Pacific Crossing 2010-11
Tuesday, November 16th, Hampton, VA.
Four days anchored in Baltimore, ten days in Annapolis and six days in Hampton (so far). If we include the three days of transit down the Bay we have sailed a total of three days. Three days out of twenty-two is not the stuff that interesting cruising logs are made of. I realize this. We promise to do better in the future, but in the meantime I will recap our last three+ weeks here in the Chesapeake. Beware: it is mostly a discussion of what we have eaten.
Baltimore is always a great stop for us. We manage to get a lot accomplished mere steps from the "Safeway" anchorage. The most enjoyable part of our Baltimore visits however, is the food. This year our friend and Baltimore dining connoisseur, Rod, arrived from Silver Springs solo, leaving his beloved slaving away in the salt mines of D.C. Gladly he was able to soldier on without her and lead us on his usual gastronomical tour of our Canton neighborhood. The first outing was for dinner. The Shango crew's semi-annual trip to the Gecko was in order. Nick, the owner was in fine fettle, handing out free shots of tequila to his regulars (read: Rod) and their friends (read: us, or more precisely, Roger). We dined on the evening's $10 special, had several margarita's and waddled happily home. Next was a lunch trip. After a tiresome morning of shopping Rod guided us to the Poncabird Pub. Home of some of the largest burgers in the world. Conveniently located near the docks at the east end of town, the Poncabird is not to be missed. But be warned: don't stop for lunch if you have dinner plans. Sadly we had dinner plans. Rod & Barbara had recently discovered a new Mexican place on Broadway and we had to check it out. I was still full from my burger so all I could manage was a wonderful bowl of soup. The guys had recovered and managed to work their way through some great authentic Mexican meals. As I write this log entry neither Roger nor I can remember the name of the restaurant. So sorry! You will be glad to know that we were not completely without water born excitement during our Baltimore stay. At around midnight after our authentic Mexican meals the wind clocked around and started to blow at about thirty knots. The sound of the wind got me out of bed and much to my dismay I found that we were dragging toward the docks of the neighboring marina. Yikes! I quickly rousted Roger and we charged on deck. Naked. In the cold. In the wind. With very little room left before disaster we were able to get the boat in forward and re-anchor (after removing the mother load of plastic Safeway shopping bags from the hook). A chilly night all in all. Sleep was a long time in coming.
After four days of eating in Baltimore we were ready to go eat in Annapolis, so on Saturday, October 30th we motored our way the twenty-five miles south to Spa Creek. (I did not include this in our three days of sailing.) We were invited to a post football game (Navy vs. Duke) dinner at a friend's house that evening. We arrived at the appointed hour and found ourselves alone in the driveway. Happily before too long our hostess arrived at a trot. She had run the entire distance from the game which apparently went long. The other dinner guests arrived en masse shortly after via taxi. Dinner was great.
Sunday morning we were joined for breakfast afloat. Our friends Chace & Josie on the PS40 Windaway rafted up for bagels & cream cheese. It was actually more of a boat inspection breakfast as is always the case when two of the same boats get together. It was back to their place in Eastport for Patriots football and dinner that afternoon. We were joined for dinner by Greg & Vicki from the boat ErinBrie. They recently finished a circumnavigation on their Valiant 50. We were able to torment them with questions between trips to the door for trick-or-treaters. Our last American Halloween for a while was a great time.
We spent the following week working on our never ending to-do list. We got together once more with ErinBrie and had another enjoyable dinner. Friday morning we put the boat on a mooring for safekeeping and were fetched from the Harbormaster's Office by our trusty companion, Rod. After a brief stop for barbeque we made our way to Silver Spring for the weekend. This wasn't just any weekend, mind you. This was Barbara & Rod's annual "Invite the Street Over for Dinner" Party weekend. We launched ourselves into the party prep, while staying out of Rod's hair while he cooked. The fete was a great success. The pots of gumbo, green chili and crab soup (our third in a week) were terrific and no leftovers were to be had. It was back to the boat on Sunday, but not before a stop for brunch. Sunday afternoon we puttered around on projects. At some point I went above for something and there was an Amel headed into the mooring field. After about two seconds I realized that it wasn't just any Amel, it was Cayenne! I waved, thinking they had seen us but when they started to go by I charged onto the foredeck and began waving in earnest. They caught sight of me and quickly started doing laps around, eventually picking up the mooring next door. "Come for tea!" was the command from Sabine. And so we did. We had met the Austrian boat Cayenne in Puerto Rico last March and they came up the East Coast to Newburyport in September before going on to Maine. Now we were together once again. Their friends, Uli & Imke from Bremen on the boat Eiland also came for tea. When it is cold Austrians like to drink "rum tea". I believe this is good policy. We had a fine afternoon. The following night we all went out for a crab dinner. Along the way we had picked up another German couple from the catamaran Pacific High. With Imke's visiting sister Mica we were nine, seven of whom were chattering in German. Poor waitress.
After ten days in Annapolis, armed with the name of a marine electrician in Hampton, we finally headed South once again. Our first stop was the Solomons. The wind was dead astern and only about twelve knots so it was a motor sail for us. Still it was nice to be moving again. We pulled into the Solomons in the early afternoon and dropped the hook. Much to our surprise we found ourselves anchored next to a boat called Cgull Seeker. Eight years ago on our first cruise we found ourselves in Georgetown, Great Exuma with a dying transmission. We got on the morning net and asked if anyone had any ideas. Cgull Seeker responded and we took our dinghy over to hear his thoughts. "Your transmission goes just as well in forward as reverse. Get yourself a reverse propeller and use reverse as forward." So we did. And it worked. We went "in reverse" all the way home to New England. Needless to say Roger saw an opportunity to say thank you floating mere yards away. "Just trying to be helpful" was Cgull Seeker's response. You have to love cruisers.
On Wednesday, November 10th we had a terrific sail from the Solomons down to Fishing Bay in Deltaville. Downwind once again but this time we had sufficient wind to sail. We followed this with a similar run from Fishing Bay down to Hampton on the 11th. We opted for the straight downwind shot under main alone. A second boat that left at the same time went for the leg across the Bay, jibe and come back approach. We finished together at the entrance to Hampton. On Friday, Don the electrician arrived bright and early and he and Roger spent the morning going over the electrical system. Don reached basically the same conclusion as Roger had a week earlier. Something is amiss with the Link 2000R despite it's just having returned from being repaired. Off it went again. In addition Roger decided that we'd replace our batteries here instead of waiting till we get to New Zealand. With that project underway we turned our attention to our newly arrived visitor, my cousin Mike from Charlottesville, VA. He arrived Friday afternoon for a visit and to help out. After much driving around we rewarded ourselves with a great tuna dinner at a local restaurant called Marker 20. Order anything involving tuna and you're sure to be happy. After a trip up the mast Saturday mid-day Mike made his way out of town (I don't think the two are related.) Thanks for all your help Mike!
So here we are, at the Hampton Public Piers on Tuesday, November 16th. Our batteries are arriving across the Bay this evening and we'll head in that direction in the next day or two. Now that our insurance plan's November 15 date has passed for heading south, it looks like there is a weather window of sorts (benign) on Friday/Saturday to make our way down to the Bahamas and warmer weather. I believe we're going to be able to try out our new asymmetrical "The Purple Monster"
Thursday, December 2nd, George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas
Almost two weeks after leaving Willoughby Bay in Norfolk we can report that we are thoroughly defrosted. It actually didn't take us the whole two weeks, just a few days. It's amazing what a change several degrees of latitude can make in your life. Roger has his first sunburn and I am doused in sunblock once again.
The passage to the Bahamas was a reasonably good one. I say reasonably good because there wasn't as much wind as we would have liked. As we planned our departure we considered two things: Our sanity and the weather. We are list makers by nature. We have to-do lists and spares lists, provisioning lists and any other list you care to think of. After one month in the Chesapeake spent staring at our lists and making one foray after another to locate and secure the " item(s) which may exist nowhere else in the world" we were definitely feeling oppressed. Self-inflicted, yes, but oppressed nonetheless. With a seemingly unending forecast of mild weather off the mid-Atlantic coast all the way down to the Bahamas we considered our position. If we continued to wait for another week or more for the right wind the season would be growing quickly colder and less predictable (or more predictable in a bad way.) We were losing our grip on just what was a reasonable amount of preparation, and our sanity in the process. "Just go" said our saner selves. So we did.
On Friday the 19th, after a late evening installing and hooking up a new bank of batteries we were guided out of the Marina at Willoughby Bay by Don the electrician and his girlfriend, Pam. Roger backed the boat down what seemed like the longest, darkest fairway in the world in exemplary fashion. Phew! We dropped the hook in the Bay and got one last night of uninterrupted sleep before our passage.
Day 1, Saturday, November 20th
We got underway from Norfolk by 11:00 a.m., rounding Fort Wool and pointing east toward the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. There was a southwest breeze which was perfect for our purposes. We rounded Cape Henry by mid-afternoon and were able to sail until early evening when the angle got too tight for the genoa so we motorsailed with the main. The moon was almost full and the breeze was from offshore so the ride was very comfortable.
Day 2, Sunday, November 21
Our first overnight was really pleasant and Sunday dawned sunny and beautiful once again. As we rounded Cape Hatteras there was a good deal of traffic as ships squeezed between the northbound Gulf Stream and the land. The AIS is really swell at times like those. Much to our surprise we were overtaken by three migrating blue herons. They seemed VERY out of place. We were definitely entering the Gulf Stream by mid-day. The water temperature had risen from 59 degrees in the morning to 78.8 degrees by noon. A sign of hope that there would be warmer weather soon.
Day 3, Monday, November 22
Sunday's overnight was magical. The moon was full and there was absolutely no wind making the moonlight just amazing. Ok, so it wasn't very good for sailing. The wind continued light all day Monday. We sailed for a while with 8 knots of breeze. Sadly the angle was wrong for the asymmetrical. We were visited by dolphins in the morning and by a parade of jellyfish headed north on the stream all afternoon. I enjoyed the afternoon with my book, House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.
Day 4, Tuesday, November 23
Enjoyed another night of dazzling moonlight. The wind dropped at 8:00 p.m. so the engine was on overnight. It was calm but slightly rollier than previous nights. In the morning we were lapped several times by what appeared to be long-tailed tropic birds. Are they found this far north? The pink-bellied dolphins came out once again to play. By mid-afternoon we were motorsailing when we noted an AIS target not too far away, moving at a very slow speed. Sailboat. It is fairly unusual to run across another sailboat out in the open sea so we got together for a brief visit and photo swap. El Gecco, a 51 foot Catamaran, was heading from Charleston to the DR. They left on Saturday also. We commiserated about the light conditions and continued on our respective paths.
Day 5, Wednesday, November 24
Overnight, the clouds got in the way of the moon making it harder to stay awake. It was a pleasant night nonetheless. By Wednesday mid-day the conditions were right for the asymmetrical. Out it came from it's place of honor in the head and up on deck for its first deployment. All went according to plan and in no time the giant purple and silver sail was flying. Very impressive. Sadly our excitement was short lived as the wind fell to nothing and the engine went back on. The long-tailed tropic birds returned for another fly over.
Day 6, Thursday, November 25th (Thanksgiving)
We finished off our passage with a great sail. We had 10-15 knots of wind from 45-60 degrees. Seas were reasonable so we were able to make good headway. We were anchored at our destination, Royal Island, by 3:00 p.m. I had organized as much of our Thanksgiving dinner as I dared while underway during the morning but I have to say I didn't have the nerve to put the pumpkin pie in the oven until we dropped the hook. Dinner was accompanied by champagne and the happy knowledge that we didn't have to get up during the up night. Welcome to the Bahamas!
In the week since our arrival in the Bahamas we have made our way down the Exuma chain to George Town, Great Exuma. The Exumas are beautiful but we didn't linger. Our brief stays at Highborne, Shroud, Warderick Wells, Sampson and Big Galliot Cays were each wonderful but our thoughts are on the rapidly approaching Winter trade winds. The longer we spend in the Bahamas the stronger the winds will become for our trip to Cartagena. Off we go!
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