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.