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...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Return to the Outer Banks Day 9

I awoke early as usual and looked out the companionway. Thick fog. I had planned to strike out for Bath early but had to bide my time and wait for the sun to burn it off. Bath is a small historic town up the Pamlico River to the north.

A Core Sound 17 and the 'dock boats' in the fog

The sun at work

When the way was clear so that I could make out buoys I set off down Bay River toward the Pamlico. My plan included going out to the sound, tacking north to Jones Bay and catching the ICW into the Pamlico River. I leisurely tacked for an hour or so and once in the sound the day brightened up with a light wind out of the NW. The weather report was for clear all day with wind increasing to 15 in the afternoon. There had been no red sunrise. I wanted to keep going east. I decided to head for Ocracoke.

Just sky, clouds and water... in every direction

A dolphin escort

For the next few hours I motorsailed at 1/2 throttle and full sail. Was making good time utilizing the apparent wind. We crossed the middle shoal and made Royal Shoals by 1400 hours. We caught an east wind, cut the motor and sailed 4-4.5 knots around the shoal. The lighthouse came into view. A lighthouse is such a welcoming sight. Continuing through Nine Foot Shoal Channel we reached the approach buoys after another 2 hours . They were a bit complicated and I needed to proceed south past the entrance and double back along the shore.

The approach was a test for my marker navigation

I sailed into Silver Lake and anchored in the middle of the basin. Doused the sails and motored over to a slip at Anchorage Marina. Would have preferred to stay at anchor but without a dinghy I had little choice. They did give me a break on the dockage and a hot shower. It had been 5 days.

Looking small

I had a nice dinner and listened to a bluegrass band that were young and had good energy. The weather is predicted to pick up overnight. Annie and I had had a good day... 45 miles at 4 knot average.

Sleep came easy

Monday, May 30, 2011


Today was our dog's last with us. It was time and I am glad that Chloe, Eleanor and I were all together with him. We got Blackie as a pup 13 years ago and he was the best dog anyone could have asked for. We were lucky.

Yesterday we went with friends to the St. Johns River for a Memorial Day weekend sail. Eleanor, Chloe and I aboard Annie, Linda, Hannah, and Terry on Quest and Mike on his small one-design racing sloop. The wind picked up in the afternoon and was a real romp with beautiful blue skies and the river pretty much to ourselves.

Mike flying by

Quest taking a gust

Ellie and Chloe

Life IS good!

Linda, Hannah and Terry

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friends on the Chesapeake

Steve Early and his sailing partner Bruce on Spartina are well into their spring trip in the Chesapeake Bay. They launched in Onancock on the Eastern Shore and have worked their way north this past week. Today they appear to be heading north with good weather currently tacking against an east wind in Eastern Bay north of St. Michaels. I am sure they are having a great time and that they will post their adventures on the Log of Spartina when they return.

Morning on Cod Harbor, Tangier Island, Chesapeake Bay

Friday, May 27, 2011


Sunday May 8, Mother's Day. I have been sailing around the southern Outer Banks area of North Carolina for a week. I am feeling the groove set in... pulling the 'puppet strings' and watching Annie dance, feeling the weather changes and getting used to being alone. I awoke thinking about my early plans that included crossing the Pamlico to Ocracoke. The village is often frequented by ferries full of visitors in cars, and cruising yachts. I had concerns that stemmed from accounts of rough 35 mile crossings in 20 ft. deep water that was open 50 miles to the wind to the north and 25 to the south. Chop could be tough in a small boat. I turned north and decided to go up the river to Vandemere.

A procession of other boats were also on my line for it was part of the Intercoastal Waterway. I left company after a few miles and started up Bay River, on a beam reach to Vandemere. Passed along the waterfront and saw no sign of Alan's yellow Core Sound 17 or B&B Yacht Design and boatyard. I tied up at a boat ramp and started to walk to find ice, water and gas. While dropping trash at a deserted post office a black man pulled up, mailed his letter and offered to give me a lift to the store about 1/2 mile up the road. They had all I needed (including an ice cream bar) and the fellow brought me back to the boat. He also reminded me that it was Mother's Day. I called Ellie and had a nice conversation. I missed my Mom.

After getting an address for Graham Byrne on the IPhone I walked to Elm Street and found him at home. He and his wife had just walked in from the Wooden Boat Show in Beaufort. We talked boats and walked down to the ramp to show them Annie. He offered me a dock spot for the night at the boat shop that ended up being several miles further up river. I sailed to Chapel Creek and was met by Graham and a couple (Laura and Charlie) on a Rhodes Meridian 25. Toured the shop and turned in.

Annie on a safe floating dock at B&B
The dock on Chapel Creek

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 7 Back to the Neuse

I awoke in the creek with the first glow. The netting over the companionway was covered with mosquitoes intent on one thing... getting at me. I kept down below, had breakfast I had stashed the night before and cat napped. When the sun chased the bugs away I climbed out and wiped down the rainwater that had washed away the salt on deck. It was cool and clear with the wind coming out of the southwest. I fished a bit to no avail and decided to head out. We tacked up West Thorofare Bay that ran by Cedar Island and the largest salt marsh I think I have ever seen.

Best to keep going...

Reached up Long Bay and into the Old Canal (also known as Indian Ditch).  Tacked about ten times down Turnagain Bay until it opened into the Neuse River.

Indian Ditch

I decided to go over to Vandemere to check out the B&B boat shop and Graham Byrne, the designer of the Florida Everglades Challenge-winning Core Sound boats. The wind was back SW and as I reached NW I noticed a large brush fire in the distance.

Rain on the Nuese

It appeared to be just before the Bay River where I would turn to port. As I made about 6 miles across the mouth of the Neuse it appeared that the fire was coming from the Vandemere direction and smoke was funneling right down the river. I opted to bear off west and make it for  Swan Creek where we had anchored the first night. I followed my earlier track over the bar and settled in.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 6 on the Outer Banks

Up at 6 after a nice dinner with Alex and Chet at Spouters. They had prime rib and I, clams. Thought that going light would help me sleep and it worked. I slipped off the dock in the dark without making too much noise and slowly motored by the houses along the quay into the river behind Harkers. The guys opened the bridge (I need a nice horn) and continued into Core Sound. I had tied in a reef but soon shook it out to get by the island. Up the sound I broad reached picking up strung-along markers using the chart and GPS. Both were becoming constant companions.

Tools... Spot (personal locator), VHF radio, GPS, weather radio, and NC chart book

I doused the main and tied to the deck. Not easy but good practice with 15-18 knot wind and short, quick chop on the beam as I worked. The roller-reefing headsail came in first in the process and the mizzen sheeted flat to hold her into the wind. Annie yawed from side to side and surfed sideways.

 I went to 1/2 reefed headsail and furled the mizzen as we followed the zig-zagging course. Our speed fluctuated with gusts, going from 4.5 to 6.5. It was like coasted down the road hoping not to run off the shoulder. Small villages and coves passed by that I had reserved for escape. Around lunch time we cut into the small town of Atlantic in search of a shrimp burger that friend Steve had spoken highly of. A dock was at first not apparent but soon saw a set of red & green tape festooned PVC markers that led back into a small creek lined with docked fishing boats. It appeared deserted but as I steered back out I noticed an older fellow and possibly his teenage grandson mending a net. I called out with my desire and he pointed to a dock and said "tie up there... the shop was down the street." He warned me to be careful and in the picture it is easy to see why.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chloe's Home

My daughter just arrived from college. She is in school in Virginia and I haven't seen her since Christmas break. We are having a great time and going sailing this afternoon on the bayfront...

Back to... ROB Day 5
Stayed in port all day. The dockmaster loaned me a car to go to the grocery to pick up tortillas, bananas, granola bars, and powder. I wear quick dry pants but the saltwater and the sitting wet hasn't been agreeing. Charged the cell phone after checking email (no work disasters). 

I met two sailers, Alex and Chet, aboard Orlando. She is a Alan Buchanan designed 35' raised-deck steel cutter. They had also just arrived from a very rough run up from Antigua where they had won 3 first places in their class at the Classic Yacht Regatta. They had me over for tea at 4. Alex, a professional yacht captain, was from Malta and his mate, a wooden boat restorer, from Newport. I later did a sketch of Orlando, and had an ice cream to keep on my weight gain program! Seem to be gravitating these days to my Dad's favorite Butter Pecan. 

The wind had come around a bit toward the west and will probably have time to knock down the waves a bit before I set out in the morning.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Lookin' Rough to the West (ROB Day 4)

I awoke at 6 again and set out to find the channel inside the Cape Lookout bight.  The chart said the channel shifts so I ran downwind to the far east side and picked up some small nuns. They lined up along the north shore of the basin near the light station. Continued north through Barden Inlet and Lighthouse Bay behind the Shackleford Banks.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

The wind was stiff out of the SW and I trimmed to a broad reach with 1/4 reefed headsail and mizzen only. With white caps following we continued into Core Sound where it opened up but the channel remained narrow. I decided to continue NNW but the sky got very bleak with hard gusts and thick, boiling clouds moving over. I opted not to take chances in such an exposed area without much room to maneuver and over 20 miles to a protected anchorage. Hauled in tight at the cut to Marshalburg west of the channel. Got hit by pounding chop on the port side and the two sails could not hold the line.

Pound net in Core Sound

I motored to the south facing village but there were no apparent docks. I anchored in the chop, grabbed a snack to get some energy and considered my next move. Decided to seek shelter behind Harkers Island by crossing Westmouth Bay. Picked up local buoys and motored to windward until we reached a small canal, tight with small houses, docks and fishing boats. A waterman said I could tie up for the night but I thought I might make it back to Beaufort after resting up.

I had noticed that the highway bridge on the northside of Harkers was low and dropped the rig. (I carry the mast crutch in the cabin). That was a harmless mistake for as I motored toward it I noticed it was a swing bridge! Had not read the chart closely. Oh well.

Harkers Island bridge

We ran markers zig-zagging up to the long straight approach to Beaufort from the east. Still had wind on the nose so motored at 1/2 throttle. Annie has a 6hp Nissan Marine 4-stroke in a well. Drascombe Luggers and Longboats have this well configuration. It not only looks good with the motor 'inboard' but also minimizes cavitation.

Packing house east of Beaufort
Annie's outboard

I tied up again at the city docks, rerigged, washed down and cleaned up. Signed in for 2 nights with shower at $21 per (!). The dockie even threw in a free beer token. He said they give small boats a break. Around 1500 I went to the NC Maritime Museum and later had a shrimp burger and a Red Stripe. The weather had cleared for a bit but again unsettled... will monitor.


NC Maritime Museum Boat Shop (exhibit building behind)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ROB Day 3

Tuesday May 3: Woke at 6, had a granola bar and tea from the thermos, and slowly motored out Broad Creek and down the cut toward the southern Banks. The morning mist kept everything wet and cool. Before going a mile I came upon a dredge that spanned the whole width of the cut. As I got closer it (I didn't see an operator) started to swing its long drag arm out of my way and I passed as it thumped in the stillness. We passed large haul-out marinas and houses lining both shores. Every yard had a large bulkhead usually made of rip rap. The need became apparent as I passed large motor yachts that even those who slowed considerably, sent exploding wake splashing against the edges. Annie needed to catch them on the port quarter and I just held on.

Continuing south, we passed under the US70 bridge and followed a channel SE to Beaufort. Tied up at the City Dock and quizzed the dockhand about the approaches to Cape Lookout. He said that the SW wind was picking up but if I headed out I would have a good run offshore. Just what I wanted to hear.

The tide was running out fast and the SW wind opposing. Just like a washing machine. Noticed fishing boats near shore to the east and reached over with a half-raided board. Good move... it was a wonderful 2.5 hr. broad reach to the Cape. 

Getting close

Tiller tamed with bungees

Passed through the opening to the inside of the bight and anchored on the SW corner in the lee of a dune. After tidying up I sailed across the cove and reanchored along the Shackleford Banks shore. I waded in and followed wild horses as they grazed. There was a group camping on the beach and I found shells to take home. We sailed back to the first anchorage, cooked dinner in the cockpit and turned in early.

Feral horses on the Shackleford Banks

They didn't mind my company

Hot food for a hungry guy

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Becky Thatcher

Yesterday my sailing friend, Terry, and I grabbed an afternoon sail on my Drascombe Scaffie Becky Thatcher. She is a 14' 9" double-ender with a single standing lug sail. The wind in Salt Run (here in St. Augustine) was around 15 out of the west and we had a great time under single-reef. We went on shore at Bird Island and scouted out possible camping spots in view of the Castillo de San Marcos. Becky is a very nimble, easy boat that I have camped in many times. But I really need to sell her... if you or a friend are interested, let me know.

On Lake Harris, central Florida, 2006
Photo: Ron Hodinett, West Coast Trailer Sailors

And... there is a nice story about my Outer Banks trip at....

Return to the Outer Banks (ROB) Day 2

This might be a good time to include a map of my track. Click the image to make it larger. (That goes for any picture)

I had a nice run to Oriental at 4-4.5 knots. Turned west around the breakwater at 0930 and tied up at the Town Dock. The town was closed for the most part on Monday but the weather was beautiful, everything spring green and deep blue skies. I walked about, took a few pictures and cast off about 1300. Sailed south across the Neuse River toward Adams Creek and the ICW cut. The wind died and I motored down the ditch until anchoring up Broad Creek around 1600. Set up the cockpit tent and cooked chinese noodles, black beans and a Campari (no ice!). 

Quiet morning in Oriental

Anchored on Broad Creek for the night

Under the tent

Friday, May 20, 2011

Return to the Outer Banks Day 1

At the end of April I set out from St. Augustine for a two week sail through the Pamlico Sound and Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. These were part of my sailing roots going back over 30 years. I had been planning and provisioning for months and the experience exceeded my every expectation. Many thanks to Steve Early, my family and friends, and all the folks I met on the way for helping Annie and I make this an adventure one not to forget.

On the road... overnighting aboard at Sleepy Bear Campground, Lumberton, NC
Day 1
I put in at Paradise Marina on Broad Creek where the Neuse River meets the Pamlico Sound. After numerous tacks to windward I cleared the shoal buoys and ran down to the shallow entrance of Swan Creek. Steve Early had gone ahead and was waiting in the protected water. As we were rafting up Alan 'SOS' comes gliding over the bar and we all hang out and anchor apart, leaving out the next morning. They sailed north to the Bay River and I, south to Oriental.

First night on the water, Swan Creek, Neuse River rafted with Steve Early and Spartina
...Check out 
Steve's log, it 's a treasure of information!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thin Water Sailing

Centerboard boats open up a lot of shallow water that cannot be visited by deep-keeled bluewater yachts. Plenty has been written about this realm... 'gunkholeing', 'creeksailing', etc. Annie, with her 1 foot (board up) draft can frequent many remote areas as well as work coastal offshore waters (board down at 3'6").

She can also be taken to a new area by trailer and returned to her safe home on the side yard under cover. Just what the old boy needs!

Tethered to the dock, Drayton Island, St. Johns River, Florida

Looking Back

I am starting this log a bit late. There is much I want to share both from the recent past and from future adventures. Let's have a go at it...

GRP Drascombe Coaster

Drascombes are built in GRP in England from the the licensed designs of the late John Watkinson. They are well-tested coastal cruisers that are very popular around the British Isles, France and the Netherlands. A used Coaster turns up for sale in the US from time to time, but my hunt fell short. While researching I found that Drascombes were being made on this side of 'the pond' by Ted Perry at East West Custom Boats, and in wood to boot (my preference for sure!)... and the cost was less (factoring shipping) than a boat imported from England. Ted and I worked together to come up with the design... his first cabin Drascombe. In six months she was delivered to my front door. Exceptional work.

Installing Bulkheads

Flow coated with WEST epoxy 

Launching at Kittery Point