Friday, October 23, 2009

the leaning lighthouse at Sharp's Island

Next day was sunny and breezy - HERE was the perfect sailing day I was dreaming of! We pulled off the dock without mishap and glided along in the sunshine, to set anchor at Mill Creek off the Patuxent River near Solomon's just at 5:00. I'm not much of a lighthouse collector but just love the leaning one at Sharp's Island, which we passed around lunchtime. Just as we were coming in to anchor, the cellphone rang. It was a business call that Dan had to take. What a piece of inconvenient timing! A half-hour earlier, we would have been in open water and I could have handled the boat alone while he talked. A half hour later, and we would have been stationary, securely anchored. But here we were in a situation that required both of us to navigate. I couldn't go ahead alone, so instead, I held the boat on station, essentially marching in place, slowly turning circles while Dan answered questions. He explained to his caller why he was so distracted and said, "Bet you haven't had THAT excuse yet today!"

Turned out that day was the only nice weather we were to have all week. The next day brought a cold front. It was a trade-off. The wind was from the north, which was a good direction to blow us south. At the same time, winds from the north in autumn tend to be chilly and drizzly, and this one was no exception. And it was to be a long day; our destination was 43 miles south. Ironically, it has been said that there are so many nooks and crannies - "gunkholes" - in the Chesapeake that you can anchor in a different spot every night of your life and still not see all of them. However, none of these great gunkholes were along our way! The very thing that makes them great is their out-of-the-way-ness, and we were just looking for the opposite, close and convenient. There were no good stopping places at all in this stretch of the Bay, which is why we planned a long day. We bundled up in layers of fleece, jackets and hats and gloves and bright yellow foul-weather gear, and off we went. Bad weather always looks worse through a pane of glass, and we ended the day feeling chilly, tired, and accomplished, in another Mill Creek, this time off the Great Wicomico River near Reedville, VA. This was the third Mill Creek we'd anchored in during the past month - the first was the one off Whitehall Bay near Annapolis.
The next day, Thursday, was cold and drenching rain. The wind was howling outside but the anchorage was lovely and quiet and we decided to stay put. We'd use the down time to more properly stow the provisions we'd brought aboard in Annapolis. Of course, we'd be buying food along the way. Still, there were certain favorite things we'd stocked up on before leaving Annapolis, a buying binge at Trader Joes and Whole Foods, and a case of good Spanish wine that was a farewell gift from friends Juan and Maria. We had been storing those things in the V-berth by day so we had room to sit down in our living space and moving them out into the salon at night when it was time to sleep. That little dance was getting old fast!

The other thing that was getting old was dampness. Of course, being in a boat is humid to start with, and in the cold days there was condensation everywhere. It was the kind of weather that just begged a pot of soup, but if we added any more humidity to the boat, water would have started dripping from the ceiling.

Friday we sailed again, in rougher colder weather than we'd seen so far, a foretaste of the winter weather we're sailing south to avoid. Our destination was directly downwind and we couldn't sail there in a straight line because the following seas, 4 or 5-foot waves, would make the boat impossible to handle. So we steered a zigzag course in the mist, which made it longer - it took 7 hours to go 25 nautical miles. In some cases we were surfing down the face of the waves, exhilarating but barely in control, a day that was tough on the people as well as the gear. But all's well that ends well, and now we're tied up snugly at the Deltaville Marina. Lovely place, by the way, we were able to borrow a car to get fresh vegetables, do laundry, and top up our water and diesel, and are ready to go next week. Loveliest of all, to us, was a secure place to be plugged in, warm and dry while we heard the chill wind whistling a gale outside. We broke a temperature record at Norfolk VA yesterday - the coldest Oct 17 on record.

PS - got an email from my sister-in-law Karen. She commented that when she read my previous post that she could just see her brother standing on the dock saying 'No, wait for me, I want to go south to the islands. I did not mean for you to drop me off on the forsaken dock and take off to the islands without me!'

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