Thawing Out

Holiday-decorated lighthouse at Hampton, VA

I am writing from a coffee shop in Portsmouth, VA.  I can just see Idle Queen‘s mast from where I am sitting.  It is wonderful not to have 6 layers of clothing on for the moment.  Temperatures have moderated from the unseasonable cold that we experienced from the time we left Cape Cod until just a couple of days ago.  Today’s high approached 60, and the low stayed way above freezing.  It finally feels like we have made good progress south.  Of course, it can get down into the teens here this time of year, but that is unusual.  A week ago, we actually had temps that low.

The trip down the Chesapeake was slow, cold, and at times, rough.  From Annapolis, we motored to Solomons, MD, where we spent Thanksgiving waiting out a gale.  I decided to ride the tail end of that wind down to Little Creek, to visit with friends.  The forecast called for light NW winds, so I figured that we would have to motor part of the way.  We set out with 20 knots.  OK.  I thought it would taper off.  Actually, it ended up staying up there, and then some.  By the time we were nearing the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, it was blowing 25 knots and gusting higher.  The only sail up was a double-reefed main and the staysail, but we were cranking along at 6.5 knots and more.  It was obvious that we would arrive in Little Creek much earlier than I wanted to.  I was cold and tired, as the temps were in the high 20’s, so I decided to heave-to rather than enter the harbor at 0300.  I found enough room and hove-to under just a double-reefed main.  The next few hours were spent getting bounced around in a steep Chesapeake chop, but I could rest.  Michele kept a lookout for traffic while we waited for first light.

As soon as 0600 rolled around, I unlashed the tiller and pointed us for Little Creek.  With steep waves standing up in the entrance, the channel provided a bit of a challenge for the 35-foot sportfishing boat that I watched crashing out of the harbor in great white plumes of spray, but Idle Queen rode in on top of the waves without shipping even a few drops on deck.  I needn’t have worried about entering this port in the dark.  Little Creek has a huge, well-marked channel and I easily found a spot to anchor between the first two marinas.  Sleep came quickly once the boat was secure.

In Little Creek, we had a marvelous visit with friends who also own a Dreadnought 32.  They are a couple in their 30’s, which is a pretty small demographic among the cruising community.  They have done a beautiful job renovating their boat, and I enjoyed soaking in ideas for improvements to make on Idle Queen.

As tempted as I was to stay in Little Creek for the winter, it was decided that we should push a little farther south before hauling Idle Queen for some much-needed maintenance.  The current plan is to go at least as far as Oriental.  We will be taking the Dismal Swamp Canal route, and will be making an early start tomorrow morning to catch a fair current.  I am looking forward to a couple days on sheltered water…

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