25/10/2007/11:04 pm, Lafayette River, Norfolk, Virginia
It's been a long two days but we made it safely to the Norfolk area. We left Solomons Island yesterday morning with winds from the southeast and were making reasonable time. Then all of a sudden the wind changed to the north - as predicted - the temperature dropped and we flew! We were lucky to have the wind and current going in the same direction as we were for most of these last two days.
I lost my jacket in one gust that just blew us over sideways and ripped everything that was loose out of place. Fortunately my jacket was the only thing that was lost, and Jim handily brought the boat back upright. It was a good reminder that things happen all of a sudden! The rain started the last while and by the time we called it a day, we were thoroughly soaked.
We saw our first pelicans on this leg - great creatures flying low over the water - and more little terns just skimming the surface. As we left Solomons Island I spotted one white egret standing on a rock - first one of those for the trip too.
Last night we spent a few waking hours in Jackson Creek - Deltaville. It seemed very pleasant, but we anchored, dried out, ate, played a game of crib and hit the sack. The rain fell off and on all night, and the thunder and lightening continued for quite a while too.
This morning dawned grey and damp again and the forecast was for 15-20 knot winds from the north and seas 2-4 feet. It's interesting that at one time we might have said, "Let's wait till tomorrow" but we joined the parade of sailboats that were taking advantage of the wind to blow further down the bay. We heard one power boat on the radio saying that he was turning to come back in, and we met another one waiting to get through the narrow channel. Indeed, I would not have wanted to be out there in one of those top-heavy motor cruisers.
We were fine, although the seas were at least 6 feet, and the wind rarely dropped below 20 knots. Jim clocked our speed over ground at 10.2 nautical miles per hour for an instant or two - more than Madcap can do on her own. We were surfing! The worst bits were getting out into the Bay proper from Deltaville, and then getting into Norfolk. That's when we had that corkscrew motion that does funny things to the stomach. We are always happy that Madcap has such a nice deep cockpit when we have a following sea like this one. Although the spray flew up and the rain fell down, we never got the wash of sea into the cockpit that can sometimes happen. We were back into full foulweather gear - and thankful for it. It was one of those days when we felt pleased with ourselves for handling the boat in rougher weather, and mighty uncomfortable at the same time. At least we weren't beating into the wind with the tide running opposite us, as we have heard so many stories about. We were counting our blessings.
It was an interesting experience to come past the long line of warships and aircraft carriers in Norfolk. Lots of power and might displayed there.
We've had a terrific time in the Chesapeake Bay these last couple of weeks, and will certainly look forward to exploring the lower part next year. For now - it's onward and southward. We met up with Strathspey again here, and tomorrow will start our journey down the ICW. After much debate, we have both decided to forgo the Dismal Swamp this trip and take the Virginia Cut. The swamp is supposed to be much more beautiful - despite its name - but its depth is 6 feet, and we draw just about that. Perhaps there will be more water in it when we come back up in the spring.
It feels like we are starting another chapter in this journey. We're in a new state - Virginia - and about to embark on yet another trip neither of us has ever taken before. There are bridges to go under or through, a lock - we haven't been in one of those since Cape Breton - and, we expect, a whole lot of boats traveling the same route. More people to meet and stories to swap, new food to discover and sights to see - yippee!
25/10/2007/10:10 pm, Solomons Island
We were certainly in luck when we made the decision to tie up in Solomons Island and get a professional to take a look at our starter. The idiosyncratic behavior of that necessary little gadget has been wearing on both our minds. Jim has poured over the manual and poked around behind the starter panel and all around the engine itself. I even dove down through the locker to brush off a corroded ground connection on a hard to reach place - all to no avail. The engine always started...but sometimes it took 4 or 5 twists of the key, along with curses or mantras depending on who was doing the twisting.
We checked the Waterway Guide and discovered that Zahniser's Yachting Centre had a Yanmar certified diesel mechanic on staff so that is where we booked a space. Imagine - Madcap on a dock twice in one week! This was a very professional place. Terry expertly took our lines, welcomed us to the facility and gave us a quick rundown of what was where. Within ten minutes - yes - 10 minutes, Jim Franklin, one of 5 licensed mechanics on staff, was on the boat and starting to figure out the problem. The short story of the fix up is that he installed a "solenoid assist" to give more power to the starter. Some of the Yanmar engines have this, but the older ones don't. The funny part of the short story is that once we had the engine starting well, it wouldn't stop! It turned out that the arm was stiff and not responsive, so he cleaned that all up got it working freely. In the process of all this fixing, Jim also gave Madcap Jim a great education. He now knows how to start, stop, forward and reverse the engine without using the controls in the cockpit, so if anything goes wrong in the cockpit panel, he can huddle over the engine and make things happen from there.
We had picked up a gadget called Algae X to polish the fuel in our system, and Jim F. installed that too. Another good piece of advice he gave us is to not ever use any fuel additives that do not say they are specifically for diesel engines. We had been told one time to use STP to clean the fuel, but this is a no-no.
On the recommendation of some local yachters, we trekked down the road to the CD Café for dinner. It is an easy walk and served delicious and innovative food with entrees in a variety of price ranges. We enjoyed conversation and wine with a local sailor, Emory, at the end of the evening - topping off a very satisfying day.
On Tuesday, while the Jims were finishing off the engine work, I borrowed a bicycle from the marina and set off to find the little village of "Lusby". My cousin, Russ, had told me there was such a place near Solomons Island, and sure enough - there it was. The Lusbys (originally from Lincolnshire, England) arrived in Nova Scotia in the 1700s with the Yorkshire settlers. I tried to find out if this was when the Maryland Lusbys arrived here, but I couldn't find out anything further back than the late 1800s.
I picked up groceries on the way back and I surely wish I had gotten someone to take my picture. One huge bag was in the basket on the bicycle, two more bags were dangling from the handlebars and the pack on my back was bursting at the seams. I must have looked quite a sight as I pedaled back to the marina - saying little prayers all the while that I wouldn't lose my balance and topple over! (I did that once in Wapoos on the way back from the winery - did damage to my pride and my knees but saved the wine)
We moved away from the dock to anchor out for the second night, and as we went exploring around the harbour to see where all the boats with the red maple leafs were from, we met up with a number of fellow cruisers from the great white north. My pencil was busy as I took notes on all the suggested anchorages and other choice bits of information that were so freely offered. We were delighted to share happy hour on Suncast with Barb and Bill from Toronto, and were joined there by Iain and Jan (Jocks Lodge). I met up with Colin and Patty (Island Song II) in the grocery store, and we stopped by Patience V, anchored next to us, to chat with Don and Heesook and their little son Christopher from Kingston ON. There are far more Canadian boats gathered here than we have seen so far and it is so much fun to get to know them. It feels like we are starting to build a community of friends - a mobile community that will ebb and flow just like the tides. The regular travelers have their favourite stops and are always willing to share their experience with the newbies. And we have developed a fair bit of experience ourselves by now that we are able to share with others.
We'll head out tomorrow morning on a long run south. We hope to be in the Norfolk area on Thursday night, to meet up with Strathspey and start the next stage of our journey - the ICW. It is still very warm here, but the wind is building and they are calling for some showers over the next couple of days. The rain is badly needed so we won't grumble about it.
20/10/2007/1:08 pm, Cambridge, MD
Since we left St Michaels, we spent a couple of pleasant nights up the creeks, and the last couple of days in Cambridge, (maybe it's not quite a city.)
The first anchorage was Leeds Creek, in the Miles River. That 30 minute trip took about 45 minutes because we had to back off a little hummock that appeared below our keel. The chart warned of shoaling, and even though we were in what appeared to be 9-foot depths, it wasn't so. We were creeping along just in case, and were able to back off the shallow bit without any trouble so we headed over a bit farther and tried again, successfully.
This pretty spot was worth persevering to get into. One or two plantation houses could be seen along the banks; there was one other boat anchored; it was tranquil. Well - except for the geese! Our familiar Canada Geese are here in great numbers - swimming in the creeks, grazing in the cornfields, flapping along overhead - and always honking.
After getting settled and going for a swim, we took a dinghy ride further up the creek in search of photo ops at sunset. Great flocks of geese rose up out of the water as we passed by, and we discovered one cove with nary a bird in sight but enough feathers floating on the surface to fill a comforter two or three times over. It was on our way back that we experienced the most profound moment. As the sky was painted with streaks of pink and blue and orange and violet, great masses of geese started flying our way. We turned the dinghy motor off and just sat there in the middle of the creek, listening to the honking as hundreds of geese flew in what looked like a totally disorganized fashion overhead. It was one of those powerful moments when we felt simply one small part of the huge natural world - the two of us there in our little boat, water teeming with life all around us, and birds that have always been inhabitants here, still present.
The next morning we headed out again, bound for the Choptank River. We've been looking forward to this part of the trip for days now. This is where James Michener set his story of the Chesapeake and we were anxious to see it. Our route took us through Knapps Narrows where we were lucky enough to move steadily along as the bridge opened. Once through the narrow channel, we picked up some wind and managed to motor sail to Broad Creek and on to San Domingo Creek. Oddly enough, this creek comes right up to the "back door" of St. Michaels. We traveled for 6 hours to get 5 miles away! We anchored in a bend of the creek in front of some lovely big homes. Our book said that Dick Cheney lives along this creek and we wondered which estate was his. Michener also lived here for several years while he wrote his book.
Some folks in a small motor boat came cruising by and welcomed us to the neighbourhood, saying that we were in a good spot and they hoped we enjoyed our stay. The next morning, as we left, one of the women appeared in front of her beautiful house to wave us a farewell. Very nice touch, we thought. Unfortunately we couldn't swim there. A few little sea nettles don't bother us, but there were more than a few in that spot so we had to take a pass on the dip to which we have become accustomed.
I realize that back a message or two ago, I mentioned that the weather had turned colder: that was temporary because it has warmed up again considerably. We are always in shorts and T-shirts and are sometimes very warm even then. The comforter has been pushed to the bottom of our berth, the ports and hatches are flung wide every time we stop, and meals are always in the cockpit.
We made this a short stop, regretfully passing up a dinghy exploration further up the creek - we wanted to get to Cambridge so we'd be able to buy produce at the Farmers Market on Friday morning. As we wound our way through the serpentine channel back to Broad Creek and into the Choptank itself, we met a sailboat with a woman waving wildly. To our great delight it was Patty and Colin on Island Song. They are from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and the last time we'd seen them was in Christmas Cove in Maine. Without losing a minute, both boats made a u-turn and we drew close enough for a catch up conversation as we drifted along. We've been in some of the same anchorages but not at the same time. No doubt we'll meet up with them again as we make our way south and we look forward to swapping stories with them. What fun it was to see them. It reminded us that even though we love the travel, and meeting new people all the time, it is really nice to find a familiar face.
We motor sailed along up the Choptank to the city of Cambridge, again doing the "into the wind/off the wind/into it again" dance. I was whining about having the motor on but it would have taken us a lot longer to get there if we tacked back and forth, and we didn't want to spend hours at what would have been a slow sail so I had to give up. Once into the harbour at Cambridge we engaged in what is for us an unusual event. Generally we either anchor on the first try or make one pass around an anchorage and stop. We almost never pull up the anchor and try again, but in this tight space we tried twice and then gave up and went elsewhere. Cambridge has a small anchorage area - Cambridge Creek -and a long wall in front of the Dorchester County offices with signs that invite cruisers to tie up for 48 hours. Unfortunately for us, there were two motorboats nicely spaced in the anchorage, and additional signs on the wall saying it was reserved for schooners arriving for the schooner rendezvous.
We have been enjoying a long run of anchoring and hated to break our pattern, but since it was late in the day and we didn't want to leave Cambridge without exploring it at all, we went in to the Municipal Yacht Basin next door and tied up. With the exception of Sandwich just before the Cape Cod Canal, this is the first time we have tied up since La Have, NS, so I guess we can't complain too much. The irritating thing is that for the two nights we were here, that wall remained empty! The schooners - the Mystic Whaler and the Pride of Baltimore - are tied up at Long Wharf, just next door to where we are now and people - including us - are wandering about for a looksee.
It has been a pleasant stay here in the Basin with a chance for showers and laundry, and being able to top up every battery on the boat by hooking into shore power. The weather report kept calling for high winds with thunderstorms likely but although we got a little shower on the way in and another sprinkle or two on Friday, it didn't amount to much. The wind blew up in a wild 20-minute gust at about midnight, and that was it for wind too, until it picked up in the early afternoon Saturday.
We picked up more fresh, organic produce at the small farmers market, and stopped by the local crab packing plant - the J.M.Clayton Company - for more of that delectable crustacean. This time it is going into my soup pot. It was surprising to learn that most of their crab pickers are Mexican women. We eavesdropped on a tour group long enough to learn that the company hires and give accommodation to these seasonal workers (all with legal work permits, the guide stressed). This is part of the federal "Guest Workers Program" in which employers who have a need for seasonal labour but who can't find workers in their local market may bring in temporary workers from Mexico. Farmers who need people to harvest seasonal crops use the same program. I wish I could have taken a picture of the rows and rows of women at long tables with heaps of crabs in front of them but it just seemed too intrusive. The guide said they could each pick 40 pounds of crab a day - that's a whole lot of crabs to pick through.
I took a walking tour of historic High Street and learned a bit about the early inhabitants of the area. Harriet Tubman lived in Dorchester County and began many of her trips with escaping slaves here. Annie Oakley lived just down the road and shot wildfowl from her second floor porch.
We've given Madcap a clean up and hired a diver to check the zinc anode on our propeller shaft. This anode is a little chunk of metal attached to the shaft. It is called a sacrificial metal - an appropriate moniker - because the idea is that it corrodes faster than the more noble metals making up the propeller and propeller shaft. All these metals deteriorate in salt water (the greater the salinity, the greater the rate of galvanic corrosion), and even more in marinas where there are stray electrical currents in the water. By replacing these periodically, we protect the other metals. We are extremely happy we did this now because the anode was completely gone. This surprised us because we weren't expecting it this soon. The boat has been in salt water for four months now, and we won't wait four months before we check it again!
Our guardian angels must be watching over us because there was no damage to the prop or the shaft. Whew!
We are off this afternoon - Saturday - to the creeks again - LaTrappe Creek, back down the Choptank. It is time to get back to the birds and the fishes.