Another Degree South

Wednesday October 31, 2012

Today we get to start making progress south again and it is desperately needed for the cold temperatures starting to settle in around here. Having done some pre-planning with Rode Trip we planned on rise with the sun to have anchors up at seven-thirty and then make our way the 45-50 miles to the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area. Almost as if because I wished it we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a sunny day. As if we had practiced our synchronized both anchors were lifted at the exact same moment and we were on our way out of the little creek that protected us from the hurricane. Winding through the little turns in the creek as we exited we noticed there were no other boats anchored out besides the two cats that had been in our sight during the storm. I guess this well known hurricane hole wasn’t as popular as the marina had made it out to be. Traveling an hour down the river we were dropped back out in the Chesapeake and able to raise our sails. Weather reports had been forecasting SW winds (directly where we needed to go) at ten to fifteen knots. Winds were as predicted and raising both the head an the main we shot out east into the bay at nearly seven knots. It was great for getting ourselves away from shore but each time we added a few degrees to start making our way south we’d point closer and closer to the wind, gradually losing some of our speed. We also had a pretty big current pushing on our beam so even when the course looked good on our chartplotter we kept getting moved off course and would have to point even farther into the wind. Somehow Rode Trip looked like they were able to be on a direct course towards Norfolk and passed us right by. Not used to getting up so early I went below for a nap and left the wheel in Matt’s hands.

 When I came up land was almost completely out of sight and we were headed right for the shipping channel in the middle of the bay. He mentioned it was just about time to tack so as we got ready I put the bow through the wind until it could catch on the other side. Our steady speed was cut down to almost nothing as it looked as if we were still too close into the wind. Adding five degrees here and there we finally had good sail trim when I looked at the chartplotter to check our new course. Headed directly for land, as in there was no progress south. Trying to subtract a few degrees to at least have us headed a little bit in the right direction the sail would flap and luff. It looked as if the only way to make progress would be to head west into land and then on a southwest course toward where we needed to be. It looked as if Rode Trip was having the same problem and as we went in toward shore they crossed in front of us going out toward the shipping lane. Gaining our speed back and making it a few miles in toward shore we tacked once again, finally able to line up our course with where we eventually wanted to be. By this time Rode Trip had not tacked back toward land and were quickly getting far out of our sight. The new goal now was to try and catch them. Racing mentality kicked in and all I could focus on was the shilouette on the horizon and how to make that dot far in front of me a dot far behind me.

While following behind the sunny skies we had been having all morning were becoming overcast and dark. Temperatures were still in the low fifties and the twenty-five knot winds blowing off the cold water was making it feel much worse. For a long time I took the punishment of sitting behind the wheel without any protection from the wind, my eye on Rode Trip and my finger ready to adjust the autopilot at any moment. Matt sat behind the protection of the dodger and kept asking why I wouldn’t join him up there. Stubborn as always I kept my post as waves splashed up over the bow and side, sending sprays of cold salty water over my jacket and face. Soon my lips were becoming chapped from all the salt layering on them but I wanted to stay where I had constant overview control over the course. Matt gave up and started napping out in the cockpit while I eagle eyed Rode Trip ahead, never being able to gain on them. While crossing through a shipping lane of the boats starting to come into shore our speed dropped to the four knot range just as we were in front of a large six hundred foot shipping container headed right at us. Without having the engines on to just get us out of there as fast as possible I wished for more wind or our speed to pick up so we could make it out. The ship was still a few miles away but they normally move at a speed of fifteen to twenty knots and could quickly come up on us. As if answering my wishes and more our speed suddenly jumped up to over six knots and we were soon out of the channel and back into open and empty waters.

Our speed kept growing and I became excited as we were hovering near seven knots, sure that we’d make up all our lost time and speed from before. Sometimes Serendipity would start healing hard for a few seconds and then righting herself again. When we were at a constant ten to fifteen degree heel I didn’t think much of it but when the short heels up to twenty or twenty five degrees also became constant I started to worry that we might now have too much power behind us. I still let it go for a few minutes just trying to make up on distance, but when Matt woke up from his nap and we were heeling at twenty-two degrees while racing along at 7.2 knots we thought it would be best to pull in the headsail and turn on the engine. Afternoon was upon us and we only had a few hours left to go fifteen miles. Without directly heading at Hampton Roads, which we would have had to do to slow ourselves down under sail, we would have had to go further out in the bay and then tack back, possibly adding another hour to our trip. Satisfied with the sailing we did get in that day the engine went on and we left the main up while furling in the head.  Cutting ourselves a little closer into the wind we still caught enough wind with the main to keep us moving along near six knots.

It may have taken most of the day but we did eventually pass Rode Trip as they are much more stubborn with their engine than we are and sailed all the way up to the small river we were using.  By that time the two of us had already dropped anchor in a spot hugging the channel and trying not to edge into the three feet of water next to us.  Getting a little restless and not having stepped foot on land for a few days we lowered the dinghy and went in search of fast food.  During our trip down the bay we had heard commercials for Hardees, something we don’t have in West Michigan, and the advertised food was sounding so good.  Searching along shore we could not find a suitable place to tie the dinghy up so we grounded it on some rocks and ran the lock around a tree branch to keep it secure.  After we walked the mile through the cold and had our food which was more than I could eat and completely hit the spot we were back to the boat and ready to burrow under lots of sheets for bed.  One more day in Hampton Roads and then we start the ICW on Friday.

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