Scouting Back Bay

Roadside Lotus Bloom 


Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge has been on my list of places to visit for a long time, even before the boats were started. Mike Wick tells me he’s very interested in a Back Bay trip, too. Maybe this Fall.

Wide and shallow behind Virginia’s southernmost barrier islands, it’s actually the northern end of the Carolina sounds of the Outer Banks, and a major stopover of the Atlantic Flyway. Every winter, hundreds of thousands of migrating shore birds, ducks, and geese move through here on their way south. I’ve always wanted to see that. Ideally, I would launch from the western shore, sail across exploring along the way, and camp on the barrier island to the east in False Cape State Park, where there are docks to tie up, and more cool places to explore.

A winter trip in a small open boat requires careful planning, though, so after leaving Steve Earley in Norfolk, I took the opportunity while in the area to make a scouting trip.

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OpSail 2012 ~ Leaving Norfolk

video of OpSail 2012 


direct Youtube link


Steve is near the end of a weeklong sailing trip on the sounds inside the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He’s had a stretch of good weather. A short heat wave in the middle, but this time of year the water is still relatively cool. Maybe it wasn’t too bad; not like it will be in another month. I told him I’d have this up by the time he got back.

This video is longer, compared to others posted, but there’s very little repetition. So much was going on that morning. Constant activity, changing views, interesting conversation. Sadly, with so much going on outside the boat, there’s very little to show of Spartina herself; though you do get a little sense of how roomy she is with three of us aboard. Room for six Steve?

Steve was on the Picton Castle, sailing down from New England when tornados struck Hampton. The Pride of Baltimore was in port, and suffered some damage. That was the same day I came off the Sassafras River to ride out the storm in a rickshaw, instead of at anchor. Crisscrossing the harbor, we swept past more people he knew, such as the writer/journalist Paul Clancy out in his boat for the show, other photographers, plus friends crewing on some of the ships. On the Picton Castle, as you’ll hear Steve mention, is a descendent of the Bounty mutineers. Plenty of entertainment for one trip.

It was nice to meet Grace, as well, who roused herself out of bed for this far earlier than any teenager should need to on a weekend. (My daughters, for whom lunch is breakfast, wouldn’t like that a bit.)



OpSail (Opportunity to Sail)

“Gloria” the Colombian ship 


We’re going to skip around in time a little bit.

Fast Forward > Rewind > Play

A month or so ago I got an email from Steve Earley over at Log of Spartina with a rare invitation to go sailing. OpSail 2012 was coming to Norfolk in June, would I be interested in seeing it from Spartina? He was making plans to sail aboard one of the tall ships, the Picton Castle, from Martha’s Vineyard for work. Might need someone to tend the tiller while he gets shots of them parading out of Norfolk.


Steve Earley in “Spartina”

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Sassafras River ~ Video

Sassafras River sailing.


* Update 6/22/12 – Someone on the WoodenBoat forum noticed something I didn’t. Keep an eye on the foreground during the opening credits. It comes right out of the surf. In the parts I edited out I can tell I almost stepped on it. – BL

Still trying to get the hang of sailing with two hands and working the camera with a third. Can’t seem to do either particularly well at once.

This covers two days. The first full day, starting with beaching on the sand spit, ending with rafting up in Turner’s Creek.

The next day, though it spanned maybe seven hours of sailing, kept all three hands full beating upwind, sitting up on the side rail most of the time. Only got brave enough to grab a couple of short clips. Must start attaching the camera to things, or bringing more hands.




Sailing the Sassafras

Easing in at end of day. 


There’s video from this trip still to come.  I’ll try to get that up in the next day or so. Still trying to catch up from 10 days of travel.

Kevin Brennan spent a long time researching a good launch point for this trip, and really nailed it with Turner’s Creek. The ramp is wide and well maintained, in a sheltered cove, with good parking and necessary facilities at hand. It’s also secluded and quiet, with very little traffic other than watermen and a few locals.

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