Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Virginia's Barrier Islands


Virginia's Barrier Islands are owned by the Nature Conservancy, the State of Virginia, the Federal Government, and a portion of a couple of islands are privately owned. The Nature Conservancy manages their holdings under the  Virginia Coast Reserve. This area was incredibly rich in shellfish, fish, and waterfowl. For a variety of reasons primarily, overhunting, overfishing, and pollution, this bountiful system was nearly destroyed. This area was so incredibly prolific that people believed that no matter how wasteful, greedy or just plain thoughtless they were there was no limit to natures bounty and if there was it would be someone else's problem.  There were hunting lodges, hotels, post offices, coast guard stations, and schools on these islands for about a 150 years until the mid nineteen hundreds. Storms, environmental degradation, and a rough and isolated life contributed to the slow abandonment of these settlements. In the late nineteen sixties the Nature Conservancy saw an opportunity to purchase these islands and try to nurture them back to health. They are now the largest stretch of undeveloped barrier islands along the United States East Coast. The map below depicts Virginia's Eastern Shore, the southern half of what is called the Delmarva Peninsula. The area was relatively isolated until the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in 1964.


 
 
 
 
 
 
Sally and I visited the area a few times starting around 2003. We fell in love with the undeveloped beauty of the area. We used our sailing kayaks and canoe to access the islands and marshes.  
 
 
 
 
 

We were captivated by the varied, abundant, and unusual birdlife.
 
 
 
We volunteered with the Nature Conservancy to help gather eelgrass seed to be used in their eelgrass restoration program.
 
 
 
 
Eelgrass is a key species that helps convert an unstable sandy desert like seafloor into a stable tropical forest like seabed. Eelgrass was almost eliminated from the east coast by pollution and disease in the 1900's. Eelgrass grows in water from 2 to 6 feet in depth. It stabilizes the sea floor and becomes a nursery for a huge variety of marine life. Eelgrass however needs very clear water so that sunlight can penetrate and provide energy for its photosynthesis. Eelgrass is not very tolerant of the nutrient rich, sediment rich, turbid waters typical of our coastal areas. The Nature Conservancy is working with local farmers, industry, and municipalities to use stewardship and best practices as a way of limiting wasteful and damaging discharge into the wetlands. There is hopeful progress but it is slow. It is inherently difficult to put such an intricate web back together once it has been compromised.
 
Most of these islands are opened to non damaging day use but  no camping is allowed. Back in 2007 I dreamed about having a sailboat that would allow sleeping onboard and had the ability to navigate the shallow waters of these islands.

I am always thrilled crossing the  Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The bridge traverses the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay 17 miles, two tunnels, and a high rise span. It is almost like being at sea. The dramatic breaking waves where current, meets wind, meets shoals are just curiosities when viewed from a car on a bridge, but soon 6mm of plywood is all there will be between us and the sea.

We found our way to the remote village of Oyster and under the curious gaze of some local watermen we started setting up Skorpa. And just as anyone with any sense was getting off the water we set sail, tacking out of the harbor on the ebb tide as the sun lowered into the western sky.

 
On the one hand I do not want to minimize the very real risks we face. Skorpa is a small lightweight sailboat without any motor. These waters we are entering consist of large bays connected by marshes and inlets. There is a five foot tidal range so great areas of what looks like open water in a few hours is transformed into  mud flats and oyster bars and the calm inlets become raging rivers roaring out to sea and six hours later roaring back in. There are few landmarks because one tidal marsh looks pretty much like the next one. Channel markers are far apart, sometimes missing, or sometimes the channel has moved leaving the marker on ground obviously not suited to navigation by boat.
 I had in my notes the times of the tide changes, I had charts, my GPS and backup, spare batteries, marine radio, cell phones, spare clothes stored in dry bags, food and water. We had a superbly designed, well built boat and we new how to make her sing. We knew when to move and when to lay low, and we knew that despite all that.
 
 
 
A pair of raptors were taking up residence on an abandoned chimney near our first night anchorage at Cockle Point Creek. After checking out the raptors we decided to head up Cockle Point Creek into the Elkins and then the Eckichy Marshes. The tide was ebbing but we had a gentle NW breeze that might make it possible to retrace our steps if the channel faded.  
 
 
 

 
We spotted egrets, oyster catchers, wimbrels, terns, and a bald eagle. We anchored and enjoyed watching the birds and spending some time in the cabin out of the sun. After lunch we decided to attempt to travel further north into the marsh hoping to reach the outlet at Gull Marsh Channel. On the chart the channel faded and there were no depths marked. As we proceeded the water gradually became more shallow. We had to raise the centerboard up and up, then the rudder had to be raised up and up. I knew we were close to where the water would begin to deepen. We came to a stop and I got out the binoculars and looked around. I could see we had missed the exit by a hundred yards or so. We would have to retrace our course and stay further west. In many sail boats turning around in such shallow water would be difficult or impossible, but all we did was push out on the mizzen until the stern swung around and then push out on the main until the bow came around to our new course.
 
We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves until we reach the channel where the now flooding tide was pouring in. We needed to tack up this channel and for that we would need the centerboard down and it refused to budge. There happened to be a flock of laughing gulls and they were making an especially raucous chorus. The current was threatening to drive us onto a shoal so we dropped the anchor until we could persuade the undoubtedly sand clogged board to drop. Sally decide to name the area Laughing Gull Pass. Once we made it through the Pass it was running before the wind down the Machipongo to Hog Island.
 
 
We had Pasta for dinner and a very quiet night at our anchorage between Hog and Rogue Islands. And no bugs. Light winds usually means lots of mosquitos. The next morning we anchored near the southwestern tip of Hog Island and went ashore for a walk and explore.
 

 
Beach combers do not make it out here very often. Lots of nice shells, but we took only pictures. 
 
 
 
 


Hog Island belongs to the Nature Conservancy. They ask that you stay below the high tide mark to avoid disturbing nesting birds and to avoid damaging the dune grasses that are charged with the difficult job of stabilizing this pile of sand against the forces of wind and waves.
 
 

 
 
I am not sure if the buoy moved to the beach or the beach moved to the buoy.
 
 
 
We had lunch and a little rest out of the sun in the cabin while the tide bottomed out and began to flood. We decided to cross the Machipongo and head for Rowes Hole Channel then try to cross Big Easter Marsh while the tide was rising. We would look for an anchorage near Little Cobb Island. One concern we had was the breaking waves we could see well up the Machipongo in the vicinity of Rowes Hole Channel. The breaking waves were an indication of shallow water and if the wind should decrease any it could leave us at the mercy of the current. The crossing went well until we were on the far side when we had to use the paddle to help get us around some nasty looking waves breaking on a sandbar. After that it was pretty smooth sailing as we rode the flood tide around the west side of Big Easter Marsh. The water depth decrease to about a foot and we could see Eelgrass for the first time. Soon the water began to deepen as we reached Loon Channel which would lead us down to Little Cobb. And sure enough we could hear a couple of Loons and see them diving in the Channel.
 
 
We sailed slowly back and forth just north of Little Cobb while I sounded the bottom for adequate depth. The ideal anchorage is deep enough to leave plenty of water under your keel even at dead low tide, it should be out of the current and channel, it should be sheltered from wind and waves from the prevailing or predicted direction. And you should be able to sail out of your anchorage easily even if the wind should change direction. Most of the deep water around the Barrier Islands is in the inlets where it can be 50 or 60 feet deep. It is that deep because the current has scoured all the sand out.
 
So even though I was not really pleased with our anchorage I felt it was the best we were likely to find. We were out of the current with about 6 feet of water even though the tide was not yet high, but there was not much to block the wind and waves from the north and to our lee was Little Cobb Island.
 
I did not think much of it because the wind was light as I set the anchor. Half way through our dinner of rice and vegetable the wind suddenly picked up until the rigging was humming and the boat was rocking. I went forward and it was blowing over 20 knots. I could tell by the marks I have on my anchor line that we had forty feet of scope out. As I let out another forty feet the boat began to pick up speed. I ran the line around a cleat and began to bring the boat to a stop. The line went taut and put a good strain on the anchor but she held fast. That should hold up to a pretty stiff blow and it blew and the boat rocked for the first half of the night.
 
The wind eased by morning and I thought if we got an early start we could make it across South Bay during high water. Just as we were getting ready to leave the wind began to build again. I set two reefs but the wind kept building to over 20 knots from the North. We can sail the boat in that much wind but we have to be on our toes and things come at you pretty fast. I did not want to push things in such unfamiliar and isolated waters. So as much as I hated to, we decided to wait. We read and watched some dolphins and I could see that we were missing our chance to cross South Bay.
 
By 11am the wind was veering a little to the Northeast and I thought it was losing a little of its punch.
Loon Channel narrows and swings between Cobb and Little Cobb before entering Sand Shoal Inlet. There had been a significant settlement on Cobb Island and the channel looked like it was strewn with old pilings. I did not fancy going that way driven by such a strong wind which meant we would have to sail around the western end of Little Cobb. The chart just showed this area as shallow, exposed at low tide, no depth indicated. We could not see any breaking waves so I thought we would be OK but I did not want to wait any longer as the tide was ebbing strongly. So off we flew.
 
 
 The general plan was to work our way southward toward Myrtle and Smith Islands while the north wind blew and then head north back to Oyster on Thursday when the winds were predicted to change to southerlies. Since our delayed departure caused us to miss the high tide we would travel west up Sand Shoal Inlet then south down the Mockhorn Channel. Not as interesting perhaps as the marshes of South Bay but c'est la vie.

 
 
Studying the charts I noticed an interesting twisty "Short Cut" that led into a shallow bay. We decided to check it out.
 
 
 
 
 
 Mockhorn Island lies between the barrier islands and the mainland. It appears large on the map but most of the island consists of Spartina marsh that is inundated at high tide. The high ground sustains some scrubby cedar trees and bay laurels. There are two lookout towers built in the 1940's that were intended to direct the fire of large guns located on the mainland. There is also an old home, barn, and outbuildings, in various states of decay. We sailed by all these. Our  hope was to sail across Smith Island Bay, and up the Main Ship Shoal Channel, perhaps as far as Mink Island. When we rounded the southern tip of Mockhorn and headed up into the wind the large fetch and shallow water made for an uncomfortable chop. It was only 4pm and we had spent most of the morning waiting at anchor for the wind to ease, but still we did not feel like fighting our way upwind for an unknown anchorage. So we came about and slipped back into the lee of Mockhorn. Our only difficulty was sounding for sufficient water depth.
 
 
Larimer A. Cushman who made his wealth in his family's baking industry purchased Mockhorn Island in the early 1900's. He improved on the existing hunting lodge and began to construct an impressive, largely self-sufficient estate. When I first examined the buildings I imagined that he must have been in the concrete business, the walls are all covered in reinforced concrete stucco, even the shingles are concrete.
 
 
 Sally is sitting on part of the concrete pier, behind her you can see part of the concrete walls that surround the high ground.
 
 
 

The house is hidden behind a jungle of vines and shrubs. The concrete capped chimneys look to be in excellent condition.
 
 
 The barn was added by T.A. Jones who bought the island from the Katherine Cushman in 1948.
 
 
T.A. Jones must have had an eye for detail and quality of construction.
 
 
The roof and walls all appear very straight and true.
 
 
 
 
Diagonal bracing let into the walls, simple but very well done.
 
 
 
The diagonal line is where a downspout was located. I suspect freshwater was in short supply making collecting rainwater a priority.
 
 
 
These shingles look similar to slate, but I think they are a manufactured concrete product.
 
 
All the shingles I could see on the barn and house looked in excellent condition. These are from a collapsed outbuilding.
 
 
 
This is a view across one of the seawalls. The trees mark the high ground and the house site.
 
 
These islands and marshes are a paradise to all sorts of marine and bird life.
 
 
Sipping my coffee in the predawn darkness it seemed a bit lonely and forbidding to me. Forbidding is not quite the feeling more like filled with a presence.
 
 




Friday, January 22, 2016

Chapel Creek to Mouse Harbor

Chapel Creek is a tributary of the Bay River. It is located in North Carolina and it is where Graham Byrnes has his boat shop. It is also the site of the BandB Mess-about. We arrived on Monday so we could get a few days sailing in before the action started on Friday. Tuesday morning things were not as quiet as we had anticipated. Below Alan is helping Jay and Carol with the launch of their just completed Core Sound 20 Mk3






And our friend Brent was busy launching his recently completed Princess 26.





Brent had agreed to join us for our trip down the Bay River and over to Mouse Harbor. The winds were light and variable as we headed down the River. The days are shorter this time of year and the late afternoon sun was heading for the horizon before we reached the mouth of the river. Rather then push on we decided to look for an anchorage in Bonner Bay.


 
 
 
 
We had a quiet evening in Bonner Bay and the next morning the winds remained light and from the North. Rather than strike out across the Bay River we decided to use the light air to explore some of the creeks that feed into Bonner Bay, specifically Dipping Vat Creek and Long Creek. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The morning sun was bright and the skies clear. The wind was from the NNE around 5 knots.

 
 
Light winds are perfect for exploring marshes and creeks. Even though you are going slowly you feel like you are getting somewhere. I feel free to explore shallow areas and narrow creeks if I do not have to worry about wind and waves driving me onto a shoal or a lee shore.
 
 
 
Sometimes the wind got a little too light. Around 9:00am we headed north east across the Bay River toward Dump Creek Ditch. The wind faded completely and we rowed for awhile then it picked up and was blowing about 10 knots when we reached Dump Creek. It took a bit of poking about but we found the entrance to the Ditch. The areas was very shallow and the wind seemed to be picking up so we decided to head out to the Pamlico sound and then up to Mouse Harbor instead of cutting through Dump Creek Ditch to Jones Bay. The wind remained light but steady as we worked our way north around the Prohibited Zone. A circle 5 miles in diameter that surrounds a wreck that the navy uses for target practice. The circle is located on the western edge of the Pamlico Sound and you have to go in pretty close to land or out into the middle of the sound to avoid cutting through it. The wind veered slowly to the East and then the South East.
 
 
Sally and I sailed along the southern and western edges of Mouse Harbor scoping out possible anchorages and looking for some dry sandy ground. We went as far as the entrance to Mouse Harbor Ditch. We noted several nice places to anchor but no dry ground suitable for a shore excursion. We could see that Brent was settling in near Island Creeks so we sailed back to him and came up along side. Brent had some fenders out and welcomed us aboard. We brought some snacks over and shared them and Brent opened some of his home brew. We chatted about the days sail and made plans for the morrow. Sally and I had decided we would head back to Chapel Creek in the morning, a day earlier than planned so we would have plenty of time to visit with Peter before the business of the Messabout began. As the sun was setting we said goodnight to Brent and drifted off a little ways and dropped anchor just as the marsh angels were awakening.
 
As you probably know I do not carry a motor on Skorpa. On occasions  I take a little ribbing from sailors equipped with engines, though often there is a hint of respect in the teasing. Brent and I were getting our boats ready to sail before sunrise. The swamp angels were still about so Sally had elected to stay in. The wind was about as close to dead calm as you can get on the water. Brent offered to give us a tow until the wind picked up. I declined figuring we would get to Chapel Creek one way or the other and if it took us an extra day it would not really matter.
 
As Brent slowly motored off I decided it would be a good time to try out my Yulogh. I had recently added an oarlock to the transom. I placed one of my 10.5 foot oars in the lock and began making like a gondolier. The oar is positioned straight off the stern of the boat. You swing the oar back and forth while holding the blade at an angle reversing the angle each time you come to the end of a sweep. You can not develop anything like the power that you can develop in the standard rowing position, but we were gliding along quietly. At first I had the blade angle reversed causing us to move slowly backward. Once I got that straightened out it was nearly idyllic except for the mosquitos stealthily drawing blood from my ankles.
 
 
 
 
 
As we sailed back across Mouse Harbor and entered Pamlico Sound the Cherry Point Naval Airstation began a dramatic aerial display directly overhead. Two jets were flying in a roughly 10 mile circle. Just as they passed over us at an altitude of perhaps 500 feet they  engaged their afterburners and went into a steep climb. At the top of the climb they banked steeply right. One plane followed about a mile behind the other. They repeated the circuit over and over perhaps a dozen times. At first entertaining but then a little annoying. Approach bank left, full throttle, climb, bank right. We could see the glow from the afterburners and vapor flickering off the wing tips and leading edge during hard maneuvers. After awhile they wandered off and we settled down to a quiet sail with a light breeze from the north.
 
 


 
 
The wind veered from North to East varying from around 5 knots up to 10 knots. We had a relaxing sail down the sound. As we approached Jones Bay we decided at the last minute to head up the Bay and use Ditch Creek to cut across to the Bay River at the mouth of Gale Creek.
 
 
 
 Here we are heading up Jones Bay with the wind behind us coming from the ESE. Ditch Creek Canal runs South West so we would be on a broad reach down the narrow ditch. Perfect except just as we got to Ditch Creek the wind suddenly veered even further all the way to South. Now the wind would be almost on our nose as we headed down the ditch. We did not want to go all the way back out to the Sound and up the mouth of the Bay River so we decided to go for it.
 
Sally took the tiller and I took the paddle. The wind was 30 or so degrees off of dead ahead so by paddling and pinching as hard as we could we squeaked through. The wind remained steady from the  South to South southwest and we sailed up to the dock at Chapel Creek at 5pm.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We had a wonderful visit with Peter. Here I am helping him raise the mast on his recently launched Princess 28R, Petrel. 
 
 
 
 
 
 Above are Jason and his son. They are two of the many passengers we took for a short sail on Saturday. It was a lovely time of sharing the joy of boats with others.
 
 
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cuttyhunk


 The Elizabeth Islands lie between Martha's Vineyard and the southern coast of Massachusetts.  Cuttyhunk is the last in this chain of islands that stretch south and west from the base of Cape Cod. Cuttyhunk is derived from Pocutohhunkunnoh a Wampanoag word meaning Land's End or Point of Departure.
 
 


 
Below you can see a close up of Cuttyhunk. The Pond where we anchored is in the northern part of the island. You can see the narrow breachway that we tacked up straight into the wind to reach our anchorage. In the Southwestern corner of the island you can see West End Pond where the Gosnold monument is located. The land to the East is Nashawena across the infamous Canapitsit Channel.


 
Native Americans moved into this area around 10,000 years ago following the retreat of the glaciers from the last ice age. Speculation is that the Wampanoag Indians inhabited Pocutohhunkunnoh during the summer months, hunting, fishing and gathering shellfish, and then moved to a more sheltered location on the mainland for the winter.
 
In 1602 a group of European explorers arrived on board the Bark Concord led by the Englishman Bartholomew Gosnold. There were 32 men in the expedition 20 of whom were settlers and were planning to establish a permanent settlement. The rest would return to England and arrange for supplies to be sent out to the colonists.
 
Painting William Allen Wall courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum
 
Gosnold met peacefully with the natives near present day New Bedford. The Europeans nevertheless felt threatened by the natives who greatly outnumbered them. Gosnold and the settlers selected a small island in the middle of a little pond on Cuttyhunk as the site of their encampment and proceeded to build a fort.
 

 
Painting by Albert Bierstadt courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum
 
 
When not working on the fort the men gathered cedar logs and sassafras roots to sell back in England.
The twenty men who were suppose to stay got cold feet and when after six weeks the Concord was setting sail they asked to be taken back to England. Gosnold failed to establish a permanent settlement and Sir Walter Raleigh confiscated all of his sassafras, but Gosnold interacted peacefully with the natives and returned all of his expedition safely home.   I  was also planning an expedition to Cuttyhunk hoping for a pleasant visit and a safe return home.
 
The day of our departure Monday September 14, 2015. The weather forecast includes a small craft warning, winds West Southwest 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 knots, seas 4-6 feet. I thought about calling David and suggesting that we postpone our departure until Tuesday, but in the end I decided we would double reef and poke our noses outside the Harbor of Refuge and then make a final decision. Sally had decided to sit this trip out. My cousin David was interested in going so we teamed up for this trip to Cuttyhunk. Our plan was to leave Monday with food and water for 4 days. We would head for Cuttyhunk and then over to Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard and be back to Point Judith on Thursday.
 
We loaded up our gear. Raised sail and left Great Island about 9:30am.
 
 
 
 Conditions were so mild that I was feeling foolish for considering postponing the trip. I was even wondering if we should take a reef out of the sail.





Sally and Heidi drove down to the breachway to send us off. It was a beautiful day with the wind from the West around 10 knots. Temperature around 70 F. We were not in a race and I wanted this first trip of David's on Skorpa to be a safe one, so I decided to stick with the double reefs expecting that the wind and waves would build as we left the shelter of Point Judith Pond.




 
 
 
 
 
As we were sailing off Narragansett the wind and waves continued to build. Wind 15 knots and the waves 2-3 feet. With two reefs we were making 5-6 knots. The forecast was still for small craft warnings and winds 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 knots. David was new to sailing Skorpa and getting used to the rigging, the tiller, and how a cat-ketch differs from a sloop takes some time. So we kept our reefs in.
 
 
 I just happened to be shooting some video when a dolphin swam across the screen. What an exciting wonderful few minutes we had. The video is pretty good but it doesn't let you see into the water very well. If you look closely you can see shapes beneath the water. I could see them quite well and it was incredible watching them swimming below and just in front of the bow and weaving back and forth.
 
 
 
 
It is about 30 miles in a straight line from Point Judith to Cuttyhunk. Following the straight line we would spend a lot of time in the shipping channels and there would be no shelter available along the way. We chose to hug the coast a little adding maybe five miles to our route but giving us the option to anchor for lunch or for the night if we felt that was prudent. Third Beach near the mouth of the Sakonnet River is a nice anchorage sheltered from the south and west.
 
As we approached the southern end of Aquidneck Island and the Sakonnet River we decided to head towards Easton Beach(Second Beach). This seemed closer than going around Sachuest and up to Third Beach. I was still thinking about anchoring while we ate lunch and discussed our options. As we drew into the lee of The Breakers one of the mansions along Newport's Cliff Walk, David suggested that we heave to and eat lunch as we drifted instead of proceeding the rest of the way to Easton Beach and taking the time to anchor. Earlier in the summer David had come on a brief sail with me in Skorpa and he had been impressed with how easy it was to heave to. Loosen the mainsheet and snug up the mizzen sheet. The boat lies quietly pointed into the wind and drifting back slowly. It takes about 10 seconds.
 
We discussed the situation. We had about 18 miles to the outer harbor at Cuttyhunk. If everything were to go right we could be there around 4pm. I was not sure if we would be able to sail through the narrow breachway into the Pond. We may have to lower sails and row. There were no other options, either stay here at Easton Beach or perhaps move over to Third Beach or make it all the way to Cuttyhunk. The wind had built a little and we felt it had neared its peak. The waves would probably continue to build somewhat. Just before lunch the boat had been sailing faster 7-8 knots with the occasional surf in the lower teens. The boat felt under control so we decided to go for it.
 
 
 
Looking back at the videos the waves appear about one half the size they appeared that day from the boat. The Block Island buoy reported wave heights of 6.5 feet Monday afternoon. So far I have not been able to access wave height data from The Buzzards Bay tower which was about two miles off our route. I do not have any video of the largest waves nor of the boat at its highest speed which maxed at 14.4 knots  while we were surfing on a wave. Not bad for carrying two reefs.
 
 
 
As we sailed by the stern of one of the yachts in the basin, someone came out and gave us a round of applause. I am sure not many boats sail through that channel directly into the wind, and I would not recommend it during the summer season or when there is any amount of boat traffic.
 
 Cuttyhunk Pond was quiet and well protected from the wind and waves. We enjoyed the security, relief and sense of accomplishment for  awhile as evening settled in. I put some brown rice on the pressure cooker and David cut up onion, carrots and squash. Preparing a meal from scratch takes some extra effort and time but we both enjoy the ritual. When the ritual takes place in a quiet anchorage after a challenging passage with the sun setting, and the crescent moon and stars coming out it doesn't get much better.
 
 
That night the stars were visible bright and clear through the companionway and as Skorpa swung gently at her anchor it felt like we were motionless and the heavens rotated smoothly around us paused and then rotated steadily back.
 
We were both up early to enjoy the predawn stars of Orion and the planets Venus and Jupiter. The wind was blowing gently from the South Southwest. After breakfast we sailed a half mile across the Pond. We scanned the far shore looking for a place to beach the boat so we could go ashore to explore. We did not find any place suitable so we sailed up to the dinghy dock and I went in search of the harbor master. I learned from him that the grocery store was closed because the owners had gone for the day to the mainland on business. He graciously told me that since there were so few boats in the harbor it would be OK for me to leave my boat at the dinghy dock for a few hours while we explored the island.

 
 
 
 
While I was making sure Skorpa was secure at the dock David acquired a map of the island and we were off.
 


 
 
The buildings in the Village of Cuttyhunk are very well maintained. There was very little pedestrian or vehicular traffic and the vehicle of choice was the electric golf cart.

 
 
Above is the school house and nearby is the church.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As you progress up this strange stone wall lined avenue that was constructed for a never to be built mansion the views become more and more spectacular.
 
On the far side of Cuttyhunk Pond the peninsula referred to as Copicut Neck is visible and beyond in the distance is Penikese Island.
 
 
 
Just above the church steeple is Canapitsit, Wampanoag for the southern arm together with Copicut they form the narrow arms that surround Cuttyhunk Pond. In the distance is the next island in the chain the somewhat larger Nashawena.
 
 
 



When you get to the end of the Avenue you are at the top of Lookout Hill. There is not much here just the remains of some observation bunkers used by the military to watch for German U-boats during World War II and  some incredible views of The Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard, and the southern coast of Massachusetts and if you look carefully on a clear day a bit of the southern coast of Rhode Island.
 
Looking towards the west end of the island you can see West End Pond and this strange tower. Our map had it labeled as the Gosnold Monument. This got our curiousity  up and  we decided to extend our shore leave on Cuttyhunk.


 
There is a rustic path along the southern edge of the island that leads to the Gosnold Monument and the lighthouse ruins. Along the way we snacked on some apples from an old apple tree long left to its own devises.
 
 
 
 
 David consults the map as our rustic path narrows a bit.  West End Pond and the tower  are in the distance.
 


 
 Much of the island is undeveloped, but it is very different from the tree covered island the Wampanaog  knew.
 
 
 
 
 
It seemed a little strange to us that the Gosnold Monument is located on this tiny island in the middle of a little pond on the far side of Cuttyhunk Island but that is where in 1602 Gosnold and his men decided to build their encampment and where in 1902 the historical society decided to build their monument.
 
 

This cut connects West End Pond to Buzzard's Bay. The current was ebbing at a few knots and the water was 4 or 5 feet deep so we went no further. The ruins of the light house and the keepers house are in the background.


 
 
The winds were forecast to be light and primarily from the southwest. For this reason we had decided not to continue on to Menemsha as this would put us further from home. I still hoped to get an afternoon sail in. The plan was to sail around Nashawena. When we got back to the village we ate a quick lunch at the dock and raised sail. Below we are heading out the breachway with the wind behind us.
 


 
 
This is the southern side of Nashawena. There are farm buildings and cattle grazing on the island.
 
 
 
 
Here we are finishing our circumnavigation. We are approaching Cuttyhunk with Nashawena in the background. You may not see them very well in the photo, but there are large boulders strewn randomly across the islands. They are called glacier erratics and they were shipped here from New Hampshire by glaciers 10,000-15,000 years ago.  In fact the second largest erractic in Massachusetts is located on Penikese.
 
 
 We tacked back into the Pond with the wind again on our nose, but only at about 10 knots. We anchored in almost the same spot as last night and again watched the crescent moon follow the sun into the western horizon.
 
 
 
Facing East about 9  hours later Venus is leading the sun up across the horizon. The wind has shifted to the North East at about 5 knots.





 
 
We leave our quiet anchorage early to take advantage of the fair winds while they last. Forecast is for northeast wind 5 knots becoming south
 
 
 
Farewell to the Coast Guard house that watches over Cuttyhunk Pond.
 
 




David is giving a tip of his hat to Cuttyhunk and the Elizabeth Isles as we begin the homeward leg of our trip. Nashawena is on the left and Cuttyhunk on the right in the background.

We had some wonderful sailing for a few hours moderate winds and calm seas. Whenever I hear a NOAA forecast that goes Northeast winds 5 knots becoming South I know it can be a frustrating sailing day. When exactly will the northeast winds become southerly and how long, minutes or hours will this transition take? 
 

 
 
 


Around 10am our lovely north winds began to fade. We had made some progress but we had a long way to go to get to the Sakonnet River. Skorpa as you probably know carries auxiliary propulsion in the form of two oars. We could read or doze and just wait for the wind to change direction and pick back up or. David suggested we row for awhile and that we did. We were able  to move the boat at about 2.5 knots. We kept that up for about 2 hours when the wind slowly began to fill in from the south southwest. Nothing like a spell at the oars to make you appreciate the magic of sailing by the wind. With the light winds and calm seas we felt comfortable sailing in close to West Island which is a big rock that lies off Sakonnet Point.



 
Followed by Sakonnet Light.
 
 
 
We sailed into Sakonnet Harbor just to look it over. It is a snug little place but filled with boats at moorings. We headed off across the Sakonnet to Third Beach. There were a number of moored boats here as well but a lot more room. We sailed up past all the boats as I wanted to get as close as possible to the beach with the idea of going ashore for a walk. We were right on the edge of the Sachuest Wildlife Refuge. I kept bringing us closer and closer in, scanning the chart for rocks and watching the water when suddenly we seemed to be right on a huge rock. Only there should have been lots of scrapping and grinding noises but there were none. I called out to David ROCKS and I turned the boat out towards deeper water. He replied they are fish. That did not make any sense to me. It looked like a huge rock just a few inches beneath the surface covered with lumps of seaweed or oysters or something. David declared again that they were fish, thousands of fish. I brought the boat up into the wind and looked closely myself sure enough fish. No wonder they were not marked on the chart, no wonder there was no scraping sounds as we ran up on them.
 

 
 
 
 They were about four inches long, dark green on the top and silver on the their sides. Every once in awhile there would be an explosion and a couple of larger fish about 18 inches would jump clear of the water as the smaller fish scattered everywhere. We later learned these were  Menhaden the locals call them Pogies and they often form large schools. They are filter feeders and they are found in the bays this time of year and blue fish enjoy feasting on them.


 
We anchored and just sat back to watch the show. We were in the center of the action. Blue fish were tearing into the schools of menhaden and sea gulls were picking up the scraps. Several people came by on paddle boards and in kayaks and skiffs.
 

 
One fella rowed by in a skiff.  I asked him what he had caught and he told me a 29 inch blue fish. Another man rowed over because he recognized the cat ketch rig and asked if this was a Core Sound 20. I told him he was close this was the CS 20's bigger brother an EC22 all by the same designer, Graham Byrnes. We chatted for a while then he rowed off. It was a little like being in a park. Stuff was happening. A young boy was screaming and yelling and running up and down the beach. "There they are! There they are!" He would go out into the water up to his neck, casting and screaming. Later he put away his rod and got a net. He was so excited  he did not know what to do. I leaned over the side of the boat and holding my camera a few inches under water I took the photo above. A few times we spotted something floating in the water like a softball size clump of seaweed. The Pogies normally swimming side by side would steer clear of the obstruction leaving a perfectly circular opening maybe beachball size that remained entirely free of fish. I thought about slipping into the water with my mask to swim with the school.
 
 
 
 
 
Finally as the light faded the commotion on land and on the sea died down. We gave up on the idea of going ashore and settled down to fixing our dinner. Pasta e fagioli, pasta with beans. I thought about how excited, how unrestrained the young boy on the beach had been in his response to this dramatic display of nature's fecundity. My response tempered by age was more muted. It was no doubt a moving experience and a privilege to be witness to it. As large as the school of fish appeared in reality this is a tiny remnant of the schools that used to gather on these shores a few hundred or even one hundred years ago, before they were decimated by habitat destruction,  pollution, and overfishing. 
 
 
 
We had a relaxed morning. The forecast was for southwest winds 10-15 knots and we were only about 14 nautical miles from home. We would have a good deal of tacking to work our way up wind but with moderate winds and seas that should not be a problem. It would take some time especially since we had the currents running against us. This is a view of the mooring field at Third Beach. In the foreground is a Sea Sprite. The owner had recognized us as a Core Sound boat and had rowed over to chat with us the evening before.
 
 
Looking over a trimaran on our way out of Third Beach.
 
 
Tacking back out in front of Sachuest Point.
 
 
 
As we sailed across the mouth of Narragansett Bay I heard the Navy announce on 16 that they were conducting exercises within the torpedo exclusion zone. I was pretty sure but not certain that we were outside the zone. You can see the Naval vessel in the photo. I had the feeling there were some naval vessels we could not see operating in the area.
 
 
 
David takes us in as we sail before the wind into Point Judith Pond. Thanks David for all you did to help make a successful trip and thanks as well to Heidi and Sally our shore crew.  Well done everyone.