Sailing down the Chesapeake Bay
3 May 2000, by Tom Waid
Folks in Virginia like folks most everywhere will, more often that not, begin a conversation remarking about the weather. Since our arrival in the Virginia part of the Bay most people we meet will start by saying, "Y’know this is the coldest, rainiest April I can remember."
"It’s our fault." I tell them. This is the month we chose to begin a sailing voyage that has been dreamt about since before we were married and Mother Nature has decided to set us back a notch. Sorry about the rain."
There have been breaks. The day we sailed down from Solomons was glorious. It was cold but the sun was out and the fifteen-knot wind was on our tail. Since we were sailing downwind the forward motion of the boat mitigated the sting of the wind. At the end of the day we arrived in Indian Creek close to Kilmarnock, Virginia and found a secure anchorage to hunker down because the next day was to be spent huddled in the cabin while the driving rain persisted throughout the day.
Because of the rain and even more because of the cold we found that cruising the Bay was a completely different experience than it has been in the past. During warm weather, life is conducted in the cockpit where the beauty of secluded anchorages may be appreciated. But when the cold has driven us down the companionway and into the cabin we might as well be anchored next to a cement plant. Also it’s lonely out here. We like seclusion but being the only yacht in the anchorage for day after day is making us wonder, "doesn’t anybody want to come out and sail with us in the cold and rain?"
It’s during our excursions ashore that we finally have a chance to interact with people other than each other. We like to walk for exercise, which is very compatible with our life aboard Bellatrix since we can combine exercise with our chores and meeting people. We’ll walk with our backpacks and carry laundry to the Laundromat or carry groceries from the supermarket. On all these outings we’ve had very pleasant conversations with the locals. The people of Virginia have always been very polite but recently I’ve noticed an even greater level of deference and respect. It took a while but, when it did, realization hit me like a lightning bolt. Virginians have a deep respect for age, something new to get used to.
On the next break in the weather we motored to Gwynn Island. The day started sunny but, after a while, it clouded up again and along with that so did our moods. On the following day we started our walk in gray weather but, as we continued, the clouds started breaking up. When we returned to Bellatrix the sky was clear and, for the first time, we were warm enough to open up the hatch and let fresh air circulate around the cabin. Finally, cruising the way we remember it, sunny and warm.
Listening to the marine weather reports led us to conclude that the best day to make the final distance to Hampton Roads was the very next day. Promises were kept. It was sunny and warm and the wind prevailed first from the northwest and then shifting to the north giving us another daylong downwind run. Things were definitely looking up. In the late afternoon we arrived at Old Point Comfort at Hampton Roads and anchored next to the historic Army Post of Fort Monroe. It is here at the post marina where we intend to prepare for our offshore trip to the Eastern Caribbean. We sat in the cockpit, soaking up the sun and enjoyed life the way it’s supposed to be aboard a yacht.
Presently I cannot say when our actual departure will be. I’m still downloading weather maps and (as far as my limited ability can tell) it would seem that not all the bad weather is behind us. But conditions are improving and when they’re good enough we’ll set out.