Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: December 2011

Sailing Books

I love books about sailing, those of the narrative variety. I don’t mind having around the ‘how to’s’, but I can’t read them from cover to cover. I do, however, enjoy stories about sailing adventures. Here, then, are a few I’ve read over the past year and my thoughts on them:

Bound for Roque Island – Sailing Maine and the World by R.j. Rubadeau. ISBN: 1935098330

Rubadeau is preparing his old wooden sailing vessel for what may be the last summer sailing the family does together. His daughter is married, pregnant, and living in Alaska. His son is finishing up a high school program on the high seas (what a way! wish I’d known about such adventures when I was a kid!) and getting reading to start college.

The book glides back and forth between the present time and stories of how he got into sailing and many of his early adventures. Thrown in is alot of advice on preparing the boat, and things he’d done right and wrong througout his sailing career.

A very easy read. I really enjoyed the trip! The time leaps didn’t leave me lost as to where we were. And I appreciated that he let it be known that this first person narrative was definitely his own viewpoint of events.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. ISBN: 1593082703

From every old salt to whom I mention I read this, I get a knowing smile. This classic was originally published in 1840 and is still a delightful tale. A young man is recovering from an illness that prevents him from continuing his college studies. At the time, it was felt that sea air had curative powers. As a member of a Brahmin family in Boston (the ‘old money’ families), he could have travelled as a companion to a wealthy friend and spent his time with little to do but find his own amusement. Instead, he signs on as crew on a sailing ship bound for California. The book is the story of his travels, and was the first sea narrative written from the point of view of a crew member; previous novels had been written by officers or by passengers.

The author explains every part of his voyage in detail, understanding that most of his readers will have no experience on a sailing ship. He describes the crew’s quarters – before the mast – and their conditions. He explains about ‘good’ officers and ‘bad’ officers that he serves under. He talks about his duties and his own progression from greenhorn to seasoned sailor.

But the most interesting, to me, part of the book, are his descriptions of the California ports that he visits: San Diego, Los Angeles, Monterey and San Francisco. It was fascinating to hear about these places 200 years ago, when they were still Spanish territory.

The author does return and complete his studies, and becomes an attorney. He is well known for defending sailors against brutal officers in court. He is also responsible for writing some of the U.S.’s early maritime legislation.

The link I’ve provided is to the free Project Gutenberg edition. But that version doesn’t include the illustrations and diagrams. The free Kindle and Nook editions do. But I think I may just break down and buy myself a hardcover version, just for the chance to re-read passages from it over and over again.

Tales of the Seven Seas: The Escapades of Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien by Dennis M. Powers ISBN:1589794478

This book, chronologically, takes off where Before the Mast ends. It tells the life of an Irishman who had set off to become an intern for an office job. On the way, he meets a sailing captain who regales him with his adventures. Much to the family’s chagrin, the boy signs on as crew on a sailing vessel and never turns back.

The difference with this book over the other is that O’Brien stays a sailor, working his way up to captaining many vessels, from sailboats to steam engines. His voyages take him all over the Pacific, to Hawaii and the Far East. We learn of his family as well as his adventures.

This is a fascinating book about an amazing man.

The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife by Janna Cawrse Esarey ISBN: 1416589082

This true story is about a woman who tells people in college that she’s going to live on a boat. Living in Washington state, I wouldn’t think that would be a big deal. But this person has never even been on a boat before. Fast forward through college, girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again and marries him. He has grown up with boats and, at some point, they decide to take off in said boat and sail to the Far East.

It is nice to read a book written by a woman who actually knows something about sailing. She describes its beauty, the frustrations it can be, especially on a long haul with many miles between ports and nowhere to go, and the fear when things go wrong.

This book is written as a series of essays. There is a timeline to it, but not the flow that a novel should have. Esarey writes stories for sailing magazines, so I guess she’s still more comfortable with that shorter format.

Sex, Lies and Spinnakers by Steve Van Slyke ISBN: 0982554907

This is the only fiction book of the bunch. This story is also about a couple that decides to go cruising to the Far East. In their case, they’re going to follow friends down to Mexico and hang out for a bit before they determine if they’re ready to cross the ocean.

But, in Mexico, the friends they’re sailing with are murdered. A local is arrested for the crime, but neither our protagonists nor the police chief believe the local guy did it. But it’s bad for tourism to say otherwise.

That means one of a handlful of Americans must have done it, all cruisers themselves. And they’re all heading east. So our protagonists decide to follow and try to figure out who the murder(s) are.

I liked the first half of the story. It was well written. There was a definite sense that  the person knew what they were talking about regarding cruising and boats. The interaction between the characters was good. But the second half of the book was difficult to read. It’s as if it was written by another person. The characters move from being very 3-dimensional to being very flat. The personalities change with no good transition to show how/why. I’m not sure whether it’s because the author should have just stuck with a good sailing story because he didn’t know how to write a good mystery, or because he got tired of the novel and tried to get too much in just to finish it.

Christmas Parade

There are Lighted Boat Parades throughout the Hampton Roads region. Each happens the first Saturday of December (weather permitting). Normally I travel on Dave’s boat in the Hampton parade. But this year, Dave and Petra are enjoying sunny Key West for the season. So, when Bette broached the subject of my doing the parade with my boat, I thought, “Why not?”

I’m on hold right now, waiting on word of my new contract starting. So it’s been difficult to plan much of anything. It’s like being on call – you have time to do all sorts of projects in the area. But it’s difficult to plan anything that will require leaving town, or may require long term planning of any sorts.

I missed the deadline for getting my name/boat in the program. That was the first part of November. See: ‘on call’ above. :-/ So this turned into one very long day!

In the morning, I moved the boat from Wormley Creek up to the Yorktown Riverwalk piers. It’s a short ride. But that morning, there were 15+ knot winds (there were whitecaps) and 2 to 2-1/2 foot waves. It wasn’t dangerous. But I’ve done enough of these rides and I really don’t enjoy them. I really wish the weather in the morning had been better.

I’d tried hailing the dockmaster when I was about halfway there, about 9:30. There was no answer, so I left a message on his answering machine. I wish I’d rechecked the website. In the winter, the dockmaster is only there from 10 – 4, Thursday through Monday.

I arrived about 5 after 10. I didn’t hail the dockmaster again. Since I was by myself, and the water was rough, and the tide and current make it a pain in the ass to get into those piers, I figured I’d do my best to park myself, then look for him once I got in. But he saw me pulling in and came to give me a hand. Of course, I didn’t dock it where he originally wanted me to. The situation was such that I was happy to just get it tied up.

Lesson one for the day: check the times the dock is opening, especially if you’re alone.

Lesson two: try to get some help when pulling into Yorktown Piers, whenever it is!

I got a ride back to my car from Bette, who was there for the craft fair going on in town that day. She headed back to the craft fair; I headed out to get a generator, then home to prepare for that night.

I was lucky; there were generators available. And at a good price, too! It only cost me $35 for Saturday afternoon through Monday morning from ABZ Rentals. That’s cheap enough, I may keep it in mind when taking some longer cruises next year.

I headed home, made soup and hot buttered rum mix, put both into crockpots and headed back over to the boat. The crew were going to meet me about 2 p.m. to help decorate. I arrived, unloaded everything except the generator and hauled it over to the boat. Wendy helped with the last of it. We got a dock cart from the Dockmaster and brought the generator over. I wanted to wait until someone else arrived before trying to get it aboard. I thought we’d have to use a halyard to bring it aboard. But Paul was able to lift it on the deck without a problem.

The rest of the crew arrived and we finished the decorations. There were a few pictures taken during the daylight of the boat. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a picture of the boat lit up or in the parade.

Lighted Boat Parade 2011 Courtesy of Paul Gregory
Lighted Boat Parade 2011
Courtesy of Paul Gregory

The wind was expected to die down about 2 in the afternoon. And it did. In fact, although it was cold – about 40 degrees – it didn’t feel too bad since we had no wind to deal with. Not only that, the river was smooth, which made for a nice ride.

I fed the crew soup before we headed out, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it spilling on the trip. The crew shared in the hot buttered rum on the trip. I waited until we returned to have any myself.

We waited for the announcement that the boats were gathering for the parade, and kept an eye on the Wormley Creek channel, from which many of them would emerge. We saw a few boats gathering, but not that many, so I finally asked Jodi to hail them and find out what was going on. Well, the boats had started getting into place. Doug asked us to head over and let him know when we’d arrived. We did, and he said to just find ourselves a place in line, which we also did. I felt sorta bad ‘cutting in line’, but that seemed to be the way it was done.

So we all took off and the parade began. It went down Sarah’s Creek, which we skipped, because I didn’t want to get stuck in the shallows, in front of the crowd at Gloucester Point, under the bridge – again skipped it because all the other sailboats were – then in front of the Yorktown piers. Then we circled in front of Gloucester Point and Yorktown again before pulling up in front of Yorktown, making noise and showing off.

The decorations blocked my view of what was directly in front of me. That wasn’t too bad most of the time. But, at one point, I got quite a bit behind the boat in front of me – I swear he sped up, but I don’t know for sure. We were hailed on the radio – they asked if we were still in the parade. So I sped up to catch up.

Lesson three: keep the line of sight clear with the decorations, and keep a good distance behind the boat in front of you.

We pulled back into the Yorktown piers when it was over. One of the volunteers helped us to tie up. Good thing, too! In the morning, after I’d left, a huge yacht had pulled in behind me. Glad I wasn’t there when he did – I’m sure I’d have had a heart attack. One of the passengers said I probably would have, since their bow when over my cockpit!

So, with the help of the young man on shore, we were able to park again where we’d been. Everyone took a break and warmed up by the bonfire on shore. Then we all sat in the cabin, ate the snacks that Bette and Jodi brought along, and finished up the hot buttered rum.

The next day, Erik and I came just before noon and picked up the boat. He drove while I started taking things down. He helped me once we got parked in the slip and we finished in no time.

I’d like to do this again next year. But I think we’ll stay at Wormley Creek. There wasn’t enough activity going on in Yorktown to really warrant being there. Besides, Pam and Doug had food and drinks for those who returned!