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Washington, DC 6-6-02
This volume of our travels starts where we left off last time, in Norfolk Virginia. In between we explored the Chesapeake Bay, changed some crew, and had many adventures.
The Chesapeake Bay is a large body of water, running approximately 150 miles north and south and about 5 - 20 miles wide. It is fed by many rivers and tributaries which branch off the main Bay. It is a place with major cities (Norfolk, Washington, Annapolis, Baltimore) and many quaint smaller towns and pretty secluded anchorages. It is famous for seafood and especially crabs. We had all kinds of crabs, served as crab legs, crab soup, crab dip, crab cakes, and even soft shell crabs where you eat the whole critter, legs and all (sort of like crewing on a wicker basket).
After anchoring in Norfolk for a couple nights, the intrepid crew of Irie braved out into the Bay on a bluster day with a 20-25 knots SW wind that was supposed to ease off. Instead, it picked up to 30 knots gusting to 35 (about 40 mph). We sailed with reefed (shortened) sails about 30 miles up to the York River on the western side of the Bay. Our first trip up the Bay was made even more exciting by the act of the map blowing over the side, courtesy of yours truly. Fortunately, memory served and we were able to get into the James River, and our cruising guide had a sketch of Sara Creek were we went in to anchor.
Sara Creek is only a few miles from Williamsburg, Va., home of Colonial Williamsburg. This is a 3-4 block area of Revolutionary War era buildings which are decorated consistent with colonial times. There are tours of the buildings, shops and restaurants featuring timely fare, and citizens milling about in colonial garb. I had a very nice conversation with a Dr. Pasteur, who had studied medicine in London. We discussed some of the unfathomable British policies. Then I asked him if he had any nurses to help him. ďIf I may be so indelicate sir,Ē he whispered. ďProper ladies would never engage in such a fashion.Ē He confided that on occasion certain working women might so serve when their form or age required their retirement from their previous endeavors. You know, I think I saw a movie about that once.
We sailed across the Bay to Crisfield, on the Easter side of the Bay, and just north of the Virginia Maryland, and spent a couple days there stocking up. Coming out of the Crisfield channel we were heading straight into a 25 knot wind. I backed off the throttle for an oncoming boat. When I throttled back up -- no thrust. Damn port propeller (the one that got wrapped by the anchor rode) had fallen off again! (Which I verified later with a dip in 60* water.) With one engine (it is frequently very nice to have two) we can make way but not much against a 25 knot wind! We put up our sails and tacked thru the millions of crab pots lining the channel.
On a wing and one engine we headed north 60 miles to the Choptank River, and the quaint little town of St. Michaels. We anchored in a beautiful, secluded little cove on the south side -- the back door. We were delighted by a flock of swan -- beautiful, stately pests that they are. They are big birds, and not necessarily shy, and apparently are slowly diminishing the local waterfowl.
The next day we sailed to Oxford, yet another quaint town on the eastern shore off the Choptank River.
When I got the gas jug out, I asked Art whether he had added oil (you need to add oil to the gas for small outboard engines) to the main gas jerry jug. He said he couldnít remember specifically but always did. A little concerned, I topped off the motor (only uses 2/3 gallon) but added a little extra oil just in case. Zipping around the creek at Oxford, it seemed to be OK when --- RRRRrrrrrr. It died. I was able to get the engine started again, it hadn't totally seized, but when it was in gear if I gave it any throttle it would just quit.
I was sure the engine had overheated and partially seized from lack of oil. I was seething at both Art and myself for being so stupid for using the gas when Art said he wasn't 100% sure that he remembered actually adding oil. Then I asked him when the last time he had filled the jug up he said the Bahamas (!) because he had been filling *his* dinghy gas tank up directly at the pump, and therefore didnít have to worry about whether he had actually put oil in the jug.
The next day we sailed up for Annapolis. For about the third straight day, the wind shifted out to be right on our nose. I am not particularly superstitious, and I donít pretend to understand the Lordís ways, but there does seem to be more than just coincidence at work how the wind magically was most always right in our face the whole time the prop was off.
As we tacked our way up the Chesapeake towards Annapolis, we ran into friends Jim, Jane and their kids Ken and Kira aboard Iso Kala, another catamaran. We had met in the bathrooms (of all places) in St. Augustine, Florida, weeks earlier. They were headed up to Annapolis also so we joined them for the last leg of the trip.
Annapolis is in the northern part of Chesapeake Bay, between Washington DC and Baltimore. Itís not a particularly large city (probably most famous because the Navy Academy is there) but it sits in between two creeks and is a sailboat mecca. The girls were excited about seeing their friends on Iso Kala, and confiscated the dinghy upon arrival. Jackie and Art went to check out the town, and an old friend, Jennifer Shearer, came to visit with her three kids, aged 3-6. Kiera and Colette came back a while later with the Iso Kala kids, and Irie became a playground with seven kids running around screaming. Ours the loudest, of course. But it was a great afternoon, made more spectacular by the Blue Angels jets practicing their maneuvers overhead for the upcoming Academy graduation.
It had been getting steadily cooler over the last few days, but now it was getting downright nippy. The lows dipped into the 30s - and this was mid-May! The memories of the Bahamas were getting better all the time. Irie has no heating capability and is not well insulated, so it was like living in a cooler in the evening. We bundled up with our sweatshirts and comforters to try to keep warm at night.
The next morning I got up to notice one side of our dinghy was deflated. Kiera said the Iso Kala's dog had jumped in the day before, and I guessed that she had punctured it.
The next day we had dinner at Jennifer and her husband Danís lovely home. Dan plays drums had an extra guitar, and has a microphone set up in his basement, so we had amateur night at the "Happy Hour Lounge" for a couple hours. Much fun. The temp was forecast to be in the low 30s that night, and we were graciously invited to spend the night in their nice warm house.
The next morning we had Irie hauled and a new prop put on. This time the mechanic put on a special locking bolt which hopefully will keep the prop on. We also got an extra, just in case. We spent a couple hours scrubbing her bottom. A clean bottom is a happy bottom, I always feel.
The next day we began our trip back down the Bay. It was getting late in the month, and I wanted to start getting ready for crossing the Atlantic, which you should do by late May or early June to avoid the hurricane season. So with a couple stops along the way - having a nice dinner with old friends Heidi Stratton, Dennis Fay and Pam Appleton, and seeing a new one (Tim Fuhrmann - thanks again for sending the email) we headed up the Potomac River towards Washington DC.
Itís a 90 mile trip up the Potomac. There's a bridge just outside the downtown area of DC that would only let us pass between midnight at 7 am, so we came thru at 6:30 am on a foggy morning. It was a sight to see the Capitol and Washington monument materialize thru the fog. You can take a boat all the way into downtown Washington, right up next to the Tidal Basin. We found a wonderful marina, the Capital Yacht Club. Reasonable rates, wonderful facilities and unlimited internet access, which proved very handy. Their friendly staff helped out with all our needs. Highly recommended.
That morning when I opened the fridge, a puddle of water on the bottom told me it was not working. We couldn't get the compressor to run. It was starting to get a bit frustrating. The prop had fallen off. The winds had been blowing against us almost nonstop, way too much for normal chance. The Lewmar double block on our mainsheet fell apart. My dinghy motor was shot, the dinghy was holed, and I had lost and oar. I had no charts of Bermuda, the Azores, or Europe, and to my amazement could find none in Norfolk or Annapolis. Plus, our insurance broker had informed us we needed more crew to make the crossing (just Art and I were going to do it, leaving the women stateside to meet us in Lisbon) and we were having no luck finding additional victims, err, crew.
We did have a great time in DC. We visited the major monuments and museums. The American History museum, National Art museum, natural history museum, and the air and space museum were all wonderful visits and you could easily spend a day at each place. Most memorable to me was the jet simulator at the air and space museum. Colette and I went on (Kiera chickened out). It is a device where you are sealed into a small box, the size of a small car cockpit, which moves 360* both vertically and horizontally on mechanical arms. You "fly" the jet and see a computer simulation on the screen, while your box moves in all directions, simulating the movements of the aircraft. It was very sensitive, the slightest movement of the joystick jerked the simulator box around. After a minute of banking turns, I pulled a barrel loop doing a 360* loop going upside down and back. Colette was screaming when we went upside down, and she looked scared, so I thought that was enough and leveled off. "Want to take a shot at flying it?" I asked. "OK" she said. "Be careful," I warned, "move the stick slowly." She grabbed the stick and immediately yanked it hard back and forth, sending the simulator into all kinds of wild movements that I am sure can only be found in advanced fighter jet training manuals. All the while screaming madly. Afterwards she wanted to go again. I guess I mistook her screams. And this was the kid who barfs every time the seas pick up over 3'.
We also had fun see more old friends (I worked in DC after college) in the area, Sue Ėn- Bob Schrider, who joined us with there kids Sydney and Jackson for a sail, sightseeing and a pool party. They also had us over for dinner where we were joined by Carolyn and Mike and Jennifer and Dan.
In between the sightseeing and visiting, we were very busy fixing and making preparations for the trip. It was amazing how many things you have to consider when you think you are going to be overseas for a year (and with no fixed address). But things started to take a turn for the better. We found and installed a triple block on the mainsheet, giving it more purchase, and it worked much better than before. I squirted some carb cleaner in the dinghy motor and it ran fine. We pumped up the dinghy again and it did not leak air, it was probably a loose valve. Art found a $300 part that worked with our South African fridge and got the fridge working again, thus saving us at least a thousand from having to install a whole new system. On the internet, I found a place to get a new oar, charts, and crew, and a place to rent a life raft. Within a few days things were falling in place for our trip.
On June 30th, still in Washington, Jackie boarded a plane for St. Martin, and Eileen and Kiera and Colette took off for Miami a couple days later. We got our new crew members on board, and began final preparations for our transatlantic crossing.
But that will be the subject of next month's journal.
Till then, best wishes, and remember, a clean bottom is a happy bottom.
Bryan C. on Irie.