Good morning from a smelly and disoriented sailor in Atlantic City. (Nope, we are not gambling, at least not at black jack tables, though you could say this whole thing is quite the roulette toss). C and I are joined by Meagan, C's brave sister who came aboard for the journey (hallelujah Meagan!). We sailed all day and through the night, starting out on gelatinously calm seas and unusually warm November breezes yesterday.
Sailing through the night is a beautiful theory. Also it is endlessly endless. Endlessly shiveringly, toe-numblingly endless. The winds were head on, which forced us to turn on Little Penny and chug through the dark hours. Rrr-rrr-rrrr, that's us! Roaring through the night like a garbage truck by the light of our glowing GPS screen. Oh, darlings, the romance!
Our intention to take shifts was overruled by our confused circadian rhythms which snotily refused to sleep when we scheduled them to, so we took random turns resting (me queasily but not vomitously) and holding the helm.
Pick a star to steer by for a while until it dissolves into the haze of blue saltwater air. Moisture suspended, glazing everything slick with a cold clammy skin. Tiny specks in the night that become enormous tankers, floating islands of industry looming, jump starting your heart. Orion appearing at the rim of the sky and ascending over us in a brilliant arc. Hand warmers. Sleeping bag legs. Peeing off the swim ladder, clipped into a harness on Drakka's back. No auto pilot, the glow of gps charts, the endless tug of the tiller. Seeing the sun rise through half mast eyelids and at last arriving at Absecon Inlet, docking, and passing out for the best nap of my life.
Real life feels incredibly far away.
ATLANTIC CITY to CAPE MAY to OCEAN CITY
So many things have happened! However shall I regale you with them all?!?
Firstly: It got cold.
Second: Drakka's broken nose
Third: Rogue goodwill pirates
Fourth: Anchoring nightmare 101
We are all decked out in our polar circus costumes. Layers upon layers upon hand warmers upon whiskey. It's not even that it's SO cold, but twelve hours in a row of being body frisked by offshore winds will really freeze your bloodstream.
Also C broke Drakka's nose. He didn't mean to (that's what she said), but the combination of inertia, blind spots, and the piling at the fueling dock and CRACK! Busted her steel pulpit so now she looks like a football player with a crooked bridge. Whoops.
Also we've made our first sailing buddies! Bubbles and Voodoo who live aboard their 40' Gypsy Soul. They came upon us snooping out their perfect bow pulpit. Bubbles was an First Responder nurse in Baltimore (one can only imagine what she's seen), and Voodoo won't say but we're pretty sure he's Jason Bourne in real life, mixed with a dash of rusty rock n roll rogue pirate. They emphatically assured us we'd made the best decision of our lives, gave us a hurricane of advice, and told stories of their own smash ups to ease our newbie minds. We made chili together and ended the night by shooting off Voodoo's speargun. They're totally nuts, as I'm realizing everyone has to be to live this way. Embrace the nuttiness. Embrace one another. New motto.
After Atlantic City we sailed to Cape May and anchored alongside a peppy channel in so-so winds and a mild current. This was our first test of Danny, the new anchor. All was well until midnight when C shook me awake, "Babe! Get up! We drug our anchor!" Throw coat on blinking like a roused mole into the shivering windy blackness of night. We almost collided with a luxury yacht, Great Scott, anchored nearby, and were drifting in the middle of the channel! My chest was boiling with anxiety and dread. We had twisted around our anchor rode (rode just means all the parts n pieces of your anchoring hardware, line and all), and couldn't get untwisted to pull Danny up. One can't use the engine in this situation because the line can get tangled in the propeller. So we did the midnight polka with Danny for a while until at last we wrenched him free, and motored over to reset him. Sleep came like rocks through an hourglass after that.
'Round 4am I heard an unfamiliar squeak and looked up to the eerily glowing hatch cover where the shadow of a flag was flapping in the wind. WAIT. WE DON'T HAVE A FLAG. "C!" I raced to the cockpit where he was sleeping to keep watch. "Get up get up!" The same luxury yacht had drug their anchor and was pushing up against our bow, putting extraordinary weight on our anchor line, and we were saved from damage solely by their rubber dinghy which was sandwiched between us. C blew the horn and Great Scott was up in a flash, taking their turn at the midnight polka which we observed with our hearts in our gullets hoping his massive propellers wouldn't slice through our anchor line. They did not, thank Saint Barnacle, and we decided, screw sleeping at that point, let's just get up and start sailing. Off to Ocean City.
Lastly, as we were manhandling the tiller in an aggressive, teeth-grinding session of arm-wrestling-with-waves where the Atlantic meets the Delaware Bay, heeled over like a drunken cowboy halfway out of his saddle, SPLASHHHHH! A sleek black hump broke the surface of the waves directly before us, scaring the living cockles out of our clamshells. A WHALE! So close C steered immediately upwind to avoid hitting her. A motherfluffing WHALE playing chicken with Drakka. We three squealed like sea lions on fire. Like an electrocuted octopus. Like a dolphin at a tickle party. Seriously.
Tomorrow in the icy darkness of pre dawn we set off for the tiny little Watchapreague Inlet on our way to Norfolk. All blessings and prayers upon our forthcoming anchorage attempts are heartily welcome.
OCEAN CITY to NORFOLK
We did not end up in the tiny little Watchapreague Inlet. Here is the thing about inlets: What makes for a lovely rolling swell on the ocean makes for a pounding, dangerous Inlet. I did not know this until we left Ocean City in the sooty black pre-dawn, and encountered the vanguard of crashing curls. As the shore shallows, so the waves stampede upon one another like greedy, sloshy stallions. We made it through by luck, excellent engineering (thank you Alan Payne who designed Drakka 39 years ago), and a bone white knuckled grip. I shit you not, I thought: This is how I die. 33. Jesus age. How poetic.
Once the thirty minutes that felt like thirty years of breaking waves passed, we were out on a magic carpet ride of rolling swell. The NOAA forecast updated their 5-8' estimation to 7-12' waves, and we shortly realized we were committed whether we liked it or not. To attempt inlet entry in those conditions was, we now well knew, to enter the Darwin awards. We had to sail through the night and following day until we reached the Chesapeake. Not exactly winning the lottery, but not the grim reaper either. So we hunkered down for what aged into 32 hours of dragon riding. About 10 o'clock, the winds unexpectedly turned against us, and our gentle swell churned into a hobby horse convention of slapping, rollicking waves. We could not loose Drakka's wings into such direct winds, and were obliged to brutalize poor Little Penny for the long haul, forcing a measly 2-3 knots (about 5 mph), with a wet slam of the bow against pitched waves every 15-30 seconds, making us all feel impotent and crazy.
I thought about drowning. I thought about the celestial dome. I thought about what we'd wanted to name our unborn children. I thought about what radioactive material must be in hand warmers. I thought about why I am such a knucklehead as to push this precious life I've been given to such extremes? There were no answers. Only the endless hours and the desperate gratefulness for my two companions who continued to forge ahead, grip the tiller, and somehow stay awake.
And on that note, can I get a hell yeah for Meagan, the Reluctant Voyager who came aboard at C's rather last minute beckoning and put up not one fluff of fuss, was trooper of all troopers, and cool enough to make the coolest cucumber shrivel up and perish of inadequacy? Meagan has an alarming capacity to stay awake, doesn't get seasick, and somehow still manages to look svelt wearing six layers and a life jacket. Thank you fathoms upon fathoms.
We three salted gnomes, Bleary, Weary and Smeary, made it to the Little Creek Inlet just past the Chesapeake bridge shortly after 1 o'clock, before the sun briefly popped out to rub its inopportune timing in our faces, and before the incoming gale shortly blotted it out and wreaked havoc upon the waters we had just come from. Hallelujah for nap time! And for being alive.