It was mid-November and the weather had suddenly turned cold, very cold. In fact, forecasts were predicting record setting lows for that time of year throughout the Chesapeake. Unfortunately, due to the recent hurricane losses over the past years, my insurance providers would not insure for named storms south of Cape Hatteras until after November 30th. So Oh! was trapped in a bitter fall cold snap that even had the fishermen bundling up. Temperatures as low as -5°C (22°F) were forecast and Oh! does not have a cabin heating system. The challenge is usually finding cool air where I like to sail. Here there was no shortage of cool air. Was there a bonus? Well…yes there was. There is always a silver lining to every cloud. In this case it was the fridge and freezer, they worked really well!
From Annapolis to Solomon’s Island was just over 42 miles which could be comfortably done in the short daylight hours. The sailing was brisk with following apparent winds reaching as high as 25 knots which meant wind and gusts as high as 37 knots. However, Oh! performs really well on downwind and broad reach tacks. It was a fun sail that ended as the sun was setting at the picturesque and historical town of Johnstown at Solomon Island located at the mouth of the Patuxent River.
The small town has a long history of boat building and fishing as well as an excellent museum and really friendly people. It was a welcome spot to spend a few days as the forecasts went from cold to colder. I eventually took a space at one of the marinas simply to get shore power so that I could plug in a few small space heaters…imagine low power hair dryers to ward of the sub-zero temperatures. Despite the cold, Solomons Island was a beautiful spot to visit, enjoy some cycling and explore the town. The Calvert Marine Museum was especially good with a preserved Pile Light House you can tour (one of only three left). The museum is beautifully designed with many exhibits from the shore through intertidal and shallow bay aquatic zones. There are also some fossil remains and skeletons that have been recovered from the local cliffs in the area. They featured prehistoric sharks and marine critters you really wouldn’t want to go swimming with. That one with the big jaws a 10 year old could probably stand up between his upper and lower teeth! It was an amazing museum for such a small town.
Time was getting short however and I needed to get to Norfolk, Virginia to meet my arriving crew for the passage to Bermuda. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating and continued bouts of icy cold strong north winds were filling the forecasts. The next hop was to be Reedville where I could go far up a narrow creek and get shelter from the strong winds. As in much of the Chesapeake, the bottom in the creeks is essentially mud and decomposing leaves so the holding is quite poor. It would often take several attempts to get and anchor to set, so there was never much trust that it would hold in a blow. I had already dragged on three occasions further north and did not wish to repeat that with the strong winds that were forecast for the remainder of the trip to Norfolk. To make it possible to sleep I downloaded and App for my iPhone “Anchor Pro” that was my trusted and constant companion each night. My preference was an App rather than the Chart Plotters alarm system because it is portable and much louder. No one would sleep through its siren call when the boat drags beyond the set limits.
For two nights I was delayed waiting out strong north winds while keeping the iPhone charged and letting the Anchor Pro app notify me if Oh! went astray. Finally, the day before Andy was scheduled to arrive, I had no choice but to make the run to Norfolk in 25-40 knot winds. Not my cup of tea, but at least it was all downwind so the apparent winds would be manageable. Plus when running in a catamaran you only use the genoa which is all manned from the helm…so it would be an easy sail single handed. Along the way new records were set for speed over ground (SOG) while surfing down the steep waves hitting as high as 16 knots. One long surfing run lasted about 20 seconds above 14.6 knots. It was an odd feeling of the power being unleashed, trills and fright all rolled into one show moment of awe. In the shallow Chesapeake Bay the waves are close and steep, so the optics of surfing downwind were a visual treat. It is very dynamic and the waves move fast. Fortunately, there was no need to turn into the waves. That would have been very uncomfortable slamming into the short steep seas and high winds. It was another fun sail, but very cold.
I arrived in Norfolk at the Tidewater Marina after dark. I had called ahead and had fortunately been assigned a T berth well inside the marina and well protected from the 15-20 knot winds that were blowing straight into the entrance of the marina. It was a long day, but a long hot shower and dinner at the restaurant overlooking Oh! was a great ending to a lively sail down the Chesapeake Bay. Apparently the arrival and docking of Oh! in the dark while singlehanded was of great interest to the dockside pub guests as they watched from there warm table seats. Several came up to me after while I was enjoying my dinner complimenting Oh! and the tricky docking that was made to look so easy…and without any dock hands to help. It was satisfying to receive the compliments and I enjoyed the conversations that inevitably followed. The next day Andy would arrive and we would do the final provisioning while we waited for a weather window to sail to Bermuda.
Cheers From Oh!