Sunday, April 18, 2021

light and variable

 Light and variable winds this morning.   Cool and comfortable.  No complaints were heard on board.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

and the boats have eyes too

These photographs are from a gentleman on a boat anchored in Craford Bay this morning.  I thank him for sharing the photographs.  It was a beautiful day that began with light winds and only got better from there.  

 Nice weather the next few days and I hope to make the most of it.

Monday, April 12, 2021

the buildings have eyes

From this morning's sail, a photo from a friend in a condo on the waterfront, above, and another from the Pilgrim in her 17th floor office


Sunday, April 11, 2021

back on home waters

 Cooler than expected, and with gusty winds this morning.  Back on the Elizabeth River for the first time since early January.  How many miles on the road between now and then?  I don't know.  How many rivers, creeks, narrows and sounds between Charleston, S.C. and Nowhere, Ga.?  Don't know that either.  But it has been a great winter and now I'm looking forward to summer.

Friday, April 9, 2021

the long road home

It is raining. The wind is blowing.  The mizzen mast lies in two pieces in SPARTINA'S cockpit, the mizzen sail wrapped around the mizzen boom.  Tied up at the dock in a little marina in what one guy tells me is Nowhere, Georgia,  I walk up towards the office.   There is a covered area outside the office, a couple guys standing there and a woman at a table that seems to be collecting dues.  She looks up at me and says "Where do you need to go?  We'll take you."  

 I'm a little bit confused as to where I am, where I need to be.  The BoatUS captain had mentioned a couple towns along the coast.  At first I say Darien.  "That's easy," she says, "just 15 minutes away."  Then I realize that that is not where I need to go.  "No, that's not it.  I need to get to Jesup.  That's an hour away.  That's too far, but thank you."  I tell her I'll try Lyft or Uber, and thank her again.  And I figure if that does't work I'll ask the marina manager if he knows anybody who'll take me to Jesup for a couple hundred bucks.

I go inside the office, four or five people in there, none wearing masks.  They aren't big on masks in Nowhere, Georgia.  I pay for two nights at the slip.  The guy says "So you'll be gone Monday?"  I'm confused and have to ask him what day it is.  "Saturday."  "Yeah, I'll be gone Monday.  If not I'll pay for another day."  I get out of the office as quickly as I can.

I log into Lyft and Uber, requesting a ride.  The price is $100-plus, that's fine, but neither can find a driver.  I try again, letting the phone search while I go down to the dock, grab my duffel and electronics case, and put up the boom tent that sags sadly with no mizzen to hold up the aft section.

Back up to the shelter.  The manager tells me Lyft and Uber don't work so well there.  Cold, windy, raining.  No drivers with either app.  I see the woman and tell her I can't find a ride.  She tells me no problem, nods to her husband and says "We'll take you."

The woman is Tina, her husband is Barry.  They make room for me in the front seat of their big truck, acting as if there was nothing they would rather be doing than giving me an hour-long ride.  I pull out my wallet and says I am happy to pay for the ride.  "Absolutely not!" I am told.  So I put two $20s on the console, I'll at least pay for gas.  Barry grabs the money and tosses it back to me.

I get on my phone and find a hotel, make a reservation.  Then log on to Amtrak and find a north-bound train, the only one being the next evening.  Tina and Barry make me feel very welcome.  I tell them about my trip.  They tell me about their lives, their kids and the island they just bought.  I didn't know you could buy an island.  

It is an enjoyable trip. Time goes quickly, we talk about all kinds of things and I repeatedly thank them for the ride.  Tina says there is a reason we met, we just don't know what it is.  They only thing they ask is that I help somebody out the way they are helping me out.  I promise them I will.  

At the hotel Tina says they are staying in the parking lot until I come out and tell them I am checked in.  It takes a while, there are a couple of people in front of me.  Every one seems to be giving me a glance, I don't know why.  Maybe it is because I'm the only one wearing a mask.  I get to the desk, check in, walk outside and Tina gives me a hug.  I thank them again for their kindness.

Into the my hotel room I glance to the left and there is a big mirror.  And I realize why everyone was looking at me in the lobby.  I'm still wearing my bright orange drysuit and rubber boots.  Not a lot of people dressed like that in Jesup, Georgia.

The next morning it is a mile walk with the duffel and pelican box to the old brick train station.  I've got nearly seven hours to wait for the train, not a bad place to wait.  I look for restaurants on my map and see one two blocks away.  It is crowded.  I get in line to order some food to-go.  I'm the only one wearing a mask, so I get some looks.  At least I'm not wearing the drysuit, that is tucked in the duffel.  I eat lunch back at the train station, read my book and check the news on my phone.

The train arrives on time.  I had pony'd up the extra money for a sleeper room.  Extravagant for a train ride of just a couple of hours, but I wanted to be by myself.  Get to Charleston on time, Lyft to a hotel.  The next morning Lyft to the storage lot to get the jeep and trailer, then head south to get SPARTINA.

Monday, April 5, 2021

I can breathe again

Finished installing hardware about 8 a.m., down to the ramp in Elizabeth City by 9:00, out on the water with the new mizzen mast before 10:00.  What a relief!

New mast worked perfectly.  Just about a month from the time of the mast failure to sailing again.  My thanks to the students and teachers at the boat shop.

I received a question from "doatley" as to why I did not continue sailing with the main and jib.  "Balance" is my reply.  The boat is perfectly balanced with the three sails and also balanced under mizzen and jib.  Without the mizzen SPARTINA is a poorly balanced sloop with the center of effort for the sails much too far forward.  If I had 20 or 30 miles to go I might have given it a shot.  But not 100+ miles.  Had it been an emergency I could have made progress.  It was not an emergency, it was supposed to be fun.  And one other point, the boom tent relies on support from the mizzen mast.  It partially collapses without one.  Again, this is supposed to be fun.  A couple rainy nights without a proper tent?  Not fun.

I can't wait to get back down there next year.

 The trailer took a beating on I-95.  I replaced it with a new one.  This is the reflected of the fenders on SPARTINA'S hull.  Kind of interesting.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

a little love from Down Under / worth every penny

Curt was nice enough to send me a screen shot from the Dinghy Cruising NZ Facebook page with Webb's fine photograph of SPARTINA leaving Hilton Head.  Very honored to have my Welsford Pathfinder shown there.  Thanks, guys, for posting.  As mentioned in the comments, there was no wind at dawn.  It wasn't too long before the breeze filled in as I sailed from Hilton Head to the Skidway River south of Thunderbolt.


I received my annual renewal notice from BoatUS yesterday.   Paid online today.  I have used the trailer assist twice and the tow service once.  The annual fee is worth every penny.  Patrick, who towed me from where the mizzen broke to a local marina, said it would have cost me, without the Unlimited Gold towing, around $1500.  (His estimate was based the five hours from when he left his dock at Jekyll Island until the time he returned, about five hours.)  With the Gold, not a dime.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

about that new mizzen mast

I have received a lot of questions about the making of the new mizzen mast.  I did build a boat, but I am not a boatbuilder.  I did work with wood, but I am not a woodworker.  ( How I wish those two sentences were false modesty.  Believe me, they are not.). With that in mind I am reluctant to explain the process.  There are plenty of sites where you can get good quality information about the process for building a birds mouth mast.  Instead I will show some photographs I took along the way.  

First thing I did was dig out an old notebook to see if I had written down any specs from the first mizzen built about 15 years ago.  I was please to find the above.  

(This second mast was built at a boat shop with a lot of help from very, very experienced boatbuilders and some dedicated young students.  What amazes me today is that my Dad and two daughters built the first masts with no experience using a $90 table saw (picture a cheap circular saw mounted upside down in an aluminum stand) set up in the street to rip 16 and 20 foot pieces of wood into staves, cut the v notch and glue it all up on a hot July day.  I wish Dad was still around to remind him of what we accomplished that day.  I do remember we celebrated that afternoon with a couple bottles of Corona and a lime.)

Test cuts in cheap pine from the hardware
store to check measurements on both the
table saw and router with a 90 degree bit.

1x8x16 clear Douglas fir ripped in to
3/4 x 3/4 staves with the v notch

Dry fitting the staves.

The boat shop's cradle along with the 
dry-fitted mast and oak dowel.  The 
mast is hollow save for the bottom four
feet and the top two and one-half feet.

The dry fitted mast along with
part of the original.

Some wonderful, skilled and dedicated
students helped with the routing of the
v notch and first dry fitting of the mast.

Strakes laid on on glue day.

Tom at the boat shop saw the mast building as
a teaching opportunity for their students.  He is 
always looking for different skills for them to
develop.  Here they are spending epoxy, first clear
and then thickened, a process that needs
to be accomplished before the epoxy fires off.

Epoxied with dowel inserts at the top and the 
bottom, the strakes are pulled tight
 with hose clamps.

A day later, planing and sanding to shape.


Bringing the mast home
for final shaping and varnishing.

 First fitting in SPARTINA.  Too heavy
and a little to thick, so a couple more hours
sanding.  A slight curve in the mast which
is perfect for the designed rake of the mast.

Many thanks to Tom, the guys and the students at the shop.  Varnishing this weekend, hoping for a test sail Monday.

Friday, April 2, 2021

day nine - done too soon

Windy and cold overnight.  Comfortable in my medium weight thermals and sleeping bag with liner.  Overcast when I wake.  Phone app tells me its cool and only going to get colder as the day goes on.  Rain to the south.  I put put on a base layer of light thermals, knee-high merino wool socks, pants/shirt, wool sweater and the dry suit.  Sail off anchor 6:45 making 3.1 down Cattle Pen Creek under mizzen and jib.  Out on Johnson I raise the main with a single reef.

Easy sailing down the deceptively wide creek with St. Catherine's Island to the east.  Eating breakfast I lose track of the channel and the centerboard touches bottom on a shoal.  Not even 8:00 and we slip out on to Sapelo Sound.

The wind is building and I track the markers out toward the inlet to the ocean.  136 is there, so is 136A.  I can't find 138 but I can see the shoals to the west.  Round the shoals and turn downwind.  A gust and SPARTINA heels, a little water over the side.  Too much sail.  Round up and drop the main.  It is a long run up Sapelo Sound, more than five nautical miles.  Wind over starboard quarter we make anywhere from 5.2 to 6.4 depending on the swells rolling in from the ocean.  

I pick out a green marker in the distance and head for that.  Bigger waves, 7.4 sliding down the face of one.  At 8:30 pick out the entrance markers to the Front River.  The waves on the stern are getting bigger, maybe because of shallower water.  They lift SPARTINA'S stern and we pick up speed as we slide down the front.  GPS shows 8.3.  As the stern lifts the bow goes down into the water and I can see the spray flying port and starboard as the bob stay cuts through the water.  Just great sailing.

9:05 in Front Creek, calm water, great wind and easy sailing.  The water winds through the marshes, rounding a point three white pelicans rest alongside the brown marsh grass.  I glance at the app on my phone, Doboy Sound, an easy sound to cross at less than a mile wide, is not that far away.  Then Altahama Sound not too far beyond that.  Great progress.  The creek curves back and forth through the marsh and I jibe with each turn.

One more turn to make and I see nothing but marsh in front of me.  My gps shows the creek curving to the east but the marsh ahead blends together.  I finally see the opening to port, push the tiller over as a gust hits and as I reach for the jib sheet I hear the mizzen jibe and the sound of cracking wood.  I don't even need to look behind me to see what happened, I already know.  When I do look, the mizzen is being towed behind SPARTINA like a drogue.  A deep breath.  Disappointment.  

I suspect the trip is over but need to get out off the ICW to figure out what is going on.  There is a creek to starboard and I sail into that and drop the anchor.  I bring the mizzen mast on board, roll the sail around the mizzen boom and take a look at the mast.  It snapped, twisted off really, at the deck.  I take off some of the hardware, think about my options.  Searching the apps there is not much nearby in the way of towns or marinas.  I see a few houses up the creek and some shrimp boats across the marsh.  

If I can get back out on the creek maybe I can sail downwind under jib alone and reach a marina.  I try to motor out of the creek but the wind, which is coming right up the creek, pushes me port and starboard.  Without the mizzen to balance the boat I can't get through the wind.  I re-anchor.  Decide to call BoatUS.  When I reach them the woman asks for my membership number and I give it to her (wondering all the while if I paid my membership fee last spring).  She finds my account and tells me I am a gold member - a tow is covered.  

A few minutes later Patrick, the BoatUS towboat captain calls.  I describe my location and ask if he is familiar with the creek.  He says "Look up the creek, see the three docks?  The middle one is my folks' house."  Small world.  "If you want to get a shower I can call my mom."  I tell him I'm fine, I'll stay where I am.  He's an hour away but the time goes quickly as I have lunch (drawing the attention of some pelicans) and start tucking away gear.  I pack my duffel with cameras and notebooks, tuck away some valuables in the pelican box.  It begins to rain.

Patrick arrives in a large rigid hull inflatable.  He tosses me a large line that I feed through the bow-eye and up around the cleats on the foredeck.  He has me climb aboard his boat and tells me to make myself comfortable.  SPARTINA tows surprisingly well though she looks a bit sad as a sloop.  Patrick asks me where I want to go.  I have no idea.  I tell him I need to rely on his local knowledge.  I need a marina with a ramp where I can get to a town with a train station.  He phones a place called Blue N Hall marina and they say I can tie up there.  

It is maybe an hour or more tow to the marina and we have time to talk.  Patrick said he was on duty and figured it would be a quiet day.  "Wind and rain.  Who would go out on the water on a day like today?" he says with a smile. He tells me this is his winter job.  Summertime he heads up to Montauk on Long Island to captain a catamaran for tourists.  That's interesting, I tell him.  Years ago day sailing on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk there was catamaran out of Montauk anchored there and the captain of that boat hopped on SPARTINA for a sail.  I tell him I think the boat was called Mon Tiki or something like that.  "That's it!" Patrick says, "that was David, he runs those boats!"  Small world....again.

Steady rain as we arrive at the marina.  Two guys come down to grab the lines.  We get SPARTINA tied up and I follow the guys up to the office.  I pay for two nights at the marina, tell the guy I'll pay for more if I need it.  Now I just need to figure out how to get home.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

day eight - Hell Gate and other passages

Anchor up at 6:30, the creek very narrow at low tide.  Out on the Skidway River after a few minutes of motoring, sails up with a light north wind.  Chilly. Making 1.0 kts.

As the sun comes up the wind fills in, 2.4 kts.  Turning at a bend in the river I see a stately mansion with columns, then more house on the bluff and a marina.  It's the Isle of Hope, much earlier than I expected.  

I really don't need fuel but the fuel dock is literally yards of way to the channel, an easy place to top off the can.  The marina is just opening so I wait a few minutes down at the dock.  A man comes down from the marina and tops off can, doesn't seem to mind the effort for a $2.15 sale.  

Full sail at 8:10, warming up and making 4.1 in the building breeze.  More wind and gusty, making 4.9.  Round up in the lee of some trees and tuck in a reef, making 4.7 under reduced sail.  Looking for a turn to starboard I'm already thinking about tucking in a second reef.  I make the turn and sail a few hundred yards looking for a marker that isn't there.  Checking the gps I see I turned too soon, entering the to Moon River.  Come about, back to Skidway Narrows where I round up to put in a second reef before turning on to the Burnside River.

It's just a few minutes on the Burnside before it flows into the Vernon River.  From there I can look to the southwest and see Ossabaw Sound.  Very solid wind over the port quarter, I can see a distinct tide line off to the left and wonder about the tides but it doesn't really matter as we are making 4.3.  A large eddy is swirling off the port.  Very choppy entering the sound, maybe wind against tide but I'm not sure, making 4.0 in the rough water.  

Just after 11:00 turn to starboard to line up the markers to Hell Gate.  The name doesn't fit this morning, calm water as we sail by Raccoon Key.  Even calmer on the south side, wind on the starboard quarter and making 5.0.  Lighter wind and shake out the second reef at 11:40.

At 11:55 we turn slightly to port to enter the Florida Passage, still making 5 kts.  12:50 a light overcast, lighter winds, doing 3.7 wind aft of beam on the calm, beautiful winding creek.

Afternoon wind swinging to the east, a series of tacks the width of the creek before turning south.  Lighter wind and full sail at 2:00, making 4.4.  One last tack and we have a straight shot to St. Catherine's Sound.

Into the sound at 2:40, making 6.2 into with the east wind forward of beam.  There seems to be a marker missing at the furthest point east on the sound but I can clearly make out the shoals.  Once past them I round up to bring down the main.  Downwind mizzen and jib at 4.6 and spectacular sailing.  

We follow the markers to the North Newport River, entering it at 3:40, rounding up to raise the full main.  That is too much sail, round up again to tuck in a reef.  

We follow the winding Johnson Creek, touching bottom briefly when I lost track of the channel.  Off Cattle Pen Creek round up to bring down the main and jib.  

The first part of the creek is 11 feet deep so I motor a few hard yards until the depths are about eight feet.  Anchor down 5:10.  GPS shows 35.83 nm for the day, a good ride.  Chili Mac for dinner.  Tired.