We gathered all of our weather info at the end of the evening and decided not to decide where we would go the next day. We were up at our usual time and analyzed the weather info again. True to form, it had changed from the night before and actually looked much better than we expected. So we caught the 7:00 AM lock opening and headed for Norfolk. There were discussions about the Gilmerton Bridge being closed for construction but after a call to the bridge tender and radio contact with the tug working the bridge we determined there would be no delay. The next bridge past the lock is Steel Bridge and we arrived minutes before its scheduled opening. As we approached the Gilmerton Bridge, the barge was tied to the bridge wall and the bridge itself was open. We transited with no problems and headed through Norfolk.
There are all manor of vessels in the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area, from the obvious Naval presence to ferries, tugs and a variety of pleasure and commercial vessels. The waterfront has grown considerably since we first came through many years ago. There are new hotels, office buildings, several marinas, an aquarium, and lots of other attractions. The naval ships, most being reconditioned or prepped for service, are anything from aircraft carriers to submarines. It is quite a sight to see them all in one place. It was also obvious that the annual migration of pleasure boats heading south was really getting under way with lots of boats from sail to megayachts heading down the waterway.
We had considered stopping in the Hampton Roads area, only a little more than twenty miles from Great Bridge, but the forecast and conditions were just too good for a run up the bay. So we plugged in the waypoints to Deltaville, exited Hampton Roads and entered the Chesapeake Bay for the first time in over six years. As we turned north on the Bay we had a very uncomfortable swell rolling in on our beam. We had to deal with this for a few hours until our course changed and the swells were a bit more on our stern quarter. The Bay is wide open at this point and the swells roll in from the Atlantic. As we passed Old Point Comfort the skies were blue and the winds light from the southwest. If not for the swell it would be one of those perfect days on the Bay. There are actually about three every year.
We set a course to put us outside the York Spit at the mouth of the York River, and then directly to Wolftrap Light. The Lighthouses and Lights along the Bay are truly unique and must see for anyone traveling up the Bay. Many boaters run the ship channel down the center of the Bay fearing shoals and really miss out on a lot. Once across the wide expanse of Mobjack Bay and the arrival at Wolftrap, we turned into the Piankatank River, There is a shoal that extends for a long distance off Cherry Point on Gwynns Island that must be avoided. But once past the shoal we headed directly for the entrance to Deltaville.
The entrance channel can be a little daunting to someone that has not done it before. It is well marked but very, very shallow outside the marked channel. It comes in on an angle then makes a sharp left curve around and you must run almost onto a small beach as you make the left turn. A sharp right brings you into the marina area and anchorage but there is one last red marker that must be cleared before making the turn toward the marina. Once you have cleared all of the hurtles the anchorage is wide and deep with good holding just past the Deltaville Marina off the private docks across the channel. Even with the exposure from the south, we have sat here in heavy southerly winds and the shoal across the mouth of the river keeps the waves down. Winds from any other direction are no problem. Some like to anchor in a branch that goes off to port called Jackson Creek. There protection is excellent from all points of the compass. We shared the anchorage with three other boats.
It has been a while since I have commented on one of my favorite organizations, the National Weather Service. You know, the organization that some can work for, be consistently wrong, get paid well and not loose their job. Their forecast for Sunday was NW 10 to 15 with gusts to 20, making this uncomfortable since we would be going northwest on the Bay. We checked the forecast again at daybreak and it was still the same so we decided to have a lay day in Deltaville. We monitored the forecast during the day and they insisted it would be 20 knots after noon, despite their own buoy reports all day with winds of 6 to 10 knots. The forecast changed three times since morning and the broadcast for Monday stated west 10 to 15 and west 5 to 10 for Tuesday. The text reports on their website also said west 10 to 15 for Monday, but added with gusts to 20, not stated on their VHF broadcasts. The text for Tuesday said west 5 to 10 with gusts to 20. So how could they possibly be wrong with winds forecast for Tuesday anywhere from 5 knots to 20 knots. What a great way to assure your forecast is correct no matter what. Unfortunately this ridiculous information is absolutely worthless for anyone trying to decide if they should venture out on the water. Over the years we have come to the conclusion that the folks at NWS responsible for marine forecasts pretty much stick to using the W A G method, Wild Ass Guess, to put out their product.
Our lay day was not a complete waste. Sometimes we rest and relax and other times we use it for maintenance. This would be a maintenance day and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The fuel in our tanks when we bought the boat had sat for a long time, perhaps a year or more. We topped off the tanks in Beaufort, but one of the projects we have yet to complete is a fuel polishing system. All of the components are sitting on the boat ready to be installed. As time ran out prior to us heading north, I decided as a precaution to add a vacuum gauge to the Racor filter to alert me if the filters were becoming clogged. We installed this on our sailboat and it was a big help in letting us know we needed to change filters before the engine shut down. All the way up the waterway, when doing my regular engine room checks, the gauge was always at zero and never showing the slightest movement. We knew from past experience, this was just not right. I had considered changing the Racor filters in Great Bridge but never got around to it. Since we would be here an extra day, it was time and I wanted to be sure we had a clean filter heading up the Bay in case we got bounced around. This is usually when the dirt in the tank gets stirred up and clogs the filter. When I removed the existing filter the dirt and goo on the filter and in the housing was actually a shock. We have no idea how the engine was continuing to run, but it is a real testament to the Ford Lehman. The filter housing was cleaned and a new filter installed. We keep a small can of diesel on board to refill the filters making it unnecessary to have to bleed the fuel system to restart the engine. Racor is another one of those companies that once upon a time made quality equipment that you could count on. This seems to me to no longer be the case. It has now been relegated to the ranks of overpriced, poorly built products that may or may not work as needed. It is sad, and is happening all to often. But, a few other minor items were done and we will look at the weather guess for tomorrow and will probably head north. We need to be in Pasadena, Maryland by Wednesday for a commitment and the weather looks like it will change, but not for the better, by then.