USS McFaul (DDG-74)

Passed her this morning as she moved through Hampton Roads bound for the Arabian Sea. I grew up in Norfolk and to this day I’m still stirred to see these ships go and hopefully return. It’s always an impressive site. May God bless the men and women who serve on her in our defense.

The Chamberlain beyond and Ft. Monroe
quickly turning on the speed

Intro to Dinghy Cruising

A fellow boater, Doug, sails both a Marsh Cat and a comparatively voluminous Cornish Shrimper (both excellent cruisers). The latter is quite luxurious and perhaps doesn’t qualify as a dinghy cruiser, but sometimes added comfort is most appreciated. I can recall a late Fall cruise last year, sitting below in his Shrimper, four friends, sharing stories, drinks and relishing the warmth produce by the chef’s stove. Thanks Doug!

Anyhow, he shared a wonderful video “The Homely Dinghy” by a Brit named Roger Barnes whose Ilur design by Francois Vivier fits the dinghy cruising bill marvelously. Barnes has a book on my list to read called The Dinghy Cruising Companion. It now has moved up in line.

I discovered a couple more of Roger’s videos and want to pass them along too. So, here they are, in varying degrees of length and specificity, short to long. Enjoy. I did.

This last video features the UK Dinghy Cruising Association. Interesting site loaded with tidbits. Barnes is the DCA President.

Choptank Chomp and Romp

About a month ago I got an invitation to go sailing. I said, “Yes”. Had I known the conditions would be cold, wet and blowing, I may have reconsidered. I’m glad I had only suspicions as the time. Romping along the Eastern Shore’s Choptank was a blast. We sailed on my buddy Kevin’s Catalina Capri 22 “Big T”, a nice design and good sail-er. We met up meet up with Phil, Doug and his Cornish Shrimper “Tidings”. The sheltered harbor had pleasure and work boats that caught our eye. The mix provides the town with a nice feel.

the schooner “Adventure”
Adventure again
Harbor mural

Outside the breakwater entrance, winds were a steady 20-24 mph with gusts near 30. The sail was lively.  Anxioous to see how Big T sailed, I hogged the tiller all the way into the Tred Avon where Tidings tried to overtake us under full motor, but alas Big T turned her head and rolled on ahead and turned the corner past Oxford’s Strand to visit Cutts and Case Boatyard up the creek there. One of the Cutts brothers, Ronnie, loaned us his truck to shop for track slides that had blown out earlier in the day. We took our time studying the many beautiful old wooden boats there.

A Ralph Wiley design
the piers
Fine catboat with inboard rudder

Heading back out the creek, we passed the motorboat Tidings again and sailed up the Tred Avon to Easton. Big T reached along.

motorboat “Tidings”
workboat at speed

We rafted up for a good dinner by Chef Doug. An after dinner snoot warmed us enough to shove off and anchor for the night. It was still blowing good. The next morning we found ourselves aground 100-150 yards downwind. Motoring failed to release the bottom, so we raised sail, hung from the shrouds and with a buff had enough healing moment to slip away. Breakfast was back rafted. Hot coffee was welcomed. A decision was to sail over to the Little Choptank. That was the last we saw of Doug, ship and crew.

Over canvassed with the only reef in the main and a small jib we bashed into the Choptank. Soon we dropped the jib to carry on. With those 30 mph blows, we still had too much sail.

Choptank bashing

After a couple hours of wet and wild, we cracked off to head into San Domingo Creek. Since we never saw Doug and Phil venture out, we figured they had abandoned the plan early. Later Kevin was phoned that the journey had been made. We’ve yet to be given proof. It was a subject that kept Kevin awake throughout the night. I half thought he was ready to raise sail and go verify.

Back of St. Michaels
Workboats there
Good scenes

We touched bottom a couple times before settling on an anchorage. The sunset was quick and the cold dropped on us. I can’t recall what we had for dinner other than pumpkin pie. We retreated to sleeping bags and were likely out by 20:00. We did awake around midnight to have another taste of pie and yacked for maybe an hour. The likelihood of Doug and Phil getting to the Little Choptank without our noticing was of course revisited. Two deserts in one night is a good deal and aided in crashing until sunrise.

Early morn

Hot coffee and biscuits the next morning started us off as we had a wonderful early morning beat back down the creek into the Choptank and rolled home on a reach.

Cap’n Kevin

It was some exhilarating sailing, some fun conversations, and good pie! A great few days. Thanks Kevin!

Spartina’s Cameo


Born and raised in Norfolk, VA, I watched a recent video of the town’s recent  “reinvention” with much interest. One fellow in the film comments that the town has been burned to the ground twice. It is its military and transportation significance that has drawn such attention. Norfolk’s Naval Base and Air Station is reputed to be the world’s largest. The first burning was led by Loyalist Governor Lord Dunmore who, with his three ships, shelled the city, destroying 800 buildings (or 2/3’s of the city). The Patriots then burned the balance of their town (that’s commitment), leaving only the walls of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church standing. A cannonball remains today in one of the church walls. That razing was on New Years of 1776. In 1804 a second destruction resulted from fire breaking out along the waterfront. Some 300 buildings were lost then. One could argue that a third destruction has been ongoing since then as Norfolk is landlocked by the Elizabeth River, Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay. Recent history has forced choosing between what to keep and what to let go. The town is confined to a footprint that cannot expand. However, neighbors Portsmouth and Chesapeake may raise objections to that statement as all three push to grow and prosper in the region.

This black and white film drew nostalgia for my hometown and though I’ve lived away from Norfolk for too many years, I still consider her home. As I viewed familiar sights and heard names with nostalgia, the sails of a small yawl briefly slid across the screen. I immediately recognized them belonging to Steve Early’s “Spartina” and forwarded the video to him for viewing. He posted it with more comments in his blog. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Spartina graces the Elizabeth River.

B-17 "Nine O Nine"

Two weeks ago a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang visited Chesterfield County airport for the weekend. My youngest boy and I went out that Friday to tour the planes. He has been playing the video game War Thunder and recently had achieved a level that allowed him to fly a B-17. The look on his face as he climbed in and out of the real thing was priceless. He also was a walking encyclopedia of B-17 specs. We took loads of photos. The Nine-O-Nine was built at the end of the war in Europe, 1945. She flew 140 missions and was credited with shooting down 3 German planes.

Nose art and victories.

Regretfully, the B-24 was absent after a necessary landing in Stafford to attend to an engine problem. However, we found out that the aircraft were to depart that Monday morning, so we grabbed a thermos of hot chocolate and headed back to the airfield that morning. By luck a simple request got my son a tour of the late arriving B-24.








17, 24 and 51
We finished the morning on the observation deck waiting for some action. Patience paid off as we got to see and hear the B-17 start up, taxi and take off. What a memory. What a living piece of history.

Melonseed Marginalia

Some of the best rewards from “messing about in boats” are the people one meets that become friends. One guy I’ve met along the way started from a long chain of email correspondences over the Melonseed skiff, a late 19th century New Jersey gunning boat. This fellow had built 2 simultaneously in his basement. They are pieces of furniture as the saying goes. A high standard for sure, but Barry isn’t afraid to use his works of art. He and I got to share each others boats a few weeks ago.  His write up of our sail and his blog are here. Enjoy!

Barry and his Melonseed “Aeon”.