160 Miles on a Laser... He Made It!

 Robert Suhay in his Laser.

Here's a long, but way cool update from Robert Suhay about his trip from Norfolk to Annapolis during the July Fourth holiday... Congratulations on the trip! We await your next attempt--there and back!

I made the trip from Norfolk to Annapolis in my  Laser. It took 31 hours from the Old Dominion University ramp to the dinghy ramp at the Severn Sailing Association, where really cool, friendly, and welcoming people hang out (thanks for the much needed beer at the end of the trip).

I really need to thank a lot of people for all of their help and support, beginning with my family who let me indulge, Lisa who reposted and interpreted all of my garbled texts, Leon who got me into the sailing fold here and has allowed me to borrow a boat, Mike, who put down what he was doing to come rescue me in Annapolis on fireworks night when the whole town shuts down, Gregg Lanese, who put aside his plans to pick me up at the yacht club and fed me and helped get me to a spot outside the Annapolis cordon, Doug for the use of the radio and GPS which really made the difference in navigation, Mitch and Charles and Cara who have allowed me to play a part in sailing at ODU and given me tons of advice and guidance, to Neil Ford and Liz Biondi who have taught me a lot about sailing on Rocket J and gave me invaluable insight into the bay through the Down the Bay races -- and many more people who have simply been my friends and supporters through the years.

So you see, a simple trip really comes down to a whole community.

It was an incredible journey, and I almost turned around right at the start. As soon as I got to NIT, a big rain squall rolled over me and the storm sucked all the wind out of the air. I drifted on current up to the Navy Base where I had to detour around the incoming Eisenhower (welcome home, Ike after a very long tour). I caught a nice breeze through the HRBT, but the wind stalled as I made the turn north, and the detour meant I just missed the tide turn.

I was just a few hundred yards short of the flood current as I drifted backwards off Buckroe Beach for an hour. I was just about to give up when I got a breeze that pushed me into the flood tide and soon after that it was off to the races in strong southerly winds. I got hit by one big squall line, but after that, the weather turned beautiful, as I thought it would. I made Wolftrap just before nightfall, which was in keeping with my original plan.

At night, the waves were so big and the wind so strong I was fighting hard to keep a straight line and the surfing was really intense. Those who sail with me know that I rarely go over, and I got dumped three times at night by big waves and a sudden wind change that caused a gybe. Fortunately, I had everything lashed to the boat, including myself and I didn't loose any gear. Actually, I barely got wet, being able to scramble over the top, but still, it wasn't pleasant to be doing capsize drill in the dark in the middle of the Chesapeake.

I wish I could show you all the fireworks I saw from the middle of Chesapeake Bay Wednesday night. I had my own private show of about 20 displays. The sky was so clear the milky way was milky, and the phosphoresence  ?? was so think that when I was surfing at night I had huge electric green spray surrounding the boat. Reedville still reeks of Manhaden, even out in the middle of the bay, and I watched the sun come up from across Point no Point just after a beautiful crescent moon rose. I had dolphins swim with me in the lower bay, and schools of fish boil the water around me in the upper bay. Saw jellyfish that could swallow a laser and the most beautiful sight was seeing the Bay Bridge finally emerge out of the haze. Felt really strong in Annapolis, and think I could have turned around except it was so rough and my bottom was sooooo sore.

I made a lot of mistakes, too, that cost a lot of time. My original plan was to go toward the eastern shore at the north end to avoid adverse current, but the wind direction from the southwest meant it was really difficult to go that way and I wound up stuck in the middle for six hours with a strong ebb tide doing only 3 knots VMG. I got a little confused thinking I was off Tilghman Island much earlier than I was, and that lead me to go west earlier than I planned, so chalk that up to experience.

I carried way to many power bars (may i never see another), but not quite enough water for the whole return trip. I was trying to conserve weight, but I think in the end I was still too heavy.

Still, it was an amazing experience and glad I made it. The GPS routing said it was 160 miles. It felt like it. I was never scared, but it was frightening at times. I was never tired, but it was an exhausting endeavor. I was never worried, but I worried about every detail. I was definitely smiling at the end.

Thanks again for all the encouragement and support. Next year, there and back????