Time was up in Hampton but the weather window looked terrible so we cancelled the direct to Block Island/Bristol plan (plan A) and opted for the “Let’s dash up to Cape May and see how it looks” plan (plan B). Of course doing that seems safer running up the Chesapeake instead of venturing out into blue water but it adds 100+ miles and the stress of many commercial ships in a small place (plan C). And since when are forecast severe thunderstorms and tornado watches actually safe (the morning forecast)? So Plan B won and outside we went. We set off on Thursday at 9:30, fully fueled, and had a great 2+ knot ebb current push us out of the Chesapeake as we headed NNE. Gotta love it. This is going to be a great trip.
Remind me never to think that. After getting out of the Chesapeake dodging freighters, carriers, and destroyers (stay 1,000 yards away or they get heavily on your case – poor fishermen had to scatter), we meandered up the Delaware coast expecting the grib/NOAA forecast wind to veer east and thus provide us with a reasonable close reasch sail up the coast. Alas, methinks in nautical terms, forecast = dream, similar to the 15 knot forecast really meaning 25 knots. Soon we were blissfully hammering our way into steep 3 foot short period chop with winds on the nose (NNE not east) and motors roaring. You see, we couldn’t really “sail” i.e. “go where the wind takes you” without risking spending a significant amount of time in forecast 20+ knot winds (remember the translation = 30+ knot winds). So we tore along at 5.5 knots (normally 7.5 knots in flat seas) towards our destination as the captain embraced the oil sheikhs feeding the motors in what should have been a green boat.
But the sunset (sorry no pictures) and just after sunset were amazing. Did you see Jupiter rising with Venus? Jupiter is spectacularly bright and Venus is very close. By June 30 they will appear as a double star (hope it is clear that night). As it was I was awed by the sight but had to wait until we got to internet range to know what I had just seen. Pictures from a bouncing boat were poor so no photos.
Luckily, this bashing and crashing in waves at right angles due to the partial wind shift lasted a mere 9 hours, but that was enough for Charlie to look quite forlorn, refuse to eat, and give you the evil eye that says “how do you expect me to poop in this bucking bronco?”. But fate gave us relief with the predicted wind shift finally showing up settling us in to a lovely beam reach with no engines – catamarans just love beam reaches. As if to say I am sorry for the last 9 hours beating your brains out, mother nature upped the ante and made up for the late wind shift by bringing in the higher winds earlier than forecast (such is sailing – forget the computer and all that fancy stuff and just sail in whatever you are in!). So now we were tearing along between 8 and 9 knots directly into waves that had not quite gotten the message that the wind had shifted. Yee Haw – now this is exciting! At least we were going the right direction with a 20-25 knot wind (which wasn’t supposed to show up for another 5-6 hours accompanied by 30+ knot gusts).
Well there is always a bright side. Right? Sure was in this case. With all that great speed and the bashing our brains out, our arrival time originally planned as 2 pm was improving dramatically dropping to 1 pm, noon, 10, then 9 am!. Wow, if you have to be plowing spray all over the boat, it is nice to know there is a benefit. Our arrival dropped dramatically from the initial planned 2 pm to an arrival at 8:30 am. Yah! We beat the big winds, in theory at least. Those big winds were to get all over us at 10 to 11 am but true to form, they arrived at 7:30 am leaving the captain with a “do I reef? I really should, but I’m going to take the sail down in half an hour, but…”. Number one rule of the sea, if you think it, do it. In this case, with all sheets well eased, we tore along at 9 knots to our drop sail point and did exactly that. Then we had a twisty-turny gallop through the breakwater as the following sea kept encouraging the boat, now a motor boat, to turn left or right and head directly for the breakwater (following big seas always want to turn you in a direction you don’t want to go – especially in a breakwater channel that is rapidly shoaling). But we got through with the tired captain called on the new autopilot for some help and it performed admirably keeping us heading more us less straight despite the violent yawing.
Cape May – sweet Cape May. Found an anchor spot but current was opposite of wind so anchoring was quite confusing but we settled ok on the first try. Then we settled back to 25-30 knot winds tearing at the sails as the captain packed them away to reduce windage. Then the rain hit, big time. How perfect can you get? Settled in snugly in a protected harbor with 30 knot winds licking at the boat, rain slashing by. The anchor didn’t budge an inch as we tucked in for the night. Lesson learned – sail what you are given, stay happy, always have a good harbor as an out.
We will head to Bristol tomorrow. Or may not. Let’s see what the forecasters say, then maybe we will poke our nose out into reality and check for ourselves. Meanwhile we are hunkered down with some big thunderstorms that have marched up the Chesapeake slipping by us with much rumbling but a couple looking like they are taking direct aim for us. Thanks mother nature for washing much of the salt off the boat. For now, we are happy not to have taken the Plan A or Plan C route. Love our life.