Monday, July 22, 2013

Return to Chesapeake Bay

View of Norfolk from Portsmouth, Virginia
     This spring while sailing north along Chesapeake Bay we learned a few valuable lessons due to a smorgasbord of weather events. Even though Chesapeake Bay is nearly an enclosed body of water it commands a certain degree of respect. Southern Chesapeake Bay is a large body of water with an expanse of approximately 35 miles across near the mouth of the Potomac River. When winds kick up over 12-15 knots in any direction combined with an opposing tide, an uncomfortable short, steep chop builds quickly with the occasional wave break over the bow and dodger. Wind on the nose can seem like a never ending slog to weather.
Garden in Portsmouth Virginia

Greenhouse door in Freemason District, Norfolk

Fishing Bay Yacht Club, Deltaville, Virginia

     After spending a few relaxing days in Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia the time had come to continue traveling north. Fishing Bay Yacht Club in Jackson Creek was our first overnight stop along the Chesapeake. Most mornings Joe monitors NOAA weather broadcasts over the VHF radio. I'm usually working on my "beauty sleep" but, one particular morning I was rudely awakened by the words...tropical storm warnings for southern Chesapeake Bay! I sat up in bed shrieking, "Did I just hear tropical storm warnings or was I dreaming?" "Where the heck did this come from? We haven't heard anything about a tropical storm!" It seemed that Tropical Storm Andrea the first named storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season had formed from a trough of low pressure situated over the Gulf of Mexico during the afternoon of June 5th. The storm had sustained winds of 45 mph and was forecast to move rapidly up the eastern seaboard arriving in lower Chesapeake Bay the following day.

The pool at FBYC overlooking Fishing Bay
      It was late spring and I was confident that the frequent cold fronts and storms we'd experienced during the winter had finally ended. We'd certainly experienced our share of weather situations this season with gale force winds in Oxford in September, Hurricane Sandy in North Carolina in October, numerous cold fronts during the winter in the Florida Keys and tornado warnings this spring. I reasoned with myself, "What's one more storm?" We actually had the audacity to think we could outrun Andrea two days prior to her arrival by heading north to Solomon's Island. From our vantage point at Jackson Creek with white caps crashing over a shoal area we assumed that once we'd rounded the peninsular of protective land and settled into deeper water the situation would improve. Wrong! The situation worsened. Breaking seas increased in size, and the wave period was short. Simple Life was making little to no headway. Joe tacked off hoping to make progress, but it was evident that we needed to turn the boat around and head back to a sheltered anchorage.

Simple Life and Chanticleer
     We prepared for Andrea by securing Simple Life behind a peninsular of land in Jackson Creek in Deltaville, Virginia with hopes that the land would protect us from oncoming wind and waves. Everyone in the Deltaville area was fortunate. By the time of Andrea's arrival at New Point Comfort, Virginia in lower Chesapeake Bay winds were reduced to 35 mph accompanied by buckets of rainfall. Simple Life survived the storm without a scratch. When Andrea headed north pummeling the east coast with serious flooding we decided to make a run for Tipers Creek in the Great Wicomico River where we planned to rendezvous with cruising friends Bob and Pat of Chanticleer who were kind enough to invite us to stay at their dock and lovely home in Wicomico Church, Virginia.

     Our rendezvous with Bob and Pat was a welcomed reunion
since we had last seen them in Boot Key Harbor in the Florida Keys. Upon arrival they offered to take us grocery shopping in town, refill our propane tank and planned a special dinner for us that evening. Pat even offered to let me catch up on laundry chores while enjoying dinner. The following evening Pat invited their friends Bob and Julie, another cruising couple who also have a home on Tipers Creek to join us for a barbecue dinner party on their screened porch overlooking the creek. Bob and Julie have been cruising to the Bahamas and west coast of Florida for a number of years and we all enjoyed trading "war stories" of our experiences living aboard.

Pat and Bob at their home on Tipers Creek
     We made plans to move on the following day since we had over 400 miles to travel to reach our summer destination in Rhode Island. Our enjoyable journey was beginning to evolve into a delivery. Both Joe and I felt the urgency to continue moving north and hoped to stay on the move as long as weather held. Since our departure from the Keys in April, we'd traveled 29 days. Real life began creeping back into our lives whether we liked it or not. The freedom that we'd come to enjoy and expect during the fall and winter months began to fade since responsibilities back in Rhode Island began to take hold becoming our new reality.