There was a lot of excitement about getting back to a house. This last month we had really been pushing ourselves with long days. Laundry and other projects had been put aside.
We LOVED our trip but there were some things to be desired- showers, real bed where you can stretch your legs out, standing up straight inside, refrigeration/freezer, and knowing when it rains the bed will stay dry/and when there is a storm, waves will not roll you. It’s not that many things, but we do miss them after 8 months of cruising and 11 months of living aboard Velocir.
As a special treat, our family and friends gave us a welcome-home party! So much delicious food and amazing to see everyone again. It was a taco party, and we made white sangria like we’d had in St. Augustine. There was also tons of ice cream and cake!!
We had waited in Old Point Comfort, VA two days for good weather. It would take us three days (140ish miles) and realistically the weather didn’t look good for the entire week. Our family had planned a party and relatives were coming- oh no!
It was a tough to be so close but yet so far. We’d gone out and come back one morning when NOAA called for S 10-15 knots but it was ENE 25 knots all day. With 4 ft choppy swell on our beam, Velocir couldn’t make much speed and we were getting tossed around, so it wasn’t worth it.
The next day the wind finally turned S 25-30 knots. A bit rough for Velocir, but we were headed N so the angle to the waves was okay. We put up our main with a reef in it, kept the engine going and let out a scrap on genoa that keeps us from rolling in heavy seas downwind. We were screaming down the bay at 7.5 knots the whole day!!!! From 6AM to 8PM we made 98 miles to Solomons, MD. Quite a feat for us and a distance we’d thought would take two days.
The Chesapeake is fun because instead of bouys our new marks are historic lighthouses.
Amelia saw some major commercial fishing on the Chesapeake Bay near the entrance to the Rappahannock that she didn’t know existed. There were three massive blue fishing trawlers (like you would see in Alaska). Bigger than shrimping trawlers, probably over 150 ft. They were doing circles off the channel, which was very confusing to us and other cruisers around us. Many people tried to call them on the radio but they did not respond.
As we got closer, Amelia realized each huge trawler was momma boat to two 30 foot silver fishing boats that were open-deck and had two giant 20 foot cranes on deck. The cranes supported giant nets, and the two smaller fishing boats would circle around dropping the nets and picking them up again, while the huge trawler circled them. (Three groups of momma trawler with 2 crane boats)
To complete the whole process, two white planes circled them in the sky the whole time, obviously a part of the fleet. Amelia was surprised this kind of fishing went on in the Bay?!? Also worried because she spotted a sea turtle nearby.
We made it to Solomons, MD with an hour of daylight left to spare, staying at a friend’s dock. Our last day is tomorrow!!!!
After a relaxing day at the town dock in Oriental, NC we headed out into calm calm weather and were greeted by a beautiful sunrise. The wind picked up as predicted mid-morning so instead of motoring inside the waterway, we sailed around a few peninsulas before coming up the Pungo River to Belhaven, NC.
Calm as can be outside Oriental, NC! Later that night in the Pungo River massive thunderstorms swarmed around us. To our north, lightening continued in bright bursts for hours and hours! It was fun to watch and we didn’t get directly hit.
The next day we motored through the Alligator River, which we’d skipped on our way down last Fall by sailing near the Outer Banks. It was a straight canal, with submerged logs and stumps everywhere. Thankfully no collisions! We made it to Elizabeth City a day later, sailing across the Albemarle Sound. It was some great sunny weather and warmer temperatures!
When we finally reached the Dismal Swamp Canal we felt home-free! Almost back to Annapolis. (After this we are practically in the Chesapeake Bay!) The swamp canal was just a beautiful as we’d remembered. Lots of birds, tons of turtles and lily pads.
The first lock, South Mills, raised Velocir up 8 feet with water gushing in.
At our second lock, Deep Creek, we added a conch shell to the lockmaster’s collection. The conch garden is quite full!
We headed to an anchorage we like near Old Point Comfort, VA. It was so close from the Dismal Swamp Canal but many obstacles were in our path. The only scheduled bridge was on a temporary schedule, so it was opening less-frequently than we thought. By the time it opened, a train bridge in front of it had come down and a train was stopped in the middle, not moving. It took two hours and there was a huge pile-up of boats waiting!
Now we will sit near Old Point Comfort for a weather window to sail north up the Chesapeake!
Determined to get off to an early start, we were sailing out from our anchorage by 0730. A miraculous feat I know! It was well worth it. The wind was N about 5 –10 kts and we were able to get around a sand bar we needed to pass before being headed (wind forcing us down) to a more southerly course by NE winds. The timing was perfect
We set the asymmetrical spinnaker again and proudly did our 2 kts all day as others motored past us. It gave us a chance to finish setting up our sun shade, listen to music, put together our whisker pole, read a book and rearrange some gear in our cockpit.
By 1630 we anchored by Old Point Comfort and the tunnel bridge just north of Norfolk. After using a sunshower for the first time (super cool) we were refreshed and ready to go ashore. We got our dinghy inflated and motored over to the Old Point Comfort fort on an evening stroll. History fact: the longest US fort in continuous use, where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned and where freed slaves came to enlist.
The fort was more like a well-manicured park amidst old military housing. Children played on the grass and Halloween decorations hung outside the historic homes the military families live in. The perfect lawns and older homes are like the Naval Academy in Annapolis, but here it is more empty, less populated, and surrounded by a fort. The homes are everywhere—inside and outside the fort.
One of the nicest parts of our walk were the old trees. They were everywhere and seemed as old as the fort itself.
Hiking up to the top of the fort, we found the pet cemetery (like in Scotland, Eva!). Mitzy was my favorite. Honorable mentions include Lassie, Skippy and Schnapps. And apparently one family in particular didn’t do very well with three of their pets in the late 30s.
After walking a loop around the side of and through the fort, we returned to our dinghy. Next to us was a sport fishing boat waiting at the ramp for his trailer. The guy wanted to give us some of his left over calamari bait, but we don’t plan on fishing until NC. He said we could just eat it, yet, still we declined.
As a beautiful sunset began to appear, Grant motored us back to the boat. (Old Comfort Marina in the background).