Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day One- Underway

 Schooner Spirit of Independence getting underway. Photo by Alison Elder.
Sunday morning:  We arrived at Tidewater Yacht Marina Sunday to a clear and sun shining morning to board the schooner SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE. The weather prediction was for clear weather with light winds and plenty of sunshine. Though perfect for cruising up the Chesapeake, not the best for hoisting sails and sailing the schooner to our destination- Baltimore, Maryland for the 22nd Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.

This year, the SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE crew is composed of Captain J.C. Waters and daughter/first mate Joy Waters, crew members Peter Youngblood, Anita Seidler, Allen Graves and myself Joe Elder, Walter Staniszewski, Joshua Harvey and Juliet Horan. After stowing away personal gear and the remainder of the groceries, and a review of on board details by the captain, we said our goodbyes to those that had come  to see us off including my wife Alison who has graciously supported my opportunity to crew and for her to stay behind and solely manage our business- Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery.

We pulled away from the docks at approximately 9:30 a.m. and headed up the Elizabeth River, passing by the  familiar sites of the numerous blue-colored cranes that tower above the shipping terminals that border both the Portsmouth and Norfolk sides of the river. The Elizabeth River feeds into the James River and  Hampton River that make up the waters known as Hampton Roads to we passed by Fort Wool and Fort Monroe, two historic monuments that guard the confluence of rivers inside and into the wider spans of the Chesapeake Bay.

Plans of raising sails as we rounded the corner were delayed with only a slight breeze out of the northwest that was so light that raising the sails would only make them slat  and swing back and forth with each movement of the vessel, so we pushed on under the power of the Spirit's diesel engines.

A container ship in front of us on the Elizabeth River. Photo by Allen B. Graves. 
 A rather quiet day motoring up the bay led to an even less eventful afternoon. The usual shipping traffic on the bay, typically busy with large container ships was nearly void of activity and the light afternoon breeze died out to absolutely still lake-smooth waters. A light fog rolled in near sunset that produced an eerie, somewhat ghostly still view of the horizon that morphed the water to the sky making them almost indistinguishable from each another.  A brilliant sunset illuminated the edge of bright red skies until the sun passed beyond the horizon. "Red sky at night, sailors delight."

Passing by a buoy in lake-still water. Photo by Allen B. Graves. 
"Red sky at night, sailors delight" Photo by Allen B. Graves.
The evening watch is composed of two alternating crews. I was teamed up with Joy Waters, Allen Graves, and Joshua Harvey for the 8 p.m. to midnight watch and again from the 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. watch with the other members on the other. The shipping traffic continued to be almost non-existent and strangely enough, even the small boat traffic was gone as well. But still, watchful eyes is a non-stop responsibility of the watch crew to notify the helmsman of any potential boating traffic that may come into our path of passage or unknowingly coming up from behind and traveling at a much faster speed. As our watch crew was on, the alternate crew was for the most at rest only to be reminded each half an hour by the "ringing of the bell". Seven bells is the warning of thirty minutes to the change in watch and time to get prepared for the exchange...a great relief for tired and cold crew.

An interesting note- at approximately 9 p.m., Allen noticed what appeared to be distant fireworks off  the starboard side of the schooner. Way off in the distance, somewhere along the eastern shore side of the bay, a display of fireworks was underway. Miniature explosions of bright lights in red, green, gold and white was barely visible and continued until we were completely out of viewing range.

Sunrise silhouettes the Spirit's ships bell. Photo by Allen B. Graves.   
 The bright sunrise illuminated clear skies- a good sign for today's weather and as the ringing of five bells announced the new day as the journey up the bay continued. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

The 22ND Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race- Schooner Racing on the Bay

Port view taken from the deck of the schooner "Spirit of Independence" during the beginning of the 21st Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Photo by Allen B. Graves.
Experience the excitement and adventure aboard the schooner 'Spirit of Indepenence' during the 22nd Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race- Racing to Save the Bay. This year, I will join Captain J.C. Waters as part of the crew together with photographer/author Allen Graves reporting daily from the deck of the 'Spirit of Independence' as we set sail from our home port of Portsmouth, Virginia Sunday, October 9th, 2011 to our first destination; Baltimore, Maryland. 

2010 Parade of Sail, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Allen B. Graves.

Venture along with us once again as we cover all of the news and excitement of the GCBSR events and activities through daily reports and photos.  So bookmark and follow our blog - Schooner Racing on the Bay, as we prepare for the race and the excitement begins!

Schooners racing through high winds and heavy rain. GCBSR. Photo by Allen B. Graves

The race begins Thursday, October 13th, 2011 at noon just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis as a magnificent gathering of schooner-rigged vessels begin their adventure down the Chesapeake.

Jockeying for position at the beginning of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.
Make sure you stop by and see the schooner, Saturday, October 15, 2011 at the waterfront in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia. For schedule of Schooner Days events, go to the official 2011 Schooner Days blog.