Here we are! Another big milestone for the crew of Wild Horses. We arrived in Norfolk, Virigina yesterday afternoon and are currently anchored just 5 nautical miles north of Mile 0 of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW or more commonly just “ICW”). This is the “inside route” that will take us all the way from Virginia to Florida, just over 1,000 nautical miles. Wow.
The past week has been spectacular. The weather has been favourable and the anchorages we chose along the Chesapeake have been divine.
We left Herring Bay and our dock at Herrington Harbour South almost a week ago and headed directly for Solomon’s Island, Maryland. This is a beautiful inlet off the Chesapeake that offers numerous options for anchoring, all of which were just as lovely as the next. Our buddy boat Brise was already anchored here, having arrived at Solomon’s Island a few days before us. Solomon’s Island also proved to be a great place to stock up on groceries and boat supplies, with a grocery store, liquor store and West Marine in easy walking distance. Yay! And, even closer? There was a veterinary office just steps from the dinghy dock. Don’t worry, Ocean is just fine (well, maybe a little spoiled but otherwise fine). We just needed to get a top up of Ocean’s allergy meds. We are chasing Ragweed season as we head south…
By Tuesday, we were ready to move on. Under dead calm winds, Brise and Wild Horses headed out together, bound for Reedville, Virginia. This little creek, nestled about 20 minutes off the Chesapeake, is a true gem. It houses an active crabbing fishery, a couple of small restaurants, a marina, and…well, that’s about it. We have heard that one of the restaurants (The Crazy Crab) can get pretty wild, but it is only open on weekends. Being there on a Tuesday night, we were treated to quiet serenity.
The next morning, we were off to our next anchorage in Deltaville, Virginia. We had a bit of a late start due to dense fog that had settled along the Chesapeake coastline overnight, but by 11am it had cleared brilliantly to allow us to make headway down the coast.
Deltaville did not disappoint. It is a lively, beautiful spot with the centre of activity being the Deltaville Marina. This place provides docking, boatyard and haul out services and, for a small fee, allows anchored boats to use their facilities. On shore we were happy to see a forest with walking trails (oh, how we miss our trail hikes) and a great marine nature centre. We tried to soak it all in quickly since it was only going to be a one-night stop for us on our way to the ICW.
Yesterday, we left Deltaville, hoping for a lovely sail to Norfolk with 15 knot winds. Uh, nope. The wind was up, yes, but WAY up and it brought the sea state with it. We rocked and rolled for over seven hours with 30 knot northerly winds and 4-6 foot waves knocking us around. Yeesh. It was a tiring day of hand-steering Wild Horses to keep her as balanced as possible. We did our best but the dog did land on the floor once or twice. I am quite positive I saw a few glares from the four-legged crew!
The sea state had calmed a bit by the time we reached Norfolk. When entering the area, the first thing you see is the Virginia Naval Base. I mean, you can’t miss it. The thing is huge! Acres and acres of frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. It is quite impressive.
Our anchorage, in the Lafayette River, was just beyond the naval base. It is a lovely place to stay while Brise and Wild Horses wait for Sensai to catch up. Ted and Evelyn were able to fix their battery issue in Annapolis so have started the journey south to the ICW. We are hoping for all three boats to be together again in Coinjock, North Carolina, at ICW mile marker 50.
After leaving Annapolis, Wild Horses headed a little further south in the Chesapeake to Herrington Harbour South in Rose Haven, Maryland. This marina has been just what the (boat) doctor ordered. Here, we have had the opportunity to get some boat issues sorted out while also relaxing in a gorgeous marina/resort just a few hours south of Annapolis. It has been a real treasure hanging out here for a few days.
But why here? On our way to Annapolis a few weeks ago, a few boat issues crept up that we really wanted fixed in short order and the contractors we needed to do the work are affiliated with Herrington Harbour. If we could get ourselves to the marina here, they could do the work.
What boat work did we need done? First, after we had left New York City, we started experiencing some problems with our new chart plotter i.e. it decided to randomly turn itself off and on. Not once or twice, but almost a few times an hour. We have back up electronic charts on both our phones as well as on our tablet so this issue has been more annoying than critical in nature. Still, weirdly enough, we wanted it to work properly. Second, out of the blue, our AIS (automatic identification system) on the chart plotter stopped showing us other boats. Huh? The idea of AIS is that you have an electronic fix on other boats with AIS and they (those with AIS installed) have an electronic fix on us. Only having half the picture was less than ideal and if it wasn’t fixed before we have to navigate in the dark again (for example, when we cross the Gulf Stream in late December and need to leave in the wee hours of the night) it would be a BIG DEAL. As we learned when we left New York for Atlantic City in the dark, having AIS aided our poor night vision immeasurably. Not only did we know where other boats were relative to ourselves (especially the big commercial boats) but we also knew which direction they were going and if they were on a collision course with us. So, yeah, pretty important!
Our awesome contractor, Andy, fixed just about everything. The dude is a wizard with electronics. He rewired, he crimped, he connected, he repowered, he tested, and our problems were solved. At the end of the day, the AIS issue was a defunct motherboard. Thankfully, Andy was able to order in and install a workaround part that put us back in business. And the random on/off cycling of our chart plotter seems to be a power issue, partially caused by a poorly sized cable. Again, Andy to the rescue with a new cable. While moving the boat today, the chart plotter once again turned itself off and on, but it is doing it far less. That is something! There is one more undersized cable in the mix that we will look at replacing. The solution is out there!
While at dock we also took the opportunity to call in a professional sailboat rigger to tune our rigging properly. We have always tuned our own rigging (mast, mast stays, back stays, forestay) but we are hacks at this at best. Since we will be sailing A LOT once we hit the Bahamas, we wanted to ensure that our rig was set up correctly. Having professionals assess and correct the tuning was money well spent. In less than half an hour, our rig went from out of tune to being able to perform like an orchestra 😊.
What else? Oh man, our anchor light. When we re-stepped the mast way back on the Hudson River, we discovered that our anchor light had become non-functional. The anchor bulb is new and its wiring is fine so we figured it was just a loose fitting. Easy fix. Except, the anchor light sits on top of our 60-foot mast. And yours truly is the official Wild Horses mast climber. Yikes. We decided to attempt the fix here since it is a very protected marina with little boat traffic. Plus, we had a perfectly calm weather day on Friday. The last thing I wanted was to have the boat rocked by wind or waves while perched on top of the mast. And, yes, once I was up there it was clear that the anchor bulb had just fallen out of its connector. Yay! A two-second bulb replacement + one terrifying height = a functional anchor light. 😊
Ocean has had her own treasures here at Herrington Harbour. Not only does she get to play off leash on long stretches of grass but she found a ball, laying abandoned under some dinghies. After three days, she has yet to put the ball down except for sleeping. Hmmm, I guess sometimes the value of a thing isn’t related to money or popularity or need. Sometimes it is just how it touches your heart and makes you smile. Herrington Harbour South has been like that for us. Like I said, it was just what the boat doctor ordered.
Today we are on the move once again. We will be going further south in the Chesapeake to Solomon’s Island. Brise is already there and Sensai will be joining us in a few days.
Literally. We roll.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Just over a week ago, we arrived in Annapolis and anchored in what is called “South Anchorage”. It is a huge anchorage area between Spa Creek and Back Creek (very popular inlets off the Severn River that run adjacent to Annapolis City proper). Our preference was to anchor in one of these creeks as they are “off” the Severn River so they are protected from the rolling sea state and from any boat wakes. Unfortunately, both creeks were full so we settled for a spot in South Anchorage, where we have remained for the last 10 days. We both love it and hate it. We love how close we are to the Boat Show and to Annapolis City (a 2-minute dinghy ride) but, wow, we roll. Remember about the protection from sea state and boat wakes that Spa Creek and Back Creek offer? Yeah, we have very little protection out here in South Anchorage. Boats fly by at close proximity and the sea state can get pretty agitated. We are safe from dragging anchor but getting used to the boat constantly rolling, from side to side and/or bow to stern, has been something. We constantly need to have one hand balancing ourselves to move about the boat, inside and out. The good news in this whole thing? We are getting a good abdominal workout without even trying! Plus, a weird thing has happened over the last few days – We got used to the roll. Ah, acclimatized bliss. This must be truly a thing because all the other boats in our anchorage have also stayed put and there is easily over 75 of us here, including a 120-foot sailboat.
Being that this is a new anchorage for us, one of the first things we did when we arrived is to get our utilities in order. What does this mean? Well, we are at anchor so we don’t have easy access to water tank fill ups, garbage removal, waste tank pump outs, and shore power. Power for Wild Horses isn’t an issue because we have ample solar panels and two big lithium batteries so shore power isn’t something we need to access. But, the rest of the list is pretty important. Our first stop was the Annapolis Harbourmaster. They were invaluable. We quickly learned that we could shower in their facilities (we don’t have hot water on the boat while at anchor), plus they have a place for us to dump our garbage and to get fresh drinking water. For waste tank pump outs, they run a mobile service. One quick call and they come right out to your boat for the tiny fee of $5 a tank. Nice! They also directed us to the closest grocery and pet stores. Extra nice!
As I mentioned, we have now been in Annapolis for over a week and the time has flown by. In addition to exploring historic Annapolis while walking Ocean, we got to watch the dismantling of the Power Boat Show and the set up of the Sailboat Show. This is no small thing. The show is huge and each and every part of the show crew seems to have a specific job. And they work with very intense efficiency. There is no time to waste! Watching the display sailboats arrive was also incredible. From our own boat, we could see all the beautiful and new catamarans, monohulls, sailing dinghies and vintage boats sail into the harbour and then get placed into a slip at the Boat Show. Incredible precision.
The other thing that happened over the past week is Canadian Thanksgiving. How does one celebrate such a thing when you are miles from home? You sit down to a great meal with your sailing pod of course! The crews of Brise, Sensai and Wild Horses set off for a lovely Thanksgiving grocery shopping extravaganza and then got together on Wild Horses for the evening meal. There was lots of laughter, wine, and some really great food from chicken pot pie all the way to a crustless pumpkin dessert. We definitely hooked up with a sailing pod that includes some amazing chefs!
We have also had the pleasure of spending really wonderful times with some of our Gananoque friends, who are visiting or working at the Boat Show. This has been such a joy. Touching base with old friends over a beer or a walk (sometimes both 😉) and, hearing what is new/crazy/interesting in their worlds, has been just what the doctor ordered. Speaking of what is new in the world – congrats to my niece Cassie and her husband Kevin on the birth of their beautiful boy Elijah just yesterday. Welcome to the family Elijah!
Another new beginning starts tomorrow. Wild Horses will once again weigh anchor and head further south. We have a slip waiting for us at Herrington Harbour South where we will get some much-needed boat work done on our navigation system. Thankfully we fixed our alternator belt problem on our own. The culprit was a missing washer that allowed the alternator to move out of alignment. Easy fix. Whew.
With the weather moving closer to 0 degrees celsius overnight we are happy to be continuing our journey to warmer temperatures.
Holy Toledo. One calendar month + one hurricane Ian + numerous boat issues after we left Kingston, Ontario, we have arrived in Annapolis. And we are thrilled. Scratch that. We are beyond thrilled.
Why is this particular stop so important to us? Well, Annapolis Maryland is THE place for boat shows. Twice a year it hosts both the United States Power Boat Show and the United States Sailboat Show. Each are several days long and have an attendance that is unprecedented. They are chock full of gear, ideas, info and, well, boats. So many boats. It is also the place where you can really start to dream about your own big voyage to the Bahamas, to Grenada, or across the big blue ocean to places afar. Our own dream of sailing south to Grenada solidified at our first visit to the Annapolis Boat Show so many moons ago. Only, back then, we drove to Annapolis by car. So, for us, it is a dream come true to arrive here in our very own Wild Horses. There are no words for how happy we are right now.
But let’s back up a bit, because it hasn’t been a soft pillowy journey to Annapolis. No, stuff broke and lessons were learned. Hmmmm, that could be the subtitle for this whole blog…
We left our protected harbour in Cape May last Thursday. It was a beautiful blue sky and the marine forecast called for light winds and a calm sea state. Lovely. Every boat that was hunkered down at our marina, to wait out Hurricane Ian, was ready to leave. Two boats left at the same time as Wild Horses and Brise and several more were to follow in short order. We were all headed out to the Atlantic and then up Delaware Bay with a destination of Chesapeake Bay.
Wild Horses was only 30 minutes into our 7.5 hour voyage when our alternator belt disengaged itself from the alternator. Now, a broken alternator belt isn’t a big deal. I mean, it isn’t a big deal when you have spares on hand (which we do) and mean DIY “fix it” skills (which Mike does). No, it just FEELS like a big deal in those first few minutes. Let me draw you a picture – engine alarm is ringing loudly and there is tremendous smoke coming from the engine room. Oh – my – gosh. In seconds, we had the anchor down, the engine off and Mike’s head was in the engine room assessing the situation. Once we knew it was the alternator belt, I retrieved one of our spares (we have several) and got it attached. We were up and running, albeit shaken, within 40 minutes from start to finish.
Like I said, it seemed like a big deal at the time but later, tucked away in our nice little anchorage at the top of Delaware Bay, we got news of another boat we have become friendly with in Cape May that put our little experience into perspective. The boat had arrived near our anchorage just after sunset and, with little light to work with, had hit the rocky underwater breakwater protecting the anchorage. It is in the charts but cannot be seen with the naked eye. Taking on water, the captain called a mayday (emergency coast guard call) for a rescue. The captain, a solo sailor, is fine but his boat had to be towed to safety and hauled out for repairs. Sigh, a big dose of perspective for the crew of Wild Horses.
The remainder of the trip to Annapolis included heightened awareness for possible risks. We chose easy anchorages, watched carefully for the many crab pots that litter the Chesapeake and stayed watchful for any and all hazards, big and small. This is normal operating procedures for us but it took on a whole new twist after our comrade’s unfortunate breakwater incident. It was a very real reminder of why risks always need to be minimized, extra care always taken.
But back to today. Here we are in Annapolis. We are anchored just a 2-minute dinghy ride to the boat show, in what is called “South Anchorage”. We have easy access to town and a beautiful view of the harbour. Oh, and a nice little kicker to what is already spectacular? We are close enough to the Annapolis Naval Academy to get treated to the sound of their sunset Ceremony. True bliss.
Also wonderful is that we got to see our good friends Paul and Andrea from Gananoque today. They were here for the boat show and, incredibly, were able to bring an important veterinary document for Ocean to get into Puerto Rico. The document had been ordered in July but had arrived after our departure from Kingston. We are so thankful that Paul and Andrea not only picked up the document in Ottawa but safeguarded it and brought it all the way to Annapolis. I know, very cool friends for sure.
We will be in Annapolis for the next three weeks waiting out hurricane season and also taking the opportunity to attend the boat show, pick up some extra gear and to get a few boat things fixed and then it is down the Chesapeake and onto the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).
With Hurricane Ian ripping up the Atlantic coast, we have had a lot of people ask if and how our location in Cape May is safe. We are at the South Jersey Marina and at least seven other sailboats sought shelter here from Hurricane Ian. Wild Horses and Brise arrived here on Thursday September 29, just in advance of the storm. Other boats had arrived a day earlier and a few more boats came in before the wind really picked up on Saturday.
Our marina is nestled within the Cape May inlet. It is well-protected from the stronger winds and swells of the Atlantic and it thankfully has floating docks that rise and fall with the tides. All forecasts had Hurricane Ian being downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it reached the Carolinas, with our area being mostly affected by hurricane remnants, which covers a very wide area but has less force than an actual hurricane. We were expecting big wind and rain by late Saturday and through to Tuesday. Warnings about strong winds, rip currents, high surf and flooding, have littered our local forecasts. We are happy we made the choice early to get Wild Horses docked at a marina that is outside the strongest path of the storm.
The actual weather did not disappoint. The wind, reaching almost 50 knots, was the strongest we had experienced. From inside the boat, we could feel and hear the wind but it wasn’t uncomfortable or scary. Most importantly, we stayed inside the boat during the worst of the storm. There is a tendency to re-check lines and gear but the biggest risk is not from what is happening with your boat, it is debris flying through the air. We had already secured or removed any loose items from our boat deck and dinghy. We had tripled run our dock lines. We knew Wild Horses was safe and we knew we were safe.
Besides storm-dodging, we have kept ourselves fairly busy for the past week. We are in walking distance to a few marine stores so we were able to do some much-needed boat repairs. The first was our shore power plug that got fried during a power surge at Hop-o-Nose Marina. Since we have been on mooring balls or anchored for the last few weeks, we have relied entirely on solar power to keep our boat batteries full. But with a forecast of several days of rain and clouds, we needed to get our shore power plug fixed and operational. Once we had the parts, it took Mike less than an hour to get us back in business.
Then there was the newly found leak under our bow thruster. You read that correctly, we had saltwater slowly coming into the boat from under our bow thruster. Yeesh. Now, it wasn’t enough water intrusion to sink the boat but it was enough that we wanted to slow it down, or even better, stop it 😉. The marine store had the perfect solution – an epoxy putty stick that works under water. It took two full sticks to stop the leak. Whew.
But it hasn’t all been work for us. We have walked Ocean all over the pretty little town of Cape May and even took the Marina shuttle downtown to do some grocery shopping.
The last few days have turned a little chilly. We don’t mind pulling out our fall jackets for walks and our boat heater keeps the temperature inside the boat nice and cozy. The downside of the fall chill in a boat? Condensation. Boat hatches are not insulated so the cold-glass-meets-warm-humid-air situation means our hatches start raining.
It looks like the weather will cooperate for us to leave Cape May on Thursday Oct 6. We will finally head up the Delaware Bay and, within a few days, we should be in Annapolis, Maryland, where we will stay until the better part of hurricane season is over.
One bonus side note - Remember the crazy swells on our journey from Atlantic City to Cape May? A tiny but important plastic piece of one of our boat hooks lasted the whole time on deck. We thought we had lost it to Neptune during the swells but, nope, there it was on deck, ready to be attached back on the boat hook. Wild!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.