May 16th, 2020
Saturday was forecast to be absolutely beautiful… mid 70’s and winds 5-10 knots which were supposed to swing 180º around noon. Following the age old wisdom that gentlemen never sail to windward, I thought I’d figure out an all day downhill trip.
The plan was to launch at Carter’s Creek in Irvington, sail down to Parrott Island, across the Rappahannock to Mosquito Point and around Mosquito Island. Hopefully by then the wind will shift and I’d have a run back to the ramp. I ended up going 20.5 miles in 6 hours. Average speed was 3.4mph with a max of 7.3mph.
I doubt my little economy car would do too well at this ramp, so I borrowed my dad’s F250. It drops off quickly and I did need four wheel drive to get the boat out without slinging rocks.
Tacking down Carter’s Creek. Getting off to a bad start with the not sailing to windward thing… This creek is named for Robert “King” Carter who was an incredibly wealthy colonist in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. He was an agent for Lord Fairfax to manage the Northern Neck land grant and in the process built up an empire. He briefly served as governor of Virginia and in his will he left 300,000 acres, 3,000 slaves, and £10,000 in cash. Apparently when he died and Lord Fairfax found out how wealthy he was, Fairfax appointed his cousin as his agent instead of a native Virginian.
Eventually I made it to the mouth of the creek where a deadrise loaded with crab pots passed me. King Carter’s plantation is basically behind him although the house would have been to the right out of frame. Unfortunately nothing remains of the plantation… the main house burnt down during Carter’s life and according to his diaries he seemed most upset with the destruction of his wine cellar.
Out into the Rappahannock and heading for Parrott Island which is past the bridge on the right. I was doing about 3mph through here.
About halfway to the bridge the wind started to drop. I was still making progress though, about 1 mph which was partially the tide. I have a half baked idea for a topsail for these conditions. I’ve seen it done with sprit rigs and I think it would be an interesting experiment.
The most interesting thing happened as I approached the bridge. The wind died down enough so the water was reflective, but according to my GPS I was still making 3mph. I have added a tiller extension so I can sit closer to amidships which I’m sure helps.
Coming up on Parrott Island and the wind started picking up some. There were a lot of kayakers out and about in the shallow areas.
There’s a narrow channel marked by two rows of PVC pipe, but it was deep enough that I didn’t have to follow it.
Heading across the Rappahannock to Mosquito Point at 2-3mph. This section was marked by powerboats cutting in front of me like it was the upwind leg of the America’s Cup or floating apartments that are as tall as they are long throwing up a mountain of wake for me to bash through. And the ever present bumblebee trapped in a tin can sound of jet ski’s running around. I think I counted 12 or 13 sailboats within view, it was an absolutely beautiful day.
Coming around the back side of Mosquito Island. You might notice I’m suspiciously close to the marsh grass.
The wind changed a bit before I was expecting it to, so I had to tack my way up the narrow channel. At the very end I was trying to take a picture of the island when I ventured a little too close to the marsh and the centerboard got stuck in the mud. The bow started falling off the wind while I was getting the centerboard up so I pulled a U turn and tried again. I was surprised by how consistent the tacks were. I measured the angles and they average 93º which, from what I understand, sounds pretty good for a sprit rig!
After getting back out into the river I headed back for Carter’s Creek. For over an hour I was on a reach scooting along at 6-7mph. The tiller extension really helps with trimming the boat and hiking, but there’s a bit of a design flaw. I like sitting on the floor of the boat and when I do, the tiller extension angles down and rubs the varnish off the ~4″ of tiller I left sticking out. Not sure what I’m going to do to fix that problem.
Back at the entrance to Carter’s Creek. It’s narrow, curved, and busy. I counted six boats going through as I was approaching. Fortunately I was able to get through without too much trouble.
And tacking my way back to the ramp. Some of the funny tacks were due to wind shifts or dodging moored boats. At the end there I dropped the sails and rowed in to the dock. It’s interesting how the wind tends to shift at the mouth of creeks… I’ve noticed that every time I sail in tight quarters.