Cruising Stories


The Niehoffs’ Two-Year Adventure


NOVEMBER 4 - Norfolk, Va.

36° 55.397 N, 76° 11.339 W

Last year we slowly worked our way down the East Coast, but this year, after having spent the summer in Maine, we have taken a more direct route south, going nonstop from Camden, Maine, to New London, Connecticut, in Long Island Sound. We sailed through New York City, stopping in Port Jefferson and Port Washington, before anchoring near Sandy Hook.We arrived in the Chesapeake on October 4, and anchored for about a week in the Sassafras River. This was our first opportunity to slow down, catch our breath and relax. Petersen had a date with the SAT exam in Baltimore, so we arrived early to rent a car. Driving around a big city took some getting used to!

Our next leg includes an offshore trip from Norfolk, Virginia, to the island of Antigua, which is located to the south and east of the Virgin Islands. The trip is roughly 1,600 nautical miles as the albatross flies. After leaving the Chesapeake it will take about four days to reach Bermuda, and from there another five or six days to reach Barbuda, where we hope to land a day before arriving in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua. We plan to stay in the Antigua area through Christmas, before heading further south toward Venezuela.

NOVEMBER 22 - Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

17° 01.273 N, 61° 46.557 W

We've arrived safely in Antigua, 11 days after leaving Norfolk. The direct distance between the two points, known as the rhumb line, is 1,424 nautical miles, but weather can often make the trip longer. We logged 1,679 NM.We left Norfolk on November 8, a day and a half after a strong cold front had come through, and just as the next one was hammering California. We figured that we had a three or four day lead on it, and were hustling east as fast as our sails would carry us. Winds were generally SSE at 12 to 15, occasionally blowing 20 to 25. We carried our staysail, reefed jib, and slightly reefed main most of the time, making 6 7 knots.

Two days out of Bermuda, gale warnings were going up on the East Coast, as the front had sped up. A low pressure trough had formed across our path. We spent the next 12 hours under shortened sail. Winds blew at a constant 30 to 35 five knots, and the seas grew to around 12 feet. Adelaide handled it all quite well. The bow would go under a wave and water would cascade down the deck. It was noisy, wet, and uncomfortable, but we got used to it.

Four days after leaving the East Coast, Bermuda came into sight. Bermuda was sunny and warm what a change from Norfolk!The entrance to Bermuda's St. Georges Harbor is through a cut in a rock cliff just large enough for a big boat to get through. The entrance is well marked with buoys but most of them are not lit, and they mark some very serious reefs. Bermuda Harbor Radio welcomed us and directed us to the customs dock. It was wonderful sleeping that night in a bed that wasn't pitching up and down. The next day we explored the harbor town of St. Georges and did laundry a lot of our clothes were damp with sea spray.

A front came through early the following day, blowing 25 in the harbor, but much stronger on the ocean. After some discussion it was decided that taking advantage of the strong north wind to blow us south took precedence over waiting for the seas to subside. Quickly we made the boat ocean ready, cleared customs, and headed out of the cut.

We began to catch fish south of Bermuda. There were prizes for the first and the largest fish caught. Tyler landed a 30-pound mahi mahi one day south of Bermuda, and then two days later he tied into a really big yellowfin tuna. After wrestling the tuna on board, we estimated it to weigh about 120 pounds. It took up most of the aft deck, and Tyler spent all afternoon filleting it. Tyler won both prizes.

We dropped anchor on the 19th in Antigua. The boat and crew accomplished a major offshore passage, and we are proud.We expect to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas cruising around Antigua before heading further south. We wish you and your families a wonderful holiday and appreciate your interest in our adventures.

JANUARY 1 - Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

17° 01.273 N, 61° 46.557 W

Happy New Year from the crew and mascot of Adelaide! We've spent some time cruising around Antigua, exploring the anchorages the island has to offer. The rest of the time we have been marina bound. The main sail needed some mending where the luff line had chafed, but mostly we have been polishing the stainless, cleaning the teak, and servicing the systems. The children have been doing school work seven days a week. We don't make the kids do school when we are passaging, as they have watches throughout the night and shipboard duties.

Christmas was certainly different for us this year. It was the first time we have been away from home, and we missed our family and friends. We made the best of it, however. We hung lights around the boat, had a small tree down in the cabin, and played Christmas music on the stereo.

The boys have found a place nearby with breaking waves. Most days after school they take the dinghy and their surfboards and head out to catch some waves. When the waves are too small to be of interest, they go skurfing, an activity they invented where they tow each other behind the dinghy while they stand on their surfboards.

Winston, our fearless mascot, has had his own adventure here. The boat being anchored stern to the dock confronted him with a problem. Normally he would simply hop off the boat onto the pier, but stern to required him to leap over water to reach freedom. Now it could be that he has gained a few pounds from all the fresh fish he has eaten or it's possible that sleeping all day has led to a certain amount of sag in his tummy region, but, for whatever reason, he misjudged the jump once and landed in the water.

Lay-by time will soon be over, the Christmas winds are blowing, and new islands and discoveries beckon us south. Guadeloupe, a French island, will be our next port of call. We hope to leave on Sunday and will probably sail by the island of Montserrat, with its active volcano (we can see the smoke from here), and arrive before sunset. Then it will be on to Dominica with its rainforests and lovely rivers. The current plan is to get as far south as Grenada before heading north and west again.

FEBRUARY 8 - Mount Hartman Bay, Grenada

12° 00 N, 61° 45 W

We left Antigua about a month ago and headed for Guadeloupe. It was a good sail and we caught a nice dolphin for dinner. The island is considered part of France, so we had to change money into euros and try out our limited French.

Dominica was our next stop. It did not have the tourist infrastructure that the other islands have and is a very poor island economically. We took a tour into the rainforest and were shown all sorts of fruits and spices. Just walking along a path, one could find cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, grapefruit, papaya, bananas and countless other edible treats. You would not starve on Dominica.The plan from Dominica is to get as far south as Grenada, which is as far south as we plan to go being roughly 80 miles from Venezuela, before heading north and west once again. We have been in Grenada for the last 10 days, where we're getting some deck work done. We hiked to a pretty waterfall and plunged into the cold water, a welcome relief after the long hike. Our plan is to head to St. Lucia from here to visit friends who are waiting for us. While sailing down the island chain we have found good winds and easy navigation as the next island appears before the last island fades in the distance.

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