Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THE CHESAPEAKE BAY, A short stopover in Virginia.
Hampton & Deltaville.
12th –20th July 2011
It was early afternoon when we left the idyllic bay at Cape Lookout and headed out for our overnight sail along the North Carolina coast. Not wanting to sail the extra12 miles to round the bottom of the Cape Lookout shoals, we opted to take a short cut across them. With the sun behind us, slowly and carefully we picked our way through the maze of shifting sands that extend seaward from the cape.This area is renowned for claiming many a ship over the years and we sure as hell didn’t want to add GWTW’s name to the list. With a very careful eye on the depth sounder and our Max Sea electronic charts, IPad and Raymarine plotter (you can never have too many navigation systems on board), we were safely across and back in deep water within an hour of leaving the anchorage. The 218 mile sail to Hampton, our destination in the Chesapeake Bay, would take us north east to Cape Hatteras and then in a  north westerly direction along the Virginia coastline. A large pod of dolphins came to visit us just before dusk and I was lucky enough to snap off a couple of pictures before they disappeared into the evening’s fading light.
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Our night sail was a stunner, a near full moon bathed us and the sea in beautiful silver light and the wind was steady at 15-20 knots, clocking  steadily from the east around to the south west. I gotta tell you, there really is something magical about being on the ocean at night with a clear sky above and twinkling stars and a bright  moon shining down on you. It’s just one of those things that stays with you forever.
Sailing under a varying combination of main, screecher and jib we purred along until the wind grew lighter and lighter and the air became thick and heavy with fog. As dawn approached the eerie light revealed an encircling wall of white all around us.The fog was thick, heavy and very, very wet. If we’d stripped off and brought out the soap and shampoo we could have had a pretty decent bird bath I reckon. After a few hours the hot morning sun began to burn off the fog and not far in the distance we could see the coast of Virginia. Naturally, as the breeze filled in it came from the north west, exactly the direction we were headed, oh well, we’d had it pretty good for most of the passage. Arriving at the mouth of the Chesapeake around midday and with the mercury rising higher with each passing hour, we decided to stop the boat and dive over the side for a quick cool off. The water temperature was absolutely wonderful and refreshing. Stopping here for a swim had been a good call, as once we got into the bay, the water once again took on that familiar not so inviting brown hue from the numerous large rivers and creeks that flow into the massive body of water that makes up the Chesapeake Bay.
Heading up the bay, although we were tired, we had to stay pretty alert as we were transiting some major shipping lanes and the big guys move at speed. As well as cargo ships there were also Navy vessels. Not very far from Hampton is the major US naval base at Norfolk and the navy really aren’t  impressed if you get too close to them, in fact they broadcast their movements on the VHF radio just to make sure that all vessels know how far away they should be. We made  very sure that we didn’t get in their way.
As we made our way into the channel that lead to the village of Hampton we got our first close up view of an Osprey nest on top of one of the channel markers. These birds are protected by law and where ever they choose to make their nest no one is allowed to interfere with it or remove it until after August 18th, when all the young Osprey are old enough to have have  left the nest. 
Hampton’s  anchorage looked pretty tight and by the time the three cats, Lo Spirito di Stella, No Rehearsal and us had anchored, there wasn’t much room for anyone else. We stayed in Hampton for a couple of days while we had our spinnaker repaired, after all that was the reason for going there. Conveniently,  the North Sails’ loft was located about 50ft behind our boat so it was dead easy  to drop off and pick up the sail. Town itself was a bit of a dud, twenty minutes and you’d seen it all. There were a couple of good restaurants though
Our favorite was one called the Taphouse which served great crab dip, melt in the mouth sushimi and huge salads. It was also lovely and cool and a nice place to sit ,watch the world go by and escape the heat outside.  After four days and a repaired spinnaker later we were ready to move on.
IMG_5598  IMG_5599 Our friends from Remi De had just returned from a very short European vacation and coincidentally their marina up at Deltaville was very close to where  friends, who we’d met down in Trinidad, lived. We’d promised to stop in and visit Ed and Mary from the 78ft sloop Nomadess while we were in the Chesapeake, so the timing could not have been better. Heading up to Deltaville we stopped  one bay short  at Fishing Bay where Ed and Mary lived. Nomadess sat peacefully in her pen, her mast soaring high above the surrounding trees. She looked a picture sporting her new paint job that was completed whilst down in Trinidad. It was great to catch up again and  while we were there Ed offered to run us around to the marina to visit our friends on Remi De. For some reason when you get into the larger size yachts their dinghies aren’t called dinghies but instead the term tender is used. So accepting their kind offer to run us the 5 miles around to the marina we piled into their tender and took off at 27 knots! Wow what a ride that was. After all it did have a couple of 250 hp motors strapped to the back of it and it’s definitely the fastest we’ve ever been in a dinghy, sorry tender.
The following day we moved around to Jackson Creek which was the closest anchorage to the Deltaville township and marinas.The entrance to the creek was extremely narrow and we weren’t sure that we’d make it in through the channel markers. As we moved up the twisting channel past the markers you could almost hear GWTW sucking her sides in to squeeze by. Boy was that a tight entrance.
Once inside, the creek was lovely and tranquil. We found a nice spot just across from the public jetty and alongside No Rehearsal. Daryl and Annie had been anchored in the creek for a few days and invited us over for a sundowner along with some locals who they’d met a few days earlier. It was a very pleasant evening and this was how we met Donny and Judy who’s home we were anchored out the front of. The next day around lunchtime Donny and Judy swung by in their boat to let us know that they were heading off to do a spot of fishing, but that when they came back we were invited to join them on their porch to eat crabs, drink beer and visit Donny’s “man cave”. Naturally we accepted their generous offer.
Well, we certainly aren’t seasoned crab eaters, but after a short lesson on how to attack these tough shelled critters we had a good grip on the art of crab eating. And eat crabs we did. The pile of crabs that adorned the table when we arrived was huge and they all came from Donny’s crab pots at the end of his jetty. They were a bit messy to eat,note the newspaper on the table, but delicious and washed down with an appropriate beverage, it was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
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After we could eat no more we adjourned to the “man cave” where Donny keeps his collection of Corvette Stingrays.Talk about impressive, these cars were immaculate and gorgeous. The blue corvette was Annie’s favorite, while Liam preferred Judy’s Shelby Mustang convertible, parked in the driveway,   with it’s go fast stripes, it looked like it should have been on a racetrack!
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Our new friends offered to drive us to town to have a look around (it was way too far to walk), and they also took us down to the marina to visit Bruce and Toni again. As Donny and Judy were leaving to go back to work in Richmond the next day, we decided to have dinner with them in town. During the course of the meal they said that as they would be travelling back to Richmond in one car, that they would leave the keys to the house and the Lexus for us just in case we needed to go anywhere. We said that we’d be fine, but they insisted. Once again we were bowled over by the generosity of these lovely people that we continue to meet as we travel up the east coast of the United States. Seeing as how we had the use of their car, we did a little shopping in town and  put our screecher into the Deltaville sail maker, Ullman Sails, for some repairs, the opportunity was just to good to go past. A few weeks earlier Deltaville had been hit by a Tornado. It had cut a path across the cornfields and had taken out part of the town’s church as well as the odd home.
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Where ever it had touched down the destruction was plainly evident with huge trees having been felled like matchsticks, and yet only a couple of yards from the tornado’s path, the  landscape looked like nothing had ever happened as you can see  from the pictures below.
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There were plenty more Osprey nests around the area too, and we spent hours watching the young ones making their first attempts at flying while their parents looked on from a nearby tree.
Sometimes our lives  must sound like we do nothing but eat drink and have fun, but there is the flip side to cruising like repairing things that break or just general ongoing maintenance, which never seems to end. Finding a calm bay is the best spot to tackle these sort of jobs so while in the creek Liam pulled out our badly rusting air conditioning units. We have two on board GWTW and they are very heavy and awkward to remove. Liam spent two days repairing and fiberglassing the rusted drip trays and reinstalling the units.
Unfortunately, the not so clever manufactures had used metal trays under the units, these days they use plastic, and over time the trays had rusted through completely. It was a job well done and much appreciated by the crew, given the very hot weather we were experiencing in the Chesapeake. After catching up with Remi De a few more times we were ready to move on again. Our last night was spent just inside the mouth of the bay where we anchored along with the big tankers and watched a lovely sunset over the bay. Tomorrow would see us at sea for another night as we headed up the coast towards New York, another significant milestone for us on the USA east coast.
CRUISING INFO: Hampton. Formalities: Phone Norfolk, Virginia CBP( Customs & Border Protection) upon arrival ,24/7 on # 757 533 4218. Anchorage: Across the channel from Hampton City Dock Marina. Water is available free from the dock, just call up the dockmaster for assistance. Tourist info & maps are available from dockmaster’s office. Supermarket: Food Lion is a15min walk from the end of Sunset creek on Kecoughtan Rd. Leave dinghy at Sunset Marina. Attractions: Virginia Air & Space museum, Flying Horses Carousel both on Settlers Landing Road. Restaurants : Quite a few including the Taphouse are on West Queensway St, 5 mins walk from Marina. Sail Repairs: North Sails,$60 per hr labor charge, alongside the Hampton Yacht Club.
Deltaville. Anchorage: Fishing Bay or Jackson Creek. Marinas are located in Broad Creek off the Rappahannock River. Supermarket: Deltaville Market, along with West Marine and The Dollar Store are located on General Puller Hwy, you will need transport to get there.Sail repairs: Ullman Sails, General Puller Hwy.

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