Chickahominy River ~ Sea of Glass

Dennis ghosting into the river. 


It’s damp and quiet at the small private marina, the sun still low and weak. The other boats are rigged up and waiting, but with no wind no one is in a hurry. We mill around in sweatshirts with hands warming in pockets as the mist burns off. In a few minutes I’ve launched and we’re off.







Well, sort of. There is, as already mentioned, no wind. Harris and Kevin M. have motors. They crank up and sputter out to the river. Eddy and Dennis and I do not. I’m the last to leave (as always) and break out the oars, rowing easily out the narrow, rock-protected channel. Once past the trees the sail catches just enough breeze I can stow the sticks and ghost the rest of the way out.

The others are lolling sleepily in the river a short way off. The water is flat and glassy. There’s just enough movement in the air to make the boats glide atop rippling mirror reflections.











Eddie in his Sooty Tern 



 Harris and Barbara in their Caledonia Yawl






Kevin M. in his Marsh Cat 


The tide is low and coming in, so we turn west to ride it from the James into the Chickahominy. There may be more wind by mid-afternoon, and hope to have some for the ride back out on the turn of the tide late in the day.

Within a few minutes I notice something odd: I’m catching up to the other boats. This never happens. Always everyone else sails off ahead, and it takes all my skills to keep them in sight. Maybe I just have a favorable eddy in the river?







Caesura is like a leaf blowing gently across the surface. I soon pass the other boats. Not going fast, by any means, but visibly faster. This is very odd. I do have the topsail up – it’s that kind of day – but that only adds about a dozen square feet of canvas. Not really significant, still only a fraction of what the others carry. And by far the smallest boat.


slack wind for the Topsail


Kevin M. stands up in his Marsh Cat and snaps a few photos as I pass (thanks Kevin). I tell him to be sure to hang onto those – might be the only time he ever sees me pass him – and return fire.






 Me in the Melonseed Caesura,
in rare overtaking mode, afterburners on.
Photos by Kevin M.
















Within a few more minutes I’m a hundred yards ahead. I look back and see the other four boats in a cluster, canted over at different angles, their sails slack. It’s so quiet, across even that distance I can hear Eddy grumbling to the others about me pulling away, thinking he needs a topsail, too. (He’s almost always waaaay out front in his Sooty Tern). It’s all both humorous and baffling. To everyone.








Before long the bridge is arching overhead. The tide is making about half a knot against the pylons, and Caesura is going perhaps a knot faster than that. Now the other boats are just dots I can barely see in the distance. I’m at least a mile ahead. This is most unusual.

A man is fishing on some docks. Two kayakers paddle along the shore beneath the bald cypress. Birds swirl in loose flocks over the brown marsh. It’s pretty nice. But a little lonely.







There’s a cottage on the shore tucked into the trees. In college I spent many evenings on the porch of that place with friends, drinking wine and reading poetry late into the night. It was a drawbridge then, a single span swing bridge with a light mounted at the center, and many of us recognized it as the same light Gatsby reached across the water for, when he longed for Daisy Buchanan.



7 Replies to “Chickahominy River ~ Sea of Glass”

    1. Hi David,
      This is one of Thomas Hill’s few design. It was called a River Wizard, a 16′ flat bottom skiff. I completely redesigned it. Flattening the rocker by adding 3″ to the bow and stern and making it into a v-bottom boat. It’s pretty much my design now, as I changed the centerboard, mast, sail, rudder and added 2 watertight bulkheads, floatation and coaming with new deck.
      It’s a hybrid and a work in progress.

  1. Barry: It is a cold night here in the Mountains of NC and I am tucked in for the day. I clicked on your channel to see if there was anything new and came upon the “Sea of Glass” vid. I have watched it through twice now and am prompted to write.
    Your work, the scenes, the boats (all of them) the tranquility are wonderful and reflect the absoluteness of “sailing”. For me it was never the destination, always the journey. (I sailed a 30′ sloop for 11 years with no auxiliary).
    I will sleep now. . . .warm and cozy and with memories of those days, whiling away the hours until the freshness of a breeze would waft across my face and signal the need to use what was provided to continue on life’s journey.

    God Bless you, your friends, their boats, and the beauty that surrounds us.

    1. John, I have spent time in those beautiful NC mountains, and know how pleasant it is to stay tucked in on winter nights. I am fortunate to have found a number of people who also are happiest just to be sailing, whether there’s a destination involved is somewhat irrelevant. Makes for very pleasant going.

      Stay warm. Enjoy the winter. Spring is only a few months away.

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