New York to Norfolk/Portsmouth

Before we finally arrived in Miami, there was quite a long way to go from New York, which was the last sailing update you got from us here on the blog. The wind started slow and calm as we left Sandy Hook at sunrise. After lunch we had only a scanty 5 knots off the land to play with. We knew the winds would shift to N and pick up later in the evening to around 20-25, something we welcomed immensely because there's nothing as frustrating as bobbing around on the deep blue with no wind, and a mixed swell from two directions which our tiny two blade propeller would have to suffer through. Note to self: Get a new prop asap. 

A couple hours after the sun had set and we reached closer to the coast of Atlantic City some 60 miles from our starting point of the day, the wind suddenly died out completely. And two seconds later it had changed direction as predicted, and it hit our full sails and it hit it hard, with 25 knots from nowhere, in a second. The boat heeled over, releasing the pressure off the mast by pushing the rail into the ice cold blue water. The 25 knots grew quickly into 30 and it didn't leave our side before early the next morning. We should have reefed earlier! We yelled at each other through the howling wind. The stress that dramatic winds and weather brings on always pumps up your adrenaline but we've learned by now that the last thing there's time for in such a situation is an argument. You just have to shut your mouth and do what you have to do. Discuss the details later. 

The genoa got quickly reefed from the cockpit, but we didn't have the time to put on our life vests when Alex rapidly went to the mast to take a few reefs in the main. I cursed myself for not having made sure he wore it before the wind arrived. It usually increases slowly and doesn't normally surprise you like this. But who am I to think I can control the nature. We should have known better. 

It always fascinates me how quickly the sea builds with stronger winds, and now Alex was up by the mast, lowering the sail while I did my best in keeping the boat near the wind while maintaining the boom under somewhat control. The waves, the wind, the darkness. Please hold yourself. With three reefs in the main and only a few square meter left of the genoa, the boat became much better balanced again once we got back on track, now running before the wind. So glad we got that extra reef built into our new mainsail. It has our nervous boat feeling so much better in winds above 30. This night we had an established 30 knots and gusts up to 37 from approximately 7.30 pm to sometime after midnight when it dropped with five and stayed like that until arrival in Delaware Bay. At least we could be happy with the fact the wind came off the stern and not the nose!
We arrived in Delaware Bay and Lewes around 7.30 am, 120 miles in 24 hours isn't such a good progress but at least we were safe behind the breakwater. Exhausted from no sleep (we have no auto pilot so must steer all nights through), we decided to stay with the anchor firmly on the bottom for two nights. Also a good place to await our friend and his boat.
Leaving the dunes of Lewes with destination Norfolk.
A quick and easy meal at sea. Penne pasta with Tofurky Ground "Beef" and a dash of Hampton Creek's phenomenal vegan mayo Just Mayo. You don't have to believe me if you don't want to, but this shit tastes better than any egg mayo you'll ever find in your grocery stores. I swear. You have to try it. GMO free too.
A lonely little bird caught up with us some 30 miles off the coast. How did you get here little thing? He or she was all scruffy and looked confused as it landed on the boat but with a master meal of oats and pumpkin seeds that we fed her or him with, it regained energy and could fly off once we got nearer land. The boat often functions as a resting place for birds lost at sea.
This is just before it flew away. Looking sharp now!
Arriving to Norfolk, Virginia, which boasts the largest navy base in the world as well as one of NATO's two Strategic Command Headquarters. Lots of helicopter and fighter plane action witnessed. So incredibly much tax money wasted.
After having received several tips from you awesome blog readers on Facebook, we docked at the free town dock in Portsmouth, across the river of Norfolk. Since this whole trip was made so late in season, we were the only boat around until our friend arrived the following day. That was pretty much how it went down on almost all stops we made. It felt a little like those seasons we sailed in the Caribbean during hurricane months. Not many other boats out except us. We always seem to be doing things when they are not meant to be done. Or at least when other people choose not to be doing them. But hey, more space for us!
Christmas in Portsmouth.
Restocking provisions. Kroger Market was definitely the best of the two grocery stores we found in town. Took a 20 minute bus ride to get there and 20 back but much worth it.
A very typical breakfast onboard (well for me that is, Alex always has coffee and a couple toast with bitter orange marmalade): Creamy oats that was slow cooked with almond milk, agave, cinnamon and grated ginger. Served with more almond milk and frozen fruits. I like buying frozen organic fruit and keep them in a tupperware container in the freezer box. Easy to spoon out of and avoids fruity juice from escaping into the fridge. Plus it's easier to deal with than having to chop and clean fruits and berries while underway.

After that we were ready for the canal. We opted to avoid the notorious Cape Hatteras during winter, especially since a Nor'Easter was approaching. Instead we decided to duck into the Intracoastal Waterway for a few days. Three days of motoring all the way to Morehead City in North Carolina didn't sound much appealing at all. Our Perkins 4108 engine does not have a separate room but is installed in the saloon under the saloon table. The table/engine cover does have some sound proofing, but still it does feel like you have your ear right next to the engine at all the times when the engine is on. So obviously we prefer not having to use it all. BUT life is not always as comfortable as one would like, and that's probably why we love it so when it is.

More about the ICW later!