After spending the remainder of the week at Atlantic Highlands getting the work emergency handled and waiting for decent weather, we were ready to go. November 12, 2016, a Saturday, showed favorable winds, sunny, warm weather, and relatively calm seas. We decided to put the working jib up instead of the genoa because there were reports of gusts and it’s easier to do this at dock or anchor than trying to switch to the smaller sail in weather. In the process of doing so, we found that the forestay was not as tight as we’d like. However, there was no way to tighten it other than to loosen the rigging on the rest of the boat, move it a pin, and tighten it all back down. Needless to say, this took some time. So, we didn’t get underway until noon.
The plan was to get to Cape May, catch up to “Maitre D,” and carry on to Norfolk. They had a slightly rough passage, but made it without incident. Only having the two of them aboard, though, and taking overnight passages meant they had less sleep. So, they took some recovery time in Cape May. The forecast and the beginning of our trip south showed that we had a good change of getting to Cape May in 22 hours or less, and that would coincide with their departure. Laying in the boat during my off-shift time, finally under sail, it was so smooth, flowing, and just good, I was able to rest with a calm and joy about the trip that had been lacking through most of the trip thus far.
About 9:00pm, when we got a little further south and the coast turned a little to the west, we and the wind turned toward each other, and we lost a lot of headway, taking wind and increasing waves in the teeth. We removed all sail and motored from then on. The temperature dropped and we spent some of the time watching from within the little “Captain Nemo” entrance to the cabin in order to stay warm while “Phil,” the autopilot, kept us on course. Still, we were only making about 3 knots headway.
Then, Phil started to loose his focus. While an autopilot is very useful, one must always remember that he has a single-minded focus. If, for example, one were to fall overboard while the autopilot is engaged, he’ll happily leave you floating. If another vessel, a freighter perhaps, is on an oncoming course, Phil is the best “chicken” player on the planet. So, when he starts to forget what he’s doing and decides to go into a spiral, it’s not a good sign. As a result, the rest of the trip required someone on deck keeping things straight. Ultimately, the waves got high enough Phil was ineffectual anyway.
Instead of getting to Cape May by 10 and joining up with “Maitre D” for the Norfolk run, we got in just before dark. 28 hours to go 123 nautical miles.
We decided against going the short route to Norfolk the next day because there was another small craft warning for that area. So, we headed up the Delaware Bay, taking what was the route we’d originally planned months ago. It was a long fight against wind and current, the latter being even more intense due to the full moon. But, we got to see dolphins playing not far away. We got to the mouth of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal about 9pm and anchored amongst barges and tugs.
Up and moving at sunrise, we made it through the C&D Canal and into the Chesapeake Bay, and to our destination about 9pm again. This time we went to the Bay Bridge Marina so we could get a refuel, etc. But, no one was answering at the marina, so we just pulled in and took the first slip we found. In the morning, Gabe and I walked to the grocery, 1.5miles away, bought a ton of food, with the thought that we could get a cab back. We were wrong. My shoulders were tight for days after that. We got the fuel topped up, the holding tank pumped out, and water refilled, and were not charged for staying the night.
I’m hoping that we’ll be able to anchor out more now and start going a bit more on the cheap, skipping the marinas. It should be warmer. We’re quite full of supplies. There should be more places where we can safely tuck in. Now we’re cruising!