Portsmouth/Norfolk, VA – Say What?
24 October 2010 | Portsmouth/Norfolk, VA
Sylvia - Sunny and WARM finally
23 October, 2010
At last we were able to leave Cape May. We cast off at 0800 - the last of the boats on the fuel dock to do so. They were all headed up the Delaware Bay and we were going outside to Rudee Inlet near Virginia Beach, VA. We had to make sure we didn't get there too early. Not only did we not want to arrive in the dark but we wanted high tide since the inlet is supposed to be dredged constantly to 10' but is subject to shoaling between dredges. The manager of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center felt we would be fine depth-wise.
The day started out as predicted with the winds up to 20 mph WNW and the seas 2-3'. Then by noon the wind was from the west at 15 mph and the seas were down to 1-2'. Now this is looking good for a possible long run right past Virginia Beach and on down to Beaufort, NC. We had until 1600 to see how things went for we would be at the point then where we would have to change course to continue to Beaufort. I called a place in Beaufort and they would be able to accommodate us on Monday if we made it that far.
But we can plan and plan and then Mother Nature has her plan. It is wonderful when they mesh but that wasn't to be the case today. By decision time the winds were out of the WSW at a steady 20 mph , the seas were 3-5' and , yes, they were both on the nose again. Well, that let the Beaufort run out since we were now making only about 5 - 5.5 knots of speed over the ground.
Night fell and we were racing along on a beautifully moonlit sea. The moon lit a huge swath of the water and lit up the boat so much that we and everything else cast moon shadows on the boat. The boat was pounding in the seas periodically and the spray that was splashed up was spectacular as was the foam that went streaking past our hull.
I took the first night watch while Bill got some sleep and then we switched at 0100. How to describe the night sail? It was beautiful but not a gentle ride at all. I sat at the top of the companion way under the dodger to avoid the spray from the bow splashes and to stay out of the wind. For a while there were lights on land to our starboard and there were a few other boats around - some pleasure and some commercial. They were never very close but sitting there it was fun to imagine who was on board and where they were from and going to. With only the sound of the wind, the water rushing by and the occasional slamming of the hull on the water there was plenty of thinking and imagining time.
Then it was time to go down below and update the ship's log and while there use the head. That sounds simple but in these kind of seas it is a very carful and deliberate act. First one must drop drawers and then hang on to something and try to lower yourself on to the toilet seat so that your bum doesn't get smacked on an upward movement of the boat or so that the seat doesn't suddenly fall away from your bum as the boat drops beneath you and you just plain fall onto the seat. Timing is everything. Then it is time to stand again. Stand up and lean against a wall and pull your drawers up quickly so you can have a free hand to grab something if the boat lurches. Now lean against the wall again and get everything put back together. Your done but there was nothing simple about any of the process. Now you can go back on deck and continue your watch.
This is the first night passage when the moon has been out and it is a full moon so the stars are not as bright as you would like them to be. But it is great for seeing things.
24 October, 2010
Bill took over the watch at 0100 and I got to sleep as best I could with the noise of the engine and the wind and the boat pounding. Yes, we were motoring - remember I said wind and seas on the nose. While Bill was on watch the winds built to 25 knots and the seas were now 4-6'. Good decision not to go to Beaufort and we had also decided that we didn't want to try to make the Rudee Inlet in this kind of weather.
So that is where Portsmouth/Norfolk, VA enters the picture. That was the only other alternative we had other than turning around and going back to Cape May. We had done this once on this trip and we didn't want to or feel the need to do that again. I had called the Tidewater Yacht Marina in the afternoon and they had a place for us.
I was back on watch at 0530. We were so far down the coast and it was so late that for awhile there were no lights on shore and there were no other boats anywhere on the horizon - either ahead or behind us. Soon though I could see shore lights and many red lights ahead as well as flashing lighthouses. We were getting near the opening into the lower Chesapeake and the turn which would get us to Portsmouth/Norfolk.
The sky started to glow red and then the sun rose around 0700. It was time for Bill to get up and the two of us to be alert to all of the navigation buoys and lights. By then most of the lights on the buoys couldn't be seen any more in the daylight but we could now see the buoys themselves. We were busy making sure we knew what we were looking at though because this was the entrance for major shipping and, of course, the Norfolk naval base. That meant lots of navigational aids to sort out. We were entering into the channel around 0800 when a pilot boat came by us and wanted to know who we were and where we were going. They took the info, gave us the VHF channel (13) to stay on so we could keep track of the commercial traffic and told us where the moving vessels were heading. There 5 ships that were just anchored out waiting for their turn in harbor but there would be other vessels coming out as we progressed up the channel.
It is a long haul into Portsmouth/Norfolk - 24 nm from the entrance of the channel to the marina. At 6 - 8 knots that is 4-3 hours. Oh, to be so close and yet still so far. We were lucky and hit the current right and got a boost so we had 8 knots over the bottom and made it to the marina by 1100.
We were quickly tied up in our slip with the help of marina staff. We were pretty tired by now and they really did help out. We got Eos settled and then it was grab some sleep. I briefly chatted with a couple of the boaters near us and they told us they would be quiet so we could sleep. I told them it wouldn't matter; we were so tired we wouldn't hear them anyway.
By late afternoon we had both recovered some and it was time to clean up inside a little. Water from the splashing bow had come into Bill's work shop until we realized what was happening and shut the low deck vent where it was coming in. So now there was water under the floorboards in the work shop. We got that cleaned up and decided that was it for the rest of the day.
We went up to the Deck House restaurant here in the marina for an early dinner. While watching a local catamaran (probably close to 40') maneuver its' way into its' slip we struck up a conversation with a couple near by - Roy and Beverly. It turned out they are Canadians from near Toronto, are Great Lakes Cruising Club members as well and are taking their power cruiser to FL. They had already finished eating but invited us to join them at their table. We ate while they had a drink and we had a wonderful conversation as well. They are not leaving tomorrow either so we expect them to come over to see us sometime tomorrow. Roy wants to look at Bill's fuel filter system.
During the day I did some looking at the weather forecasts and once again we may be sitting for several days waiting for the right weather. A northern wind is what we want . That will keep the wind and the seas off our nose and give us some boost down the coast. This next leg is 262 nm with nowhere to stop along the way. Depending on our speed that means anywhere from 52 hours at 5 knots or 38 hours at 7 knots. Anyway we look at it, it is a two day two night passage. I doubt we will get ideal weather for the whole trip - now that is really dreaming - so we will have to pick a time when it will not be so awful for most of the trip.