Wednesday, March 2, 2016


“It isn’t that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.”
--Sir Francis Drake

Aahhrrg!  I just pulled up my newly renovated website and realized how long it’s been since I contributed to this “blog.”  I guess I’m an old Luddite who’d rather be doing just about anything other than sitting at an electronic keyboard but today it looks like the rain isn’t going to let up at all so I’m out of excuses.

Early last month for a couple of days the wind and humidity went down a bit and the temperature came up to the point where a winter crossing of the sound was no longer out of the question.  Since most of my sailing buddies were off the island, I decided a little single-handed sailing was in order.

I overstocked the galley against every contingency, packed more clothes than I’d hopefully ever need, and sailed across the sound for a night at anchor in Juniper Bay.  The Swan Quarter ferry was the only other vessel I saw.  I guess I’ll let the pictures tell that story.

 Above are photos from my solo cruise to Juniper Bay.  Note the fisherman topsail (the white one) in the top one.  I know the selfie looks like Chris Christie rethinking his decision to back Trump but I really was having a blast!

The end of February gave us as good a weather break as we’d had in a long time so, along with three adventurous friends, Philip, Bill and Jim, I slipped the dock lines at first light last Sunday morning and set sail across the sound aboard the Windfall II. The light WSW breeze was just a bit too W and not quite enough S to hold our course for Belhaven so we had to leave the engine on for the first couple of hours.  But later in the morning it backed a bit to the S and with the fisherman topsail flying, we were able to make 5 knots without the old “iron jib.”  Although the forecast had us expecting sixty degrees by mid day, it was forty-six when we left and hung in the mid-fifties most of the way across.  But hey, the sun was shining and we were sailing! 

By the traditional Bloody Mary Hour (10 a.m. when the sun has risen above the yardarm) the seas were up and I was the only taker.  By noon we were sitting around the cockpit table noshing Philip’s deviled eggs along with fried chicken and ham sandwiches.

At four p.m. we docked up at the River Forest Manor to take on fuel.  I’d only burned 17 gallons in the two complete sound crossings and a couple of day sails since last fueling up there in November.  I love that little 20-horse Volvo engine whose model the Swedes mysteriously named “MD 20/20.”  As you probably guessed, I affectionately call it “the mad dog.”

Besides the River Forest and a couple of other private marinas, Belhaven has two municipal marinas.  The one next to the hospital used to be free until they put in electricity and water.  The other one, nearly a mile from downtown, is still free. 

Call me cheap (my kids do!) but this time of year I’m always on the lookout for a bargain.  We tied up at the latter.  (And we could have used a ladder – the fixed wooden dock was considerably higher than the deck of our boat). 

The walk to town wasn’t a problem for us – we didn’t do it.  Having communicated by cell phone with our good friends Frank and Patti who live at Pamlico Plantation east of Washington and not very far from Belhaven, we found them waiting at the dock when we got in.  They came aboard for drinks and then drove us to the Tavern at Jack’s Neck, a delightful new restaurant converted from an old grocery store.  This place had been recommended to me the night before by Ocracoke resident Jack Whitehead who owns a house in Belhaven and spends a lot of time there.  We had an excellent dinner and I look forward to dining there again. 

The wind picked up during the night and the morning weather broadcast announced a small craft advisory  (20- to 25-knot winds) for the sound.  Thinking we might need to break the return trip at Juniper Bay to allow the sound to settle down, we had a leisurely hot breakfast at the dock before casting off at 9 a.m.  Winds on our course down the Pungo were gusty but with only the mainsail and jib (no foresail) we were relatively dry in the cockpit and it was sunny and considerably warmer than the day before.  When we entered the Pamlico River we were able to bring the wind more astern and so we put up the fore and began to barrel along at hull speed.  There was no further thought of breaking the trip!
This being Jim’s first experience with sailing, I’d felt sorry to have to start out the previous day with so much motor-sailing but conditions on our return certainly made up for it. He did the lion’s share of the steering, kept us right on course and didn’t complain.
That’s him at the wheel in the photo I took with my phone while inspecting the foresail.