DelMarVa Fleet Complete the Offshore Leg to Cape May!

24 June 2015

Excitement was in the air on Monday night in Portsmouth, VA, as the crews of the 2015 ARC DelMarVa rally gathered at Roger Brown’s on High Street for one last get together before the big ocean passage.

“We’ve never had the boat offshore before,” said Peter & Kristin Weaver of the Swan 39 ‘Upward Wing,’ “and we are really looking forward to seeing how she does!”

They shared the sentiments of most participants, who’d signed up specifically for the challenge of Leg 2, the 160-nautical-mile offshore run up the coast to Cape May. While there was beer and wine to be had to Roger Brown’s most crews were instead drinking water and taking their first dose of seasickness medication. Smartly!

After a briefing by Andy and Mia on the weather, tides and what to expect offshore, the evening ended early and folks got to bed. It was to be an early morning the next day.

The first boats departed Ocean Marine Yacht Center before the sun came up to take advantage of the favorable current running out of the Elizabeth River. On a good day it’s 4 hours out to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, so any extra help you can get is welcome. ‘Sea Dreams’ and ‘Endeavor’ led the way out into the ocean, with the rest of the fleet strung out behind them, though not far behind. ‘Sea Dreams’ in fact, led the fleet wire to wire, and were the first to arrive into Cape May this morning.

Breezy sailing downwind into the ocean yesterday on Leg 2.

“We had a hell of a sail Tuesday afternoon,” said Mitch from the Ovni 435 ‘Sea Dreams.’ “It was broad-reaching conditions, and the wind just kept building from the south-southwest as the day went by.”

Mitch had a chance to practice his celestial navigation skills during the passage that he learned at Andy’s workshop this past winter.

“I was taking sun sights most of the day,” he said, “but never did get any stars. It was hard, because I wanted it to be authentic, so I needed to keep to my dead-reckoning plot and not change course until I got a new sight and a new fix!”

Mitch’s lack of star sights that evening was in fact a bad omen. By nightfall, the clouds were building in the west. The wind had lain day a bit from the 20-knot range – several boats saw double-digit speeds earlier in the day, flying downwind – but a forecast frontal passage was on it’s way offshore. Thunderstorms, very typical for this time of year, began popping up on the local radar, and crews started battening down the hatches.

By 2130, the wind abruptly shifted to the northwest as the dark clouds rolled overhead. Lightning flashed in the distance and a few showers passed overhead. Some boats recorded brief wind gusts of 40+ knots. Thankfully folks were prepared, and everyone rode out the squalls successfully and continued on through the night once it cleared around 2230.

“We even had time to make dinner!” said Paula Hefner from the Jeanneau ‘Two Fish’. “We had turkey burgers with cucumbers and hummus! It was great!”

Dinner, in fact, seemed to be a hot topic of conversation on the VHF, even as the thunderstorms were approaching from the west.

The morning dawned clear and much cooler. Temps had been close to 100ºF in Portsmouth, but by dawn at sea, we aboard ‘Isbjorn’ were in fleeces. It was a welcome respite.

As of 1600 on Wednesday, all but three of the yachts had made it into Canyon Club Marina, our hosts in Cape May. Dock staff greeted each yacht personally on arrival, and even takes your trash and delivers ice! Being that Canyon Club is primarily a sport fishing marina, they’ve even got diesel fuel at every slip.

“The boat just flew in that breeze on Tuesday afternoon,” added Peter of ‘Upward Wing.’ “We’ve never had her in those conditions before, and boy were we pleased! Our GPD recorded a top boat speed of 11.4 knots!”

The excitement on the docks was shared by all, including of course a few storm stories going around. All in all, it was a fantastic learning experience for all and a great introduction to ocean sailing, despite the brief period of uncomfortable weather. Confidence was built in both boats and crew.

Now that the adrenaline’s worn off, most crews are enjoying a few beers by the pool here at the marina, with ‘Two Fish’ and ‘Passing Wind’ even having an impromptu pizza party poolside!

With mostly good weather so far, the fleet now has a lay day in Cape May. A happy hour is scheduled for the Lobster House here in town tomorrow night, and most boats will depart for the homeward leg on Friday morning. Follow the fleet on