Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Annapolis to Norfolk, VA ...

I returned to Annapolis on August 14 to get Alizée ready for the journey south to Oriental, North Carolina. My friend (and boat manager) Simon told me that it had been a bit of a madhouse on the boat for the four days before I arrived, with new upholstery going in, the topsides being detailed, the bottom dived, the new Walker Bay Genesis dinghy being delivered and mounted on the davits, and Simon seeing to a couple of other things.

By Friday night everything appeared to be in fine shape, and I went to bed happily anticipating the next day. Peter Jakab would be arriving in the afternoon to join me in a road trip over to the eastern shore to have dinner with Bob and Dian Post, where I also would pick up a couple of things I'd had sent ahead from California. ... But Alizée had another plan for me first thing in the morning. Seems she decided she wanted new batteries ... one went completely, so I replaced the entire bank. An unexpected job, but after all Alizée is a boat, so she always has her way.

Peter did arrive, we spent some time aboard the boat, then we drove over to Easton, MD, thence to Oxford for dinner. We spent the night, and the next morning to the Oxford-Bellvue ferry over to St. Michaels so I could check it out prior to visiting by water. Later I got the boat cleaned up and then drove up to BWI to pick up Deborah, my first mate for the trip down the Chesapeake.

August 18 was a day of provisioning ... Safeway, Whole Foods, etc. ... after which we drove over to (Annapolis's best crab house) for dinner with Simon and his girlfriend Sharon and his son Jay, the latter who was visiting from the Azores.

August 19-20. The first day of the trip south. Simon and his friend Patrick had one last little they had to do on the boat, raising the motor lift arm so the dinghy motor would clear the rails. While Simon worked on that, I dropped off the rental car in Annapolis, entered some waypoints on my new C-80 chartplotter.

We departed slip A-10 at Bert Jabins Yacht Yard at 10:45. Got out of the slip easily for our first time (with a little help from Simon and Patrick), and motored out of the harbor. Turns out there was no wind at all, so we motored the entire way over flat waters and under a wonderfully bright sun. We arrived about four and a half hours later, passing the Bloody Point Light as we turned up the Eastern Bay to St. Michaels. On arrival, we tied up easily at the St. Michaels Marina. Total distance for the first day: 28 nautical miles.

St. Michaels is a lovely historic town in eastern Maryland. It brags that during the War of 1812, it fooled the British navy by hoisting lanterns in the trees and atop masts while darkening the town so that the British cannon fire went over the town. Only one house was struck during the bombardment. ... Today the town is a picturesque community of historic houses, some occupied by owners, many rented out for vacations, and others turned into boutiques restaurants. The marina is first class all the way (the morning paper delivered to your cockpit), and it costs as much as one might expect for first class treatment.

We decided to spend two nights in St. Michaels, partly because I wanted to see the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which is one of the best in the country, and partly because we wanted to have dinner with Fred and Ellen Wise. Fred did the survey on Alizée in June and is an old friend of my sailing and history mate Bruce Sinclair.

After our long day of boutique shopping and visiting the Maritime Museum, we rested a bit on the boat, and Fred and Ellen joined us for drinks at Foxy's Marina Bar (just twenty steps from our dock) and then dinner at the Key Lime Cafe.

August 21. Departed St. Michaels at 0815 and motored all day on glassy waters to Solomons Island. It was truly a gorgeous day, but for the lack of wind, perfect. We did get in about an hour's worth of sailing at the end of the day, which was lovely, and arrived at Zahniser's Yachting Center at 17:00, putting in 50 nm. Alizée's Yanmar is performing beautifully.

We had dinner at the Dry Dock Restaurant, which is at Zahniser's. Lots to drink, flowing conversation, and sleeping as soon as we crawled back on the boat.

August 22. After enjoying a gorgeous sunrise, departed Solomons at 0800 and motored into the wind the entire way to Crisfield, MD, on the eastern shore. Arrived at 0430, covering 40 nm, and failed at our first attempt in windy conditions to stern into an east coast slip. We managed going in head first and with help on the docks, but still, I didn't know I had to be a cowboy to dock on the eastern seaboard. I have to get my buddy Lance to teach me how to lasso a piling.

Had a wonderful dinner of home made breads, crab cakes, soft shelled crabs, and clams at the Cove Restaurant ... anywhere else a nondescript neighborhood spot, but here the best. Then saw a lovely sunset off the city docks before wandering back to the boat and sleep.

August 23-25. We decided to try and go straight to Cape Charles so we could spend two days there.

As we left Crisfield harbor I called ahead to Bay Creek Marina on Kings Creek to see about a slip, only to discover that they were fully booked because of the Cape Charles Regatta, which runs from Norfolk to Cape Charles and back on Saturday and Sunday. I then tried the Cape Charles Town Dock, which although full up was willing to put us on a waiting list. We decided to plot a course to Deltaville, on the western side of the Chesapeake, as an alternative, and I reserved a slip there. But about an hour later, just before we were planning to deviate to cross the Chesapeake the Town Dock dockmaster called to tell us we had a tie-up. We canceled Deltaville and had a gorgeous sail pretty much on the beam all the way down to Cape Charles, 51 nm reaching close to 7 knots, some of it motor sailing.

We managed to side tie successfully without help, and I discovered the utility of the boat hook to put lines over pilings. We walked into to town and had dinner at a nice little restaurant on the main street. From the late-nineteenth century until recently Cape Charles's principal role in life was as the railhead connecting the southern end of the eastern Chesapeake seaboard with ferries that ran over to Norfolk. There is still some scattered service, but today the community is turning to tourism. Bay Creek Marina, a mile by land and two by water from the town dock, is the major resort development, with two signature golf courses, houses, townhouses, and a beautiful new marina.

The next day we were able to get a slip at Bay Creek, so we motored over. Alas, we befell what every Chesapeake Bay boater inevitably does - we went aground on the way. In vain we tried to pull off, but without luck. I reported our situation to the local coast guard, and a coast guard auxiliary boat was quickly on scene. While they couldn't pull us off (regulations), they did carry the anchor out so I could kedge us off, and that did the trick. They then guided us into the marina, where we tied up easily.

Bay Creek was a great find. An excellent restaurant, nice shops, good walks, and we picked up a shuttle golf cart to go back into town for a meal. It was a really pleasant stay, which we extended for a second day.

August 26. We departed Bay Creek for Little Harbor in Norfolk early in the morning so as to catch the tide and avoid grounding. A fifteen knot wind caught us backing out the slip and we had a hell of a time getting out, even with help on the docks. But at last we were on our way, navigated the channel carefully and then sailed the 27 nm to Little Harbor with 18-22 knot winds under the jib alone. Our maximum speed was 7.2 knots.

At Little Harbor we got in the slip quite easily, perhaps the best job we'd done. We had a pretty poor meal at the harbor restaurant, we took a taxi to the airport and I picked up a rental car at the airport (just 8 miles away), and Deborah packed to be ready to catch her plane the next morning.

August 27. Had breakfast on the way to the airport, I saw Deborah off, and then I went to pick up some things at a West Marine and at the grocery. At 15:00 I picked up my friend Bruce Sinclair at the airport and took him over to the boat. Bruce had a pretty tight schedule because his brother was quite ill and he wanted to get back to his home in Bethelhem, PA as soon as possible, so we agreed to do our provisioning, eat and leave early the next morning for North Carolina via the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

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