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Some additions to my earlier post, written while underway from Deltaville to Norfolk

We set off from Solomons Island Saturday at just after 6 am, and having checked the weather on the internet*, we were expecting a quick downwind sail to the Deltaville area. We weren’t expecting such a quick sail though. We started out into the channel with a single reef in our main sail and full jib. The NW winds, and the waves which accompanied them, continued to build so that by 8:00 am, we decided it would be prudent to put in our second reef and partially furl our little jib. By the time we reached the mouth of the Potomac, we felt that even with our greatly-reduced sail area, we were still overpowered. When the winds would gust over 35 knots, it would push our stern around so hard that we would end up beam to the large waves! It took both hands on the wheel, hard over to get us back on course. With no other way of reducing our main sail area, we decided to drop it altogether. We did this while still sailing downwind though so it was a bit hairy, requiring me to go up on deck and wrestle it down. Immediately after doing so though, the whole world felt calmer. Sailing with only a fraction of our little jib out, we were still consistently making better than 7 knots. Although we did ultimately let our full jib come back out to play, our main sail stayed tucked away for the remainder of the day.

It is so hard to capture the height of waves, but we did try.

Our new speed record, achieved while sailing on a broad reach with two reefs in our main and a partially-furled jib.

Our new high-wind record. We are not looking forward to beating that one in the near future!

Our planned anchorage was in Jackson Creek, in the Deltaville, Virginia area. As we were approaching Deltaville, another catamaran was making their way in behind us. The channel into Jackson Creek is reminiscent of the one we went through into Fairlee Creek. It was very narrow and required us to motor directly at a beach and then make a hard left to remain in the channel. Our charts didn’t show much detail for the area so we needed to trust the markers, and there were enough of them that it didn’t look so tough. That is, until we got stuck, right in the middle of the channel! I made a couple of immediate attempts to free ourselves and failing to do so, turned my attention on the other catamaran that was now making their way towards this same channel. I got on the radio and hailed them, letting them know that they might want to hold off and perhaps look for another anchorage for the evening. After they thanked us and motored off, we set our sights back on freeing ourselves. A bit of playing with the engines, back and forth and we were ultimately able to get our boat unstuck from the sand. We’d had enough of that channel though and moving out of it, ended up following the other cat into the next anchorage. We later heard that the strong NW winds had blown much of the water out of that bay, which is why there wasn’t enough depth for even our shallow-draft vessel to navigate the channel. Too bad we hadn’t know that earlier. Lesson learned.

As it turns out, Fishing Bay, where we ended up, was a great spot and it offered perfect protection from the NW winds. We dropped the hook just in front of the other catamaran, which we could now see was named Never Bored. While getting ourselves squared away, the owner of that cat came over to introduce himself and also to thank us for hailing them about the channel. We learned that they had actually witnessed us getting stuck and were holding off entering until they figured out what was going on.

Motoring in towards the first turn in the channel.
It was shortly after making the turn to port we got stuck.

Chris, and Sheila, the owners of Never Board, a 40′ Admiral catamaran, were kind enough to invite us over for cocktails and we jumped at the chance to socialize a bit and tour their boat. As it turns out, the two of them sailed their cat to the Caribbean from South Africa and have been cruising all over for the last couple of years. Fun stuff. Perhaps we’ll be able to claim something that significant in a couple of years. Great meeting you Chris and Sheila and if (when) you catch up to us again, we have that Canadian flag for you. 🙂

On the move again early, this time towards Norfolk, Virginia.
We never get tired of these beautiful sunrises.

*We checked the weather forecast on the Weather Underground, which we think is an excellent website. What I neglected to do yesterday, that I did do the day before, was to check the actual winds, as opposed to what was forecasted, via the NOAA Weather Bouys. Had we done so, we “might” have opted to remain at anchor for the day. One more lesson learned.

30 Comments

  1. The Chesapeake is notorious for having the water blown onto the lee shore or off of the weather shore. That same weather behavior also applies to other shallow bays and sounds down the rest of the US East Coast.

    I saw an extreme example of that in 1986 during Hurricane Charlie on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A few hours before the Cat 1 hurricane made landfall at Manteo to our west, I tried to go windsurfing down below Kitty Hawk on the Sound side and found the water to have been blown far away from the put-in area – about a half a mile or more. Everything that was exposed was just mud and sand where the water was normally waist deep or more.

    Another thing to keep in mind is listening to the NOAA weather stations on a regular basis. We always made a habit of listening to them at least 3 times a day – morning, noon and evening. Sometimes more frequently if the barometer was swinging faster than normal.

  2. It all sounds awesome! Miss you guys already. Stay safe!

  3. Hi Mike & Rebecca,
    Don’t know if you’re doing the Dismal Swamp or Virginia Cut but if you do the Swamp do try the Mexican Restaurant just south of the Deep Creek bridge. You can stay over at Elizabeth’s Dock if there is space & walk about 1/4 mile south & over the bridge to the restaurant. We sat out a hurricane on the wall just south of the bridge in 2008 & have many memories of good food with great friends. Stop at the visitor’s station if you can & get to know your neighbours on the dock, then enjoy Elizabeth City & the Rose Buddies – a true gem on your way south.

    Congrats on being about to start the “ditch”. There’s alot to see & do but it’s mostly about the people you’ll meet, both on land & on sea. Keep on having fun & being open to the adventure that is cruising.

    Pat & Karl (temporarily off Ishmael)

    • Hi guys

      Thanks for the message. We’re doing the Swamp so I’ll keep that mexican restaurant in mind… we love Mexican food!

      We’re not planning on rushing this trip as we won’t likely be doing it again.

      Mike

  4. Some of the steepest waves I have seen were in Chesapeake Bay. Enjoying your blog.

  5. NOAA really likes to maintain their wx forecasts even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary. Being able to check the buoy activity is helpful (except when they don’t get updated – grrr!).

    Fishing Bay was a much better place for you guys, glad you found it. You’ve learned some valuable Chesapeake Bay lessons, too bad you will be leaving it behind so soon 😉 !

    Fair Winds,
    Mike

  6. There are two kinds of sailors; those who’ve run aground and those who say they haven’t. We ran our cat aground the first week we took posession but we were so stuck we had to be towed off!
    This summer on the Chesapeake we chose to motor because the forecast called for 40+ gusting winds. When they did finally hit (and it was all of a sudden with very little warning) we watched the mainsail on another boat just rip to shreds right before they ran aground! Before that, they nearly got knocked down as they also had a full jib up!
    A very exciting day in the bay!

  7. Grouchy Turtle just negotiated the turn into Deltaville – and we are enjoying reading about your trials. Exciting place to anchor.

    We are 1 or 2 days behind you — leave breadcrumbs so we can follow.

    Enjoy the Dismal Swamp, the best part of the ICW.

  8. I’m not laughing. In fact, we went aground about the same spot in Deltaville, 15 minutes into our first sail as new owners of Shoal Survivor. Also, that was the only day we have sailed in sustained strong winds, gusting to 37 knots… on our first day.

    The whole posting seemed familiar. A fight, but exciting rather than scary. Good work!

  9. I know you have a lot of stuff over on the sidebar of this blog, but I’d really like to see one of those map things that show all the places you’ve been. Just my suggestion.

  10. Hi Guys
    We were about to leave to head south in our keel boat that draws 5.5 ft.
    After reading the blog today , were staying home.

    Terry & Anneke

  11. 14.1 knots?!? Crap that’s fast! Sorry to hear you ran aground, but it sounds like no damage was done and at least you’ve got that over with 😉 Seriously though, we used to be freaked out about touching bottom but then last August we did and it wasn’t so horrible. We try to avoid it of course but the idea doesn’t terrify us like it used to.

    • Slowly running aground onto soft sand or mud isn’t too bad. I wasn’t super freaked out. I knew we’d be able to get off, one way or the other. I did surprise me though.

  12. Running aground! Never! . . . That’s what we used to say.
    Now we say “There are two types of sailors, “Those that have, . . . and those that will.”..”

    It scared us. We learned from it.
    I’m sure you did.

    Of course we did go out and upgrade our depth sounder right after that.

    Anyway, now you got that over with.
    Relax, and enjoy the speed.

  13. Wow! It sounds like ya’ll have gotten a lot of experience in a short time. Running aground and getting unstuck on your own, and high winds and high speed! I admit we’ve not even gotten close to those kinds of winds or speeds. Glad to hear it all went well.

  14. The first season we had our cat we made a stop at Deltaville. I have almost the exact same photo of the beach right in front of us with the markers in the foreground. We touched briefly with the stbd hull on the way in, but did not actually go aground. We sat out a terrific summer thunderstorm at the fuel dock there and were rewarded with a fantastic double rainbow.

    Don’t rush through Norfolk. You can leave your dinghy at Waterside marina and walk over to Granby street for just about any kind of restaurant/bar you could ask for. Keep having fun!

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