28 October 2010

Sailboat Country

The Chesapeake. Unlike most bodies of water, like New York Harbor, or San Fransisco Bay, it's always the Chesapeake Bay. At least for locals.

For me, it's the best sailing on my voyage since the west coast of Florida. And it's the first place I've been where there are more sailboats than power boats. Lots more!

And that's no accident. When the Earth's Architect had finished with the construction of North America, he/she suddenly realized there just weren't enough good places to sail. This was 35 million years before sailors or sailboats, of course, but the Architect was thinking ahead, so he/she flung a giant meteor down into the middle of the east coast and -- whammo -- the Chesapeake was dug.

The method may have been a bit flashy, but you sure can't argue with the results: a sailor's paradise.

Creator of the Chesapeake...
Faster than a flying power boat!
photo wikimedia

But between the ICW and Paradise is one of the most intimidating places I've ever sailed through: the busy port of Norfolk, VA. This is a major port for the US Navy, and the poor cruiser -- who just wants to get through it without getting squashed by hurrying, steel leviathans -- is treated to a show right out of Fleet Week.

photos jalmberg
As I was taking these photos -- while dodging tugs, barges, and patrol boats, none of whom seemed to take the slightest notice of the Blue Moon -- I was wishing I had my late Uncle Frank on board to explain what I was looking at.

Commander Francis Almberg, USN, that is. He spent a lot of time in Norfolk and was an integral part of this hive of naval activity. I only wish I'd been smart enough to ask the right questions while he was still with us. Opportunities squandered...

As big as the ships are, the channel that runs through Norfolk is relatively narrow and twisty and spanned by innumerable bridges that open on a VERY restricted schedule. It takes some planning to get through these bridges without major delays. Luckily, I've had lots of experience with bridges by now.

As I emerged safely into Hampton Roads, I figured Norfolk was good training for passing through New York Harbor. It might even have been tougher than the East River. We'll see.

Hampton Roads is just a big harbor on the Chesapeake. Just the merest taste of what was too come. But it was a tumultuous taste. The wind was blowing hard from the north, as it had been for weeks. I ducked into a little harbor next to Ft. Monroe on the north side of Hampton Roads for the night.

A strong north wind would make it tough to sail up the long, broad Chesapeake. What were the chances that I'd finally get a southerly breeze?

Only time would tell...

>>> Next Episode: The Chesapeake


  1. Now you are in sailing heaven. It's a good time of year to be there. it will be getting chilly as you move north but Autumn is a great time to cruise the bay. There are many sheltered anchorages up various rivers and creeks. the tidal range is pretty well behaved. be sure to sample both east and west shores. Don't forget too visit St. Michaels and Annapolis.

    I envy you. Since I moved to Washington I miss the bay more than I expected I would. The Puget Sound area is awesome, but the Chesapeake is home.

  2. We were on the Chesapeake Bay, and at Norfolk, a few weeks ago and had BEAUTIFUL sailing weather. I love the Bay!

  3. I'm not a sailor, but do enjoy the water so am enjoying your posts very much. Enjoy it a little extra for those of us that for whatever reason don't get the chance to do what you're doing.

  4. I'm excited to read about your Bay travels, as a transplanted Marylander in Los Angeles, I definitely miss it, hoping to live vicariously through your next few posts.

  5. More memories brought back - Thanks John! When we went through the Chesapeake I have four great memories. We were traveling south so I will invert them to coincide with your direction.
    Item # 1 - Norfolk is an incredible adventure, but the Naval crafts that were the most impressive and scariest for us were gigantic hover craft that made you feel as if you were participating in a sci-fi movie about aliens invading earth. Very fast and VERY LOUD!
    Item # 2 - Before we got to Norfolk we were treated to terrible weather and great free food in Annapolis, we never had enough $ to tie up at a dock so we were anchored just inside the bascule bridge across the mouth of Spa creek. Terrible storm caused havoc in the little anchorage we shared with a few sailors from all over the world. Next day the bridge couldn't open due to storm damage so we sailed up the creek looking at masts sticking up out of the water!(jogging my memory makes me long winded, sorry)
    Item # 3 - Pt Lookout Marina where we found our wonderful bluewater boat to begin our adventure.
    Item # 4 - Head of the Chesapeake - what a relief, after the Jersey shore, Delaware Bay, and the C&D canal, phew! Remember we were rookies then, and maybe still are...
    Thanks Again John


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