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We flew though the Cape Cod Canal, a lovely ride, at up to 11.3 knots! Here's proof:

In Marion, Mass, we picked up the mooring of a friend of a friend and rested after the passage. We were a little concerned about the weather forecast, which was for large seas and high winds for the next few days. We decided to go visit Neil's parents in Duxbury for a couple of days. We had a great visit, even Daisy seemed to enjoy it, and got to see Neil's brother Peter and got to hear Grampa Pete's band play one afternoon. We kept following the weather, and it wasn't looking good for an offshore passage outside Long Island to Cape May. A large offshore storm was brewing, with 45 knot winds and 20 foot seas forecast for some areas. Even closer to shore we were likely to encounter 15 foot seas and 35 knots. Didn't sound too fun. We decided to go inside Long Island, and made a commitment to make miles east/south every day, even if the weather wasn't optimum.

To that end, we left Monday afternoon and headed a few hours south to Padanaram. The next day we were trying to get all the way to Point Judith, Rhode Island. We headed out under low grey skies into building seas. It started to rain soon, and we were soon soaked and freezing in the 45 degree dampness. By the time we were off Newport in the Block Island Sound, the seas were probably 12 feet and the wind gusting to 33 knots. It was a wild ride and we gratefully entered Point Judith in late afternoon. We'd never been there before, and no other boats were anchored in the "Harbor of Refuge". The cruising guides warned that holding was poor in kelp: we didn't know what to do but head up the dredged channel into the little shallow bay. We checked at the marina but it cost way too much to tie up there for the night. We were freezing and exhausted and needed to rest. We decided to try our luck finding a place to anchor (which didn't look likely with most depths 4-5 feet) or a mooring to pick up. We finally did find a mooring, and sounded the bottom and consulted the tide tables. It looked iffy but the bottom was soft mud. We stayed. At low tide we did rest on our keel, but we were too tired to care. The next morning the tide was lower than it had been on the way in, and we bumped over a couple of shoals on the way out and into the BIG seas outside.

For the first couple of hours, we had 12 foot following seas, but at least it was sunny. After we went around Fishers Island and into Long Island Sound, things flattened out and we had a great fast reach on flat seas into New London Connecticut. Our friend Al Schober lives in New London, and extended his yacht club's hospitality with dock space and showers. He and his wife then took us out to a lovely (and much appreciated!) dinner ashore. It was a fun evening.

Two days later we were nearing the bottom of Long Island Sound. What first appeared to be a sailboat mast on the horizon soon revealed itself to be the Empire State Building and soon the rest of the Manhattan skyline followed. By mid-afternoon we'd anchored off City Island and gone ashore for some authentic New York City pizza....yum!!! The next morning we awoke before dawn and headed for the Throg's Neck Bridge to catch the fair tide through Hell's Gate (another speedy ride with the current, as the GPS illustrates!). We passed overgrown North Brother Island where Typhoid Mary was quarantined, the U.N. building, Wall Street, the Battery, and Ground Zero. What an exciting morning!!!

After we popped out at lower Manhattan, we dodged the heavy commercial traffic to cross the Upper Harbor to see the Statue of Liberty. Then down under the Verazzano Bridge and over to Sandy hook, NJ.

At Sandy Hook we anchored behind the breakwater at Atlantic Highlands, and immediately felt like we were really headed south. All around us were other cruising sailboats headed south with us! We stayed a day, waiting for the ocean swell to diminish a little (it was still 8-12 feet) and do some laundry. The next morning we left bound for Cape May, in the company of several other boats. The swell hadn't gone down much, and the wind was only a few knots apparent, so we were motor-sailing or plain motoring with heavy following seas for most of the trip. It was hard to sleep when off watch because of the roll, and we got pretty tired. Still, when we realized we'd make Cape May at 4 in the morning, we made the decision to push on down to Norfolk, rather than go up the Delaware and down the Chesapeake as we'd planned. The forecast for the Delaware, by all accounts never a pleasant trip with choppy seas and heavy commercial traffic, was for pretty big chop. The tides were also not convenient: we'd have to kill an entire day waiting for fair current at the two canals. We figured that by the time we got to the top of the Chesapeake, we could be all the way to Norfolk if we went outside. Although I am sure we'd have enjoyed cruising in the Chesapeake, and meeting some of the people we've come to know through the internet, we'll do it another time. We are so glad we made the decision to push on to Norfolk!

The passage ended up being a pretty fast 46 hours from Sandy Hook to Norfolk. That includes the 3+ hours we were held up by the U.S. Navy off Chincoteague Island! The second afternoon as we sailed down the coast, the Navy was stopping all the southbound boats, as well as corralling all the local boaters in the area. They were planning a missile test and needed a clear zone. OK, but couldn't they have put out a "Securite" on channel 16 to let us know in advance? No, said the officer I spoke with, it might have been a terrorist target. Sheesh! So all of us sailors, bone tired and with no ports to stop and rest in until Norfolk, as well as the commercial fishermen and the tug-and-barge who needed to get to Norfolk before the container ship left, were held up for over 3 hours!!!!! Anyway, we hove to in the swell and waited it out, then booked south as soon as they gave the "all-clear". Liv, meanwhile, was great on this passage, camping out in the aft cabin and entertaining herself while Mom and Dad sailed the boat and tried to sleep...

Finally we arrived in Norfolk!!! We arrived at the start of the extensive shipping channels at about 4:00 am. It was a little scary, with a long tunnel-and-bridge thing crossing the mouth of the Chesapeake, lighted channels cutting through shoal areas and teeming with commercial traffic like tugs-and-tows and huge container ships, and of course we were tired and the lights all blend into shore lights in city ports. But we made it in without mishap, found our way into Willoughby Bay and dropped anchor just before sunrise. Hooray, we made it! The day dawned sunny and actually WARM (65 degrees!) and after a couple of hours sleep we headed up into Norfolk itself. We're now anchored right off downtown Norfolk (Hospital Point in Portsmouth, actually) at Mile 0 of the I.C.W. (Intracoastal Waterway) with a whole bunch of other southbound cruising boats. Liv (oh, yes, she's trying to get us all to call her "Elsie" now.... I am having a hard time with that!) has made a friend on another boat, played and had a sleepover with her. She is much happier now! We are finding Norfolk to be an exceptionally friendly and convenient place to be right now. There's a great supermarket that is many miles away but sends a free shuttle van to bring you shopping if you call. There's a free electric bus that happened to go almost all the way to the veterinarian where we had to take Daisy for her shots. And we found a very nice nurse at a home-care-staffing place who administered Neil and my last Hepatitis B shots for us for free! It's a nice, clean downtown... the port is HUGE and very busy with commercial traffic as well as TONS of Navy traffic. We've seen many aircraft carriers and warships close up every day. We're so happy to be here, to be warm, to be able to relax, to be meeting kids and other people doing the same thing we are.... it's just great!


Next page: the ICW from Norfolk to Oriental!