The first real weather window to head south came on Wednesday, 11/2. Finally going someplace warm and some open water cruising. We left at around 0530 and cruised down the East River, by the airport and Riker’s Island Prison. We had a great current and made 8-9 knots without even trying. We flew through Hell’s gate and down Manhattan. It was really nice to see the city this way and things seemed really good. When we got to the bottom of Manhattan the water was really churned up by the ferry boats, they gun it as soon as the get off the dock, and all the way back in. The water is a disgusting and an unnatural shade of brown. The smog was so thick that the city had its own smogasphere that extended most of the way down the Jersey Coast. Even my AIS had a case of FEAR as there were so many dangerous targets. No wind either, so we motored the whole way down the coast. We made great time though with such a fair current. There were huge swells in the ocean from the off shore weather that we went inside Long Island to avoid. We motored through the night, but at some point the chop got so bad that motoring was really tough. It seemed that we couldn’t possibly make Norfolk by Friday morning. We consider stopping in Ocean City, MD, but we would be delayed for 3 days waiting for the Atlantic to calm down. So we keep motoring, slamming into a small southwest wind that had such a long fetch that it creates confused seas with the eastern swell. It was miserable, absolutely miserable. Like driving a tractor over 3 foot speed bumps for 200 miles. We tried sailing, but the VMG isn’t good enough to make Norfolk before the next Nor’easter arrives. This was probably the worst boating experience I have ever had in less than 12 knots of wind.
Just after sundown, the bilge alarm goes off. We had been motoring hard enough that my engine mounts flexed allowing too much water in through the dripless shaft seal. We try to keep going with one of us driving and the other bailing. After an hour or so we have to make a compromise, either go slower, and not make Norfolk before the winds start, or go back to Ocean City… so we choose to go slower. The night is miserable as the southwesterlies build. If they were just south or west, or even south by southwest we could sail, but no such luck. We knew we were going to have to deal with some weather in the morning. We continued through the night for a second night with very little sleep. Our diet pretty much consists of gold fish and cliff bars, with coffee.

This morning, there was a perfect calm and motoring was better but by 0800 the north east wind was starting. We immediately put up sails and were moving 7-8 knots. We were making great time and reached the mouth of the Chesapeake by 1000 but the wind had built much faster than the forecast. We ran in 25 knots very comfortably and fast, we dropped the main and jib sailed for a more comfortable ride. Before we knew it though the wind was a steady 30 knots and gusting over 35, now we reefed the jib. We were already very tired but we had to plow through it. Nathan was on the helm and I was navigating and dealing with all the incoming traffic on the radio. We came in the south ship channel after dodging several huge naval vessels and a few tankers. The seas were a churned 6-10 feet and it was really rough going. Nate did great on the helm though and I think he even enjoyed it. Slick performed flawlessly and we made it into the harbor around 2 and continued to sail almost the whole way to Waterfront Marina in Norfolk. Tomorrow we start “the Ditch” and inland passageway around Cape Hatteras.

All in all it was really an excruciating experience. The first nor’easter on anchor, the second at the dock, driving 150 miles around the third, then sailing through the beginning of the fourth. We figure the score is Weather 3, Slick 1. We are exhausted, but happy to be here. And happy to have completed a brutal 300 miles in just over 56 hours. This was supposed to be a shake down cruise but turned into a break down cruise. The fun is coming now, going south as fast as we can with winter chasing us is over. She almost caught us, but not quite.