Steve and I have been trying to get together again for over a year. Work or weather always interfered. An unexpected cool front brought clear skies and gentle breezes this weekend, unusual for August, and we finally managed to pull it off. I wrapped work stuff up Friday at noon and threw some gear in the back of the car, hooked up a boat to head for the coast.
For a change we met in Tidewater, on the Rappahannock at Gwynn’s Island, where he and Curt and I spent a day on Curt’s Drascombe Lugger, Annie. It’s also where Doug and I sailed both my Melonseeds when he was visiting from California.
Apparently the posts I’ve shared about a restaurant on the water nearby peaked Steve’s interest, so we met there, I hopped aboard, and we sailed around a bit on Spartina,
Funny thing about when Steve and I go sailing: we don’t talk much about boats. He’s well-read, and we have similar tastes, but different enough that I always learn something new or get a good recommendation. In a couple of hours on the water, the conversation ranges from books, to writer friends, books, artist friends, history, sailmaker friends, films, family, books, seafood, etc..
In Norfolk, where he usually sails, these conversations are interrupted every few minutes by a barge or freighter trying to run us down. A few tense moments pass until we get out of danger’s way and can carry on. Here, no such problem. I catch Steve a couple of times realize he hasn’t looked up in a while, and reflexively snap up for quick look about. Makes me smile, because I know exactly what he’s looking for and why. By the end of the sail the lazy pace has settled in, and we realize we forgot to decide where we’re going.
Doesn’t matter, as long as it ends at the restaurant for a seafood dinner. Or more to the point, for three dozen oysters with some other food on the side. Oysters, like the waters where we sail, are ranked by their salt content. Sweet is nice, but salty is better.
It’s dusk by the time we finish. Steve then motored out to anchor across the water under a full moon. I didn’t have time to get camping gear together, so secured a room in a house across the river in Irvington.
Next morning we met again, this time at the ramp at Gwynn’s Island. I watched his progress around Stingray Point on the Spot Tracking page, watched the drawbridge open to let him through.
More sailing on Spartina. Beautiful day. Gentle but steady breezes.
The little restaurant by the ramp, where we’d eaten years ago, had in the interim been razed and raised, now up on pylons and improved. It made a good mid-day break. One of the women who works there came by the table to ask about the boats. She’s local, and wants one day to build her own skiff at the Deltaville Museum.
After lunch I launched Aeon. The woman from the restaurant came out on the deck and waved as I pulled away.
We sailed along together for most of the afternoon.
Like most points of land on the western shore of the Chesapeake, the island is eroding at the north end, redeposited as sand at the south end. This creates a mile long exposed sandbar where people beach boats and gather for the day. A series of shoals crosses from the tip to the mainland. The shifting channel in the shoals is known locally as “The Hole in the Wall”, for which the restaurant is named.
With the shallow draft of these boats, we could sail right up to the bar and sail along its length in the quiet lee. Some boys waded out from the beach, and I slipped along sailing between them.
Late afternoon, I peeled off and headed back. Waiting for the drawbridge, I could just make out Spartina’s three white sails on the horizon. Steve was planning to anchor in the lee of the bar for the night. With another full moon and a clear sky, it will be like sleeping under a streetlight, but the sound of the surf on the other side of the bar will make pleasant music all night.
I know Steve took photos, too. Looking forward to seeing them.
. . .
And here they are: