Paradigm Shift - Season 3, Chapter 4 Chesapeake Bay Cruising - Continued
Well we survived the remnants of Hurricane Dorian very well. We had a great spot that protected us from wind and we never would have known that there were 40 knot winds all around us except we watched the weather station. We did have a real nice, new restaurant called Horn Harbor that was close enough for us to take the tender and enjoy a meal or two. I persuaded them to try grilling the squid instead of frying and by the end of the dinner the chef was bringing me samples of potential new menu items with the grilled squid:).
The summer turned out really well despite the setback with the fuel tanks. The weather was great the entire time and we enjoyed unrestricted movement on the Bay. Since we had no schedule, we just crisscrossed the bay several times and found plenty of spots for anchoring and docking. We returned to Solomons for a brief visit to enjoy the swimming pool and have Sunday Funday tied up instead of being on anchor. We also fulfilled the last stop on the schedule which was two weeks at the Tides Inn in Irvington, VA on the Rappahannock River. This was one of the three places we scheduled early and intended to stay at for two weeks. The other two stays were impacted by the fuel leak issues. Our plan was to get a rental car and do some exploring by car while we had the boat at the marina for two weeks. As always, the plan didn’t go quite as well as expected. Just getting a car turned into a bit of a nightmare because we were located too far from any of the car rental places to come pick us up and of course there were no taxis or Ubers in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, we ended up getting a ride from the Dockmaster to the rental car place.
Brother-in-law Stan and his wife Cindy came to visit for a couple of days. The Tides was a good spot for a visit because they offer a fair amount to do on the property. The Tides has a spa so of course we had a nice spa day for ourselves. They also have a pitch and putt so we played golf a few times to get warmed up for the real thing with Stan and Cindy. We played golf at the Golden Eagle course which was nearby. No one played too well so we played 16 holes and finished early so we could have time for drinks before dinner. The Tides also has a pool and a gym which we used quite a bit. Lastly, they have a nice oyster bar by the pool and each Wednesday they steam oysters on an open fire on the beach. Of course we happened to be available each Wednesday at the appropriate time with a glass of wine in hand. We also pulled out the kayak and had a few good rides around the harbor and surrounding areas, and we launched the tender and took some nice evening happy hour tours. Also, while at the Tides, we did a good bit of exploring the ‘Northern Neck’ of Virginia. We took bike rides in the local area and we used the rental car to explore several nearby areas such as Gloucester, Deltaville, Kilmarnock, and Urbana. Before Stan and Cindy left we visited the local vineyard, The Dog and Oyster, for a wine tasting and lunch, and ate at the “best” restaurant in town which was called Merrior, which is a descriptive word for the briny flavor of oysters. While in the Northern Neck we tried oysters of basically every variety - raw, baked, grilled, fried, stuffed, and others that I can’t remember. One of the take a ways from our summer on the Bay was that Maryland is for crabs and Virginia is for oysters even though they catch as many crabs in Virginia as they do in Maryland.
Also while at the Tides we met some new friends with fancy new boats. Richard and Rose have a beautiful new Horizon 65 power cat and John and Cher have a brand new Princess 55. Richard and Rose stuck around for a few days and we got together for day out on the tenders and found a good spot in Urbana for eating crabs and drinking beer which was about 10 miles up the river. On the way the water was flat calm, but of course not quite so on the way back although even Tortilla was not too uncomfortable.
From the Tides we headed back to Solomons one last time to remove our now out-of-date life raft and get a new one in anticipation of some more offshore trips. We donated the old life raft to a friend who used it for a demonstration at a Kadey Krogen get together. It was reported to me that the raft did not deploy as it should have in an emergency situation so it turned out to be a good idea to replace it. I had told our friend that if it launched perfectly, I didn’t want to know about it. All went smoothly with the removal and installation of the rafts and we helped keep the economy moving forward by writing another nice check to Washburn’s Boat Yard. From Solomons we headed back to Cape Charles on the southern tip of the Virginia eastern shore. We enjoyed Cape Charles on the way north so we decided to stop by again. We were hoping that we would get a favorable weather window and we would head offshore to get down to Hilton Head, SC which would allow us to skip the ICW and allow us to make a great deal of distance in just three days. While in Cape Charles, we enjoyed bike riding again and we attended the “Blessing of the Pets” at Cape Charles Catholic Church. We also had a chance to play golf again at Bay Creek, a very nice private course. They sent a van to the marina to pick us up and return us which was quite civilized. We played nine holes and had time to fit in football Sunday afterward.
Unfortunately our plan for offshore travel did not pan out. The weather just didn’t go our way so we decided to do the intracoastal waterway again. By now this route was familiar. First stop heading south is Coinjock where we stop for prime rib, then River Forest Marina in Belhaven, River Dunes in Oriental and then on to Morehead City where we wait for weather to head out around Cape Fear and then onto Hilton Head. This plan also hit a hiccup with the Alligator River bridge south of Coinjock out of service for several days. The reports of the repairs were conflicting so we sat a couple of days at Coinjock and ate prime rib and played cards. By day three we were ready to depart and take an alternate route. We tried the Albemarle Sound to Pamlico Sound route which proved to be challenging. This route goes further east than the Alligator River and it skips several stretches of very narrow but protected canals. The bad part is that there is really no place for a boat that drafts almost 7 feet to stop so we set out at first light knowing we would not finish until well after dark. The good part was that we were familiar with the entrance to our destination, River Dunes Marina near Oriental, NC. To start there were many crab pots, a following sea, shallow water, narrow bridges and winds of about 25 knots. We almost turned back at one point when we hit bottom but we kept on plugging and eventually we found deeper water and as the sun set that evening we were alone on the water and had nice cruising. We covered 106 miles in 14 1/2 hours and we arrived at 9:20 p.m. There were a couple of people on the dock to lend a hand getting tied up.
From River Forest we had a short hop to Morehead City where we spent just 8 hours on the dock until we departed at 11:30 p.m. heading to Hilton Head, SC. The conditions were worse than forecast and we started off with quite a rough ride. Nobody was happy but least happy was Tortilla who got sea sick for just the second time in three seasons of cruising. We did enjoy a nice day Sunday but the weather turned again in the evening and we went all night into heavy seas. When we finally reached Port Royal Sound north of Hilton Head, we were glad to find smooth seas for the last ten miles or so. We arrived 26 hours after we departed and covered 265 miles. The boat was a complete mess with salt spray reaching over the top of the boat (32 feet above sea level) many times during the night. Fortunately, after we arrived it rained hard for about 36 hours and I never had to wash her down.
Hilton Head is one of our favorite destinations. There is plenty to do and getting a rental car is simple:). We had a car the day after we arrived and we started touring around again revisiting familiar spots and finding new places to see. We found several new beaches on the Sea Pines property and we saw two houses that friends own in Sea Pines which are each on the beach. Very Nice! Our friends, Gene and Kelly who are newly retired and relocated from Baltimore to Indialantic, Florida (near Melbourne), came to visit and we kept busy biking, eating, touring and playing Rummy. We also celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary! Also while in Hilton Head we provisioned for our upcoming trip to Grand Cayman. We loaded on oil, coolant, four months of dry goods, canned goods, and non-perishable food. We took on liquor, beer, mixers and everything you need to head to the Caribbean for three or four months. By the time we left Hilton Head to stop in Stuart, FL on our way to Cayman the only items left to provision were fuel, meat and some more wine:).
Two weeks after arriving in Hilton Head we were ready to depart for Stuart, FL. The weather was predicted to be acceptable and improving. We headed out early again and we soon had a good deal of company from other cruisers heading south. Of course most of them passed us quickly but our new friends, Jake and Tanya on their new 63’ sailboat were staying with us. They stayed 6 miles behind us the entire day. As the sun set after a really nice day of cruising they called on the VHF and asked if we were also enjoying a nice glass of wine? Of course, we relayed that we are at the Betty Ford clinic when underway, but we hoped they enjoyed their wine. We arrived in Stuart about 40 hours after departing which put us into the dock at 9:30 p.m. Fortunately we know the entrance to the St. Lucie Inlet and the run back to the marina well so there was little to worry about. We arrived safely, had our safe arrival beverage and walked T, putting an end to the 2019 season. We covered 3,600 nm this season which brought our total cruising distance to approximately 13,000 nm in three seasons. All-in-all a very good season and the boat performed well over an extended period of time.
The winter plan has now come together and we plan to stop in Stuart, FL for a couple of weeks and then get underway to Key West where we will wait for good weather to head around the western tip of Cuba and on to Grand Cayman where we intend to stay for two months. If all goes well we will be in Cayman for December and January, which should be enough time for us to drink all of the wine that I left there three years ago!