Thursday, June 27, 2013

High Speed Realestate--Beach Overruns Metompkin Island Channel

When I first began exploring the Virginia Inside Passage (VIP) it was passable in smaller boats from Chincoteague to Cape Charles. In fact, the Coast Guard advised me that it seemed to be getting better and they were able to run the passage in their 40-footers at high tide. I'm sure extensive local knowledge helped.

The Wire Passage, near marker 70. 2005.

But several storms over the past few years have moved the beach so far the passage has vanished.

Wire Passage, Fall 2012.

Will this eventually turn into a new inlet, perhaps 5 years from now? Possibly, but I think probably not. Are there alternative passages that might be developed? No, all of the alternative guts are tiny. And still, the tides have to flow somewhere, so in 5 years I'm sure things will look different. For now, there is no inside passage from Chincoteague to Wachapreague. This is a very lightly used area, so the Army Corp of Engineers and Coast Guard will justifiably take no interest. Read this:

Coast Guard seeks public comment for disestablishment of Virginia Inside Passage

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard is seeking public comment on the proposal to disestablish the navigational aids along the Virginia Inside Passage inside of Metompkin Bay near Chincoteague during the next two months.
The proposed disestablishment is due to encroaching shoaling conditions, limited surveys and a lack of funds to dredge the passage.
Navigation along routes from east to west or the inlets that lead to and from sea will not be affected by the changes.
The proposal encompasses the disestablishment of 135 aids to navigation along approximately 100 miles of the Virginia Inside Passage from Chincoteague to the northwest side of Fisherman Island.
The Coast Guard is soliciting comments on the proposed disestablishment and the possible impact on business operations and navigation along the route.  It is also requested that the type of transportation used is included in the correspondence.
Comments may be sent to Albert Grimes via e-mail at or by mail at Commander (dpw), Attn: Albert Grimes, 431 Crawford Street, Room 100, Portsmouth, VA 23704-5004.

It seems the markers for the inlets--Chincoteague, Wachapreague, Sand Shoal--will be maintained as these are used daily by the local fishing fleets. Thus, they will remain available as alternative harbors for sailor interested in the Delmarva route. However, for those that would like to run inside, it sounds like the time is NOW!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tight Lines

What happens if the lines are too tight when the tide drops?

Possibly this. The boat had been in the water only 3 days.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Exploring a Muddy Creek

Just an uneventful trip report.

June 8th

After a friday filled with torential downpours and with the a Saterday prediction of light winds and drizzel until noon, I thought a short solo trip to the Rhode River was in order. There were some paddling grounds I wanted to explore and ther area is generally so crowded on summer weekends as to be unpalatable.

By noon I reach my destination, anchored near Big Island, and set off to explore the Smithonian Research Center marsh. I was alone, with not a boat or person in sight.

While certainly ecologically diverse, this day it seemed lacking in asthetic charm. But a nice paddle. Perhpas the most interesting feature is the 500-foot long fish fence at the mouth of the creek with a sole and rickety 6-foot entrance gate, 12 feet when both wings are open. Fish thrashed all along the fence, confused by this manmade obbstruction. Useful for survey work, but perhaps harmful in the process, as wittnessed by the carcasses trapped in the fence.

I paddled back to the boat, ready for a rest and a beer, rounded Big Island... and found over 20 anchored boats were now scattered about. By evening this would swell to over 40. So much for solitude.

The guide books tell of the three islands of Rhode River Bay:  High Island, Low Island, and Big Island. High Istland, so named because it had a sharp little summit 30 years ago, slipped below the water about 10 years ago, leaving a large sandy bar only a few inches below the water at low tide. Relaxing to wade about and get splashed by the leaping wakes breaking over this sudden upthrust bottom, I'm surprised it is not a kid-magnant. But I never saw any other person vist. Perhaps they expect the standard Chesapeake mud bottom instead of hard beach sand. Their loss.
Low Island has a nice beach, which the geese and dogs visit to the point of abuse. Partyers with 18-foot run-abouts and bow-riders flock. I don't see the charm.

Big island is only briefly mentioned as "inhospitable." I don't think they ever tried. There are a few moder ate beaches on the southern tip, backed by inpenatrable wetland. There are tangles on the west. But there are many small beaches, both at the edge of clifs and along the east side that quickly lead to a broad sumit of open forrest and mountain laurel that is simply spectacular in early summer. A delightful retreat to the forrestes of the blue ridge, hiden in a crowded Chesapeake river cove. 

I went back to my private mountain retreat a second time later in the afternoon. The sounds are so different from those on a boat, as though I had traveled hundreds of miles in 30 yards. I had to marvel at the fact that in the midst of all this relvery and clammer, that I saw not one foot print or brokken stick, not one empty can or any sign whatsoever of man. Only a few game trails. I've hiked off-trail for miles in the Shenandoah seaking trackless country, and here I found a wonderful patch, hidden by limitied guidebook authors. Now you know.

Western shore of Big Island, Rhode River, with Contes Warf in the distance.

June 9th

A lazy sail home in light winds. I could have hoisted the chute, but I had only a short distance to go and a desire to make it last.

There was one other place I wished to explore, but the lack of convinient harbor had prevented any visit to this nearby creek, just 1/3 mile north of (not so) Deep Creek. In fact, The water shoaled so quickly to 3.5 feet that I was forced to anchor nearly 2/3 mile offshore, in the open. With a hard sand bottom, this presented little risk. The more serious risk is that the dingy outboard would get stuborn, and to row against wind and tide for that distance is impossible. In retrospect I should have towed my kayak, which would have had several advantages:
  • Better exploration abilities.
  • A way back to the mother ship. The tide and wind would pose only minor irritation.
  • A way to tow the dingy back. While this seems funny, the paddling ergonomics are so much better that towing is quite practical.
But I didn't.

As I entered the mouth of this un-named creek a bald eagle lifted from a dead and broken snag, always a good omen. I went the first 24 years of my life never having seen one of these birds, yet this spring alone I've seen 6, the result of time spent in the right habitat and a reflection of their remarkable recovery. Just inside the inlet the water quickly became too shallow even for my dingy and I returned to the mother ship rather than risk a broken sheer pin. But I will return, either by Shoal Survivor or by car-top if I can identify a convinient put-in. The creek and the shoreline thereabouts deserve further exploration.

No pictures. In addition to forgetting my kayak, I forgot the camera. Dunce.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Runt Steps

As near as I can tell, the helm of my boat was intended for a 7'4" helmsman. That's how I see it.

Our delivery trip included bashing up the Chesapeake in gale conditions (35 knots but not too many waves as the fetch was minimal); a harsh way to get to know your boat. It didn't take long to realize that my feet were 6 inches from the floor and that every time I turned the wheel left my body would rotate right. The following week I built a simple a runt box. It was a temporary affair that worked well enough that I didn't revisit the subject for four years. Other PDQ sailors have similar runt boxes. It has become the standard cure.

I often cruise the cast-off piles at local marinas. A few years ago a Prout owner threw out a heavy 3/4-inch floor section of mahogany/holly laminate; solid wood in alternating strips. Nothing wrong for the most part, but there was  split and some damaged edges. I took it home for the scrap heap. I've cut a few projects from it.

I cruise blogs, often seeing projects that spawn other ideas. An interior nav station project made me think of this. About 2 hours labor to trim to size, finish, through-bolt in some mahogany cleats for it to rest upon, and caulk into place with polyurethane.

I think it turned out very well, indistinguishable from a factory effort, perhaps better.
  • Better footing that the box since it cannot shift
  • Nothing can fall behind it
  • An inch higher and a little wider
  • More storage space
The non-slip finish is an experiment, based upon a post by Windborne. The last coat of varnish is laid on thick and sprinkled with course-grained salt from a grinder. When dry, the salt is washed away leaving a non-aggressive non-skid finish and is easy and easily redone when worn. Not for steps or other critical high-impact areas, but it look better than sand-varnish, is simpler, and is more simply redone. So far I like it.

Epilogue: The old runt box has not been retired. It is a member of the crew and serves too many other purposes, among other things, supporting the pilot berth. It will retain a well-earned rank of honor.