Run to Norfolk

11/13/2007, Willoughby Bay, VA


Leaving Chincoteague in the morning was much easier than coming in at dusk. Our trip out did give us a chance to marvel at our luck, realizing how close we were to seriously damaging our boat and possibly hurting ourselves. It was good to get out of the shoals and out to the loving arms of the deep Atlantic! Today we plan a long run into Norfolk, VA. We are not too concerned with getting there at night time as Norfolk is a major harbor with excellent navigational aids and more importantly, deep channels for all the navy ships that need to get in and out of the base.
Wind was out of the west, supposed to have been 10 knots or so; perfect sailing weather. However, as with all the forecasts up until now that have been wrong when the expected wind was to favor us, this too was incorrect. The wind died pretty soon after we raised our main and later returned to our bow. With such little wind, the jib kept on luffing and was unable to keep any wind, so we rolled that in. We sheeted in the main, which gave us a 0.5 knot speed increase over the 4.5 knots that our engine gave us.
It was a pleasant day of sailing when the autopilot did most of the work and I got to read about the Intracoastal Waterway and Paul about marine batteries. As we got near Cape Henry around 9 p.m., the harbor traffic started getting active and we both got excited about our arrival. However, we soon realized that we had another 15 miles or so to travel, which really put our arrival at midnight, just like we had thought it would be.
We passed by some huge ships anchored outside the channel, saw a couple of tugs towing big barges and saw some fishing boats coming in from a day of hard work. As we approached Hampton Roads in the channel Paul called me up to look at our chartplotter. He had the radar and chart screens side by side, as well as having the radar superimposed over the chart. On the chart we could see land on either side of where we were headed with a gap in between, like a boy with his front teeth missing. When we looked up at the horizon, we saw that ahead of us to port was a highway bridge, full of cars and trucks buzzing by. To starboard was also a highway bridge with vehicles. In the middle however, was the channel for the ships! We had just come to the Hampton Roads bridge tunnel! It was fantastic motoring over a highway tunnel, knowing that all those cars that disappeared at the side of the bridge were under our keel!
Around midnight we followed the channel markers for Willoughby Bay into the anchorage that was flanked on one side by the highway bridge and on the other side by a huge navy base. We dropped anchor and went to sleep in no time, amidst all the noise from our neighbors.
We woke up the next morning to sounds of helicopters taking off and landing. One was so close above us that the propeller blocked the sun, creating a Vietnam war movie-esque aura in our cabin. We took the day off and spent it reading and planning. We plan to take some time after thanksgiving, in Beaufort, NC to outfit and repair. What needs repairs? Let’s see. The AIS system (automatically spots and warns of approaching commercial vehicles) isn’t picking up, which is related to the ship’s VHS radio, which is receiving but not transmitting. The batteries are not taking a charge and, now that we’ve replaced the regulator, can be replaced. The motor-driven windlass is not working. I suspect it’s an easy fix, but in the interim we’ve been hoisting the anchor manually. More will probably break as we make progress south, and we’ll have to fix them too. For now, we are happy that nothing major has broken!

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