First sails for new boats are often troublesome affairs. Nothing has been tested or put under strain. Things go wrong. Little details left undone and forgotten suddenly get remembered, always at inconvenient times. Knots come untied, screws come loose. It’s common enough that most builders take a “shakedown cruise” before the first official launch. Gives a chance for glitches to surface and get worked out under safe conditions, preferably without an audience. So taking a new boat on its first real sail for two solid days, in a Small Craft Warning, is not a conservative move.
But that’s what we did.
Almost a year has passed since Doug brought his new Marsh Cat back from the mountains of southwest Virgina.
(This is a post started last August; am just getting back to it.)
It will take nearly four hours of driving to get there, to get where the boat is, a boat built by hand in the loft of an old barn. We head out at sunrise while there’s still dew on the grass.
We don’t go east toward the coast, though, where most boats and builders of them live. Instead, we turn and go the other direction – to the southwest into the mountains. Instead of the land of crabs and oysters and skipjacks, we’re going deep into coal and bluegrass and moonshine country.
After 200 miles of driving we’ll still be in Virginia, though just barely. From south of Fries it’s just 10 miles as the crow flies to the Carolina line, and 20 to Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. This is where Marvin Spencer, proprietor and master craftsman of Brush Creek Yachts, lives and builds boats.
From the first evening. The Sooty Tern and the Marsh Cat playing in light air with the ducks and the geese. At dusk we slid both Melonseeds off the beach at Kinsale, and went for a row on the Yeocomico.
Beautiful evening, capped by the rising full moon.
In 1813, a handful of lightly armed vessels, sent down from defenses at Baltimore, confronted British warships out in the Bay and were cornered here in the Yeocomico. It did not go well.
Morning is clear and warm, with a light steady breeze out of the West. It will be hot today.
Several of the boats are out in the creek already, or working their way downriver. Doug’s new Marsh Cat is not yet finished, so he’s sailing the second Melonseed. From the beach I can see Caesura’s tanbark sail glowing and gliding against the bluegreen treeline in the distance. Then I, too, am off.