Friday, April 17, 2015

Of Gannets And Scoters

Sailing at the beginning or end of the season is usually unpredictable. By that I mean you frequently get a mixed bag of conditions. Last week, we did. From warm, breezy, and sunny to cold, calm, and foggy. With 3 of the children in tow, we set out for some cruising on "Emily". Despite a late morning start, we set out to windward from Mobjack and turned northerly from New Point Comfort on a broad reach in near ideal conditions. The sun was out. Winds were SE at 10-12 mph and the current favored a gentle trip all the way to Tangier sound on the Eastern Shore. Gannets and scoters gave evidence that the warm season had not arrived truly. I'd offer pictures of these interesting birds, but they would not allow us to get closer than 3-40 yards before taking flight. The muscular gannets were quick to be airborne while the scoters would skate away to settle down another 100 yards distant.

Emily's hull had been scrubbed the week before and she slid right along at a consistent 6 kts through the water. Sadly, we had done little to clean her topsides before this first sail, but she didn't seem to protest. The crew simply piled on, shipped stores, filled water tanks, and hanked on sails. 8 hours later, the anchor was down in Crisfield Harbor right as the sun set.

We ate well and often ...

Sandwich by Gray.
The following day we went wing and wing through intermittent rain up Tangier Sound. 

Tangier Sound

At Hoopers Strait the best sailing of the day began as it dried up a bit. We reached along on port tack through flocks of scoters. Once in the Bay, the gannets took over. The wind died again, so we motor sailed north into the Choptank and anchor in the Tred Avon across from Oxford's Strand. We were just upstream of the ferry landing that connects Oxford to St. Michaels. Apparently it doesn't run so early in the year and locals told us that now in 20 minutes you can drive there almost as easily, but where's the romance in that?

Dinner of spiced chickened rice was followed by a game of cards by oil lantern which added just enough heat to fight the chill. Sea water temp was still 47. Sleeping required a cap. A down comforter in the quarter berth is as nice a nest as any. Slept well.

Morning revealed what would be rain for the day. Scrambled eggs, drop biscuits, sausage, and coffee got us started. We neatened up the cabin before poking outside.

Anchored in the unused mooring field off the beach was convenient, but we elected to grab a slip at what was Mears Marina (now Brewers). Slip rental and 8 gallons of diesel = $120! The hot showers almost made it worth it. We took several walks through town and visited Cutts and Case boatyard. I could sight see there all day, but didn't want to risk a mutiny.
the crew.


Norton and diesel.

PT model on Packard engine.
The whole yard displays itself as a bit of a museum. From the huge shed display window to the "project" boats languishing in the weeds, the establishment seems a throw-back and a wonder to ramble through.

The town offers many distinct cottages and houses. No two are alike. It is hard to tell whether Oxford is on the upswing or not. No Saltines were to be had at the small market. That somehow added to the charm of the place. However, it is far from the days in the 70's when teak decked Palmer Johnson yachts were finished out and ice cream floats could be had at the Confectionary. Long ago I suppose, I'm surprise the home of the great financier of the American Revolution, Robert Morris, hasn't been discovered and boutique up. We can only hope that never happens. St. Michaels already has more than its share.

Episcopal glass.

the red metal shingled building

proverbial sailboat in the window

lovely house

Methodist glass
The cold winter may have slowed boats from launching, or maybe we were just too early. Likely the latter. A couple of red Hinkleys rested across from the working boats in the cove.

The following day was a late and lazy start. Around noon we left Oxford to reach back across the Bay to the Solomons.

We dropped anchor in Leasons Cove up Mill Creek (the easternmost branch from the entry). Years ago my father and I spent a night here on our first boat, an old Pearson 10M. We were bringing her down Bay after buying her at Herrington Harbor. The cove was more crowded then and I remember not feeling at all easy about our proximity to shore. Emily's 66# claw gives no such concerns. Dinner is chili and rice over a bed of lettuce and Fritos, aka "Bandito Salad". Topped with shredded cheese, onions, and salsa, this concoction is good grub.

Fog was as thick as I've seen it the following morning. With a schedule to keep, we started out at 0700. I relied on my youngest's eyes to seek out buoys as we connected the dots out of the Patuxet. With running lights on we shortly passed a larger sailboat the disappeared in our wake after maybe 40 yards!

fog off Cedar Pt.
We motored on as the wind was on the nose an maybe 3-5. We still had a long way to get home. Somewhat of a scare occurred just after we crossed the mouth of the Potomac. Without radar, I had been using an app called Marine Traffic which identifies all AIS carrying boats. As we approached Smith Pt. A loud horn was blasted directly astern. In a frenzy I checked the app to see the invisible vessel was a tug turning upriver. A second blast proved it was headed behind us. Getting flattened by a barge pushing tug is not uncommon. Though we had kept what I thought as a diligent watch, we did not hear the rumble of the tug nor ever see it, but it was too close.
The winds were increasing and now pushed 20 mph. The seas became lumpy with 6' waves at short intervals. Wind and waves were bucking the current, so we tacked out into the Bay before returning to port tack hunting for Reedville on the Great Wicomico for the night. Only when at turning at the Light did the fog begin to lift. We settled under the town water tower off Tommy's Restaurant. It was pleasant to sit with a drink and watch the world go by after such a tense day.

Wicomico Lt.

Our place for the night.
Mama came to collect our busy daughter as we were still a day from home. Cocktails and a "gourmet" spaghetti dinner made the evening. A short squall passed during dinner.

We chatted up this wild Friday night and reluctantly said goodbye around 21:00 as my middle son rowed the girls ashore. The night was calm and stars abounded. Away from city lights the heavens get revealed. Sleep was sound until 5:00 when a confused rooster began practice. We ignored him, but another crowed across the water at 06:30. He must have had a watch. Daybreak. We up anchor and slip past the Menhaden fleet.

Pancakes were made under way. Motor sail past fishermen repairing their traps in Fleets Bay, before turning south. The wind fails us so we pause to shoot balloons past Wolf Trap Light.

True to form, the weather turns ideal as we turn into East River and home. Still, it was an enjoyable first cruise. Time with the family is always good and never enough. It was hard not to head back out.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mike on Belhaven

Just back from a Spring Break sail on our boat "Emily's Grace". We'll post some on that later.

In catching up with emails, I see Steve Early posted a write-up from Mike Wick on our NC trip 2 weeks ago. Steve's blog "Log of Spartina", I've mentioned before. He has been at this small boat camping/cruising bit for some time and his posts are full of technique, advice, and great photography. Check out his post of Mike's "postcard".

Peter, Mike, and of course, Nip.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

More "On The Pungo River"

I just picked up a post by my pal Curt on "Thin Water Annie". His artistic eye puts my photos to shame. Thought I'd share. Check it out: "On The Pungo River"

Curt's lens.

Single reefed and getting to windward.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Belhaven, NC and Surrounds: A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

I got invited to take a few days sailing on the edge of the season. Not surprisingly, it offered a mixed bag of conditions from near calm to high Force 5, from cold and rain to warmth and sun. We put in at Belhaven, NC's fine public boat ramp. Three boats attended: Nip a Caledonia Yawl and Annie a wooden Drascombe Lugger with small cuddy.

John and Peter with Nip at the put-in.

South side of breakwater.

Blowing 12 kts we all took in a reef in the main just before the breakwater and sailed to weather SE up Pungo Creek.
Annie scooting along to leeward.

After a good journey short of the bridge, we turned back downriver to beach for lunch. Some settled to sketch, some chose napping, and others (me) just gazed at the beautiful afternoon in the warm sun. 

Lunch beach.

I realize the limits of an iPhone for photos, but it is always handy. Pups are taken that might otherwise be missed in my case.

beached break.
I'm sad to say I never even pulled out the GoPro. You could argue that it is not a camera either, but I have been impressed with the high video quality. Maybe next time it will be used. 


It was as pretty an afternoon as you could ask for. Breeze and 60 degrees.

studious John.
I turned my back on John, and shortly after, he was napping against the tree. It's cool to be with people that know how to hang loose. There's no agenda. Just love the day.


We rafted for the evening, believed the light wind predictions, and had a rough cold night in the bottom of a boat. Comes with the joy sometimes. And the stars were brilliant. Morning wasn't much warmer. Three boats bobbed at anchor as we crept from under blankets. 

red sky at morning.
Dawn soon became grey and blustery. Stuffing the sleeping bags (2 were required), air pad, and wool blanket makes one appreciate a small cabin such as Annie's where the whole lot can be just left below, ready for the next snooze. However, hot oatmeal and coffee get us moving. Donning a wool sweater, foulies, knit cap, and a reef sets us free.
Nip and Annie
The day soon disintegrated to cold and showers just as we landed at Cee Bee Marina near noonday. The term marina in this case is very suspect. A decrepit wharf and camper lot is more apt.  Somebody, who don't know his role still, took $5 from John and said we could stay. Given "permission" to stay, we quickly appropriated a pavilion to wait out the rain, do some eating, and whatever needed to wash it all down.

UNA tethered.

The sky did finally clear for a wonderful relaxed sail along the creek.

pelican by the moon.

UNA at rest for the night.
Enjoyed a sunset chat with Peter by the wharf as we looked for Annie's return. The light was beautiful.

Curt, Mike, John, and Annie.
Dinner was good, though the party was short lived. One by one the crew dissolved into the night. John and I were last to share some of his port over a few tales before we called it quits.

As it turned out, the night was not quiet. Between Canada Geese squawking and raccoons fighting, silence seemed too unbearable to them. We may have been the cause of a territorial dispute, but at least a solo tent pitched on the banks made it warm. Daybreak was crystal clear and calm. 

Somebody's yachts.

With a lazy breakfast at the pavilion, camp was broken and we went searching for the light breeze. All of the inconveniences made this day's sail worth it.

Art: Pedro and his mustang.
Here is an iPhone video for flavor later that morning. UNA was in heaven. I was glad to be with her. "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina ..."
Bare feet, sun on one's shoulders, and a breeze is enough to cure all ills. Everything seems new. Even 
 "Running Like The Wind" by The Marshall Tucker Band was heard for the first time, again, after hundreds of previous playings. All god stuff.

This morning's light breeze morphed into a single then double reef romp to windward up Pamlico River before we all turned off wind to reach along and up Pungo River. The temps and evergreen shores reminded me of Maine. 

Mike, Peter and Nip.

Traded leads with Nip along the way. Peter tossed a slab of his ancient baloney, a Pennsylvania salami into UNA's cockpit. Much appreciated.
best baloney.
Days can't be without trials, but this one picture summed up  the afternoon. It was a great trip with a bunch of guys who love being on the water, messing about in boats.

at Pantego bridge.