Leg 1 of Transit South to KW
13 October 2014 | Tidewater Yacht Marina, Portsmouth, VA
We left our Parkwood Community home dock in Annapolis at 0650 on Sunday, Oct 12. As we came out of Back Creek, the sun was rising and the wind was howling with fast-moving overcast clouds. For the first couple of hours, we had 4 ft seas following us on the port aft quarter and 22 kts blowing right down the Bay. If the seas had been calmer, it would have been perfect for the gennaker, but with the seas, wind and waves, we motored.
Around 1000, the skies cleared, the waves calmed to about 1-2 ft on the port beam, but the wind died below 5 kts and was all over the place so we kept motoring to keep on schedule and our planned 5 kt SOA. Overall, though, it was a pleasant mid-day. We saw very little traffic but lots of birds and wildlife. Good views of Calvert Cliffs, Cove Point, and Pax River. As I made lunch for the crew, I even turned on the TV in the salon to catch some NFL pre-game broadcasts and test the DC TV and reception. It seemed a bit surreal to be watching football on HDTV as we were heading down the Bay! It was just like being on the couch at home on a Sunday afternoon!
Around mid-afternoon, the skies began to get overcast again and the wind and seas picked up more to about 15 kts and 3 ft. One of the additions we made before departing was to have SiriusXM satellite weather installed, and we could see a rain front coming from overland on the chartplotter. We zipped-on the connector between the bimini and dodger, and took down the gennaker to keep it dry and out of the anticipated weather. At this point, we were around the MD-VA line and the inlet to the Potomac River. Luckily the rain front passed with hardly any sprinkles but the clouds and sun patterns provided some great shots that Wayne captured (see the photo album – link to the right). With the rain front, the seas remained a bit rough with 2-3 ft waves that continued and built past sunset.
As dusk and darkness set in, the wind picked up again to about 15-18 kts with gusts to 20 and waves continued on our port beam. We had some passing commercial traffic (barges, tugs, freighters) so it was a good test of our light identification skills, radar, and AIS. As it got darker, the boat traffic stopped, but we had a single gull keeping pace along the boat on the starboard side using the light cast from our running light to reflect fish in the surf. Every so often he would dive down, scoop one off, and fly out of sight with dinner / snack in beak. After a few minutes, he’d return. This went on for quite awhile until a group of about 10 other gulls joined in, and then another 10. At one point, we had about 20 or so gulls racing along with us, diving down for chow, and squawking when one took another’s delectable or flew into another. When the moon came up, it was partially blocked by clouds (another beautiful sight), but the ambient light gave the gulls enough reflection to move off away from us and we didn’t see them the rest of the trip.
As we got to the bottom of the Chesapeake around Cape Charles, a big tug and barge overtook us from behind, passing on the starboard side. The current really began picking up. It was a neat sight to see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel lit up from the Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach, and the two tunnel sections beckoning to the Atlantic Ocean. As we came into the convergence of the Elizabeth and James Rivers at Thimble Shoals, the current was even more intense and the lights of the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge and a large LNG anchored in the vicinity played an interesting game with our perception of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, not to mention two large yellow buoys that weren’t lit! Gene took up sea-and-anchor detail to keep a good eye out and aid in getting in. As we headed up the Elizabeth River and passed the Norfolk Naval Base, the wind died down and the waves and current diminished – the first calm since leaving Back Creek!
We navigated up the Elizabeth River past all the military and industrial complexes to the Tidewater Yacht Marina where iWinds2 will remain until Leg 2 begins on Oct 27. We arrived at 0500 when everything was closed so we went ahead and anchored off Hospital Point, had a quick night cap to finally exhale and toast this leg of the journey, and went to bed. In all, I had planned this 140nm journey on a 5 kt SOA so anticipated a 28-hour transit. In reality, we made better time and had a following current for a good portion of the trip so it only took 22 hours at an average speed of just below 7 kts. Part of this was also due to motoring and not sailing. I set the engine to 2200 rpms and we maintained a good, comfortable cruising speed that only took about ¼ tank or roughly 15 gallons. iWinds2 handled the sea conditions well, albeit a little rocking and rolling with the sea state and wind, and all systems worked well with the exception of the depth sounder that had an intermittent signal throughout the journey (gotta figure this one out for the rest of the trip).
At 0800 we were up – a lot tired still – had breakfast, pulled anchor, and slipped into the marina. We got everything put away and systems turned on or off, took a shower, and headed to the airport to return to Annapolis for the Boat Show Breakdown – which we made in time. Now, to get ready for Leg 2 . . . .