Saturday, October 20, 2007

Are we there yet?

My butt is still defrosting from the last two hours spent sitting on Cielo’s cabin top peering into the darkness trying to make out crab pots in our path. Crab pots are plentiful all along the Chesapeake Bay, and when the boat is under power, it's important to make sure that you steer clear of them, lest you find your propeller tangled up in their lines. Spotting crab pots during the day is easy enough, but in the dark, it's a bit more challenging. Now, I know that some of you are wondering why, knowing this, we’d choose to motor down the Chesapeake Bay at night--and by the end of the day Kevin and I were definitely wondering the same thing.
The idea to keep pushing on to Hampton from where we'd originally planned to stop for the night seemed like a good idea at the time. We'd started the day motoring out of Solomon's, MD planning for a great sail in the 15-20 knots of westerly wind that was forecast. Unfortunately, those monkeys that the National Weather Service entrusts to provide the forecast had evidently been out late drinking again, as they blew the forecast entirely. We ended up with very light wind that shifted around from just about every direction but west, forcing us to motor from about 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Motoring is not the worst thing in the world, and actually allows us to get projects taken care of while underway. It is not, however, sailing by any means, and with the prospect of all the motoring we'll be forced to do once we hit the Intracoastal (due to its narrow nature), we were really looking forward to a day of wind.
Finally, at about 2:30, the wind started shifting around to the desired direction and began to pick up speed, which was great, except for the fact that 2:30 was precisely the time we were arriving at our intended anchorage of Deltaville, VA. We took a look at the charts and determined that there weren't any great places to put in between Deltaville and Hampton, VA, nearly 40 miles away, but with the wind piping up and a favorable current giving us a nice push, we figured we could make Hampton by around 7:30. We knew it would be dark by that time, but noted that it seemed like an easy anchorage to get into, and figured we could use some practice anchoring in the dark.
Well, just as on land, and most likely even more so, things at sea rarely go quite as planned. First, we misjudged our position and realized about 45 minutes later that our current heading had us fast approaching a shallow section of the bay. We quickly turned the boat and headed dead down wind, but the mistake caused us to loose some speed and it took a bit of time to get us back on track. Next, around 6:00 our wind began to die down from the steady 20 knots it had been blowing for the last three hours. We were still getting a nice breeze, but our speed dropped from about 7 knots to right around 6...and then 5...and then 4....at which point, Kevin fired up the engine, and I took my butt freezing post towards the front of the boat.
In the end, we managed to log 85 miles (which is a LOT for one day if you think in nautical terms, and not in terms of say, driving that distance, which would take you less than 90 minutes), miss the crab pots, and navigate into harbor and drop the anchor in the dark. I can admit that while we were getting here, I had my fair share of cranky moments, but now that I'm warm and cozy below decks with my glass of wine, I feel rather pleased of the progress we made today...at the same time though, I'm also pretty happy that the trip is behind us and we can spend the next few days exploring Hampton, Norfolk and Portsmouth before heading into the Intracoastal some time next week.

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