Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charleston, SC to Norfolk VA - Day 3, Arrival

We arrived at Waterside Marina in Norfolk this morning a little after 10 after a 425nm passage.  The last day of the trip was the best, as we had beam winds, following seas, no storms, and no need for the engines except for the trip up the Elizabeth River to Waterside Marina.  It was certainly our best passage up or down North Carolina's Outer Banks. 
Waterside is a good stop for us as it is close to groceries, a mall, a park, a children's and maritime museums, and lots of restaurants.  My only beef with it is the 2+ hour motor to get in and out of the place.   It's also a fun place to meet folks doing the Inter-Coastal Waterway thing.
After securing Mirasol at the dock and settling in, Jen took Quinn over to the fountain  by the marina for Quinn to burn off some energy.  I suspect she's enjoying a cool beverage as well.  It's a neat fountain designed for kids to play in during the day and at night is lit with changing colored lights, making it functional art, I guess.  To get the idea of it, think of a 20' by 40' sidewalk with a couple dozen nozzles built in that shoot water up in timed intervals.  The kids love it - running through it and screaming.  When I was a kid my version was running through the sprinkler.  I didn't have fancy lights though.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Charleston, SC to Norfolk, VA - Day 2

Day two continued to be a motor sail with very mild seas well into the afternoon.  Late afternoon found us off Cape Lookout, NC with winds increasing to the low teens and the waves staying moderate at 2 – 4 feet.  As evening arrived, so did the “scattered” thunderstorms.  They were marching one after another, right up the Gulf Stream to our starboard.  We were happy that we elected not to swing further offshore to take better advantage of the lift from the current since that would have placed us in the path of all this rain. 

As darkness fell it became evident that there was quite a lot of lightning activity, with many stunning ground (sea) strikes, making me even happier that we weren’t another 10 miles offshore.  It was quite the light show.

Around 3AM this morning as I came back on shift, our luck dodging the squalls gave out.  We found ourselves wet and nervously watching the lightning strikes all around us.   My laptop, the sat phone, a spare GPS and VHF all went into the oven in the hope they would be protected in the event of a strike.  Jen happily went off shift to catch some sleep while I sat at the helm running over a mental to-do list in the event of a strike on the boat.  The lighting activity was so frequent and brilliant that I found myself using the light of the lightning flashes to look for passing ships since the after-images had ruined my ability to see anything in the dark.

After a tense three hours, the squalls moved off a bit and the lightning became a glorious lightshow again, instead of a threat.

The end of our second full day at sea found us just off the Diamond Shoals Light of Cape Hatteras in a minor thunder shower.  After that the skies cleared up and we’re on a sunny downwind run up the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Tomorrow we should arrive in the Chesapeake Bay.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Charleston, SC to Norfolk, VA - Day 1

Day one was much less eventful than the first day of the passage from Ft Lauderdale to Charleston.  Weather was as forecasted and quite mild.  We motored and motor-sailed the whole time as the wind was consistently  under 10 knots on the stern and we wanted to average a minimum speed of 5.5 knots.  Seas have been extremely mild with a slight swell from the SE and wind waves under 2 feet, and while we had a good lightning show from a storm offshore, we stayed dry and had no concerns with thunderstorms in our vicinity.

I saw several pods of dolphins busy fishing and one small pod came over to swim with us for a little while.  Early this morning Jen spotted a very large sea turtle with a brown shell.  We passed within 15 feet of it and she estimated the shell to be almost 3 feet in diameter with a head about the size of her forearm.  Quinn and I missed out as we were dozing.

As I write this we’re being investigated by a US Navy helicopter based either on a cruiser that is about 3 miles off our port or maybe an aircraft carrier nearby that we can’t see.  We have several very large blobs on our radar that are too far away to identify.  I was seeing a hit very close by behind us on the radar that wasn’t there a minute ago so I grabbed the binoculars to investigate.  No ship, but one big helicopter heading straight for us.  They veered off about a quarter mile away and headed towards one of the unidentified blobs.   Nice diversion from an otherwise quiet day at sea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Charleston SC to Norfolk VA - Departure

We left Charleston, SC this morning around 9 AM after fueling up. The skies are clearing and we have virtually flat seas with the exception of a very slight swell from the southeast. The forecast is for scattered T-storms today and then fair weather for the next day or so. We might catch some rain Tuesday and Wednesday. Today and tomorrow will be mostly motoring but we should be motor sailing tomorrow and sailing by early Tuesday morning. It looks like it is going to be hot passage, as it was already 80 degrees at 7AM this morning. The rain when it arrives will probably be very welcome... as long as it arrives without too much drama.

The plan is to arrive at Waterside Marina in Norfolk sometime Wednesday. We'll stay there for a couple of days and then head to Yorktown, VA where we plan to celebrate Quinn's 5th birthday at Busch Gardens.

The passage is about 425nm and will be our third time rounding the Diamond Shoals off of Cape Hatteras. When we arrive in Norfolk that will have closed the circle on our Caribbean adventure of 2009-2010.

We spent a whole month in Charleston this time, and enjoyed ourselves quite a lot. While here we made a side trip via a rental car to West Virginia where we attended the wedding of my cousin Lindsey to Seth Tinkler. It was a nice wedding and we were able to visit with a lot of family we haven't seen in a long time so it was great fun.