28 August 2011
Dear Friends and Family ~
Just a few days ago, our summer aboard Voyageur was going according to plan. Then we were reminded yet again that planning and cruising don't always coincide.
Our intention this year was to spend a few late summer weeks in Maine's Penobscot Bay before beginning the return trip to Florida and the Bahamas. After leaving St. Augustine on the 18th of April, the day after Jane's birthday, we arrived in Norfolk the afternoon of May 1st and decided to continue on to Solmons, MD, without stopping for the night, one hundred miles further north. We arrived at dawn the next morning after an "interesting" night-time navigation exercise involving a very large ship.
For the next seven weeks, Voyageur crisscrossed Chesapeake Bay. We visited family in Severna Park, took two weeks off the boat to visit friends in Dallas and cruised the Eastern Shore, exploring the Chester, Corsica, Wye and Sassafras Rivers. Then, two hours before dawn on Saturday, June 25th, we won our anchor from the muddy bottom of the Sassafras and headed out the dark channel for the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. It would connect us with Delaware Bay and the coast of New Jersey, our semi-annual thirty-two hour trip to and from Staten Island's Great Kill Harbor, the link between our southern and northern cruising grounds . . . Penobscot Bay this year.
From Great Kill, we motor sailed through Upper New York Harbor and the East River to Long Island Sound. Then, after stops in Port Washington, Oyster Bay (for 4th of July fireworks), Huntington Harbor and Port Jefferson, Voyageur eased into a berth in Deep River Marina on the Connecticut River, eight miles up stream from the Sound. There she would stay while we took day trips to visit friends and family in Litchfield and replaced the weathered varnish on her exterior teak.
After six weeks of visiting and varnishing, grilling chicken, bratwurst and steaks, making new marina friends, going to movies and spending quiet nights at a dock, we noticed that a tropical depression in mid-Atlantic was threatening to become a hurricane.
As we stripped, sanded and varnished, Irene strengthened and passed over the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas as a Category 2-3 hurricane. When her track was projected to cross the Outer Banks, we began to pay more attention to forecasts and to look for an alternative spot to wait out the storm should she eventually come our way. Hamburg Cove, about two miles downriver, was a likely candidate . . . a good hurricane hole sheltered from wind by surrounding hills and trees and opened by a narrow channel off the Connecticut River.
Thursday, two days before Irene arrived, we were still in Deep River Marina and still varnishing, hoping that the fumes might somehow displace the huge storm from its projected path. Friday, the day before she arrived, it was sunny and warm and, as we unbent our genoa and staysail and laid them below, we finally decided to move Voyageur to Hamburg Cove. I had Voyageur off the dock in fifteen minutes and headed downriver while Jane drove our old Honda to an elevated parking area at the north end of the cove. (To see the cove, click on CURRENT POSITION to the right of this blog entry.)
After picking up a mooring, I rowed our dingy (our Yamaha outboard had died yet again) about a mile to gather Jane and row back to the boat to continue to prepare for the storm. We doubled Voyageur's mooring bridle and put chafe protection in place, made halyards and other lines fast, wrapped a sturdy line around the mainsail cover and pulled the drain plug on the dingy so it couldn't fill up with rain water. Then . . . finally . . . we celebrated our twenty-eighth anniversary as the first rain pelted down and the wind began to rise.
It is now 1:30 pm on Sunday. As I write this, Voyageur's barometer shows 29.2 inches or 992 millibars. The center of the storm passed over New York City, almost 90 miles west of us, an hour ago. She probably went straight up 5th avenue. Here in Hamburg Cove the rain has stopped and the wind, occasionally gusting to 20 knots, will diminish through the afternoon and evening. Tomorrow, Hurricane Irene will be well to the north and east of us and each of the last three days will be fading memories.
Memories of Maine, however, will have to wait 'til next year.
Bob & Jane Fulton