Sunday, October 24, 2010

Norfolk VA to Charleston SC, 2010

We're now in Charleston at the Charleston Maritime Center. Charleston is a great place to hang out and we're planning on staying here through the end of the month. We're expecting Halloween to be great fun as Charleston is known for it's haunted buildings. We're booked on a ghost tour for Halloween evening.

We stayed in Norfolk a little longer than we wanted to since the weather wasn't cooperating for a passage around Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Since the Cape can be a nasty place to be in bad conditions we are quite particular about the weather forecast when we go.

We skipped one weather window that looked good, but had the potential to leave us offshore in 45 knot winds if the system accelerated, which wouldn't be a pleasant thing. As it turned out, the system slowed down and we could have had a great passage, but it wasn't worth the risk.

A week later, the weather looked pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. The weather for the turn around Cape Hatteras looked fine, but once we made the turn the forecast was for us to get south west winds at 10-15 knots for about 6 hours. Southwest winds would be right on the nose, but 10-15 knots doesn't produce much in the way of waves and we could motor straight into it.

Or Not.

We left on Wednesday morning. Wednesday and Wednesday night went as planned with a bumpy ride out of the Chesapeake Bay followed by an easy ride down the Virginia and North Carolina Outer Banks on a broad reach. Cape Hatteras treated us kindly and we passed the Diamond Shoal light sometime around 8 AM on Thursday in moderate winds and seas.

As we rounded the Cape, the wind slowly picked up and backed to the Southwest, right on our nose. This was expected and we hoped that it would clock around to the north soon, as NOAA's forecast predicted. It wasn't to be.

By Thursday afternoon we were pounding into 5-7 foot waves and 20-25 knot winds. Not the best point of sail for Mirasol and Captain and Crew were, um, displeased. We had expected a brief 6-10 hour stint of beating into 10-15 knots of wind around Beaufort, but this was getting very old really fast. In all, it was about 18 hours of 20-25 knot wind on the nose in big steep 5'-7' seas leaving Mirasol and crew very thoroughly crusted with salt and somewhat dissatisfied with NOAA's forecast.

Finally, on Friday morning around 4AM the cold front we were waiting on passed through and blessed us with a welcome 10 knot North wind. We left the motors running for several hours and motor-sailed with the jib only. The big main sail would slat back and forth too heavily in the light winds and confused seas. We used the time to have a nice lunch, wash down the cockpit to get the 1/8th inch of salt crust off everything, and successfully test the water maker after a summer of sitting idle. A pod of about 15 dolphins came to welcome us back into the Atlantic and played about the bows for a half hour or so. They were a welcome site and cheered the crew almost as much and the wind shift!

By 1pm motors are off, seas are abaft the beam and crew was relaxing to the "Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" on the TV.

Friday night continued with moderate north winds and we sailed and motor sailed the rest of the way to Charleston without any more drama. Early in the evening, about 30 miles off the coast a small bird landed on our decks. It was exhausted and very small, so we're not sure where it came from, possibly a passing ship. It was certainly too young to fly all that way as it was not a sea bird and couldn't rest on the water.

While birds and I don't get along very well (due to the mess they make on our decks) I was unwilling to deny passage to the poor little thing. We decided to give it passage to Charleston and not shoo it off the boat. Unfortunately, it did not survive the cold night and exhaustion so we gave it a burial at sea. (Indoor accommodations were out of the question!)

As we arrived in Charleston, another Lagoon 420 was just entering the channel, and we were pleased to see our friends Linda and Rick of MakeItSo, who were also heading for the Charleston Maritime Museum. They were arriving after a passage from Baltimore. Jan and Mark of Seas The Day (yet another Lagoon 420) spent the summer here and we are glad to see them as well. It will be a lot of fun catching up with everyone.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Farewell to the Chesapeake Bay

Fall has arrived and it's time to head south once again. The leaves are changing and the air is chilly. The siren songs of the turquoise waters, beaches and coral heads of the Caribbean are beckoning. It's time to go!

We spent August and September tied up to a dock in our favorite Chesapeake location, North Point Marina in Rock Hall. Rock Hall is a fairly quiet town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. With the decline of the fishing industry they throw some fun festivals to keep the tourists coming in. We were in town for Pirates Weekend and the Fall Fest this year. Both were a lot of fun.

North Point Marina is a great place for us to settle in and catch up with some friends we haven't seen in a while. Aside from the socializing, we took care of routine maintenance items, brought the sails to a sail loft for some minor repairs and went on a couple of road trips. Quinn played in the pool, worked on his bike riding and took a couple of horseback riding lessons. As it was a very hot August, we were happy to be tied to a dock so we could use our air conditioners all we wanted.

This summer we took a few road trips. While in Charleston, we drove to West Virginia to visit family at Lindsey and Seth Tinkler's wedding. While in Rock Hall, we drove to Chicago for a visit with many of our old friends there and stayed with Frank and Jen Krause's family for several days. Quinn had the opportunity to get reacquainted with his friend Abby and Jen was able to play in a real kitchen. We also took a trip to Delaware to visit with Randy and Susan Williamson, who took us on a tour of Philadelphia's Ben Franklin Museum as well as Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. Longwood is an incredible botanical garden and conservatory founded by a member of the DuPont family on one of their estates. Check out Jen's photos on our web site. If we lived in the area, we'd certainly visit often.

Even with all these cross country road trips, I'm happy to report that we logged many more miles on the water than on the road in the past year. We sailed Mirasol over 4,600 nautical miles during our winter of '09-'10 tour of the Caribbean islands.

A big reason for spending the summer in the Chesapeake is the hope of avoiding hurricanes. So far, so good. Over the past three summers we've had a couple of brushes with tropical storms and one hurricane scare: this year's Class 4 Earl, which happily stayed well offshore as it passed by.

Several days ago, the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole ran right over us in Rock Hall. It was supposed to be just a little breezy and rainy, but it turned out to be a little more than that. There were some peppy gale-force winds for half the day and gusts as high as 52 knots. The winds were out of the South all day and stacked the water up in the north side of the Bay. At low tide Thursday night the docks and parking lot were under water and there was concern of flooding in the marina office come high tide. Luckily, by high tide, the wind had swung around to the North and pushed some water back down the Bay, preventing further flooding. As far as I know, there was no damage to the boats or the marina.

Friday morning, we woke to find the water back down to a reasonable level. As Jen prepared Mirasol for an overnight passage to Norfolk Virginia, I helped clear out some of the cubic yards of debris left behind on the docks and parking lot by the receding tide.

After saying good-bye to our friends, we slipped the lines and left North Point Marina around 11AM. It was a bittersweet departure. While we were itching to start south for another season in the Tropics, this was probably our last summer stay in the Chesapeake. We have found very good friends in North Point Marina and will miss them all.

The trip down the Bay was breezy and a little bouncy. Happily, the wind was on our stern most of the way so the crew was pretty comfortable. The northern half of the Bay was full of debris from the storm and in spite of keeping a close lookout we hit a log with a resounding thump. Fortunately, it caused no damage to Mirasol. She is a sturdy vessel.

We arrived in Norfolk on Saturday morning in time for a children's festival at the waterfront. Quinn had a great time and was pleased that there were no "grown-up things" to do, only "kid stuff". Since then we've been busy visiting the local Naval Museum, Children's Museum and doing some shopping in the downtown mall.

Come Saturday, we'll be ready to head for Charleston as soon as we get a solid 3 day window. The Norfolk Beer Fest on the waterfront is on Friday, so we have plans in the meantime!