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...

Friday, November 9, 2018

Maybe the Season's Last?

I ventured out again Wednesday morning headed for Deltaville. After contacting my friend John about the need for a bit of 'cheap' labor at the museum and finding that there was "grunt work" around, I saddled Annie and we headed north. Beautiful fall day. As the entrance to Jackson Creek drew close I fired up the outboard and within a couple minutes she conked. Clear prop... gas to the carburetor... no problems. Going through the mental list I opted to change the plug having a fresh one in the tool box. First pull and on the way. The old plug looked just fine. Got me. As Roland Anderson said later that afternoon... "the old guys just say: It's a bad plug. I guess that's enough said.

The new boat shop extension was looking mighty sporty with interior walls and electric. John was fitting pieces on another deadrise and I started by sprucing up the benches and fastening a couple large bench clamps (wood vises).

John and deadrise

Old shop on the right, new on the left

Floor tools in the old shop section

Cranking lags

Put in the better part of Wednesday and Thursday in the shop. Slept on the dock in Mill Creek. It reminded me of when I would commute to work at Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland in the early '90s. That was another Mill Creek and another boat... my Drascombe Lugger Maggie Mae. I would get up early and sail or motor several miles and tie up next to the bugeye Wm. B. Tennyson. 


Back to the engine. Annie's 6hp Nissan Marine is a fine friend. I've had all makes from British Seagull to Honda and this one gets high praise. Like small Mercs and I believe small Evinrudes, Nissan is basically a Tohatsu by another name. Some may not have that at the top of the list but it has been for 12 years a faithful friend. I maintain and winterize and she still fires up on the 1st or 2nd pull and runs smooth when needed. That works for me.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Cool Weather

My time on the water has dwindled. That has been my doing... staying busy in projects and traveling here and there. It is all good but there is nothing quite like losing myself on Annie. Actually I have gotten a bit grumpy lately and it doesn't take much to figure out why.

Monday night I checked the calendar and the weather and it was open and perfect. Clear, cool days and still cold (I know that is relative...). Heading down to Mathews County Tuesday morning I went by Morninstar Marina where Annie stays, hitched up and put in at Town Point below the town of Mathews on the East River. Tacked down river and spent the rest of the afternoon on the open waters of Mobjack Bay, lost in that open feeling.

As the sun fell low in the sky we started reaching back northwest toward the mouth of the North River. It was further than I thought and had not made it very far upriver when night fell. I picked a spot off the western shore and anchored about a hundred yards out. It was peaceful enough but as I later fell off to sleep a very short rhythmic chop picked up from the south. The tightly-hauled mizzen held her pointing to the west while the waves lapped at the beam. A shuttery rocking through the night took a while to get used to. Too much time on land.

Breakfast was light. Ellie had thrown in some of her 'vegan surprises' so I left the freeze dries in their locker for another day. I weighed anchor and headed south back to the bay. The sky cleared and we spent the morning reaching through the SSW breeze. It had dipped to the mid 40s overnight (sleeping bag over sleeping bag) but the day rose to mid 50s with 15 kt with manageable gusts. Perfect.

By lunch I had been into the Ware River and back across to Pepper Creek for a late lunch on the eastern end of the Mobjack. Continued back up the East River passing Williams Wharf where a movie was being shot. Schooner Alliance was prop with many actors on the dock that had been camo-ed with period sets. Up river we passed by the boat ramp and found a quiet anchorage upstream . Quieter sleep, upper 40s.

Hauled out in the morning and returned to Richmond refreshed. I really doesn't take much.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


After a busy summer of working and traveling the thought of getting on the water... well you know all that. Steve Earley had tipped me off months back that Webb Chiles would be speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival. Launched at Backyard Boats in Shady Side, Maryland and crossed the Chesapeake on the way to St. Michaels.

Approaching the shipping channel

Bloody Point Light on the Eastern Shore

Down below

The winds were light and it was taking a good while to get anywhere an anchorage. As the sun set I put on running lights and with darkness we were slowly motoring toward flashing green and red lights strung out a horizontal line that stretched out in the gray, nearly indistinguishable, horizon sky and flat water. The real show was above where the stars were everywhere unfettered by clouds or shore lights.

I don't run lights into the night much anymore. It took me back many years to the Sea Islands of Georgia where identifying "the right one" was like picking out a single light on a Christmas tree.

By 12:30 Annie and I were hooked down in a quiet cove on the Miles River for the night.

Next morning, having tied up at the museum dock, started a four day immersion in one of the best small craft festivals in the country. Scores of beautifully built boats, fun on the water and time spent with old friends and new that I count as some of my best. Oh.. and the food was great. I heartily encourage anyone or family that is interested to try it out next year. Find many pictures here.

Sketching in the small craft exhibit

The return trip was long but uneventful. Annie sailed well and I happily sttered her clear of larger boats (ships)!

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'