November 16, 2017
During a phone call to my Dad, he made the observation how fitting it seemed that, having been born in Maryland, I had now returned to Maryland 50 years later to be re-born again. His words took a while to sink in, but there is certainly a bit of a cross between a Twilight Zone and a Zen angle to them.
However, it is now it is time to say farewell to Maryland… again. Experiences to seize, and seas to experience! (Author’s note: if that’s an original quote, I want credit for it. If not, sorry to whomever I stole it from…)
Over the past week we’ve only traveled about 150 miles. In another lifetime that could have been a day trip from Pullman to Spokane and back, but right now its a leisurely sailboat pace towards the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay. At this rate, we wouldn’t make the Bahamas until 2019 but momentum should start building by the Carolinas.
We got a one day earlier start than Dena and James so we’re blazing the snail’s trail (so to speak) in search of warmer weather in a land they say exists beyond Maryland.
Zig-zagging down the Bay from the Choptank River on the east side (just south of our previous excursion across the Bay to the Wye River), back over to Solomons on the west side, and into the Wicomico River, we crossed a line visible only on our charts and celebrated our arrival into Virginia. Woohoo!
Unfortunately, the wind did little to cooperate with us over the past week. While underway, minimal wind coming mostly from directly behind us forced us to run our engine most of the time. Motor-sailing became the norm; oftentimes the discussions revolved around whether the breeze would hold long enough to justify turning off the engine or whether having the sails up was forcing us to alter course and lose any gains we’d made on speed.
Finally, an increase in the wind and shift of wind direction allowed us to sail for six hours straight on our way from the Wicomico River to Mobjack Bay. Gliding along the surface at as much as eight knots, no noise from the engine, only the sound of the wind in the sails and rigging and the water lapping up against Exit’s hull made for a welcome change. On one hand, it’s simply a great day to be sailing; on the other, it’s days like this that truly help us to learn by giving us plenty of opportunity to experiment with the sail trim and rigging.
The down side of the change in wind meant that weather fronts were shifting. Forecasts indicated winds were likely to kick up dramatically in a few days. We decided we didn’t want to get hit with something while in Norfolk if we could avoid it. Traffic and complicated navigation would make poor conditions untenable and finding a protected anchorage with space to put out enough anchor chain could be questionable at best.
One of the real benefits of the Chesapeake is the infinite number of hideaways and protected bays that exist. Though the Chesapeake Bay chop can kick up quite a stink in nasty winds, by getting into a smaller bay, then up into one of the branches of a connecting river one can find nearly lake-like conditions even when its blowing 40+ knots out on the Bay… which was exactly what was forecasted to hit in a couple of days.
So we decided that Mobjack Bay not only put us within about five hours of Norfolk, but also gave us a plethora of options for finding a good, protected spot with plenty of space to ride out the wind at anchor. Though a rather massive body of water, Mobjack Bay is fed by four substantial rivers, all winding in different directions and accessible to sailboats. Regardless of where the wind was coming from, we should be able to tuck into a spot that would give multiple land barriers for protection.