Friday, January 29, 2021

11 sounds

A sail from Charleston to Jacksonville is a matter of crossing 11 sounds, the rivers that connect them and in some cases land cuts that were dug to connect the rivers.  Below is Henry Plummer's hand-drawn map of the sounds from THE BOY, ME AND THE CAT, CRUISE OF THE MASCOT, 1912-1913.  He shows, from north to south, St. Helena, Port Royal, Ossabow, St. Catherine, Sapelo, Doboy, Altamaha, St. Simon, St. Andrews, Cumberland and Nassau Sounds.

I've been sailing sounds for years: Pamlico, Albemarle and Tangier.  Below is a photographer from 2014 on my first crossing of Pamlico Sound from the mainland to Ocracoke, about 16 miles.  Weather was fair that day.  A year or two later I crossed from Ocracoke to the mainland under small craft warnings, very pleased with the yawl's ability to sail under just mizzen and jib.

It is interesting to me that the sounds of South Carolina and George are much narrower bodies of water than what I am used to.  Most are two or three miles.  The narrowest, Buttermilk Sound, not shown on Plummer's map, is just a quarter mile wide.  With the amount of water that drains through the sounds I do expect there will be stronger tides than those found in North Carolina and Chesapeake Bay.

The map also gives some time frames worth referencing.  Plummer sailed MASCOT, a 24 ft. 6 in. long catboat.  The boat had no engine but they towed a small powered "push boat" for when there was no wind.  On the passage south they are in Charleston on January 9, reaching the Jacksonville area on January 28.  Nineteen days.  North bound they are in the Jacksonville area on March 23, reaching Charles on April 13.  Again, nineteen days.  Sounds reasonable.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

sail to the Sea Islands

It is mornings like this that remind me of why I want to head south.  Four inches of snow (when the forecast was for maybe one inch) and howling wind out of the north.  Enough of that stuff!

If the warm weather won't come to me, I may as well go to it.  In late February or early March, depending on weather and tides, I plan to tow SPARTINA down to Charleston, South Carolina and launch there for a sail to the Sea Islands.  

I am both excited and anxious about the trip.  Excited because I have heard for years about the beauty of the rivers and sounds of South Carolina and Georgia.  A little anxious because I am not familiar with the waterways.  I read of six and eight foot tides, and the rushing currents that come with the ebb and flow.  I hear of winding creeks, open sounds and unmarked shoaling along the way.

I have wanted to make the trip for years and I have been planning this particular trip since November.  Much of my research involves three books that include passages along this stretch of the intracoastal waterway.  The oldest book is THE BOY, ME AND THE CAT by Henry Plummer.  He and his son took their catboat from Massachusetts to Florida and back around 1912, the book includes the logs from both the south and north bound passages.  Frank Dye made a north bound passage in a Wayfarer dinghy in the late 1980s which he wrote about in SAILING TO THE EDGE OF FEAR.  And New Zealand writer Lee Hughes bought Dye's Wayfarer dinghy and passed through the same area sometime around 2000, writing a book called THE BIGGEST BOAT I COULD AFFORD.  There is valuable information in each of the books.

A digital book called ANCHORAGES ALONG THE INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY by Skipper Bob Publications will probably be my most valuable source of information.  The ebook includes the charts you see below and near the top of this post.  Zooming in on a particular chart turns into a nice detailed satellite image of the waterway.  I have the book on both my phone and my iPad.

I do not know how long the trip will take.  Going by the ICW mile markers, it is roughly 270 miles from Charleston to Jacksonville, Florida.  I have done distances like that in eight or nine days.  But with tides and narrow, winding creeks and rivers, I really have no idea about the time involved.  Maybe a couple of weeks?  I do want to build in time to explore a bit, visit a few towns and maybe just relax.  So with that in mind I'll carry about 30 days worth of food.

Winter maintenance should be done on SPARTINA in just a few days (snow days like today have slowed me down a bit).  I hope to head down to Elizabeth City soon for some day sailing, testing the new rudder and also a new downhaul for the jib.

Nothing better than having a nice little cruise to look forward to.  Over the next couple of weeks I'll do some posts about the planning, the route and reasons for decisions that I will be making.

Friday, January 22, 2021

another winter coat

One more winter coat on the brightwork yesterday.  One more, the last, should go on this afternoon.

 SPARTINA is a mess, as you can see.  Once the brightwork is done I'll do some touch up paint on the grey interior and the white deck.  Yesterday I pulled the centerboard pin and replace the rubber gaskets.  In the next few days I'll trailer her down the ramp, without masts, rigging or outboard, and let her sit in the water for an hour or two just to make sure there are not leaks with the new seals.

Everything appears to be on schedule and I hope to be sailing in early February.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021

boat work

A beautiful, almost spring-like day with blue skies and a warm south wind.  Perfect for a little boat work.  Started on the Bristol varnish on the coaming and rub rails.  The photo above is a deceptive.  Much of the bow is in good shape and just touched up a spot or two.  It is the rub rails that get the abuse for pilings and it will take a few coats to get them looking decent again.  And, as always, will stick to my work boat regimen.  Nothing fancy here.

 Also put the final coats of primer on the rudder and at the bottom of the rudder stock.  Will start finishing the rest of the stock with varnish tomorrow.  We've got rain coming but it will still be warm enough to do the work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


Stuff from SPARTINA, and some new stuff, seems to have taken over the room over the garage.  I needed to clean the boat out for winter maintenance.

There is some new gear in the mix, above the Watershed Drybags, that I been packing and repacking to see what fits best where.  You also see some food supplies at the top right - Rx bars, cans of tuna, ginger chews and Tanka bars - that I am using as I try to come up with the most efficient way - both for space and  access - to pack and stow.

There is a new boom tent storage bag from the nice ladies at Little Bay Canvas, plus various lines for docking, reefing and whatever.  I want to figure out what I need and don't need.

In the meantime I am working on SPARTINA.  Last week was sanding.  This week a little more sanding and the epoxy work.  And if the weather is as warm as forecast later this week maybe I'll do some varnish work too.  Then more varnish and painting next week.

 I want to get it all done by the end of January, which should be very possible, so I can get in the Mango drysuit and do some winter sailing on the Pasquotank River.

Is it just me, or does it feel like we are back in a lock down these days?  Maybe just survival mode kicking in.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

the new year

It finally felt like the new year this morning as the warming sun burned the frost off the dock on Scuffletown Creek.  I had left SPARTINA on the river for December, a month with more rain than usual and a couple of wind storms.  I sailed a few times but not nearly as much as I wanted. I found myself leaving the boat in the water with the hope of a New Year's Day sail that, because of rain, was not meant to be.

The tide and wind were perfect this morning at 6:30 (the pre-dawn time and temperature - 36 degrees) not so much, to bring the boat home.  

I drove to the ramp just off the southern branch of the Elizabeth River, leaving the jeep and trailer there as the Pilgrim picked me up on her way to her downtown office.  An early morning walk took me right up to day break.

It felt good to be on the water, so, so good, even if just for a motor up the river with sails still covered.  It was fresh and open and I enjoyed the clean, chilly air.  It was also a good morning to test-drive my new Ice Breaker medium weight (#260, though I don't know what that number signifies) merino wool thermals.  They worked very well.

Mist hung about the docks on the little creek as I readied to haul SPARTINA for some winter maintenance.  There is some sanding, epoxy work and varnishing to do.  Plus painting some of the interior cockpit and storage areas.  With more and longer trips this year, plus leaving the boat on the Elizabeth River for daysails, she has been exposed to the elements more than ever.  And it shows.  I expect the maintenance to take about four weeks.  And there will be some modifications too, including putting the new rudder stock and rudder in place, and adding a downhaul for the jib.  

February is for some winter sails/test sails, most likely on the Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City.  Then in March, well, we'll see.  Maybe head south for some warmer weather.


Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's Day

 Down to the Dismal Swamp for a hike and a selfie.
I hope everyone has a great 2021!