09 April 2020

Cruising Under the Cloud of the Coronavirus, Continued

Every day seems to present more constriction...
  • marinas confine arriving crew to their vessels; and many close to transients altogether
  • conducive weather windows become few and far between impeding progress up the east coast
  • temperatures drop as higher latitudes are achieved
  • our chests tighten as we examine the statistics each day

And although we have been focused on getting us and Argon back home to Newport, Rhode Island safely and quickly since departing San Juan mid March, we concede. For now. We are tired physically and emotionally. Yesterday Argon's dock lines were doubled, a couple of bags were packed, and we boarded an Amtrak train for our land home in Newport.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

To help combat the disappointment, Bob updates our Google Earth track. When I look at how far we have come in just a few weeks, (yellow) I don't feel as defeated.

Red: Course over 5 months November through March (Grenada to San Juan).   Yellow: Course in just over 3 weeks mid March through early April (San Juan to Hampton, VA).  Green: Remaining leg to be sailed later in spring or early summer (Hampton, VA to Newport, RI).

Passage #4:  Charleston, South Carolina to Beaufort, North Carolina

One of our worst overnights

While in Charleston, Bob spent several hours re-examining the depth and bridge data of the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) to see if there was a segment we could transit but our mast is just a tad too tall. We reached out to Argon's builder to confirm the exact specs, and considered climbing up the mast to flip the VHF antennae upside down and remove the tricolor navigation light to cut off several inches. But the measurements remained too close and the thought of the complications should we hit a bridge resulted in us continuing to use the open ocean path.

After much studying of possible inlet options and weather data, we pushed off the dock in Charleston before sunrise and caught an ebbing tide to quickly make our way out to the open Atlantic Ocean for the 225nm sail to the northeast. We expected a uncomfortable overnight with 15-17kt winds from the northwest. However, the forecast was a bit off in the wrong direction... we were instead rudely greeted by 22-28kt winds with more of a northerly component than westerly hence wayforward of the beam in growing seas. For about 5 hours starting a 0100 we were getting hammered. Waves jumped over the bow and port side regularly. Initially we sailed with a double reefed main and just a sliver of jib. But eventually we furled the foresail up completely and motored sailed with just a bit of the main to make better headway towards Beaufort.

By daybreak conditions improved, and even became ideal as if the recent difficulties were just a dream. Or a nightmare. Motoring in to idyllic Beaufort inlet further helped us recover.


Sunrise upon departing Charleston inlet.


Cockpit enclosed and layered up. Conditions would kick up later in the journey.
 
Much nastier than predicted.


Salt salt salt everywhere. Glad to have copious amounts of free water for a much needed cleaning.

We were generally confined to the marina in Beaufort with the exception of a walk through town and a cockpit visit with local friends. The town of Beaufort has closed off all incoming roads except for one with a checkpoint to prohibit non-residents from entering. And after a particularly cold night aboard, we were able to borrow a very warm thick blanket from local friends.

Mostly confined to the docks but with very comfortable surroundings at Homer Smith Marina in Beaufort inlet.


Thankful to have a wide cockpit to allow an appropriately distanced visit from a dear local friend.


Our one walk off the marina property revealed a ghost town.

Passage #5:  Beaufort, North Carolina to Hampton, Virginia

Threatening thunderstorms

After just a few days in Beaufort, we departed to take advantage of an acceptable but not quite ideal short weather window for the tricky passage out and around Cape Hatteras. The front end of this passage would have very light winds and flat seas requiring motoring which at this point neither of us minded... we are in delivery mode and are looking to get miles underneath the hull. Then some comfortable sailing with more motoring at the end. However, thunderstorms were also in the forecast and they hit when we were just off Hatteras. Ugh.


Lovely Beaufort waterfront as we motored slowly in the narrow, shallow channel against a flooding tide.


Beautiful yet menacing weather system approaching as we near Cape Hatteras.


VHF weather alert announces a band of severe thunderstorms some with up to 60kt gusts. We prepare the boat and ourselves to get hammered. Luckily the strongest ones passed to our south leaving us with heavy rain, quite a bit of lightening, but modest winds and no hail.

As we watched the menacing storm approach from the northwest, we noticed a commercial boat on AIS about 17 miles to our northwest likely in the front. Bob radioed the vessel Red Hook and spoke to the Captain who was now experiencing our future weather. We were relieved when he said the conditions were moderate with just 20 knot gusts and a little bit of rain.

The line of thunderstorms eventually passed over us without too much trouble. There was lightning around, but not too close. Still, it was a relief when we started seeing the lightning on our starboard side going away from us!


After a nerve wracking early evening, I settle in for a long night watch. These off shore passages are tiring and are now also quite cold. Despite many layers I was freezing by the end of my shift and quickly crawled under the thick comforter recently borrowed from friends in Beaufort.


Thankful for the spectacular glowing full moon that lit up the night sky when the clouds permitted.


Closing Argon Up and Heading Home

Many of the marinas and yacht clubs in Virginia and Maryland were now closed to transients. We were able to confirm a slip at Bluewater Marina in Hampton with the caveat that we could either only stay a couple of days, or we could keep the boat there but we could not stay aboard. Nothing personal. <sigh>

Friends with more sophisticated weather analysis skills as well as our hired weather router all confirmed that there would likely be no acceptable weather window for the 60 hour sail from Hampton to Newport, Rhode Island. We discussed options at length... stay on the boat and wait (but we would have to find another marina... problematic). Or go home with the plan to return in late spring or early summer after the coronavirus situation settles down and weather patterns improve. We decided on the latter. And then we evaluated if we should transit by train, plane or automobile. I'll spare you the details but for several reasons we returned home by rail.


Plenty of lines and fenders secured. Hatches, helms and console all covered with canvas.And local sailing friends have kindly agreed to check in on Argon.


We have the entire Amtrak car to ourselves for the 12 hour comfortable ride to Kingston, RI. After walking up several cars to the cafe, I saw only two other riders.

Now What?

We have been quite socially isolated these past several weeks with minimal interaction and contact with others. However we have been far from bored as it has been extremely busy with passage planning complicated with the evolving coronavirus situation as well as the overall logistics and falling temperatures. The time on passages is mostly filled with either sailing the boat or trying to sleep given it is just the two of us (these have not been relaxing wine and cheese sails). Our social isolation has not involved any binge watching of Netflix, nor playing board games, nor experimenting with exotic dishes and no Zoom meet ups. It's been busy and we're exhausted!

Upon arriving at the Amtrak station in Rhode Island, we were greeted by the friendly albeit official National Guard to record our information for the RI Department of Health and instruct us on a two week quarantine which is really just a slightly more strict adherence to social isolation. (The state of RI was an early adopter of fairly strict guidance and requirements.) Perhaps it's finally time to check out that Tiger King guy I've been hearing about.

Quarantine order for mariners arriving in Newport Harbor. The spirit of these requirements also apply to those arriving in Rhode Island by land from other states.

Good bye protected boat life. Hello land life in the COVID-19 age.


Back in our home. I have flowers!
Bob's new control surface was waiting for him at home. Just a couple hours after we arrived it was set up and he was in the studio making lots of great noise. I think our neighbors know that we are home now.





6 comments:

  1. Sorry you seemed to catch the bad windows, glad you're home safe. We're currently in Oriental working on our Amel if you need someone to run over and check on your boat.

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    1. Thank you so much for the offer! Luckily we have a couple of sailing friends from the area that have agreed to check in on Argon. However, if you find Rhumb Line at Bluewater Marina in Hampton, VA please take a saunter by and let us know if you see anything amiss. :-) Best of luck to you as you travel northward! Stay safe!

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  2. Glad you are home and hope you and your family stay safe.

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  3. Phew!! What a journey and I am sure NOT the way you wanted to end it. Glad you are safe and sound at home and will now get to share the “luxury” of staying in place. Chris and I left Boston for N.H. and plan to stay as long as needed. Breathe deeply, get some rest and yes, make some noise!

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    1. So lovely to hear from you, Susan. I hope you and Chris are well. And that you have continued to heal from your recent accident. Stay safe in your lovely home in NH. We hope to see you this summer as our country, and the world, perhaps transition in to a new state of normalcy.

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