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.
Steve and I have been trying to get together again for over a year. Work or weather always interfered. An unexpected cool front brought clear skies and gentle breezes this weekend, unusual for August, and we finally managed to pull it off. I wrapped work stuff up Friday at noon and threw some gear in the back of the car, hooked up a boat to head for the coast.
Apparently the posts I’ve shared about a restaurant on the water nearby peaked Steve’s interest, so we met there, I hopped aboard, and we sailed around a bit on Spartina,
Funny thing about when Steve and I go sailing: we don’t talk much about boats. He’s well-read, and we have similar tastes, but different enough that I always learn something new or get a good recommendation. In a couple of hours on the water, the conversation ranges from books, to writer friends, books, artist friends, history, sailmaker friends, films, family, books, seafood, etc..
In Norfolk, where he usually sails, these conversations are interrupted every few minutes by a barge or freighter trying to run us down. A few tense moments pass until we get out of danger’s way and can carry on. Here, no such problem. I catch Steve a couple of times realize he hasn’t looked up in a while, and reflexively snap up for quick look about. Makes me smile, because I know exactly what he’s looking for and why. By the end of the sail the lazy pace has settled in, and we realize we forgot to decide where we’re going.
Doesn’t matter, as long as it ends at the restaurant for a seafood dinner. Or more to the point, for three dozen oysters with some other food on the side. Oysters, like the waters where we sail, are ranked by their salt content. Sweet is nice, but salty is better.
It’s dusk by the time we finish. Steve then motored out to anchor across the water under a full moon. I didn’t have time to get camping gear together, so secured a room in a house across the river in Irvington.
Sunday is better. A little at first, then a lot. The Small Craft Warning is downgraded to an Advisory. It will remain gusty for the first half of the day, big gusts, but they will be spaced further and further apart as the day progresses, and lose their punch. By late in the day it is as close to perfect as sailing gets.
Our hotel in Warsaw is not far from the one where Paul Manafort is spending a few nights before his trial, and not that unlike it, apparently. Warsaw had the closest available rooms we could find. Kind of weird for such a remote and unassuming place to be part of such a big story. There’s a Hardee’s and a McDonald’s, a Tractor Supply, beauty parlors, a tire store. A pressure treated wood factory. And, clearly, a regional jail.
It’s a 30 minute drive back to the marina. For such a small boat, a slip is only $25 for the night, with showers, a pool, a cafe. Well worth it. Next time we’ll just stay on the boat and skip the hotel and the driving. With the kinks from yesterday all worked out, and the boat already in the water and ready to go, we’re back onboard and underway with little fuss.
Due west of Winter Harbor is the East River, also in Mathews County, near the little village of Mobjack. Just off a bay by the same name. The Old Bay Club gathered there last weekend for the season kickoff.
Not sure I could go at all, not even taking a boat, I got to the water mid-afternoon as the fleet was coming back from a day of sailing.
A small creek runs inland along the shore, making a safe harbor perfect for shallow water boats. The mouth of the creek forms a narrow neck with calm water inside.
The land and homes along this shore once belonged to one extended family. At the neck the creek was once spanned by a boardwalk, so you could stroll between houses for visiting, or walk to the village for church. Posts from the boardwalk still remain, and block the entrance like a portcullis. This keeps out the big boats; but again not a problem for little boats, which slip in between them to safety inside. They cruise through the gate like scouts on horseback riding into to a fort.
They got the boats settled for the night. A few anchored out. Most camped ashore.
By evening there is a fire going, lots of food and drink. It’s till cold here. The wind off the water is around 50 degrees and dropping. I stay by the fire, a compulsive fire poker to stay warm. Frogmore Stew a la Low Country feels good in the hand and in the belly.
(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.