August 21, 2020

A hop, skip, and jump up the U.S. East Coast

After 2 weeks and more than 1,000 miles, Borealis and crew arrived stateside for the first time in nearly two years on May 23. We'd arrived to West Palm Beach, Florida from the US Virgin Islands shortly after 2 a.m. in the morning, and so we spent the following day catching up on sleep and touching base with family and friends after being at sea and without internet for 14 days. 

Our two week trek from the US Virgin Islands to Florida
The following morning, we were itching to get off the boat and spend some time on terra firma, so we blew up the dingy and headed ashore to visit a few shops and the grocery store to restock our fresh produce. Unfortunately, the squally, rainy weather we'd experienced out at sea followed us inland, and so we spent the next several days trapped inside the boat while it rained buckets outside. 

The Captain super excited by the quantity of goodies in a US grocery store

Out to sea again

After several days of taking it easy aboard, on the morning of May 18, we headed back out of the inlet for several days of offshore sailing up the coast of Florida. We sailed downwind about 15 miles offshore to get a boost from the Gulf Stream in pleasant 15 knot winds and 3 foot seas. 

Late afternoon we spotted dolphins alongside the boat, which accompanied us for most of the trip north -- every few hours a pod of 3-5 dolphins would come alongside and entertain us by splashing and jumping in the water. Overnight, a squall passed over us, which swung the wind from behind us to dead on the nose, so we pulled in the sail and motored in the choppy seas that resulted from the wind opposing the strong Gulf Stream current.

By noontime the following day, the seas had mostly flattened, and with no land in sight, we had a mostly hot, boring sail with only the occasional sighting of a dolphin or fishing boat. That evening, we once again had squally storms overnight and an impressive lighting show that lit up the sky for hours, which is nerve wracking on a boat with a 60-ft metal pole! 

At 10 a.m. the following day, May 30, we arrived to Fernandina Beach, Florida, just south of the Florida-Georgia border, after sailing some 250 miles in 48 hours. 

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach is a small, quaint seaside town on popular Amelia Island. The city marina offers moorings just off the downtown for a very reasonable fee, which also gave us access to their laundry machines (sorely needed after 3 weeks of sailing) and their beach cruiser bikes.

We had a fantastic day exploring the cute downtown on the rental bikes, which was capped off by our first socially-distanced dinner out in months, at a popular Mexican restaurant called Peppers, where we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on their outdoor terrace.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

On June 3, we sailed 8 nm north into Georgia to revisit Cumberland Island National Seashore, a favorite stop of ours on our way south in November 2018. The island is home to the ruins of a Carnegie family mansion, miles of white sandy beaches, and lots of critters. 

While the park's Welcome Center and camping grounds were closed because of Coronavirus, we were still able to enjoy a lovely few days ashore exploring the beaches and trails, where we were lucky to spot several foraging armadillos and a small team of wild horses that roam the island. 

Another offshore hop

On June 5, we motored up the river through the marshes behind Cumberland Island and across the Saint Andrew Sound to Jekyll Island, where we filled Borealis' diesel tanks before jumping back offshore for a couple more days of sailing up the East Coast. It was another downwind sail on the poled-out headsail in 10-15 knots wind and 3-5 ft seas. We had some overnight squally weather again, and lots of cargo shipping traffic to avoid coming out of Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. but little other excitement -- except for the delicious mackerel fish we caught trolling off the coast of Georgia. 

On the morning of June 8, after 52 hours and 275 miles offshore, we came back into port at Southport, N.C. and headed a short way up the river to Carolina Beach, N.C., where we took a city marina mooring ball near the cute vacation town. 

We explored the town on foot the following day and enjoyed a few hours on land walking the beach shoreline and fishing piers. 

On June 9, we motored inland up the coast from Carolina Beach to the Wrightsville Beach, where we spent two nights at anchor waiting on weather to head back offshore, but not before spending some time ashore walking the white sandy beaches.

Final offshore jump

At 6 am on June 11, we headed out of the Masonboro inlet in overcast, squally skies and some steep waves on a reefed headsail and main. The skies cleared by early afternoon, but the wind stayed between 15-25 knots and seas 4-6 ft, with a few breaking on the boat and drenching poor Nick. 

Some 12 hours later, after what would be our last offshore passage, we arrived to Cape Lookout National Seashore, N.C., just outside of Beaufort, N.C. 

After two winters in the tropics, we'd been slowly pulling out our cold-weather gear as we traveled north, and prepared for a few rainy days aboard by putting up our full winter cockpit enclosure, which allows us to stay warm and dry while underway and expands our living area when we are trapped aboard in rainy weather. 

It rained overnight and throughout the next few days, but we did find a short window to quickly row ashore to walk the sandy tidal areas and hunt for sea shells. 

Inland, we go!

On June 14, with no safe weather window in the 7-10 day forecast to head offshore and around Cape Hatteras for the Chesapeake Bay, we made the decision to keep moving north and trek inland along the Intracoastal Waterway. 

Large weather systems rolling off the U.S. for the next 7-10 days
made a final offshore hop around Cape Hatteras too risky

We'd spent more than half of the month of May sailing offshore from the Virgin Islands to North Carolina, so motoring through the mostly calm, protected rivers and canals of the ICW was a welcome change. 

Along the way, we camped out in some pretty amazing and tranquil anchorages and were visited by all kinds of wildlife, including dolphins, eagles, water birds and hundreds of dragonflies. 

We motored about 50 miles each day, which took us between 8-12 hours through North Carolina's South River, Neuse River, Pongo River and Ablemarle Sound. Despite being inland, the weather still didn't make it easy for us - we had rain and 20+ knot winds on and off during the trip and felt frustrated to have to wait out weather aboard when we were so close to our final destination! During the trip, twice we poked Borealis' bow into the large, shallow Neuse River and right into the short, steep swell on the nose, which swamped the deck in water and made our teeth chatter as we bashed around, and we were so discouraged to turn right back around and into safe harbor for another night!

Finally in the Chesapeake

We finally arrived to Norfolk, Virginia at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on the evening of June 19. We'd sailed 1,800 miles since leaving the Virgin Islands on May 10, and while we still had 100 or so miles before reaching our final destination, it felt amazing to be back in familiar sailing territory. 

After a few days of exploring Norfolk and restocking our fridge, we made our final jumps up the Chesapeake Bay with stops in Deltaville, Va.; Solomon's Island, Md.; and then into Annapolis on June 28 - our starting place and homeport! 

Home in Annapolis: coming full circle

What an overwhelming feeling it was to sail into Annapolis -- one of our favorite weekend sailing spots when we lived and worked in Washington, D.C. -- with so many more miles and stories under Borealis' keel. 

After nearly two years of adventures in the Caribbean, it was amazing to finally be back "home!"

Our 1,000 mile trek up the U.S. East Coast (overlapping our trek south in 2018)

Next up - after some relaxation and fun, we get down to business for our return to land-based life and preparing Borealis for sale. 

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