A dozen or so handmade wooden sailboats gather every spring at an old steamboat landing on the Piankatank River, a tidal river on the Chesapeake Bay. Sailors in the Old Bay Club of the Traditional Small Craft Association meet up with builders from the Deltaville Maritime Museum to camp and sail and admire beautiful craftsmanship.
Seen here are Caledonia Yawls, a Sooty Tern, Chesapeake Sharpie Crabbing Skiff, Melonseed, Matinicus Peapod, and a Herreshoff Coquina. As well as a few notable power boats of crabbers and fishermen.
The forecast changed abruptly on Sunday morning, and did a 180. A broad storm front was now approaching from the Midwest. So heading for the Bay was definitely out.
But there was still time to get to a local reservoir. Probably all for the best: It’s been so long since I’ve sailed these boats, so much chaos and mayhem in the intervening years, I need to step out slowly.
How long? Looks like four and a half years. Based on photos and posts here on this blog, the last time I sailed one of my own boats was MASCF in October of 2018. That’s incredible.
Got gear collected and did a dry run in the yard. Lights on the trailer work, tires not flat – check. Blocks corroded, but serviceable – check. Lines and spars intact – check.
We left home in sunshine and arrived thirty minutes later at Beaver Creek under grey skies, darkening to the west over the mountains.
Backing a trailer, turns out, is a little like riding a bike. It’s a part of your brain you don’t use for anything else; so once you find where that is and open the lid, it’s still there, right where you left it. Confusing and wobbly at first, but it comes back. Same with the sailing part. In a few minutes, everything feels familiar again. Fortunately, boats don’t hold a grudge. All this time ignored, and Aeon was just happy to be out on the water again. Light puffy wind, nothing too ambitious. Tacking and jibing, reading wind signs on the water and in the trees on shore.
After an hour the Blue Ridge to the west disappeared. We turned back. Got to the ramp and mostly loaded before the sky opened up and dumped rain on us.
Looking at these photos, we realize how much older and grayer we are now. It’s been a tough five years, for all of us.
This weekend we got to be in a parade. An art parade.
Our friend, the painter Giselle Gautreau, has as show that opens in April 2023 at the 2nd Street Gallery in Charlottesville. We have some of her art hanging prominently in our house. She formerly worked in large formats, then swore it off because the logistics are so challenging. But in this case she just couldn’t resist. She has several large paintings for the show that are too big to fit in her car.
What to do?
Well, you invite friends and family to parade the art down the middle of Main Street, of course. Which we did.
In the video, mostly shot by T, you see a tour of her studio in McGuffey Art Center, as well as her studiomate Michelle Geiger (who also has an upcoming show). Then we walk the big oil paintings – a few thousand dollars worth – down the street and six blocks away to the gallery.
Winter is almost over; sooner than past years, for sure.
Took a hike in the hills above a stream. The leaves aren’t out yet, but the sun and breeze are warm. Spring Peepers are back. Ducks and geese are migrating north again, stopping over in the sheltered backwaters.
When a new flock arrives, calling out, the ones on the water call back to them. Like the kids game we played in the pool blindfolded, “Marco! Polo!”
They set up quite a racket until the new arrivals land and get settled.
T and I tagged on to the last couple of days Doug and his family were spending near Mathews on Mobjack Bay. Weather had been iffy all week, and didn’t look very promising for the weekend; but things cleared up after a few storms blew through.
Doug and I took his lovely Marsh Cat out on the last day, with low expectations. If nothing else, we could motor around for an hour and come back. But once we cleared the creek, there was a steady breeze blowing. It was enough to relieve some of the summer heat, and we ended up sailing for hours. So nice, we only came back when we got hungry and thirsty.
Shot a little video on the phones, as I was otherwise unprepared, but came out alright.
This is some video shot before Thanksgiving, a week spent on a barrier island in the Chesapeake off the coast of Mathews County.
The trip started with storms and high winds and coastal flooding. A really rough crossing. Within a few days, it blew itself out and left behind sunshine and impossible stillness.
Once you get about 40 seconds into the video, the wind noise dissipates. Then you can hear birds in the marsh, waves, a crackling fire, and Great Horned Owls.
One quiet evening after a beach bonfire, T and I were out staring up at the stars. The peaceful silence was broken by the screams of a rabbit caught in the talons of an owl. The sound was so frightening T grabbed my arm and left a bruise. 🙂
By mid-week we could take the new kayaks out into the tidal creeks. T has the blue Chuckanut 12s, and I have the larger white Chuckanut 15, both designed by good friend Dave Gentry of Gentry Custom Boats. (Plans available through Duckworks.)
A few years ago, I brought one of the Melonseeds here, and had some marvelous sailing. But the inlets have filled in even more since then. At the south end, where steamboats once came into the harbor, you can now wade across the inlet and not get your knees wet. The island is shorter by a hundred yards.
With the creeks silting in, and the weather looking iffy, I was glad to have the new kayaks to bring along. I was often paddling over the mud in less than 3 inches of water.
You can read about the island in previous posts starting here: