Since 1978 I have been fortunate to sail wooden boats. In 2006 I set out to find a Drascombe Longboat Cruiser for single-handed expedition sailing. This is the continuing story of how it came to be, our adventures, notes on the maritime world and other things I don't want to forget...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Mobjack / Piankatank

April 21

With new sails bent on I headed south along the East River below Mathews. My friend Eddie and the folks from the Old Bay chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association had organized a rally at Eddie's house on Mobjack Bay. Passing by I noticed tents on the lawn and being early, not much movement ashore. Continuing on into the bay with sail shakedown first priority.

The jib and mizzen set beautifully. The mail needed a bit of adjustment at the lacings, parrels and position where the halyard is belt to the yard. Experimented with reefing the main and found it to set well.


Setting up double reef

Balanced and self-steering with bungees to tiller
Returning  that afternoon I discovered a concealed creek with a number of small craft that lay at anchor. A friend Harris ferried me to shore in his Whitehall and we spent the evening catching up by the fire with a large group of small boat sailors.

Harris's 'ferry'

Gaff-rigged Eel

Protected anchorage

Jim on his Herreshoff Coquina

That evening I anchored out away from the lights and came in early to pick up my friend Steve Peck who had come down for a sail. The group had planned to meet on the beach at New Point Comfort lighthouse. Leaving before the flotilla we reached the beach along with the Coquina. The rest of the boats turned back early and we snacked with Jim on the snow-white sand in the late cool, sunny morning.

Steve and I sailed the bay and made our way back in the afternoon as the sun dropped low. Just before we reached the East River mouth there was a weight shift and I caught myself with my right hand on the deck and cut the pad of my hand on a small shackle. Pretty deep cut. We taped it up tight and I opted to forego stitches. We agreed that it would be better to haul out with help for I was in no shape to pull lines. So back up the East River, out at the ramp, over to Gwynns Island to put Annie away and drive around to Eddie's to Steve's car. Not the original plan but a good alternative.

A sailor party was underway on our return with another shared meal highlighted with a large pot of Frogmore Stew... a low country boil of sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, shrimp and Old Bay seasoning. Delicious to say the least.

April 28

Knowing that I would be returning to work in Georgia followed by an extended trip to New Mexico and Colorado, getting back out on the water seemed like the thing to do. Annie slid off the trailer at the Gwynns Island ramp early Saturday morning and we tacked in a SE wind toward Hole in the Wall. After an anchored snack break I decided to run back, request a bridge opening and continue into the Piankatank below the Middle Peninsula. The wind had freshened so a reefed main and jig were in order. Passing Fishing Bay I we continued west working up the Piankatank, looking for a anchorage that would be protected by both the south chop as well as a cold front that was forecasted to pass through around midnight.

I found a small island, Berkley, on the chart that appeared to be the inner remnant of an oxbow formation in the winding river. It gave us the protection we needed. I awoke in the early morning to a strong breeze from the NW that was mitigated by a few trees on shore. Back to sleep.

As dawn broke I went out into the cold morning and found the deck festooned with pollen and oak catkins that had been stripped from the trees. That cleanup was followed by a lengthy stripping of slimy grass off the entire length of Annie's rode. The extra scope made it that much more fun.

After granola and fruit breakfast I set off back down river well reefed in a brisk, cold northerly. Probably still in the 40s... surely with the wind chill.. it was 'no cleat ' reach. The gusts were ferocious and the main sheet was fully released often. Passing Fishing Bay and Stove Point it really picked up. I'm not clear on the nuances of the Beaufort Scale but there was white caps on every wave top. The destination, Jackson Creek and then Mill Creek to the Deltaville Maritime Museum was in view. The hard beat began with many quick tacks. Each time Annie crossed over she would plow in and white water would cover the bow and shoot over the dodger. I prefer to stand at the helm so there was a lot of ducking down. 

Once the creek was made I wound around to the museum and tied up to the floating dock. Onshore I found John England preparing for the pre-dedication of the new boatbuilding shop. Larry Chowning, a noted historian and author of books on deadrise and buyboats was due at 3. I stayed on, saw old friends and went out to eat. That night I opted to stay at the dock. It was quiet with a full moon shining through the port light.

Monday morning brought tempered winds and a great sail where the Piankatank meets the Chesapeake. I noted additional modifications to the sail rig and after putting Annie back on land, headed to Richmond to sort out them out. A two-weekend shakedown... success.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Wings

Picked up Annie's new sails a couple of days ago in Deltaville. They look well made and the price was fair. I returned by the marina at Gwynn's Island and started the rigging chores. It became quickly evident that  a lot of work was needed back at the shop.

Fast forward. I fashioned a new slotted aluminum tube to stiffen the jib luff and give it strong furling. The yard and mizzen were laced and parrel beads knotted and tied in to the main. My fingers were crossed that the sails would fit and set well.

Then yesterday. with all the sails bent on I set them on Annie (on the trailer) and they looked good. Next week she will get her shakedown...

Friday, March 9, 2018

Let's Get This Show on the Road

She must have known it was a special day. After months of sitting covered in a field, Annnie appeared remarkably clean and bright as I unsnapped her cover. Awaiting the sailmaker I set up the outboard flushing tub and hooked up the gas line. remarkably to me the motor fired off clean on the first pull.

New sails are the last piece to a year long process of "putting right" the fire disaster that took her sails and spars. I had had decided to have the Ullman Sails of Virginia loft do the work and Jerry Ullsman, the owner, showed up ready to measure. Without a set to work from and a unique plan to reconstruct, we discussed the geometry at length and poured over photos I had brought. Drascombes have simple rigs without booms but even simple has to be right.

I bought a 14' length of schedule 40 aluminum tube to fashion a new roller reefing rig. Will wait for the new jib before proceeding.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Down South

It's well into 2018 and catching up is overdue. I have spent the past several months in coastal Georgia slowly developing and building Memory Trail, an outdoor exhibit chronicling the voyage of the slave ship Wanderer through the lives of enslaved survivors. Due to current affairs the interpretation has become more difficult to balance. There is still much to be done but I am excited and hopeful. It has become a challenge I feel strongly about in many ways.

Southeastern Georgia, like Northeast Florida, where I spent the most years in a single area, is not immune to cold winters. Its relative for sure, but not uncommon to be well under freezing conditions for stretches during the Southern winter. Working outside has been nippy especially since we start at 6:30. But it's right on the water and the great marshes of Glenn stretch as far as you can see. So its pull on the insulated coveralls, grab the thermos and have fun until the late afternoon bourbon is poured.

I was home for three weeks over the holidays enjoying the extended family that converged on our small Virginia home. Plans were set to move Annie to Deltaville to get new sails fitted and made but the cold weather cancelled it. It looks like another month will go by but I'm hell bent to get her back on a close haul by spring.

Beginnings of interactive on the bench

Job site

Looking south

One of the ceramic path markers

setting poles for African hut

Hut ready for stucco


building farm shed in the shop

farm shed on site

from a series of watercolors I am working on to tell story

threading stainless rod

Beginning of interactive

Deburring graphic panel brackets

Carving pestle used for hulling rice on plantations

Intracoastal Waterway out the front window where I'm staying

Remnants of Hurricane Irma

My mobile 'shop'

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Up River

Last weekend Annie and I ventured out for the second time with new spars and 'new to me' sails. My friend Steve the musician had gone with us on this first 're'shakedown. Heading back from a nice beach exploration north of The Hole in the Wall, the port shroud parted at the deck end swage fitting. I had pressed the fittings myself copying the original (fire damaged) shrouds. We quickly backed over to the opposite tack and got the mast down before the tabernacle was damaged. We headed to shore, over for the day and back at the marine store. There was surplus wire to extend all the eyes enough to double up on swaged sleeves. Not a good experience but lucky to be close in and to have crew support.

Back to last weekend... another good friend Peter invited me to join the Old Bay chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association for a meetup on the Rappahannock River. The group included a number of sailing mates that had helped me with the studio rebuild. The rendezvous was Belle Isle State Park located up river from Urbanna, Virginia.

I left out early Friday and, upon reaching Gwynns Island, made a few modifications including fastening new mahogany jib sheet cleat pads. This raised the cleats enough to clear the newly replaced cockpit cushions. The rigging was reattached and we were off to Urbanna to launch.

Early morning, Gwynns

While Annie rested at the ramp dock I stashed the road rig in town. Out through the harbor and long tacks up river led to the campground. It took about 4 hours but I surely didn't care. We were out and moving again. It has been nine months since the fire and it seemed like a dream.

I found the dock and parking lot full of beautiful, traditional wooden boats. A pot luck was underway in a nearby screen room and old friends were glad to see me. What's not to like. After quite a feast I steered Annie up the adjoining creek to anchor for the night. Even though we are having an indian summer, it was cool enough to make for a good night's sleep.

The next day I jumped on board my friend Peter's Caldonia yawl Nip. Along with the other boats, we all made way across the river to a deserted beach backed by a towering clay wall that had formed by erosion. After a snack lunch we headed back picking up a fresh breeze with a few sneaky gusts to challenge the 'captain'. Held fast.

It was decided that we would go as a pack to a restaurant deep in the Northern neck. A colonial house with plenty of fresh seafood including fine oysters.  On return I anchored Annie back up the creek for the night.

In the morning we were away, sailing alone back down the river. The gifted sails she was carrying are not the perfect fit but are much appreciated and we managed. She will have a new set as soon as I can find a suitable sailmaker. That's another day, another post.

not setting well but pulling nevertheless

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

From the Deep

Yesterday I ventured out in the early morning before the sun got too full of itself. Headed to Gwynns Island and on to Deltaville with Annie in tow. Much has happened in the past four months since my last log entry, but sometimes you need to lay low. The drive out east broke the spell.

I've spent much of the past months traveling back and forth to coastal Georgia to work, rebuilding Annie's spars and rig, and finishing the studio rebuild (almost) "with a little help from my friends." All has gone well albeit slower than I expected but then... where do I have to go?

Regarding the studio... thanks again to Kev Mac, Eddie, Barry, Steve, Mike, Harris, Michael, Rob, Jordan, brother Chris and nephew Noah for all the nail bangin' (and shootin'), 26 degree chops, roof sliding, dippin' and spreadin', and making me laugh. Final steps are to put up sheet rock and white wash interior. I'm there.


Reaching Deltaville I checked out a couple canvas shops and picked Island Canvas to remake Annie's fire-lost cockpit cushions. Jeane was really backed up it being summer so I agreed to make the patterns. Pulling Annie behind the shop under the shady pines I set to chalk, cut lines and swat mosquitoes. We'll see how that turns out.

Went by the maritime museum and they were in the second day of their family boat building week. Flat-bottom skiff were the week's challenge and about 12 crews were hard at it. I remembered my first museum skiff-build some twenty-five years ago and how much fun it was. I know by the end of the week when the fresh-painted craft hit the creek, there will be a bunch of proud folks.