Saturday, August 6, 2016

03-05 Aug: AYB to Deltaville, Then Patuxent River, MD

Waiting for the Bridge to Open
Transiting Great Bridge Lock

Adios to AYB

We awoke to clear skies and cooler temps on Wednesday and just before 0900 we made our escape from AYB. Within a half hour we were through the Great Bridge lock and bridge and we resumed our northern journey.   Soon thereafter Ghost Rider was beyond the remoteness of the Chesapeake City area and into the busy industrial and military ports of Portsmouth, Norfolk and Newport News.  This is an area where you need to pay attention to traffic.

Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Va.
Navy Yard at Newport News
The Naval Yard in Portsmouth is one of the largest shipyards in the world, where the specialty and focus is repairing, overhauling and modernizing navy warships. It's the oldest (circa 1767) and largest industrial facility that the U.S. Navy has.  And they have some impressively sized ships there, including the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), for what the U.S. Navy calls “Planned Incremental Availability” – aka PIA, which is navy-speak for “lots of maintenance.”  
More Carriers at Newport News
Carrier at Newport News
(Side note:  The navy is down to 10 carriers since the sequester budget cuts, and thus they run them hard; such complex beasts require a lot of down time for maintenance…typically each carrier is only deployed 20 to 25% of the time, all the rest is spent on repairs, refits and training.)  Likewise, the navy yards at Norfolk and Newport News are equally impressive – we cruised for quite long stretches in close proximity to lots of floating grey steel.

 We finally exited the ICW around 1230 (literally….it ends in Norfolk) and entered the wide expanse of the Chesapeake Bay.  It was good to be back in big water again.  The winds had picked up to around 15K with occasional gusts higher, thus we were in some short, hard chop of 2-3 footers at short intervals and took some spray.  But it was still a very pleasant day out there, with air temps staying right around 80F, and water temp down to a reasonable 83F.  After the last few weeks of heat indices above 100F, this felt really good.

Ghost Rider, Adventure & Their Fountain
We also fought an opposing current most of the day in the big bay, which combined with the head seas and wind brought us down to between 5K and 6K SOG, making for a fairly long day.  We pulled into the Deltaville Marina around 1900, then got the boat and ourselves squared away per our usual “everything needs a serious bath” routine.

Nordhavn 55 Adventure
As it turned out, we were docked right next to a Nordhavn 55, Adventure, owned and crewed by Brad and Lorraine – who coincidentally hail from Cape Coral, FL, directly across the river from our condo in Fort Myers.  Yup, it’s a small world.   Even though we didn’t complete our cleanup routines until nearly 2100, they graciously invited us over for a late happy hour (with seared freshly caught tuna), and enjoyed an excellent evening together.

As for boat business….Ghost Rider ran well today with no anomalies, and the standby autopilot pump held its own in some sloppy conditions.  It was a thankfully boring day in terms of boat system events.

Heading to Dinner on Brad's
Go-Fast Boat
We slept in on Thursday (04-Aug) and spent the day relaxing at Deltaville as well as looking at routing options between here and the Boston area.  Late that afternoon, yet another Nordy couple joined us on the docks, Jo and Robbie who have their Nordhavn 47, Southern Star, at a nearby boat yard for some work. We enjoyed happy hour aboard Ghost Rider, and then we piled into Brad and Lorraine’s other vessel, a gorgeous go-fast 34’ Fountain center console, and we boated (at one point at about 60 mph) around the Deltaville peninsula to a small and charming waterside restaurant, Merroir.  If you’re into fresh-off-the-boat oysters, clams, crab cakes and flaky white amberjack filets, it’s the place to go in this area.

Departing Deltaville (Pic Courtesy
of Lorraine & Brad)
We departed Deltaville on Friday morning (05-Aug) and headed further north up the Chesapeake Bay towards an anchorage at the mouth of the Patuxent River, a short 8 hour journey of 55 NM.  The weather was good -- winds died down, so it was a smooth ride with temps in the mid-80's, with sun filtering through a high layer of cirrus.

We were joined by Jo and Robbie’s N47, Southern Star, in a loose trail formation – they departed Deltaville about an hour after we did since they had to wait for an acceptable tide on the north side of the peninsula.  (By the way, they're from New Zealand, and yes, they got here via their Nordhavn....they have some serious ocean crossing miles under their keel.)

Around 1630 hours we were nearing an area marked as a “Prohibited Area” on the chart, and our planned course was within about a half mile of its boundary; a nearby US Navy patrol boat contacted us on VHF channel 16 and asked us to alter course to clear the area by an additional 1.5 miles to the east due to live fire exercises in progress there.  We promptly rogered that and deviated as requested.

Ghost Rider and Southern Star Anchored at the Mouth
of the Patuxent River
We arrived at Pax River anchorage just after 1800, dropped the hook, let out 200 feet of chain and deployed the snubber.  Southern Star arrived about 25 minutes later and did the same.  Then we lowered the dingy, cleaned up, and motored Casper over for a very nice evening with Jo and Robbie, which included a fresh mahi dinner.  It was a little noisy for a few hours, however....Navy F/A-18 pilots at nearby NAS Pax were conducting what they call night FCLPs - Field Carrier Landing Practice - which is basically simulating carrier night landings on a small patch of runway, and that involves a lot of noisy afterburner use.