Saturday, October 25, 2014


A week ago, Hale Kai , Kindred Spirit, and a transient red trimaran all departed – 1,2,3 -- the same morning southward ahead of strong northerly winds, islands bound. It is John’s maiden voyage and Bill’s seventeenth.

This week, the wandering crew of Ullr returned, stopping at their favorite marina on their way south from summer in Maine. Our dear friends on Celebration heaved to at Town Dock (vacant for the first time in weeks) for several hours to catch up, to enjoy an evening of M&M’s Music Night to which they introduced us almost five years ago,  and to bid us farewell. They have sold the boat after ten years living aboard her and  are delivering her to the new owners in Florida. Over the holiday season, they will visit family and friends before joining another couple for a two and a half year circumnavigation as part of a Jimmy Cornell rally.  

Boats stop and tie up. Crews rise soon after the chill of autumn dawn evaporates with the fog, and they leave. Friendly conversations are brief. There is too little time to spark lasting friendships.

My Dream escaped for some quiet time and fishing in South River. Chet is going to crew with Mark to take Katkandu to Florida; he thinks they will embark next week.

Days shrink and night are cold. October is nearly gone, but the surrounding pine forest boasts no jubilant colors like the maples, oaks and poplars in the mountains.

The blues move south like the sailors, inciting a shark feeding frenzy off Cape Lookout.  Sharks going south get hungry too.

But our cove is barren of fish because commercial gill netters sweep it clear every week, hauling a hundredweight of fine sea trout, flounder and more. Banned in most states, indiscriminate over-fishing is legal here.

Gill nets kill simply by drowning anything they snare. Gill nets kill without regard to size or species or even edibility. Whatever the gill netter does not want to keep, he discards over the side. Dead.

Rays sometimes become entangled and fight to free themselves, heaving and rolling and fouling the net in the futile hope of freedom. The rays want no part of the net. But the fouled and knotted net angers netters, so they bludgeon the rays as they remove them and toss them aside. Dead. The netters kill the rays as if the rays fouled the net intentionally and as if killing the rays will deter them, which death certainly does.

Meanwhile, recreational fishermen casting with rod and reel for a free meal and a peaceful evening have fewer fish to catch. A line cast into our deserted cove returns only wet.

Autumn is perfect outdoor weather with bright and breezy days and cool to chilly nights; “…the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table.” Autumn mornings wake with warm light and soft mists gliding over the river. “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,/…made a sudden leap,/ And seeing that it was a soft October night,/Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.”

Time and southbound cruisers pass us by. “I grow old…I grow old…/I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

I am J-A-P.

Excerpts from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
By T. S. Eliot

Friday, September 19, 2014

Autumn, Maybe

Strange rain squall.

Following a deluge early in the week that left the creeks and farm ditches swollen and spilling from their banks, the winds eased around to the north and now blow happily a cooling breeze. Water temps have begun to drop, and nights are cool enough (and, so far, dry enough) to open the hatches and portholes.

Inside out...outside in.

As did the UK's royal family of Windsor, the heads of Parliament and Scots around the world, we watched with passion the run-up to Scotland Decides, the historic independence vote. Although the vote was No, the Scots had already won when the Prime Minister and other party leaders, panicking over a poll showing that the Yes movement was leading, agreed to devolve more powers to Scotland in advance of the Decision.

Scottish saltire...or M...flying on Wild Haggis

When the sailing film, All is Lost, was released last year, The Old Theatre quickly acquired it. The house was packed...and disappointed. Only a landlubber could have missed the serial follies.

Nonetheless, the failure of All is Lost highlighted the local interest in sailing films. Yes, you would think that obvious. A list of good sailing flicks flowed into TownDock's editor. As a result, The Old Theatre's film committee recognized the opportunity for assured success. Tonight, White Squall will screen as the Friday Flick -- as always, all the free popcorn you can eat.

The surest sign of autumn along the ICW is the beginning of the cruiser migration south. Here, Hale Kai is leaving in a couple of weeks, and Kindred Spirit launches her maiden voyage to the islands mid-October. Katkandu is pondering her departure date and meanwhile enjoying sport runs to the taverns and nightlife of Beaufort.

The C-Brats, a friendly lot, have returned for their annual visit. A C-Dory from upriver in New Bern was enjoying a pleasant run yesterday until it reached the bend of the river at Minnesott Beach. Suddenly, it collided with heavy whitecaps driven by a stiff 15-20 knot northeast wind. The last half of the journey to our cove was rough, but the captain smiled as he recounted the tale.

Fair winds and cool air.

Sailing into a vortex?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Still Summer, Still Hot

August and Labor Day are behind us, but it remains stunningly hot. And humid. Worse than any stretch of days during the summer months just past. Occasional breezes, but not consistent enough to keep us cool.

Even on the coast, some people want to have an outdoor wedding in the summer that would be delightful in the fall. But there are grapes to harvest in the fall, so it was now or much later, I suppose. Marti and Wally married at Bennett Vineyards (noted in a previous post) near Edward, a blink of a crossroad west of Aurora, itself not much more than a blink of a town that has left its best days behind, but still boasts the Aurora Fossil Museum.

For an outdoor wedding, the day was perfectly filled with sun and blue skies. It was a searingly bright afternoon with a few scattered but innocuous clouds drifting lazily in the heat. On the farmhouse porch, a wind quartet played classical music as the arriving guests collected under the only available shade, a massive oak at the corner of the house. In front of the porch, rows of chairs smoldering in the sun. We procrastinated, delaying our move to sit until it was clear that, if we did not sit, the bride and groom would reach the preacher before we reached our seats.

Sun burned above the rooftop, too high to set during the wedding. Why had I worn a black jacket? (It is the only one I carry on the boat.) Searching the skies for relief, I watched a small cloud develop some promise. A breath of air? A shadow to block the sun? Ever so slowly, the cloud eased closer to the sun. Closer, closer, closer. We were midway the ceremony.  I hiked up the back of my jacket; on the last row, no one could see me inviting air up my back. And then it was there, a cloud over the sun (physically below the sun given altitude etc.).

A soft breeze teased us where we stood, the preacher reciting the vows for assent, familiar, but new. Then a drop, plop. Thud, plop. Thud, plop, thump, thud, pop. Plop. Raindrops falling on our shoulders, on our laps, on our heads. Coolish drops, plump and far between. The preacher continued to marry Marti and Wally, wondering why the audience was looking skyward instead of at the porch.

As he started the end of the litany -- "By the power vested in me..."-- a new sound floated across the vineyard. A rustling, hissing pulse of approaching rain. Not raindrops. Lots of rain, rain shaking every leaf in the woods and every vine in the vineyard. Noisy rain rushing toward us.

We, the invited audience, sat politely and patiently waiting to get soaked, hoping there was more sound than rain, but knowing it was not likely so. Waiting for the preacher to pronounce the bride and groom man and wife, or husband and wife or whatever phrase he was planning to use, he needed to step it up and speak it quickly before the rain drenched us all (which did not include the bride, groom, preacher or musicians who all huddled safe and dry on the porch).

Too late, the rain poured just as the preacher completed his pronouncement. And then we were up and shuffling back to the shade tree for some protection from the rain, no matter how good it felt to be slightly damp and cool.

It was a fifty yard dash to the shelter of the old barn and tasting room where dinner and wine awaited us. We walked.

My jacket was wet on the outside and damp on the inside when I removed it. Guess I should have left it on the boat. The smart guests were the ones in polo shirts, short-sleeved and lightweight. Smarter still was the young man who wore shorts. You can do that when you are five. Before I could fetch a glass of chilled white wine, my shirt was drenched to saturation from the inside and out. I sat very still in hopes of drying a bit before dinner. More soaking sweat rose to the surface. I began to smell stale like wet socks in a gym locker. I felt sorry for the woman to my left. She did not know me and therefore could not know that I did not usually smell that way and was embarrassed to be sharing my malodorous condition with a table of guests who planned to eat dinner soon.

Would there be no wind to rescue us?

Music started, and a couple of folks trotted onto the dance floor. Appetizers were served: scallops wrapped in bacon, stuffed mushrooms, filo stuffed with cranberries and feta. Yummmmm. Hot and wet, I drank two more glasses of chilled white. I needed a quart of anything cold and switched to iced tea with the emphasis on ice. The cooks hefted huge sides of prime ribs from grill to table. A chef sauteed onions, squash, eggplant and more for a red sauce pasta as well as a pesto pasta. More yum, conversations and laughter. 

The rain ceased, but no wind found us. The air was damp and still as the sun set beyond the creek and woods. Desserts disappeared swiftly. People sauntered down the dirt road to the field where we had left our cars. Sweety Pie, the horse crippled in a car wreck, watched from her barn across the road, attended by the young mule. She had waited patiently (and, I imagine, wistfully) while the festivities confined her to the barnyard; she usually wanders the vineyard like a dog. We never saw Merlot, the cat.

It was a fine event with good folks, good music, good food and good wine. But man it was hot.

Cheers. May autumn relieve us soon.