Heading up the Chesapeake

29 April 2019   Norfolk, Virginia
It was a cold grey morning, forcing me to wear jeans and thick socks for the first time in six months.  We’re just hanging about waiting to sail up to Annapolis tomorrow.  Glenys went for a walk to the supermarket a mile away, while I lurked down below hugging a cup of hot chocolate.

In the afternoon, we walked to the cinema and watched an Avengers movie.

Sailing away from Norfolk

30 April 2019   Norfolk to Herrington Harbour North, Virginia (Day 1)
The weather forecast looked good to go, so we left at 08:00.  A lot of pushing and grunting was required to get ourselves clear of the pilings - it’s much easier to anchor.  We nipped into the marina across the river and bought 20 gallons of diesel, just in case we had to motor all the way to Annapolis.

For once we had the tide with us and we had a nice sail down towards Comfort Point past the container yards and the Navy warships.  Once we left the river, the wind dropped, so we were forced to motor-sail all day, mostly with a ½ knot current against us, albeit with nice blue skies.  

After lunch, we were invaded by a plague of flies, which looked like normal house flies, but had a vicious bite.  Most of our afternoon was spent wandering around the deck swatting the little buggers.

The wind picked up after dinner and my 7-10 watch was very pleasant, sailing with a favourable tide under a clear, starry sky.  By midnight, a solid layer of clouds had rolled in, bringing stronger 18-22 knot west winds, so Glenys reefed us down to a staysail and two reefs in the main.  It was pitch black and cold – fleeces, trousers, hats and wind proof jackets were needed.  

There were a fair number of large ships travelling up and down the Chesapeake, so we had to keep a wary eye on them.  Both Glenys and I called up a couple of ships to confirm their intentions because the channel twists and turns making it difficult to predict what they are going to do.

The wind dropped down to 10-15 knots at 03:00, so I pulled out the genoa again. By 04:00, we had the engine back on.  

1 May 2019   Norfolk to Herrington Harbour North, Virginia (Day 2)
Dawn was a cold, grey affair with low clouds and a light mist, but at least the wind picked up enough to sail again.  We arrived at the entrance channel into Herrington Harbour North at 08:30.  It’s very shallow on the approaches, especially in the very narrow dredged channel into the marina itself – we came in at low tide and saw 2.1 metres at a couple of places.

Cold, misty Morning

There was no wind and little tidal current, so it was easy to dock and we were soon tied up.  It’s the end of our voyage and we’ll sell Alba here, so it was a poignant moment. 

We checked into the marina office and then walked around place – it’s the biggest marina that we’ve ever seen.  There are 17 docks with 600 berths, five travel lifts and acres of land storage.  They have two customer lounges, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, many contractors and even a West Marine store.

After lunch, Roger from Free State Yacht Brokerage came to look at Alba.  We discussed various jobs that ought to be done and he agreed that I should replace all of 12 port-lights which have crazed in the sun.  Other than that, he thinks that after we remove all our clutter and clean everything, the boat will be in very good condition and hopefully will sell well.  We’re putting her on the market at $285,000 – time will tell if that is too high.

I transferred $5,000US to Roger, so that we can start the process of importing the boat into the USA.  It’s illegal to offer to sell a boat in the USA without first importing it - the penalty is a staggering 100% of the boat value.  We’ve not been able to start the import process until now because the boat has to be available for inspection and we were moving around too much.  We’re hoping that the import process will take less than 2 weeks and then Roger can start to advertise Alba.

Later in the afternoon, our lack of sleep caught up with us and we retired to bed for a two-hour nap.  In the evening, we went to the marina’s restaurant – the food was okay, but expensive at $50 for two meals and a beer. 

2 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We woke to brilliant blue skies - today the work starts.  Our plan is to spend 3-4 weeks in the water, doing maintenance jobs and cleaning everything.  We’ll then haul out and spend a week polishing the hull, etc.  In the meantime, we’ll be packing up our personal belongings and shipping them off to the UK.  We hope to be back in the UK by the middle of June.

Cutting out one of the Lenses

My biggest and longest job is to replace the acrylic window panels (called “lenses”) in the 12 port-lights.  I contacted a local company called Maritime Plastic, who have a CNC machine and will be able to cut the acrylic to size if I give them the original lenses.  

This of course means that we will have 12 huge holes in the coach-roof, which need to be covered up.  I walked to Free State Yachts, where one of Roger’s clients was stripping off the protective, vacuum wrapping from his boat, so I scrounged some lengths of the strong plastic to use to cover the hatch holes. 

Back at the boat, I removed all of the lenses.  It was surprisingly easy – a few of the smaller lenses pushed out with moderate pressure in the corners, while for the others, I just had to run a Stanley blade around the edge and then they pushed out with a light pressure.  The most time consuming part was sticking a piece of plastic sheeting over each hatch using Duct Tape.

The rear port-light is non-opening one and the frame appears to be stuck to the fibreglass with a very strong adhesive like 3M 5200.  I smacked the frame with a soft-faced mallet a few times and there was no sign of movement, so I’ll have to come up with some way of refitting the lens with the hatch frame in place.  I spent an hour cleaning off the old sealant from the frame, so that it’s almost ready to have the new lens fitted.

In the late afternoon, a huge front approached from the west bringing strong winds, lightning and torrential rain.  Unlike the other fronts that we’ve experience along the east coast of the USA, this one hung around for 4 hours.  

Unfortunately, my method of covering the holes in the coach roof didn’t stand up to the tempestuous rain and we developed leaks. The first one was quite spectacular and soaked Glenys’s side of our bed, so she had a sense of humour failure.  Of the 12 portholes, only three didn’t leak, but fortunately the huge aft hatch over our bed was well sealed.

I tried several times to seal the leaks with more duct tape, but the water kept dribbling through and pooling at the bottom corner of the hole before overflowing and dripping down into the boat – we had towels everywhere.  I eventually came up with the idea of sticking small lengths of bamboo skewers to form a drain channel in the tape to allow the water drain outside.  That seemed to work and marital harmony was re-established. 

3 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We hired a car from Enterprise, who came to pick up us from their depot 12 miles away.  It was a bit irritating that they were 40 minutes late, but the driver and the staff were so friendly that I didn’t have the heart to moan.  

Berthed in Herrington Harbour North

The on-line price for the daily hire was $60, but when we were picking the car up, we found out that the price doesn’t include any insurance at all - apparently, Americans use their normal car insurance for rental hire. There was nothing we could do except buy the expensive daily insurance from Enterprise, which increased our daily rental to $110 – very annoying.  Trying not to sulk too much, we drove to Annapolis.  

At Maritime Plastics, we met Jameson, who was very helpful.  There was a slight technical problem in that the existing lenses were 7mm thick and Jameson only had imperial sizes – 1/4” or 3/8”.  After a few minutes of debate, we decided to use 1/4”, which is 6mm, so it’s only 1mm thinner.  The strength of the slightly thinner acrylic is not a problem and bed of sealant holding the lens in place will be 1mm thicker and less likely to leak.  Jameson recommended that I use a silicone sealant called SCS2000, so I bought 5 tubes. 

Initially, Jameson said that the lead time was two weeks, but after I’d told him about our 12 leaking holes in the coach-roof, he said that it was a quick and uncomplicated job, so he would try to fit it in quickly.  I told them that I only had the hire car for today, so Jameson said that he would try to do the job today – he would ring me at 15:00 and tell me if it would be today or next week. 

After lunch at McDonalds, we drove into the centre of Annapolis and strolled around the streets for a while.  It’s a pretty place with many old colonial clapboard houses and the high street looks like Lymington in the UK.   At 14:40, Jameson rang me and told me to call by at 16:00.  We picked up the new lenses and Jameson explained the best procedure for using the sealant and installing the lenses.  Although the 12 lenses and sealant cost me $600, I’m really pleased to have them made on the same day – I’m now 2 weeks ahead of my schedule.

Boat Jumble

On the way back to the marina, we called at a couple of supermarkets.  Bizarrely, the supermarkets here in Maryland are not allowed to sell any alcohol and so we had to go to a liquor store to top up our beer and wine stocks.

4 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
No peace for the wicked, we were up at 06:00, so that we could set up a stall for the local boat jumble.  Roger at Free State Yachts had kindly lent us a table, so we loaded up the car and set up our stand.  The main item to sell was our Sailrite sewing machine, but we had lots of cruising guides and other stuff that we didn’t need any more.

Sales were a little slow with people wanting to pay only a few dollars for things, but we managed to get $600 for our sewing machine and $100 for other bits and bats, so it was well worth the effort.  At 10:30, we packed up; dropped the unsold stuff back at the boat; and took the car back to Enterprise, who then gave us a lift back to the Marina.

The boat looked like a bomb had hit it, so we spent the afternoon tidying up and getting the dinghy off the front deck.  Some of the unsold items went into the garbage skip; others into a free-cycle skip; and the rest went back into the lockers.

Later in the afternoon, Tom and Dorinda from “Corsair” came around to pick up the sewing machine.  Glenys showed them how to use it and then we had a few beers.

5 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It started to rain heavily in the middle of the night, so I had to get up to check if the hatch holes were leaking – thankfully all was well.  It was still raining in the morning, so we focused on inside jobs.

Cleaning the aft cabin bilges

In November 2017, while we were in South Africa, I tried to do some maintenance work on the bearing hub for our steering wheel and ran into trouble.  I damaged the wheel-locking assembly, but the steering wheel worked fine.  We still had many miles to sail, so I was very reticent to damage the hub further and risk being trapped in South Africa for months.  So for the last 18 months, we’ve been using a piece of rope to lash the wheel.  

We pulled the aft cabin apart, so that I could get access to the rudder quadrant.   I lashed the rudder quadrant to stop it moving as the tides changes and then removed the steering hub.  I thought that I’d bent a pin inside the steering hub and would have to pay a few hundred dollars to get it machined out.  It turned out that the pin wasn’t bent and came out very easily.  I’ve lost sleep worrying about the problem for 18 months and I could have sorted out the problem in South Africa – duuhhh.

I stripped down the hub and removed the bearings.  It looks like the brake assembly wasn’t working because one of the bearings had leaked grease and the brake pad had become detached from its disk.  I bought all the spare parts when we were in the UK last year, so I have everything to sort the job out, but my main priority was the hatches, so I left the assembly until tomorrow.

I spent an hour cleaning the old silicone sealant from one of the hatches that I’d removed.  Meanwhile Glenys spent a couple of hours cleaning the bilges in the aft cabin.  A thankless task, but we want the bilges clean before a prospective buyer has a survey of the boat.  We also took the opportunity to throw away some of the electrical wire, hoses and other spare parts that I store in the aft cabin – we’re trying to de-clutter the boat.

First Lens stuck in its frame

With the hatch all cleaned up, I planned out how I was going to fix the new lens into the frame.  I’m like a three year old when I get my hands on a sealant gun and normally make a terrible mess, so I was very methodical and had everything to hand.  I have to do 12 of these hatches so I wanted to have a “fool-proof” method.  

I masked everything off nicely and wore latex gloves and it all seemed to go okay at first.  My plan was to strip off the masking tape while the sealant was still wet.  I applied the black silicone sealant to the frame, inserted the new lens and applied more sealant to fill the gap.  I then used a washing up liquid solution to wet my finger while I smoothed down the surface.  

I thought I had it right, but when I stripped off the masking tape, the sealant was too uneven, so I ended up trying to smooth the sealant without the masking tape in place and it’s now smudged across the frame and lens.  I’ll just have to wait 24 hours until its set and try to remove the smudged sealant.

It continued to rain all evening, so we hunkered down below and watched the final episodes of Season 5 of Game of Thrones - Season 8 is being aired at the moment, so only three more seasons to go on our binge viewing.