I just got back last night from a 2-week sail, basically from the Severn river, MD to Hopewell, VA, and back: route here
. I left May 5th from Annapolis, got to Hampton May 9th, sailed up and down the James for four days, and then zigzagged back up the Chesapeake.
After several aborted attempts, it was good to finally be able to establish that Hampton Roads does indeed exist. And the trip up the James was really cool - even though it involved a lot of motoring and timing to catch the flood or ebb tide. While on the river, I saw almost no signs of civilization and no sailboats except the replicas at Jamestown. The river itself was eerie at times, with lots of strange human-size creatures heaving themselves out of the water - I think they might have been sturgeon - as well as myriad other things splashing, smacking, hooting, cawing, etc. I thought the James would be too shallow, but it wasn't hard to navigate at all, with only an occasional barge to avoid. At one bend in the river you're in 95 foot water an arm's reach from shore. Presquile was too shallow to go all the way around, so I turned back from there.
After arriving back in Hampton, I spent a (second) night at the Hampton Public pier, and then sailed across to the anchorage off of Kiptopeke State Park, which I'd always thought would be cool to visit. Wrong! It says in the guidebook that the place is named after an Indian chief whose name means "big water." I think they got the translation wrong; the name means "friends don't let friends anchor here" or "tell paleface this'm good place to anchor." The anchorage there has a good two knots of current going back and forth, that will push you into the fish traps that enclose both ends of the area bounded by the ships and the beach. When I pulled in, an unpredicted wind started blowing strongly out of the east (directly from shore), which meant I could be blown back into the line of ships or have the current pull me to one side or the other. I had a hard time setting my anchor, had to relocate after the tide shift, and in the morning my anchor line was wrapped three times around a crab trap. Even if it had been calm, there would have been the lights from the fishing pier to enjoy all night. I got lucky because they were obscured by fog.
I made my way across they bay the next day, despite all the fog, then holed up in the East river off of Mobjack bay for two days because of the strong wind followed by rain. The East river is really pretty.
I was surprised at how rough the water south of the Potomac gets. We got caught bashing through waves going both ways passing Wolf Trap shallows, then some even heavier stuff trying to make the mouth of the Potomac. I ended up only just making it across in a day from Dividing Creek, and anchored in Cornfield Harbor, which I would not recommend, since it serves as a vortex for every wake from the bay or the Potomac to end up. From there I started running out of wind - made it to Solomon's, then, after a morning of good sailing yesterday, ended up motoring most of the way back to the Severn.
Lessons learned: 1. bring spare spark plugs that fit the outboard you're actually using 2. bagels can keep for two weeks without spoiling 3. kerosene cooks well but stinks 4. just because you've got long sleeves on doesn't mean your nose and other parts aren't getting sunburned 5. it pays to have all the relevant tidal stuff worked out 6. the place to practice reefing is at the dock - it turns out the slab reefing hardware on my boom doesn't fit the mainsail I used, so I ended up using the roller boom furler instead 7. don't anchor next to someone flying two large American flags playing loud country music 8. stay the hell away from Kiptopeke State Park and those damned Liberty Ships 9. getting greeted by dolphins as you reach Hampton Roads is really cool, as was getting a box of candy from the family-run auto parts store just for gracing their establishment with my presence