Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: October 2010

The Weather I Missed!


I spend alot of time sharing stories of sailing in adverse weather conditions. Thought I’d share one of the storm I missed!

As I’m now working about an hour from home for a supervisor who doesn’t understand why I might want to leave work by about 2 or 3 in afternoon in order to sail in these races, I’ve had to skip the last of the summer races and all of the fall series. So I was looking forward to the Frostbite series, since they’re held on on Sundays.

The Frostbite series is our late fall series. There’s just one class since few boats participate. But, as I said, I was glad to get a chance to go out and race again.

I’ve been using a water cooler this season, to avoid the bagful of plastic water bottles I usually pull off the vessel. I filled one up to bring along. I also filled up a couple of thermoses with hot water. I tried bringing coffee last year. But that wasn’t as popular as the hot chocolate for the crew. I do have some Starbuck’s Via on board, in case there’s a change in tastes.

I left about an hour early so I would have time to pick up gas for the engine (we’re using the outboard now – more on that later) and some more provisions at the store: gingersnaps, ice, and beef jerkey. As I was getting out of the car at the store, Erik called. He said there was a message on the phone from someone. He thought the race was cancelled,  but he wasn’t sure. Well, I wasn’t sure if I’d have any crew, since I’d only gotten regrets from two people, and no confirmations, and it was a bit late to call anyone (and who would I call?) to cancel, so I finished getting provisions and headed over to the boat. Besides, I missed her and had to let her know I still loved her.

I got to the boat and started unloading things. When I was finished, the fire department had shown up with a rig and a power boat. I heard their radio chattering and paused to listen. Something about a cat or sailboat that had flipped and crew in the water. Remarks about trying to turn it upright.

Just about then, the crew from 3Stooges showed. They asked if I knew what was happening. I explained that the race might be cancelled due to lack of interest and that it seemed I had no crew anyway. They spoke about thinking they’d already signed up (insert good comedy routine to fit the boat name, without the violence). After some discussion, they decided to go out and try sailing a bit anyway.

Pause now. The weather: small craft advisory, 15 – 25 mph winds, 4′ waves in the lower bay.  It was raining at the time. That doesn’t mean that it was that bad in the York River. But there was a craft capsized out there already.

So I went to 4 Degrees. I patched the small (about the size of a nickel) hole topside that was causing water to pour into the cabin. Not sure if I mixed the stuff right. But if it didn’t harden, it would at least keep the water out until I could put something better on. I got out the naval jelly that I’d purchased and scrubbed the rust off the sink in the galley and off the stove. I sprayed some Rustoleum on both to keep them from rusting again. I poured myself a rum and coke, started the Kindle on my ‘Droid, and read and watched the rain fall outside the cabin door.

About an hour an a half after they left, 3Stooges returned. I asked them how it was out there. They said they did get the mainsail up – for about 15 minutes. So I guess it was pretty nasty out there.

For a change then, I got to enjoy the inclement weather, from my dry cabin in the marina.

Oh, they did get the sailboat righted, and the crew was ok. I still don’t know who was out there.

Dead Fish

Another race this past summer. From about 1/2 mile into the race, throughout the whole course, we kept seeing dead croakers floating by us. Not just a few fish, but hundreds of them. Here’s the email trail I have from the incident. I’ve removed the names, since I didn’t ask the parties involved if I could reprint them:

[Fellow Racer]
Does anyone know why there were so many dead fish on the York River last night?  They all seemed to be the same species.
Is there any ‘normal” reason for it?  …like the 103 degree air temperature?  The water temp was reported to be 82.2 degrees yesterday.  Could that be the reason?
…just curious!
[Fellow Racer]

They were mostly croaker, 6 “ FL or better and they were more dense out past G19 (effect of the current?) than further in the river.
[Virginia Dept of Environmental Quality]
Most of the York splits between PRO and TRO between Gloucester (PRO)  and James City/York Co (TRO).  I have not heard of any fresh croaker kills, but a few years ago there were major species-specific croaker kills.  I think Roger or Wick can tell you more on those.
[Virginia Institute of Marine Science Professor]
We are collecting water samples to see if there is an indication of large numbers of a HAB organism in the area.  This could, however, be a low DO event or a “dump”.   Anyone have some other ideas?  Also, if someone is actually out in a boat today in the area can you please collect a water sample, if possible.  Thanks.

We will let you know if we see anything interesting in the water sample collected from the boat basin.

We ran through a patch of dead fish like those described yesterday morning just off the mouth of Mobjack Bay. Might have been that same patch seen later near green 19, ~4 miles away. Looked to me like a haul seine cull.

Thank you, two.

I would tend to agree with [name withheld] but the numbers were incredible – would you expect that from a net dump?

They appeared to be floating individually up the York and rafting out past Tue Marsh. They were in good shape (no visual lesions or discolorations), as could be seen from the deck of a sailboat, except for a bitten piece missing on the occasional carcass. Also, some had eyes that appeared sunken and some had eyes that were bulging and all had bloated abdomens.
Does this extra observation help?

On July 1 the lower York River (below the Coleman Bridge) had DO measurements of 1.5, 2.1, and 2.3 mg/L at three different locations.

[name withheld] reference to HAB’s is Harmful Algal Blooms.  (But the fish kill was size and species specific, not typical of a toxic bloom.)  The DO is Dissolved Oxygen and the values listed below are very low indeed. But those are probably surface values.  Croakers are benthic (bottom) carnivores and the DO values are going to be higher in cooler waters near the bottom…unless there is an anoxic (essentially no dissolved oxygen)  layer that appears in mid summer in the middle of the Bay.  But fish are capable of avoiding such a hostile environment.

It would appear that a mega-school of age specific croaker were thrown out of a net haul.  I’ll send this information to [name withheld] of the VMRC for his “FYI”.
Thanks to all who responded to this email. I gleaned a lot from the discussions and I appreciate your time.

On Saturday morning there was a dump by a gill net fisherman as witnessed by Hamish Small just above Tue Marsh. Evidently, even though there is a market for croaker, this practice of dumping and sometimes in very large numbers is not unheard of (thanks Larry H.). So, even though the DO levels have been low in areas of the river and temps high (numerous observations) it appears that for whatever reason, a massive number of croaker became by-catch to a local fisherman.
And lastly. Not sure if this was the same fish kill, although the high numbers suggest it would be. The thing is, though, that those dead fish were carried about 20 nm if it is the same one.

Omega Protein, a Texas-based fishing industry that operates a plant in Reedville, has taken full responsibility of cleaning up thousands of dead menhaden fish that washed ashore at Fort Monroe last evening and into the early morning hours.  During a transfer of menhaden from their net to a processing ship on Monday, the net was damaged causing a tear, thus releasing approximately 50,000 to 75,000 fish into the Chesapeake Bay, according to Ben Landry, a spokesperson for Omega Protein.  The fish died and sank to the bottom, then later floated to the water’s surface.  Tides carried an estimated 20,000 fish that came ashore along a 5-mile stretch of shoreline, including Monroe’s beaches and Hampton’s Buckroe Beach.

Omega Protein subcontracted IMS/HEPACO, an environmental and emergency response company, to clean up Monroe’s beachfront today.  Monroe’s Directorate of Public Works initially responded last night at approximately 6:30 and worked until 11 recovering thousands of dead fish on Monroe’s shoreline.  DPW turned over efforts to IMS/HEPACO at 10:30 this morning.

IMS/HEPACO started on the Southside Beach near the Bay Breeze Community Center on Fenwick Road and will work north to Dog Beach.  IMS/HEPACO also deployed spotter planes and skimmer boats to search the waters.  IMS/HEPACO has previously performed spill response work for Monroe’s Directorate of Public Works.   As a precaution, Fort Monroe closed its historic moat’s sluice gates from Mill Creek.


Too Close for Comfort

My boat is parked across from the Coast Guard Training Station, and down the river from the Naval Weapons Depot. So I don’t have to head all the way into Hampton Roads to find restricted water. One night, heading back after a race, we heard a navy boat hail a fishing boat. It seemed to take awhile for them to reach the boat. They navy personnel informed the fishing boat that it was within restricted waters and needed to turn around. The boat said it was trying to get to the Coleman Bridge. The navy boat told them that they weren’t allowed to sail in that area and that they had to turn around. The fishing boat kept going. Next we hear, the fisherman is screaming about the fact he’s been fired upon. The naval vessel said that it was a warning shot across the bow, but that the next would be ‘with deadly force’, or some other phrase right out of late night television. Apparently, the fishing boat decided to turn around.

Next part of the broadcast we hear the vessel informing someone how many 50mm rounds they had fired.

Now, this was, at most, a mile from where we were. If they’d been shooting something that big, we’d have heard it, I would guess. We never heard anything. So was it just an exercise? Probably so, especially since we were still tuned to ch 72 after the race; we hadn’t switched back to ch 16, the hailing channel. But we were sure holding our breaths while we were listening!


Long Time Gone

Sheesh! I can’t believe I haven’t written in here in 6 months! So much to write about, too: painted the bottom, lost an engine, researched electric engines, painted the interior, fixed the leaky windows. And the sailing, too. Funny thing – was out of work for 3 months and spent alot of it doing repairs on the boat. But didn’t write about it. Ah well! Will try to remember some of the details, add a few pictures, and get caught up again.