This will be our longest leg yet, 610 NM (701 regular miles) in all. Pete, Jim and Bill were the crew on this leg. The weather window looked good for an outside passage with winds forecast to be fairly high at 25-35 knots, but directly out of the South. We were hoping this would minimize the wave action in the gulf stream which were forecast to be between 6′ and 10′ with a 7-9 second period.
The first day was overcast and windy, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Ten minutes after we left Isle of Palms Marina, we passed LiLi, another Krogen 48 heading to the same marina in Annapolis! She was headed North up the intra coastal waterway and we were headed South to the Charleston Harbor and out to the Atlantic.
We ran for 27 hours towards Beaufort, NC doing 2 hour shifts. The first night we all slept well during our 4 hour breaks. As we approached Beaufort, we brought the the Ann Louise within cell phone range to get a weather briefing and make a decision about rounding Cape Hatteras on an outside passage or ducking inside and taking the safe (but slow) route. Once you commit to go around the Cape, it’s tough to change your mind. You are stuck outside for about 230 NM or about 30 hours at trawler speed and there are no navigable inlets to divert to. Cape Hatteras is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and apparently weather is difficult to forecast since the gulf stream is only a 10-20 miles off the coast and the warm waters can dramatically affect local conditions.
We felt the weather pattern looked stable enough to take the outside route. A large slow moving high pressure system over the North Atlantic was producing winds 25-30 S-SE and 7′-10′ waves around the Cape. It turned out to be a great passage with mostly 4′-6′ waves with an occasional 8-9 footer thrown in. After daylight broke and we rounded the Cape, we decided to bring the boat right into the North shore to hide from the South winds and were treated to 10 hours of 1-3′ waves which we rode all the way to the mouth of the Chesapeake.
As we approached Cape Henry around 11:00 p.m., the weather took a turn for the worse. A severe line of thunderstorms was moving quickly across our path, and after listening to NOAA and watching the lightning strike the water in front of us, we did a 180 and attempted to avoid the worst of it. Using our PCs and cell phones, we charted a path through the line of storms that looked the best. We did another 180 and after about 20 minutes of heavy rain, we broke though and headed into the very crowded shipping lanes ahead.
We decided to wait for two fast moving Canadian warships to pass in front of us and we entered the giant traffic circle at the entrance of the Chesapeake. A lot of traffic for 1:00 a.m. but everyone was polite and helpful. As the sun set, we kept seeing radar targets at 50 and 60 mph as we approached Norfolk, but never saw any boats. Finally we happened to be looking out the side window and caught a glimpse of two armed military helicopters with no navigation lights at about 30 feet above the water checking us out!
Dawn found us on the Chesapeake in beautiful conditions. South winds about 10-15 knots and almost no waves to speak of. On top of that, we had about a 1-1/2 knot current from behind! We expected to have to anchor Friday night due to the delays from the thunderstorms, but the current pushed us along so well, we made it to Port Annapolis around 6:45 Friday evening!
Saturday was 85 and sunny and we took advantage of the weather to sample the local cuisine and do some much neede work on the boat. Thanks to Pete and Jim for a great trip.
Charleston to Annapolis Gallery