Sunday 24 Nov, HHN day 44: Mid-day departure, nervous channel exit, a wonderful beam reach sail, a long and cold evening. Finally on our way south!
Lots of rain in the night, as the front passed, and windy as we wake up. The boat is healing as 30kt gusts howl through the rigging. Not a night to be at anchor, and again, we are glad we didn’t leave yesterday.
But can we leave today? At breakfast the water level is back down to 2.6m, with us barely afloat. The forecast NW wind of 20kts, gusting 30, will be very good for us once in the river. But could also be a huge problem as we navigate out through the channel shoals where we have said hello to the bottom on more than one occasion. If we hit bottom today, in this following wind, we will surely be pinned aground, and on a falling tide. So quite a risk. But if we don’t go today, we miss the calm weather window around the infamous Hatteras in 2 days. And there is no other window in the next week of forecasts.
We decide that if we see steady 2.9m at high tide, around mid-day, we will attempt to depart. Otherwise we stay.
The rest of the morning we stay in the warm getting our last use of the WiFi and listening to the increasing wind outside. We even see a 35kt gust! Outside, the deck is covered with blown leaves and Cloudy is straining at her mooring lines, saying “let me go, let me go!”
By 12:30 we start to see a steady 2.9m, even 3.0 occasionally. So lines are prepared to slip and we prepare to leave. We feel very rusty at boat maneuvers, but need not have worried, we depart slick as ever. As we enter the channel towards the river, to say I’m nervous would be an understatement. With the wind behind us, it’s tricky keeping the speed down below 2kts. I actually need to engage reverse to keep the speed down. As we slowly edge towards the shoal section, Oana calls out the depths, but my eyes are also glued to the instrument. In the shoal area the depth drops as expected, 2.9 … 2.7 …. 2.6 …. We would touch bottom at 2.5m so we had agreed that if we see 2.5m, even for one moment, we reverse back into the marina. But thankfully 2.6m was the shallowest be saw. So it was very close.
As we head into Herring Bay and depths of 3-4m we are both visibly relieved. The first big hurdle is over. We are on our way. Bye bye Herrington Harbour North. It’s a wonderful marina and yard and we have made very good friends here. We’ll be back again at the end of the circumnavigation.
In Herring Bay we bring the fenders in, stow the mooring lines and then notice our first casualty. We are missing a life-ring on the starboard side. Given the port one is not even tied on, we assume the other must have blown off. First time out after a layup, it seems there is always something we forget to do!
Once in the main river the sails come out. Reefed main and genoa. And what a glorious sailing day it is. We are charging down the Chesapeake at 9kts, occasionally 10, under clear blue late autumn skies and flat water. But where is everybody on this wonderful sailing day? It’s a Sunday, yet there is not another sail in sight. Is this really the usually crammed Chesapeake? No, it’s late November, Glen, so only Mad-Dogs & Englishmen!
Despite the wind chill factor we are quite warm inside cockpit tent. In fact with the sun, it’s like a greenhouse! And we comment again how we love the tent and clear windscreen to see through. Sailing in an open cockpit in these temperature is unimaginable.
Having set off late (waiting for the tide) the light soon starts to fade. The sun sets at 5pm when we are level with the Patuxent River and very soon the sky is an amazing crimson with Jupiter and Venus shining brightly before they too follow the sun into the Maryland horizon. So nice to be back out with nature.
With the sun gone the cockpit temperature falls and we put more layers on. Also, as commonly happens at sunset, the wind dies and the engine goes on. But an hour later it’s back as we pass the Potomac River and Smith Point (this is the land of John Smith and Pocahontas). Sailing resumes.
We are still sailing very nicely but the evening seems very long, dark and cold. And we both feel very sleepy. All the fresh air and adrenaline we guess. We both snuggle wrapped in a sleeping bag and write today’s blog. Then, for some reason, just as we complete it, it vanished from the screen and mail server like it had never been written! What a bummer. Just lately we have had several of this. We must think of another media to write them in rather than an email draft.
Eventually, we turn the corner towards Dealtaville, furl the sails and drop anchor at 11:30 pm. 83nm in 11 hours. Exactly the time it took us a year ago. But with half this trip in the dark, it seemed much longer.
Desperate to jump into bed, I take a quick look inside the engine room and I’m shocked to find the top and one side of the engine covered in dry salt! Somehow, seawater has sprayed all over the engine … my pristinely clean, zero corrosion Volvo. OMG! Studying the drip splatters, like a forensic scientist might look at blood splatters ( I do personally equate this to a murder scene) the source seems to be from above the engine, with water coming through the heat and sound proofing material. But where? How? There can be no salt water up there. Very odd.
Pretty exhausted myself, and Oana also desperate to sleep, we decide to leave the engine till tomorrow.
Neither of us remember hitting the pillow. It was a good day overall.