Saturday, July 29, 2023
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Saturday, July 15, 2023
The tracking url is here, or copy and paste the link below. It should go live Wednesday but because of the drive and weather it might be later in the week.
As of forecasts today, Monday and Tuesday look good for the drive up to Maine. Wednesday looks good for rigging and launching at Atlantic Boat Company in Brooklin, marked with an X in the map below.
I have spent a lot of time looking at maps and charts of Penobscot Bay. Think there are enough places to explore. My thinking is I'll launch and head to the east side of Mt. Desert Island (1) and Sommes Sound witch runs north/sound in the middle of Mt. Desert Island. If timing works out I may cross paths with friends who are launching a classic sailboat, which would be nice. To be prepared I have packed appropriate supplies, below. From there I would like to go to the west of of Mt. Desert Island (2), then use Eggemoggin Reach (3) to what I've seen marked as West Penobscot Bay. Then Islesboro (5), and Rockport (6) where I have read there is a nice town dock with laundry and showers available.
East from there to Vinalhaven and North Haven Islands (7), Isle au Haut (8), Deer Isle (9) and finally Swans Island (10) before heading back to Brooklin.
Those numbered locations are not single night destinations. There are just places to explore and I might spend four or five days in one area or at one group of islands.
I don't know if I will follow that path, it all depends on winds and weather. And I'm wondering about distances vs. exploring. On my Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound cruises I sail anywhere from 20 to 35 or more miles a day. A lot of the distances between the places I have marked up are, point to point, in the 10 to 15 mile range. Yet there are a lot of small islands with miles and miles of shoreline to see. It's all new sailing to me, so I'll just have to find out what it is like.
Thursday, July 13, 2023
Water in the fuel. The carburetor. Those were the two most-suggested sources of problems with the outboard. Changing the fuel and changing the carburetor did not solve the problem. So now what?
I have had problems with the outboard since soon after I bought it last November. On one of the first outings, the outboard started quickly with the choke pulled out, then idled easily at the dock. Leaving the dock I went to add a little throttle and the outboard stopped running.
There were issues with it starting on the winter trip down south. Then more issues, both with starting and also with simply stopping in the middle of a run, on the spring trip.
Returning home from Chestertown, I dropped the outboard off with my mechanic. He said there were only a few drops of fuel in the carburetor bowl and the spark plug wasn't sparking (that was one of four spark plugs I used on the trip). So he put a new spark plug in and changed out the carburetor. It ran, but no reliably. Starting involved having the throttle set high and leaving the choke pulled out for an extended period. This is not the way these outboards are meant to start, plus it left a lot of carbon on the spark plug. But at least it would start this way. When I used it on the river a little over a week ago, the outboard started up and I headed down the river. After about 20 minutes, the outboard died. It started again after three or four pulls. I had a couple of hours of good sailing. Then I lowered the sails, started the outboard and headed to the dock. In the middle of the shipping channel - fortunately no traffic in the channel - the outboard simply quit running. On this day it was two strikes and your are out. I came home, got online and ordered a new outboard.
The new outboard, the same exact model, starts as it should. Throttle set at the "start" mark, choke pulled out. Pull the starter cord. Engine starts, after a few seconds push the choke in and it runs at idle. I've run the new outboard, both on the river and at home, for a few hours and it starts and runs reliably. So I think I am good.
I've set the trouble-some outboard aside and will look at it more this fall. After doing some research online I have begun to wonder if the issue is the fuel pump. Suzuki 2.5 four strokes like this at one time did not have a fuel pump, it was simply a gravity feed from the fuel tank to the carburetor. About a decade ago Suzuki added a vacuum-style fuel pump. I found a video on YouTube where a mechanic by-passed the fuel pump by running a short fuel line from the tank to the carb (making it a gravity feed like the older models). I think I will try this at some point. If it starts and runs properly with the direct line, then I will know the issue is the fuel pump. If it doesn't solve the problem, then I am not sure where I will go from there.
The important thing is that I have got an outboard I can trust for the trip to Maine. I will worry about the other outboard later.
As for the trip to Maine, I had planned to drive up Saturday and Sunday. The forecast shows rain both days, and below is the forecast for Maine on Monday, the day I had planned to launch. I will wait a few days and head up when the forecast is better.
Tuesday, July 11, 2023
I wake early, sail off anchor at 5:40. With no outboard I have to time my arrival in Chestertown to the winds and tides. Studying the forecast the night before I saw there would be wind out of the northeast and a slight flood tide running southwest to northeast in the morning. The trick is to get in before 9:00 as the tide picks up.
Sunrise glows in the trees along shore, LAGNIAPPE is quietly anchored not far from the small cliffs. Bobby had told me he would be heading to the ramp at Rolph's Wharf today, he is in no rush. Making 1.7 in the wind shadow of the trees on shore.
At 6:10 slip out on to the Chester River, better wind and making 3.3. It is the prettiest of mornings, one of the best on this trip. At Primrose Point at 7:00 where the river curves and I come in sight of Chestertown and the marina.
More wind and making 5.2 up the river. I've lost track of the days and think it is a Monday, a day when the marina should be mostly empty except for local boats. I see it is full, and mostly with high end yachts. I don't like the idea of sailing close in with all those big boats. Off the marina I tack back and forth across the wind to get a feel for both the wind and running tide. I round up and drop the main, and then point to the marina under mizzen and jib. "She looks beautiful" I hear someone saying. It is a woman out on the deck of a big yacht, she is shooting some video of SPARTINA. Possible evidence, I think, should insurance companies become involved. Wind is on the beam and I can tell from the water near the pilings that the tide is modest. We sail in gently and I see and empty slip. Push the tiller to port and we round up into the slip. I quickly get lines on the cleats, then breathe a sigh of relief. It is 8:00 in the morning.
The dock master walks over and tells me he watched me sail into the slip. He says I am either crazy or know exactly what I am doing. I tell him there is a third option: Without a working outboard I had no choice but to sail in. He also mentions that the empty slip I have chosen is rented year round, I'll have to move at some point in the morning. So I back SPARTINA of the slip, turn her so the wind is on her port side, push off and sail down a few slips to an open one. The yawl rounds up to the dock and I put out her lines. Trip is over. 5.39 NM for the day.
My plan was to spend a few days in Chestertown, a favorite town, day sailing and enjoying the Eastern Shore. Without an outboard, I'll pass on the day sails.
Instead I relax and enjoy the waterfront for a few days. I see some friends, visit some favorite restaurants. My friend Vick with organic flower farm comes to see me, and brings a nice bouquet to take home to my wife. And Wendy, editor of SAIL Magazine, is in town too and she joins us for a fun and great lunch at the Modern Stone Age Kitchen. How nice.
And after a couple days, one more blueberry muffin with iced tea at the Evergrain Cafe and then I am on my way home.
Monday, July 10, 2023
Sail off anchor 6:20 in a light NE wind. Calm night after the storm pass by last evening, cooler and drier.
Wind disappears at 7:00, under power. 7:10 light wind returns, sailing. 7:40 main and jib down, under power.
8:20 passing Deep Point, motoring against the ebb tide. Melton Point at 8:45, I see some friends. The raked masts of the Sultana comes around the point, captain and crew wave as they head downriver.
Some wind at Northwest Point, sailing. Wind dies, motor won't start. I shake my head and use a few choice words. Wind fills in, sailing. Late morning approaching Rolph's Wharf I see another friend, Bobby in LAGNIAPPE coming around Frying Pan Point. We text each other and decide on lunch at the Sandbar. Bobby ties up to a pier, tosses me a line and we raft up.
It has probably been a decade, maybe more, since I had lunch at the Sandbar. Bobby and I grab a couple seats along with the locals.
I settle on a burger and fries, Bobby has some shrimp and a Corona. It's fun and all those folks on the beach are having a good time. There was a river swim earlier in the day and ribbons are being handed out to the swimmers.
We cast off our Pathfinders at 1:00. The wind has filled in to we head down river trading tacks and taking photographs. Grey overcast and a breezy afternoon.
After sailing we turn into Southeast Creek, tacking up the creek to a cove shelter by cliffs and trees. We raft up there and Bobby, just back from a visit to Scotland, breaks out some Oban Single Malt Distillers Edition. How nice.
I cast off LAGNIAPPE, raises my anchor and drift out for the shore. Then I reset the anchor for the night.
Glassy calm at dawn, not a breath of wind. Outboard starts on the first pull. Go figure.
I motor over to LAGNIAPPE, check in with Bobby to ask about his plans. He and Peter are headed up river towards Rolph's Wharf. I tell him I'm headed to the Corsica River.
I motor at just above idle speed, leaving Reed Creek. Out on the Chester River we pass Corsica Neck and then Holton Point with the old now-empty Russian Embassy compound perched above the river.
7:45 pass a favorite anchorage at Emory Creek. Docked Centreville Wharf at 8:30. A sign says I can pay for the use of the wharf over the phone but I can't figure out how to do it.
I walk up the hill to downtown Centreville and enjoy an iced tea from the Commerce Street Creamery Cafe while sitting in the shade and catching up on the news.
Back to SPARTINA to clean up the boat and get rid of some trash. Walk up to Doc's Riverside Grill for excellent crab cakes ($30 for two, much more reasonable than the $45 they wanted in St. Michaels). Cast off 12:30 and motor down the Corsica. 1:10 raise sail off Emory Creek. Light breezes carry us to the Chester River at 2:40. Slow, enjoyable sailing across the Chester to Lankford Creek.
At 4:15 turn west onto Davis Creek. I find it a pretty and well-protected anchorage. John Swain's beautiful E.E.Cummings anchored out off the yacht club with a "For Sale" sign on it. 4:50 anchor down. It is a classic boat.
Evening. Just as I hear thunder I get a text from Bobby that Chestertown is engulfed in a thunderstorm.
I track the storm as it moves south. It slides by just to the east and we get nothing more than a few drops of rain.
Sunday, July 9, 2023
Drift off anchor at 6:50, raise full sail. A quiet peaceful night. Low overcast and light north-northeast wind.
7:20 Bennett Point, 7:30 on the Miles River. Making 4.0.
Overcast starts to lift, then settles back in, chilly morning. 4.3 tacking north.
8:00 near Parsons Island, tack as we approach the shallows along the island. Suddenly less wind. 2.0. 8:50 motor sailing.
9:15 sails down, under power in the channel to Kent Narrows. Make the 10:00 lift. I am heading into the running tide so the large sailboat on the north side of the bridge, which is going with the tide, has right of way. They come through and then I power up and pass through. I follow the channel north and then northeast, out on the Chester River with full sail at 10:15.
10:55 more wind and good sailing. 12:00 motor sailing. 12:30 no wind and under power. I text friends MaryLou and Fred in Rock Hall asking them about meeting for dinner tonight. Just as I hear back from them the outboard dies. And I can't get it going again. Very frustrated, I text MaryLou than I won't be making it up there and turn back down the Chester River. Try the outboard a few more times. No luck. I realize that I'll have to spend the rest of the trip on the Chester. Not a bad place to be, but I had wanted to go farther north. I just can't trust the outboard and don't want to get stranded out on the open Bay. Or worse yet, get caught in the shipping channel with no wind and no power.
Wind fills in. Hail Point at 1:40. 2:20 sailing up the Chester River and I see small sails in the distance. 3:05 sail into Reed Creek, a favorite anchorage. Looking for a spot to anchor I glance to the east and see two small boats rafted up together. It is friends Bobby on his Pathfinder LAGNIAPPE and Peter in his Iain Oughtred-designed NIP. They are in a deep discussion, a topic worldly importance do doubt, and they don't see me until I am about 20 feet away. They invite me to join them and I raft up to LAGNIAPPE. Peter shares some red wine with me and we talk about our trips. I voice my frustration with the outboard.
As I am ready to cast off I tell Bobby and Peter I will show them how outboard won't start. I pull the started cord and.... the outboard runs like a champ. I shake my head in disbelief. The only thing I know now is that I can't trust the outboard, it has proven to be unreliable. I cast off and drop anchor about 40 yards away.