October 29. 2011.
We woke to a bit o' sunshine and 15 to 20 knots outta the north. We took our time and were underway by 0800 with the Alibi II's 20 minutes behind us.
The forecast was for 15 to 20 dying off to 5 to 10 in the afternoon followed by higher winds in the evening. The forecast for this area includes both small craft and gale force warnings after midnight. They're also forecasting snow for the DC- Baltimore area. Yikes. Those people out at MaxProp have no idea how close things got to getting ugly.
We figured we'd go all night, getting south far enough to avoid the gale force winds and head down to Norfolk where the temperatures are supposed to be 10 degrees warmer. So we unrolled the genoa for what I hoped would be a relaxing trip down the bay. With the wind over our left shoulder we found ourselves blasting down flat seas at better than 7 knots. The sun was bright and warm, life was good. Until 1100 hours, that was when the sun disappeared behind a ceiling of low gray cold winter skies. Crap.
The wind died away until we were ghosting along at only 2 knots. Several motoring sailboats caught us and turned into Solomon Island as we passed by. We considered this option but the next 2 days are supposed to contain 30 to 45 knots of wind on the bay. Getting trapped in Solomon Island for 2 or 3 nights with the possibility of snow in the area was not an attractive option.
After me deciding to put out into probable gale force conditions the other night Christy has assumed the role of onboard weather router. She said we were not taking the chance of getting caught in the snow so we pressed on. (Good)
By 1900 hours the wind had picked up and we had to reduce sail. Our friends on First Edition had extended us an invitation to stop at their home on Mill Creek off Ingram Bay. With last nights nighttime entry into an unfamiliar anchorage still fresh in my mind we kept on going.
For the rest of the night the forecast of 15 to 20 topped out at 30 knots. We had a slice of genoa out in an effort to control our speed. The sea state was bigger than I expected in the Chesapeake. Close set 4 footers with what I swear were rogue 7 footers thrown in. Crossing the mouth of the Potomac got a little sloppy in spite of having all the wind you could want. The wind was clocking up onto our beam and the seas were rolling under us from the port-side as we flew along. It was a balance of having enough sail up to lessen the amount of rolling we were doing without having too much up and crashing along headfirst.
With about 10 miles to go to Norfolk we had to reduce sail even further in an effort to slow us down. We wanted to anchor in Mill Creek near Fort Monroe. The last time we were there the anchorage was full of crab pots so we wanted to make a daylight arrival. Alibi II opted to continue on hoping to grab a spot on the free wall at Great Bridge for the next few days of gale force storms. We were tired and the holding in Mill Creek is top notch.
Even dragging our feet we got to the entrance of Mill Creek at about 0600. With the severe overcast it was still dark as hell. We crept into the anchorage using the reflection of the nearby street lights to scan the waters surface for crab pot floats. We found 3 other boats riding peacefully at anchor and nary a crab pot in sight. By 0700 we were safely anchored, the boat was squared away and we were eating breakfast with a well deserved cocktail in hand. Thats right Mom, bagels and rum for breakfast.
We covered 123 nautical miles. The first 3 hours were what sailing dreams are made of. Then there was 8 hours of light air ghosting along and the balance was spent under various reefs depending on conditions at that moment. The autopilot worked it ass off negotiating the trying conditions often spinning the wheel from stop to stop in the blink of an eye. Its time for a nap....