Sailing Down Chesapeake Bay: Annapolis, MD to Norfolk, VA

“Boat show, then it’s time to go!” was our motto.  After our infuriating saga (part one, part two) with the lost elbow/riser that pretty much consumed our summer in the Chesapeake, Phillip and I vowed— once our Yanmar was finally reassembled and roared back to life—that we would be leaving Annapolis as soon as possible after the October Boat Show.  Our good friends, Megan and Chris (who purchased our impressive Niagara) were coming into town for a week to stay aboard, experience Ubiquitous, and do the boat show with us.  It was kind of surreal to be welcoming them aboard our new boat—one Phillip and I never dreamed, even within months of our purchase, we would be buying—while talking to them about “their boat,” our Plaintiff’s Rest.  The swiftness with which time changes, moves, and molds us sometimes baffles me.  It can be a little frightening, but, for me, also comforting, to know things are always changing. 

One of the wonderful things about UbiQ (and one of our reasons for purchasing) is the ease with which we can host other “boat people” (aka cruiser-minded folks) aboard.  While Phillip and I always felt our 35-foot Niagara was plenty of space for the two of us, we would be the first to admit she was not enough to space to share comfortably with others for passage or visits.  The Outbound, however, to be only 46 feet—actually 44 with a 2-foot scoop off the stern—is not only a comfortable size boat for two people to handle, it also offers comfortable space for others to join intermittently.  Megan and Chris snapped in beautifully and, we hope, felt like they were treated to an elegant waterfront vacation on the Chesapeake. 

Chris and Megan even treated us to a circus show to boot!

We also had a great time reuniting with other friends, our former dock neighbors, Stephen and Beth, from Pensacola, who ran into these folks you may recognize at the show!

As well as Neil and Janet, with crew Larry and Tracy, who sailed across the Atlantic on their newly-built Lagoon 40, behind us from La Rochelle, France to the Caribbean in 2018-2019. 

Now that I’ve introduced the cast and crew, roll that beautiful boat show footage!

As much fun as it was to have Chris and Megan aboard and visit our many friends who came to town for the boat show, I can’t lie in saying Phillip and I were looking equally forward to the next phase of our fall: when the boat show was behind us and it was time … finally … to cast UbiQ off for good and sail south to warmer climates.   Immediately after the show, we made some massive runs to the store for paper goods and non-perishables.  Also, with the new age of things and Whole Foods who delivers through Amazon Prime (what a wondrous thing), we were able to have a large fresh food delivery made to our former owners’ Jim and Ann’s condo in Annapolis to stock the boat. 

In addition to our usual boat spares as far as zincs, fuel filters, impellers, gaskets, etc. (the small, common stuff), Phillip and I also decided to stock some larger, more critical boat parts this time.

  • For the generator: a spare riser and elbow and raw water pump.
  • For the engine: a spare riser and elbow, starter, raw water pump, and fresh water pump (because we’re never letting that happen to us again).
  • For the auto-pilot (the most important crew member on the boat): a back-up drive unit and computer for our Raymarine hydraulic auto-pilot.

We must send out a huge thanks to UbiQ’s former owners, Jim and Ann, as well as Peter and Patty on Outbound Hull No. 7, Serendipitous, who went above and beyond during these hectic weeks to help Phillip and I run around town to get all of the necessary parts, food, clean clothes, spares (and wine!) aboard for our passage. It never ceases to amaze me the generosity of fellow cruisers.

UbiQ, up to some of her old tricks, decided to throw us a curveball the day before we were set to depart by emitting a rather large brown pool under the engine that freaked me out.  Turns out it was transmission fluid rather than oil.  I do not like that the transmission fluid in the Yanmar is the same color as oil as opposed to the obvious pink I’m used to.  I’ve written a strongly-worded letter to Yanmar about it … haven’t heard back yet. But, what we discovered was that this transmission fluid leak was likely caused when the dipstick/cap on the transmission fluid bin, at some point (we don’t know when exactly) got mis- or over-threaded and broke off.  Part of the yellow plastic cap (plastic threads) were still lodged in the metal threads on the bin, while the other half came off with the cap. 

Thankfully, we were able to connect again with Bayshore Marine there in Annapolis who had a replacement cap in stock that we could pick up that day to replace it … that is, after we dug the plastic threads out without dropping them into the bin (not a super easy feat). 

It was annoying, though, to find Bayshore carries an adamant supply of this cap because “that thing breaks all the time,” the gal at Bayshore told me.  Apparently, its plastic design causes it to break frequently.  C’mon Yanmar … step it up with a metal cap/dipstick next time, would ya?

Once that mini-crisis was averted, our plan was to make our way down the Chesapeake in essentially two hops, each roughly 60-70 miles (day sails, if we left early each morning).  Following the advice of fellow cruisers in Annapolis, we decided to sail first from Annapolis, MD to Solomon’s Island, MD. Our next hop would be to Deltaville, MD then on down to Norfolk, VA.

October 22, 2021:

While it is strange to look back and see us in three layers of foulies what feels like just a few short months ago, temps were in the upper 40s and low 50s when we left Annapolis in late October.  Phillip and I decided, in the future, we will probably get further south quicker.  While we certainly love boat shows.  What we love more is sailing in warmer climates.  But, this was our first time beginning our cruising season on the upper east coast of the U.S.—as opposed to Pensacola, FL where we usually depart—so we had plenty to learn.  Our first morning heading out from Back Creek in Annapolis and down the Chesapeake was quite memorable.  Cold, crisp pre-dawn light.  An engine warming to life.  Still, calm waters in the creek.  We slipped out at 5:00 a.m. like a cat in the night.  Our first sunrise on passage on the new boat is not something I will soon forget.  One small sail for UbiQ; one giant leap this new Outbound 46 crew!  We were finally doing it!  Sailing south for the winter. 

While we had intended Solomon’s Island as just a quick tuck-in for us—a place to drop the anchor for the night to relax and pop back out at dawn the next morning—we arrived rather earlier in the afternoon than had planned (UbiQ is definitely faster than our Niagara 35) and found ourselves quite pleased with the sleepy little coastal town we found ashore.  There is a nice waterfront with lots of history and a wide promenade to stroll the coast. 

A few little shops and eateries along the way and, most importantly, a tiki bar just a short dinghy hop from the boat.  Phillip and I rarely miss the opportunity to belly up to a little tiki bar. 

And, UbiQ seemed rather happy on her hook as opposed to the dock.  It seemed she was just as eager to get this maiden south voyage underway as we were. 

Although I could have seen us spending a few quiet days at Solomon’s Island, Phillip and I were too eager to beat feet south.  Deltaville was just an easy day-sail away and a quiet, protected place to drop the hook for the night. Next up was Norfolk, VA—Hospital Point up the Elizabeth River, to be exact, which our new Outbound cruising buddies, Peter and Patty, had recommended to us—where Phillip and I expected to spend a few days, at least, waiting for a good weather window to jump out and round Cape Hatteras. 

We rose again around 4:30 a.m. to utilize as much daylight as we could to sail down the Chesapeake from Solomon’s Island to Norfolk.  The sunrise that morning was even more stunning.  Probably my favorite of 2021 I can now easily say, bathing both our faces in neon pink and vibrant yellows.  Despite the bundles of layers, our faces, at least, look warm in the photos … because they were!

And boy did we sail that day!  With a nice WSW wind, we flew down the Chesapeake at an average of 7.0 knots—a seemingly impossible speed on our Niagara.  Ubiquitous was quickly showing us what a difference a longer waterline makes.  I think Phillip and I both could have just kept on sailing, had the weather window been right, for us to round Hatteras.  With the months of work and toil we had put into not only finding and purchasing the Outbound 46, but also breaking our budget (with the unexpected riser/elbow drama) and breaking her in over the summer, this was our reward.  Voyaging on the Outbound 46. 

I’m quite confident, weather permitting, Phillip and I could have kept going that day all the way down to the Bahamas or beyond.  Maybe next time … weather permitting.

This time, it was not only weather that required we tuck in to wait for a better weather window for Hatteras, it was also our desire to check out as many cool new spots along the Chesapeake and the east coast as we could on our way down.  Neither of us had done Virginia by boat and we were eager to see what Norfolk had to offer.  Coming into the Elizabeth River put us face-to-face with some rather large container ships.  The riverfront there is a very industrial space but beautiful in its own way.  The size and scale of the shipping industry there is mesmerizing. 

We found the anchorage near Hospital Point fairly full but with enough space left to afford us a nice spot to join the pack and settle in for the night.  Seeing big city lights from our portlights was definitely a new sight for us.  One that took some getting used to.  Phillip and I both spent a good bit of time anchored that night just staring out the windows in awe. 

The next day we were also pleased to find a large city dock on the sea wall across from Hospital Point where dinghies are welcome and it allows you to step off the boat right into the heart of downtown Norfolk, a city that surprised us with its overflowing food, art, history, and night scene. 

We toured the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy that earned five battle stars during WW II. 

We walked through Asian/Thai-inspired Pagoda Gardens.

We ate at the Glass Light,

And checked out their art gallery.

We drank at the rooftop bar at the Hilton, The Grain.

And, we made a new friend …   

We named him Peta (pronounced “Pee-tuh” like the character in Hunger Games, because he seemed like a Peter Rabbit, only a far more dramatic version).  If I had to guess, this guy is a major drama queen.  Just look at him …

We ended up staying in Norfolk for over a week waiting for the right window to round Hatteras.  That voyage was easily the one we stressed over the most on our way down the coast.  I mean, anything that has the word ‘graveyard’ in it—Hatteras is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”—does not give me the warm fuzzies.  We’d heard some grueling tales from fellow cruisers of horrific passages made whipping around that rough, jagged, somewhat uncharted edge of the coast that juts out into the Atlantic.  This was not a voyage we were taking lightly, and it required patience and time to wait for the right window.  But, boy did we have a helluva time flying around the bend.  UbiQ is an absolute beast in the Atlantic!  Next up on the blog: Happy Hattereen around our wicked whip around Cape Hatteras.  Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “Sailing Down Chesapeake Bay: Annapolis, MD to Norfolk, VA

  • Was looking at my YouTube feeds and noticed you haven’t published a video in a while. Wanted to make sure you were still out on the water and ok. Guess the video editing and time can be a pain. Glad you’re doing well and hope to see an update video sometime.

    • Hi Doug! Thanks for checking in. Yeah, we nixed the video production back in 2017. While you are right, the editing was a pain, we also found that filming our life made it less enjoyable. It’s not a decision we have regretted. We are loving the cruising life, living it (in reality) to the fullest every day. Hope you are doing the same. Thanks again for reaching out. I love to write and will continue to keep articles coming at HaveWind and in the sailing mags. Cheers!

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