Friday, December 31, 2010

Cruise, Day 14, Part 2

Just as you pass under Key Bridge you’ll find a red, white, and blue nun buoy, again to starboard. It is the only Coast Guard buoy in the entire country that does not conform to the standard buoyage system. It marks the spot where Francis Scott Key was being held prisoner on the British flagship, HMS Tonnant, and from where he viewed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. To the left of the buoy, you can see the buildings of mid-town Baltimore. At their base, and in the foreground by about two and a half miles is a grassy hill that is Fort McHenry. Minus the skyscrapers, this is the view that Key would have had of the fort during the naval siege.

Key was a young attorney in Georgetown. As the British prepared to march on Baltimore, they took an elderly town doctor, Dr. William Beanes prisoner. People in town feared Beanes might be hanged and approached Key to petition the British for Beanes’ release on the basis that he had been instrumental in providing medical care for injured British soldiers. Key asked for the help of Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange. On the morning of 3 September, 1814, Key and Skinner sailed to the flagship under a flag of truce. Adm. Cochrane, however, felt they had seen too much of their preparations, and held them on board. Ten days later, at 0700 on 13 September, the bombardment began and continued for 25 hours, during which 1,500 exploding bombshells of up to 220 pounds each and countless rockets, rained down on the fort. Keys, Skinner, and Beanes watched through the night with grave concern, but with the first morning light, they could still see the 30 by 42 foot battle flag still flying over the fort. Keys was only an amateur poet, but he began to pen a poem on the back of a letter, and finished it later in his hotel room and titled it “Defence of Fort M‘Henry.” In October, a Baltimore actor sang the resulting song in a public performance for the first time, and retitled it The Star-Spangled Banner.
This is a related video I think you'll find both interesting and inspiring.  Keep in mind that a large part of the success in defending Fort McHenry also came from their sinking 22 ships in the channel so the British fleet couldn't close with the fort at close range.  The fort sits right on the point, making it possible to close from three sides.  Had the British been able to fire point blank, the outcome may have been much different.

From there Thistle sailed into Curtis Creek to the Coast Guard Base, then back down the Patapsco. We entered Stony Creek in a light drizzle, passed the bascule bridge during its last opening of the day, turned into Nabbs Creeks, and dropped anchor in Back Cove for the night.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cruise, Day 14, Part 1

Pride of Baltimore II
Credit: Wikipedia

I was preparing to get underway when I noticed some stitching had broken and pulled out of the reinforcing area of the mainsail clew. The first order of business was some hand-stitching. I was able to sew the clew with the main in place on the boom, so not having to remove the sail saved some time.
We had to motor out of Sue Creek, but set the main and gennaker as we passed Booby Point with light zephyrs drifting in from the north. But thirty minutes later, that was the end of the breeze, and we doused the sails and started the engine. We had been up Back River any number of times, so we continued across Hawk Cove and rounded Hart-Miller Island.

The water was so smooth it looked oily. Now I have a theory. It is said that a tsunamis wave will continue until it hits land or a shoal that causes it to expend its energy, even circling the globe. With no scientific data to back this up, just mere observation, I’m almost convinced a powerboat wake will do the same. Running along on smooth water, a wave will suddenly come along, like the three-footer that hit me outside Hart-Miller Island, they’ll role you gunwhale to gunwhale. You scan the horizon for 360-degrees, and there’s not a boat in sight anywhere. The wake will roll on for miles and miles, and the vessel creating it will long be gone from sight. Yes, my theory is a little ‘tongue-in-cheek’, but just barely.

As you sail south and enter the Patapsco River, you round North Point and enter Old Road Bay. An imposing brick structure is on the point, and I was impressed with it until I got close enough to see that it had been poorly maintained. TV antennas punctuated the roof, bent and laying in all directions, window screens were missing, one still hanging from the window by one corner. The thought crossed my mind, “If I had to guess, I’d bet that was a veteran’s hospital.” Sadly, I was right. It’s called Fort Howard.
Leaving Old Road Bay, I sailed north passing the beginning of the continuous ring of commercial wharves and piers that ring Baltimore. That sounds dreary and unwelcoming, but here you’ll encounter not only fascinating history, but a continual buzz of activity involving all kinds and sizes of ships. For those with time to stay, the beautifully transformed Baltimore Inner Harbor, home of the 90-ft. Pride of Baltimore II, a topsail schooner known as a Baltimore Clipper, is a must-see. This is also the home port of the USS Constellation, the 199-ft. sloop-of-war built in 1853. 

USS Constellation

Just before you go under the Francis Scott Key Bridge to starboard is Fort Carroll. The young Lt. Robert E. Lee was given the job of supervising the construction of Fort Carroll starting in 1847. It was to be a four-story, 40-foot high firing platform that would mount 350 cannon and create an impenetrable wall of defense for the Port of Baltimore. This will be hard for you to believe, but construction was well underway when Congress suddenly said, “Nah, we’ve changed our minds.” Construction was halted, Lee was sent to be superintendent of the West Point Military Academy, and the fort, close to the channel, remained as more of a navigational hazard than a defense.
Francis Scott Key Bridge
Fort Carroll, Patapsco River

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cruise, Day 13

While the wind had abated, it was still northerly and water hadn’t yet started to flood back into the bay. Low tide was just after 1000, so the earlier I could get underway, the better my chance would be of getting over the shallow section of the entrance channel. Getting underway with half-tide would be sufficient, I hoped. 
We were underway at 0740 under power to clear the creek. We cleared the creek channel without incident, and full sail was set as soon as we cleared the entrance light. We sailed west across the bay. The restricted area from Aberdeen runs south along the western half of the bay and swings around the south end of Poole’s Island, then runs northwest toward the entrance to Seneca Creek. As had seemed to be the habit, the wind didn’t hold, but as luck would have it for once, by the time we had to start the engine, we were at the entrance to Seneca Creek.

While heading up the Seneca, you’re aiming right for the twin red and white stacks that are visible from the bay miles away. Having rushed to get out of Fairlee, I hadn’t had breakfast and was ready for something to eat. When we reached the head of Seneca at 1140, we dropped the anchor and made lunch.
While having lunch the breeze had returned to tempt us again, so I sailed out the anchor at 1235 and headed back south for Middle River. There are several branches that run off the Middle, the first being Galloway Creek. There’s a large marina right inside Bowley Point, and with this being Sunday, there was a good bit of traffic moving about, including a small fleet that was apparently running a race. We sailed around the perimeter of the creek and headed north for Frog Mortar Creek.
The runway of Martin State Airport begins right on the west shoreline of Frog Mortar, so they urge watching for approaching aircraft, and if the mast is more than 37-feet, ask that you contact the airport control tower before sailing past the end of the runway. As I sailed in, the area around the end of the runway was covered with emergency vehicles, all with their emergency lights going. If a plane was coming in for an emergency landing, I wasn’t about to interfere, so just before reaching the end of the runway, I came about, sailed out and ran up into Stansbury Creek. From there we gunkholed Dark Head Creek, Hopkins Creek, Norman Creek, and Hogpen Creek. With the sun rapidly settling into the west, we ran into Sue Creek and past the huge Baltimore Yacht Club at the entrance. There are three fingers that cut into the north shore of Sue Creek, and we anchored at the mouth of the middle finger.  It was a very nice spot, and we got to watch the full moon rise as we again enjoyed dinner in the cockpit.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cruise, Day 10, 11, and 12

With the weather coming in, the only thing to do was to hunker down. Being latter October, there was little boat traffic, and even fewer moving about in the stormy conditions. Even with two anchors down, the gusts coming over the bluff would knock Thistle about. I lowered the board hoping that any remaining grass might be flushed off by the constant motion. By evening, the board was raising and lowering freely, and one cold swim was averted.

On Day 11, a couple boats did come into the creek. One was a little catboat that came in about 0730. He ran on down to the very southeast corner of the creek and looked like he must have run his bow very nearly onto the shore and his short mast nearly into the trees. He handled his boat very well and gave every indication he was seasoned and knew exactly what he was about.
Usually when I’m confined to an area for a few days, the logical thing to do is to hop in the dinghy and go visiting. If others are seeking company, they’ll anchor in the same general area. If they want solitude, they find a distant anchorage that will provide more isolation. These boats were about as far apart as the confines of the creek would allow, so I decided to allow them their privacy. I had brought a briefcase full of sailing magazines for reading material. In the three days I was here, I exhausted the entire pile.

The rainy-day library. Notice the thistle applique the Mate
put on the cushion backs.

The wind had been so strong out of the northwest that a lot of water was being driven out of the bay resulting in unusually low tides. The entrance into the creek is not very deep, and a second problem with coming into Fairlee Creek with a strong northwest wind is the entrance is then on a lee shore. The approach is to first pass Light “2F” and run straight at the shore. When within about 50 feet of the shore, make an abrupt left turn and run within spitting distance of the shore for about a hundred yards before making another abrupt turn to starboard into the narrow cut entering the creek. On the evening of Day 12, the clouds started to break up.

. As it got darker, two boats tried to enter the cut into the creek, one a trawler and the other a sailboat. Both ran aground. The sailboat got off after a half-hour, but the trawler ran aground at 1900 and was still there at 0030 the next morning when I was up checking the anchors. The tide was supposed to be high a couple hours after that, and happily, when I arose just before sunrise, I saw that he had finally made it into the creek.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cruise, Day 9

All night the howling north wind had the full fetch of the Susquehanna from Havre de Grace to Aberdeen, but finally settled to about 20 kts. just before sunrise. The rock studded point in our lee was not designed for peace of mind. After getting the second anchor aboard and stowed, we sailed out the anchor with a single reef and working jib. The wind that had started to ease before sunrise continued to weaken during the day.
At noon, we passed Plum Point at Still Pond. It was obvious we weren’t going to make Middle River with the dying wind, and I needed to get somewhere accessible so my daughter could come aboard for a daysail over the weekend. The only option was to sail back across the bay and make another stop at Fairlee Creek. I had to jibe one more time to clear all the dredging equipment off Worton Creek. I had seen the Aberdeen patrol boats out, so knew they were working. I stayed on the starboard tack, cutting slowly to the southwest. When I knew I was getting close to the restricted area, I jibed north of Poole’s Island and headed for Fairlee Creek. I had run further south than normally needed so I would have room to counteract the flooding current and still clear the dredge barge. Suddenly I saw the patrol boat off Poole’s Island with its flashing lights on, and a puff of black exhaust as it accelerated onto a plane. Sure enough, he was headed right at me. When he pulled alongside and called on the radio, I protested. “I know I wasn’t across the line. I’ve been very particular about that.” He responded, “No, you weren’t across the line. For the sake of safety, we just wanted to let you know we’re firing live rounds. You may just want to allow a bit extra room.” Actually, I thought they always used live rounds, but enough said. I was headed the other way anyhow.
One thing that had been very noticeable in the bay north of the Sassafras was a massive amount of floating grass. The current would stream grass in long lines that might run from a hundred yards to a mile. I’d no sooner find a spot to run through one line of grass than I’d be right on top of the next string. Then it would form mats or patches of floating grass the size of an average bedroom. Not wanting to get it wrapped around the rudder or centerboard, I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but avoiding it all was impossible. When I started to raise the centerboard for entrance into Fairlee Creek, the board wouldn’t go up. I could get in with board down, but the anticipation of having to dive to pull grass out of the centerboard pennant wasn’t appealing. Besides the days getting very short, the nights were quite cool, and I knew the water would be cold for swimming. I repeatedly raised and lowered it until it worked loose enough to get it up most of the way. Still, when the board is normally fully raised, you can hear it bump the inside of the keel. Between the absence of that and the board pennant not reaching its prescribed point on deck, I knew it wasn’t all the way up. When I set the anchor in Fairlee Creek and backed away, a huge glob of compressed grass, probably 20-pounds or more, floated clear. It had probably been wrapped around the leading edge of the rudder.
The forecast was for a massive weather system to come in and remain for a couple days. With heavy rain and high wind, it wasn’t looking good for a daysail for my daughter and grandson. The worst of the wind was supposed to be N to NW, so I tucked in under the tree-lined bluff opposite Great Oak Marina and set two anchors. At least we had been having some nice sunsets, so I sat in the cockpit with my single-pot dinner to enjoy the view.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reality In the Light and Merriment

Best wishes to all and Merry Christmas......but,
In our rush to shop, travel, bake cookies and pies, wrap presents, and trim and decorate, lets remember the reason for Christmas. Lets also remember those whose day to day life must continue on in spite of the holiday, like seamen at sea, firemen, police, medical personnel, truck drivers, delivery and transportation workers, military personnel both on the fronts and behind the lines, all who must remain at their posts to serve, protect, and guard us so we are indeed free…and free to enjoy the holidays.

Christmas at Sea 
        by Robert Louis Stevenson

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bill Bellevile, Author

If you haven’t read about how Ibi was named, go back to November posts, and read “Good News/Bad News and the Naming of Ibi,” dated November 24th. When I found the word in Bill Belleville’s book, “River of Lakes”, which I reviewed on November 28th, I felt naming the Superior Expedition “Ibi” was the perfect way to tie the boat to its natural element. The next question was how to pronounce it. Was it a short ‘I’ as in indian, or a long ‘I’ as in ibis? I added, “I reasoned, perhaps incorrectly, that since the ibis is a water bird and native to the same area, ibi may be the root of the bird’s name, making it a long “I”.” I couldn’t find any help with an internet search, so I decided to go to the source and question the author. I tried to e.mail Mr. Belleville in care of the University of Georgia Press, the publisher. Much to my surprise, I received a response from him within a day.
In this age when most such requests would find their way immediately to the circle file, I really appreciated that he’d take the time to send both a gracious answer, and to further include additional background information. He wrote:

Thanks for the interesting note, and the nice comments on "River of Lakes".
Good question. I use the long "i" when pronouncing ibi. If you want to be more precise, you might track down linguist Julian Granberry's guide to the Timucua language and grammar. Granberry based his study on the testimony given by Timucua to the Spanish priest Fr. Pareja. The Spanish were interested in the Timucua language in order to be able to document their beliefs, and thus, to be able to more efficiently convert them.
Then again, we're getting the English translation of a Spanish translation of a language that didn't have a written form. (Even the word "Timucua" was crudely translated, and quite inaccurate as to its description of the actual name of the aboriginal nation the Spanish first met here.)
I guess when all is said and done the joy of a paddling trip like you're planning is in the discovery---of new words, new ideas, new people and places. I wish you all the best in your adventures in "Ibi".
Take care

In trying to see how to contact Mr. Belleville, I found his site. If you are interested in nature and ecology, as I guess most paddlers are, checking his site would be doing yourself a favor.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cruise, Day 8

I was very pleased to receive my first comment in response to our blog yesterday, and excited to see that my first response should come from Max, on the Hamble River in Hampshire, England. A little search shows him being on the south central coast of England, roughly half-way between Southhampton and Portsmouth.The River Hamble is navigable for about 7 ½ miles, flowing through Botley, Bursledon, and Swanwick before flowing into Southhampton Water and then the Solent at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Wow, there’s nothing like being based in one of the major sailing centers of the world. Thanks, Max.

We started out from Hacks Point under power, but set full main and genoa after clearing the Bohemia River, and sailed across the Elk River to Piney Creek Cove. We then turned and headed south only to find that the wind that had come up was just a teaser breeze, and we had to furl and start the engine again. By 1050 we had reached south along Elk Neck and were rounding Turkey Point.
The Turkey Point light is interesting, being commissioned by Congress in 1833 for a projected cost of $5,000. The design by John Donohoo was the same he had used for the construction of Concord Point Lighthouse at Havre de Grace. While the Turkey Point tower is short, it sits on a 100-foot high bluff, raising the lens to 129 feet, and making it the third highest light on the Chesapeake Bay. The Turkey Point light was noted for the large number of women lighthouse keepers. Four of the ten lighthouse keepers were women, who served for 89 of the 115 years that the light was manned. The light was electrified in 1942, but it was automation of the light in 1947 that retired Fannie Salter, the last woman lighthouse keeper in the United States. With the keepers gone, the isolated location of the light made it a prime target for vandalism. Even the lighthouse lenses were stolen. Between vandalism and decay from the lack of maintenance that the keepers provided, the two-story keeper’s house was torn down in 1972.

Concord Point Lighthouse, Havre de Grace

The light keeper's house.  The end wall shows the original building
and how it was enlarged over time.

We sailed southwest to the red and green “A” junction buoy at the mouth of the Susquehanna River where we set full sail again. At the Fishing Battery, half-way up the river to Havre de Grace, MD, we again had to start the engine, however. Havre de Grace is hard to visit by water. There is no good place to get ashore for a day visit, so I had to rent dockage at Tidewater Marina long enough to get ashore for a short walk.

French troops were quartered here during the Revolutionary War, and General Lafayette named it Le Havre de Grace (harbor of grace) because it reminded him of Le Havre, a seaport in France. During the War of 1812, on May 13, 1813, the town was under siege by the British fleet making its way up the Susquehanna River. Lt. John O’Neill single-handedly defended the town with continuous fire from a single cannon until he was wounded and captured by the British. He was eventually released by British Admiral George Cockburn in response to a petition from O’Neill’s daughter. When the lighthouse was built in 1827, the town acknowledged his heroism by promising his family hereditary employment as keepers of the Concord Point Lighthouse, a position his family retained until 1928. This is the oldest continuously operated lighthouse in the United States.

By 1630 we had run back down the Susquehanna and anchored in 13-feet just clear of the rocky point at the northern most point in the Aberdeen Proving Grounds’ restricted area. After a serene evening and sunset, I was suddenly awakened at 2230 by a wall of wind I could hear well before it even reached us. I slipped on my non-skid shoes and climbed on deck in my pajamas to set a second anchor. The howling wind allowed little sleep the rest of the night.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Well, Happy Winter Solstice!  Eventhough it's also called Midwinter Day, it marks the beginning of the calendar winter season.  Most important, it marks the arrival of the shortest day and longest night of the year, and the beginning of the days getting longer.  That was always the paradox with fall.  It was the best time of year to be on the water, but the days kept getting shorter, giving you less time to enjoy it.  Of course the more comfortable sleeping nights were a joy too.

I guess you heard that last night's total lunar eclipse hadn't occurred on the winter solstice since 1638, or 372 years ago, making it a pretty significant event.  Suspecting we may not be available for the next one, we decided to check it out.  The sky was covered all day with dense, high cirrus clouds, so it was doubtful that we'd get to see it, but we got up at 0200, and the sky was clear.  We set lawn recliners and cushions on the lawn, made hot cider, and sat back to enjoy the show until 0330 when the shadow had begun to move away.  It had the red color they had predicted because of recent volcanic activity, and was interesting.  At least now we can know that when we go spring paddling, each day will provide a couple more minutes of pleasure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blog Notes

Part of the fun of doing a blog, as I’m told, since I’m new to this, has to do with the comments or questions you get in response to the posts. I’ve had none, but there have been questions outside the blog. For example, I was asked what I meant by a shoulder season. I hadn’t come across this term myself until a year or more ago, but I’ve seen it used any number of times since then. The shortest explanation is that the shoulder seasons are fall and spring, but it’s more involved than that. It appears to do with how far you can push something into times of the year not normal to the intended activity or the area you're visiting. The shoulder season will require you to do something unusual to continue that activity, such as use special gear like a wet or dry suit, different clothes, or travel to more distant locations. The term is also used in making reservations for cruises, or at resorts.  It is the time of year that falls between the area's high and low seasons.  It offers a compromise of lower prices while you can still hope to get decent weather.
Then, I’ve been asked why I keep bouncing back and forth between paddling subjects and the cruise. Perhaps I should explain what I’m doing. As I mentioned initially, this is a major transition from a life of sailing to some other medium that still allows me to be on the water---paddling. Transition means I’m not fully engaged at present in either one. I’m simultaneously looking both back and forward. In all honesty, I don’t currently have enough strictly paddling material to keep a blog going, so I’m using the fall cruise both because many people have found it interesting, and because it will allow me the time needed to carry me through the holidays and into a heavier concentration of paddling activity. I apologize if you find it confusing. In the meanwhile, don’t hesitate to chime in---questions, comments.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cruise, Day 7

We departed Turner’s Creek under power. The river was dead flat calm, and I mean as smooth as a varnished coffee table. No matter where you looked, if it was moving, it was under power. If I was paddling, it would be the weather to pray for. We turned west toward the bay, and cut inside lighted buoy “2”, crossing the bar between the buoy and the point. I couldn’t help feeling sad, or melancholic, looking back down the Sassafras for what I knew was probably to be the last time ever. Crossing the bar. How poetic. You don’t get much more depressing than that.
Soon I saw other sights that helped draw me out of my black bile. Two tonging boats were coming in from the bay and passed close to port. I tried to get a picture, but the sun was right in my eyes. Shortly after, I saw a schooner heading south across the river mouth, and anchored off Betterton was a barquentine. Then a second two-masted schooner hove into view as it cleared Grove Point. I was to learn later that they were headed for Chestertown for a tall-ship gathering with Chestertown’s local tall ship, the Santana.

As an aside, the Santana has an interesting story. If you think the United States has a peculiar habit of doing things that seem contrary to its own self-interest, like surrendering the Panama Canal or selling steel to Japan during the early stages of WWII, consider this. The original Santana, from which this was reproduced, was built in a Boston shipyard in 1767 as a private merchant schooner. Within a year it was sold to the British Navy. You know, the very people we were trying to acquire our independence from, who already had the largest navy in the world, and the ones who would shortly burn our nation’s capitol. And what was to be its duty? It was to patrol the East Coast enforcing the Townsend Act, better known as the Tea Taxes. Resistance against the Crown was becoming so intense in the Colonies that Santana was recalled to England in the fall of 1772 in fear for the safety of her crew. But time changes everything, and now a replica of a war ship is a tourist attraction for recreational daysails. But, anything done to preserve classic vessels and seamanship is all good.As I rounded Grove Point to head north, I sailed close by a front range light. Years ago we were accustomed to seeing all range lights being built on dolphins. These steel structures have a real appearance of strength and permanence.

The dolphin I‘m referring to, by the way, is not the swimming mammal. A dolphin is a cluster of pilings driven into the bottom and banded or cabled together to create a really massively strong structure. They are used for permanent structures like minor lights, of which a range light would be one, fendering to protect the corners of piers, or for barge and tug moorings. Where most people get to see dolphins are at the entrance to a ferry terminal. A series of dolphins will be set in a line to create a very strong bulkhead on both sides of the ferry slip. Since ferries are flat-bottomed, have a lot of windage, and often have to dock crossways to the current, the captain will usually lay the bow of the ferry against the dolphins to hold the bow while he torques the stern in line and then just slides into the slip.
We passed between Turkey Point and White Crystal Beach, marking the entrance into the Elk River. Thistle then sailed into Cabin John Creek, a popular spot to anchor for a swim or picnic in the summer. As we passed Ford Landing and entered the Bohemia River, a three-masted schooner motored past us headed north. This was not a classic vessel, but a 200-ft. modern yachtie rendition complete with a long clipper bow. At Ford Landing was a beautiful child’s playhouse on the shore with the manor house on the hill beyond. Nestled in the shade under a grove of trees behind the playhouse was a nicely equipped playground.

We motored along the shore of Veazey Cove, and then crossed the river to stop at Two Rivers Yacht Basin for fuel. With the light air I had been encountering, I was burning as much gas every couple days as I usually would in an entire summer. Leaving Two Rivers, we motored toward the bridge at the navigable head of the Bohemia, powered through Manor Creek anchorage, and crossed the river to anchor at Hacks Point. Once secured, I climbed into Thorn and rowed the half-mile across the river to get a picture of the manor house at the mouth of Manor Creek.

While going to the University of Delaware, I would spend long hours on the river. Seeking peace and quiet, I would carry my books down to Dad’s runabout at Hacks Point. It took just a few minutes to run out into the middle of the river, anchor, and then read the afternoon away. It was only an hour past noon, but with no plans to motor further, and no wind to sail with, I decided to anchor for the night and have a walk ashore to visit the close-knit community of Hacks Point to see how much remained from the years of my youth. This night, I’d be anchored in the river, eat dinner in the cockpit, and enjoy the sunset.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Song of the Paddle and Waterwalker

Bill Mason was born in 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a commercial artist, nature artist, author, paddler, conservationist, and cinematographer, and to humble the rest of us less talented folks, he did them all equally well. He graduated from the School of Art of the University of Manitoba in 1951. He got tired of sitting in an office all the time, so he took his skills to the lakes and rivers of Canada and the U.S., and canoed his entire adult life. Mr. Mason passed away from cancer in 1998. In a l996 biography of Mason, he was referred to as “the patron saint of canoeing.“
It doesn’t take much of a search to uncover a whole list of Mason books, instructional videos and voyaging films. I’d like to highlight two here that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.

The first is Song of the Paddle: An Illustrated Guide to Wilderness Camping, copyrighted and published in 1988. The book is a detailed guide on camping knowledge. It not only provides a list of the essential gear, but breaks each down into favorable and unfavorable characteristics and why you might wish to select one over another. For example, on footwear, he discusses nine different types of footwear and what you should consider for different uses, five different types of gloves, how the clothing checklist should be altered for winter, summer, and shoulder seasons, and so on. Mason is credited with refining paddling strokes and techniques, and after describing how to read the waters of a river, clearly describes how the strokes should be used individually and in combination. His discussion is just as detailed for rescue techniques, portaging, fires, lighting, cooking, bugs and bears, tents, and much more. His two favorite canoe designs were the Pal and the Prospector, two classic craft that have been faithfully recreated by Nova Craft of London, Ontario, in a number of hull materials.

The other is a Bill Mason movie I just found two days ago, titled “Waterwalker.” My wife and I sat down to watch the 86-minute film together. We were so moved and impressed, that as soon as it was over, I called the Canada Film Bureau and ordered two copies of the film, one for us and one for our daughter and son-in-law. When you check the film bureau site, you can also preview the other full-length films and instructional videos. If you love nature and the out-of-doors, it’s not one of those films you watch once and then shove in the bookcase. The whole family can enjoy this one over and over again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cruise, Day 6

We’ve been busy with the usual holiday things that I know have been keeping you occupied as well. The tree is up, Christmas cards away, shopping done. So, we wish you all the best of the holiday.

                                                             Turner's Creek Wharf
Back on the Chesapeake cruise, we weighed anchor and departed the next morning under power. Full main and genoa were set as soon as we cleared Turner’s Creek. The wind was a mere zephyr from the east, but I was here to commune with MY river, and light air or no, I was going to sail, just like when this was home. A house is a house, but this river felt like home. This river is where we went to experience life. The kids grew up here. We had our holidays here, anchored in a cove to hide Easter eggs in the nearby field, and sought things that were new and exciting. The river was home.

The fall was my favorite time on the bay. The geese were migrating, the anchorages were less crowded, the winds more reliable, bugs absent, and there was a constant flow of sailing snowbirds from around the world who were migrating south in search of a warmer winter. Just outside Turner’s Creek were two snowbirds that had ducked into the river for a rest before continuing south.

I rounded Ordinary Point and tucked up into Money Creek. You can’t get in there very far, even with a shallow draft. By the time the duck blind is abeam, you’re aground. I ran in until the duck blind was abeam, and yup, I drifted to a halt. My son and I went in there and parked (anchored) one night many years ago. The geese and ducks came in and settled all around us. We listened to them chat among themselves until we finally drifted off to sleep. To keep from startling them, we remained below until the sun was up enough for them to start lifting off before we came on deck. But now I just visiting, so I raised the board and backed the jib until Thistle slowly turned. I watched the trees on the shore, and with a couple rocks of the boat to break the suction, we ever so slowly started to move and then drifted clear.

I drifted up Back Creek as far as I dare. It’s hard to imagine that we had never sailed or anchored in there before. It is shallow, but perfectly navigable with care. Thistle turned and sailed back out, and we had no sooner cleared Knight Island than the wind went dead flat. I motored up into Freeman Creek and took a picture of a navy boat from Port Orange, FL, that was apparently now a classic yacht. It appeared to be an old YP, or yard patrol boat.

We continued up river and ran into Island Creek to Daffodil Island, and then headed for Skipjack Cove Marina. We had always berthed our boats there, and while most everything we remember from there is gone, I can’t speak highly enough for the renovation that has been done there. We took on fuel and then slid down to lay at the end of the wharf while I did laundry.

After leaving Skipjack, I made a visit to Georgetown Yacht Basin, and then sailed back down river. By 1645 it was obvious that this was as far as we were going to get, so we ran back into Turner’s Creek for the night.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Overhead Boat Storage

The question came up about how to store a canoe or kayak inside. There are a lot of options, but choices will be largely dictated by things you have little control over, like the height of your vehicle, the weight of the boat, the clearance height of the garage door, and the type of garage door. There is also the question of how deep your pockets are. There are fancy and very expensive commercial solutions, or you can do it yourself, making the cost of a storage arrangement run between $50 to a couple thousand.

I feel there are two primary ideal objectives. The best solution is being able to load and unload the boat single-handed so your plans don’t have to depend on someone else’s availability to get your gear loaded. If you have a small, light plastic kayak of about forty pounds, options are almost limitless. Wall racks are an option. However, if your boat is an eighty-pound tripping or expedition canoe, juggling the craft alone can become a bit of a challenge. In this case, I have found an overhead hoist to be ideal. If you can raise and lower the boat directly onto your vehicle’s roof rack, you can be loaded and underway in a few minutes. This requires a couple things---sufficient door clearance so you can drive in and out with the boat loaded on the vehicle, and some garage door arrangement other than an overhead door. These can be a rolling hanger door, double swinging doors, or a rolling metal warehouse door. If you have an overhead door, it will roll back under the rafters right where you’d want the hoist secured. You can install a beam or beams to span the width of the door that hang below the door when raised, so the door rolls back between the overhead beams or rafters and the hoist. This involves some extra engineering and imagination, more money, and greater clearance over your vehicle. The next best solution is hanging the boat where there’s room, and transferring it from the hoist to the vehicle. This can include a very reliable, inexpensive, but strong do-it-yourself pulley set-up. Since I have an overhead door, and a truck too tall to allow driving in and out with the canoe on top, this was what worked for me.

Make two 2 X 2” crossbeams a bit longer than the boat’s beam. Cover it with carpet to protect the boat. At each end of the boat, slide a single-sheave block onto the line, and secure the line to one end of the beam with a clove hitch. Run the line over the boat with just enough slack to tie an overhand knot in the doubled line with the block in the bight of the loop, and then clove hitch it to the opposite end of the beam. Adjust the clove hitches so the block is centered over the centerline of the boat and with just enough slack so you can slide the bridle you’ve just created on and off the end of the boat. Cut the excess line and whip the ends, and back up each clove hitch with two half-hitches. I use half-inch line. It has more work strength than you need, but a half-inch line is easy on the hands and gives a good grip when lifting weight.

This photo shows the crossbeam and bridle, the hoisting line running through the two blocks and across to the wall of the garage, and the safety line.

Take one end of the line and secure it to the overhead, whether to a rafter, truss, or eyebolt. Run the line down and through the block on the lifting bridle, back up and through a turning block secured next to the line attachment point, then across the ceiling, through another turning block, and down the wall of the garage to a well anchored cleat. Once the boat is hoisted, run a length of line from the overhead, around the boat, and back to the overhead. This is a safety line that is tied in place after the boat is hoisted. If an attachment should ever fail, a block come apart, or a line part, the safety line will hold the boat in place so it can never fall.
This shows the line coming across the ceiling, through the two turning blocks, one for either end of the canoe, and down to the cleat.

The cleat is well lagged into the steel beam, and made off with a secure cleat hitch.  We all know there are two ways to secure a line---tie a knot or tie a lot.  With two lines, you can't get a bunch of figure-eights on the hitch, so knowing how to do a proper cleat hitch is helpful.  Begin by taking a 360-degree wrap.

                                         Hook the bottom horn of the cleat.
Then turn a loop in the line so the two wraps lie side-by-side, secured in place by the wrap over the top.

My installation hangs the canoe over the hoods of both our car and truck. When I’m ready to load, I pull the vehicles out, lower the canoe onto a canoe cart, and roll it outside to put it on the truck.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Navy Wins Nine in a Row

NAVY - 31
ARMY - 17

No disrespect to Army.  It is just a great rivalry that we all have a lot of fun with, but the real winner is America.  These young men and women are some of the most devoted, determined, and brightest that America has to offer.  When there is so much that we as a country are failing to do right these days, we can all still take pride in what is accomplished daily in our academies.  Now, if only our politicians (notice I didn't say political leaders, or statesmen) could rise equally to the call of service to the country.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cruise, Day 5

We motored out of Fairlee Creek, and as soon as we cleared lighted #2, full main and genoa were set. The plan had been to sail into Worton Creek and right back out, but I decided to make a stop at Worton Creek Marina to see if a gasket could be found for the reserve gas tank cap. The poorly fitting cap was allowing gas to leak from the tank. I went ahead and furled the sails and started the engine at Nun #2 in Worton Creek and secured alongside the bulkhead at the marina shortly after. I was surprised when I turned into the creek. There had always been hundreds of boats moored in the creek with a small fairway along the east side of the creek. Now, the moorings were all gone. There weren’t more than a half-dozen boats anchored along the entire stretch of the creek. There was no gasket to be had here or at any of the other dozen marinas I tried during the cruise. The leak around the cap was ended, however, by putting a shopping bag over the spout and screwing the cap over that. A small hole had to be punctured in the bag to allow for expansion, but the problem was solved, even if not as I would have wished. While the engine was still running, I ran a good ways up into Mill Creek and back out to again set full main and genoa.

Keeping the channel dredged is a nearly full-time job, and as I sailed out toward Worton Point, I had a chance to sail past a few of the tugs, dredge, and barges working there. Just as I drifted past dredge barge #428 from Norfolk, I saw an immaculate Friendship Sloop motoring south. I would have loved to talk with them, but they were trying to make time, and in the light air there was no chance of drawing closer to them. She was a well cared for lady, though, and reminded me of the many Friendship Sloops we sailed with in Friendship, Maine.

Just then a large bee landed on the deck. It stayed with Thistle for over an hour as it rested. This was not a unique occurrence, and unfortunately the way it played out wasn’t unique either. Over the years we have had countless flying insects and birds land on board seeking relief from an arduous flight over long expanses of water, or after being blown offshore. When he felt he was ready, the bee made a few test flights up and down along the side deck, landing each time to rest. Finally it lifted off and flew out over the calm water. He hadn’t gone twenty feet before he made a slow, spiraling dive into the water and to his demise.

I switched to a gennaker off Still Pond. We finally got Howell Point abeam by 1300, but the air kept getting lighter and lighter. I drifted with the ebb while I made lunch and watched not just for traffic, but any crab pot we might drift over and snag. An hour later, after finishing and cleaning up from lunch, I started the engine and headed into the Sassafras River. As we passed Betterton Beach, which my wife and I know as Diamond Beach, I shot a couple pictures to show my wife how it had changed in the years of our absence. One day we sailed past Betterton was a hot August day many years ago. Like today, the only air movement was convection. We decided to anchor off Betterton for lunch and a swim to escape the stifling heat. While she was swimming, my wife suddenly felt her diamond ring slip off her finger. We were in about twelve feet of water, but she dove to the bottom and felt around for it. Miraculously, she found the ring, and was swimming back to the surface to lay it on deck. Just as she surfaced, the ring slipped and went back to the bottom. Contrary to the old myth, lightning in fact will strike twice in the same place. It’s luck that won’t strike twice. Her ring is still there---at Diamond Beach. As for Betterton, other than the ring, pretty much everything we remember from eons ago is gone, but it is still a public beach.  When the huge amusement pier and resort hotel were here, this was a major destination for large excursion boats that would bring hordes of people here from Philadelphia and Wilmington.

With the last of the day’s light, I slipped into Turner’s Creek, went to the headwaters and anchored in 5 ½ feet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis The Season

It's the season for dumping huge piles of money into the U.S. economy.  I just got the computer back from the computer doctor.  We just got the TV back from the television doctor.  We've been watching a little 12-inch TV the last couple months.  Watching a football game was like watching an ant farm.  All you could see was little grains of multi-colored rice bouncing haphazardly about the tiny screen, but it's back in time for the Army-Navy game. 


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cruise, Day 4

The second anchor was already washed and its rode coiled in the starboard cockpit locker when we sailed off the bower anchor with a full main and jib shortly after 0700. We rounded Eastern Neck and proceeded north closehauled on the port tack, encountering the expected Love Point slop. To make it worse, the wind started backing, which brought us bow-on to the waves rather than taking them at an angle. To get enough drive to power through them, I changed to a genoa, but about every third wave still nearly brought us to a dead stop.

By 1220, Swan Point was abeam to starboard, but with the wind still dying, I changed to a gennaker or cruising spinnaker. We had reached Tolchester by 1440, and the wind had backed a full 180-degrees by then and began to fill slowly from the southeast. We reached the entrance marker for Fairlee Creek where we dropped sail and started the engine. We had made 28-nm by the time we anchored in Fairlee Creek off Great Oak Landing, just in time to enjoy the sunset.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.......

One drawback to discussing plans openly in advance is exposing oneself to embarrassment when the plans don’t work out. My wife was quick to remind me of a couple such occasions, and that I had said at the time that I’d never again openly discuss plans in advance. It’s kind of bad luck, and yet, here I am.

Our first big offshore cruise was from the Chesapeake, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and down the Delaware Bay to sea, and offshore to Maine. I can say we learned a valuable lesson that day and the error was never repeated. We weren’t too far north of the Delaware Capes when a jib sheet took a wrap around the fore-hatch, which had been opened a few inches for ventilation. It promptly ripped the hatch off the boat as neat as could be. The sheet flung it like a Frisbee, and it landed and sank 50-60-ft. away from the boat. Obviously we couldn’t go to sea with a big hole in the forward deck, so we diverted into Lewes, DE, with our tails between our legs, and found a week’s dockage there while I returned home and built a new hatch. From that day on, the fore-hatch has forever been securely dogged before we got underway.

The second time was also on the Delaware Bay. We had been selected to officially represent the State of Delaware in the America 500. This was a gathering of a couple hundred boats from most of the maritime countries around the world to re-sail Columbus’ Voyage of Discovery, with a double Trans-Atlantic and visits to most of the places that played a part in the voyage, including where the ships came from, the monastery where Columbus and his son lived, where his crew came from and so on. There were several big events to mark our departure from Delaware with attendance by the governor, and an open house (or boat) when the public could visit aboard and sign the log. With departure day, we were to leave Delaware City and sail south in company with a boat-load of well-wishers and photographers. As we got underway and began to set sail, I asked one of the crew to go forward and set the jib. Now keep in mind that we had done this hundreds, maybe a few thousand times, and in decades of sailing had made this mistake only this one time. Of course the one time would be in full view of a hundred people and dozens of cameras. As the jib started to go up, I called as loudly as I could, but in hopes that I wouldn’t be heard on the press boat, “Stop! Get it down, get it down quick!”

He looked at me like I was crazy and kept hoisting. “No, stop, get it down.” Only when he heard all the laughter from the other boat did he stop and look up. The jib had been hanked on upside-down. Then someone yelled across, “You’re sailing, HOW FAR??” Fortunately, all the press had the good grace not to publish a picture of the upside-down jib. We were embarrassed enough as it was. Anyhow, the point to be made is if our plans suffer a few future wrinkles, I hope you’ll remember it is all just part of the process.

Lin and Larry Pardey had a routine they followed to meet this problem. Whenever there were family and friends gathering for a send off at the start of one of their passages, they
would leave with all the bunting flying and hands waving, and as soon as they rounded the first headland that would put them out of sight, they would seek out an anchorage. They took the rest of the day to access everything. It they had forgotten something, they could return for it, in cover of darkness if needed. After all the hectic mind-numbing weeks of preparation, they could just stop, sit with a glass of wine, have a nice dinner, and actually get underway the next day when their blood pressure had returned to normal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cruise, Day 3

The smaller birds were probably most affected by the high winds and driving rain of the last week, but today they were appearing to make up for lost time. As the sun first began to lighten the sky to the east, the chattering of thousands of birds was impressive enough to compel me to slide the hatch back to witness their rise from the fields. They kept flying in circles as more and more rose to fall into formation. Pretty soon they comprised a huge fast moving, undulating, black cloud. Then the geese started to stir and their honking could be heard as more and more in the opposite direction, to my west, began to rise into the air.

The winds for the day were forecast to be 15-20 NW with higher gusts, which brought out a small craft advisory. By 0830, we had sailed off the anchor with a single reef in the main and working jib. We sailed into Bungay Creek until we lost way, as the wind was still light in the confined waters, but already the tops of the trees were swaying. Thistle came about and sailed on down West Fork of Langford Creek. When Paul Higbee, a friend from South Georgia, joined me last year for the fall cruise, we had sailed up East Fork and anchored for a restful night in Lovely Cove, so having sailed the East Fork, we continued west. At 1030 we were off Gray’s Inn Creek, but the shoals on either side of the entrance were unmarked, so I hove-to further out while I plotted an approach course line. We continued up Gray’s Inn Creek to the community of New Yarmouth where we came about when we reached the charted sewer line on the creek’s bottom at Cherry Tree Point. The distinctive calls of numerous Whippoorwills came from all about the creek.
It was such a peaceful setting, it was hard to imagine that this was the site of an engagement between local militia and seasoned British troops during the War of 1812.

On the way back down stream, we sailed into Harrington Creek, and then set the anchor at the entrance to Browns Cove for lunch. By 1240 we sailed off the anchor again and reached the south end of Eastern Neck Island by 1400. We started to sail further south in anticipation of rounding Cedar Point, but the forecast 15-20 mph winds had gone 20-30. Between the wind and the anticipation of the confused, short seas almost always encountered off Love Point, I decided we would make a short day of it. I dropped sail and started the engine to head up into Hail Creek in the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge. Progress with the outboard was slow at first between the chop and the wind dead on the nose, but we gained speed as we found ourselves more and more in the lee of the marsh. Continuing to the head of the cove, we anchored at 1450 in 3 ft. of water.
I was beginning to wonder how we could be in the middle of a wildlife refuge and see no evidence of life. Then there was a screech, and I turned to spot a bald eagle as it soared into the top of a pine. With the binoculars I could see it, the nest, and what I assumed was its mate in the treetop.

The wind continued strong into the night. There was nothing to get good anchor bearings on, but with the soft bottom and my sense that we had already dragged just a bit, I went ahead and used the last of the day’s light to set the second anchor.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lake Trial Run

I’ve made several changes to how the canoe is transported, so today was a short, but enjoyable, trial run. The temperature was 28-deg. this morning, but by afternoon had climbed thirty degrees to 58, and the winds were calm to about 5 NE. I had hoped to get a couple paddlers together to do Lake Carl Blackwell, but there was no interest, so I just ran down to Canton Lake. The sky was just marked with a few cirrus, and the calm conditions were conducive to some casual gunkholing. So much so, that I spent two hours going up the lake, when it took only 38 minutes coming back.

So, who needs a boat to enjoy the lake?

So I was only underway for 3 hrs 8 minutes, plus another 29 minutes drifting while I had lunch. I only covered 5.7 miles and averaged 2.2 kts., so it was just a lazy and enjoyable afternoon on the water.

I had used the canoe cart to move the canoe around a couple times at home, but this was the first time to actually put it to use. Rather than trying to do everything at the water’s edge, I unloaded the canoe in the parking lot, loaded the gear, and walked the canoe to the ramp. It’s amazing how easily it moves the boat. I had brought nearly a full load: 40 lbs. of water, a full pack, some provisions, the Paddle Cart and other gear to see how the canoe handled the load. About the only thing missing was a tent. With a little adjustment, the gear can balance the boat and enable it to be moved about with just a light touch on the end of the canoe. I had looked at carts for a good while without being able to decide on one, but saw that a couple Watertribe members had used a PaddleCart for some really long portages, both on foot and with a bicycle-towed canoe/kayak cart, and had seen several good reviews on The cart is heavily constructed of welded aluminum, and disassembles for compact stowage. I got the Dually, which has four wheels so it’s easier to pull in sand, rough terrain or grass. It is available at

When I returned to the ramp, I removed the heavy gear so it would be easier to set the canoe on the cart, and then reloaded it. Once back at the truck after pulling it through a bunch of grass, I noticed a lot of sand burrs in the tires. Having had bicycle tires punctured by them, I was prompt to remove them, all 74 of them.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

St. Johns River Guide

The second book, St. Johns River Guidebook, by Kevin M. McCarthy, (Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL) is more of a guide, and goes into greater detail on the tributaries. He includes two guides, one if by land, two if by sea, plus locations of marinas, camps, and places to eat, sleep and visit. One of the two writers made the point that people travel great distances, at great expense, to reach the Amazon River basin in search of wild, natural diversity when the closest thing to it is as close as the hidden reaches of Florida. Of equal diversity are the people that have lived along and been touched by the St. Johns. The Native Americans go back 12,000 years, the Timucuan, the Creek, the Seminole, and other entire populations have thrived and then disappeared. The names from the river region are a who’s who of American history: Jean Ribault, John and William Bartram, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, John Jacob Astor, J.C. Penny, Henry Flagler, and many others. As we make the trip down the river, I hope to write more about the unique nature and history of the regions we paddle through. I’d recommend both books for anyone making a trip to the river. For the armchair traveler, the River of Lakes would probably be the single best for giving you an appreciation for the river and area.
So far, I’ve found one thing that works in our favor. The marsh and islands that make Puzzle Lake and Hell-N-Blazes so difficult to navigate have settled and become attached to the bottom. They’re stationary, in other words. They used to be floating islands. After her trip down the river, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote, “When we looked over our shoulders, the marsh had closed in over the channel by which we had come. We were in a labyrinth. The stretch of open water was merely the fluid heart of a maze.” To help with the lack of other navigational aids, I’m making prints of Google Earth satellite photographs. In most of the area, these would cover just critical areas like junctions and bifurcations where a wrong turn is possible, even likely. In areas that more closely duplicate the problems of Puzzle Lake or Hell-N-Blazes, we’ll do a continuous stream of photos to help navigate the area. I’ve found these to be a great aid also in researching other rivers by being able to see the exact locations and severity of dams, wing-dams, shoals, and rapids. Of course nature is not static, so there’s always anticipation of a surprise.

Some things are static---bridges, for example.   It occurred to me looking at all of the bridges north of Palatka and across the entrance to all the creeks and rivers, I no longer have to wait for bridge openings. And, unless I’m going through a drainage culvert, I no longer have to worry about bridge clearance. Yeeha! It’s a small thing. It’s a little silver lining gained only by sacrificing all the amenities of a cruising boat, like four-inch cushions, privacy, gimbaled oil lamps and water on tap, and an enclosed head, but it’s worth celebrating.

The plan is done. It’s been organized in a 3-ring binder. The maps and charts have been assembled so they’re ready to go. All we need now is water. When I mentioned the things that made the trip time critical, I failed to include the most important one---water. When I called Steve Miller initially, I told him I was planning on doing the trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He said that was a bad idea, on two counts, and that I should wait until January or February. My initial timeframe was in the heart of the hunting season, and there was so little water, the headwater regions were being run by ATV. He said the water levels were the lowest he had ever seen, and unless a minor hurricane or tropical storm came through to dump a lot of rain, he didn’t see it improving real soon. Naturally, this was one of the rare years when Florida didn’t see serious weather, and rainfall is mostly absent. We’ll have to see how it develops, but there may be no headwaters to speak of this year, which includes everything down to the weir at Lake Washington.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cruise, Day 2

I had sailed the Chesapeake all my life, but there were still many sights to see. On weekends, we usually took the kids and went to many of the same places. When there was a vacation, we struck off hard and fast to cover as much mileage as possible. Also, all our boats had been long-legged ocean cruisers or racers, so there were plenty of spots we just couldn’t get into. The object here was to gunkhole any place and every place with 2 ½ ft. of water.
On 8 October Thistle was underway at 0900 from the marina. This gave me a chance to see how the dinghy towed. My eldest granddaughter reasoned that if the boat was named Thistle, the dinghy should be Thorn.

Even though I run the engine every couple weeks to a month, and I had serviced it, it had been a year since it had been in full service, so I decided to run it a bit before getting too far afield and having a problem, so I powered out of Indian Creek and up Southeast Creek. As soon as the creek narrowed down we came to a place on the south shore where someone had put up a bird roost. A telephone pole had been set with a long length of metal flashing secured around the pole to keep predators from climbing, and a nesting platform was set on top with a huge nest on it. A “T” had been erected above it as a roost, and perched right there was a beautiful bald eagle. Throttling back, I drifted by so as not to disturb it, and continued to the head of navigation before coming about.
Approaching the Chester River, I set sail. Not having been underway for a year, and with the rig freshly set up, there were a few bugs to work out in running lines and setting fairleads, but things fell in place pretty quickly as I set a single-reefed main and working jib and beat to weather. Thistle sailed down the river and rounded the first elbow in the river in front of Camp Pecometh, a Methodist summer camp, which is charted as Booker‘s Wharf. Further down we sailed up into White Cove. The silo marked there is actually two silos that have been joined and converted into a very nice five-story home. Decks surround most of it on the second and third floor, and on the fourth, ceiling-to-floor wrap-around windows give a panoramic view of the river.

Just as I beat in toward Comegy’s Bight, a gust blew my hat off. It had tie straps, but I carelessly had them stuffed into the top of the hat. After several passes with the boathook, it started sinking. The wind made it hard to see on the surface, and then it was gone. As you sail up Langford Creek, Cacaway Island sits strategically in the junction between the East and West Forks. I dropped sail and started the engine just as we entered the West Fork and continued northwest, turning into Shipyard creek. The anchor was set in 8-ft. in the bight just south of Shipyard Landing.

I dinghied over to the landing to stretch my legs with a bit of a walk. After dinner, I sat in the cockpit with a cup of tea as I watched a buck swim across the creek just east of me. I had seen deer swim before, but was surprised at his speed, which had to be at least 2 kts. Unfortunately, where he was to come out of the water was a high, steep bluff that rose directly from the water. I grabbed the binoculars to watch for fear he might injure himself trying the scale the cliff. He stood on the water’s edge for a while looking everything over. He walked a bit left, then right, and finally seemed to have decided on an approach. He climbed and slid, climbed and slid, but finally reached the top where he paused and shook himself before strolling into the woods.