Friday’s forecast was for NW winds 10-15kts, gusting to 25kts. Perfect for a fast sail south, but boy was it cold! Rugged up in our Icebreaker gear we dropped our mooring lines at 8.30 am, with the help of Peter, Phil and Gayle who’d come to farewell us off the dock. Hard to believe we were actually leaving after all this time, but there was Joe waving to us as we passed through the Spa Creek drawbridge, and there was Rod on the other side of bridge with a cheery wave goodbye. Goodbye Annapolis, we were on our way!
After fuelling up, we headed out into the bay, put a reef in the main then pointed the bows south. This was going to be our ‘shake down’ cruise to Hampton, approximately 140NM down the bay.
Chesapeake Bay is a busy commercial waterway and there’s numerous crab pots and fish traps to catch unwary players, so day-sailing is definitely the go. As Toucan started to show us what she could do, we started grinning from ear to ear. 10.3 kts SOG (speed over ground) was our record that first day, on a flat and stable platform. Being able to stand in the galley and make a cup of tea without spilling a drop is a joy indeed!
Our first night we anchored in Solomon’s, a pretty little place with many anchoring hidey-holes. We didn’t need to go ashore so we anchored a way up the creek and enjoyed being back on the hook again.
Saturday the wind was lighter so we motor-sailed much of the day under clear sunny skies and spent Saturday night in Reedville, a small fishing town just inside the Virginia border.
Like the geese flying south overhead, there’s a veritable migration of boats heading the same way as us, all different shapes and sizes but quite a large contingent of catamarans. We found a quiet spot up Cockerill Creek to anchor on Saturday night, but within an hour we were surrounded by another 4 boats. It always puzzles me (and yes, annoys me) why people feel the need to anchor right on top of you when there’s so much other space?? We discovered we’d made our snubber bridle too long (particularly for this shallow water) so it wasn’t doing the job it was supposed to, namely keeping the tension off the anchor chain. So I had a rather restless night listening to the chain grind on the roller as the boat swung this way and that in the wind, worrying whether the anchor would hold. Bruce of course, slept like a baby!
The wind picked up again overnight, and so we got an early start hoping to make Hampton by Sunday night, approximately 60 NM away. Except the port motor wouldn’t start. We figure there must be a problem with the battery charging connections as the starter battery was flat (it’s a new battery). Luckily after running the starboard engine for a while it charged the port battery enough to get it going. After cleaning off the mess of thick, gluey, stinky mud from the anchor and chain we were on our way again. And what a day of sailing we had! The wind was again mostly from the NW and up around the 17-20kt mark for most of the day. With two reefs and half the genoa out we were flying down the bay. This time Bruce got the highest SOG of 11.7kts (not that we’re competitive at all!) Woohoo! Talk about fun!
Bruce got a lot of practice reefing and un-reefing until his shoulders were about to drop off, but we arrived in Hampton at 4.30pm, tired but very impressed with the boat. We’d made a booking at the Bluewater marina for Wednesay onwards, so we motored past looking for a spot to anchor in the Hampton river. Not an easy task with so many boats here gathering for the rally, and very few anchoring options. We eventually squeezed ourselves in next to another cat, almost at the furthermost navigable point (for us), right near town centre and the highway.
It’s a bit noisy with the traffic, but we don’t care – we made it to Hampton without too many dramas! Tomorrow we’ll start the ‘to do’ list again, checking the battery situation, shortening the snubber, replacing the rope clutches on the mast which both slip, plus get into the swing of all the Salty Dawg rally events. It’s going to be another busy week!