I had planned to retire this fall (though I in fact quit working much earlier due to a very nice buyout offer) and have four weeks to sail. My plan was to launch in Cambridge in late September, sail into the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival in St. Michaels, explore the Bay for a few weeks and then sail into the DownRigging Festival in Chestertown before returning to Cambridge. Great plan, I thought (and as philosopher Mike Tyson observes: Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the mouth). At least it was a good plan until the pandemic arrived. So both my boat shows were canceled. And now you know where I got the name.
Saturday, October 31, 2020
I wake to find Curt is already to raise anchor, the horizon glowing red before dawn. Noting it is day ten I put on a new set of clothes, all clean and dry. How nice. Sails up at 6:55 with calm, glassy water. Curt and I motor alongside each other. At Ware Point crabbers are working their pots and the breeze carries the scent of fish as they discard the old bait into the water. A little wind and Curt motors up close and says he has decided to head south. With a wave we say goodbye.
Mixed berry Rx bar, buffalo bar and mango for breakfast. At 7:40 a little southwest breeze. Enter beautiful, winding Broad Creek at 8:00, motor sailing at 3.4 kts. 8:30 I can feel the wind filling in. Out of the creek and on the Little Annemessex 8:30.
We cross the river and round Island Point at 9:10, out out on to Tangier Sound making 3.9.
Wind falls off then fills back in, 4.5. I can see Solomon's Lump Lighthouse across the sound, steady wind and pleasant sailing at 4.5. Lots of pelicans skimming the water, flying in groups of five or six. I pick out a hunting blind on South Marsh Island and steer by that tiny dark speck on the horizon.
Near the south end of South Marsh Island at 11:10, 3.7. Wind falls off just afternoon and I start the outboard. A west wind fills in at12:30, sailing at 2.5. Wind comes and goes, still overcast but a little brighter and warmer.
1:30a nice breeze, 3.3 kts and then 3.8 alongside Bloodsworth Island. Approaching Hooper Strait a gust of wind and gps shows 5.0. Three deadrises out crabbing on the north end of Tangier Sound. Enter the strait at 2:10 and put out a trolling line. It is the calmest crossing of the strait that I have ever had. No fish so I reel in the line. Enter the Honga River as an eagle circles low to port, dips, grabs a fish and flies away. Making 4.5 on the river just after 3:00.
Jibe into Fox Creek at 3:30, anchor down in near a little creek in Crab Point Cove at 3:45. 29.29 NM for the day.
Italian sausage and rice for dinner with a cup of tropical fruit.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
A gusty night. Sail off anchor at 7:15 with a small craft advisory in effect until 10:00, mizzen and jib with two reefs tucked into the bundled main. Check with Curt, he's going to stay in the hook for a while. I'm headed towards the marshes near Tobacco Island. From there, I tell Curt, headed to Pocomoke Sound.
Sailing at 4.0 kts as a boat approaches. It is Ooker Eskridge, mayor of Tangier. He swings by to say hello, asks where I am head. "Pocomoke Sound, I think." A friendly wave and he heads off. The wind is not as strong as the forecast warned. A double reefed main up and then, clear of the island, full sail.
At 8:30 south of Watts Island making 4.3. A bright sunny day that quickly warms. Tobacco Island is sight at 8:45. I duck into the marsh for a little while but not too long, I want to head north to the sound.
It is calm enough that I sneak over the shallow bar coming out from Beach Island. In the past I have seen waves breaking on the bar but it is peaceful today.
At 11:30 I jibe out of the marked channel to let a tug with a barge pass by on the way to Pocomoke. 11:50 fall off towards Saxis. 12:50 off the Saxis marshes. Looking at the forecast I see a favorable southern breeze tomorrow. To be in position to use that wind to head north I turn back west and sail along the shore of Pocomocke Sound. I put out a line to troll for stripers but too many crab pots so I bring it back in.
Anchor down 2:45 Ape Hole Creek. Not too far from the entrance of Broad Creek that will take me north in the morning. I take a pleasant afternoon nap. Not too long after waking I see Curt's dark sails headed across the creek. We raft up and compare our days. Then dinner on board Curt's ANNIE.
Curt gets ready to cast off for the evening, checking the throttle and choke on his outboard when he jumps back and says "There's a snake!" And there was. Probably a northern water snake.
Curt graps a pole to nudge the reluctant snake into the water. The snake swims towards SPARTINA, then turns back to ANNIE. Curt splashes the water with the pole and chases it away again.
30.29 NM for the day
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Wake to the sound of birds calling in the marsh. Seems like the first time I've heard anything but wind for the last couple days. Sail off anchor with a beautiful sunrise. Full sail on a cool clear morning.
Making 2.1 across Pry Cove. 7:05 out of the cove and jibe towards Solomon's Lump Lighthouse. A very pleasant run down the southwest shore of South Marsh Island, 4.6 in the calm lee of the island. Peanut butter and berries Rx bar, tropical fruit and a buffalo bar for breakfast. 7:40 steady sailing at 3.4 across Kedges Strait.
8:10 crab pots and rough water in the shallow northeast of Smith Island, sailing towards the giant wind turbine in Crisfield. Making 5.4 kts at 8:45. Jibe at 9:00 with an excellent angle for Tangier Island. I look through binoculars to see a tiny blue dot on the horizon, Tangier's water tower.
Near Goose Shoal at 10:20, the gps shows a steady 5 kts and 7 kts in the gusts sailing wing and wing. Make out the channel entrance markers at 10:55, sails down just after 11:00.
It is a well-marked channel but several sticks colored green and red mark shoaling within the channels. I follow the path between the crab shanties, getting a few waves from waterman along the way.
It is still windy and the tide is rushing through the channel near Mr. Park's marina. I try and dock on the down current side but the tide carries me away as soon as I cut power. I swing the outboard to reverse back into the channel and come in on the up current side, a harder landing than I would have liked but not damage done.
I find Mr. Parks getting into his golf cart, say hello and give him $5.00 for the tie. I ask him, because of the pandemic, if the restaurants are open. He tells me yes, "hop in and I'll give you a ride." I say thanks but I want to tidy up the boat first, and the restaurants are only two blocks away.
Lorraine's Snack Bar and Fisherman's Corner are right across the lane from each other. I choose Lorraine's and enjoy an excellent crab cake sandwich, homemade chips and a small salad...plus a couple glasses of iced tea.
I take a walk through the village to see what has changed. Some houses have been fixed up, some fallen into disrepair. I stop at a gift shop and buy a used Hemingway book for $1. Down by the docks a crowd has gathered as the mailboat has come in from Crisfield. Visiting the grocery store I find the shelves distressingly empty. I was hoping to buy a gallon or two of water but none to be had. I do buy a couple small bottles of water at an ice cream stand.
Cast off just after 2:00, motoring past the crab shanties and raising mizzen and jib over the shallows next to Port Isobel Island. I sail down and back along the eastern most ridge of Tangier Island known as Canton, looking for the calmest spot to anchor in the north wind. I find it deep in the "hook" known as Cod Harbor.
Anchor down 3:00. 23.73 NM for the day.
About an hour later I see dark saisl coming around Canton. It is Curt in his Drascombe Longboat Cruiser ANNIE. He has had a rough sail across the bay from the western shore, using The Thorofare to cut across Smith Island and then dropping down to Tangier. It is good to see him.
ANNIE rafts up alongside SPARTINA. We share a toast from a little flask Curt is carrying and catch up with each other. We fix our own dinners and talk our days on the water.
Curt casts off and anchors nearby for the night.
A morning check on the forecast confirms what I suspected. I am not going anywhere today. That's ok. I've got a couple good books and, surprisingly, a good cell connection from either Crisfield or Deale Island.
We are quite comfortable surrounded by the marsh. The wind howls outside the boom tent, I relax inside.
0.0 NM. A very pleasant day. The forecast looks good for tomorrow.
Monday, October 26, 2020
I wake to the sound of wind. I can't feel it, tucked in the tiny basin, but I can hear it. Weather radio tells me there is a small craft advisory in effect. I tuck in a single reef.
Sail off anchor at 7:05. It is a cool morning and knowing it will be a rough sail I've got my foul weather gear on. Outside of the cove making 4.0. Then 5.2 out on the Honga River. By 7:40 I'm fighting the tiller so I bring down the mizzen. The jib and single-reefed main are plenty for a downwind sail. Hooper Strait marker in sight. Chilly. The wind drops a little, mizzen back up at 8:05 just before entering the strait, 4.4. It is a rough crossing with confused water. To simplify things I bring the mizzen back down.
Sailing down the east side of Bloodsworth Island I begin to get big waves on the port quarter, the fetch running for miles down Fishing Bay and the Nanticoke River. I round up and raise the mizzen and bring down the main. The waves are constant and it is a rough ride. I think of my friend Curt who says "it is called a small craft warning and your boat is a small craft." I wonder about the waves getting bigger farther south on the sound where there are few places to seek shelter.
At the southern tip of Bloodsworth Island I fall off to the south into Holland Strait, the water calming quickly, bring the mizzen down and sail under jib only. We cross above South Marsh Island past Johnson Cove then follow the shoreline into Pry Cove. Mizzen back up to sail across the wind up into the cove. Sailing close to the green marsh grass an egret takes flight.
Anchor down at 10:20 under terrific gusts of wind.
Excellent protection in a little cove. Time for brunch: biscuits and gravy with sausage crumbles.
I lean back in the cockpit and take a long nap. The sun feels good.
It is a day of rest and relaxation. I read a book and listen to some football on the radio.
14.52 NM for the day.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
The second I open the door I know we are headed south. There is a symphony of halyards banging against aluminum masts in a stiff north wind.
Cast off from the dock 7:50 and a gust pushes SPARTINA up against a piling in the marina. I push off and gun the outboard. Out of Knapp's Narrows channel, mizzen and jib up at 8:00. 5 kts and then 6.7 in a gust.
Off Black Walnut Point, the southern end of Tilghman Island at 8:40, low clouds to the east and blue skies above. Another strong gust at almost 7 knots, very rough in the mouth of the Choptank River entrance with waves coming on the port quarter.
Hills Point at 9:45, 7.5 down the face of a wave. At 10:00 a little calmer, a little warmer as a deadrise rumbles by. Soon much calmer, 4.2 to 6.2 kts as swells roll on by. Passing the remnants of James Island at 10:30, by 11:00 in the lee of Taylor's Island, 3.5. 11:30 raise the main with a single reef, 3.9. Wing and wing with a gust we make 5.6 and then back down to 3.9. Easy sailing now on calm water, wind on the stern.
12:30 pass the fishing weir north of Barren Island, 5 kts, blue skies to the north and getting cooler under an overcast sky. A white pelican perches on the weir's nets, an unusual bird for this area and might have been carried here with the remnants of Hurricane Sally.
Wind drops and making 1.9 at 1:45, shake out the reef and do 3.9 as the wind returns. I motor sail through the bridge at Hoopers Island at 2:30, then under sail with a northeast wind, 4.6. Then a lull at Smoke Point, 2.7. Just after 3:00 a gust hits and heels SPARTINA, taking a little water over the side. Round up and sponge it out.
Lighter wind and making 2.3 at Windmill Point. 4:15. anchor down in Pauls Cove, tucked in the basin surrounded by a farm.
35.43 NM for the day. A very peaceful evening in the cove. Chili Mac with Beef and a cup of peaches for dinner.