Thursday, December 23, 2021

day twenty-eight - the last day

Anchor raised and sails up at 7:25, but no wind in the anchorage.   Under power to open water on the Chester.  Cool with a light cold rain falling.  I can hear my Appalachian Trail friend saying "Don't get wet, don't get cold."  I slip on my drysuit with a wool sweater underneath.  Pass a large sailboat anchored at Ship Point, some locals paying out a trotline from a small boat nearby.  An incoming tide until 11:00 that will help us up the Chester River.

Just after 8:00 full sail in a light breeze, 1.9, an eagle flying low over the marsh.  Deep Point at 8:45, 2.8.

Northwest Point at 9:55, no wind and bring down the main and the jib.  Just past Rolph's Wharf find the wind once again, sails up.  

Winds come and go on the Devil's Reach.  Steady wind arrives at Primrose Point as we turn to starboard towards Chestertown.  The river is filled with small boats, they are going this way and that, seeming to practice coming about.  I ask a couple of guys if this is a practice session.  "No, it's a regatta."  I look around and say "I'm sailing through the middle of a regatta???"  They laugh, say no, the winds had just shifted so they are resetting the course, nothing to worry about.  I wish them well.

Docked Chestertown 11:30.

12.46 NM for the day.

473 NM/544 Statute Miles for the cruise.

The longest trip, both by time and distance, for SPARTINA.

Retirement isn't so bad after all.

the first winter sail

Got out this afternoon for a fine sail in light winter winds.  Wore thermals and wool sweater under the Stohlquist Amp drysuit for the 41 degree temperature.  

Will have SPARTINA on the river through New Years, hoping for a New Year's Day sail.  Wouldn't that be a nice to begin the new year.  I will haul out and trailer SPARTINA home for some winter maintenance in preparation for the sail down south in late February or March.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year's Day.


day twenty-seven - crazy, admired

The day begins right with a breakfast sandwich and iced tea at Java Rock.  Cool and overcast I carry the gear down to SPARTINA.  With the last load, the battery box and the clothes duffel, a woman sitting with her friends on the waterfront tells me she recognizes what I am doing - traveling in a small open boat.  She says she used to see people like me when she went down the ICW to Florida.  "We always thought they were crazy," she says, "but we kind of admired them too."  I tell her I can live with that.

Cast off 9:15, past the jetties 9:30.  Off Huntingfield Point watermen in both a deadrise and a skiff work their pots.  An unexpected east wind arrives 9:55, all sails up and making 2.3, slow, pleasant sailing with the leather of the gaff jaws creaking against the mast.  

At 10:20 a light chilly rain, put on foul weather gear and boots, 2.7.  Soon more of a breeze, 3.3.  Rain moves on and there is a crack in the overcast sky, 1.6.  Sun breaks through at 11:00.

Soon hardly a breeze off Wilson Point as the sun breaks through, motor sailing.  Another deadrise passes by loaded with crabs pot.  Off Cabin Cove chilly and overcast again.  Hail Point just after noon, round up to see if I can find some wind.  There is none.  

Drop main and jib at 12:30, sun coming out and it is getting warm.  It is a beautiful day, just no wind.  At 1:40 wind arrives out of the southwest, sails up and it is excellent sailing.  I put out the trolling line and tack back and forth across the river.  The fish, if there are any, don't seem interested.

Dark clouds come out of the west, temperatures cool.  Looking back downriver at 2:50 I see the distinctive rig of SULTANA below Piney Point.  She's headed to her home port for the Downrigging Festival.  A mixture of clouds and blue skies as I tack off the marker for Langford Creek.  A few more tacks and the SULTANA passes by with a wave from the captain and a crew member at the helm.

Enter Corsica River at 3:55, a puff of wind on the calm river and making 5.0.  Anchor down at the mouth of Emory Creek 4:20.

I check the weather radio to hear there is a small craft warning for two hours on the upper Bay and the Chester River.  Usually small craft warning are for an afternoon or a day or maybe two days.  Two hours?  I check my storm app to see there is a small lines of storms passing to the north.  The app says rain at 5:15.

Like clockwork the rain comes and then goes, the sun shines all the while.  I dress for a cool night.

Beef Stroganoff for dinner, a cruising favorite.

20.45 NM

day twenty-six - Rock Hall

A shore day in Rock Hall begins with a walk of a few blocks to the Java Rock Coffee House for a breakfast sandwich, iced tea and catching up on the log book.  Taundry, a trip to the grocery store, cleaning up SPARTINA, reading and relaxing.  A pleasant lunch at the Harbor Shack and then I return to SPARTINA to change out my trolling lure.  

 Afternoon is a long walk around the harbor front and dinner, the highlight of the day, is with Fred and MaryLou at Waterman's.  It is always a treat to catch up with my Rock Hall friends.  Just a nice relaxing day.

Monday, December 20, 2021

day twenty-five - a hunter's moon

Half awake in in the pre-dawn darkness I hear a constant rumble of diesel engines.  I dream I've anchored too close to the shipping channel and worry that I am drifting near freighters and tugs going up and down the bay.

Calm, peaceful night, wake to an exceptionally bright Hunter's Moon.  Leave the anchorage under power, a strong incoming tide through the narrow inlet so I throttle up to make way against the current, eddies swirling to port.  Outside I see the diesel sounds are not from freighters, just watermen working their trotline.  Following down the marked channel along the beach and I spot the ghostly shapes of two deer scampering across the sand and into the brush.

A south southeast wind arrives just after 8:00, full sailing and making 2.5 tracking the red markers along the shipping channel.  8:20 off Tolchester Beach where the shipping channel comes up almost along the beach.  South wind at 8:45, 4.0.

Motorsailing at 9:50 in lighter wind.  At Swan Point confused, faltering winds.  Main and jib down, under power to Rock Hall.  Entrance channel at 10:50, tied up at Rock Hall Landing Marina and paid for two nights at the Mariners Motel just after 11:00.

I tuck the sails under their covers and set up the boom tent.  Clothes duffel and electronics box carried up to my room at the simple, but clean and comfortable, fisherman's hotel.

A walk over to Waterman's for lunch, oyster po' boy with a nice view of the water from their deck.  Then a walk into town to buy some food supplies.

 On my way to the Harbor Shack for dinner I stop and check on SPARTINA.  All seems well.

13.95 NM

Sunday, December 19, 2021

day twenty-four - reefed and double reefed

Calm, peaceful night with a very bright moon.  A nearby gaggle of geese seems to be having some sort of debate in the early morning hours.  7:00 a.m. glassy water reflecting a beautiful dawn, still 20 minutes to sunrise.  Under power.

At 7:15 raise the sails to catch a light but steady west wind.  A waterman works his trotline parallel to our course, talking loudly on his cell phone.  I can't make out any words but his voice carries across the water. Finally I hear "talk to you later, I love you" and the phone call no longer seems bothersome.

Island Point at 7:35, making 2.3 and I can look down Langford Creek right to the Chester River.  More wind at 7:45, 2.8 and headed for Hail Point.   Soon making 4.2, the warmth of the rising sun feels good.  On the Chester River 8:30, 3.5 and passing another waterman working his trotline for blue crabs.  

Piney Point to port at 9:00, wind building and doing 5.8.  After a couple of gusts tuck in a reef at 9:25.

Blue skies and a bouncy ride on the Chester River.

In the lee of Hail Point round up at 9:35 to tuck in the second reef.  We sail the width of the Chester River almost to the channel entrance markers for Kent Narrows, tack north just off the markers at 10:20.  Pounding in rough water at 4.5 then soon 5.2.  Running north along Eastern Neck we pass Cabin Cove and the waves are smaller, sailing easier, 3.8 to 4.2.  

Finish a lunch of canned tuna, crackers and fruit cup at 11:30, wind falling off and shake out both reefs, 3.3.  Sailing close hauled at 12:15 with Rock Hall off the starboard bow.  Passing Swan Point at 1:20 with light wind on the beam, 1.8.  Centerboard touches bottom at Hodges Bar 1:50, turn out to deeper water.  Off Tolchester Beach at 3:20, heading north with wind just aft of beam and rolling in a following swell.

Light wind at 3:40, motor sailing, 2.4.

Follow the narrow channel and pass through the narrowest of entrances at Fairlee Creek.  Anchor down in the shade of trees at 4:30.

Chicken and dumplings for dinner, excellent with a little hot sauce added.

30.48 NM

Saturday, December 18, 2021

day twenty-three - back down the Chester

Chilly night but sleep well in my thermals and 30 degree sleeping bag.  I count the church bells ringing on the hour, hoping it is just 5:00 a.m. but here a sixth bell and know it is time to get up.  Tuck away the sleeping gear, break down the boom tent and then walk to the gas station to top off the gas can.  Quick trip to Play It Again Sam for a breakfast sandwich.  Cast off 8:30 with a northwest breeze.  

Blue skies and making 2.2 with a light steady breeze.  First time under full sail in a few days.  Making 3.7 to 4.0 out of the wind shadow of Chestertown.  Gentle sailing on the calm Chester River, 8:45 wing and wing with Rolph's Wharf in sight.  It is cold sitting in the shadow of the main.  Rolph's Wharf 9:30, wind over starboard quarter, 3.9.  A pair of cormorants take flight, tapping the water with the tips of their wings.  Cries of eagles in the tree tops along shore on the starboard side.    Off Southeast Creek 9:50, sailing close hauled at 5.2.  Tacking downriver rounding Northwest Point at 10:25, 6.1.  Melton Point 10:35 with steady wind out of the northwest.  

Lighter wind at 11:25, pass Deep Point 11:40 with inconsistent wind and steady waves on the bow rolling up the Chester River.  Spaniard Point 12:30, 3.6.  Tack towards Langford Creek at 12:45.  Steady wind with a gust now and then, easy sailing.  Make Nichols Point at 1:00, doing 3.6 on Langford Creek.  Off Caraway Island and turn toward the eastern branch, making 3.9 but the water is so calm it doesn't feel like it.  Off Lovely Creek at 2:00, turn back down the creek.

Centerboard hits a sunken tree branch at 3:15, I should have noticed some branches sticking out of the water from a fallen tree nearby.  Strong afternoon gusts with lots of spray rounding Caraway Island at 3:30, centerboard touches bottom as I turn up the western branch of Langford Creek.

Anchor down 4:15 in a nice pool of calm water just north of Bungay Creek.  Trees block the wind and the sun is hot.  

Dry out the boat and enjoy the shade as the sun drops behind the trees just after 5:00.  

Chili Mac for dinner.

 26.21 NM

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

the new chart book / conspiracy theories

I did a test sail with SPARTINA's new chart book yesterday, the chart book being an Apple iPad mini 6 with the Garmin Navionics app installed.  Over a year ago when prepping for a sail on Chesapeake Bay I thought I would buy a new ADC waterproof Chesapeake Bay Chart Book.  Good luck with that.  I found that the ten year old copy I had, now so faded some charts are illegible, was possibly the last edition ever printed.  The only copy I could find was on eBay.  And I found the same thing when getting ready for the winter sail down south.  Plenty of waterway "guides" but no actual chart books.  Everything is now digital.

For the winter sail in South Carolina and Georgia I did install Navionics on my phone.  It worked ok but I found with the small screen I had trouble understanding the scale and could not easily translate what I was seeing on the screen into actual distances.  Is the next mark two miles away, or 20?  Hard to tell on the small screen.  

The solution is an iPad.  I did have a full size iPad which I quickly saw would be too big and clunky for a small boat.  The new iPad mini 6 is the perfect size.  For a waterproof case I bought the only one available on Amazon at the time.  It is an ok case and will do the job.  In fact I now see it is marketed on Amazon under multiple names but appears to be the exact same case.  I keep hoping Otter Box or someone will come up with a better waterproof case in time for next year's winter trip.  

Just so I don't ever forget my iPad mini is a chart book Apple was kind enough to etch a label on the back for me.  As for the specs, I got the largest memory possible on the cell version of the iPad mini.  I don't need a cellular connection for the iPad but I do need the GPS chip which is installed only on the cell versions, not the wifi versions (my thanks to Webb for that info).  The unknown will be power consumption but after doing some tests at the house I think it should work out fine.


As of late I have been struggling with some conspiracy theories involving boat designs.  There have been rumors and accusations, challenges made and arguments left unresolved.

I will be the first to admit I have never met John Welsford, I cannot say for sure that he exists.  I have received emails from a John Welsford, but anyone could create an account with that name.  I once saw a video interview with a man claiming to be John Welsford, but that may have been an actor and it looked like it was possibly filmed on a movie set near where they staged the lunar landing years ago.  Does John Welsford, and by extension his boat designs, actually exist?  

 It all began years ago when I would be out sailing and people would tell me I was sailing a Drascombe-wannabe.  I would say no, it's a Welsford Pathfinder.  They would shake their heads, say never heard that name before.  As with all good conspiracies the story evolved over the years.  At some point it crossed from being a wannabe to a true Drascombe.  In fact a Drascombe Lugger.

Exhibit A, from SPARTINA's log, 2013:  I drop by the dock masters office, finding the Old Salt from the laundromat there.  The dock master tells him about Spartina, the Old Salt tells me it is a Drascombe.  I say no, it's a design from New Zealand.  It might be marketed under a different name, he tells me as he gears up for an argument, but it is really a Drascombe and I just don't know it.    

Exhibit B, from my UK friend Steve, builder/owner of what he claims to be a Welsford Navigator:  Last year I had a woman who swore blind Arwen was a drascombe. I patiently explained I had built her from plans and she was indeed a welsford navigator. She listened attentively and when I finished, she admonished me, pointing out she'd been sailing all her life and that she knew lots about dinghies and what I had was a drascombe and I should read my plans more carefully. 

Exhibit C, a mysterious email from a man who claims to have sailed a Drascombe Lugger most of the way around the world (yeah right, like I'm gonna believe that one!): " it is time that you so-called Welsford owners realize that there is no Welsford.  He is a myth probably invented by conspiracy theorists. There are only Drascombes."

So we are talking a conspiracy that exhibited itself over many years and around the world.  I confess I was starting to buy into it.  Until yesterday.  A fine mid-December sail and I pass by the stern of a cruising sailboat out of Vancouver, BC.  A nice young couple on board and the man waves, says my boat reminds him of a boat he had always wanted to build.  So I ask "What kind of boat is that?" (all the time dreading it would be a Drascombe).  "It is a boat," he says, "called......a Pathfinder!"

I push the tiller over, watch the breeze fill the loose footed gaff-rigged main and feel the boat heel as it slides gracefully across the water.  And I smile because John Welsford did in fact design a fine boat called a Pathfinder.  And the Pathfinder sails pretty damn well.

Monday, December 13, 2021

day twenty-two - the devil's reach

The phone alarm wakes me at 6:00 a.m., unusual for me in that I typically wait for the birds in the marsh to announce the day.  Still dark.  I want to sail and I want to get an early start.  Still small craft advisories, this time with a west wind until midmorning and then it will swing to northwest.  Sailing out to Chesapeake Bay is out of the question, the opening of the Chester River would be much too rough and there is little in the way of shelter.  Instead I'll sail up the Chester River to Chestertown.  

I leave on my merino wool thermals from the cold night, layer on pants and shirt and then the dry suit.  Mizzen up an under power at 6:50.  Waves out of the northwest in the channel leaving Queenstown Creek.  I power through the bouncy water in the narrow channel.  Jib up at 7:15 just as the sun comes over the horizon.

Very rough but quickly I see that I can mark a course under mizzen and jib to round Piney Point.  Making 3.7 in choppy water, a wet ride with spray coming over the port side.   Glad for the dry suit.

Round Piney Point at 8:00, raise up the cb for a downwind sail.  A flock of five bufflehead, small sea ducks with bulbous heads, takes flight just off the bow.  Buffleheads come with cold weather.  

Making 4.6 then 5.9 with a gust and a push from a wave.  Off Reed Creek 8:15, ten minutes later passing the Corsica River where another flock of buffleheads take flight, 4.7.  Off Spaniard Point 8:40 and the river begins to narrow.  Off Comegy's Bight 8:55, then round Deep Point into calmer, more protected water, 3.1 under mizzen and jib.  Pass the twin silos on the eastern side of the river, 4.7 in a gust.  

Approaching Melton Point at 9:00 I over the marsh and small trees to see two raked masts coming downriver.  The beautiful Pride of Baltimore II comes around the bend.  I stay just outside the channel to give the topsail schooner plenty of room.   Waves from the crew gathered up forward and two more people on the stern.

Round Melton Point at 10:00, lower the centerboard for tacking against the wind at the tide to Northwest Point.   Terns feed over a school of striper.  Fall off the wind 10:45 as we round Northwest Point.  Off Southeast Creek 11:05, strong gusts building on the port quarter.  Off Rolph's Wharf 11:05 and turn on to the Devils Reach where I learn how that stretch of water earned the name.  Try tacking into the wind that funnels down the reach, making no progress at all against the battering wind and opposing tide.  Jib down and under power, sometimes making just 1.8 into the wind and chop.  Hard going.  At Primrose Point the river bends to the east, glad for calmer water.  Docked Chestertown Marina 12:35.  The marina is closed for the day, which means I tie up with no slip fee.  How nice.  

I pick up a sandwich from Play It Again Sam just a couple blocks from the waterfront, carry it back to the marina and enjoy it on the enclosed deck of 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille.  The restaurant is closed today but the owner is inside.  He sees me and pokes his head out the door.  Just hiding from the wind, I tell him.  He smiles, says I am welcome to stay.

Dinner is a sub from the sandwich spot and chardonnay from a health food store.

Evening, darkness falls and I sit under the boom tent, reading the news and sipping a cup of wine.  I hear a couple walk by, stop and begin talking about SPARTINA.  "That mast is too short," says the man.  The woman agrees.  Then the man notices that it is a gaff rig.  That might make a difference he explains to his wife.  No, she says with a certainty that surprises me, that mast is too short, the boat can't sail very well.  A bright light from the nearby parking lot shines on the boom tent and I can see the silhouette of the man as he quietly walks up alongside SPARTINA.  I'm ready for him as he ducks his head into the boom tent.  "Hello," I say.  He is a little surprised to see me there but says hello, tells me he and his wife were just talking about my boat and the rig.  "How does she sail?" he asks.  Pretty well, I tell him.  In fact I hit 5.9 knots coming up the river today under just mizzen and jib.  "Really?" he says.   "Really.  Yeah, she sails well."  He wishes me a good night, then walks off with his wife.