Norfolk Day 5 -Welcome to the USA

Martin and Elizabeth Bevan
Thu 19 May 2011 21:00

Position           36:51.14N 76:17.89W

Date                2200 - 19 May 2011 (UTC -4)


The early hours of the morning were magical sailing after the ups and downs of the previous two days.  15 knots of breeze just forward of the beam, all plain sails set and drawing, very little sea and a gentle hissing and lapping noise from the wake as we made 8 to 9 knots, apparently effortlessly and all of this in the light of a full moon.  The sea has many different faces.


We had deliberately slowed down to allow Alice to catch up as we had become rather separated in The Gulf Stream.  It is amazing what a difference to the conditions being just a few miles apart made.  We think that we caught a particular contrary eddy as we were coming up to the Stream boundary that slowed us down to 2 knots over the ground for the last two hours and it would appear that Alice copped that one with rather more miles to go and this opened up a 16 mile gap.



Landfall was made with the dawn north of the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.  Andrew from Alice thought that it looked suspiciously like Belgium; fortunately Celia is responsible onboard Alice for the navigation.



0800 saw us off Cape Henry and with the course coming onto the wind we were just able to lay the gap in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel passing though it at 0945.  Sailing eventually came to an end as we turned for our approach passed the Norfolk Naval Base, we are told the largest naval base in the world.  It was strange to see a marina for aircraft carriers.



Finally we found our way to the Pilot House Condominium Dock on the Elizabeth River where we were greeted by the Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers Gary Nagle and his wife Greta.  Our arrival could have been easier had our bowthruster decided to cut out, I suspect barnacle fouling, and with a cross wind getting into a berth between piles was not easy.



Made it!, with no damage to either the boat or the pontoons and a great deal of relief for me.


We were secured alongside at 1300 (Bermuda time – now we switch to EDT which is UTC -4), 4 days and 4 hours from St George, Bermuda.  We have covered 669 miles over the ground and 701 miles through the water, so 32 additional miles covered because of adverse current.  This gives an average of 7 knots through the water and 6.7 knots over the ground.


We have now covered 8,730nm over the ground since leaving the Royal Harwich on 4 July 2010.


Gary and Greta are amazing with their advice, help and hospitality and a wonderful example of the ethos and purpose of the Ocean Cruising Club.  Not only have they provided dockage, there were maps, offers to take us by car to chandlers and other vital spots for resupplies and to cap it all an invitation to supper.  Our first night in the United States was therefore spent in their lovely home, overlooking the dock, in their company and with Andrew and Celia.


Immigration and Agriculture officers visited us on the boat during the afternoon and cleared us in.  I will write more about Norfolk in a later diary entry but suffice it to say we had a very pleasant walk to visit the Customs and Border Protection officers and obtain our cruising permit.  Having heard all sorts of horror stories about how difficult it is to enter the USA by yacht we were completely amazed at how easy and pleasant the whole procedure was.  We feel that we were very fortunate in choosing to come into what is predominantly a commercial and naval port rather than a jolly yachtie centre.



Obituary – we regret to announce that the Barn Swallow stowaway mentioned in yesterday’s blog and despite our best efforts to provide food and water, did not survive to be repatriated in the USA and has been buried with full honours.