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.
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.
(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.
A compilation of sailing clips taken over several days. A cold north wind made for some blustery conditions at first, then calmed down as the front moved through.
Really lovely stuff, marsh sailing.
If you watch to the end, there’s an explanation of how I smashed the stem nose back in October at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival in Saint Michaels. I still haven’t quite got over a wave of nervousness when trying to sail and take photos at the same time.
Surprised it took this long to have a mishap, but definitely shifts the balance from taking photos back to more attention to sailing.
Melsoneeds are designed for these marshes. Even with me aboard, both Aeon and Ceasura will float free in just 3 inches of water, and can sail in 6 with the board up. This place is their playground.
Even so, I got stuck on three separate occasions. Mostly due to inattention. Tacking right up to the grass at the edge of a creek, the boat would slow a little. Then, the centerboard deep in the mud, she would decline to come about. We’d get blown into the marsh grass. Looking behind I could see the graceful path cut through the mud by the centerboard, like a finger through chocolate pudding. Raise the board, push off with an oar, and away again.
I sail into the marsh, alone or with others, five times in 7 days. The camera only came out a couple of times, though, and only once when the wind was up. I’m still gun shy from a little mishap in St. Michaels, soon explained, when I should have paid more attention to sailing and less to taking pictures. So I only have a few photos. Video is coming.
But this I can tell you: There’s nothing like hissing through a salt marsh creek on a fresh breeze in a pretty little wooden boat – tall grass rushing by on both sides, past duck blinds and oyster bars, bow wave giggling along the rails.
Or gliding along at sunset, silent as a cloud, and rounding a bend into a flock of hidden ducks. The sudden explosive thunder of flapping wings and cackling calls sets your heart pounding.
Everything west of the island is wetlands – half sea of grass, half open water barely a foot deep, a 4000 acre living mirror of the sun. Every single stalk of spartina, rooted in black mud, refracts light like a prism. Luminous green, orange, yellow, russet, gold. The whole marsh changes color with a shift in the wind, passing of a cloud, the slow arc of the sun, like the wave of a wand.