The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - The Trip South, Part I, Chebeague to Norfolk
Updated December 1, 2008
We left Chebeague on a cold morning in November with gale-force winds predicted - but from the north-west, off the land. After a very tranquil passage through Casco Bay and by the two lights at Cape Elizabeth, our stowage systems had a real test as we crossed Bigelow Bight with 4-6 foot seas. In general, the boat had a very easy motion, but now and then there would be two steep seas right on top of each other and they would just about roll the salt out of the cook's biscuits. We passed Thatcher's, the lighthouse off the tip of Cape Ann, just as it was getting dark and rounded up for Eastern Point and Gloucester Harbor.
The Ocean in a boistrous mood.
By this time the wind was maintaining 30 knots and gusting to 45, with 6-8 foot seas, and by the time we ran up into the harbor, past Ten Pound Island and the old Tarr & Wonson paint factory, Barbara was iced up, with about an eighth-inch of ice on the decks, rails, lifelines, and everything. We anchored without incident in the anchorage area where the harbor splits into two coves and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and lack of motion.

The next morning the wind was, if anything, stronger, and we spent the day on the hook, M doing chores on the boat and
B starting to write an essay for a collection in honor of an old friend. We knew from the forecasts that a serious storm was headed our way, but it was a day away, so we set out the next day for the Cape Cod Canal in light southerly wind and almost calm sea.

Gloucester Morning
Shortly after leaving Gloucester we had the interesting experience of being warned by a picket boat that there were lines in the water from a monitoring buoy having something to do with LNG. We changed course slightly to the westward to avoid them, but could not help wondering what was going on. By 3:00 we were anchored in Onset Bay, just at the western end of the canal, where we knew the holding ground was good and we figured we could sit out the coming storm in a well-protected little pocket.
By 10:30 the next day it was pouring and the wind was southeast, gusting to 40 kts. There was almost no motion where we were, however, so I installed our new table in the saloon - a milestone; we no longer have to eat off a card table!
No picture of the table yet-- that will have to wait for a day with good light -- but just to show that there is at least some progress, here are some pictures from the summer of the over-the-stove cabinets being installed and of the saloon settee built for us by Walter Greene.

Wednesday dawned gray but with a very gentle southwest breeze; Buzzards Bay was very pleasant, which is not always the case. We ran down the Hog Island Channel and past Cleveland East Ledge lighthouse in a very relaxed manner. As we turned into Vineyard Sound the breeze freshened and the wind against the tide kicked up a 6- to 9-foot chop, but this did not matter much to us except that the windshield wipers got a workout. As the afternoon wore on the tide changed and the sea lay down, and we came in any case under the lee of Fisher's Island, where we spent the night tucked in behind the Stonington breakwater.

"The Sand Spit", guarding the NW side of the channel at the western end of the Cape Cod Canal

Cleveland East Ledge Light

The Stonington Waterfront

The Elegant North Dumpling Light Guards the West Entrance to Fishers Island Sound
Thanksgiving Day we ran on to New Haven, a relatively short run, but a good stopping point that would let us get through New York the next day, since the tides worked out quite well. Like most places on the Connecticut shore, New Haven is a river-mouth harbor with little shelter, so substantial breakwaters were built in the 19th century to enclose it. The lighthouse at the entrance channel reminds us of the "Bug Light" on Portland's breakwater. That evening, anchored in Morris Cove (where I had once kept a boat) we had a delicious dinner -- not turkey, but ham, which I rather prefer -- by candlelight at our new table.

Breakwater Light - New Haven Harbor
We left New Haven at first light to catch the last half of the flood up the Sound and then (more important) the ebb through the East River and New York Harbor. A lot of oil was moving into and through new Haven after the holiday. An empty tanker followed us out of the harbor and a loaded tanker and an oil barge were waiting their turns to go in and unload. The tide against the westerly wind made for a little chop in the Sound, but this did not bother us, and by 1:00 we were running under the Throgs Neck Bridge and past the New York State Maritime Academy.
The Training Ship Empire State of the New York Maritime Academy, Seen Through the Throgs Neck Bridge

A DEP Tanker Seen Through a Salt-streaked Port

Another DEP Tanker
The New York Department of Environmental Protection has a fleet of these shapely small vessels. Perhaps they carry sewage sludge, or perhaps something else entirely, but they are a pleasant change from the dozens of oil barges.
We raced through New York, with the log showing 12.6 knots at one point (we were doing 8 through the water), and the current swirling around bridge abutments and between islands needed a bit of vigilance. We ran under several bridges, successfully dodged the ferries and oil barges and made it to Gravesend Bay, just below the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, where we anchored at 3:15.
Here we had to do a little thinking, because the next day was supposed to be OK, but the forecasts were for gale-force winds for the next several days after that. In the end, rather than be stuck somewhere we didn't like much, we decided to run through the night, to take advantage of the weather we had, first down the Jersey Shore to the mouth of the Delaware River.
Then we could look at the forecast at Cape May and decide what to do next. So we passed Sandy Hook at 5:15, and by 6:00 the next morning we were off Cape May and by 7:45 we were at the Cape Henlopen sea-buoy, at the southern edge of the mouth of Delaware Bay. As we went by we waved to the breakwater behind Cape Henlopen, built partly by Chebeague men and their stone sloops, that forms a harbor of refuge, something scarce on the New Jersey Shore.

The Manhattan Bridge, Elegant 19th Century Ironwork

All that day we ran down the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, past Ocean City,past wonderfully-named places: Chincoteague Inlet, Assateague Island (famous for wild horses) Great Machipongo Inlet. It is a land of marsh and tiny streams through them, very strange to a New Englander. By 3:00 the wind was Northeast, about 10 knots, with a gentle 1-2 foot swell, and at about 3:30 we had a visitor, a warbler with his feathers puffed up against the cold, who rode with us and rested for a while before taking off again. We hope he made it with only a wild story to tell his children.
We reached the entrance to Chesapeake Bay at about 8:00, in 18-25 knot east-northeast winds and a building swell, and as we turned to enter the bay the promised rain started. Crossing the big-ship channels was a little like running across an interstate; the ship traffic was very heavy, coming into and out of both Norfolk and Baltimore. With the rain and the sea, it was a little tricky to see the buoys, but between a good lookout, the radar, and the GPS we made it OK to the mouth of the Elizabeth River, which forms the real harbor of Norfolk.
The lines of Navy ships looked a little surreal, shrouded in fog and lit by yellow sodium-vapor lights on the piers. We slid in by them, by the Craney Island fuel depot, by the de-gaussing range, and around hospital point to the anchorage, where we dropped our hook 1:30 on the morning of Nov 30, completely sheltered from the rising wind. We had been underway continuously since 6:30 the morning after Thanksgiving.

Part II