Bahamas to Norfolk, Virginia, USA 

22nd May - 1st June 2006

Off we set from the Abacos, the northern Bahama Islands, in search of the Gulf Stream and some wind.    Our weatherman, Chris Parker, had advised that we would only have a four day weather window during which to head to Beaufort USA from the Bahamas, before the next batch of scary weather was expected, so we weren't going to dilly-dally.   

The lack of wind at the beginning of our trip gave ideal conditions for a spot of fishing and gourmet cooking with the catch.    Motoring along on a glassy sea we snagged a big-eye tuna, which proved delicious in an Asian style recipe improvised from the few fresh supplies we had left aboard.   

By the second wind-and-Gulf-Stream-less day, we began to worry that the diesel aboard wouldn't be enough to get us to shore should neither materialise.    Just in case of shortage we decided to drain all the remaining diesel in the port tank and transfer it to the starboard tanks which we were using, so we'd know exactly how much we had altogether.  This operation would be unpleasant and uncomfortable even when securely tied alongside a dock and was no fun at all when underway.   Needless to say, once we were finished, we just had time enough in the flat calm to bag our largest mahi-mahi yet, before we finally came across both the Gulf Stream and some wind, enabling us to finally switch off the motor and make increasingly rapid progress under sail and stop worrying about the diesel situation.   

Call that a fish?.......  Now this is a fish!

The favourable Gulf Stream current gradually increased to around four knots as we neared the centre of its flow, dramatically increasing our speed over the ground.   The wind, however, soon turned from west to north-east, giving us a bumpy beat into the wind.   Luckily before the wind speed increased to over twenty knots, the direction turned more southerly and it began to feel as though we were living on a roller-coaster.   This was the end of gourmet cooking and our remaining pre-prepared meals were served in large mixing jugs, as is normal for us when at sea!

By the time we were a day out of Beaufort, it was time to try to head out of the Gulf Stream, before it turned more easterly, around Cape Hatteras.   On previous occasions exiting the Gulf Stream had proved tricky if the current was pushing the boat along faster than the wind, when we'd find ourselves heading sideways faster than we were heading forwards.   However this time we had a sustained twenty to twenty five knots from behind and with our reefed main and genoa we continued to head rapidly and in some discomfort towards our destination.

By the next morning we were glad to have Beaufort in sight, the weather was expected to deteriorate dramatically later in the day, with severe thunderstorms forecast.     We surfed into the inlet, unable to spot the channel buoys until Anju was up on the crests of the waves!  By lunchtime we had successfully squeezed our way into the perpetually crowded anchorage in Beaufort and called Homeland Security in the USA to report our arrival.    It turned out that in order to pick up our cruising permit, we'd have to head over to the commercial docks area to their office.    It appeared that the friendly Immigration lady was accustomed to the arrival of foreign yachts and suggested we just head over by dinghy to the Maritime Museum and borrow one of the courtesy cars which they generously have available for visiting yachtsmen.   

As we went on deck, ready to dinghy ashore, we heard a frightful din, it seemed some noisy people were standing on the shore and making quite a commotion, shouting and screaming.   We did our best to ignore the crazies but finally, when the din continued unabated, reluctantly looked over in the direction of the disturbance and who should we see but our friends Chris and Vivian, leaping around on shore, yelling and waving to attract our attention.   Now, what were they doing here six hours from home, in the exact same spot we happened to be?

On dinghying ashore we discovered that they had taken a day trip to Beaufort in order to check the arrangements for the licence for their forthcoming wedding, due to be held there a month later.   As fate would have it they'd taken a wrong turn, driven down the wrong street and at the end of it had found themselves face to face with our newly anchored boat.   What were the chances of that happening?   As we had to head out to check in with the authorities, we arranged to meet up with Chris and Vivian later for a celebratory dinner.

Now, checking in with Homeland Security in the USA has been known to have its traumas.   Often the rules have seemed to vary wildly depending on the interpretation of the officer clearing us in.  On this occasion in Beaufort, we had one of our better checking-in-experiences.    The lady in charge seemed genuinely happy to welcome visiting boaters.   Not only did we leave with our immigration cards and cruising permit for Anju, we also acquired a selection of recipes and some free chocolates!


We dashed back to Anju and after a quick change routine and a much needed wash after four days at sea, it was time to head ashore for dinner with Chris and Vivian at a local hostelry.   

It was lucky we'd arranged to meet early as, after eating, we emerged from the restaurant to find the sky dark and threatening.  We just made it back to Anju, soaking wet, before the thunderstorm reached its peak, with winds gusting up to 40 knots screaming through the anchorage.   Lightning was striking all around and after several stressful hours on anchor watch, taking in nature's light show and listening to sirens blaring all around town, the wind died down enough for us to head to bed and try to sleep through the rest of the storm, which lasted well into the early hours of the morning.   Saying that we were relieved to have arrived in Beaufort before the storm hit was a definite understatement!

Now what are they doing here?


Whilst in Beaufort we made the most of the museum's generosity and used the courtesy car to make a run to the  Super-Walmart in the next town to replenish our dwindling provisions on board.    We thought we'd be done with shopping for a while but the following day, when we tried to start the engine aboard Anju, we found that our engine start battery had died.   Back we headed to the Museum to see if they wouldn't mind us borrowing their car again, for the third time in three days.  Luckily they had one available and we set off in search of a new battery.    Getting the battery in the car was the easy part, dinghying the battery to the boat and lifting it aboard and into position was more of a challenge but by the end of the day we were finished and ready to head northwards again. 


Shrimp boats on the ICW

Let's just keep out of the way here.

As on previous occasions, we avoided to long trip around Cape Hatteras and look the inside route to Norfolk Virginia, along the Intracoastal Waterway.   In only three days we found ourselves securely tied up in Norfolk on the dock kindly provided by OCC Port Officers Gary and Greta.
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