Summer has ended, it’s getting colder and hurricane season is just about over, so it’s that tricky time of year where we can’t go south too soon, less run into hurricanes-undesirable, but staying north starts getting chilly and the heavy blankets and socks have to get taken out. Also, undesirable. Neither of us fans of the cold weather and now living on a boat even less so, we start out slowly, making our way down. We’ve got this trip under our belts and do a short “shakedown” sail to Sandy Hook, NJ, at the southern end of the Bay of NY. We’ve sailed up and down the East River half a dozen times, but this was the first time we had both a sunny day and Coast Guard escort.
Then a few days later we landed in Hampton, VA where we stayed at the Downtown Hampton Piers. During our stay here, another blogging sailor took a picture of me with the marina’s lender bikes and I made it onto his blog spot. As one of the dock hands informed me in his southern drawl,’ “Yer fay moss.” This area is part of the Chesapeake Bay and there are bridges and canals all around. Hampton itself has got a unique, urban-ish, sleepy, seaside town vibe to it. And is very southern. Tons of history, a few interesting museums, and the historically black college of Hampton University -amazing campus- are all bike riding distance from the marina. The Langley Air Force Base and the Virginia Air and Space Center are right down the street too. So like kids in a candy shop we’re off on an explorative bike ride each day. So much like kids, we were very remiss at taking proper pictures and if this blogging thing were our job we’d be fired.
Due to crazy weather patterns from every direction, thankfully nothing terribly serious, we were here for 12 days longer than we anticipated and made the best of it. Paul has a huge extended family so of course there were cousins in the area we visited. First, we had dinner with Carol and Jim at their lovely home in Virginia Beach, and got to see all sorts of family pictures and hear favorite stories. Carol has even researched and published a book on the family’s extensive history. The family is so large it was quite an endeavor, like an anthropological study, and she did an amazing job! Then they gave us contact information for other cousins who were even closer to our marina. Diana and Gene were right on the historical grounds of a decommissioned army base that now rents their historical homes to the general public. We had ridden through on our bikes the day before and didn’t know we happily pedaled by their home on our way to the Casemate Museum where cousin Diana volunteers. We returned a day later for a lovely dinner at their historic home and a personalized tour of the whole base. It was very special. The fort on the base, Fort Monroe, is a national monument and the whole base is a national park and became the first safe haven for slaves during the Civil War and Harriet Tubman did a part of her legendary Underground Railroad work there. And now one of Paul’s cousins lives right there. This sailing life makes a small world even smaller.
Then we landed in Beaufort, NC, a sweet little spot. A gale came through last night but we were tucked into the lovely Beaufort Town Docks. Last year we were here and it was a ghost town because Hurricane Florence had ravaged the area. It’s impressive how they’ve bounced back in a year’s time. We walked the length of the main drag and were amazed at the hustle and bustle and number of establishments re-opened. A local woman we met told us that Okracoke is still struggling to rebuild, they’re just north of here. She also informed us that NOAA, appropriately has a research center here and NC State students have a program nearby that engages in surveys and environmental testing/conservation and educational programs. They protect the estuarine land and water in this area that provides a living laboratory. An island preserve of wild Spanish horses is across the bay. I saw a couple grazing on the shores as we prepared to leave.
We then tucked away up a few miles into the Cape Fear River off of Bald Head Island and watched the weather closely as another system was coming through. As long as we arrived to Brunswick, GA within 36 hours we would again avoid bad sailing weather. And we did. So here we sit and will determine if we leave tomorrow for Florida or stay a month. We’re getting an estimate on a new bimini canvas top with solar panels and will know if we’re going to get the work done here or in Ft. Lauderdale where we’ve already met with a guy whom we liked very much. It’s just so much more chaotic in that area of the world.
But for now, the peak hurricane season is over, so we’ll continue to plod down, determining each stop based on weather windows. Such is the life of the sailor.