Norfolk to Rhode Island

Home Wharram World Peace Four Norfolk to Rhode Island
By Anne Clement

Our intent was to make an offshore passage direct to Rhode Island, but the fine and fancy weather forecast was again wrong. That has been the main theme of this year's trip north, come to think of it.

It started out well, but after only one overnight sail, we started hearing about wrong way winds, thunder storms and the rest, so we headed in to Cape May for a rest and met cruisers from Holland. Next morning we got going early and that time the forecast was also excellent, but made no mention of the pea soup fog which stayed with us all day and just when it cleared, we got the word of wrong way severe weather again.

But getting into Atlantic City was a real thriller. We had gone past, but turned back and luckily Nev had the sails down so we were under motor only. Atlantic City has an entrance jetty but before you get to it, there are breakers each side and you pass through a quieter section marked by buoys. But the high onshore winds made steep, toppling waves all the way across the approach. Peace handled well getting lined up with the buoys, but when she felt those bigger waves, she lifted her tail and got the bit in her teeth and took off like a run away horse headed for home. The helm lightened at first and then became quite firm and there was a lot of noise, but I was just able to keep her on the correct heading and finally the wave let her go and I got her lined up for the next one. We were nearly in on those two very exciting waves and then Peace trudged up between the jettys to where we turned right into a lagoon. I praised Nev for building us such a nice boat and we had warmhearted thoughts about the Wharrams. Our friend Jim rowed out from his house and came aboard and we had a pleasant evening with them and their friends. With enough old and new friends, and a good boat and spouse, what more do you need?

In the morning, again we had the good forecast and decided to take the direct course to Rhode Island outside Long Island. All went well and it was nice to have almost no New York City traffic in the separation lanes. At night I was enjoying the stars and phosphorescense.

I kept watch until the moon came up just after midnight and we were most of the way past the last separation lane. The rest of Long Island is generally free of traffic close in, so I slept nearby in the pod in case Nev had trouble with his red and green color blindness that only bothers him at night. Then he slept deeply in the pod and I carried on until well after dawn. Pancakes and more pancakes were devoured then and we started to wonder how far we should continue. Could we make it all the way to our mooring in East Greenwich?

We could stop at Block Island, or continue to Point Judith Harbor of Refuge, and the log shows that we changed waypoints two or three times. Fog had again entered the forecast along with possible 30 knot gusty winds, and we were tired. But when we got to the Block, we could already see Narragansett Bay, so we took a chance and went for it. Homeing instinct gets pretty strong sometimes and I really missed the family.

Rhode Island has lots of hardwoods and for just a few days, these come out with tiny red leaf buds at the tips of each twig, so the tops of the thousands of trees are a pink haze on the horizon. A week from now, the forest will be green, so this first pink is a kiss of spring after the cold bleak northern winter and I remember it well. Dogwoods were in bloom and there were rich green fields on Connanicut Island. Rare beauty for mariners. We had some sun so foul weather gear was off to enjoy it and I had even had an hour sunbathing earlier.

I experimented with the following wind and put jib to port, foremain to starboard, and main to port. Wing and wing and wing! If the seas are not too high, it works fine. I was even able to jibe it all while Nev slept. He sure was feeling tired, but I had just enough energy to enjoy playing with the sails while conditions were still mild.

Then Nev woke as we entered Narragansett Bay and went down to make cocoa after reminding me that the wind was getting up and he wanted to shorten sail. Cocoa finished, we got the foremain in nice and tidy and he was down in the galley again having mumbled a little grump about still too much sail up in increasing wind. But I was feeling all powerful or something stupid like that. I thought I could cope with Peace by hand steering. Oh boy, what a dumb move that was!

"Nev!" I shouted three times and he shot up there just when Peace had found another surfing wave, took it at an angle, and was suddenly doing 9 and 10 knots determined to go full tilt into a stone cliff opposite Dutch Island. Nev released the peak hakyard and I could feel Peace begin to respond but the sail was still working and we were not back on course until about a third of the main was down. I supposed later on that I could have just let her come all the way around up into the wind and maybe that would have been the best thing. Get her hove to and that would have stopped the action and helped Nev get the sail down easy. But I have not had much experience surfing at all let alone on a 46 foot catamaran so I got flustered! I had been wrong to resist shortening sail and Nev was a hero to get the sail down in that following wind. It was suddenly gusting about 25 or 30.

So now I wanted to learn more about surfing SAFELY in control. There was lots more following wind including some 25 knot gusts as we continued up Narragansett Bay and the waves were a more manageable size for learning. With one engine on and only the jib, I was able to control our speed to get up on a surfing wave and keep Peace there. It made us go really fast and I got the feel and learned that with a little wiggle, I could help Peace get up and take an extra 2 or 3 knots of speed that way. It was a great "WHEEEEEEE!" feeling and I learned that the diagonal made it all faster still. And I learned how to keep control.

Some wine, a good meal, and a pile of quilts on the bed helped tired old bones rest and relax. And the next day Nev got a huge stash of chocolate appology from me.

Now to get cracking on boat work for the entire month of May.

Love, Ann and Nev

Peace Four

© Anne and Neville Clement, 2005