25 Oct 2015

25/10/2015 Norfolk Virginia

We sailed down here yesterday having spent three peaceful nights in Deltaville in Jackson Creek. There is a VERY narrow channel that allows access to Jackson Creek, and although the channel has markers to indicate where the deeper water is, they lie. Passing close to a port side marker on the way in, we ran aground. What??? We managed to back off the shoal and more or less ploughed our way into the creek where the water was deeper. Anchoring in 3 metres of water (we draw 2.4 metres) we settled for the next few days, enjoying the use of the marina's bikes and laundry to do the shopping and washing (such is the life of the cruising sailor, very mundane!)

Anyway, yesterday was our time to leave Deltaville. We pumped out the holding tank (always a nice task, especially as I got a bit of blowback on this occasion), topped up the fuel tank and filled 3 fuel containers as a reserve, and headed out. Bearing in mind we had touched bottom on the way in, we steered even closer to the green marker and ran aground before we even got there. Backing off the shoal, we let a catamaran go ahead of us and we tried again. Oops! aground again by the green marker, even though the depth gauge read 2.8 metres. Backed off again and repeated the ploughing action to get past the mud bank. As we progressed through the channel, it felt as though we were on the cusp of touching bottom all the way through, getting slight 'tugs' on the keel as it passed through the silty bottom. Eventually we were out and into deeper waters and could breathe a sigh of relief. Even though we have towing insurance, we don't want to end up stuck on a shoal for hours on end.

Once out into the Chesapeake again, we had a good sail for most of the journey south to Norfolk where we have berthed up in the same dock as we were earlier this year. Tumi beautifully shoe-horned herself in between the pilings and we are tied up nicely with the added bonus of shore power to deep cycle charge the batteries and to run all our electrical stuff as much as we want. There are two other Ocean Cruising club boats here as well, and we have all been invited for a barbecue this evening by the OCC Port Officers. Such a good community to be a part of. We are also planning to catch up on the latest movies while we are here!

On the way by the US naval dockyards, we saw three aircraft carriers sitting side by side waiting to be worked on. That's more than the British navy have in total. Makes you think doesn't it???

23 Oct 2015

23/10/2105 : Deltaville, VA

We arrived into Deltaville on Wednesday, negotiating our way through the very narrow and shallow entrance channel a couple of hours after low tide.  The charts said there should be 2.7m at MLW (mean low water) and we draw 2.3m so a whole 40cm to spare, but as when we hauled out the few days of westerly winds had pushed the water out of the Bay and low water is lower than predicted.  The upshot is we ran aground (the second time in Chesapeake) but fortunately we were going slowly and were able to reverse off the mud bank and made it into the anchorage.

It's a lovely spot ... pretty creek with some nice houses running down to the water and a small marina and boatyard.  The weather is warm and sunny and so we decided to stay a couple of days longer to explore ashore by bike.  We've also had a go at making our own crab cakes which were delicious.  The only downside is the number of birds who keep taking up residence at the top of the mast .... each morning the deck is covered in reminders of their presence, not something we want to wake up to but something we need to scrub off before it stains the GRP.  The joys of sailing!

21 Oct 2015

Engines etc

While we were back in the UK and Tumi was on the hard in Virginia, we asked that the engines were serviced in our absence. On returning to the boat, we were greeted with a "Hi, welcome back, here's your bill." Notwithstanding the fact that the bill was far higher than we anticipated, but it seems that the work was not done particularly well. We had to have a Yanmar engineer out to look at the engine in Annapolis as we had encountered a few problems with starting the engine after a period of it being idle and when said engineer looked at the engine, it was obvious that the 'service' was far from complete.

The other issue we had was on the outboard engine which was also 'serviced'. It too refused to start and as mentioned in an earlier blog, I had to strip out the carburettor and clean it to allow fuel to feed through into it.

We have resolved both problems but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. The learning curve is for us to use the agents from the manufacturers to get the job done properly. More expensive on the face of it, but cheaper in the long run.

We also had an occasional leak in the aft starboard cabin that we could not get to the bottom of. It turns out that underneath the hanging locker there are some water pipes, one of which had a leaking joint. Another mystery solved. We took the floor up to dry out and have replaced everything after it dried. no more leaks.

At last the weather is warming up a bit as we start to head south. Some good sailing days in the past week, and a couple of days ago as we were leaving St Michaels on the eastern side of the Chesapeake, Tumi outstripped every other boat with the exception of a big cat. They always go fast on a beam reach. It was a nice feeling and we got several envying looks from the skippers of the other boats. I always said to Debra that the reason we got Tumi is that she will sail fast, and she doesn't disappoint!

21/10/15 : Brrr, it's getting chilly .... time to head south!

In the last week temperatures have plummeted, especially at night and when the wind is blowing from the north.  We've gone from shorts and T-shirts to sail to multiple layers, hats and gloves ... quite the change!  This last weekend in particular has been cold, down from the low seventies to the mid-fifties, but fortunately we're now back into the low seventies for a few days as the wind had swung round to the south.  Typically it's from the south when we want to sail south, just as it was from the north when we wanted to sail north!!

We visited St Michael's, Maryland, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay for the weekend, having had a great sail over from Annapolis.  It's a lovely small town, obviously home to the retired wealthy looking at the shops and restaurants there, very scenic and well maintained and we enjoyed looking around.  Visiting Virginia and Maryland are States we would otherwise never have been to, as will be the same with North and South Carolina and Georgia, so it's proving a great opportunity to explore. We've had beautiful sunny days for nearly two weeks now and the trees are turning a lovely colour.

We're heading down to Norfolk for the end of the week where we'll wait for a good weather window to sail back around Cape Hatteras to North Carolina.  We don't really want to go south of 35 degrees north until after 1st November as our insurance excess should there be a named storm goes through the roof.  It's only up to the rafters in November and then from the beginning of December, when the hurricane season officially ends, it's back to normal.  Fingers crossed no named storms in November!

Chesapeake has now got that end of season feel to it.  Many local boats are organising hauling out for the winter and cruising sailors are fast heading south, in fact most of them are ahead of us.  Even the Canada geese flying in formation overhead on their way so we better up anchor and follow!

14 Oct 2015

14/10/2105 : Halloween

We've always known that Halloween is far bigger in America than in the UK but I don't think we realised just how important it is.  Since we've been back, stores having been selling pumpkins and other ghoulish decorations and more and more houses are becoming trimmed and festooned as the weeks progress.
Today, strolling around Annapolis on a beautiful Autumnal day, we photographed two of the best "efforts" we saw .....

13 Oct 2015

13/10/2015 Annapolis

We spent an enjoyable day at the Annapolis Boat Show, and I should point out immediately that I didn't buy a new one! My hands were tied behind my back by Debra to prevent me from closing any deals ... we did come close to getting a RIB to replace our dinghy, but we thought better of it and decided that ours is perfectly good. We did get a light for the dinghy for when we run it at night, it is the law over here, so we now comply with the regulations. We also got a pair of comfy cockpit seats for when we are on passage, something we have been looking for for a while.

We have been sampling the delights of the best crab cakes in the world (endorsed by Michelle Obama apparently) and we were so impressed with our first meal, we went back again for some more!

We had a terrific thunderstorm here on Saturday night, real pyrotechnics lighting up the skies. All the yachts at anchor around us were hunkered down hoping that we wouldn't get hit by lightning bolts. After an hour the skies cleared and have been clear ever since. One or two nice sunsets too.

From here we will scoot over to the other side of the Chesapeake to sample at least one soft shell crab (yes you eat the lot apparently) as they are the specialty of the region, then we will make our way south towards Norfolk ready for heading back out into the Atlantic and round Cape Hatteras. Most of the boats here are heading south now, so it would be rude of us not to accompany them. Shopping and laundry done today - what exciting lives we lead!

Last night saw the end of the sail boat show, and the show was dismantled in very quick order as the motor boat show starts on Thursday. We went to the Pussers bar last night for some rum cocktails and to watch the mass exodus of the boats from the show pontoons. Very slick maneuvering to extricate the yachts from very tight spots. We were impressed. The 'painkiller' cocktails were good too!

10 Oct 2015

11/10/15 : Annapolis

Historic Annapolis is a very attractive city with tree-lined streets, numerous historic buildings and a good mix of boutiques and restaurants all set around the waterfront .... what's not to like?!  We wandered the historic area, toured one of the large houses, home to William Paca who was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and had lunch at the Boatyard Restaurant where the broiled crab cakes were out of this world.  Apparently after dining here, Michelle Obama said they were the best crab cakes she had ever eaten and we completely agree.

10/10/2015 : Annapolis, Maryland

We arrived in Annapolis at 4pm yesterday fully expecting the anchorage to be packed because the boat show is underway at the moment.  Whilst it is busy there was plenty of room so we dropped anchor close to another British boat we know and went straight over for drinks.

One of our favourite places in the Caribbean is Gustavia, the capital of St Barth's, which is chic and scenic but the anchorage is almost untenable as it rolls so much, partly the swell but also the wake from all of the waterborne traffic.  Annapolis seems to be a similar experience, although not quite as bad as it did die down last night, but we plan to spend most of our time ashore exploring this historic city and attending the boat show.

We spent a couple of nights at Solomon's Island on the way up here from Mill Creek: It's a big boating centre but the small anchorage is very peaceful.  For the first time this season we got the folding bikes out and explored the island and neighouring mainland, all very pleasant.

Everywhere we have gone in Chesapeake, both Virginia and Maryland, we have been welcomed very warmly and have got to know a lot of American sailors, many of whom we hope to meet up with again on our journey south.

So the forecast for the next few days, as for the last few, is full sunshine but it is Autumn type sunshine as the power of the sun has weakened.  But it's still T-shirt and shorts weather so not too bad.  All I have to do now is make sure Paul doesn't go mad at the boat show, after all at the last one in Southampton we bought a boat!

7 Oct 2015

6/10/2015 Mill Creek, Chesapeake Bay

What a difference a day makes! The winds have reduced a bit, the sea state is calming down and the sun has been shining today. We pumped out our holding tank and topped up the water tank this morning (for free!) before setting out down the Rappahannock and out into the Chesapeake Bay. Making good time down the river, we spilled out into the bay and then the winds turned against us. It was going to be a beat all the way, and for a while we had our engine running as we headed straight into the wind. After a while we decided to tack our way up the Bay under sail and maintained pretty good speeds, aiming to anchor in a bay just off the north of the Potomac. However, we realised that we weren't going to make it before dark and headed off into Mill Creek instead. Good move! The anchorage is really well protected (a very twisty windy entrance) and very sheltered. Aiming for Solomons Island tomorrow where we have been invited out for drinks with a couple we met last week.

5 Oct 2015

5/10/15 : Heading north for Annapolis

It's been a very wet and windy four days as Hurricane Joaquin has headed northeastwards and clashed with a high pressure moving southwestwards with Chesapeake Bay just about where the two weather systems met.  The good news is that we've survived all this and today the weather is a lot calmer with even a hint of sunshine. The forecast for the rest of the week is more sunshine so we've put the bimini back up and plan to head off north tomorrow.

As ever when we sail the wind is from the wrong direction!  And the next few days are no different so we'll take our time and not put ourselves under any pressure to be anywhere by a deadline.

Surprisingly the last few days have passed fairly quickly: We went to Richmond on Saturday and visited Christ Church this morning, one of the oldest churches in the area, dating from the early 18th century but not so old by UK standards.  Evenings have been spent with Dan and Jackie off the neighbouring boat and have been fun.  So all in all not a bad few days and the enforced rest has at least given Paul's ribs time to ease a bit. He will still have to take things steady for a while yet. Tomorrow will bring another first as we will be pumping out our holding tank on the dockside. Our normal evacuation procedure (opening the valve and letting gravity do its bit) is not permitted within 3 miles of the coastline and they are pretty hot on that round here. Better be good!

2 Oct 2015

2/10/15 : Hurricane update

We were relieved to see this morning that Joaquin's anticipated track had moved even further offshore and so we're now hopeful it will miss Chesapeake Bay.  We're still get high winds and lots of rain (it's pouring down outside now, and has been doing for over 12 hours) but the forecast for next week when Joaquin has passed is back to sunshine and warmth .... just like the UK is now!

Off to explore rainy Virginia by road this afternoon with an American couple anchored up the creek with us - they've hired a car for the weekend and have asked us to join them.  They came for a drink last night and we all got on very well so it'll be a lot better than staying on board reading and watching movies! 

1 Oct 2015

1/10/2015 Carter Creek, off the Rappahannock River

Still watching the progress of Hurricane Joaquin. We decided to re-anchor this morning as the spot we had available last night wasn't exactly where we would like to be, mainly because there was a smaller boat occupying the spot we needed. Anyway we talked nicely to them about moving further upstream last night as they are not so constrained by their draft as we are and they kindly moved for us allowing us the prime spot. we now have 30+ metres of anchor chain out in 2.5 metres of water and we will probably put out the kedge anchor as well to really be sure that we are dug well into the riverbed.

A bit of forced relaxation will probably do us good as I think I have cracked a rib trying to remove a rope from a piling in the marina as we were leaving, The weather is a bit grim and overcast, but that is to be expected give what is lurking around the corner.

Watch this space ...