With plans to spend more time on the Bay in the spring.
Day 20, November 4
We enjoyed our time in the Chesapeake, and leaving as we did, without spending more time and visiting more destinations, left us both feeling a bit let down. How did this happen?
In a word: weather.
This has been a tough first three weeks of our cruise. First, we were bashed to death by westerly gales in Long Island Sound. New Jersey gave us a surprise break with a fair window to get down the coast and up the Delaware, but the Weather Devil assaulted us again in the Chesapeake. The pattern of Small Craft Advisories and Gales called the shots with respect to where we went, and even if we went anywhere at all. It also kept us in protected marinas instead of remote coves. We couldn’t find any rhythm to our trip, and our expectations were tossed in the trash bin.
While we were enjoying everything about our visit to Solomons Island on the Patuxent River on the Chesapeake’s western shore, we were struggling with What Do We Do Next? Bruce wanted to run up the Potomac and spend a few days in D.C. but we were looking at several days of rain which would take the fun out of exploring the city. I had always thought that gunk holing on the eastern shore during October would be cathartic, but not really, with the wind and rain. That Weather Devil was messing with us again and none of these hopes seemed plausible. More gales. More rain. Three to four foot seas.
After slipping our lines at the friendly Spring Cove Marina at about 8:00 am on Sunday morning and fueling up with the cheerful girls at Solomons Yachting Center, we headed out the mouth of the Patuxent River and regretfully headed south with no specific destination other than generally towards Norfolk and the ICW.
Winds were easterly with a northerly component, and it was sunny. Surface conditions were not bad at first and we started running at our preferred eight knots, but as we passed out of the mouth of the river and onto the bay, it became bumpy enough to want some throttle for an easier ride. We gradually added speed as the sea state dictated. Soon enough we were up to our 15 knot fast, thirsty cruise. We looked at all the possible destinations we had been contemplating and quickly realized that shooting all the way for Norfolk was the best choice. I was disappointed by this, but given our ability to make tracks, and the rainy and blustery forecast for the next day, off we went. *sigh
This was the first decent travel day in a while, and there were a lot of boats taking advantage of it. Our AIS showed a veritable highway of vessels all lined up down the bay, headed south. The sailboats in particular were having a terrific ride in the close-reaching conditions. A little bit of envy…??? Maybe, but we did blow by them and would make a lot more miles before the next weather system descended. The Mighty Esmeralde was flaunting her stuff and I was happy.
I have to confess that I was a little bit distracted during the trip. This was NYC Marathon Sunday, and I had the race on the TV as we cruised down the bay. Very Bad! But I enjoyed it. Excellent showing by the American women, Flanagan (3rd), Huddle (4th) and Linden (6th), Kieffer (7th). You Go, Girls!
We had a short and professional chat with some Navy boys on a few YP boats that were running up towards Annapolis, presumably for the Army-Navy football game festivities this coming weekend. Port-to-port, yes please. And we passed and chatted with our long-lost friends Paul and Kathy aboard their Selene 43 Miss Elly.
Via Facebook we got some condition reports from boats further south, headed into Norfolk. They advised that it was rough and uncomfortable, so we anticipated an unpleasant ride across the bottom of the Chesapeake and into Hampton Roads. Both a Flemming 55 and a Nordhaven 65 were complaining.
Fortunately, at least for us it didn’t materialize. The current, which had been against the wind in the morning, turned favorable in the afternoon and was no longer running against the northeasterly breeze, so by the time we approached the open water at the mouth of the Chesapeake, the sea state wasn’t bad. There were small rollers coming in from the east but Esmeralde handled them like the champ she is.
Still, it was nice to ease into Hampton Roads in the late afternoon sunshine, the first day of Eastern Standard Time, and enjoy slow trawler speeds in flat water for the last few miles of the day. We enjoyed the views of the Navy ships in the dockyards, and the skyline of Norfolk.
We contemplated the anchorage at Hospital Point, but the weather (that weather thing again) called for 30 knots of wind and rain, so we opted instead for the Tidewater Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, which had a slip waiting for us. We pulled in at about 1600 after a 99-mile run in seven hours. The boat needed another good bath.
We refueled with a yummy dinner onboard.
This was it: mile zero of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The next phase of the trip is about to begin.