06/23/2010: "Phase One - Havelock NC to Deltaville VA"
Summer is here and our long awaited sailing trip has begun. We started planning last winter when we put together an eight week plan going up to Maine and back. Those plans had to be dropped. Oh well, it doesn't hurt to dream. We decided on a return trip to the Chesapeake since our last trip here was only two weeks and we got a delayed start with some repairs, after being towed back to port. But that is old history. Time to try again. Last time we only got to see a little of the east shore of the bay and want to see more of the west shore.
Sunday arrived and we headed out, this year we realized we did not have to start so early in the day since we needed to co-ordinate our arrival in the Bay during daylight hours. We did the standard motor down the ICW to Morehead City and raised the sails as we approached Beaufort Inlet. The forecast was for 15-20 knot winds from the SW and that is what we got, along with the 3-4 foot seas we had to beat into. We made real good time getting to what is called the “Knuckle” but is was a rough and wild ride. Next time I am going to remember to rig the jack lines while still in calm water. Jack lines are the two straps that run the length of the boat on each side that we tether onto when we leave the cockpit when at sea. This way if you fall overboard you are still attached to the boat. We have a rule on the boat that at night you have to wear a life jacket and tether on even if you are just sitting in the cockpit. The rest of the time we are a little more lax, depending on the condition of the sea. Anyway, after crawling to the bow twice to rig the lines I was completely soaked. Not how I planned on starting out.
Once around the “Knuckle”, which is the point we know we are safely around Cape Lookout Shoals and we turn NW. It is odd that we have to go so far south to start going north but the shallow area runs a long way out. Unfortunate if you are going NE with a wind from the SW it will be directly on your stern. We tried to continue sailing but finally had to give up when the wind died a little and we couldn't keep the sails from flapping hard as the waves were washing under us rocking the boat like a hobby horse and collapsing the sails. At this point we started motoring and motored through the night.
Monday morning dawned and with it a slight wind shift that got us sailing again. This lasted into the afternoon when it dropped almost completely and it was back to motoring. Cori did catch a few fish this time but we never saw any dolphins, a highlight of the last trip. By early evening it had calmed so much that we went up to the bow and used the wash down hose to take a shower and cool off. The rest of Monday and Tuesday morning the wind picked up a little but still from the S-SW which put it right behind us, the slowest point of sail. Sailing downwind cancels out half of the windspeed, like when you ride a bike with the wind and it feels calm when you match it's speed, and if you are only dealing with 5-10 knots it becomes a slow and hot sail, so we chose to continue to motor.
Entering into Chesapeake Bay is interesting with all of the shipping traffic and a variety of boats going every which way, all coming together at the two channels over the tunnels. If you have never been there to see and drive it, they have built a bridge across the entrance to the Bay, but in two locations they drop underwater into tunnels to allow shipping traffic to pass overhead. A real marvel of engineering. Upon entering the Bay we encountered an out-bound container ship. I chose to change course and let him pass before continuing but he had a better plan and called me to tell me to cross his bow and continue on up the Bay. Nice of him, but I prefer not to be in front of a big steel ship. Basic rules of the road: steel beats fiberglass every time. I was continuing to my next way point when Harbor Control called me and wanted to make a couple of suggestions to keep me out of trouble: mainly to stay out of the main channel and give everyone a wide berth. I reassured him that was my plan, I would just follow the markers but stay out of the main channel until I got to the tunnel. This way the big ships that travel faster then me can continue on their way without worrying what I am going to do. Remember: steel wins over fiberglass every time.
Since it was still early, only around 9:00 AM on Tuesday, we chose to continue up the Bay and set Deltaville VA as our first stopping point. We decided to stay at a marina instead of anchoring out since it would give us a chance to clean up, straighten out the boat, rinse off some of the salt that was deposited everywhere and make plans for the next phase of the trip.
Oh, you are probably wondering why we went outside instead of taking the ICW route. Mostly because we can. We have a boat that is capable of blue water sailing and we enjoy the challenge of going offshore. The ICW is alright, but it is a long motorboat ride with no travel after dark. Depending on the conditions, we have more opportunity to sail when going outside then riding the “ditch.” It is also a good learning experience. As we travel with our boat we will be spending time in open water and this gives us an opportunity to learn. Also there is nothing like sailing out of sight of land and feeling the motion of the boat in harmony with the waves and wind, then throw in a moonlit night and it is an awesome way to travel.