivered by a ramp ranger after I told him I didn't appreciate him yelling at me, distracting me and confusing me as I was launching SPARTINA with contrary wind and tide in Elizabeth City.  But yeah, I do admit that there are times when I would agree with him.


Most Unexpected Neighbor:  Finding Curt anchored near me on just off the Chester River.  I knew he was somewhere on the river but did not expect to see him for another day or so.


Favorite New Piece of Gear:  The mango suit, a Stohlquist Amp drysuit I now wear while sailing from late fall until early spring.  It has gotten me out on the water safely for some great sails when in past times SPARTINA would have been sitting in the garage.


Worst Decision Made When Thinking with my Stomach:  Hardening up in a gust, hoping to get into Little Washington, NC in time for dinner at Ribeye's Steakhouse.  Instead of enjoying a steak and  the all-you-can-eat salad bar (with smoked oysters!), I rounded up, returned to Blounts Bay and spent the evening drying out gear.


Quietest Moment in a Storm:  In the eye of Dorian as the storm passed over Buxton on Hatteras Island.  Quiet, calm and a hint of blue skies.  And then the back side of the storm arrived...


Favorite Bow Wave:  The sun catching water spraying off the bow on Poplar Island Narrows on the second day of the fall sail, the start of eight hours sailing into the wind on the narrows and then Chesapeake Bay.


Strangest Sight at 5 a.m. on the Virginia Beach oceanfront:  Man riding a bike down Atlantic Ave before dawn on the first day of a three-day music festival.  I got the feeling he would have been out there riding his bike even in there wasn't a music festival.


Favorite New Seafood:  Limpets, roasted in butter and drizzled with lemon juice, served with crusty slices of bread to soak up the juices in the pan, a traditional appetizer from the Azores.


Coldest Morning at the Ramp:  32° on an early February morning.


Most Enjoyable Cocktail Hour While Watching a Storm:  On the M/V PEGGY SUE with Norm and Betsy.  I had moved SPARTINA from the main dock to a smaller spot, making room for their Monk 36.  To me it was a simple and practical courtesy, to them it seemed much more.  We had a great time as we realized we had several friends in common while enjoying cold beers and a sip of scotch as a storm passed just south of Oriental.


Cutest Magazine Cover Girl:  Baby, on the March/April 2019 cover of Small Craft Advisor.  Tom had put her on lookout for pirates (power boats) and mermaids (you figure it out).


Favorite Cetaceans at Sunrise:  Two dolphin that hung off a little point as I headed back to Goose Creek and the Pamlico River after a peaceful night on a creek.


Best Imitation of a Painting:  Checking on SPARTINA on the way to the office, the morning light cast perfect reflections on the water.


Saddest Sight of a Favorite Place:  Ocracoke Island, visiting a week after Hurricane Dorion sent floodwaters raging through the village streets.  Worst storm since the 1940s, and they are still trying to recover.


Best Evening tied up with Classic Boats:  With a strong east wind blowing they let me tie up in a perfect little spot surrounded by a few of the classic boats at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's floating fleet.  Tent set up and sleeping gear set out, I was about to walk into town for a solo dinner.  Longtime friend and museum president Kristen showed up to check on me and SPARTINA, she said she would be back in 20 minutes to take me out for dinner.  How nice.


Best Photograph of a Circumnavigator:  Webb on GANNETT as he sailed 7,000 miles early this year to wrap up his sixth circumnavigation.


Most Enjoyable Daysail While on a Cruise:  Battered by wind and waves on the Pamlico River I turned into Goose Island Creek for a break, spent the rest of the day "daysailing" on Snode Creek.  Absolutely wonderful, that kind of sailing is what it is all about.


Most Vertical Climbing:  Up and down the mist covered tops of old volcanoes with the Pilgrim on Sao Migues in the Azores.


Kindest Bridge Tender:  The guy working the Kent Narrows Bridge.  I was a few minutes behind for the 9 a.m. lift and was expecting to have to wait 30 minutes for the next lift.  "Keep coming" he says over the vhf, sneaking me through with a friendly wave.


Best Named Creek for Hiding from a Storm:  Gale Creek, where I tucked in on the spring cruise.  Two storms cells came over while I read, napped and had a relaxing dinner.  I later heard stories of violent winds and golf ball-sized hail.


Best Moonset before Dawn:  The last morning of the spring cruise on Durham Creek.


Most Unexpected Appearance in a Netflix Documentary:  Me, running briefly across the screen in the Netflix documentary The Confession Killer, circa 1987.  At the time I had just finished building the first SPARTINA, a Sam Devlin Nancy's China, and was training for my first open boat cruise on the Texas coast.


Strangest Sound:  The hollow popping noise as flat-faced waves slammed into the side of SPARTINA as we crossed from Hail Point to Queenstown Creek.

Best Crab Cake:  Snappers Waterfront Cafe in Cambridge, Md.  Crab meat picked right next door, it doesn't get any fresher.  Good enough reason to have Cambridge as part of the sail plan for any trip on the Eastern Shore.


Favorite Thing to Think About During Cold Winter Nights: Next year's sailing.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

a package deal

An excellent story in the NYTimes about a package deal for camper cruising the Bahamas.  There are some excellent photographs with the story by Sara Fox, well worth visiting the story just to see the evening photograph.  From the story...

For $1,350, Out Island Explorers will supply four passengers with a boat, tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, a cook set, propane, Yeti coolers, water containers, chairs, a Hawaiian sling spear gun and everything else you need to survive a week in paradise. All we had to do was fly into the Staniel Cay airport, pull up the sails and push off into the sunset. A week later, we would end our one-way trip 80 miles south on Great Exuma Island and fly home.

A few reactions to reading the story.  

One:  I have always liked Sea Pearls, they seem like excellent boats. 

Two:  The Bahamas seem like a wonderful cruising ground. 

Three:  Four people on a Sea Pearl sounds like a crowd.  Two seems more appropriate to me.

Four:  Maybe this is something I should put on the list for "someday".

Monday, December 16, 2019

lazy lunch

I slept in this morning, drove down to Elizabeth City and picked up a sub (Jersey Mike's) on the way. I planned on a relaxing sail for lunch, and that is exactly what I got.  The double reef remained in SPARTINA's mainsail, the winds were lighter but there will some strong gusts in the mix.  Easy sailing and enough wind that I had steady 5+ kt runs under reduced sail.  The wind has swung from WSW to SW, leaving the Pasquotank much more peaceful. As I was being lazy I chose not to put the mango suit on.  Once out on the river I found it to be cooler than expected so slipped the dry suit on.  It is good to know that I can put it on quickly and easily while sailing.  

I have been thinking about the new year and making plans for work on SPARTINA.  I see February as trailer month - repack the bearing, a little painting and maybe replace some hardware.  March/April for topside paint including interior grey, white deck and touch-up of the the green hull.  I also need to paint the spars.  Late April/early May for bottom paint.  And mixed in between all of that, some winter and early spring sailing.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


It was the first mango suit sail of the season, and if I was a mango I would have been a bruised one.  Gusty winds, much stronger than predicted, made it a wild ride.  Blowing 12 to 16 out of the WSW, the gusts reaching up in to just shy of 25 mph, according to Sailflow.  From having been out there, I believe it.

We started out full sail, then a single reef and very soon a double reef.  Lots of spray so I was glad to have the dry suit on.  Late morning I took a break, anchored behind Hospital Point for lunch and a nap.  

A pretty boat, BEYOND, out of Niagra-on-the Lake, was anchored off of Cobb Point.  The dark-hulled Freedom 40 cat-ketch had been converted to a junk rig.  Late season snow birds, I would have like to have asked them where they were headed.  But with all that wind, not much time to talk.

Hoping for a little less breeze tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Along with all the Christmas packages in those grey Amazon trucks zipping around the neighborhood were a couple of items for 2020 sails.

After the fall trip I found I was out of notebooks, both the Rite in the Rain journals that I use to take notes throughout the day and the larger Moleskin journal that I use for writing the day's log each evening.  I've used both types of notebooks for years and I'm very happy with them.  The Rite in the Rain journal means I don't have to worry about rain, salt spray, fog, dew - they hold up to it all.  And the larger journal, kept in a ziplock freezer bag and stowed in the light kit, is just right for two to four pages each day to put all the notes - wind, weather, speed, general observations - into context.

I typically do not buy food this far in advance, but when I see a new RxBar - and they seem to keep putting new combinations all the time - I buy it for either day sails or the spring cruise.  These two - Banana Chocolate Walnut and Peanut Butter with Berries - have use-by dates in the summer so they will be good for a May trip.

Just where that trip will be?  Haven't figured that out yet.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

little white lies I tell myself

There was a hole in the sky over the Pasquotank River yesterday.  Or at least a hole in a cloud in the sky.  It may have possibly been a fallstreak hole , I am not sure.  The rays coming from the sun behind the cloud are an artifact of the iPhone lens.  I do not understand the dark area directly beneath the cloud.  It was an interesting sight on a beautiful day.

A hard frost covered the ground when I left home with SPARTINA in tow, temperature up to 40 degrees by the time I drove to Elizabeth City and rigged at the ramp.  A mirror-like river gave way to cat's paws as the willed filled in right on time.  I would have been happy sailing at 3 kts all day but by noon there were gusts into the high teens which carried us along at 5 kts or so.  No complaints.

I did not wear the mango-colored drysuit.  The river temperature was 53 degrees, just above the 50 degree threshold I have set for my sailing with a drysuit.  I do know inherently that the results would have been the same at either 53 or 50 degrees had I capsized or fallen in the water.  That the additional three degrees would have made a difference is just another of those little white lies I tell myself.  I'll begin wearing the drysuit next week.  

Sidney's, my favorite Betsy Town lunch spot is gone.  I will miss it.  In the same spot on Main Street just a couple blocks off the water is now a pizza company.  Excellent thin crust artisan (maybe better spelled arti$an) pizzas by the slice.  Very good, but I still miss Sidney's. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019


I have added some photographs to "the boat," "calm" and "stormy" posts that you see to the right at the top of the blog.  Photographs for the calm and storm posts are obvious, "the boat" is a catch-all for photographs that I like and that tell something about the SPARTINA.

additions to "the boat"

I really like the texture of the clouds in the photographs, plus the texture of Stuart's fine sails.

Curt caught SPARTINA at anchor when I didn't even know he was there.

And above is pre-dawn sailing on the Chester River.  I shot it with the GoPro 7 camera, and I think it is a decent photograph for shooting in low (non-existent) light.  I wish I had shot it with my iPhone XR, which has much better low light capabilities than the GoPro.  For future trips I'm considering buying a small housing for the iPhone so that I will feel more comfortable leaving it exposed (and easy to get to) while sailing.  Will have to think about that for a while.  This is the Amazon link for the case.

Above is sailing double-reefed on the Choptank.  There was a lot of wind on this last trip and thinking back now I may have spent more time reefed and double-reefed than on any other sail.

Below is filling out the log in the evening, something I do when I am tired and would just as soon slip in the sleeping bag.  It is important to me that I jot down the notes while the day's sailing is still fresh in my mind.

additions to "calm"

Both of these calm photographs were taken on very windy days.  Above is drifting out of the wind shadow of tall trees on LaTrappe Creek on the last day of the fall sail.  It is a treat to slip away from shore with a nearly imperceptible breeze.

Below is SPARTINA tied to the dock at Rock Hall not too long after dawn.  Winds were gusting in the high 20s and I was waiting for them to drop.  They did after an hour or two.  I do like the warm color of the morning sun on the deck and sails.

additions to "stormy"

The photograph above was taken on the same day as the calm photograph above it.  The wind did drop, but not by that much.  This was crossing the Chester River from Hail Point to Queenstown Creek, wind and waves on the beam.

Below is a photograph from sailing into the wind and tide up Poplar Island Narrows on day two of the fall sail.  Pretty much all day tacking up the Narrows and then over to Bloody Point  and on to Chesapeake Bay.  Just great sailing.

Decent forecast for tomorrow so I may sneak down to Betsy Town for a sail.  It might be cool enough for the first mango suit (drysuit) sail of the season.