Due west of Winter Harbor is the East River, also in Mathews County, near the little village of Mobjack. Just off a bay by the same name. The Old Bay Club gathered there last weekend for the season kickoff.
Not sure I could go at all, not even taking a boat, I got to the water mid-afternoon as the fleet was coming back from a day of sailing.
A small creek runs inland along the shore, making a safe harbor perfect for shallow water boats. The mouth of the creek forms a narrow neck with calm water inside.
The land and homes along this shore once belonged to one extended family. At the neck the creek was once spanned by a boardwalk, so you could stroll between houses for visiting, or walk to the village for church. Posts from the boardwalk still remain, and block the entrance like a portcullis. This keeps out the big boats; but again not a problem for little boats, which slip in between them to safety inside. They cruise through the gate like scouts on horseback riding into to a fort.
They got the boats settled for the night. A few anchored out. Most camped ashore.
By evening there is a fire going, lots of food and drink. It’s till cold here. The wind off the water is around 50 degrees and dropping. I stay by the fire, a compulsive fire poker to stay warm. Frogmore Stew a la Low Country feels good in the hand and in the belly.
Small boat sailors on the Bay know the looming presence of big ships. They drift along the horizon like thunderstorms, and are almost as big. Like bulls in a big pasture, general rule is stay far away as you can, and keep watch over your shoulder. It’s a good thing if you never see one up close.
It was different when I lived in Savannah. There the harbor is a narrow river that runs like a wet boulevard right through the city. Oceangoing ships the size of office buildings glide right along the waterfront. I’d hang out on River Street and watch them go by, blotting out the sky. Close enough to hit with a baseball, you could see details – strange markings, battle scars, seams and rivets – that under normal conditions remained beyond view.
I came across an article this morning that explains what a lot of these symbols mean:
(This is a post started last August; am just getting back to it.)
It will take nearly four hours of driving to get there, to get where the boat is, a boat built by hand in the loft of an old barn. We head out at sunrise while there’s still dew on the grass.
We don’t go east toward the coast, though, where most boats and builders of them live. Instead, we turn and go the other direction – to the southwest into the mountains. Instead of the land of crabs and oysters and skipjacks, we’re going deep into coal and bluegrass and moonshine country.
After 200 miles of driving we’ll still be in Virginia, though just barely. From south of Fries it’s just 10 miles as the crow flies to the Carolina line, and 20 to Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. This is where Marvin Spencer, proprietor and master craftsman of Brush Creek Yachts, lives and builds boats.
It’s almost time to go. In the morning the Melonseed will get stuffed with gear, leaving a little room to skootch back and forth, tacking upwind all the way back. The tide will be out. Lots of short tacking. Another front is coming through, bringing rain. I’ll try to slip out ahead of it.
Most will wait another day to squeeze out the last few hours they can before heading back. A few plan to leave soon after I do. Beating my way out into the headwind, I see Wesley in his skiff on his way to the island to pick them up. He nods approval as he goes by.