I'm supposed to be completing the final tasks that will make Galena ready for sea. I've been down here at the marina working on those tasks for weeks. Actually I'm just sitting around daydreaming that we've already left and are out on the ocean heading for the BVI. I'm not getting much work done.
On the positive side there are not that many tasks that really must be done before we go. There's that new LED anchor light that I bought last year and have not yet installed. There's the removable cockpit table and the final touches on the new main saloon table that I'm building. Of course I have to top-off the water and fuel tanks. But that's not to be done until the day before we go (built-in procrastination). Jane has a little more provisioning and cleaning to do before she's ready. [Later Note: I never did get that new anchor light installed. We went through the whole season with just the little Davis portable light hanging from the boom and three of those small amber yard lights that Jane had picked up at Home Depot (there was originally four such lights but one was lost in some high winds while anchored at Beaufort, NC).]
We've selected 6 November 2005 as our target departure date. I felt if I didn't set a firm date we would never leave. Without a schedule we would always have one more thing to do before we left. The only thing that will keep us in port is a bad weather forecast. I'm want to wait for a good weather window. Last year we left our slip on a day that we shouldn't have. It was cold and raining and the winds were right on the nose. But I was in a hurry and had already said 'Goodbye' to everyone. So we left when we should have waited for a couple of days. This year I hope we're smarter and more patient and that we will wait for a reasonable weather window.The current ship's log has been in use since we bought Galena two years ago. I put it away and broke out a new journal that I'd picked up several months ago. The journal is for the sailing notes, sketches, and weather reports. The notes that I write in the log are, at somewhat irregular intervals, typed into the computer log for transmission to our daughter, Michelle. Michelle has once again agreed to maintain our web site while we're traveling. She also sends notices to our friends whenever there is something new to read. That list includes most of the boaters on our dock here at Mears Point Marina.
On 5 November 2005, Jane and I moved onto Galena. We left the house, the cars, and all those land anchors in the care of our house-sitter (my sister, Tammy and her husband, Mike). We rented a car and used it to ferry the final load of equipment and provisions to Galena. Then we turned in the car and made ourselves comfortable while we waited for a good weather window.
During these last few days Jane was a bit frazzled by the “Do it Now” tempo. But she knew it was required to get us off our duffs and on our way. At that time I would have loved to have just one more week to get Galena ready to go. But then I would have just procrastinated until I had used up that extra time and was right back where I am now.
Galena looked ready for a cruise: The deck was clear (or as clear as we could make it) and everything left on deck was strapped down. The fuel tanks were full as were the on-deck fuel jugs. The water tanks were topped-off and we had enough food stored aboard for several months. So it was finally time to go. I puttered about finalizing a few things for those last couple of days. Everyone on the dock was there on that November weekend winterizing his or her boat. That meant there was time for one more party before we left.
We wanted to make the Kent Narrows drawbridge's 7 AM opening on the 6th of November. But the evening weather report was forecasting south winds at 15-20-kts. We didn't need to pound into that. So we decided to wait for one more day. Delaying our departure to the 7th of November meant that our friends on the dock wouldn't have to get up at six AM to see us off as several had planned. That is why I count the people of O-Dock, Mears Point Marina, among my best friends. We left on Monday morning after they all had headed home for the week.
Of course, once you make a decision based on the weather, the weather will decide not follow the forecasters' instructions. It looked like that was again the case when we awoke to blue skies and no wind. I thought, what the hell? Where's this blustery south wind I had feared? But by 0900hrs Galena was swaying in her slip to what they were now calling “South 15-20-kts, gusts to 30, with thunderstorms.” Waiting for a day was a good call.
By 2000hrs the wind was really cranking. Capt Terry sailed across the bay to Annapolis and reported the wind was south at 25-kts with a 5-foot chop. Yeah, waiting a day was a good call.
But by 2300hrs the wind had settled down to west at 5-kts and tomorrow was looking like a good day to leave.
On the morning of 7 November, we cast off the dock lines and motored out of the marina. We were on our way for the second year in a row. We hadn't moved Galena for a couple of weeks and so for a few minutes it felt a just little strange to be driving her down the fairway. But that quickly passed.
The wind started out at NW 15-20 gusting to 25-kts. We had a great run down Eastern Bay and out into the Chesapeake. We ran with just the Yankee jib and staysail making 6.6-kts. The air temperature was about 65.
This was so much better that last year's start. Then it was 50 degrees and raining. When we turned down the Bay we raised the main and ran down-wind still making over 6-kts with an apparent 10-kt NW wind.
This is why we have a gimbaled stove
Later in the morning the wind died down a bit. When it got down to less than 5-kts we fired up the motor. When we're out on the ocean, and we slow down to almost a stop, we just sit there. But here on the Bay, we would like to be at an anchorage before dark. With these short days of November we have to push to make our 50 miles or so per day. We were passed by s/v Indigo and talked with the skipper on the VHF.
She's a beautiful Bristol Channel Cutter 28 that I had the pleasure of visiting at the Annapolis Boat Show last month. The skipper said that they own two of them. Indigo was wintering in Deltaville, VA and their other (s/v Aloha) was cruising the Bahamas this winter.
We anchored in the same place as last year. That night there were two other boats here with us. This year we have the place to ourselves. Also, last year we arrived here at 1930 hrs, well after dark. This year we had good winds and made it by 1500 hrs.
Although we've stopped here twice now we've never gone ashore. Each time we were southbound and had our dinghy stowed away (and were too lazy to launch it). We anchor just inside the harbor and just offshore of a noisy Tiki-bar. Internet access was good from Galena's cockpit as there were six WiFi sites available. At least one was letting me on-line
On the 8th of November 2005, we awoke at our Solomon's Island anchorage to absolutely no wind. I was anxious to get to where it was warm, so we got up at 0600hrs and were making way by 0630hrs. All night long there was no wind. But again, this was a lot better than last year when we had to stay here for an extra day due to gale-force winds all night and all the second day. The night was cold, though, and we broke out the little propane heater to take the edge off. Jane spent most of the 7th of November stowing things away while I sat in the cockpit playing the intrepid adventurer. Even so we departed the marina with food and clothing stacked all around the cabin. By last night she had everything stuffed into lockers and the settees cleared enough so we could sit down to a nice dinner. Galena is really heavily loaded this time. Since this is trip number two we have (that is, Jane has) a much better idea of what to take with us, what's available down there, and how to pack. All those things that you only get through experience.
Jane also had a lot of cleaning to do. All summer long I had pretty much lived aboard Galena. And I didn't do much cleaning. So now she's wiping down all the little nooks and crannies that were full of dust and who-knows-what.
While the 8th of November started with absolutely no wind it picked up to 18-kts WSW (apparent) as we entered the Bay. At first we were having a nice ride on a heading of 190°. We had put all the sails up while in the river and that turned out to be too much sail when we got into the Bay. We reduced sails until eventually we were down to a double-reefed main and a staysail and still making a comfortable 5.5-kts to windward. Later in the day the wind died to almost nothing and backed around until it was right on the nose. So down came the last of the sails and we motored. Earlier in the day Tillie the autopilot had some trouble with the weather helm until I shortened sail. After that and while we motored she performed quite well.
Galena has two autopilots. The first is an Aires wind vane. This mechanical system was on Galena when we bought her. We named him Harvey the Helmsman. Harvey is usable about 80% of the time. He's not much use in very light air. Especially if the wind speed and heading result in the apparent wind being a lot further forward than the actual wind. Since he reacts to apparent wind, as he tries to steer and the apparent wind shifts around, he also shifts his point of sail. Sort of a self-perpetuating turn that never ends.
Galena's second autopilot is a Raymarine ST4000 tiller pilot. Her name is Tillie the Tiller Tender. Tillie is supposed to be able to handle a boat displacing up to 20,000 lbs. Galena weighs in at 19,500 lbs empty. By the time she's ready to go cruising she's up to around 22,000 lbs. To help Tillie cope with Galena's excess weight, I mounted her about twice as far forward of the rudder pivot as recommended (30” rather than the prescribed 18”). This gives Tillie more leverage but just half the throw. Fine for gentle sailing and motoring. But Tillie is often overwhelmed in conditinos of following seas. Then Galena requires radical movements of the rudder to keep her on course and Tillie just doesn't have the speed nor the throw to keep up. In conditions of heavy weather helm, I'll often put a bungie cord on the windward side to take some of the load off of Tillie.
About mid-day we spotted another sailboat heading south. She looked like a cruiser so we said 'Hello' on the VHF. You can always tell a cruiser: They have extra fuel tanks tied along the lifelines, some kind of wind genertor or solar panels, lots of overhead sun protection. We talked with Don on s/v Que Sara Sara. They were heading south to Florida then to the Bahamas. Their goal was to circumnavigate South America. That's quite an ambitious plan. They will be in Puerto Rico in February and the Virgins after that. We thought we might see them again down the road. [Later Note: In fact, we did. We saw them once in Puerto Rico and then again in the Bahamas. They are a wonderful couple and I'd like to have had time to get to know them better. Maybe next time we meet.]
On our approach to this anchorage, which is a small creek off the Indian River, I was staying way too far to the east. I was trying to avoid what looked like shallow water but which was actually about 15 feet deep. Being so far from the western shore cost us about 30 minutes in our final turn into the river. I rechecked my route for our departure and reshaped it a bit. I'm trying to get over this fear of shallow water. When driving down the ICW we often hit water that measures in the single-digits. That drives me crazy. I don't know why I'm so afraid of running aground. I've done it often enough that it should be no big deal to me. Anyway, I was able to save a couple miles by staying a little closer to the “points” along the shoreline of the Bay.
The GPS Track into Belles Creek
This is a quiet little cove; big enough for three or four boats and well protected on three sides. We anchored in the same place as last year. But this year another boat followed us in. We watched as it went further up the creek than we're used to going. Where they went looked like it might be a better place if the wind were to kick up out of the south. But as it was, there was no wind all night. We've never had anything but dead calm when we've been anchored here.
It's the 9th of November and this morning in Belle's Creek there was again no wind. But a dense fog surrounded us. It had rained the previous night and the creek was covered with a layer of autumn leaves. Over a cup of hot coffee I watched as the leaves slowly drifted by in the gentle current. With the fog hiding the shore and leaves moving by it felt as though Galena were slowly moving forward, although we were still firmly anchored.
The fog caused us to reconsider our options. Our goal of Norfolk, VA was about 50 miles away. Covering that distance requires a good, long day at 5-kts. On one hand we could wait for the fog to lift; but then we'd have to spend the night somewhere else. On the other hand we could motor out relying on the GPS track we created when we entered the creek yesterday; but that's risky. We might not see another boat or obstacle in the water in time to avoid it. Or, just as bad, another boat might not see us. We could also sit here for another day, hoping that the next morning would be fog-free.
Jane and I were discussing these points when the sailboat that had anchored further up the creek fired up her engine. We heard the buzzer and then her engine followed by the clanking as her anchor windlass hauled up the chain (another indicator of a cruising sailboat is an all-chain rode). A few minutes later she slipped by on her way out of the creek and into the bay. I could still see her at a distance about 200 yards. We decided that that was probably good enough to allow us to follow her out of the creek. And we believed that once we got away from shore and into the Bay we would be out of this fog. Also we were not going anywhere near the main shipping channels of the Bay until late in the day. So off we went. There was a quick, but quiet scramble as we went through and abbreviated departure checklist. Usually Jane will stay below in the mornings, cleaning and prattling about in the cabin. But today I needed her on deck. I like company when I'm anxious. And the calm water meant that all the putting away of things could wait until later.
Just below and to the right of the sun you can
make out the sailboat we were following.
We were motoring along at about 3.5-kts and being very careful. Jane was perched on the end of the bowsprit scanning for boats or anything else that might loom up out of the mist. I was in the cockpit straining to see and blowing our horn every 2-minutes as per the Coast Guard rules. We are (i.e.: I am) too cheap to buy an electronic hailer, so for a horn we have a little trumpet-like thing that one actually blows. After about 10 minutes, blowing that horn gets very old.
In just a vew minutes we caught up with the sailboat that had been in the creek with us. With no one to follow, he was going very slowly. When that captain saw us coming up from behind he sped up and since I was able to see him and could see if he made any sudden moves I sped up, too. By the time we were still a mile west of Windmill Point (the point where we turn south out of Indian River and into to the Bay) we came out of the fog and into a very calm Chesapeake Bay. There was still a haze on the water and there was no wind, but it was an easy cruise south. After a few hours Jane noted that it felt like we were in a canal on the ICW. No wind, no waves, just droning on under power all day long.
A very calm day on the Bay
When we turned south at Windmill Point, we joined (albeit temporarily, due to our slower speed) six other sailboats heading south. Again, Tillie did a fine job of steering Galena allowing me to relax in the cockpit.
By 1000hrs there was an apparent 7-kt wind; right on the nose. We were making 6.3-kts. That means all the wind we felt was a result of our own motion. A good portion of our speed over ground was due to the tidal current. The tide was ebbing rapidly. That would change later in the day. But for now it was a real boost. Normally we motor at 2800 rpm and that give us 5.7-kts in still water. We run at that speed because that's the most economical engine speed. It burns only ¾ of a gallon of diesel fuel per hour. That translates into 7.6 nautical miles per gallon (or 8.5 land-lubber miles per gallon). With the 85 gallons of fuel we carry, we have about a 650 nautical mile range under engine power alone. That goes up to about 900 miles when we motor sail.
The air temperature was a cool 63°F. I was sitting out in the cockpit bundled up with foul-weather gear, gloves, and wool cap. The air was so damp that I couldn't get warm.
All day long Jane was below cleaning Galena. Well, that and taking very good care of me. Throughout the day she constantly hands me meals, snacks, and drinks. I just sit in the cockpit and relax. Life is good.
Our arrival at Blue Water Marina was uneventful. We'd been here several times before and were comfortable on the approach and moving into a slip. We like this marina. It's not huge, nor is it near very many amenities. But it's well built, relatively new (or well maintained), is manned by an attentive staff, and has a nice restaurant/bar. There is also a good grocery store about a half-mile down the road.
GPS Track into Blue Water Marina, Hampton, VA
We'll be staying here two days due to the very high winds forecast for tomorrow. Fuel added: 20 Stbd, 9 Port (gives us 32/34 gal plus 15 on deck for a total of 83 gallons. Motorsailing at 5-kts burns 0.5 gal/hr giving us 800 nm range if we have any help at all from the wind. Costs: Fuel $72, Slip Fees $96 + $6 for electric. Dinner and drinks in the marina restaurant: $52. total: $226
We walked to the grocery store and bought a few essentials (and a few fun things). While walking back to the marina a very old guy stopped his car and offered us a ride. He said, “Can I give you a ride back to your boat?” Wearing our nautical-looking foul weather gear saved us a walk. This happened once before. In Florida last year a young lady exiting a Wal-Mart saw us and asked if we were heading back to the marina. Instead of having to wait for a bus we had a nice car ride
Galena in the marina showing off her new sail covers
I topped-off the water tank (only down about 5-gal) and checked the engine oil. Jane did a load of laundry. Sort of a normal lay-day in a marina. The weather was blustery and having decided to remain here two days was a good call.
I pulled out the computer and fired up Garmin's navigation software. I created a couple of routes that I pushed up to the GPS. I'm too cheap to buy the electronic maps for the ICW (I do, of course, have the paper charts). But since we've run this part of The Ditch a few times I have some old tracks that I know work. That is, I have the breadcrumbs that the GPS left when we last sailed these waters. These tracks show were were were and, since we hadn't run aground then, we should be able to follow those breadcrumbs and stay out of trouble on this trip, too. So I make routes out of our old tracks. Those routes will allow the GPS to display arrival times, distances to go, etc. as well as showing where I should be to stay in the channel. The projected arrival times lets me continue to plan and re-plan as we motor toward our nightly destinations.
I discovered that I had a misconception about this segment of the ICW: I had always thought that we could make it from Norfolk, VA to Coinjock, NC in one day. After all Coinjock is at milepost 50 and we motor at 5.6-kts. But we never quite make it in a single day. Then I realized that from this marina (Blue Water Marina, Hampton, VA) it's 62 miles to Coinjock. That's just about 3 hrs too far when you only have 9 hrs of daylight and can only make 5.6-kts. Especially when you have 9 bridges in the way and some of them only open on the hour. So we'll plan on making Coinjock in two days, not one. We'll leave Hampton at about 0730hrs and just go to the free dock between the Great Bridge Lock and the Great Bridge at Chesapeake, VA. An alternative would be to not stop here, but rather stop near Hospital Point in Norfolk, just about at mile post zero. That would put us about 2 hrs closer to Coinjock and with luck we could make it about sundown.
The Caribbean 1500 fleet started from this marina, Bluewater Marina, again this year. Part of the goodie bag they all get is a pink burgie. You see them flying from masts all over the marina. As with last year they again decided to postpone the start because of bad weather. But once again the managers of the rally decided not to wait for the weather to completely clear up. They waited just a couple of days and then pushed the fleet offshore into known bad weather conditions. As with most of these massively organized rallies, schedules really drive the event. Many crew members were helping their friends sail down to 'The Islands.' Those crew members are usually on a 2-week vacation from work and have flight reservations in the Virgin Islands waiting for them. They simply can not wait indefinitely at the start point. So they “have to go; Now.” And that's a violation of Cruising Rule #2: “Never let a schedule make decisions for you.” As with last year, they knew there was bad weather out there waiting for them but they left anyway. That had catastrophic results for some. And since they all want to start/stay together, they also violate Cruising Rule #1: "Be the master of your own vessel." They let someone else decide where and when they go.
Jane manning the lines in the Great Lock at Chesapeake, VA.
On 11th of November, at 0700hrs we left Hampton, VA and made it to the free dock at Great Bridge by 1300hrs. We felt bad about stopping so early in the day. But there was really no other good place to stop between there and Coinjock. We would not be able to get to Coinjock before dark; not even close. And no one runs The Ditch at night except tug boats and crazy people.
So here we sit. At a wide spot in the canal between Great Lock and Great Bridge in Chesapeake, VA. There's a really nice grocery store just a half-mile up the street and several restaurants within easy walking distance. That makes it a good place to hole-up for the night. The only negative is that you are not very secure (crime-wise). You are essentially just camped along the wateway at a public park. So we lock things up and secure the hatch from the inside when we stop here.We'll head out at first light (actually the first bridge opening at 0630) and make the next 38 miles to Coinjock without much problem; unless something really unexpected happens.
The morning of the 12th was quiet with just a bit of mist on the water. But the air was cool and we were again bundled up in our foulies.
The Great Bridge at Sunrise
Jane's new tassel hat and the obligatory morning smoke and cup of coffee