With the arrival in Norfolk, we had arrived in the Chesapeake area! We had heard so much about this bay. The eyes of American usually sailors light up if you mention you’re headed for Chesapeake. They will tell you all about their favourite towns and anchorages, even the US ambassy officer in the Bahamas didn’t approve our visas before listing up some must-sees. Needless to say, we had high expectations. We planned to sail the Chesapeake Bay all the way north up to the C&D canal, transiting into the Delaware Bay and sailing down south again into the Atlantic Ocean.
We tied up Scehawk to one of the free docks of Portsmouth, which is the ‘sister city’ of Norfolk, opposite of the river. The dock was in repair and we managed to wedge the boat in the only corner that was not taped off. It didn’t go very smoothly because we were still shaken up by the barge incident. At one point Thomas jumped on land to tie us up (because I told him to) while I panicked and reversed the boat away, leaving only me on the boat to dock in that impossible corner. We managed in the end. And we’re still married. Our friends on Bora Bora and Matenka joined us on the dock as well, and we celebrated the reunion in a German biergarten.
The weather turned from super hot to super wet and we decided to outstay our welcome on the free dock. We used our land time for some boat chores, exploring Norfolk and we went to the cinema. The legendary cinema in Portsmouth serves you food during the movie and it looks like a theatre straight from the twenties. It has little tables with cosy lights and a telephone on which you make your order. It only shows one movie, so it was an easy choice: Star Wars!
After a couple of relaxed nights on the dock, we were ready to go sailing again. The weather looked promising and the forecast was nice, so we headed out together with Matenka and Bora Bora. Our destination: Yorkville. As soon as we sailed out of the city, the wind got stronger and colder and the visibility turned bad. That can be a sign of a nasty storm blowing through the bay, so we considered calling it a day and anchoring at Hampton (just a mile or so north of Norfolk). But once we were almost there, the fog lifted and we continued our way to Yorkville. We read about free moorings, which got us interested of course. We tacked into the wind and finally arrived there, only to find out that the moorings looked like floating bombs and were unusable. Also, the suggested anchorage was unsheltered from the wind and waves. We didn’t want to continue so we decided to drop anchor anyway. On the bright side: it was finally appropriate weather to drink a cup of tea! I got a bad case of cabin fever and Thomas got really sick of me being really bored. I guess that is also a part of living on a boat!
The next day the weather had cleared up, but left us with no wind and it was extremely hot. So we continued on engine, except for Bora Bora, bobbing at 2.5 knots behind their colourful spinnaker. In the afternoon we all anchored in the big bay next to Deltaville and went exploring on land. To be honest, we were getting a little bit tired of the generic small American towns. Every town looks the same: neat big houses with a neatly mowed lawn, a couple of neat new cars in the driveway, nobody on the street (because its much more comfortable being inside in the air conditioning) and all the shops are not near the waterfront but outside of town: just a bit too far to reach on foot.
The anchorage in Deltaville was very nice and protected, and we had a perfect relaxed night on anchor. There were big birds everywhere, nesting near the waterside. We tried to spot bald eagles, which are abundant in this area, but I guess we don’t have trained bird-spotting eyes yet..
Thomas and I still had a month to spare until we needed to be in New York, so we decided to look for some nice anchorages in nature for a change. Thats how we ended up hiking around the beaches of Gwynn Island and eating crab at Tangier island. Tangier was amazing, very different from everything we saw before. Many people and children on the streets, almost no cars (just golf carts and bikes) and everyone seemed to know each other. The houses all have graves in their front yard, as it is custom to bury the dead close to home!
We didn’t have internet on Tangier Island, and the weather forecast we had downloaded the day before was pretty wrong. Where we thought we would have moderate wind from the west, we ended up having strong wind from the east. We were rocking around all night on the high waves. Unable to sleep, we headed out early in the morning for a long sail to Annapolis.
The sail in the morning was amazing, we were flying along and were definitely going to have a great day if the wind would hold. We shook out the reef and enjoyed the speed. But suddenly the wind started to turn to the north and waves started to build. We turned into the wind to reef, but our lazy jack reefing system for the mainsail got smashed off by the violently flapping sail. We quickly recovered and were able to get the second reef in the sail, and continued into the wind and waves.
We thought it was going to be a squall, because we could see blue sky on the other side of the storm. We held on tight and steered 60 degrees into the waves, preventing the boat from ending up on a lee shore in the ‘tight’ Chesapeake Bay. After the storm carried on for several hours, we were getting tired and searched for a safe place to anchor. We tried out two different anchorages that looked sheltered on the map, but were full of big breaking waves in reality.
Finally we steered to Solomon Island, which was on the lee shore, but very sheltered from the bay. It was nerve wracking approaching the entrance, but once we were in the anchorage was dead calm. We dropped anchor and assessed the damage: we lost everything that was inside our dinghy (which we were towing behind us and flipped around in a breaking wave!): my shoes, our new pump, an oar, our expensive lock and our fuel jerrycan with fuel. A lazy jack snapped off, but that was just a design flaw and we could repair and improve the lazy jacks to be much stronger. An expensive lesson learned: never trust the weather forecast in the Chesapeake Bay!