During the night the fog lifted, but by the time we woke up and were ready to leave Plymouth in the morning, it was back down again and thicker than ever. We motored out towards the Cape Cod Canal, making our way out of Plymouth Harbor and almost ran into a lobster boat in the fog, missing him by about 300 feet. That was the extent of our visibility! When we got closer to the canal the fog lifted and we were able to see. We motored through the canal and the fog burned off completely and it became a nice sunny day. Once through the canal we decided to head straight for Newport, so we set our course and off we went. The wind came up a little bit, but as usual it was from the nose so the only sail we could fly was the staysail.
We motored on into the afternoon and while the wind did make an appearance, it was never more than 5 knots on the nose so the iron genny worked hard all day. Right as we turned to come into Newport around 10pm, the fog descended and we were motoring into a strange place in dense fog with less than 200ft visibility. We radioed the Harbor Master and he helped us find our mooring ball, then stopped over to give us some info on the town. We crashed and slept soundly.
After breakfast the next morning, we motored over to Goat Island and asked around for a good cup of coffee. They told us the name of a restaurant which it turns out was in the Newport Shipyard. We walked over there and had a tasty breakfast again; eggs, sausage and toast along with a good cup of coffee, and walked the yard looking at boats in and out of the water. WOW – that is all I can say. There were some sailboats there that were easily $100 MILLION boats. There were all kinds of J-boats, power boats, monster boats where the tenders were parked INSIDE the transom using boat lifts – it was overwhelming to see such a huge display of wealth.
There were little minions running around everywhere washing boats, scrubbing decks, hauling sails which are all stored on shore in shipping containers. On Lake Erie our boat is in the top 20% size wise, here we were the smallest boat by far – most of the smaller boats are 50 to 60 ft, the medium sized ones are 80 ft plus and large boats are 100 to 150 ft! Truly amazing. The largest boat we saw was a 3 masted schooner that was 220 ft long! After walking around we returned to the boat and then headed over to the showers on shore. They converted an old armory over to a boating center, so even though we were on a ball, we had access to showers and facilities you would typically find at a marina.
We showered and then headed over to Goat Island, where we met up with Joan and Donna; 2 of Melanie’s class mates from high school. Joan now lives in Newport, so we shared a delightful evening with them before turning in for the night.
Next morning after breakfast it was “fix the prop” time. When we were coming into the mooring ball, I put the motor in reverse to slow the boat down and the engine started to stall. I quickly put it in neutral, then forward – no problem – reverse – stall. So I made a large circle to bleed off speed and came up to pick up the ball. One more issue to deal with… Next day we noticed something odd under the boat and when the water was calm, we saw some rope wrapped around the prop. It was caught between the prop and the fitting it turns on so it was jamming and preventing the prop from switching from forward to reverse. I climbed into the chilly water and untangled the line using my toes (good old African trick). The line was still jammed, so I had to dive and cut the rest of it free. Then we tried the engine; forward, neutral and reverse – all worked, we were fixed! Thankfully I did not have to fork out any money for the fix. We headed in to the community boating center where I showered and the after dressing walked to West Marine for some goodies and the auto store for a new V-belt. It was 3 miles each way and by the time I got back I was famished; I met Melanie, had a cup of coffee and then we ate at an outdoor restaurant before heading back to the boat. We got the things we needed as well as getting the laundry done.
Joan and Donna met us again on Friday morning over at Bells which is in the Newport shipyard and we enjoyed a tasty breakfast. We had a nice time with the 3 of them reminiscing about high school and enjoying one another’s company, then Melanie left with them and they went shopping for groceries. I went back to the boat to fix the bow light which was no longer working. We needed some new wiring as the wire that passes through the pulpit had worn through and broken. Melanie picked it up on the way home and I spent the afternoon fishing it through where the old wire was and getting it hooked up so we had navigation lights once again. It was too late to leave for the next leg of the journey, so we anchored out in Newport Harbor.
Next morning we hauled anchor and headed over to the maritime Center where we got a free pump out and filled our water tanks. Then we went and filled up with diesel and departed. It was a Saturday morning and it was race day. Everything from Optimists to 12 meters were out in the bay sailing, it was a spectacular site. It was also a Royal Caribbean cruise ship there in the thick of it all. We headed out on a North wind and the wind changed quickly to the East and storms started to roll in. We were able to dodge them, but about 12 miles out realized that we did not have any ice for the cooler, so we made a bee line to Block Island, and picked up a dock in front of an inn where they were preparing for a wedding. We picked up the ice and just as we were getting back to the boat it started to rain. Very very heavy rain. It rained cats and dogs for 3 hours, if completely filled our Tervis tumblers with water and they were both under the bimini!
We left the dock about 6 p.m. after the rain had passed and headed towards New York City sailing parallel to the Long Island coast. The wind moderated doing the night to about 15 to 20 knots. We only used the staysail and were doing 7 to 9 knots! When I came on for watch the wind dropped even more until it was under 10 and we were only doing 3 to 4 knots. When the sun came up I unrolled the Yankee and we put up the main. We were moving around 5 knots with an 8 knot breeze on a broad reach. After sunrise we decided to change course and aim for Atlantic City; it was only 10 degrees further South than the point we were originally aiming for, so we set our way point and off we went. I went down for a nap as I had not slept at all that night before due to the rough nature of the ride. I slept until about 12:30, then came up and relieved Melanie and she took a nap as well.
It was just beautiful and sunny; a few clouds dotted the horizon but overhead it was clear. The winds were substantially lighter than the previous night and the ocean was starting to calm down. When we started we had 10 foot waves pushing us, but the wind gradually died during the day and switched around to the northwest. By mid afternoon we were forced to start up the iron Jenny because our speed was below 1 knot and the sails were just flopping uselessly. Melanie took a good nap and after that made us a hot meal; baked beans on toast, and a quinoa salad. It is always a morale booster to have a hot dinner when underway. She also made a good cup of coffee and we enjoyed some time together in the late sunny afternoon.
As the Sun moved westward it created a shimmering Road of jewels in front of us that blinded us as we rode it. The seas calmed down even more until they were just a few 1 to 2 foot lumps that pushed us a long as we motored towards Atlantic City. We enjoyed the warm Sun in the afternoon; it felt good to not be shivering. The wind gradually shifted around until it was blowing right on the nose; not enough to move us but right from where we were headed so we had no choice but to continue to motor into the evening. It was a calm evening; a beautiful Starry Sky and gentle winds all night long until we saw the lights on the shores near Atlantic City. Venus showed herself and then the palest of dark blue showed on the horizon which gradually turned into a red stripe as the sun prepared to make a new dawn. By the time the sun came up we were about 10 miles from the city. We motored in and anchored in a small sheltered cove across from the city.
We spent the day relaxing on the boat and I caught up with work. During the day a number of trawlers and sailboats joined us and anchored there for the night. Late in the afternoon we dropped the dinghy and motored it to the entrance of the lagoon where we anchored and took a walk on the beach. Windsor got to run himself ragged – it felt good to be on shore. Then once the sun set we returned to the boat and watched an episode of MM before turning in. The lagoon turned out to be just as advertised – sheltered and calm; we slept like babies!
Next morning we took the dinghy into the state marina on the other side of the channel. It was fun crossing and battling a 2-3 knot current, but we made it over, had a cup of coffee and walked around our old stomping grounds – yes – we have been here before, in our Catalina 22 for Roy Williams’ wedding in August of 2015. We had talked then about bringing Southern Cross here and it was neat to be able to pull in to the channel and realize our dream. We dinghied back over and relaxed on the boat all afternoon but it was chilly, so we were bundled up and actually spent most of the rest of the day below in the cabin. The high was only 62. We splurged and watched 2 episodes of our favorite show before turning in.
In the morning after breakfast, we motored over once again and took a walk down to a pharmacy to get a new phone charger as one of ours died. Having one charger for 3 devices was not working 🙂 Once back we went into the Golden Nugget and bought a Fish and Chips special for each of us and enjoyed our long tradition of nothing but seafood when eating out. We putzed around until about noon and then returned to the boat, once again challenging the 2-3 knot current in our little dinghy. It was a calm cloudless day and MUCH warmer than yesterday, so after work we took the dinghy back to the beach with some liquid libations to enjoy some sand under our feet and to let Windsor run. He had a blast, sprinting around the beach like a crazy dog – back and forth until he was so tired he could hardly move. It was good for him to get some land time.
After breakfast the next day we motored in to the casino on the other side of the channel, bought some coffee and took a walk around before coming back to the boat where I worked and then we ate dinner and watched an episode of our favorite show. Thursday we decided to go over to the other side of the channel into Gardner Basin. There were numerous restaurants and shops there, so we decided to head in and eat breakfast at a restaurant called Gilchrist’s. It was right on the water, outside seating, very nice atmosphere and inexpensive and to top it off the food was very good. Thursday evening we decided to go to happy hour at the casino bar which was above the marina. We went in and had two expensive drinks and decided it might be more fun over in Gardner basin, so we motored over there and sure enough, there was a nice mom and pop bar with indoor and outdoor seating where we had a good seafood dinner along with some tasty drinks before heading back to the boat.
Next morning we motored the boat over to the marina, filled up with diesel and then went to the courtesy dock in Gardner Basin and tied up so we could eat breakfast at Gilchrist’s again. Then we left and motored all day into a headwind to Cape May. The wind was about 15 so it was not unpleasant although we both hate the sound of the motor drumming all day. About 5 miles from Cape May the wind came up to 25 on the nose and the Seas got very choppy. We took one or two waves over the bow, but thankfully we were able to make it into the channel and anchor before sunset and before the ocean got too rough. Melanie made a nice hot dinner, and then we watched some TV before going to bed. The anchorage was about a hundred yards off of a coast guard training camp. It brought back memories of my basic training in Kroonstad; you could hear the chanting of the cadets, the officers yelling at them over megaphones as they “tortured” them at all hours of the evening. Then in the morning just before 8; reveille and at 8 they were at the parade ground and the Star-Spangled Banner was playing. Aah memories – glad I am done with that part of my life.
We hauled anchor and motored out into the ocean toward Ocean City. Melanie made breakfast for us while we were under way and we enjoyed a nice hot bowl of oatmeal. As usual the wind was on the nose again, so we ended up motoring all day. We crossed the mouth of the Delaware Bay and motored down the vacation coast towards Ocean City. Once again, as our destination came into sight and we were anticipating anchoring, the winds came up and the waves began to slow our progress. Seems like it goes like this every time; you are sailing or motoring at a certain speed – say 6 knots and there are 12 miles to go; 2 hours you say. So you motor or sail for a half hour and suddenly you are only doing 5 knots and there are 10 miles left – 2 hours. So you motor for a half hour and then your speed is 3.5 and you have 7 miles left – 2 hours. Believe me – day after day of this repeated pattern and it becomes VERY frustrating.
Then, as luck would have it, the tide was against us, so as we approached the channel entrance, there was a current pushing you out of the channel and another one pushing you up or down the coast. These 2 currents coming together made a very rough, muddled mess of water, with steep 4 foot waves coming at you from literally every direction. They tossed the boat about like it was a cork – 18000 pounds like it was nothing. We had to fight through that until we were about half way down the channel and then things smoothed out and we were just fighting the outgoing tide. We came to the spot we were planning to anchor and Melanie called out the water depth – 4.4 – well at the same time I looked down and realized we weren’t moving. Our draft is 5.5 so we were aground on a nice sandy bar not advertised on the chart. We spun the boat around and throttled up and that along with the outgoing current helped us off. We motored towards the shallow spot (3ft) on the chart and the water depth increased to 11, so we dropped anchor there for the night. We were in the lee of Assateague Island, a hotspot for locals to picnic. Its also inhabited by wild ponies though we did not get to see any. We finished listening to the Buckeye football game, ate dinner and then watched some TV before turning in for the night.
This was the roughest anchorage we have been in for a while. While relatively calm and sheltered, the combination of wind against tide when the tide was coming in turned the boat broadside to the wind and waves and we rocked around quite a bit – to the point that both of us felt a little queasy when we turned in. When the tide was going out we had no issue as they were in the same direction and that smoothed things out. We woke to a howling wind after a restless night. West Ocean city has terrible GPS coverage and the cell coverage was not much better either. Our 4G signal kept going off and on. Those 2 things meant that our anchor alarm kept going off during the night. Our circle was set for 100ft, but it would pull in a signal with a 70ft error, so our location would be out the circle and the alarm would go off. 6 or 7 times during the night it got triggered. Then, add to that the rocking because we were off wind, and the wind howled at a nice 25 so even the sheltered spot we were in had 2 ft waves battering the boat on the beam all night long. We woke in the morning bleary eyed from lack of sleep to a quick downpour and I decided then and there we were staying put. It did clear up later and the sun put in a weak appearance, but the wind howled all day, I was glad we decided not to head out; it would have been a cold, wet, ugly day out at sea. At least behind the shelter of the island we were somewhat protected and MUCH warmer.
The plan was to leave the following day, but the after effects of hurricane Nate moved through early Monday, so with howling winds out of the South and rain to boot, we decided to stay put for a second day, even though we could taste Norfolk. The weather the following day was supposed to moderate and swing to a favorable direction, so the plan was to do an overnight and knock out the last 90 miles in one swoop. I worked and Melanie spent the day preparing food for the trip so that we would not have to cook too much while under way.
Tuesday morning we hauled anchor and went into the marina to fuel up for the trip back to Norfolk. The temperature was 77 when we woke up, it was very sticky and very humid. Melanie got sick during the night; she had severe vertigo and what appeared to be a sinus infection. The marina graciously said we could leave our boat at the gas dock as long as we needed. They helped us to hail a taxi and off we went to an urgent care. She did have an infection, was given a prescription and then while we waited for the taxi, I went to the grocery store and picked up a few things.
We took the taxi back to the boat and then headed out. We left around 3 p.m., the wind was out of the East at about 10 knots and with full sail we were making between 5 and 6 knots on a pretty calm sea with some very gentle rolling swells. This was the first time in a long time that we have been able to sail without the motor! The forecast was for East winds through the night between 5 and 15 knots. Out away from land it was much cooler and more tolerable. Even though the air temperature was still almost 80, the cooling breeze off the water really help to make things comfortable.
Melanie took some of her medication and laid down to rest so it could take effect. After motoring out of the channel I hoisted the sails and we set a course South. Once it got dark, we were surrounded by blackness with the occasional flashing light to guide us. For the first time in a long time on watch I was not cold.
I could see flashing bioluminescence in our wake. It was quite fascinating, as the boat plows through the water and makes bow waves it causes microscopic organisms in the water to emit light. The wake behind the boat was twinkling like a Christmas tree. Thank goodness for the compass and the autopilot; at night without any point of reference you feel like you’re going around in circles even when you are going straight.
Early on in the evening the Wind held up quite nicely and we were making 5 to 6 knots in 11 knots of wind. There was a gentle swell that would disrupt our speed once in awhile, but in general it was quite smooth and calm. Once again, about an hour after sunset our friend Mr. Fogg joined us. We were wrapped in dense fog with visibility of about 100 feet for a few hours. I was joined by a flock of birds flying over the boat squawking in a way that sounded like flying frogs. I did use my flashlight and was able to see them and they looked like egrets. It was a very odd sound to hear when you’re sailing and the water is just swishing by and then suddenly you hear this squawking like a whole bunch of frogs having a sing-along. I looked them up in my bird app and they were cattle egrets – migrating.
Another strange thing I saw as I was looking over the rail watching the bioluminescence in our wake; there were flashes of light underwater, two or three times close together in quick succession. The only thing I can think of that would do that would be squid. I remember seeing somewhere where certain species of squid come to the surface at night and then flash in order to attract and catch prey. It was very strange to see. Four or five different times I saw groups of flashes; it almost looked like lightning underneath the water, they were a bluish white in color, sometimes large like 1 to 2 feet long and maybe a foot wide, sometimes small maybe 6 or 7 inches across; always in groups.
Around midnight the fog lifted enough for me to be able to see the horizon. The clouds parted as well and that allowed the moon to cast a little bit of light On the water. It was comforting to be able to see the Horizon again. Then it clouded up to the South of our track and it started raining. So I had the moon and stars behind me, fog around me not so thick though, and rain. I was glad it was not cold and fortunately it did not rain for very long. Once again high humidity along with the rain caused my life jacket to go off and inflate while I was on watch. This is the second time it has happened to me, I think I’m going to have to replace the automatic inflate with a manual inflate. These cartridges are not cheap!
Then it rained again, hard, for about 20 minutes. The few flashes of lightning and then it all stopped. The wind briefly increased to about 15 knots and our speed increased to 6.3 knots. Just when I started debating in my mind whether to reef or not, the wind dropped down to about 10 and continued to go up and down all night long. We had a few rain squalls with a little bit of lightning, but nothing that lasted more than 20 minutes or so.
Then around 5 a.m. the wind switched about 30 degrees towards the nose and we were sailing parallel to our destination. It also started to die, so reluctantly I started the motor. The sails were flogging and the wind was being shaken out of them with each passing wave, so we had no choice but to start motoring. We had sailed a good 80 out of the 110 miles, so I did not feel too bad. The rain started again just after sunrise, and we ended up motoring the last few miles in light fog and drizzle. We were challenged by a military boat just before coming into port – with all the military presence around it wasn’t surprising. We motored into the Little Creek area and tied up at Bay Point Marina. All choices in the area were a little disappointing quality-wise, but we got a good price for a month’s stay and now we head home to visit family, our chiropractor and enjoy some time ashore with friends.