Thursday, 30 April 2015

Out of the heat and north to sanity

Some time has passed since we posted from Guadalupe and we have moved, thankfully, north and out of the Caribbean. We sailed up to St Barts and spent a few days at anchor at the north of the island but St B's isn't a place we'd recommend. The harbour is large, busy and dominated by super-yachts, huge privately owned ships that seem totally out of place. On to the BVI where we caught a ferry to St Johns USVI and got stamped into the USA. Our 90 day ticket had begun and all we needed was a good weather window. None was forth coming but with our BVI visa soon to expire we gladly upped the anchor and sailed out. That the Caribbean north of Guadalupe is popular can't be denied but we're at a loss to understand or appreciate why it should be. Overcrowded and expensive (except for rum) we felt nothing but relief as we saw the islands fade astern of us. In many ways we were lucky we felt that way; lucky that we were heading north to cooler climes and more interesting scenery as the winds were fickle and difficult. Originally we thought we might follow the channel and come up between the Bahamas and Cuba/DR but opted for a more direct route ie head straight for Cape Henry and the Chesapeake. The wind gave us a good start as we covered 111 nm on the first 24 hours but after that the mileage fell as we struggled to make distances. 6 nm in 4 hours was not uncommon and the days began to mount up. We began picking up the NOAA weather on the SSB and after 2 weeks heard of strong winds from Maine and southwards. 45-50knots got my attention very quickly but it was all a long way north and I relaxed. 

The advantage of the Bahamas route as I saw it was the chance to pick up the Gulf Stream and benefit from it whereas the route we were on meant we needed to cross it in the Cape Hatteras region and time it with a favourable wind. Not a relaxed ship as we slid closer to the Stream and the forecasts varied but in the end, as so often happens, the fear of what might happen is washed away but what did. Which was nothing. The wind was light and favourable and whilst we sometimes ran into turbulent seas caused, I think, by eddies colliding it was soon over. For the whole trip we'd been thinking that once we arrived at Cape Hatteras our journey was over but we still had well over 100nm to go so the last section dragged and dragged to the point that we motored when winds speeds dropped and the tide threatened to send us southwards. Finally 21 days, 9 hours after we left the BVI we dropped the hook off Hospital Point and slept.

The following we day we rowed into see R&J our partners in drunken nights, cadge a lift with them to Homeland Security and the test of whether the Visa Waiver entry would work on mainland USA. It does although not without close questioning on how we entered the US in the first place etc. So a result – we were in and as long as we leave within 90 days everything will be hunkydory.

Since we arrived we've hauled, repainted and done various jobs, splashed back in and are patiently waiting a window to get us up to Buzzards Bay and beyond. The “plan” had us leaving by the end of April so only a few days late if we get away on Monday. R&J should haul in the next day or so and then commence their journey back to Europe; Russ and Alison came down to visit in their new (to them) Hans Christian and are making decisions about when and where to go, Olly has arrived in Bermuda and is psyching himself up for the return Atlantic trip so all is well in our world.

The dock where we're tied up is in downtown Portsmouth and close to the Portsmouth-Norfolk ferry. People stroll by,sometimes stop and ask about the boat, where we've come from never crossed the ocean in that!!? is a regular comment. Today we had a couple say “isn't that Martin and Roma's boat” something we haven't heard for a good number of years.

Whilst it isn't a plan we do have two alternatives to the next 6 months. One is sail up to Maine/Nova Scotia and head back to the UK/Europe and the other is to head north to Greenland for the summer and return via Baffin and down to a dock near Annapolis that Steve and Luanne have offered us for the winter. We'll keep our options open. 

Any guesses?
 Portsmouth, VA