Friday, July 13, 2012

Heading to Cape Charles for a Week

No Wind
We have a contract on a house in Cape Charles and we are planning on closing on it July 1st (which later got delayed to August).  So we thought it might be nice to sail down and spend a few days around the Fourth, have the closing and get a nice trip in as well.

Logistically we had to prep the boat, have all the money moved for the house closing, load Bonnie's projects she wanted to take down to sell with Dora, her good friend, get dog and cats cared for, and coordinate anything we missed from the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.  But with Bonnie at he helm there is nothing we can't pull off.  So why not?  

Man it was Hot!
Off we went at 7:05am on Friday to sail down.  Is was already hot and there was practically no wind.  Luckily we caught an outgoing tide and the current was running a good half knot in our favor.  So we averaged about 8 knots for the first 8 hours.

The current subsided and we slowed to about 6 kts for the last third of the trip.  All in all, it was 17 hours mooring to dock.  I think that is a record 120 mile run for any boat I have had.

The day was hot and calm, with a slight swell coming from the south.  We had a nice time and were very relaxed.  I did some work and coordinated a certified check for delivery to Cape Charles.  I had to guess the amount, as the Settlement company was on "Eastern Shore Time" and did not have a final number for me.

Bonnie cooked dinner in the the solar oven.  It was beef stew, and it cooked all day while we sailed.  It was delicious!  Just after dinner we passed two pods of dolphins.  Each had to have about 20 dolphins.  

We watched the sun set and said those fateful words: "what a wonderful day".  As if on queue, and cause we came in close enough to shore for cell phone coverage, Bonnie's iPhone beeped with a Thunderstorm warning.  She opened up the App and the weather map showed a huge storm heading our way.  It stretched from Baltimore to Norfolk.  A big red section was about two and a half hours from us. We were two and half hours from Cape Charles.  The only other option, was an hour and a half to Cherrystone.  But we had never been there and it looked like a big marshy area.  So we decided to attempt Cape Charles.

I calculated the distance a few times and we watched the storm track.  It was really going to be close.  Cape Charles is only accessible from the south and one must sail past it and then take the channel north into the harbor.  The flats and breakwater were very shallow, and it was just about dead low tide.  As we were just off the harbor, still with 45 minutes to go if we followed the channel, the lightning started.  The thunderstorm warnings called for extreme wind speeds.  So what not try a to cut across the flats?

Last item we were in Cape Charles, we learned from the town museum that the flats were created by an eroded breakwater, housing an old WWII Navy munitions storage facility that had broken up of the last 60+ years.  So concrete, rocks, steal beams, and wood along a shallow sand bottom, at low tide, at 11pm with a thunderstorm heading our way.  Hmmm.  Sounds like a challenge.

So we turned east and headed for the harbor.  Well I have to say its a rarity that I find the depths on a chart are actually deeper than what is really there. Also, its an odd feeling with in 5 feet of water the depth suddenly goes to 2.9 feet and then back.  Our boat draws exactly 2' 8" of water. Obviously something big was under us.  We altered course around the scary spots and never actually had to use the braille method of navigating.  We saved about 30 minutes crossing the flats.  We found our assigned space easily and tied up on the T head with 15 minutes to spare.

The winds hit hard.  Top speed according to another boat was 47 kts.  Within ten minutes there were three foot swells in the harbor - which has limited protection to the west.  We were stern to the wind and bucking like crazy.  Boats all around us were pounding the against the floating docks.  I put a fender on a small power boat next to us that was getting badly beaten. I added a second line to our stern and noticed the first was chaffing badly as I had not put in the chock properly.  

Waves were hitting our stern and breaking over the stairs on each hull.  It felt like standing on a seawall with the wave crashing on it.  The floating docks were bucking almost as bad as the boats.  I got five lines off of the stern, two from the outer hull and three from the inner hull.  As I tied the last line, I realized the cleat on the floating dock was starting to give way.  So I then tied a line from that cleat to the next one to reduce some load.  I thought we were good and got back on board - timing my jump with the waves.

Once on board I checked all the lashings on sails, and the dinghy.  Everything looked good.  I went in to check on Bonnie and she was in her pajamas ready for bed.  She had the inside of the boat prepped and was watching the storm from comfort.  A few large gusts hit again, so I glanced outside.  There, just up wind of us, a 50' power boat had broken its stern and spring lines and was swinging wildly.  No lights were on. In the waves I was not sure I could get a line on it.  I told Bonnie about it and that I was going to see if I could secure it before it broke free and came at us.  I told her she might want to get dressed and be ready to get off our boat if it started coming our way.

I met another sailor on the dock on the way over.  He was checking his lines.  We both went to the power boat.  Two couples in their 70s (best guess) were aboard and not able to get off to get new lines to the dock.  They threw some to us and we heaved them in.  

The storm lasted for about an hour. My guess is the the waves in the harbor were 3-4 feet.  The new floating docks got a bit of damage.  I know we loosened a cleat or two.

Back home in Annapolis, the power was out, and would stay out for the next six days.

So started a wild and wonderful week (that turned into 11 days) in Cape Charles.

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