Footprint Shake Down Cruise! September/October 2007
September 22nd, we left our dock at Ocean Marine at 03:00 – headed for the Atlantic Ocean. With very light winds, we were often moving (!) at around 1kt. By 6am we had barely cleared the other end of the navy base just 8 miles away. Kyle was sailing as Maryanne slept. For ½ hour one of the Navy patrol boats shadowed Kyle – making no contact. Just at the end of the base, a different patrol boat stopped Kyle with sirens blazing – and told him he could not stop in front of the base. Kyle “explained” he was not stopped, but just moving slowly – it was a sailboat and there was little wind! (All this time Kyle was out of any security area – but I guessed his long term presence freaked them out a little). The altercation woke Maryanne early for her watch. We spent most of the day crawling across the Chesapeake Bay at very low speed, attempting to get out of the entrance before the tide turned against us (we didn’t make it).
Once we got into the Atlantic proper, the wind stabilized and allowed us to continue on course. We turned North, towards a point 30 miles seaward of the Delaware bay entrance. A route that we expected to take around 24-30 hours.. things did not work out as planned. The wind did not play nice! The weather was BEAUTIFUL. Kyle was even able to sit the early morning watch in shorts and a t-shirt. The wind slowly increased and shifted to North-East (directly against us) forcing us to bear off and head seaward. This was starting to look like it may be a repeat of our 2004 (sea sick) sail in Prydwen. Rather than beat hard to weather, we slowed the boat and bore off to make the motion comfortable (making little or no ground to our destination – getting further and further off shore). While I (Kyle) was off watch I heard Maryanne on deck and saw her, through the berth windows looking forward, coming forward on deck to reef the sails (4 times in one watch); I was pleased to see her securely attached via jacklines and tether – our family rule! I felt the warm and gratifying feeling of being in the capable hands of the woman I love, watching her work while not knowing I was watching, seeing how skillfully she did everything. I really did marry an amazing woman. For the remaining trip I felt no apprehension or nervousness going off watch and was able to sleep very well.
We spent at least 2 days heading further and further off shore. Each day we communicated by satellite phone internet connection to our respective mothers, confirming we were safe and updating our current position and estimated arrival date. After a day a so, the wind started to die off, and the sea calmed. We were travelling at around 2 knots and still in the wrong direction. The sea was a BEAUTIFUL turquoise blue, looking tropical and enticing, an unreal color!. Kyle particularly enjoyed his nightwatch – starting with the moon so high and bright (as if on a lighted highway), and as the moon dipped and turned red, the surroundings darkened, and Kyle would spend long periods watching the bioluminescence trail away in our wake in a perfectly flat dark sea.
As we approached the continental shelf on the 24th (around 55 nm – 63 statute miles - off shore) the wind finally shifted sufficiently enough for Maryanne to tack and start heading towards the NE again. Progress was very slow, in very light winds; the boat barely making enough way for steerage; the watches dragging on. Eventually Kyle came on watch one night and Maryanne transferred the boat to his control. We were moving too slowly to register on the knot meter. Pointing NE but drifting SE due to the current. He tried in vain to track her in line with her course, but found the current made her point too much in the wrong direction – so eventually settled with pointing her in the general direction. EVENTUALLY the wind picked up and we started to move smartly on our planned course.
In the day time we started collecting visitors. Land birds strayed off course, or blown out to sea,– saw our boat as a welcome rest stop. Over the course of the day we collected 3 such birds, each seemed very tame (probably just tired) and tolerated us performing our normal sailing duties). One particularly liked the leech of the Jib sail, whenever we tacked (move the sail to the other side) she would fly around once disturbed and return to her spot once we had settled on the opposite tack.
Eventually the wind shifted SW and started increasing; giving us good speed. We reached a point 30 nm from the Delaware Bay entrance and made a 70 degree turn towards the entrance. Although our 6 hours on, 6 hours off watch schedule could be tiring and since one always had to be at the helm (while the other slept), we missed each other. It was still a little disappointing to leave the sea behind and have land come into view again, and the water change from turquoise back to brown. The wind picked up and the boat speed increased. We reefed the sails and were lucky enough to arrive at the Delaware Bay entrance at the start of the flood tide. We FLEW up the bay, making around 9kt over ground, dodging the now busy shipping traffic ! The bay is very shallow so we paralleled the shipping channel, we had to cross a couple of times, and had to keep alert constantly as the 10’s of boats slid by silently in the night – too close to be really comfortable – glad of the radar.
Ships scare us, especially at night; they have an ominous presence as they glide by (sometimes almost overhead)with a very low hum, we never see anyone on deck, no radio contact or anything to suggest they even know we are there. It feels like being a kid awake in bed watching a monster sneak from under the bed to the closet and hoping he doesn’t notice you; fearing you can be crushed with one quick swish of an arm!. We make sure we keep as clear as we can from the channels and keep a good watch. Many times in daylight when travelling at low speed, because of drift we are required to point across a ships path even though our course over the bottom will keep us clear – this sometimes causes our lights to confuse the ships and have them honk at us. Clearly they are not always using their radar effectively.
By sunrise we had reached the Chesapeake and Delaware canal (C&D Canal), and headed into the Chesapeake Bay. Our original plan had been to continue non-stop to Solomon’s island (that would be around another 80nm, matching the anticipated duration of our planned trip to Rhode Island in 2008) but the SW winds in the bay were strengthening (against us), and we didn’t want another night of tacking – especially given the shallow water, crab pots, etc! Besides we had already been at sea for 5 days; that was longer than anticipated, and met the “test” that we could stand watches that long.
We changed our plan and stopped off at Still pond creek (too shallow for Prydwen – at only 3’) and found a whole giant bay to ourselves. We anchored, and caught up with our sleep. In the afternoon we changed our dinghy from lifeboat mode to dinghy mode, rigged the sailing kit and had some play-time with our new dingy (It is a Portland Pudgy, and had arrived literally days before we left, and we had been unable to both spend time getting used to it). At night in the full moon Maryanne opened a bottle of “Barefoot Bubbly” Champagne to toast our 1000th nm in Footprint which we achieved out at sea.
On the 28th, after the front had passed, and the winds shifted back to the NW, we set sail for Solomon’s where Kyle had promised Maryanne Breakfast out! We were back in Cruising mode, where we spend our time together, eating together, reading to each other, and sleeping together safely at anchor each night. The wind increased to around 25kt that day giving us a fast broad reach to Solomon’s (80nm in around 11 hours). The highlight of the day was passing a mono-hull going in the same direction under full sail with his rail in the water (we were reefed in both main and jib and still slid by noticeably faster – within a couple of hours we needed to use the binoculars to see him on the horizon behind us). We arrived after dark at Solomon’s and found a quiet place to anchor. We were able to sleep in the next day, we started to slowly raise the anchor while listening to Car talk, taking our time without too much care – while pottering in the cabin, we suddenly realized we had dragged to the shore, very close to a docked boat! We are rarely so careless, and were lucky to learn our lesson without damage. We set off to Solomon’s, docked and set foot ashore for the first time in a week. We had brunch at a water side restaurant, spotted some very relaxed guys fishing from the dock, and generally enjoyed the views at this nautical haven.
Remaining trip down the bay!
We departed late in the afternoon to catch a favorable tide for our trip to our next stop, Tippity Wichity Island in the St Mary’s river off the Potomac. Tippity Wichity is a favourite haunt of Kyle’s – mostly due to the name! we arrived at 2:30AM! Under sail, as the wind slowly died on us. Our plan was to spend two nights, so we were not so concerned that the trip took longer than planned. Next day after sleeping in we took out the Portland Pudgy and under sail set the world record first for a Circumnavigation around Tippity Wichity Island in a Portland Pudgy, by a couple from a Catamaran on a Sunday. (We had just been reading Steve Fossett’s book and all his world record collecting – it seemed fitting we should have one too!).
Next day (1st October) we set off at 8:30am to our next stop – Mill Creek off the Wicomico River – Chesapeake bay has dozens of “Mill Creeks” it is possible to cruise the bay and stop in a different Mill creek every night – this one is a particular favorite with us – the one we stopped in on the delivery trip from the factory. We arrived late on a moonless night, sailing in using the radar to confirm our path, found our favorite spot and set the anchor, backing down under sail. By now we were feeling very comfortable with footprint, quite the salty sailors – but tired and ready for our beds. We took another rest day as we explored the area under oar in the Portland pudgy. Maryanne discovered she can row in very good circles, but not in a straight line, ensuring Kyle did all the rowing… Hmmm.
Next sailing day , we set off around noon for the Corrotoman River off the Rappahannock. We found a great spot to anchor (again in the dark). We took a rest day and explored in the Portland Pudgy, under sail, and were impressed with the HUGE houses on the water front. Each one seemed totally private and with a wonderful view of the river and scenery (not private from us of course). Each had its own dock with one or more boats – what a life!
Thick fog greeted us the following morning as we set off for Fishing Bay (Off the Piankatank River). We were able to cut the corner off a shallow bar, saving ourselves at least 3 nm of the standard “channel” route we would have taken under Prydwen. (Te he). Again we anchored under sail, this time with a crowd of other anchored boats, in a short rainstorm; luckily we managed to not make asses of ourselves!
In Fishing Bay we continued to try to fish. During the trip we had attempted fishing many times with our newly purchased fishing gear, and had so far failed to catch anything, indeed we had even managed to lose some gear to the fish! After sunset in Fishing bay, the fish were jumping (taunting us?), Kyle managed to hook one, but it jumped off the hook once he had hauled it out of the water, before landing it on the boat – we still have virgin fishing gear!
Next destination was home – but to delay the inevitable a little longer we settled for heading to hospital point anchorage (a pretty anchorage with a great view of Norfolk down town, just ½ mile from our marina). On route we had 10’s of dolphins pass us with a great display for over 15 minutes – what wonderful creatures. AT 11:30 am we crossed paths with Prydwen, she was heading North to the Annapolis area with her new owner, we got some of the best pictures of her we had ever taken (sails up) and had a brief talk on the radio before she disappeared over the horizon to her new life. As we came to the bottom of the bay, the wind decreased and we decided to experiment with the spinnaker. It worked great, until we turned into the shipping channel and on a wind shift we wrapped the sail around the forestay, just as two ships and a tug were converging on us! Fast panic work by Maryanne at the foredeck and some kindly ship operators (keeping out of our way) saved the day. The hospital point anchorage was very full of snowbirds heading south. With our draft however we were able to anchor at the “back” where it gets shallower, and were even able to anchor under sail again. We had dinner and toasted our successful arrival. We reflected on our trip, with mixed emotions (knowing it was almost over). Footprint had performed very well. We had had no major mechanical problems along the way (except the ongoing issues with the screacher).
We did have a list of things we wanted to do before our next trip. Power consumption was an issue especially at night under sail so we planned to reduce our night time amp usage (replace lights) and increase our recharging ability (more efficient or extra solar power). Water consumption was lower than we had expected (we made use of the galley sea tap where appropriate) and we feel we will be able to provision adequately for multi-week trips. Jib lines and track position were frightening to adjust at times, so we agreed to go with line control for the jib car on the track. We felt comfortable that we could be ready for our next big planned sail – 2008 to head North to Maine. We have no concerns that the boat (and crew) can handle the duration of a long ocean passage.
By December, the days had turned short enough and the weather cold enough to make sailing unappealing as a leisure activity. Our last sail in mid-November was mostly Kyle outside in the cold wind, and Maryanne in the heated cabin - not exactly sharing the dream!
We did use one warm weather weekend to complete a couple of the last remaining outside jobs. We installed treadmaster on some slick parts of the deck and also installed jib car control lines which much like the traveller control system should greatly reduce the chance of injury and drama during sail trim.
Since we had a fairly large area of treadmaster to apply we purchased a large sheet, which we needed to cut to size and then epoxy on the deck. Once the epoxy was mixed we had a 20 minute window to fit all the 4 large cut pieces. Functionally we are very pleased with it, and those once slick areas of the deck are now much safer - aesthetically we made quite a mess of the job - but as Kyle says, it will keep people from wanting to steal our boat.
We spent the balance of the month getting re-acquainted with friends that we had neglected during the sailing season. We visited our friends JD and Dale in Richmond with their one year old baby Lillian (one of the world's most smiley babies), and celebrated Kyle's 40th birthday with a local soaring trip and skeet shooting with a few close friends.
We pretty much completed the purchase of everything on our outfitting list with the exception of a few spare parts, tools, some medical kit items and the bike! We are really starting to feel ready to go - although Kyle is concerned the "stuff" is about to make the boat sink. Even though we purchased a larger boat, a catamaran is so weight sensitive, and there is so much more living space, that storage is still an issue.
The year was closed aboard Footprint with our friends Mark and Kate, who as always were wonderful company. For the first time in years we managed to be awake for the New Year, and impressed ourselves by staying up several hours beyond. We toasted in the New Year 2008 - together - looking forward to our best year yet. Kate and Mark stayed the night aboard, and were gracious enough to say they enjoyed the food, entertainment, and not complain about the living quarters. All of us suffered somewhat in the morning - lights were too bright, and noises too loud!
At long last we can say we are going cruising THIS YEAR.