A long, eventful day! We started out of Olverson’s pleasantly, everyone relaxed and ready for a long day. Not two hours later, before we were even out of the Potomac, things picked up a bit, causing Howard to go into full seasick mode. I managed to get a anti-vomiting pill in him, and he and the water settled down.
We got lucky for a long while, with big current behind us, despite the wind coming at us we moved along pretty well. The big wind and waves held off until about 4pm, as predicted. We were getting a pretty good fetch off of the ocean, as we got closer to Norfolk, which sent Howard back into seasick mode. With an empty stomach, and anit-vomit meds still in him, all he could do was howl and drool.
So while we’re pitching around, he’s trying to find a place to vomit, and I’m trying to chase him with a towel, to catch it, in case he actually did vomit. After spending some time panting on the salon floor (where is was close to 90 degrees), he eventually settled into his litter box.
Now we’re approaching Willoughby Bay, and our anchorage for the night, and we spy a helicopter hovering over the water, with a cable coming down from it. Not that it wasn’t odd enough to see a helicopter towing something by a cable, but this thing was kicking up a massive amount of water and spray around it:
While we’re trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the helicopter, Scott notices that the channel markers were all askew. He then remembered reading that the channel had shifted, and was now marked with floating, relocating markers. This made our chart plotter worthless, and Scott had to do some old school navigating, while keeping an eye to make sure that the helicopter wasn’t going to swing toward us, bringing the wall of water.
Once we navigated through the floating markers, Scott stumbled across a note about the helicopter, on our Ipad navigation system: (prepare for Coast Guard-speak)
“Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fourteen (HM-14) routinely conducts airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) operations utilizing the MH-53E helicopter at low altitudes over the following inland and coastal waterways.(I skipped the listed locations)
During these operations, the aircraft will be operating at altitudes as low as seventy-five feet and will produce localized winds in excess of 125 miles per hour. Rotor wash produced winds pose a considerable hazard to vessels, especially sailing vessels. The devices the helicopters tow range in size and appearance from a large orange and white sled approximately the size of a pick up truck to slightly submerged steel pipes thirty feet in length, both of which have submerged cable extending well beyond the visible portion of the towed device. The Aircraft Commanders have been directed to exercise every effort to conflict and avoid surface vessels.
“All mariners are requested to remain well clear of the helicopters, the towed devices, and the area extending directly behind the aircraft for four hundred yards. Do not approach or cross the area directly behind the towed device as a submerged hazard exists regardless of whether the device is in motion or stationary.”
“These operations involve large naval helicopters at flight altitudes of 100 feet or less, towing surface and sub-surface devices at speeds up to 25 knots. Helicopters may be identified by a rotating amber position light on centerline of main hull flashing 90 times per minute. An area of hurricane-force winds exists within a 250-foot radius around these helicopters, sufficient to blow people and objects from exposed decks and capsize small craft. The towed devices may be completely invisible and include large cables on or just below the surface streaming up to 1200 feet behind the aircraft.”
So now we have navigated the new channel, know what’s up with the helicopter and that it’s not going to turn near us. We now have to navigate to find a place to anchor, through a mine field of crab pots (no crab pots in sight two years ago, when Scott was bringing the boat up from Ft. Lauderdale).
We get anchored, knowing that we’ll have to be careful getting out of the snarl in the am, and I go off to locate Howard. I find him wedged in some stuff that I have stored in our forward head (bathroom). Once I grab him, and he realizes that the motor and motion are done, he begins to purr like crazy and beg for food. Not scarred at all:
So we survived our long day. To quote Overboard, one of my favorite movies: “It’s a hell of a day at sea, sir!” Tomorrow, on to the Great Dismal Swamp Canal…and the Intracoastal Waterway!
“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”