Day four is already here. Let’s play catch up …
Day 1: We eased.
We left the house seperately, me having to stay behind and shower and pack last minute items, Clay heading to the boat to install windows. The morning was chilled but with undertones of warm air and sunshine, we knew it would be a gorgeous day for a departure. Even still, I wore my Artic parka, which has become somewhat of a running joke: the warmer the weather, the tighter the parka is zipped.
We had a soft departure for about four hours as we finished up last minute checklists and friends came to see us off, many of them coming in from the water.
Leaving our home port was a surreal experience. Watching the dock where we had spent so many days and nights working in the rain and wind (and some days bright blissful sunshine) felt more like leaving home than our actual home.
The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful for our first day. Flat, a bit of wind, sunny day. We cruised on down to Gwynn Island, a childhood spot of Claiborne.
Our first bridge opening went incredibly well! The way bridge openings work goes like this: you call the bridge on channel 16 on the VFH radio. “Gwynn Island Bridge, this is Soultide, come in.” You are pretty close to the closed bridge at this point so it’s a little nerve racking. The bridge comes back with what channel it’s on and then we say “Sailing vessel Soultide requesting a bridge opening. Over.” Confirmation from the bridge tender and the bridge begins to open. It was a great first victory of our trip. Clay notes: we had 150′ of fishing line cleated off to the starboard side as we went through the bridge. Not kosher.
We anchored a little south of Gwynn Island, in a small inlet at Moon, Va. A generally sleepless night after such an adventurous day; plus, I was worried about our anchor dragging. She didn’t though and has continued to do a fantastic job of keeping us put. (We have a Rocna, good for all types of bottoms.50′ of chain and 100′ of rope. Huge points for Clay figuring out what anchor we needed with the appropriate amount of rhode. We get to sleep because of his hard work.)
Day 2: We explored.
Clay remembered an old lighthouse he loved to see as a young lad so our goal for the morning was to go check it out. The Wolftrap Lighthouse is about 6 nautical miles from where we anchored in Moon, Va so we started early. About 15 minutes into our morning sail, as I was dropping cheese puffs all over the cockpit, we ran hard aground coming through the Hole in the Wall. Running aground is like a fender bender but the guy you hit is invisible. Luckily, Soultide was able to pull off the ground using her sails and we were soon underway again. The Wolftrap Lighthouse was incredible. Out in the middle of the bay, run down…I do wish I could’ve climbed up and explored the inside.
Our lighthouse run had gone well into the afternoon so we decided to head inland to a harbor Clay had worked with a few years ago. A tiny, rural harbor inside the shallowest channel we’ve seen yet – absolutely worth the risk of running aground again though. Horn Harbor was pretty quiet except for some hardcore fisherman types who were settling in for a weekend of fishing. Norm, the harbor master, was incredibly hospitable, helping us drag 100′ of garden hose from the club house to the boat to fill up water. He even offered us an open slip to dock in for the night and a place to shower in the morning. We loved our night in Horn Harbor, Va.
An early start out of Horn Harbor plus favorable weather meant we cruised hard for 8 hours straight. It was a great day in the sort of open waters, Clay brought out the banjo as I navigated Soultide, I danced, we lunched and then we got to Norfolk.
As the ships got bigger and closer our comfort levels got lower until the whole experience came to a boiling point with us sandwiched between a 1,200′ shipping vessel and a navy police boat. Clay did a terrific job of handling the situation as best he could, I did a fantastic job of freaking out.
Day 4: Hail.
It’s Sunday and that means football. Portsmouth offers several anchorages and a few free places to dock (all towered over by these gigantic naval vessels). We docked up for a bit in a little cove for the late morning. Clay worked on boat maintenance and I trekked to the closest grocery store. Lesson learned: buy conservatively. I trekked the mile and a half back weighted down with a 25 lbs backpack and a gallon of water in each hand. Overall, it was a lovely walk through the historical area of Portsmouth. The afternoon found us anchored out at Hospital Point and taking the dinghy in to the local marina for dockage. We walked a few blocks to the nearest sports bar and had a great time watching the Redskins beat da Bears. Back on the boat, I was thinking about how much I’ve learned in the last four days, how happy I am, and how lucky I am to be on this incredible adventure with such an incredible man.