Day 40, Year 1: Finally . . . We made it to Hampton, Virginia

Day 40, Year 1: Finally . . . We made it to Hampton, Virginia
Date: Saturday, November 26, 2005
Weather: Freezing and Overcast Early, Warming in the Afternoon
0700 Weather Report: 32 degrees F, winds 3 to 5 knots, SE, blue skies and sunny
1700 Weather Report: 50 degrees F, winds 5 to 10, E, blue skies and sunny
Water Temperature: 53.7 degrees F (leaving Deltaville)
Location: Hampton, Virginia

It was another chilly morning with more frost on the deck than yesterday even though the temperature was three degrees warmer-if thirty-two degrees can be considered warm. But once again, the cockpit enclosure served as a sunroom and we were shedding coats and sweaters by 9:00. Yesterday at that time, we were adding layers to keep warm. A few degrees and less wind sure do make a difference. We enjoyed the motor sail to Hampton watching the sea gulls dive bomb into the water and emerge with breakfast. As we got closer to the Norfolk area, the water and air were filled with pelicans. They are such prehistoric looking birds, not pretty, but interesting to watch. The approach to Norfolk and Hampton is also marked by the presence of many military ships. We have been here by boat a few other times. Things looked the same today, but we felt very different. We had planned to be here by October 28, and just the fact that we actually made it helped us to feel that we have made a big step forward. It was certainly a welcome sight.

The rest of the day, as well as yesterday, were spent in preparation for departure tomorrow. My mother is no longer living, but Ollie Martin would have been proud of me. It always drove my father crazy that mom could never leave on vacation without cleaning the house from top to bottom. Well, that is what I embarked on as soon as we reach the dock at Bluewater Marina. Yesterday I had defrosted the freezer and gotten the inside of the boat ready for departure. Today, I hooked up the hose and cleaned the outside of the boat. I gathered every last bit of dirty laundry and organized the bags of notebooks we have with us filled with medical information, financial statements, boat information, and on and on. While I was doing the laundry, Mark was successful in getting a Wi-Fi connection and he gathered as much weather information as time allowed. He spent much of the day on the radio learning how to check into the various networks where fellow sailors share weather information. The intense boat work of the past month left no time to learn this new skill, so he put himself through a crash course today and we will just have to learn as we go.

We are both filled with conflicting emotions as departure time grows nearer. We feel the boat is ready, and we are ready for the challenges and adventure that loom before us. We are truly looking forward to exploring places we have never been. But facing our first long distance crossing alone is a bit daunting, and saying the last farewells to close friends and family has been particularly difficult. We love you guys and promise to be careful. We look forward to hearing from you as we travel on and count on your tremendous emotional support. I will continue to share with you our daily adventures and feelings as the trip evolves through these travel logs. Right now, we know it is time head out of the Chesapeake and on to the Caribbean. Next stop–St. Martin in the Leeward Islands.

051126 Day 40 Boston to Norfolk, USA–Bluewater Marina in Hampton, Virginia

Day 39, Year 1: Deltaville, Virginia

Day 39, Year 1: Deltaville, Virginia
Date: Friday, November 25, 2005
Weather: Getting Very Cold
Air Temperature AM: 29 degrees F
Air Temperature PM: 48 degrees F
Water Temperature: 54.1 degrees F
Location: Deltaville, Virginia

Burr!!! We got an early but cold start this morning. Our son, Justin, spent the night, and was there this morning to hand us the dock lines as we left Calvert Marina in Solomons, Maryland. I had a very hard time taking the lines from him as it made our departure all too real. I am looking forward to our adventure, but leaving my children behind, even though they are grown and living on their own, is very difficult for me. Our twenty-eight year old son, Justin, and our thirty-year old daughter, Heather, and her husband, Jed, will fly to St. Lucia to see us for Christmas, but I think it is the fact that we will be far offshore and out of reach for quite a few days that makes it seem so far away. I mention their ages so you will understand that I am not abandoning babies, but to me, they will always be my babies. They know I am always only an air flight away if they need anything, but when you travel offshore, you have to get to an airport, and that is not as easy from out at sea as it is from a home on land. I just have to remember that the long passages at sea are few and far between.

We had an ambitious day planned today, and the good news is that we made it. We motored all day with the mainsail up to give us a boost from the northwest winds blowing us down the Chesapeake Bay. Winds were 15 to 20 knots early, but decreased to 5 to10 knots in mid-morning. We passed the mouth of the Potomac River and headed on to the Rappahannock. We are now securely docked for the night in Deltaville, Virginia, and will head for Hampton in the morning. It was a beautiful day today, very sunny, but without our cockpit enclosure, I would never have made it. The enclosure turns the cockpit area into a sunroom, so as long as the sun is shining, we are warm. We actually had to take our coats off in late afternoon because it was too warm. But the sun went down at 4:49 this afternoon and that was exactly the time we came into the dock here at Deltaville. Before we could get the power cord plugged in to get the heater going, you could feel the temperature start to drop drastically. We got those coats back on quickly. We are snug and warm at dock for the night and reports indicate that the temperatures will moderate and that it will not be so cold tomorrow. Here’s hoping.

051125 Day 39 Boston to Norfolk, USA–Patuxent River to Deltaville, Virginia

Day 38, Year 1: Giving Thanks

Day 38, Year 1: Giving Thanks
Date: Thursday, November 24, 2005
Weather: Sunny, Moderating Temp (not quite freezing)
Location: Solomons, Western Shore of Maryland

What a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. The temperatures moderated and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful fall day here in Solomons on the Western Shore of Maryland. And the really wonderful thing that happened is that our son, Justin, made a surprise trip down to spend the afternoon and evening with us. He and his girlfriend, Jeremy Louise, drove from Massachusetts to her home in Tacoma Park last night. She then spent Thanksgiving Day with her family and Justin came here to be with us. It was one more reminder of how lucky we are to have such caring friends and family and for that we truly give thanks on this day of thanksgiving.

Tomorrow we will head out early for the Rappahannock River and then on Saturday for Hampton, Virginia. If the weather holds as reported, we will head offshore on Sunday morning. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday look favorable for crossing the Gulf Stream and then heading for St. Martin in the Caribbean. In order to make up for lost time, we will probably not make our original planned stop in Bermuda. It is about 1, 330 miles from Hampton to St. Martin and that should take us about twelve days if all goes well. A very rough ETA would be Thursday, December 8. Send us your best wishes and I will continue to send daily logs as we travel so you can track our journey. Happy Thanksgiving!

051124 Day 38 Boston to Norfolk, USA–Justin Makes Surprise Thanksgiving Visit


Day 37, Year 1: On the Road Again

Day 37, Year 1: On the Road Again
Date: Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Weather: Blue, Sunny Skies but Cold, Rough Seas
Morning Outside Air Temperature: 28 degrees F
Evening Outside Air Temperature: 35 degrees F
Water Temperature: 56.4 degrees F
Location: Solomons, Western Shore of Maryland, Calvert Marina

We woke this morning to blue, sunny skies, but it soon became obvious that the weather had turned even colder. We took a short walk through Oxford to say goodbye to our home for the past couple of weeks and found that puddles were crusted with ice. Once back at the boat, we saw that our dock lines were also covered with ice. But cold or no cold, we felt like it was time to pull in the dock lines and head out of Dodge . . . well, I mean Oxford. After a long month of waiting and working to install the new engine, we really wanted to be on the road again. Tonight, in celebration, we listened to a Willie Nelson CD while eating dinner. Willie and Leon Russells’s rendition of “On the Road Again” is one of our favorites. And tonight, anyone in the Calvert Marina (and possibly in Solomons) shared this with us as we blared the song on our CD player. We thought it was just playing on the speakers inside the boat, but when we later went outside, we realized we had forgotten to set the balance and that we were sharing with all in hearing distance.

Today’s run to the Patuxent River across the Chesapeake was going to be our new engine shake down cruise. And that it became. As we exited the Tred Avon River going into the Choptank River, the seas were very rough and we were headed directly into a 25 knot wind. All I could think is, “Here we go again!” Windbird’s bow dug into the waves and the new Yanmar engine got a workout. I felt like we were back to the night of Day 4 and early morning of Day 5 entering the Delaware Bay. Anything and everything not tied down instantly went flying. We had fully planned to get everything secured before heading offshore, but we just haven’t had the time. Last night we put the engine room walls back in place. This once again gave us access to the v-berth, but I just had to throw everything we had bought while in Oxford on the v-berth and hoped that it would stay there until I could get things put away. Wrong. It was now all back on the cabin floor.

Putting the new engine under such strain made us a bit nervous, so we called our engine doctor to make sure we were doing the right thing. David assured us that things all sounded normal, so we proceeded. As we turned to enter the Chesapeake, the winds and waves became manageable as now the winds were behind us. We arrived in Solomons at about 2:30 and took the opportunity to fill fuel tanks before heading to our home for tonight on the T-dock off Shed E at Calvert Marina. As it turns out, this will be our home for Thanksgiving Day as well. Weather reports are forecasting strong winds from the south up to 40 knots tomorrow with waves 3-5 feet. That would be tough going, so we have decided to wait out the weather here and head further south in the Chesapeake on Friday morning. We should reach the Hampton-Norfolk area on Saturday, and it is currently looking like we could actually head offshore on Sunday. We will continue to watch our friend, the weather, and keep you updated on our plans. Hope with us that the new engine will continue to perform like a champion and that we will actually get our weather window to go south as early as Sunday. That would be a wonderful gift.

Right now it is precipitating icy rain/snow here and we are just glad to be at a dock with shore power that allows us to have heat. Actually, it is amazing how quickly you acclimate to living outside with the cold weather. LL Bean wool sweaters, Patagonia silk long underwear, Smart Wool socks, and good old blue jeans, along with a fall windbreaker is really all that is needed right now to keep us warm during the day as long as we stay inside the cockpit enclosure. We are holding off on wearing the foul weather gear until it is really cold. Hope we don’t have to use it!! At this point it looks like it could be possible that a week from now we could be across the Gulf Stream and into warmer waters. Here’s hoping . . .

Day 36, Year 1: 4JH4E Passed the Test!!!

Day 36, Year 1: 4JH4E Passed the Test!!!
Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Weather: Frightful—Totally Overcast, Cold and Windy
Location: Oxford, Maryland, Tred-on-Avon, SailAway Marina

Today was the day. The new Yanmar 4JH4E was completely installed and it was time for the sea trial. The weather was frightful, but we were determined to forge ahead and the mechanic at Hinkley was willing to brave the weather with us for the trial. It was rainy, cold, and windy as we started the new engine and used her power to help back Windbird out of the mud. Although we were not totally aground any longer, the tide was low enough that we had to plow our way out. The plan was to go out into the Tred Avon River for the sea trial and then bring the boat back into a slightly deeper dock at Hinkley for the night. I stayed on land to fend off as Windbird backed out of her slip at SailAway Marina and met the boat at Hinkley to help with the docking there. Our engine doctor, David Laux, the Hinkley mechanic, Andy, and Mark went out for the trial. They took a little longer than I anticipated and I was very anxious while awaiting their return. Finally, I saw Windbird’s mast in the distance and ran down the dock to meet her. What an unbelievable relief it was to hear that the prop size was correct and that everything was ship shape. Andy gave his full stamp of approval saying that the installation was very well done. Bravo, David Laux!

And a very special thanks to David Knight and the crew at Hinkley who really did everything they could to see that we got our sea trial done and could get out of here tomorrow. At one point we thought we might have to wait until next week for our sea trial but David Knight listened to our pleas and responded with exceptional service.

It has been a very long month. We limped into Lewes, Delaware, on Saturday, October 22, and will leave Oxford tomorrow morning, Wednesday, November 24. We will motor across the Chesapeake to Solomons on the Patuxent River, assess the new engine performance, and if all is well, we will probably head to Norfolk on Thanksgiving morning. It is more than a one day trip, so we will do this as an overnight and arrive there on Friday morning. We will spend Thanksgiving Day taking time to give thanks to all of our wonderful friends and family who have been there with us this past month.

It is difficult to describe the emotional roller coaster we have been on for more than thirty days now. On the one hand, we find it very difficult to believe that after more than three years of extremely careful preparation, we ended up with a faulty transmission when barely more than a day out of Boston. But on the other hand, the stop gave us a chance to connect with both new and old friends in a way that we have not been able to do for many years. The “on the other hand” comment reminds me of Tevia from Fiddler on the Roof. We have to make one more run into town tonight for last minute shopping and I hope to find a Fiddler on the Roof DVD to take with us.

Last note for tonight . . . we owe a huge debt of gratitude to David Laux for his work on acquiring and installing the new engine. He is brilliant and has taught us so much. David and Donna, we will never forget you. Thank you so very much.

Day 35, Year 1: The Engine Runneth

Day 35, Year 1: The Engine Runneth
Date: Monday, November 21, 2005
Weather: Manitoba Clipper System Moving In
Location: Oxford, Maryland, Tred-on-Avon, SailAway Marina

We had a bit of success today. Finally all systems were connected and I had the pleasure of turning the key and starting the new Yanmar for the first time. She started right up and sounded great, but it was late in the day, so the sea trial must wait until morning. If that goes well, we could be out of here by Wednesday morning. That is the glass half full projection and I’m really hoping for that scenario.

The weather here has certainly changed. That streak of sunny weather has ended and the rain has come. They tell us here that the system moving into the Eastern US is a Manitoba Clipper which means high winds and cold weather. Snow is not predicted here, but it is forecast in surrounding areas. Let’s hope it steers clear of the Chesapeake Bay. I just hope we will be headed south on Wednesday and can outrun the truly cold weather. Until the sea trial tomorrow, we just really don’t know what our plans will be. Hope with us that all goes well and that we will soon be on our way.

051121 Day 35 Boston to Norfolk, USA–Putting Windbird Back Together