Sunday, June 25, 2023

We have arrived in Chesapeake Bay!

 After over a year on the boat, we are starting the final leg of our sailing journey. We will sail up the Chesapeake Bay and leave Oyai near Annapolis with her new owners. In the meantime, we are making the most of the USA. We have been to festivals, theme parks, water parks, and historic sites. This return to full-on western civilization has been quite fun!

We left Beaufort, North Carolina, after waiting for favourable weather to head around Cape Hatteras. It’s a 36 hour trip around the Cape to the next safe anchorage (with lots of potential dangers along the way). Luckily, we chose a good weather window and it was smooth sailing (and motoring).  We rounded the Cape in the dark, but saw lots of warning lights.  We had Noel, the new owner of Oyai, on board for this leg and we were able to show him the boat in action.

We were fortunate to arrive in Norfolk, Virginia on the eve of their annual Harborfest. Norfolk is also the largest US Atlantic Naval Base, and we passed many massive Navy ships on the way to our anchorage.

Harborfest was amazing and we anchored right off of downtown Norfolk.  There was a very interesting “sail-by” of cool boats to start off the weekend. 

There were street performers and many other cool attractions on land at Harborfest as well. 

We toured around some of the tall ships that came to celebrate the festival. The people of Virginia have all been incredibly kind and welcoming to us. They are some of the friendliest people we have ever met. 

Being a huge naval port, Norfolk is home to the USS Wisconsin, one of the last massive Battleships. We went on a self-guided tour of this impressive ship. 

These gigantic guns were used in the days before computer/satellite guided missiles. 

The ship held as many as 2500 sailors and was essentially a floating city. 

There was an interactive nautical museum attached to the battleship that had many diverse and interesting exhibits.  The periscope was functional, and you could look through it and see Oyai out at anchor a few hundred meters away. 

There were some awesome science exhibits and we all learned more about things like plasma and weather. 

To finish off Harborfest, there was a cool “Drone Show” with over 200 lighted drones. We hadn’t seen a show like this before and it was pretty cool. 

The fireworks display to top it all off was epic (and we had front row seats)!  They really know how to put on a pyrotechnics show down here. We can’t wait until the 4th of July!

Next, we reunited with our French-Canadian ARC friends from “Jayana”. We spent a couple of days together before they headed north. 

Virginia has some spectacular theme parks and we made the most of the water slides and roller coasters.  Busch Gardens was on par with Disneyland for rides and the line-ups were short during the weekdays. 

Virginia also has some very interesting American History sites to visit. This is where the American Revolution started, and there is a fully interactive, restored city from the 1700’s named “Colonial Williamsburg”.  We learned a lot.  For example, the French were instrumental in helping the US gain independence from England. Both on land and at sea.  Here, we are discussing this with General Lafayette, who fought alongside George Washington. 

The actors would interact with you in a traditional style, if you preferred.  They could also answer any questions that we had about life back in the 1700’s and the specific details of historical events. 

We also visited William & Mary College right next door to Colonial Williamsburg. It’s the second oldest university in the USA (after Harvard).  It was established in the late 1600’s.  The campus was beautiful and reminded us a little of Hogwarts 😄.  One of Aria’s favourite book characters went to William & Mary. 

We were anchored off of a cute little town called Phoebus for a week during all of our land-based explorations. It had super-cool book/antique shops and many other quirky places to visit. 

We experienced some crazy weather while anchored near Phoebus. One afternoon, a thunderstorm rolled through and caused brief winds in the 40-50 knot range. Oyai dragged anchor very briefly before her anchor reset. Luckily the anchorage was huge and no harm was done. During that same afternoon, a tornado touched down about 10 miles away. A tree was uprooted, but no further damage was reported, apparently.  When we left the Norfolk/Phoebus area, we had some very wet weather heading north as well. 

The sailing has been great, but cool and wet. Even though it’s summer officially here, it’s no balmy Bahamas!  Check out this video for some of the sailing action. 

We will head up to Annapolis in the next few days and stay there while we visit Washington DC and it’s many incredible museums. Hopefully we will stay there over the 4th of July as well, and see some more great fireworks. Check back every week or two for another blog post!

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Sail up the US East Coast, they said. It’ll be easy, they said…

We left Freeport in the northern Bahamas on May 18th when there was a short break in the northerly wind.   The prevailing winds are supposed to push us northwards towards our final destination on the US East Coast, but this year has not been normal.  It has something to do with climate change and El Niño.  We left under full sail in the afternoon, not sure how many days we would make before having to put into port.

Our crew was stronger by one member…our friend Chuck. He was on the original voyage to cross the Atlantic a year earlier and was up for helping us do another leg.  His infectious sense of humour and positive energy made the hours fly by!

Our initial challenge during this passage was the Gulf Stream. It is, essentially, a 70 km wide river in the ocean that travels up to 4 knots in speed. This can make for a quick passage, if a south wind is with you heading north. It can also turn very uncomfortable, or even dangerous if the wind shifts to any quadrant from the north.  This is what the Gulf Stream looks like on a map. 

Our wind died once we entered the Gulf Stream, but then the nighttime thunderstorms started!  Honestly, throughout our entire year of sailing the vast Atlantic Ocean, these storms were the scariest thing we have seen. They were MASSIVE, and violent. Forks of lightning were hitting the water around us (every few seconds, and within a mile or so), and the sounds were deafening.  We actively dodged storm cells and after a few hours, we were through the worst of it.  No footage was taken during the intense bits, but we managed to get a time lapse once we were past them. 

After the scary night, the sun came out and we kept motoring north.  We were even visited by a playful pod of dolphins.

The weather forecast for a continued trip north wasn’t very good.  There was a gale on its way from the north and it turned out to be a doozie. A cruise ship that was out there, after we pulled into port, reported winds of over 120 km/h!  We had decided to duck into Charleston, South Carolina. It was one of only 6 options for safe harbour entrances on the southeastern seaboard. Here is a weather map showing the storm as a low pressure system compressed against the southeastern US (red is bad!).

Once in Charleston, we initially anchored off the USS Yorktown, a historic WWII aircraft carrier. This was the view from Oyai after we dropped the hook. 

We toured the aircraft carrier the following day and we all learned lots of details about WWII.  This next photo is from the bridge of the Yorktown (you can see Oyai anchored in the background over Chuck’s left shoulder).

The Yorktown was the ship that recovered the Apollo 8 landing capsule and its astronauts in 1968, so there was an exhibit about that too. 

There were many other cool things to see and learn about aboard the Yorktown. 

This photo shows an F-18 on the deck of the Yorktown with Oyai and downtown Charleston in the background. The surrounding area was very flat, but Charleston turned out to be a charming city with lots of friendly people. 

Horse-drawn Carriage Tours were popular in Charleston and the horses were beautiful. Again, Micah was in horse heaven. 

We had a couple of really nice days before the storm hit, and we explored Charleston by foot, scooter and rollerblade.  There were lots of colonial buildings from the 1700’s and 1800’s.  We also went to a Slave Market Memorial Museum in Charleston which was heartbreaking, but very educational. 

The day after the storm passed, we caught the eastern side of the low (now blowing from the south). We knew this weather window was also going to be brief so we planned on making it to Beaufort, North Carolina, 200 nautical miles to the north.  On our 36 hour voyage, a small bird (likely blown out to sea by the high winds), took refuge on Oyai. 

Beaufort turned out to be another winner, with lots of history and many things to do. Our anchorage was just off of the small downtown and the sunsets were awesome. 

Opposite downtown Beaufort (just behind our boat) was an island with a small population of wild horses. Though to have been abandoned here in the 1600’s by the Spanish, this horse population has thrived. 

There was an amazing Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Blackbeard scuttled his flagship the “Queen Anne’s Revenge” here in Beaufort and there were many artifacts from the wreckage at the museum.  As part of homeschooling, the girls used the museum’s library to research and write about a topic of their choosing. Aria wrote about the fisheries around Beaufort and Micah did a project on “Queen Anne’s Revenge”.

Beaufort had a really good Saturday market, and there was a booth promoting local wildlife rescue. Aria & Micah were able to get up close and personal with an albino rattlesnake named “Blanco”.

 Chuck had been with us, sailing and waiting for weather, for 2 weeks. He was a huge help, but had to get home to Vancouver. Once the weather started looking more promising to make it safely around Cape Hatteras (the most dangerous area on our path northwards), we called up Oyai’s next owners Noel and Sue.  You see… way back in February, they had expressed serious interest in being the next owners of Oyai.  So…we called them to see if we could get some help with the next leg of our journey to the Chesapeake Bay.  Noel quickly obliged, and made it down to Beaufort in record time to help us get around Hatteras.  Luckily, the weather was mostly calm and we motored into the Norfolk, Virginia area on June 6th. We will spend a few days here and report back about our activities in the southern Chesapeake soon!

Goodbye Oyai & Hello New York City!

After leaving Annapolis, we explored the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay for a couple of weeks.  We sailed to a quaint little town called St...