We arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on August 20 with a certain amount of excitement to be leaving behind the narrow, restricted confines of the ICW and entering the open expanses of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay’s reputation of being fantastic sailing grounds with almost never-ending opportunity to experience picturesque anchorages and quaint coastal towns had us excited for what was to come. Never would we have guessed that 17 days later we would have only traveled 50 of the Bay’s 200 miles and been stuck in marinas almost the entire time.
It was just a casual mention by our new friend Pete, a lifelong Chesapeake Bay sailor who, now in his golden years and travels by trawler, took a slip next to us at the marina in Norfolk. “The only winds that will give you trouble on the Chesapeake are NE winds, and only once they reach 15 knots or so” Pete told us. “I’ll keep that in mind” I thought to myself, happily knowing that since we’d left Beaufort in June, the prevailing winds had been from the southwest almost without interruption.
It’s as though the very moment Pete spoke those words, nature shifted.
It’s eerie almost. We’ve not seen a SW wind since that day. Every single day, 10 to 15 knot winds somewhere out of the northern quadrant. Mostly NE.
And believe me, we’ve tried to test it. After nearly a week in Norfolk, we moved on to Hampton for what we though would be one night, just so the girls could go to the Air and Space Center there. The next day we’d travel north, to Mobjack Bay, then on to Deltaville, Reedville, pull a George Washington and cross the Potomac and finally make our way to Solomons. (Side note: The ONLY thing we’ve had so far on this cruise in the way of schedules or required destinations has been Solomon’s Island, as there is a marina there that stocks CNG, compressed natural gas, which is the fuel for our stove and oven. We have to make it to Solomons to refuel for the next 8 months.)
So we left the next morning, despite the forecast 10 knot NE winds. After a few hours of slamming into three and four foot waves straight on the nose only seconds apart, making only 2 or 3 knots of progress an hour, and the eventual seasickness that set in on both of our babies, we turned around and limped back to Hampton. We ended up staying there for 3 more nights before we’d see a day calm enough for us to attempt the next leg again.
We made it to Deltaville that day and actually had a beautiful sail. Anchored in a creek by a marina. Discovered a leak in the fuel tank. We’ll fix it later. But we’d continue on in the morning as the forecast was for calm enough winds. Our travels were going well the next morning as well, although at this point we were starting to learn that Hurricane Hermine was probably going to make its way up the East coast after making landfall in Florida. So we’d need to cover as much distance as we could that day and the next. We made the decision to put in a long day and go for Solomons. The winds were going to be calm so let’s make some progress.
As soon as we rounded the corner into the Potomac, the winds were 20 knots, right on nose, gusting to 25 knots. Our second time turning around and heading back. We anchored in Reedville where there is NOTHING for a sailing family that is low on groceries, but does have a menhaden processing facility for those that are interested. Makes the whole town smell like fish.
The arrival of tropical storm force winds the next day prompted us to seek out a marina with good protection, which we found in the Ingram Bay Marina here in Heathsville, just a short boat ride away from Reedville. That was September 2.
And here we are, September 5th, with a forecast of 15 knot winds out of the NW for tomorrow. No way to make it across the mouth of the Potomac, whose waters are said to resemble a washing machine under certain conditions. No chance of making it to Solomons tomorrow. And Wednesday doesn’t look much different. We’re having fun with the girls (Avery caught her first fish), but the feeling of being trapped is having an effect on us. Add into the equation that Laura has now been offered some consulting work back in SC in mid-October and we suddenly find ourselves with a schedule and need to get moving.
I say all this to make the point that we ain’t been moving much and it’s been frustrating. And expensive. Here’s hoping my next post describes days of great sailing, secluded anchorages, and happy purchases of CNG.