Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Heading north through the Chesapeake Bay

Yesterday (5/22) we traveled from Great Bridge VA to Fishing Bay just south of Deltaville VA, approximately a 60 mile day (remember: 7mph), plus some time spent with mechanical issues. The day started with a hustle!

On 5/21 we’d arrived late to Great Bridge VA, a few miles south of Norfolk. We stayed at a free dock just below a bridge that had restrictions (i.e., stays closed) during commuting hours (7-9am), with a single hourly opening at 6am that would enable us to transit the Great Bridge lock early; we’d get a good start and would start up the Bay during the usually calmer morning seas, before the afternoon sea breeze kicks up the wave action. Doug had his phone alarm set for 5:40am- didn’t go off. So, when I woke up at 5:54am, we rushed to get the engine checks done (2 minutes, everything OK!), engine started, lines off, and maneuver behind the single boat lined up to go through on the 6am bridge opening.

We headed out behind this boat which had positioned itself with its stern just ahead and to port (left) of where we’d spent the night, so we had to move into the channel to be able to make the bridge opening. When the bridge opened- a barge was on the other side! Heard a loud honk- but the barge wasn’t honking at us, it was honking at guys in rowing shells, right in the middle of the channel in front of the barge. The bow thruster that Doug installed last year paid for itself, as we spun around to avoid these various obstructions while not missing the bridge opening.

So, by 8:15am, we’d gone through a bridge, transited a lock, neatened up the lines (straightened and tied to the superstructure above the aft cabin) and fenders (hung neatly, tied to the same superstructure), had breakfast and cleaned up, picked up our bedding, and were calling friends in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Norfolk is the second largest harbor in the world (photos are at the Gilmerton Bridge). It’s always interesting to watch the military and commercial traffic; on the radio, we could hear someone directing traffic away from a commercial diving project in the channel. Doug noticed that the engine temperature was 200 (usually 188-192 underway), so we ducked into the Lafayette River in Norfolk and anchored while Doug explored the possibilities. I was worried that it was that pesky lift pump; I’d just made arrangements to have the part shipped to my brother where we’ll see him next week. Sea-water strainer: some gunk but not enough to obstruct flow to cause the overheating. Impeller: a chunk was off one of the blades, and the good news was: it was easy to retrieve the chunk; I’ve learned from Doug that it’s bad when chunks are missing and obstruct flow of cooling water. 90 minutes after the start of all this, we resumed course.

We left the shelter of the Norfolk harbor for the Bay. Seas were confused but when we got beyond the harbor entrance with tidal and other currents, it wasn’t as bad as when we crossed the Albemarle Sound. We discussed continuing vs. turning back, whether the seas would build, and where we could duck in if this happened. We continued, and except for intermittent wakes from speedboats, the Bay was reasonably calm.

During an episode of bouncing, the engine lost rpms from 1500 to 1400, the symptom we’d had this spring before the lift pump quit last week. There is a common cause (the lift pump being more exotic) of this problem: bouncing stirs up fuel and grunge clogs the fuel filters. Doug made a cool two-filter assembly a couple of years ago, and he turned the valve to direct fuel through the other filter, and the engine resumed usual operation, hooray! Because this assembly is installed just below the entry hatch to the engine room from the aft cabin, he changed the fuel filter that was clogged, in case it happened again.

We proceeded to Fishing Bay just south of Deltaville without further incident. It was light enough when we arrived that we could test the hoist to lift the dinghy from atop the aft deck cover to the water, and Doug rowed around the anchorage looking at other boats.

Today (5/23) our goal is to anchor out near Mayo MD on the Rhode River or Galesville on the West River, about 10 miles south of Annapolis on the western shore of the Chesapeake. It’s been a pleasure to travel in the Winnie W, and we’re pleased with her stowage and accommodations. We are looking forward to transiting more slowly when we are north of the Chesapeake, in areas that we are less likely to visit again.

Best wishes to all, Kathie and Doug

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