Week 1 Highlights: Getting to Norfolk

Gray all around as we pull in to Norfolk.

Making daily or hourly adjustments based on shifting forecasts and cold, stormy weather has brought home the impossibility of accurately predicting when we’ll arrive at a distant destination. We knew that sailing and schedules don’t get along, but still…it’s all part of our ongoing education as newbie cruisers.

We spent Monday and Tuesday nights snugly anchored at Mill Creek off the Great Wicomico river, waiting for a snowy cold front to blow through. Today we’re tied up for three nights at Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, ahead of a gale poised to blow through.

The red indicates high wind speeds on Saturday, and is our cue to seek safe harbor.

Via VHF radio, we listened in as the US Coast Guard coordinated two middle of the night rescues this week.

The first was for a sailboat with a crew of three 50 miles offshore that had trouble with its sail and its engine on Monday night. With bad weather brewing, TowBoatUS declined to go out, referring them to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard in turn indicated they would send an asset to tow them.

We looked at each other and exclaimed “they got lucky!” given the Coast Guard will often rescue crew but leave a vessel in distress behind, or scuttle it.

As the wind rocked our boat in Mill Creek, we shuddered imagining how challenging the night likely was for the three crew on that sailboat on the ocean…and how fortunate they were to be within reach.

The radio traffic at 4:30 am on Thursday was for a vessel on the Chesapeake Bay, only a few miles away, and perhaps more troubling. As best we could tell, a 36- or 38-foot sailboat had dismasted at Wolf Trap Light, with two crew onboard. One of them was unconscious, and the other was providing CPR.

We gleaned the info from radio traffic between the Coast Guard and a good samaritan sailboat traveling down the bay with two crew onboard, that responded to the request for help. Lacking medical experience, the good samaritan’s skipper sounded relieved to see that assistance was already on scene when his vessel reached the dismasted sailboat, and that he was free to continue on his journey.

The generosity of many sailors is awe inspiring. Things can go sideways quickly on the water, and we strive to be vigilant, and minimize risk where we can. The sense of there for the grace of God is strong, and kind offers of help much more frequent than on land.

Our chart has a note indicating Wolf Trap Light is no longer functioning. As we motorsailed past we wondered is it dark at night, and might the dismasted sailboat not have seen it?

Why do we venture out on the water at all?

Boats require constant attention, will happily consume as much money as one chooses to pour into them, and sailboats are far from the fastest way to travel.

We love the sense of achievement that remains after lessons are learned and problems are solved, and we relish adventure and the ability to go pretty much wherever we please.

Best of all, sailing forces one into the moment. Experiencing each day, or each hour, as it is rather than as I thought it would be has been a reminder to let go, let go, let go. A day I thought would be as easy as the day before, was hard. A day I approached with trepidation unfolded gently. Docking is sometimes graceful, and other times, anything but.

Remediate, yes! Resist nature, never.

How so? Modify our itinerary as needed. Debrief after each rough spot. Wear a ReliefBand to prevent queasiness. Set down digital devices unless needed to check route or weather. Use an unzipped sleeping bag to stay warm while sitting in the cockpit. Stay hydrated by keeping a thermos of hot water to make tea throughout the day. Leave lunch ready before we get underway. The list goes on and on.

Breathe in, breathe out. Be grateful! It’s oh so good to be alive.

Another 32 degree day on the bay. The lack of wind chill was much appreciated!

10 thoughts on “Week 1 Highlights: Getting to Norfolk”

  1. Having sailed the Chesapeake many years ago and living through a huge storm I loved reading your accounts and adventures. Hoping you are into warmer weather and smooth sailing. Keep your fans and friends up to,date on how your voyage us going.

  2. Great post! We may not be sailors (now), but so much rings true for cruising powerboaters, too.

    We are getting ready for our big passage (170 miles, at night, across the gulf); small potatoes compared to what you two will do, but with similar concerns about whether we assess the forecasts correctly, whether we have done all we should to prepare, and how will we and our boat handle the unexpected.

    Can’t wait to see what lessons this achievement will reveal.

    Fair winds,

    Ben & Chantale
    m/v At Ease

    1. Ben, Chantale,

      So glad you enjoyed the post. Hope your Gulf passage goes smoothly: no small potatoes, IMHO. Knowing you two, you’ll do great! Look forward to reading about in your blog soon.

      Big hugs,

  3. Very glad you are safe and hopefully warm. Are you going through the ICW? The dismal swamp canal is interesting and calm. However, one unusual hazard is overhanging trees, but no barge or long pipeline tows. BTW, Dewey misses all.
    Keep safe, John, Gail and Dewey

    1. Hi John,

      We’ll be taking the ICW at least until Southport or Charleston, and then hopping offshore from there to St. Augustine. The gentleman who manages the locks advised against taking the Dismal Swamp route, given our 6-feet draft and wing keel.

      We miss seeing you and Dewey on i dock!

      Take good care!

  4. Great read, thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing about your next adventures and am glad you guys are safe!


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