Jon and Lori Jones begin the sail down the Chesapeake Bay on their way from Deale, Maryland to Texas, where they’re moving. They’ve already moved all the furniture and are now sailing Wind Orchid, a 2004 Catalina 350 sailing sloop, rather than move her by land. The adventure begins…
Wind Orchid is a modern, fiberglass white sailboat trimmed in dark blue. She has two staterooms, a full galley trimmed in well-oiled teak and “a very decent head/shower,” according to Jon. She’s on the roomy-side of mid-range size for a sailboat. The Orchid is a cruiser, meant for comfortable rides, but she’s made respectable showing in many Wednesday night races, due to Jon’s skill.
Jon is retired Army. He met his wife, Lori, online through a dating service while he was stationed in Baghdad. Lori was living in the Houston, Texas, area. Jon work kept him near the Pentagon. Lori would “commute” to the Washington, DC area because her children still live in Texas.
Together, they’re that “fun” couple that’s able to effortlessly entice people to come out to play. Now that Jon retired again, as an Army contractor, they decided to give Texas a try. The friends don’t really understand why anyone would move away from the Chesapeake Bay, but okay…
(November 9) – “Anchored in Mill Creek near Solomon’s Island, MD. Knocked off early ’cause the next place to anchor is far enough that it would be dark when we get there. Am not interested, either, in beating into 20-knot, near-freezing winds all night.”
“Instead, will take a nap and cook some spaghetti later.”
Mill Creek is a tributary of the Patuxent River which flows in the lower Chesapeake Bay. They’re about one-third of the way to the mouth of the Bay.
(November 10) – “Sailing past Point Lookout, averaging seven knots in 15-20 knot West winds.”
Point Lookout is a state park on a peninsula where the Potomac River enters the Chesapeake Bay. It was once a prison camp for over 52,000 Confederate soldiers.
“At anchor in Fishing Bay near Deltaville, Virginia. Nice to be out of the wind for a little while.”
Throughout the early adventure, Jon has been putting out crew calls. Friends volunteer to meet the boat at a certain point and sail with Jon and Lori to another point. That crew member then leaves the boat and heads home.
On this leg, Dick joins the crew. They decide to have a bit of fun along the way; sailing can be boring at times. They toss the dingy into the water and surf the waves.
“Dick and I are good and windburned after 10 hours in 20+ knot apparent wind. Supposed to start getting really cold tomorrow and maybe snow on Tuesday.
(November 11) – They make it to Norfolk, Virginia, about 134 miles from point to point, many more miles when zig-zagging on a sailboat.
Jon and Lori are now at the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The Port of Virginia is the deepest shipping channel on the East Coast and has been a major maritime gateway for more than 400 years.
Jon’s been sailing on the Chesapeake for years; it’s like his back yard. While Jon is an experienced sailor who’s done big water, their adventure to Texas is about to take them outside their ‘hood. Jon is worried about snow the next day.
To sail down the East Coast of the United States, most boaters take the Intercoastal Waterway, a 1,243 canal along the coast between Norfolk, Virginia, and Key West, Florida. It keeps boaters out of the open ocean. The Atlantic Ocean going into winter is a dangerous thing, with strong winds, waves that can easily be higher than the boat and no protection from storms.
“Thirty-eight degrees in the boat this morning.” reports Jon. “Fired up the furnace and boiled water for coffee. Now it is 44 degrees. Blanket of frost on the boat but it is supposed to be warmer today.”
There are two Intercoastal routes: Route 1, the basic route; Jon is taking Route 2, through Great Dismal Swamp to the sound.
“Skipper’s knee was acting up last night and he finished off the OxyContin, but the knee seems better today. Shoving off at 7:30 to make the 8:30 lock out of the Dismal Swamp canal. Plan to pass thru Elizabeth City, sail down the Albemarle sound and enter the Alligator River today.”
The canals, while easier, aren’t a cake-walk. There can be cross currents where two streams intersect. The Coast Guard has rescued many boats from cross currents.
The canals have sharp bends or curves, making a tight turn if there are other boats in the same turn. Then, there are shoals, rocks, stumps and sunken logs that can spike a boat. Boaters are warned that if a hurricane warning comes, take shelter in cedar or mangrove swamps.
To Be Continued…