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Summer doldrums

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The doldrums is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage, in which it refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm… …….. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks. The term appears to have arisen in the 18th century – when cross-Equator sailing voyages became more common.

Colloquially, the “doldrums” are a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness or stagnation.[1]


More to the point, at least here in the Chesapeake, it means light to non-existent winds, hot and humid. The variable winds and weather of Spring are gone, and finding fresh winds for sailing is a bit more challenging. Weekend club cruises become fewer, and day sails dodge the pop up thunderstorms. That said, any time on the water is good ……

And, a warm summer evening in the cockpit, anchored in a quiet and mostly empty lagoon, with your favorite beverage is hard to beat.

A Work in Progress

A pleasant evening on Bodkin Creek

A pleasant evening on Bodkin Creek








Calms continue even in September. The last Hospice Cup race began and ended with boats drifting about aimlessly, and most crew in the water swimming to beat the heat. I’m hoping for a better day this year.

With Sailstice behind us,  beginning with the July 4th celebrations and cruise, I’m looking forward to as much summer sailing as I can find.











It’s already been a busy year beginning with the return from the Florida Keys in March/April. I’m well on my way to meeting the Spinsheet Century Challenge – 100 days on the water – with only about 10 days to go. Lots more club cruises on the calendar, as well as opportunities to grab for a day or so when the winds blow.

For all my sailing friends, here’s hoping you find time and wind to enjoy!

Where do sailboats go to die?

Where do elephants go to die? Everyone’s heard about elephant graveyards, those places where elephants mysteriously go to die, but who has ever seen one? … Steiner says, “when death approaches, they want more earth, of which their skin is most akin, around them, so they withdraw into caves. This is similar to my supposition that the reasons dolphins beach themselves is that they are near death and want to die in contact with the earth”.
“From Elephants to Einstein, byRudolf Steiner”


 They’re not nearly as mysterious as elephants, but do aging sailboats seek to go back to the earth from whence they were built or the waters where they lived? We often see them resting on moorings, always appearing alone and uncared for, slowly fading. Perhaps they’re waiting for rot to settle in to their planking that will eventually lead to a soft place on the bottom – a temporary navigation hazard? Those that find a resting spot in a yard seem destined for a different and non-watery fate. Someone recently suggested a trip across the scales at the local landfill – a rather undignified end for a craft that freely and gracefully plied the open waters of the world. And why would we care?

            It was the congruence of a sailing forum comment about the disposition of sailboats that had exceeded their useful life, and my own imminent retirement that got me thinking (not in any morbid way) about mortality and the end of things. For those who love the water and boats that marry form and wind to move across it, I think most focus only on the pleasures of cruises and passages past and anticipation of the future. We don’t give much consideration about the inevitability of endings. Yet they can, and often do, put many present matters in sharper focus and with a new-found perspective.

            So, should there be some formal way to gracefully and suitably conclude the life of our boats? Surely we’ve all participated in a christening complete with a bottle of fine Champaign, and perhaps a renaming ceremony with all the correct appeals to Poseidon and other deities that we believe (or are told) may control our future travel safety. It’s at least interesting that these parallel ceremonies in our own lives. In any event, I could find no such terminal (such a harsh word) ceremony. If one Googles ‘boat burial’, the obvious is returned – -‘A ship burial or boat grave is a burial in which a ship or boat is used either as a container for the dead and the grave goods, or as a part of the grave goods itself.’ In which case, it is not the boat itself that we intend to sink. Does it imply that we must depart in order to take our boat with us?

            Perhaps what’s called for is a dignified ceremony at sea, or a wake depending on personal preferences. We could begin simply by welcoming everyone for the final interment (sinking) of our fine boat. “As we gather on this occasion it’s safe to say that our hearts go out to the skipper and crew, and all their friends and relatives who have sailed here today and to those who missed the weather window and could not”. Then we would follow with assorted eulogies recalling the many great days of perfect winds and following seas, and finally the tossing of wreaths into the waters. Or maybe a series of toasts and roasts would do recalling the fun days. Either way, it would be a much more poignant ending than a wrecking ball at the local landfill.

So, to my colleague on the sailing forum who recommended the landfill scales, I suggest more thought and imagination is due such an important passage and event in our lives, and that of our boats. There may well be some Poseidon-like deity out there who guides boats into the afterlife of perfect weather and calm seas – and who looks ill upon anyone who discards same without due reverence.

Penned on the Ides of March 2011

Published in Spinsheet May 2011




Life after…

It was a long stretch spanning 6 months and about 4500 miles. South to Key West and home via the AICW was a great adventure. One gets accustomed to extended time managing the boat, and the daily routines. Adjusting to life off-boat has been a bit of a surprise. Now it’s periodic, short sails and the different patterns that come with being mostly anchored ashore. Not better or worse, just different.

Early season sails with Annapolis Sailing Club, Singles on Sailboats and Chesapeake Catalina Yacht Club are offering good times on the water. I stopped short of home on the trip back to meet up with SOS folks at Pirates Cove for their first season sail; took time out to work the Annapolis Boat Show for Passport Yacht; and managed a few day sails before hauling out to sand and paint the bottom mid-May. That was done just in time to be ready for the annual SOS cruise to the DNR camp on the Wye River. The next week I enjoyed a weekend sail with my bride. We had beautiful weather and a nice anchorage in the Rhode River. The end of May offered a short, but fun cruise and on-shore party with other ASC skippers and crew.

Just a few pictures …

Passport 470Annapolis Spring Boat Show







Wye River at the DNR CampIMG_20140517_173654883_HDR

Ridout Creek with ASC and a nice evening by the fire…

IMG_20140601_073211540_HDR IMG_20140601_073219071_HDR


June will bring an extended sail with CCYC, and more great times on the water with sailing friends. Looking forward to exploring new places around the Chesapeake Bay, and making more friends along the way.