Monday, June 22, 2009

Victory at Sea

Back to the Northern Neck
Hind-sight is always 20/20. When we sailed past Solomon’s Island in 10 knot winds, NOAA was still predicting 15-20 knot winds with gusts of 30 from the Northwest. But NOAA has had a bad track record this past five weeks and we were doubting Thomases. In fact, I joked that NOAA stood for “No One Accurate Answer.”

This time, NOAA was right on the money and the seas tested both Captain Pete’s and MicMac’s overall ability to handle big winds and rolling seas. Crew’s as well. I hate roller coasters and got the ride of my life for 6 hours. Lifejackets were on, and later the tethers. Those are straps that tie you to your boat. Bondage for sailors!

When we made the decision to cross the Potomac, it was too late to turn around. That would be worse and we’d have been heading directly into 5-6’ waves and gusts of 30 knots. Crossing the 10 mile wide mouth of the Potomac is always best when it’s over. It can be very feisty as winds, tides, and currents converge. It’s rarely placid. But this crossing was memorable. I kept looking at the stern, warning Pete when the biggest waves were coming. The earlier whitecaps had transformed into breaking waves. White everywhere. At one mesmerized moment, I even commented how beautiful it looked and how I just saw our first brown pelican of the trip. Pete later stated, “Those were the biggest waves we’ve ever been out in.”

For you non-boaters, the Chesapeake runs north-south, so if the winds are from the north (or the south) there's a lot of fetch (miles of water) for the waves to build. NOT good.

Smith Point still looked so far away. But we finally happily motored back into our first anchorage of this trip, Mill Creek off the Great Wicomico, after a nine-hour trip. Happy hour immediately commenced.

We have always avoided Reedville as an anchorage ever since an odoriferous evening there a few years ago. The mendaden fleet out of Reedville is a big business, but the processing plant is most unfriendly to one's olfactory senses. It may be the smell of money to Reedville folks, but we never experienced any smell so awful. The fleet uses small planes to sight the schools of these small fish--sometimes called alewife or bunker.

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