30 Sept 2015

30/9/15 : Hurricane Watch

We saw yesterday that a tropical storm (Joaquin) has formed east of the Bahamas and is slowly tracking north-west at 3mph, with the possibility of being upgraded to a hurricane and coming ashore in Chesapeake Bay over the coming weekend.  It is now officially a hurricane but at this stage it is moving too slowly and it is too early for the forecasters to model it’s path but everyone is on alert.  

Being new to the whole hurricane thing we decided to pick the brains of the local OCC port officers for Deltaville, Solomons Island and Anapolis for recommendations on where we should head to hole up safely well in advance of any deterioration in the weather.  We were touched how quickly they all replied with useful advice, offers of berths etc etc and so we have sailed up the Rappahannock River today to Irvington where several creeks tuck in behind high bluffs and so we’re now anchored in one such place and plan to stay here several days as we keep an eye on how things develop weather-wise.

It’s a pretty daunting prospect if a hurricane is to hit the area but we are well protected where we are and know what to do to prepare the boat.  All the local people we have contacted think we're in an excellent place which concurs with our own views but we have some alternatives to consider if the track of the hurricane dictates we should move. In many ways we feel safer here at anchor than being in a marina which would be far more exposed to the brunt of the weather.  We’re still hoping Joaquin will hive off into the Atlantic but if not we’ll put out plenty of chain, securely fasten down everything, remove all canvas and sit it out.  What a start!

29/9/15 : Back Afloat

We departed the marina yesterday morning to leave on a rising tide, knowing how shallow Mobjack Bay and the Servern River are.  Fortunately we had no problems and we hoisted sail in 20-30 knots for a 40 mile sail up to Deltaville.  It was fabulous to be out sailing again after several months on dry land and we both loved it.  At times when the winds were nearer the 30 knot mark we were averaging over 10knots .... fantastic!

One of the things we had done during the summer was to have a UV strip sewn to the leach (back) of the mainsail to protect it when it is furled away inside the mast.  Whilst we didn’t enjoy paying the bill for it, it has served to stiffen the leach of the sail which makes for a tighter sail – all for the good.

The weather since we’ve been back on board has been very variable with high winds, a lot of cloud and over last weekend a lot of rain, although it is very warm.  Fortunately whilst the cloud has largely remained the winds have moderated and rain all but disappeared, all making for great sailing.

27 Sept 2015

27/9/15 : Back on board

We turned up at the boatyard early Friday morning to see Tumi splashed back into the water at high tide to be greeted by the owner with a "welcome back, here's your bill" opener.  Not a great start but we soon forgot it as we maneuvered the boat into a berth.  It was pretty windy but warm and dry so we spent the day collecting the sails, re provisioning, unpacking and cleaning.  By evening we had restored some semblance of order and Tumi looked to have survived her summer season pretty well.

Where we are berthed in the marina is pretty exposed and for the last 48 hours it has been very windy, too windy to refit the sails with the consequent clunking of lines inside the mast night and day.  Add in the small waves slapping against the hull 12 hours a day, then getting a good night's sleep hasn't been an option!  It's meant to be dying down from tonight so we're hoping we will sleep a lot better tonight.

We've soon slotted back into the social scene : There's another British yacht in the marina, one we have seen various times before but never met the owners. Well it's safe to say we all put that right yesterday with morning coffee and evening drinks.  Today is lunch aboard an American yacht who were kind enough to feed us back in May as well.   And then sleep .......

Tomorrow we'll get the sails back on, inflate the dinghy and get ready to leave on Tuesday when we plan to head up to Deltaville.  We'll have to keep a careful eye on the weather as there is a big storm forecast for the end of the week and we need to make sure we find a well - protected anchorage in good time.

25 Sept 2015

24/9/15 : Shenandoah State Park

We've spent a lot of time today in the car driving to this national park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia but it was so worth it!  The scenery was stunning, weather perfect and the drive along the Skyline Drive superb.  We did a couple of short hikes, the first of which was littered with Black Bear poop which added an extra dimension to the walk.  Throw in rattlesnakes as well on the second one, then I was glad to get back to the car!  We returned to a great Italian restaurant again tonight when we got back only to find out there are mountain lions in the area too ... Thank goodness I didn't know about them too!  All in all a fantastic day.

24 Sept 2015

23/9/15 : Williamsburg VA

Our trip down on the train from Washington DC whilst delayed was comfortable with free wifi so we spent the time researching places to visit (and to eat!) and the four hours passed very quickly.  After staying in a lovely hotel in DC (read expensive!) we'd decided to economise in Williamsburg and the contrast is marked, but the place is clean and friendly and we're only really sleeping here so it's fine.

Our reason for visiting this area is because of the historical link - Colonial Williamsburg was the first permanent settlement for the Settlers - and it has been preserved as a living museum even though 90 families still live here on a day to day basis.  So lots of colonial clapperboard properties, wide tree-lined streets, lots of people in period dress and small shops selling period-style gifts and taverns serving food from old recipes.  All in all a bit "Stepford Wives" for us but interesting to visit.  We also drove along the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown, the site of the first landing, but didn't bother visiting the reconstructed village / dock.

The highlight of yesterday had to be our meal at a French restaurant called La Yaca which was quite simply superb.  As usual Paul made the better choice .... when will I ever learn ... and his main course was an 11 out of 10 whilst mine was only (!) a 9 out of 10 which would have been exceptional if not in comparison to his!

Up early today to head to the Shenandoah Valley ..... more later ....

22 Sept 2015

22/9/15 : Washington DC

We landed back in the US of A on Saturday 19th and have been exploring the sights of the city mostly on foot. Several miles later, we have visited various memorials, the Smithsonian Museums, The Library of Congress, The Capitol, The White House (from the bottom of the garden) and the National Archives. Probably the highlight for me was seeing the actual Declaration of Independence, even if it was mostly illegible!  The Air and Space Museum came a close second, whilst Debra enjoyed seeing the incredible jewels in the Natural History Museum, including the actual Hope Diamond.

We've both been astounded at the sheer size (and cleanliness) of the buildings, not to mention the quality of the exhibits.  The interior of the Library of Congress was amazing - beautiful paintings, mosaics and sculptures.

We've been staying in a really nice boutique hotel near Dupont Circle (the embassy region but a real neighbourhood with a great farmers market on Sunday morning) which has been very convenient with a Metro station within a two minute walk.  Whilst the weather hasn't been as warm as we'd expected, and it even rained quite heavily last night, it's been ideal sight-seeing weather.

Later today we're catching the train to Williamsburg where we'll stay for 3 nights to explore this first official European settlement, together with neighbouring Jamestown.  We also plan on visiting the Shenandoah Valley in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Friday is splash-in day and Tumi will be put back in the water at 7:30 am. An early start for us if we are to be there in time for the launch. All for now ....