Finally getting back to the video from Saint Michaels. Kinda nice to have, now that the boats are put away. Wood stove season has arrived and leaves are falling off the trees.
Some of the sailing clips include Dave Gentry in his Chautaqua sailing canoe, Steve Earley in his Pathfinder Spartina, Jim Drake in his Coquina Molly Malone. I had a lovely long glide along John England in his sprit skiff as he ghosted all the way around Yankee Point and the lighthouse – a long unbroken clip, a piece of which appears above.
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum staff were working on several restorations, steam bending mast hoops and splicing steel rigging.
The race on Saturday was a real nail-biter. Almost no wind, so the boats drifted in close quarters all the way to the finish line in slow motion. Captains and crews throughout were close enough to lob creative disparagements from boat to boat, along with a few cold beers.
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I’ve been asked about the music. Back before the internet was really big, there were these things called bulletin boards and chat rooms organized by interest. Very low tech, and very non-commercial, homespun affairs. There were some good ones put together by amateur musicians, who shared self-made recordings for supportive critiques, tips and tricks, etc.. The music was shared freely without reservation. Some really good stuff by really talented people. I still have some of those recordings I’ve saved all these years, and still play them.
All the music in this video comes from Tom Atwood. He’s now a professional photographer, and looks like he’s still making music. You can find him online here:
Sunday is my second favorite day of the festival. Some folks pack up and leave early. Those that linger are here for the boating, and stay as long as they can, savor it.
Fall comes later now to the Mid-Atlantic, but the leaves are starting to turn. You know the season is nearly over, winter coming soon. Another reminder to get it while you can, cuz it won’t be around much longer.
I have changed the way I do MASCF. I now only take a tent and a sleeping bag – no stove, no provisions. Just sailing gear, a cooler and libations. Easier. After a fitful night of sleeping among the sonorous snorers of St. Michaels (I now pack earplugs every year) at dawn one can go to the Steamboat House for cheap coffee and donuts (gratis), or walk a few pleasant blocks through the morning mist in town, and get a good coffee and omelette for a few bucks. At The Blue Crab cafe, where one is apt to meet fellows of like mind and demeanor.
On the walk back, take a shower and a stroll along the docks.
Another change made over the years is to begin sailing as soon as possible. I used to hang around the museum for all the events, which are fun, but that meant I was often late getting on the water. Now I go sailing right after breakfast and don’t come back until time for dinner. It’s wonderful sailing, with beautiful boats coming and going to make a stunning view.
Zigzag along the docks – an appreciative audience waves and takes photos. In small boats like mine the technical challenge of threading docks and the mooring field is fun, hones handy skills. Reach across the Miles River when the wind is up, break free of the crowd to take deep breaths again, the sound of wind and waves absent of human chatter.
There’s a certain logic to this. The festival has become so well attended that finding dock space is like playing musical chairs. The moment you move a boat to use it, another will slide in to take your place. Someone is always circling nearby, looking for a slip. Once you slip the lines and pull out, may as well stay out.
Around noon the fleet will embark and swarm out to you in earnest. Boats everywhere. You will have missed the instructions for the race course, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t care, primarily, and secondly the course will likely change, as is it does today. There is so little wind today at the start, the committee shrewdly at the last minute shortens the course by half. As I’ve said before, it’s not a race, it’s a parade. Prizes will be awarded, true, but not just to the fastest boats.
After the race, many who have not been on the water all day will stay out, remembering again how nice it is to be free of land. “Oh, right, this is nice.” There’s a lot of cruising in close company to admire each other’s boats. The last of the cold front that brought the rain last night drains away, the skies clear, barely enough wind left to fill a light sail.
Then dinner, always a pleasant affair with congratulations, and much giving of thanks. It’s a devout congregation. A sort of religion, the people of small hand-made boats, and a tent revival. Very Quaker. The gods are fickle, but the ministers are kind.
After dinner, Webb Chiles gave a talk this year. He does routinely what few of us would do, ever, though some might like to. Around the world alone, over and over, in a too small boat. The “monastery of the sea” he aptly calls it.
So, for all of us, the trip to St. Michaels was an adventure of trials and tribulations. Being mariners all, some of us approaching ancient, the telling of the tale is part of the package. Mine would have seemed more adventurous in other company. Except perhaps for Tom, though, all would choose their tribulations over mine.
After dinner I found Dave Gentry and pitched a tent in the dark and rain. The campsites had filled up more than I’ve seen on a Thursday. I understand they had the most people ever on the Wye Island gunk hole trip. And Kristen, the museum president, was on her way back from solo-ing in a kayak for 60 miles around Kent Island.
Friday morning was cool and breezy as a front blew out the rain. Good sailing. Took a bunch of photos of boats along the docks, then launched Caesura and spent the day on the water, returning in time for the traditional festival kickoff of steamed crabs and raw oysters.
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.
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.
From the first evening. The Sooty Tern and the Marsh Cat playing in light air with the ducks and the geese. At dusk we slid both Melonseeds off the beach at Kinsale, and went for a row on the Yeocomico.
Beautiful evening, capped by the rising full moon.