Chesapeake Bonzai October 17 2006
We spent a couple more days in Annapolis getting projects done and using the town's free wifi. Towards the end of our stay, we got to watch the sailboat show be dismantled, and watch with amazement as they prepared for the powerboat show as they dismantled the sail exhibits! First it was a parade out of town (sail) then a parade of power boats in!
We left Annapolis the afternoon of Oct 11 so that we could make the first leg of our Chesapeake voyage a short hop. We anchored in Herring Bay in a bit of rain. It was just Barfeet and one other sailboat - a nice, quiet anchorage. We pulled up the anchor in Herring Bay (10/12) in the morning and loved the cliffs as they were painted with the early morning light and we kept going South. Excitedly we used the main sail and the screecher (Erin doesn't mention that the wind was 5 knots - so it wasn't so exciting for Chris ... ).
We entered Solomans Island (another great tip from cruiser friends, Bill & Louise, from A Dock in Barrington) and anchored about 3pm in Back Creek. It was a tight squeeze and we had to move the anchor once because we meandered too far into the channel (luckily a barge clarified the issue for us via their loud speaker). We wandered around the town which amazingly had a West Marine, full grocery and other amenities located just steps from the dinghy dock. It is a pretty place and definitely hoppin' in the summer. The Tikki bar looked fun for an afternoon cocktail; unfortunately, it closed for the season the previous weekend (looks like we are still on schedule). It was an especially fun walk around town because all of the fire hydrants have been carefully painted with nautical and seashore scenes...take a look! We had a fun dinner at the Naughty Gull restaurant and even got a great idea from a fellow patron (and sailor) about how to wire the electric compressor. Chris took a page from Erin's ordering book and ordered the small nachos - yikes - really good but could not be finished. Apparently there is a couple in their 80s who come in about once a month. They always have a pitcher of beer and split a large nachos...and there is not a scrap of chip crumb left when they are finished. Impressive! Back to the boat and attempts to sleep were not easy due to winds that gusted to 22 knots - a rolly night. Oh well, we were up early to make a 100 mile stretch down the Chesapeake to Norfolk...bonzai. We left at sunrise with the fisherman. The osprey and Monarch butterflies have given way to pelicans. The pelicans "buzz" the ocean so closely that it is no wonder that they catch fish in their pouch.
We had a 12 hour sail ahead of us and simply relaxed and settled in - we had a salad lunch and alternated naps...and a twix treat thrown in for good measure. It was a perfectly calm day with no wind. Okay, we would have preferred some wind but there is nothing wrong with "boring."
We started out strong at 9 knots engine speed (thanks to current) but slipped as the day wore on - 8 knots and down to 7 knots. There were other cruisers out with us and everyone seemed to have the same sentiment - make miles while the weather is good because the weather has been erratic (1 good day followed by 3 bad days). At 10am we passed the mighty Potomac River and passed the Rappahannock River at 1pm. There was a bit of excitement along the way as there was a schooner race from Annapolis to Norfolk. Poor souls had a bit of a rough day of it due to no wind...many turned their engines on along the way to get out of the "dolldrums (sp?)." By early evening we really started losing speed and did not enter Norfolk Harbor until after twilight (as you remember - not our favorite plan). My goodness - Norfolk is one busy harbors. Not only the tankers, tugs and other commercial traffic we were used to...but also aircraft carriers and warships galore. Yikes!! We took it slow and were glued to the radar and chart plotter. At one point we mistook a tug pushing a barge for a stationary building - thank goodness he beamed us with his searchlight to clear up that confusion. We made it into a marina slip at 8pm. Quick straightening up (Barefeet and ourselves) and off to meet friends and head to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Out to the mountains where we experienced some wonderful Fall days - hiking through newly colored trees, apples for a homemade pie and a crispness to the air. We picked up some peach salsa and preserves at the Saunder's Brothers Farm (for our pantry) and happened upon the farm day celebration. Festivities were complete with apple butter making - and canning right on the spot. It was a wonderful time - watching the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains with a fire on the porch (and chips and guacamole with cocktails - can we call them sundowners on land?) with good friends was pretty close to perfection. The chill left the air when we returned to Norfolk where it was nearly 70 degrees F and sunny - variety is the spice of life.
Back in Norfolk and we connected with friends from Erin's childhood that we have kept in touch with over the years. It was like a family reunion and a fun, raucous evening full of good food and lots of laughs. Chris even got some electrical engineering input about the compressor from some ODU professors (thanks Bob and Mary Lewis). Tuesday morning (10/17) we hunkered down and ploughed through taxes, health insurance, mail and even managed to order a part that Erin's folks will bring when they arrive later this week. All a bit of a rush so that we can get to the ICW and start heading toward the Dismal Swamp this afternoon. It was a bonzai through the Chesapeake and definitely too fast. We hope to return and take a bit more time exploring the bays and islands as well as sampling more Virginia food (such as boiled peanuts, salted ham, grits, and on and on).