Repairs in Norfolk

22 April 2019   Charleston to Chesapeake (Day 1)
At 04:00, we pulled up the anchor and set off into the night.  There was no wind at all, but we had a favourable current of 1½ knots for the 10 miles out of the inlet channel. We then set off on a course of 075° aiming for the 200 metres depth contour, hoping that by the end of the day, we’ll pick up the strong Gulf Stream to push us north.

It was a mind-numbing day, motoring at 6 knots with the occasional periods of light winds allowing us to add a few tenths of a knot by motor-sailing.  The sea water pump is still dripping and is a constant worry to me, although (touch wood) it’s only a very small drip. By mid-afternoon, we’d entered an area of slightly adverse current, so we changed course by 20° and headed directly east towards deeper water.

Dolphins enjoying the calm conditions

At about 17:00, we crossed the 100 metre contour and finally entered the edge of the Gulf Stream enjoying a 1½ knot push, so we came back on course following the contour. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a hour, before the current dropped down to less than ½ knot.  We then had 3 hours with up to ½ knot against us again, despite sneaking further east to the 200 metre contour.

The night was lovely with a ¾ moon and clear skies, but the wind remained light and we couldn’t find the elusive Gulf Stream.

23 April 2019   Charleston to Chesapeake (Day 2)
At dawn the wind picked up enough that Glenys was able to turn off the engine after 26 remorseless hours of motoring.  When I got up at 07:00, I checked the sea water pump and cleaned off the thick salt deposits that had built up under the pump.  

I don’t think that the seal will fail catastrophically, instead I think that the drip will just get worse.  My main worry is that the continual dripping of hot saltwater will quickly corrode the bearing in the pump, so I doused the pump in fresh water and sprayed WD40 on the shaft and the visible face of the bearing to try to disperse the water.

By 09:00, the wind had become very flukey, ranging between 5 and 12 knots, so progress under our normal sails was frustrating.  We eventually dragged out our asymmetrical spinnaker and spent 20 minutes getting it flying.  I think the last time that we had the spinnaker flying was crossing the South Atlantic a year ago.


Meanwhile, on AIS, I spotted a sailing yacht called “Ultimo”, who were about 8 miles further east than us, so I called them up and asked if they had found the Gulf Stream.  They thought that they had 2-3 knots in their favour, so we put a track on their AIS position and changed course by 20° to head more east to see if we could find the current.

We found ½ knot and then as we came back on course, it slowly built to 2 knots over the rest of the day. Unfortunately, before lunch, the wind dropped and veered to the north, so I had to drop the spinnaker and turn on the engine again. The leak on the sea water pump is gradually getting worse, but fingers crossed, it’ll be okay to get us up to Annapolis, where I can repair it at my leisure.

Before dark, we listened to the weather forecast and there’s going to be south-west winds at 15-25 knots as we go around Cape Hatteras tonight and tomorrow morning.  Hopefully, the seas won’t build too much and in preparation of us running downwind, I rigged up the spinnaker pole to port before night fell.

A light, 10-12 knot south-west wind arrived at 19:00, allowing us to turn off the engine and run down-wind with the sails wing-on-wing.  It was lovely gliding along at 5-6 knots and even better that we had up to 4 knots of current with us.

By the time that we approached our turning point around Cape Hatteras, the wind had picked up to 20-25 knots and we had put two reefs in the main and 5 wraps in the genoa.  It was a little bouncy as we turned 30° degrees to head north on a beam reach, but nothing too bad and the seas calmed down once we were in the lee of the coast.

24 April 2019   Charleston to Chesapeake (Day 3)
At dawn, we still had 85 miles to get to the Chesapeake Bridge, so it was likely that we wouldn’t get into the Chesapeake until well after dark.  The strong SW winds slowly veered and decreased during the morning, allowing us to shake the reefs out of our sails.

Stripping down a water pump

We’ve been debating where to stay when we arrive in Annapolis.  There are a few anchorages about, but they can be crowded and you’re supposed to register with the Harbour Master if you stay within the city limits for more than 3 days. The mooring fields are very expensive at $25-35 per night.  I rang Herrington Harbour North, where we’re going to haul out and they can offer a berth in their marina for a special rate of $550/month, which is $18 per day. 

After a little discussion, we decided to stay at the marina and, if we’re going to arrive in the Chesapeake in the dark, we might as well carry on overnight up to Herrington Harbour.  The forecast is for light winds overnight and tomorrow, so we’d have to motor all the way, but we’d be in the Annapolis area for the boat show that starts on 27th – you never know someone might want to view the boat.  I rang the marina and booked us in from tomorrow night.

In the early afternoon, the wind died and we had to turn on the engine again.  I checked the sea water pump and there was significantly more water coming out of the seal – it didn’t look good and I was unhappy with the thought of motoring for another 36 hours.  I dug out our spare water pump and had a look at the condition of it – as suspected, the seal that I’d replaced in South Africa was not a stainless steel one, so the seal on that pump was useless as well.  We switched to Plan B – we’d stop in Norfolk and I’ll buy some new parts to rebuild both pumps.

I did some ringing around and made some email enquiries.  I’m going to buy enough spares to fix the two pumps plus a spare set of bearings and a seal.  It will probably cost me $150 but at least I should have a working pump plus a good spare.  I also rang the local Ocean Cruising Club officers who said that they will drive me around tomorrow to find the parts and, as a bonus, they have a dock that we can use for free for a few nights.

By this time, we still had 50 miles to go – it’s a long length of coast-line from Cape Hatteras to Norfolk.  The sea was very calm as we motored along, so I pulled the spare pump apart, so that it’s ready to repair tomorrow. 

The tide turned as we approached Cape Henry and it was slow going with our speed over the ground dropping to 3.4 knots as it went dark.  We finally arrived at Comfort Point at 23:15, edged our way into the anchorage and with great relief, dropped the hook.   The 425 mile trip from Charleston took us 67 hours and we only sailed for 22 hours, which meant that I was stressed up for 45 hours, while motoring with a leaking pump.  The first cold beer tasted fabulous.

25 April 2019   Comfort Point to Norfolk, Virginia
We were up at 07:00 and motored 11 miles into the centre of Norfolk, where we pulled into a private dock owned by Gary and Greta, who are the Ocean Cruising Club officers for the area.  They live in a condominium right on the water front, which has a dock for each apartment, but many apartments don’t have boats, so Gary and Greta are able to make the docks available for OCC members at no cost.

Free OCC Berth in Norfolk

In the morning, Gary took us out on the hunt for parts for the water pump.  We went to Norfolk Bearings, who didn’t have the parts I wanted, but are able to get them sent by overnight delivery, so I ordered the parts and hope that they will arrive tomorrow morning.  If all goes according to plan, I should be able to repair both pumps tomorrow and we can head up to Annapolis on the 27th – the weather looks good with 15-20 knot west winds, which will be perfect. 

After lunch, Greta took Glenys out to the supermarket, while I removed the water pump from the engine and stripped it down, ready to fit the new parts tomorrow.  In the evening, we had a few drinks with Gary and Greta on their patio. 

26 April 2019   Norfolk, Virginia
Gary drove me to pick up the spare parts, which cost $120.  Unfortunately, the cost of shipping the parts overnight was a staggering $200! The parts had come from two separate locations and each delivery cost $100.  If kicking myself for asking for morning delivery without asking how much it would cost.  To make matters worse, tomorrow’s weather window has gone away and we can’t leave for a few days, so I could have had a cheaper, normal delivery.

Back at the boat, I fitted Speedi Sleeves onto both of the shafts.  Both shafts have grooves worn in by the lip seals and the Speedi Sleeves covered the grooves very well.  They were also surprisingly easy to fit – I just had to tap them on using a tool provided with the kit.  I rebuilt the older pump and then fitted it onto the engine, running it for 15 minutes to test that it worked without leaking.

I then rebuilt the newer pump and fitted that onto the engine.  I washed the older pump with freshwater to prevent any corrosion and it’s gone away into my spares cupboard.  Spending $320 on spare parts was a bit of a shock, but I now have two working pumps for half the cost of a new pump.

Grooves in Shaft and Speedi Sleeve

A cold front came through in the afternoon, bringing 45 knot winds, lightning and lashing rain.  We hunkered down below all day.

27 April 2019   Norfolk, Virginia
The cold front moved east overnight and has left us with strong westerly winds – we have blue skies, but it’s very cold.  I ran our cabin heater this morning to take off the chill – it’s the first time that it’s been used for three years.  There’s a nasty looking low pressure system forming to the west of us and it’s going to get here tomorrow night, so we’re going to wait for that to pass over before heading up to Annapolis on the 29th or 30th.

After breakfast, we walked down to the Waterfront Park to watch a parade celebrating NATO.  There were floats from every country in NATO as well as high school marching bands and the odd Bagpipe band.  It was an interesting American event with the State Police riding past on their Harley Davidson motorbikes and cheer-leaders in the high school band, twirling flags.

We persevered until the Portugal float and then went for a walk around town.  It’s a surprisingly nice city, with parks and fountains.  We had lunch at a sandwich joint and I couldn’t resist having a Philly Cheese Steak.  I haven’t had one for six years and really enjoyed it although it exceeded my weekly meat and fat allowance.

In the afternoon, we went to another event, which was a bag-pipe band contest.  We watched one band dressed in Scottish kilts, who were good, but we have a low threshold for bagpipe music, so we moved on after they’d finished.  Glenys had read that the Neon area of town has lots of street art, so we had a look – lots of huge paintings on the sides of buildings, but not as interesting as the street art in Penang in Malaysia.

NATO Parade, Norfolk

We had a brief stop in a gun shop, where there were racks and racks of pistols and meaner weapons.  I didn’t have a clue what I was looking at, but you can buy a 9mm semi-automatic pistol for $500 and a machine gun for $1500.  I read that 40% of all the guns in the world are owned by American citizens and that there are 1.2 guns per person.

After scaring ourselves looking at guns, we went for a walk through the residential district of Ghent and then returned to our boat via the Elizabeth River Trail.  It was interesting to walk through the tree lined suburbs with some fabulous houses.

28 April 2019   Norfolk, Virginia
It looks like the weather is going to stay against us until Tuesday 30th, so we had a lazy day messing about on the internet doing some forward planning for when we go home to the UK in June.  In the afternoon, we walked into town with the idea of going to watch a movie, but being a Sunday, the movie theatre was heaving, so we decided to wait until tomorrow.

Sven and Kiki arrived on “Balance” a Swedish HR39.  In the evening, Greta and Gary invited us all to their apartment for dinner of pizza –we had a good time discovering which other cruisers we all knew – it’s a small world.