Salient Saline

Steve alongside in Spartina

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irvington, Virgina

 

 

 

Carter’s Creek, Irvington

 

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Two Reefs Two Rivers ~ video

 

direct youtube link

 

Video from both days of sailing. We stayed up the Corrotoman the first day to stay clear of the wind and chop. Second day we headed out into the Rappahannock.

 

 

Double-reefed Off Parrott Island

 

Sunday is better. A little at first, then a lot. The Small Craft Warning is downgraded to an Advisory. It will remain gusty for the first half of the day, big gusts, but they will be spaced further and further apart as the day progresses, and lose their punch. By late  in the day it is as close to perfect as sailing gets.

Our hotel in Warsaw is not far from the one where Paul Manafort is spending a few nights before his trial, and not that unlike it, apparently. Warsaw had the closest available rooms we could find. Kind of weird for such a remote and unassuming place to be part of such a big story. There’s a Hardee’s and a McDonald’s, a Tractor Supply, beauty parlors, a tire store. A pressure treated wood factory. And, clearly, a regional jail.

It’s a 30 minute drive back to the marina. For such a small boat, a slip is only $25 for the night, with showers, a pool, a cafe. Well worth it. Next time we’ll just stay on the boat and skip the hotel and the driving. With the kinks from yesterday all worked out, and the boat already in the water and ready to go, we’re back onboard and underway with little fuss.

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Double-reefed Off Yankee Point

photo by Doug Lawson

 

First sails for new boats are often troublesome affairs. Nothing has been tested or put under strain. Things go wrong. Little details left undone and  forgotten suddenly get remembered, always at inconvenient times. Knots come untied, screws come loose. It’s common enough that most builders take a “shakedown cruise” before the first official launch. Gives a chance for glitches to surface and get worked out under safe conditions, preferably without an audience.  So taking a new boat on its first real sail for two solid days, in a Small Craft Warning, is not a conservative move.

But that’s what we did.

Almost a  year has passed since Doug brought his new Marsh Cat back from the mountains of southwest Virgina.

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Because Who Doesn’t Need Another Boat

 

On the way to our local farmer’s market, we told ourselves, again, not to buy more vegetables than we can use. It worked this time.

After breakfast in town, we stopped to look at the river, part of the Saturday routine. We passed our friend Stuart out spreading mulch. Out the sidewalk on sawhorses he had a canoe with a for sale sign, and we stopped to chat. Said he’d only used it three times, and needs room for more toys. Comes with two nice wooden paddles and seats.

We realized we had not told ourselves not to buy more boats than we could use.

After a few minutes at the landing watching the river flow by, as the summer heat and the cicada buzz swelled, we agreed we should reward our temperance over vegetables with a new boat. Within the hour we had it on top of the car and were headed for the river.

After weeks of flooding the river is still a little murky, but nearly back to normal levels. We paddled upstream to what remains of an old island at the confluence of Totier Creek. After a swim to cool off, we left the main stem of the James, now flooded with tubers and fishermen, and paddled up into the quiet creek.

Immediately the raucous river party fell away, and was replaced by sun-dappled silence, Great Blue Herons, crows, song birds and gar fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around a few bends we came to the old colonial era aqueduct. A stone arch over the river that dates back almost to the Revolutionary War. The Kanawha Canal ran along the James, and every stream had to be crossed with one of these bridges for canal boats. We floated underneath on the creek – the canal boats floated across overhead, where now the railroad runs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very cool.

Returning to the James, another swim, and a float back home.

Who doesn’t need another boat?

 

 

East River ~ Mathews, Virginia

 

direct youtube link

 

Beautiful early spring day, in beautiful country, with beautiful boats.

Video from the weekend in Mobjack, Virginia. A mix of drone footage, shots ashore, and on board a handmade rowboat and a William Garden Eel.

A couple of Coquinas, a Marsh Cat, a Melonseed, and a flock of Caledonia Yawls. Perfect boats for these shallow waters.