And we did. It’s been a wild ride for sure. Leaving Beaufort, NC on March 1 we began the trip north. So much to this adventure and so many wonderful people along the way. Our first days on the water included a tranquil trip up the Alligator River, anchoring out for a fantastic evening in a calm bay.
Next, traveling up the Pamlico River, we visited with new friends Beth and Rip who let us stay at their dock on Campbell Creek and invited us into their beautiful home for an evening of boat talk, snacks and a cold beer. The next morning, we’re off again.
The weather, being Springtime, was as expected – changing every day. Our trip across our old friend Albemarle Sound was in 30 degree sleet with a driving wind. For only the third time aboard Shangri-La we chose to move inside and enjoy the warmth of our cabin while the sleet pummeled the bridge above us. The first time we did this was bringing the boat down from Chesapeake, VA when the winds were head on and the seas were breaking over the windscreen. Albemarle – gotta love it!
Coinjock is our next stop. Back at the dock where we spent that first night on the water what seems like so very long ago. Next stop is Atlantic Yacht Basin where we took possession of Shangri-La back in May of 2016. Good friends Chuck and Kelsey Grice greeted us along with dock hands that remembered our first days there getting our home ready and moving in. They put us in a covered shed which gave us some breathing room to do some outdoor maintenance. Good thing too, on day 3 when we woke to 3″ of snow on the outer docks. Did we leave too early?? We’d learn we had as we traveled north.
Since we’d now been two years since buying Shangri-La, she was due for a bottom job. Power wash and paint with new bottom paint. While we had her out we had the trim tabs removed and the stern patched and sealed where they had been bolted on. They didn’t work and we really don’t need them. The folks at Atlantic Yacht Basin are wonderful tradesmen and did a great job getting our home ready for another season.
From Chesapeake it was now all new water. Transiting the Naval base in Norfolk was an incredible sight. The Ike was in for service, along with many other naval vessels lining the waterway. It made for one of those goose bump days seeing all this and knowing my father had served aboard a cruiser in the South Pacific during WWII. As we passed into Chesapeake Bay we went to our notes from other cruisers we’d met. Where to dock, where to anchor what to watch for and when to move.
Tides and winds in the bay can create some sporty water where one would think it should be relatively calm. Anchoring out again the first night on the bay we enjoyed the serenity of watching the gulls and hearing – nothing. The trees were not yet in green and the landscape seemed stark and cold. Yet being alone in that bay reminded us of why we chose to live aboard and visit as many places as we could. With a cool breeze flowing through the stateroom, we slept like babies.
Day 2 on the bay put us into a quaint marina on the west shore. And this is where we realized we may really be too early. “Water? You’re the first boat this season, we don’t have the water turned on yet.” But they did turn it on for us and luck of the day, the pipes held. Before leaving Jan filled our water tanks to the tippy top. Our next leg to Solomons would have been uneventful if it weren’t for the two dozen ocean-going ships shifting about in the channel.
Many were anchored, awaiting permission to move ahead to ports or waiting on pilots. The rest were steaming along. It took some time to get used to maneuvering the area. We travel at 8 knots. They can do twice that and more. More than once I made the move to cross ‘well in front’ of one only to turn back realizing the ship was bearing down at a rate that would cut us off before we could make it through. Fun stuff. The radar lit up with blips, many moving about. We counted 25 ocean-going ships at one time around us. It was educational to say the least.
Solomons, MD is a delightful town within easy walking distance of the marina. . . which had no fresh water. “Haven’t turned it on yet, yer kinda early you know.” Day three on the Chesapeake was predicted 1-2′ seas head on from the north. For us that’s a good ride. Head on means we’re not rolling side to side all day. It didn’t take long to realize all of our weather services (we use a number of them) had it dead wrong. The winds built throughout the morning and before noon we were once again down below watching our anchor dive into the face of the “1-2 foot” seas. It was indeed a long day. Making the turn into the C&D canal we both breathed a sigh of relief. Exhausted we tied in at Summit Bay Marina and headed up to the restaurant right near the marina. Neither one of us in the mood to begin cooking or setting a table for dinner.
Our next day was our first experience moving at night. In order to catch the outbound tide in the Delaware Bay, we needed to be on the move through the C&D well before daylight. Jan stood at the bow, big flashlight in hand keeping a close watch on the rocks and docks that line the entrance to the marina. Making the turn into the canal and under the first bridge was eerie to say the least. To be honest, much of the C&D has some lighting along the way – but it was still dark and spooky to us.
Making the turn south into the bay we made sure to avoid the submerged break-wall extending far from shore. Since we’ve come through this spring two very large yachts have been destroyed on that wall. Sober reading when we learned of their misfortune. Our mariner pros who have traveled this route many times were spot on in their recommendation. We safely rode the tide most of the day down to Cape May.
Before entering the channel in the Cape May cut, things changed dramatically. The southbound surge of tide we’d been riding was now pushing up into the shallows. In a heartbeat, Shangri-La went from dead ahead smooth sailing, to nearly being broached not once but twice. The wave pushing us raises the stern and like a huge hand pushes hard against the big flat stern. This massive force tries to turn the boat sideways. No amount of steering will correct broaching at these low speeds. Our only option is to add throttle to regain control of the rudders and drive the boat out of the turn before we are fully sideways. It’s an incredible experience and one we’ve only witnessed one other time when being passed by a huge cruiser that came off plane right next to us from behind. We missed him by mere inches. But this time, we had room, we have the reserve power and we were able to regain control.
Another lesson learned – keep a close eye behind when the bottom is changing fast. The trip into the canal up to Utsch’s Marina was uneventful and helped calm us both down. We were met at the dock by a fine gentleman who was most helpful. As he walked away he mentioned over his shoulder, “By the way, no water. Turned it on too early, lost everything” as he kept on walking. Looking around in the marina, there was a dredge and three other boats. Yup, we’re early. Our on board water will last us a few days more while we wait here for a week, hoping the water is back on before we leave.
In the meantime, let’s sneak under the fence and see what the food’s like over at the Lobster House. . .
Next leg OUTSIDE.