Thursday, October 23, 2008


Sigsbee will be heading up the Bay to Philadelphia beginning tomorrow morning. we expect to arrive on Sunday, but will not be sailing Saturday during what is expected to be gale-force winds and unpleasant precipitation. We'll be in Philly for just over a week running sails with a youth program. It should be an adventure. I've got my long underwear all clean and ready.

Today marked the annual shipboard Jack-o-Lantern contest, bumped up a bit on account of our iminent departure for the frozen north. Mildred Belle won hands-down, with a beautifully carved design of a white perch...on fire. In close second ran a delicately rendered hellcat, entered by Snow Goose of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. An attractive lighthouse scratched out by the Lady Maryland crew earned them a third place ranking, and Sigsbee's crew pulled fourth with a delightfully vindictive depiction of the Mildred Belle...on fire. And sinking. All pumpkins will be visible for the next little while on Pier 5 on their respective boats.

I am currently open to suggestions as to what I should go to grad school for. I'm not hugely interested in maths, sciences, arts, languages, medicine, law, or history. Unfortunately I can't find Small Engine Repair at the Ph D. level.

Monday, October 20, 2008

pretty boats

This past week Baltimore played host to the Parade of Sail, the pre-game show for the Great Cheasapeake Bay Schooner Race. I experienced the joy of participating in the parade from the deck of the Lady Maryland, who went on to finish second in the race. In honor of yet another of my birthdays, I decided that this year's celebration should be of boats, which are a touch prettier than rats. Please note, as usual, all photos are mega-huge, and were taken by me in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Small, private schooner Martha White. Raised two questions: Are they really all that into flour? Is that really all bottom paint?

Pride of Baltimore II firing a cannon salute in the Inner Harbor. The ensuing audio battle among vessels Pride, Constellation, Gazela, Lady Maryland, Mystic Whaler, and others led to the National Aquarium at Baltimore to call over the VHF "please stop firing your cannons. You're scaring the dolphins."

Sigsbee! Aw, I'm sorry you didn't get to come, darlin. She's lookin' sharp.

Baltimore Clipper Amistad. -Wait, That Amistad?- Yes, That Amistad.

Schooner Mystic from a Boston Whaler.

Square topsail schooner Sultana, from Chestertown, Maryland. Judge her size compared to the people on deck. She's a perfect miniature. And a good friend of Living Classrooms.

Schooner Virginia. has a reputation for being bad-ass. Broke a gaff during the race. I heard everyone is okay. Is it just me, or does she look like the kind of boat Darth Vader would captain?

Schooners Virginia and When and If?, under Lady Maryland's main. So much canvas.

Mystic Whaler, a beautiful vessel in and out, and excellent hosts. Thank you for throwing a great pot luck!

I'll try to add a Lady Maryland "Fear the Pink" shirt soon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

hot sauce, spider webs, and a gallon of coffee

So. I've been out of town.

Having a blast, by the way. Two weeks ago found me in St. Michaels, MD, running some day programs for Eastern Shore kids, which were a lot of fun (if fast!) My crew and I spent nights alternately weathering rain and enjoying brightly starlit skies from Sigsbee's deck after delicious meals cooked over a lead-melting burner. (a welcome backup after a propane tank attachment mix-up. Big Fire make Fast Dinner. And perhaps the most perfect popcorn i've ever tried.) The crew transit back, a trip of several hours, was passed enjoyably, if a bit noisily, thanks to the addition of four bottles of hot sauce and a box of crackers. Yeowza! (technically we only tried three--the fourth was saved to be shared with the captain of another vessel. After watching the reactions of tasters, I'm rather glad I wasn't tempted to try the fourth.)

Last Friday was spent in drink and revelry at the annual Maritime Magic gala, a large party/concert/auction/local restaurant sampler/boozeup to benefit the Living Classrooms Foundation. The music was great, the food was excellent, free, and largely vegetarian, the vendors were friendly, and nobody fell in during my M.O.B. watch. I'd call that a success.

This week found me on a 3-day trip to Kent Island, complete with an entire department-load of insurance agents on a team-building adventure. Also known as a lovely few days on boats, some lovely restaurants, and plenty of lovely beer. They were generally pleasant people, and though we flatly lost the sailboat race against Lady Maryland, no one was hugely surprised and it was a great day on the water in any case.

An odd thing occurred while we were crossing the bay toward Baltimore--in a rather nondescript area of open water we happened to pass through a giant cloud of bugs. I don't know what kind exactly--they looked like largeish flying ants, but with pointier aft ends. They may have been larval wasps or juvenile versions of any number of interesting critters, but needless to say I spent most of this time cowering behind one of my coworkers as the bugs whizzed past. Most of them passed by without even noticing Sigsbee, and the ones that did land on deck were easily shooed off it again. We passed through them in about twenty minutes at 5 knots, so do the math and tell me what the diameter of the bug-cloud was. Seriously. I'm pathetic at math.

Anyway, we got back to the dock and tidied up the boat, and in the process of tying off the gantline a member of my crew happened to look up and see that every line, every lazy jack and halyard was decorated with hundreds of delicate webs--the entire rig was covered in a filigree of arachnoid fibers. We assumed these had something to do with the bug-cloud, but we really have no idea--no one had heard of six-legged or winged insects with the ability to produce a web, and none of them appeared to be ballooning anyway. Some theories we proposed, but later shot down included:

-the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which marks the entrance to Baltimore's Outer Harbor, just doesn't have cargo ships passing under it like it used to get and is overrun with spiderwebs.
-the bugs were being attacked by minute ballooning spiders and we just interrupted, which led to all of the webs appearing to be over four feet long
-we were attacked by something at the dock overnight (this theory was dispelled when we saw the same webs covering the Lady Maryland's lines, and LM anchored out pretty far from land because the water gets too shallow for her)
-our captain is actually a spider and we've just never noticed.

Any ideas?

in any case, my crew has been rather busy lately and, on account of this, have managed to go through three bags of coffee beans in about three weeks. Is that normal for four people?

The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is coming up in a couple of days, and boats from up and down the eastern seaboard have been showing up in droves in the inner harbor. Its been a lot of fun to see. I hope to get a chance to schmooze with their crews.

One more thing. This piece of psychadellic art gave me pause to wonder--it looks hand-painted by a giddy stoner with no concept of life-like colors, patterns, or ratios. I think a new religion or at least emphatic cult should form around this clear proof that God trips on acid.