Sailing from Annapolis, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia {Part I}

The view from our dock at Holiday Point Marina. We hadn’t seen the sun in a few days.

October 2, 2016- Day 1

Our first voyage as a family on s/v Gromit! We were all excited but nervous as well. It would be the first time for everything, so we didn’t really know what to expect, but Mike’s dad joined us for the cruise so we would have extra help if we needed it. His many years of sailing was great to have on board.

We left Holiday Point Marina in Edgewater, Maryland (just outside of Annapolis located on the South River) bound for Solomon’s Island. The weather was crisp and cool, and the water was calm. The sun was finally peeking through an overcast sky- the first we’d seen of the sun in a few days! First, we stopped at the nearby fuel dock to gas up. While that didn’t go super smoothly (getting used to maneuvering a boat against a dock isn’t the easiest!), we got the gas we needed and we were on our way.

Waiting at the fuel dock

Leaving the South River, we headed south on the Chesapeake Bay, and the winds were fairly calm, about 5-10 knots. We motor sailed which means we used the power of the engine and the power of the wind in our sails to carry us. Motor sailing gave us a little more predictability as far as our speed. We were able to average about 5 knots of speed, which isn’t bad!

It was sunny, but quite cool. The children wore lifejackets and were tethered into the jack lines of the boat (meaning they can’t get out of the cockpit and they can’t fall out). The adults were comfortable walking around the boat with ease since the boat was barely rocking. I even fell asleep a couple of times, it was so relaxing!

We had charts with GPS to direct our path. Mike (the captain) spent the night before plotting our course so we would know exactly where to go. The only thing we had to watch out for was other boats and crab pots which were common. We definitely didn’t want to get those crab traps tangled up in our propeller! We also used our depth sounder to make sure we were always in deep enough water. Our keel is 6′ long, so it’s important the water be deeper than that. The charts we had also told us the depth of the water so we could make sure we were not accidently turning into a shallow area or an underwater wreckage site.

The weather was perfect!

Part of our cruising life means turning on the VHF radio each morning and tuning into a common channel. We can listen to all other boats on the channel. If there is someone that needs help we can respond, if there is a warning of an obstruction in the water we can know about it, or if someone wants to speak to us they can “call” us- we all use the VHF radio. On our way to Solomon’s Island, we were hailed by a nearby sailboat, a similar kind as ours. They recognized the name of the boat ‘Gromit’ and knew the previous owners. They called just to say hi- how neat!

We ate sandwiches in the cockpit for lunch and snacks throughout the day. Right around dinnertime we arrived at Solomon’s Island and pulled up to the anchorage we had planned on stopping at for the night. We anchored at Kingston Creek Anchorage, about 45 nautical miles from where we started. We dropped the anchor, made sure it was set and we were done. We did it! Our first day of sailing was done, and we were all hungry and ready to relax.

Mike getting the anchor ready

The anchorage was beautiful and calm, and we were the only boat there. The girls spotted a little beach amidst forests of trees so we promised in the morning before we left we would take them there.

The shoreline

The first night’s dinner was rice and roasted turkey and gravy (already prepared except for the rice). The sun dipped low as we ate our dinner in the cockpit. Day 1 done!

Calm waters and a beautiful sunset!

October 3, 2016 – Day 2

Sunrise at Solomon’s Island
Hannah enjoying the dinghy ride

We awoke to very calm, serene waters as the dark faded and the sun began to lighten the sky. We could hear music and the clanking of traps from a few little fishing boats nearby, other than that there was no one else there. We got up and everyone had a quick breakfast while we got the kids ready to go to the nearby beach. We were anxious to keep traveling and get to our next destination, but we knew there had to be reward in this journey for them too. We lowered our dinghy, climbed aboard and zipped over to the little shore. Along the shore were trees and beautiful houses. We let them play in the water and find pretty shells for a little while, then headed back to Gromit to get going to our next anchorage which was at Point Lookout.

This was the highlight of the girl’s trip!
The shore all to ourselves
Stunning striped rocks
Barefoot boat kids

Mike and I want to be a team on this boat, which means I’m at the helm while he tends to the anchor, the sails, the dock or whatever else needs to be done. He does also help with the helm and of course the navigation. So each morning I’ve been able to practice steering us out of the anchorage and into the bay and keeping us on course. Of course, Mike and his dad played a huge role in that too, since they were teaching me and there were times I didn’t feel competent enough to be alone at the helm. But I loved it! And I was able to get a feel for the movement of the boat and how she responds to the wheel.

Mike at the helm watching the autopilot, radar and navigation

We left the anchorage and headed south on the Chesapeake Bay, again motor sailing. On our way again, we were hailed on the VHF radio, although this time it wasn’t from a friendly cruiser wanting to say hi. This time were hailed by a Navy Range Marker Ship asking us to go east about 2 miles to stay clear of their range. Of course we would! It was out of our way but we’d be foolish not to comply! It cost us about 4 miles which means we lost about one hour of time.

Talking to a Navy ship

Today the winds again were calm. We were feeling less nervous as we made our way. We anchored at Cornfield Harbor near Point Lookout which is on the Potomac River. In the first two days we traveled 71.5 nautical miles! We were halfway to our destination of Norfolk, Virginia!

Finally able to dry some clothes in the bright sunshine!

This anchorage also had a shoreline with a sandy beach so before we had dinner we took the girls to play again. There was only one other boat anchored there with us, but we had the beach all to ourselves. We found plenty of shells, rocks and bones of animals. Unfortunately, the beach had biting flies which we did not like! The weather had warmed up quite a bit so we could finally wear our bathing suits and shorts we brought. After a little while there, we went back to the boat and ate dinner in the cockpit (I can’t remember what it was).

Arriving at our anchorage
This water was incredibly calm and smooth
They can’t get enough of the water!
Daddy showing the girls how to skip rocks
Haven and Mommy

After the sun went down, we went up to the deck to see the stars. They were incredible! We weren’t near very many lights, the water was perfectly glassy and calm and the night was dark. The stars shone through that darkness like brilliant little diamonds. I’ve never seen so many stars and constellations in my life! We could even see the hazy cloud of the milky way. Magnificent! What a treat!

Goodnight moon

Little did we know how different our final two days of sailing would be!…