The Wind Rocks The Willows December 15, 2003
By The Ithaka - Published December 15, 2003 - Viewed 883 times
Dec 15, 2003
Robin’s Neck, Severn River, Mobjack Bay, Maryland
37° 19.193 North
076º 27.507 West
The Wind Rocks The Willows
By Bernadette Bernon
Ithaka pushed onward through the arteries of North Carolina’s Intracoastal waterway, past undulating corn stalks on one bank and fields of pink and white flowers on the other, here and there past folks’ yards and barns and inflatable wading pools and vegetable gardens and out-buildings – an intimate and endearing look at America through the keyhole of her back door. All along, as the miles drop astern, Douglas and I continued to marvel at how much we were enjoying this puttering in warm weather, in contrast to three years before, when in the throes of ice storms, we couldn’t get south fast enough, and every mile seemed an agony. Our reversed perspective was yet another example of the subtle changes that come over you when you’ve spent some time cruising, and when you’re not miserable in the elements. This time, we had the physical and psychological leisure to let ourselves enjoy where we were, taking the time to look around and amble. It felt all together different.
Sunrise in Mobjack Bay
A bridge opens for Ithaka on the ICW
When the great lock at Great Bridge opened its gates on Monday morning, Ithaka was the only vessel to enter the mammoth hold. We pulled over to the side, fenders hanging all along our port lifelines to protect our topsides from the unforgiving metal walls, and tied our bow and stern to the giant cleats mounted all along the inside of the lock. Then the gates behind us closed, the water level slowly dropped and so did we. When the water levels equaled, the forward gates opened, we untied ourselves and boogied out of there. We were only 12 miles south of downtown Norfolk, a waterfront chock-a-block full of naval vessels, submarines and giant commercial freighters, maneuvering here and there, lugged and pushed by tugboats, their giant propellers throwing out a white-water turbulence that sometimes rocked Ithaka from side to side. We watched several go by us, heading out to sea, but as they turned east to the Atlantic, we unfurled our sails, turned north into the Chesapeake, and set a course for Mobjack Bay.
We head through the shipping mecca of Norfolk
“Hey, Douglas!” I called below as the scenery began to disappear behind a curtain of rain. “Quick, take a look at this.”
He climbed into the cockpit. “Wow!” he said. “It’s almost black.”
Within a couple of minutes, the first raindrops were falling on Ithaka’s teak deck, but in no time at all we felt the wind gusting, and the gentle drops turning into a hammering torrent. Douglas rushed to close the forward hatch, and to turn on the sailing instruments and GPS, so we could keep track of depth, wind speed and position. It was a good thing. Within moments we were engulfed in the hardest pounding of rain I’d ever experienced aboard. We clocked the wind at 30, then 35. In the protection of our cockpit, under our overhead bimini and behind the dodger, we were out of the elements. As I started rinsing off, the wind gusts hit 40, then shifted dramatically from a different direction. We could no longer see any scenery around us—just a thick curtain of gray rain. Then I looked at our depth sounder. Where it had said we had five feet below our keel a few minutes before, now it said we had less than a foot.
Farmlands surround the marshes in which we were anchored in Robin’s Neck
Adrenaline was in control now. The wind was clocking around a bit, and I still couldn’t see any shoreline anywhere around us, even though it was only about 100 feet away somewhere – the rain was still too thick. Completely disoriented, I steered by compass toward where I thought the middle of the creek was, the place where we’d had 11-foot depth. It took forever to fight the heavy winds and make headway, and it was hit and miss to find deeper water again. Seeing 00.0 over and over again on the depth sounder was petrifying. Were we motoring toward shallower water? I wasn’t sure! When we finally found a bit more water, then a bit more, we tried anchoring two times without success. Then finally the anchor caught, we throttled back on it several times to be sure, and then Douglas put on the snubber, and rushed back to the protection of the cockpit as the thunder claps rocked the world.
The sun sets on another cruising day
“Look at you!” he said. I’d never finished rinsing the soap out of my hair before we’d dragged, and I was still stark naked.
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