Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time to Go: Departing Washington

Bob Sulks in a CornerRon Mueck's "Big Man" at the Strange Bodies Exhibit at the Hirshorn
A Doppelganger?

Why has the Skipper's changed his attitude to the big Wash? Since you ask, it was Captain White's Seafood and Crabs a marvellous below grade fresh fish merchant which is located a short dinghy ride across the river where Meredith is anchored:

Look Down, Look Way Way Down Rusty
Captain White's is sort of underground culture

The market is located on the waterfront but below street level. You stand on the street, looking down at the catch displayed for sale and place your order. Everything is good and fresh.

Tonight we rowee over to Capt White's long after dark to get some shrimp. Having secured to a barge adjacent to the store Connie was attempting to ascend the 5 foot ledge left by the fleeing tide. I was admiring her form from below. Three very tough looking Dominicans started towards us. As they neared you could see their craggy scarred faces and the evil tenor of their gaze. The scars were obviously from knife fights.

Halfway up the barge Connie found herself unable to proceed either up or down without unpleasant consequences.

The Dominicans approached at speed.

"Let me give you a hand Ma'am" said the toughest of the bunch. With that he reached down, grabbed Connie under her arms and lifted her in a single graceful motion to the top of the barge.

"This place has the best seafood in DC" says our benefactor. "We drove in from Delaware right after work tonight just to get some. My man Hector will set you up real good."

Hector did just that.

The guys were tired and headed to their car directly.

Captain White Leans on His White Truck
in his White Shirt

Hector Cleans Up the Crab Legs at Closing

As we ordered and talked to Hector a strange looking dude with a slow drawl approached us. From his dress and speech we figured he was a panhandler who was already well into the bottle.


It was the same Captain White who owned the joint. He wondered about our taking pictures (and interrupting his workers, no doubt). Sensing his interest in the pictures we called on advice from friend Randy Chamberlain, the TV guy, and played up that we wanted a photo of his very unique establishment for our blog so those that followed would know where to get some of the best seafood on the Chesapeake. No lie in any of that.

Conversation flowed. The Captain has owned this below the street seafood store for 37 years. He explained that this was just Phase 1 and the barge we tied up to was going to be Phase 2. It has been a while in the "planning" stage but is coming very soon he promised. We had a great talk.

He even posed for a picture.

Being our last day in the big Wash we wanted to see the touted Darwin Exhibit at the Natural History Museum. The display was shallow and disappointing and the hall was full of defective genetic material running around and screaming and having fun as if they were 10 year olds.

Which they were.

Realizing it was we who were out of place we left and spent the rest of a great day at the Smithsonian Hirshorn Museum and the Sculpture Garden. No kids, no tourists. Only the Big Man pictured above.

Prior to this trip when I thought of the Smithsonian I always thought of a big fancy building, ala the Guggenheim, full of cool exhibits. Perhaps you share this unsupported thought. You are as wrong as me.

In fact the Smithsonian is a collection of 19 museums and galleries each with its own massive exhibit hall, many of these with unique gardens filled with statuary, landscaping and cool stuff.

Admission to all exhibits is free.

What a treasure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Washington Through The Eyes of The Meredithians

What I would have given for this business address while still practicing law.

Two days of Washington and we are ready to report. Following are the impressions on the crew of Meredith to downtown Washington DC:

Resurrection Road:

First thing you notice in downtown DC is that the East West streets are all lettered, ie. Street A is followed by Street B etc. North South streets are all numbered, Street 1, Street 2, etc.

The potential of this did not sink in until we came H&8 which has to be the most sought after address in the City by the legal crowd. What Divorce Lawyer would not want his address to be H8? The photo leads this blog.

Spotting the sign we turned around and what do you suppose is located on the other corner of H8?

Why the Calvary Baptist Church of course

If I made this stuff up you wouldn't believe me

From everything we have seen of their belief in action here in the South this is a very appropriate address.

Washington: The Great Leveller

Approaching Washington by boat you notice immediately that it has no skyline. None. DC is one of the most height controlled cities we have seen. It is as if a planner took a plane and levelled the rooftops. The buildings pictured below are built on a hill. The closer buildings have 3 more floors than the building at the top of the hill:

These buildings are built up a hill.
A Level across the roofs would be Dead On Balls Level.

Visiting? Are You Looking for Rack or the Thumbscrew Room?

Walk down 8th Street a bit you run into the IRS Building and one of the more optimistic signs we have come across:


Did the subjects of the Spanish Inquisition feel like "Visitors" one wonders.

White House Departure:

Visiting the White House grounds was fun because within seconds of our attaining the only break in the landscaped barrier sufficient to actually see some white paint we were run out. Cops on bicycles descended upon our small group of tourists sounding horns and yelling for us all to clear out "NOW". Chaos reigned. As we passed the plain clothes officer at the exit we noticed he had his firearm drawn. We moved quickly out of range.

Georgetown Raptures

Tiring quickly by this point we took a Circulator bus out to Georgetown to sightsee. Georgetown is where the ladder climbing middle class yuppies live in their little brownstone rowhouses. We walked around for a while enjoying the mature treed streets and some pleasant banter with friendly Mexican and Phillipino nannies. When it was time to return we caught the next Circulator but discovered instead that it had caught us. Had we looked at our watches we would have realized that school just got out:

Turn up your volume to max to get the proper effect.

When they found out they would appear in my blog the little hooligans tried to shake me down for a payment. As if.

As we exited the bus the girls all yelled a very lovely high volume "Goodbye".


By this point we were tired. We took a short stroll through the Statue Garden only to come upon this delightful structure by a pool of water:

Naturally we had to stop for a cool drink.

By this point Bob was frazzled. He found a nice rock and decided to just sit quietly for a few moments:

Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Roaming About the New Rome

Ok, so this is not a picture of Washington but it is a picture of the most important thing in Washington. Our first stop mandated by the Budget Committee, a jeweller, was a viewing of the Smithsonian Museum of the Hope Diamond, also known as the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The Budget Committee allowed as how there were other things displayed in the same building - like the Hooker emerald.

Sailing into Washington on the Potomac can be a bit disappointing. This city is deceptively unimposing, a sign I suppose of its awareness that it is the seat of power in the most powerful nation in the world. There is no skyline. I mean even Scranton has a skyline.

Arriving Washington you pass under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and divert into a small deadend channel called, unwittingly, the Washington Channel. Once here you have Washington on one side and the East Potomac Park on the other. You drop hook and then you clear in with local police. This is a first for us and we have been told horror stories of a clearance procedure resembling wartime Casablanca: people having to drop everything and race their documents to the local constabulary for vetting and, get this, Permission, to stay in the channel.

First you must work through the sage advice you have received along the way from experienced local sailors, none of whom seem to have actually come to Washington but all of whom know about it. You have to use 2 anchors are told, repeatedly, even by the guide books. When anchored you must race to the police station to have your papers vetted and get clearance to anchor. No one knows where the police station is but they have a dinghy dock. No, never dinghy to the police dinghy dock they are really sensitive about that. Even the guide books print this fearmongering twaddle.

Not looking for trouble we decide to take a slip at one of the downtown marinas to ease the process. One night's dockage is a small price to pay for some peace of mind and support from local staff.

Phoning around we find that all the marinas are booked into the middle of October. This elevates the threat level.

If the marinas are booked the anchorage must be filled, right? It is a small channel. What if there is no room?

Entering the Washington Channel we are wracked with doubt. Well, wracked is a bit strong but uncertainty did reign with a heavy hand aboard Meredith on our arrival. What if the police refuse permission? Being run out of Washington would be a great story but the loss of face would be unbearable. What would Homeland Security think of that?

Relying on our time tested method for discovering the truth of things - actually doing them ourselves - we enter the Washington Channel in a bit of trepidation. No need as it turns out.

The anchorage is near empty. Only 8 boats and lots of room. None of the boats have two anchors down.

Anchoring is a snap in 30 feet of water. We radio the Gestapo, I mean the Harbour Police. A very nice guy takes the call and gives us a phone number asking for a call back. He explains, when we call his office, that he needs some personal information and hates to have people give it over the airwaves. Simple stuff like name, address, phone number, number of people on board.

"How long do you think you will be here?" he asks.

"Four nights" we reply hopefully.

"Have a great stay" responds the voice on the phone "If an emergency arises we have your number and please feel free to call us if you need anything."

That's it? What about a DNA sample? Don't you at least want fingerprints? Aren't you going to grill me on my intentions? What about having to use two anchors?

"Well", is the reply, "if you got two anchors and want to use them feel free to put them both down. If you got only one anchor use that."

Washington is looking up. It is only noon and we are anchored beside a park, right down town, in a field of cool boats from Brisbane and Basel and San Francisco.

We leave the boat to explore.

I took this the night Matt Fischer started to brag
about how nice the sunset was in Vancouver.
It is a lousy shot. Reality is always better than my photography.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Done In By a Virus

Sorry folks. No posts as the computer was attacked by a virulent strain of the figaro virus, apparently so ingeniously constructed as to defeat the ability of my F-Prot virus scanner to detect.

What good one asks is a virus scanner that tells you after you are infected that you were just infected?

Well, I guess the really stupid people need someone to tell them that the reason their computer is acting so weird is that it has a virus.

Those are the same people who will be happy to have paid F-Prot a fee for telling them this invaluable information. I will not pay such a fee again. Not to F-Prot anyway.

Posts will resume imminently once I have reloaded my software. Yes, my solution to the virus was to wipe the drive clean.

It is sort of like your lost child being found: you are so happy to have him/her back and so angry with the needless disruption. Needless to say I want to file an Amicus Curiae brief at the sentencing of every hacker that is convicted from here forward.

Night all.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

15 Feet is Not Enough

I was awakened from a sound nap by the sound of the bow being ripped from poor Meredith's hull. A ferocious roar accompanied the tearing of fibreglass obviously, in my sleep befuddled brain, the engine of some deranged crab boat tearing at my boat.


Connie was raising the anchor. The chain locker is immediately adjacent to the forward berth where I take my daytime restoratives and the sound of chain piling up 6 feet from your head is befuddling.

Stumbling into action I managed to get both feet in the legholes of my shorts, although back to front I later discovered while trying to unwedge my unmentionables from various unmentionable parts of the body. Up the companionway I clamoured. Turning to view the bow I saw our neighbour Zephyrus trying to board poor Meredith. It was like a scene right out of Master and Commander.

I was looking for incompetent French sailors to come streaming over the gun'ls. In Patrick O'Brien's books they are are always incompetent French sailors or sometimes very incompetent Spanish sailors. This could have something to do with O'Brien's British background.

Poor Zephyrus, our friend and, until that very moment, neighbour had dragged and in doing so had almost taken out poor Meredith. Zephyrus is a 41 foot Hunter so Meredith was fighting in the wrong weight class.

Thinking quickly Connie had taken up enough rode that Meredith slipped neatly out of the way of the juggernaut bearing down on us. It missed but not by a comfortable margin.

We took up the rest of our chain and reset our anchor in a safer place.

As we did so poor Zephyrus, obviously unmanned, continued to trundle across the anchorage and into the channel. Seeing this I left Connie to watch Meredith, climbed into the dinghy and boarded Zephyrus. My intention was to let out some rode to help its anchor catch and I tended to this with dispatch. Zephyrus was bearing down on a crabber's dock at an alarming rate.

As I was paying out line the Sheriff, in his boat, came over to lend a hand. He noted that we were still dragging and had his deputy cleat off some of the nylon rode to the stern of the Sheriff's boat. The sheriff then held tension on the line stopping the rearward march of Zephyrus while the poor deputy hauled up the rest of the rode, recently lengthened by me, by hand.


When the Sheriff applied tension he altered the dynamics of the errant Hunter in the wind and current and Zephyrus took off across the channel the other way. Fast.

Seeing this I ran to the helm and looked for the engine controls. Thank God the owner left the keys in the ignition. The diesel started and I put her in idle forward moving Zephyrus ahead at about a knot. Looking around I saw we were already on the far shore - a mass of rusted steel barges tied up loosely to abandoned docks. Our stern was not 4 feet off.

At this I slammed the boat into neutral, yelled for the Sheriff to pull hard forward I then stepped onto the barge and pushed Zephyrus away for all I was worth. When the inertia of Zephyrus was altered to move her away from the barge I jumped back on and rammed her diesel into half forward.

The sheriff's small boat lacked authority to pwer this behemoth of the sea in tight manoeuvers. The sheriff instructed me to move the boat forward and he and the deputy would carry the anchor and rode to keep it from fouling the prop of our poor Hunter. A good idea and I was glad someone was thinking.

We powered Zephyrus back into the anchorage, the sheriff picked a good spot and dropped the hook. Letting the anchor settle I backed down on the hook like I was digging for China. She did not move again until her owner returned and reanchored.

While all of this was going on the boat next to us in our new mooring place, Carolina Moon (another Hunter), had dragged and Connie was standing on the bow of Meredith ready to take on all comers.

Zephyrus had 15 feet of chain on his anchor. He needed a minimum of 50 and with the windage of the Hunter 410 should have been carrying at least 100. It does not matter how big your anchor is or how much line you have if you do not have sufficient chain you will drag.

Gang War in Crisfield

Our time at Crisfield has been used well: toe rail painted, binnacle repainted, electrics rewired to correct rewiring from mechanic, frozen through hull valves freed and stuff.

Connie wrestles a Crisfield Crab over dinner.

Gang war is a serious ongoing social issue in Crisfield: Marauding gangs of Crabs are attacking innocent diners. It's a dog eat dogworld down here and the issue is always reduced to: who would eat whom.

Crabs have a highly developed social order and only crabs of the same size band together. Large crabs group together as do medium crabs. They attack in groups of 12.

Although the crab pictured above had the advantage of surprise it was handicapped by its drug habit: a serious addiction to Old Bay spice. This drug habit is endemic among local crabs in the Chesapeake.

The steam bath before the match probably tired him out too.

Connie advised that it was worth the effort.

When not defending against marauding crabs we spent our time at the crab skiff races:

Innocuous tiny little things, crab skiffs were used to fetch crab pots from the shallows and shoals that abound in the Chesapeake. Narrow, small, shallow these fair little craft could darn near sail over dry land.

Now they are playtoys of the Tim Taylor Crowd. They are raced. Here is how a race starts:

Catch the lift on this thing. He is on the straightaway completing his first lap.

The owner of Kissed by a Minnow installed a small block V8 in his.

The racing is ferocious and no one gives an inch.

The winner of this race was Old Bay.

However, as the Announcer said:
"Here Goes Old Bay. Piloted by *****, the pride of Matthews Virginia. He's also a bit of a cheat."

The cheat reference was to the fact that Old Bay departed 1 full minute ahead of his handicap.

The race announcer repeated that Old Bay cheated every lap. As a result of the dishonourable conduct of Old Bay the boat was disqualified and the race won by the Pride of Crisfield, MD.

There will be an interruption in posting for a week or so. A family event ( events are good, situations are bad) has arisen and we will be absent Meredith for a week or so.

See you later.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Calculus: Isaac Newton on Sailboat Aesthetics

Note the cute little feet on the boom gallows

Integration, one of the two branches of The Calculus, is the mathematical equivalent of successively removing unnecessary elements from an equation.

OK. It isn't any such thing of course but I am not a mathematician and this description has allowed me to coexist on Earth with The Calculus.

Recently we performed a little Integration on Meredith.

We lost our boom gallows, a massive teak beam spanning the breadth of the boat and carried by two thick walled bronze tubes of 2 inch diameter.

One of the two inch bronze pipes which support the teak beam, the one on the port side snapped off at its base while we were sailing in light winds (10 kt) and seas (3 feet). It is a mystery how the stresses to which the pipe was subjected over its life decided that moment to reach their summative breaking point.

Port Stanchion Base on the Left. Starboard Stanchion Base on the right.

Lucky for us it worked out that way. Had it failed in difficult conditions with heavy winds and high seas a lot of damage could have been inflicted on our boat before we brought it under control.

Sometimes the gods smile with favour.

The gallows failed as I went to the mast to shake out a precautionary reef we had installed when we started sailing out of Onancock, VA. Conditions did not warrant the reef. As I passed the pipe I grabbed it as I usually do and it felt soft. My one track mind did not focus on that softness immediately.

As I left the mast there on deck stood Connie holding the boom gallows erect to prevent damage from a 150 lb object powering a bronze pipe around the deck.

The tools were got out and all bolts connecting the starboard side base to its stanchion base were removed. Connie and I, moving somewhat irregularly in the 3 foot seas, gingerly laid the heavy structure onto the deck. Further protection for the deck from the pipe ends was achieved when Connie stuck a pair of rubberized work gloves on the unprotected ends.

All pretty mundane stuff. The boom gallows was valued by us as one of the features that set our vessel apart from others. It is relatively rare. Never did the idea of removing it enter our minds.

Staring at the empty space formerly occupied by the boom gallows it dawned on the two of us that visibility was vastly improved. Shortly thereafter it also dawned on us that there was a lot less bumping and banging and hanging up of control lines without the massive teak obstruction.

We realized that our boat looked better and sailed better without our precious boom gallows. It now lies on the deck until we find a place to store it - the victim of Grade 12 University mathematics.

Integration is now being applied to other systems aboard our Meredith with one exception:

We agree that human systems are exempt.