We thought we’d be in Oriental today. We’re not, but more on that later.
Day 1…We could not have picked a better day to leave Solomons. Light winds, calm water, partly sunny skies…a beautiful day on the water. No sailing but that’s to be expected 95% of the time.
Anchor is down in Little Bay by 6:15, a little later than Steve’s goal of 5:00 but that, too, is to be expected 95% of the time. We could not have picked a better anchorage. A cool breeze, calm water, starry sky….a beautiful night on the anchor. Days like this are why cruisers cruise.
Day 2…Motoring to Norfolk today. Another perfect day until we hit the Elizabeth River. Winds and traffic pick up. We pass a container ship in a narrow part of the river. We’re a good 3 to 4 hundred yards away but that ship is throwing off a giant wake. Steve warns me as he points FNR’s bow hoping to take the wake head on. We come off the first wave, smack into the bottom of the next one and scoop half the Elizabeth River onto our bow. Water is gushing off the stern but neither of us are wet. Steve and FNR handled that little exercise quite well. I am sitting in the companionway and look down below. The hatch in the salon is open but, thankfully, the salon is dry. There is a little water in the passageway outside the head so I go down to clean it up.
Uh oh. The hatch in the head is open and it takes a couple of towels to wipe up all that water. I am so glad I closed the v-berth hatch earlier when the water started getting choppy. There’s a little water on the floor in the v-berth so I get on my hands and knees to wipe that up.
Huh? What’s that dripping on my head? I look up and water is dripping off our quilt. OMG…our v-berth is soaked. Saturated. Could not be any wetter. Yeah, I closed the v-berth hatch but I didn’t dog it down. Guess you can’t take waves like we took and expect a hatch to stay closed.
I pull the bedding off and take it out to the cockpit. We anchor in the harbor between the Naval Medical Center and Tidewater Yacht Marina. We hang sheets everywhere hoping they will dry some. It’s windy. It’s humid. There’s a lot of traffic on the river. We sleep on yoga mats under towels. Days like this make this cruiser wonder why she’s cruising.
Day 3…It’s a quick motor to Top Rack Marina in Chesapeake. We wash the sheets. We take advantage of their spend $75 at the restaurant and get free dockage deal. Clean, dry sheets, good meal and free dockage. Cruising at its finest.
Day 4…We want to take the Virginia Cut south to the Alligator River but since the winds are picking up, we opt for the Dismal Swamp route. It’s a peaceful night on the Welcome Center docks.
Day 5…We’re the only boat in the South Mills Lock. We make our way through the narrow, twisty and tree-lined headwaters of the Pasquotank. Steve hails a northbound sailboat on the VHF radio to tell him about the deadhead log we just hit but gets no response. Just as we’re about to pass one another, the other boat’s stern swings out into the river. Instinct kicks in, Steve veers to the right creating a downpour of pine cones and acorns. Masts and trees do not play well together. A quick glance up the mast reveals no apparent damage. The other sailboat didn’t fare so well. Her mast is stuck in the treetops. Our offer to help is declined. The First Mate shrugs her shoulders and yells “Shit happens” as the Captain gets in the dinghy to presumably push the boat out of the trees.
The water gets choppier once the river opens up. As we approach the Elizabeth City Highway Bridge, it’s obvious that it’s going to be a rough night on the city’s docks so we turn around and pull into Lamb’s Marina.
Days 6, 7, and 8…With an area of low pressure sitting off the Carolina coast giving us unsettled weather and windy conditions into early next week, we are holed up in Lamb’s. Steve says crossing the shallow Albemarle Sound and navigating the doglegged entrance into the Alligator River will be “uncomfortable”. Staying at Lamb’s when we really want to be in Oriental is challenging. We don’t HAVE to be in Oriental. We just WANT to be there. We look at the weather forecast several times a day and remind ourselves of our promise to not intentionally travel in uncomfortable conditions. We wonder how many times we have to say “It’s the journey, not the destination” before we start to believe it.
But we are staying put. Why? It’s not because we’re not antsy. It’s because in this little harbor, when the wind blows from the northeast, the water is blown out into the river and the water level drops. And when the water drops 2 feet, we end up in the mud. Yep, FNR has dug her keel in and we are staying put…literally.
Day 9…Steve gets up early. He is finally able to winch FNR out of the mud but with winds at 15 – 20 and gusts to 25, we are staying put. I ask Steve if he’d make the crossing if I wasn’t onboard. He said he would, that crossing in these conditions is not unsafe, it’s just uncomfortable. I think about that for a bit. Steve wants me to be comfortable. He’s ready to go, but he’s giving me time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This staying put is a lot harder for Steve than it is for me. With the weather forecast calling for unsettled weather through the weekend, we are staying put a couple more days. But after that, I’m all in. I am ready to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.