I apologize for the slow updates to our blog. We’ve been super busy! We arrived in Norfolk yesterday and we absolutely love it here.
First… I’m pleased to report that Mavis came through tropical storm (formerly hurricane) Michael unscathed. We had plenty of time to take down our large “screecher” headsail, put out lots of extra extra lines and fenders, and lash down anything that could become a projectile in the 45 knot sustained and 70 knot gusts forecast for Deltaville. The winds were not expected to get serious until about 9pm but they would blow all night.
Some of our fellow transient cruisers at the marina organized an impromptu hurricane watch party in the lounge and the crews from various boats got together. It was nice having drinks and talking sailing and cruising with yachtsmen who have done this trip before. I got lots of information that will be useful as we proceed south. After the sun went down the winds began to pick up and everyone retired to their boats for the night. Earlier today, we met a few people who were anchored out in the creek. They were in for a long, wet and windy night. But then so were we all. The difference in being tied to a floating dock vs. at anchor is significant. In the marina, we didn’t need to worry about our anchor dragging… Or somebody else dragging anchor and crashing into us or fouling our anchor. It was also convenient to be able to get off the boat which is something I did around midnight to let Willow relieve herself.
The winds had picked up to a steady 35 knots with gusts up around 50 and a few over 60. It is difficult to explain exactly how unsettling it can be to feel the whole boat shudder and to hear the winds shrieking through the rigging. At times it felt like we were going to fly away. Just as I was having the thought of our tiny little floating home flying through the air our phones began to sound tornado warning alarms. The alert said “Seek shelter immediately.” I wondered if being on a boat really counted as shelter but there we were. Cindy seemed a bit concerned as the winds picked up even more and the rain came down in sheets. It was about this time when Willow made it clear to me that it was time to go to the bathroom. It was around midnight and the temperature was still around 70 degrees so I hopped into my foulies and out we went.
The floating dock, which seemed incredibly sturdy a few hours earlier was rocking quite a bit. And the tide had risen many feet above the norm. Like on almost every floating pier, there is a ramp that connects the pier to the land. This ramp allows the floating dock to rise and fall with the tides. Our floating dock had risen so high, however, that the ramp was barely accessible. I had to lift the dog and help her up and then jump up myself. On solid land now, little rivers of runoff water were forming small whitewater rapids as they made their way to the creek. After Willow finished up we both returned quickly to the boat — absolutely drenched.
I dried off and got into bed. Cindy and I lay there for hours feeling the awesome power of mother nature. When I woke up around 8am the sun was shining and the winds had died down to about 15 knots. It was a glorious day and I immediately got to checking on the boat to make sure everything was a-ok. Mavis has two very deep hatches on the stern that have been giving me problems. The seals that are intended to keep them watertight are in need of replacement and on one of them the screws that are supposed to secure the latch have stripped. I’ve tried a few times to make a good repair but it keeps failing. One hatch holds a 5 gallon jerry can of emergency fresh water, a bucket and our portable generator. The other holds our kayak paddles, 2 jerry cans of diesel, our shore power cords, water hoses, etc. Upon opening the port hatch I discovered about 1.5 feet of fresh water in the hold and our brand new generator was half submerged. I was really happy to discover that after drying it off, it started and operated flawlessly. I hope that continues.
I spent some time pumping out those holds and doing some general boat cleanup. I raised the screecher sail that I had removed and readied the boat to continue our journey.
Willow enjoyed the large fields in Deltaville. She met a few Portuguese Water Dogs from a neighboring boat and spent time over the past few days running around with them and hunting for squirrels as usual. Her appetite (for dog food) has not returned 100% but she seems much better.
After 5 nights in Deltaville, we departed at dawn and sailed most of the 40 miles to Hampton. We used the engine for the last 3 miles because of a major lull in the winds but they picked up strong just in time for docking. We were expecting light north winds at about 10 knots. This is a little light to keep the boat moving at an acceptable speed if it’s directly downwind. Fortunately, we got gusty winds from the north-northeast between 15 and 25. The winds kept shifting on us making it a difficult trip down the bay but I was happy to be under sail as it will likely be the last real opportunity we will have to sail Mavis for many miles. In fact, over the 1,000 plus statute miles between here and Miami we may only be able to sail about 50 of them unless we hop out into the ocean which we probably will do if the weather is favorable.
We made it into Hampton with plenty of time to spare before sunset but I didn’t want to press our luck and continue the additional 10 miles to Norfolk so we docked at the Bluewater Marina and took a walk to explore Hampton and find some dinner. We found a little seafood place on the water and enjoyed steamed shrimp and crab before heading back to the marina. On our walk we realized that Hampton wasn’t the nicest area. There were some quaint old houses but the security bars and roll up doors on most of the stores indicated a high-crime area.
We ended up motoring down the Elizabeth River 10 miles south to Norfolk the next morning and we are both so glad we did.
We passed the famous buoy R36 which is right outside of the Waterside Marina. This buoy marks the official Mile Zero of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway which runs 1080 miles from Norfolk to Miami. The good news is that this waterway is mostly protected. The bad news is that there are over 130 bridges between here and Miami and about 85 of them will require opening to accommodate our mast. The other “bad” news is that for most of the ICW, sailing is out of the question.
We both really love Norfolk! It’s a clean, small and friendly city with a cool waterfront district and just about everything we could want or need within a few block’s walk. We will probably stay here for a few nights before continuing because we are getting close to Cape Hatteras and we still have not secured approval from our insurance carrier to proceed south of Hatteras before November 1. We hope to get this in place next week.
So for now, we’re here enjoying restaurants and shopping and live music and things we often take for granted like barbershops… I got a haircut and feel human again. We will probably take in the Chrysler Museum of Art and do lots more walking and exploring before we depart here.
So that’s my update for now. I think Cindy is working on putting together her own post from her perspective. Thanks for following the journey!
S/V Mavis #816