Back in the U S of A…

We ate breakfast at anchor off Cranberry Island, then sat around for a while planning our next move. The engine did not leak when cold, so we hauled anchor, unrolled the two jibs and took off without starting the motor and picked our way through the lobster pot obstacle course across the channel to Southwest Harbor. After radioing for a dock we rolled up the two jibs, motored in and docked. The engine did not leak as it only ran for about 5 minutes in slow, so it did not reach operating temperature. Once docked we had to wait for the customs people to clear our boat which took about 3 hours, after which we took a walk and then went out to dinner at a local seafood restaurant above the marina.

We ate seafood; mussels, salmon, scallops, wine – it was a delicious dinner and the view of the harbor was fabulous. There was a couple sitting at the table next to us, and he was wearing a Lake Michigan T-shirt. We struck up a conversation with them and it turned out they had the exact same boat we do, and they sailed out of Cheboygan, Michigan! So we spent the evening chatting to them about our various sailing adventures. They are here in a camper exploring Maine. Small world!

We went to breakfast at a local diner the next morning and then bought a few odds and ends for the boat before heading home to work – me on the computer and Melanie doing laundry. I found all the boat parts we needed and had them overnighted to the marina. We did laundry, cleaned and otherwise laid around until mid afternoon when we decided to go grocery shopping. We walked into town to the small grocery store and stocked up on necessities. $200!! For a few bags of groceries, we were shocked! The prices were 200% more than what we pay back home. I guess that they can do it because they are the only game in town, but there was a lot we did not buy. We had a quick treat of ice cream, and then headed back to the boat. We ended up having dinner at the same restaurant as the night before, but we each ordered something different; clams for an appetizer, then Melanie ordered Halibut and I got a lobster dinner. Then we headed back to unwind and get ready for bed.

Next day we finished off our laundry and decided to go to into Bar Harbor. There is a bus shuttle around the island sponsored by LL Bean and it is free, so we took advantage of it and went into “Bah Ha Ba” as they call it and nosed around for the afternoon. It was quite a place, in many ways like Put-In-Bay where we spend a lot of time in the summer, only larger. We ate a late lunch in Bar harbor, seafood of course, and then came home to the boat. The weather was beautiful, sunny and close to 80, and the ride through the Acadia National Park to and from Bar Harbor was spectacular. There are smatterings of fall color here already!

Our engine parts did come, but we got home too late to do anything about it, so we stayed for a 3rd night and spent the evening watching a movie before going to bed.

Next morning we walked into town for coffee and then came back so I could fix the motor. We did some house cleaning, filled the water tanks, topped up with diesel and got a pump out and then picked up a mooring ball. A local lady docked at the marina let us use hers as there was no one on it. We were so grateful, another way God is taking care of us and helping us to save money. After installing the parts, we realized that there was still fuel leaking, so we decided to replace the entire fuel filter housing, got that ordered as well as a new water pump and spent the next few days exploring town and taking the free bus service around the island.

Every morning we walked into the village for a good cup of coffee and to chat with the locals and the tourists. Windsor is such a handsome pup – he attracts attention wherever he goes. Friday was a farmers market in town, so we went and checked it out. We chatted to the locals and picked up some goodies there. We worked on the interior boat upholstery which we had taken off the cushions to wash because of dog and wine stains and got them all assembled back together so the inside of the boat once again looks the way it should.

Saturday we took the free bus to Bar Harbor and spent the day walking around admiring the sights and talking to people. We had lunch at a restaurant called Cherrystones – seafood of course – and then headed back to Southwest Harbor. We got off at the grocery store, an IGA we had seen on the way to Bar Harbor, picked up some goodies and then walked the 2 to 3 miles home. This store although further away was much cheaper than the one in town, so we bit the bullet and walked. Once back at the boat, we turned on the Buckeye football game. We had to listen to it on the radio as there was not enough bandwidth on the wi-fi to get a decent enough connection for a TV signal.

After breakfast the next day, we walked into town and took the road around the bay to the other side opposite where we docked. There was a place called Beal’s Lobster Dock, a place where you could buy lobster right off the dock. There was a restaurant there as well, so we came back later in the day on the dinghy, wallet in hand and had a seafood lunch. Scallops, Mussels and a lobster roll, which is basically a pile of lobster meat with some mayo in a large deli bun. We really enjoyed lunch, and after relaxing on the boat for the afternoon, headed in to have a final drink at the Upper Deck prior to our departure the next day. We chatted with a couple from New Brunswick who were also cruising on an Irwin 32 – they followed a similar path as us down the coast of Nova Scotia but were about a week behind us.

We watched an episode of Midsomer Murders on Netflix before turning in and awoke the next morning to the thickest fog we’d seen yet. Our final part, the water pump arrived and we got that installed but with the fog not lifted by early afternoon, we decided to wait until Tuesday to depart to give us more time to navigate in the fog – all while dodging lobster traps. As a side note, since Port Mouton, we have had fog every day – 10 days! I think we have had our fill of fog – forever…

Tuesday morning we left early and spent the whole day weaving our way under engine power through a maze of lobster pots in dense fog. We crossed Hill Bay, weaved our way through the narrow Casco passage into the Eastern side of Jericho Bay and headed North East up Eggemoggin Reach. The fog lifted when we neared the bridge from Little Deer Island to the mainland. As we rounded the NW corner of Little Deer Island, we were greeted with a view of endless islands, both small and large, rocky and tree covered, some inhabited, some not stretching out before us. There were 3 or 4 Gaff rigged schooners and ketches slowly sailing in the light wind. We picked our way carefully through the islands and made our way into the Eastern side of Penobscot Bay where we found the narrow entrance into Pulpit Harbor on North Haven Island. We arrived around 5pm, anchored, ate dinner and then watched a movie before heading to bed. As we were entering the harbor, to our left we saw a wall of fog starting to roll in, and there was a schooner sailing through it, looking ghostly as it surfed the fog towards us. They ended up pulling in and anchoring near us in the harbor. It looked like a charter; where you pay to spend a week on the boat and you go sailing – there were about 15 to 20 people of all ages aboard.

Next morning we awoke, yes, to fog. After breakfast we motored out and set our sights on Boothbay harbor. We motor sailed as the winds were light and we wanted to make the 50 mile trip and arrive before dark. Once again we played lobster pot pinball, dodging in and out of the pots as we tried to stay on course. Once out of Penobscot Bay, the Atlantic swells greeted us again, and we were being lifted and pushed along towards our destination. The seas were confusing; there was a long, big swell from the South, presumably from Hurricane Jose, then there was a swell from the South East and one from the South West; probably a reflection off islands. This made for a rolly, rather bumpy ride, but we made good progress averaging about 6 knots. When we entered the channel headed up to Boothbay Harbor, the fog lifted and we were able to see our way in. We found a mooring ball and tied up for the evening. We toasted our arrival with a shot of sipping whisky before heading into shore to register and go out to eat. We had dinner outside, close by at a Lobster wharf; mussels, clams, scallops, cole slaw and sweet potato fries with a glass of wine. The wharf was a simple place, a counter where you pick up the food and a whole bunch of picnic benches with umbrellas – we were able to bring Windsor along and he garnered much attention. We were treated to a beautiful sunset as the sky started to clear.

Next morning we awoke to glorious sunshine – NO FOG!! Temps were in the low 60s and headed up to 75. We walked to the grocery store to pick up some supplies, and along the way passed a church where a beagle was tied on a long leash. He and Windsor played with each other for a good half hour, chasing each other around – he really needed that. We took all our damp stuff out and laid it on the deck to dry in the sun, and just enjoyed the sunny, warm day. After work we walked into town and browsed through the stores before ending up in a restaurant on the 4th floor outside for a drink. Then we walked across the bridge and headed back to the lobster wharf for more mussels and clams before heading back to the boat. We were treated to another gorgeous sunset before heading back to the boat to watch some TV before bed.

Friday was cloudy to start, but no fog thankfully – 2 days in a row! After breakfast we borrowed the courtesy car and went to the grocery to pick up some last minute supplies, then showered and did laundry before heading off to our next stop. We filled up the water tanks and said our goodbyes before heading south to Cape Cod. We left Boothbay Harbor, motored out and set sail. Swells were 10 to 15 feet with a period of 10 seconds. The wind started out around 15 knots, but dropped gradually and switched to the South East, so once again we ended up motor sailing. Near sunset the wind increased dramatically from 5-10 knots to 30 knots in about 2 minutes. Seas got very rough and confused, and the 12 to 15 ft walls of green water were gently rising and falling to before were now rapidly becoming huge breaking waves!

We decided to bail out – the waves were rolling in from the East and we were headed Southwest making us very vulnerable to being dumped by a breaking wave. We turned so the waves were pushing from behind, a far safer and more comfortable motion. We headed to shore; running with the waves the closest port was Portland Maine, so we headed there and once we had picked our way down the channel into the harbor, found a Marina and hooked up for the night. Next morning we filled up our diesel and headed out. We motor sailed all day. Winds were very light out of the South. We listened to the Buckeye game, and then towards Sunset found an anchorage in the Isles of Shoals. We tied up to a yacht club mooring ball in a sheltered bay – they said we could use it for free.

During the day the Seas had quieted down, but swells were from the East and with our direction being South, it was a very rolly ride. Next morning we awoke early and were on the water on our way by 7 a.m. Seas were almost calm with one to two foot swells and there was little to no wind. We motor sailed all day, first to Cape Ann just North of Boston, then on to Plymouth. It was a nice sunny day so we did not have to dress up in our winter gear. The sky was hazy and there was lots more boat traffic. We saw many sailboats motoring and there were Lobster fisherman and pleasure fishermen as well. We listened to our pastor’s sermon from last week which was a real treat. You don’t realize how much you miss your church family until you are away for a while.

We made good progress over a glassy sea with gently heaving swells of 1 to 2 feet. It was calm, not even a ripple of wind disturbed the sea surface. Melanie saw a HUGE whale surface but by the time I looked, all there was was a dorsal fin, a bit of back and then it was gone. She said it was easily the length of our boat! Largest animal we have seen on the trip thus far. We were able to make good time and came into Plymouth around 5:30pm and picked up a courtesy mooring ball (free) that was about a half mile from town. We dropped the dinghy off the back of the boat, motored in and walked around for a bit before heading to a restaurant for a celebratory drink and some seafood – Oysters and scallops. Then we returned home and after an episode of Midsomer Murders, turned in for the night. It was dead calm and the boat barely moved all night. It was quiet and calm and we enjoyed much needed rest.

After work on Monday we went into town and explored historical sites in Plymouth. We saw the church erected on the site of the original church from 1620, walked the cemetery and then strolled through the old part of town, picking up a good cup of coffee and some marmite and piccallili. We went down to the waterfront to Plymouth Rock and walked along the bay, eventually ending up at the Blue Eyed Crab for dinner – the same place we went the night before. After dinner we went next door to a wine bar called 1620 to sample a flight of wine each. We ended up staying until about 9; live entertainment showed up and it was open mike night, so we sat and chatted with the entertainers and thoroughly enjoyed our evening.

While we were there, lo and behold the fog rolled in again! We were one of the farthest boats out from town, so the boat wasn’t even visible to us. We left to head back and when we got to the dinghy dock the tide was out and our dinghy was hard aground. We had to drag it a good 30 or 40 ft to get it to float and then motored out gingerly through the mooring ball field out of the harbor and in the general direction we thought our boat was moored. There was a power boat coming towards us down the channel using a flashlight to try to find his way in the fog which did a god job of blinding and disorienting us a little; thank goodness our dinghy has a compass! We also saw the dim reflection of a green channel mark light flashing so we headed towards it and ran aground! I managed to push us off the sandbar with one of the oars and we once again aimed for the green mark.

I pulled up the nautical charts on my phone and realized that the mark we were aiming for was beyond our boat; we had gone too far. We turned around to head back towards the harbor and the light from the city reflecting off the fog was enough to cast a shadow of the boat on us so we found her and thankfully boarded and settled in for the night.Next time we do this I will add a waypoint into my phone marking our location so we can find it if it gets foggy when we are on shore.

Nova Scotia

Our stay at Canso was marvelous. We anchored in a cove dotted with rocky islands, our only neighbors were Loons, Seals and Cormorants. They all watched us carefully as we anchored, and the minute you looked their way the seals would duck under water – almost like a game. Some of the more curious would edge closer to get a better look, but as soon as we looked they would disappear. After our nap Melanie cooked dinner, and we had a marvelous spread consisting of grilled Mackerel, mashed potatoes and veggies. The fish didn’t look that big, but we over estimated. The Mackerel did not shrink as much as other fish do when you cook them, they were more like a Tuna, meaty and delicious. By dinner’s end we were stuffed and after cleanup we went to bed. The cove was so calm we didn’t even rock, it was heavenly and we slept hard!

Next morning after breakfast we hauled anchor and picked our way out of the cove and between the rocky islands, then headed South West towards Halifax. We had a gorgeous wind from the NE which pushed us along quite nicely. We made good ground during the day, and saw a pod of Dolphins, a few whales and numerous Gannets fishing for dinner. It was a nice sunny day and even though it was chilly in the shade, we ended up peeling off all our warm weather clothes and basking in the warm sun. Later in the afternoon the wind fizzled completely, so we motored the last 2 hours until we came to the Liscomb River where we anchored for the night.

We pulled in right at sunset; Melanie cooked Haddock and veggies for us so we could eat early around 6, and by the time we were done with eating and cleaned up, we were pulling into the mouth of the river. This too was a gorgeous spot, rocky conifer lined shores with a few houses spotted here and there. We anchored in a cove off the main channel of the river and once again had a calm, restful night. The sky was clear and the heavens were littered with stars, the Milky Way looked like it was painted it was so bright – it was truly a beautiful sight.

Next morning the sun woke us, we ate breakfast and then hauled anchor to start the day. We motored out of the river, put up the sails and started to zig-zag our way to the next stop. Winds were light, but without the chop from powerboats like we encounter on the lake, we were able to make a good 4-5 knots in under 10 knots of wind. It was from the South West, our destination, so we had to zig-zag down the shore which was littered with numerous rocky islands and shoals. Every available flat rocky space was crowded with seals, who promptly took to the water when we got too close. They would watch us from a distance, carefully noting our progress away from them until they felt it was safe to climb up and sun themselves again.

20170903_162543

Hit by a wave, my life jacket went off!

The wind gradually increased during the day until it was in the 20 knot range. We still carried full sail and were moving along nicely between 5.5 and 6.5 knots. Towards evening I looked in Active Captain and found a cove nearby called Shelter Cove. It was on an island near the mainland and got good reviews for shelter and quality of scenery. We pulled in and dropped anchor in the cove; there was a trawler anchored there already, we had seen him leave in the morning from Liscomb. We dropped anchor a respectable distance away and Melanie made some more Mackerel for us to feast on. After a filling dinner we turned in for the night.

Shelter Cove was sheltered! It was very calm and the scenery was spectacular. We shared the cove with the trawler and some campers on land, and we were far enough apart that it felt like we were alone. The goal for the following day was Halifax; we wanted to get there ahead of the next storm coming up the coast. We motored out into a calm sea with swells gently undulating under us. It felt like the ocean was breathing; up, down, up down – ever so gently. Some of the swells were quite large, 8 ft or so, but they were so far apart that you didn’t really notice. Not much wind though and with a low fuel situation, I wanted to ensure we had enough to motor into the harbor, so we raised the sails and suffered. 1.9 knots, 1.5 knots – progress was painful, but the wind backed so it was more from behind and we were in a situation where we could fly our asymmetrical spinnaker. We hauled that baby up and got it set and our speed went up from 1.5 to 5! Its amazing how it helps your downwind speed – just that and the mainsail and our speeds were almost as fast as the apparent wind at 6.5 knots. We sailed along making good progress towards Halifax, and the skies gradually clouded up in advance of the oncoming storm.

We sailed for a few hours and when we were about 15 miles from Halifax, the winds gradually died. Our speed dropped slowly; 4.5, then 4, then 3.5, then 2. So our 3 hours left to Halifax was now 6 hours and the weather was moving in. I tried to sail the boat more directly towards the harbor entrance which meant the wind was from behind – spinnaker on one side and mainsail on the other. That gave us a short boost in speed – all the way up to 3 knots, then the wind pooped even more and the sails were just flapping every time a wave passed under us. We took down the mainsail so the spinnaker was completely unblocked and that helped for a while, then the wind began to switch and it started to rain. We were now sailing away from our target, so we gybed the spinnaker, a long, painful process, and within minutes of doing that the wind came up to 10 knots and we were sailing with just the spinnaker at 7knots! We sailed into the Halifax harbor entrance until we were about 2 miles from our destination, then doused the spinnaker and fired up the engine to motor in.

We made contact with Marc, someone I met on facebook – he is part of the Cherubini group we belong to (our boat was designed by John Cherubini) and he also runs a group called Cruising Nova Scotia. He has the same model boat as us, only ours is a 79 and his is an 84. He motored out in his dinghy to meet us and guided us through the narrow channel to his mooring ball which he graciously let us use for the night. After tying up he climbed aboard and we chatted about our journey, our boats and toasted a new friendship with some Canadian Maple Whisky before turning in for the night.

We spent the next 3 days exploring the local area, land bound because of heavy unfavorable winds. The area where Marc lives is a little fishing village, and he got us a free dock with water and power behind his boat. The channel was quite narrow, so docking was a challenge, but we made it in safely and tied up and then spent the morning chatting before going out for a long walk which ended up in a dinner date. We shared a fisherman’s platter; 2 huge pieces of Haddock, 6 sea scallops and 4 huge shrimp along with chips and coleslaw. We were stuffed. After walking home we spent the evening with Marc and his girlfriend on their boat, enjoying a few drinks and getting to know them.

Next day we took a long walk on the boardwalk that runs on the shore from the village out to the beach, then we came home so I could work, and after dinner we entertained Marc and Elsie on our boat. It was his birthday; he was born the day before me in the Congo in 1959, so he is a day older. After they left, we listened to the Buckeye game on the radio before turning in.

Next day Marc ran me out to the Yacht Store (yachtshop.ca), and I hate to say it – they put West Marine to shame! Sailors take note – they have an online store and they ship to the US, orders over $99 have free shipping. It was cold and windy (30+) so we delayed our departure date until Sunday, and laid around watching movies all afternoon.

Sunday morning we rose early, took care of business and said our goodbyes. It was a calm, sunny day and we motored north into Halifax bay and around McNab Island to the Royal Nova Scotia yacht club for a pump out. WOW – there were some seriously large boats there, we felt quite puny in our 37 ft “dinghy”. There was a sailboat from Rhode Island there – every bit of 70 ft – this was the wealthy yacht club of Halifax for sure. We motored out of the channel and hoisted the sails, tacking back and forth into a South wind to get out of the harbor. Marc told us of a short cut – it was a well marked channel so we took it – and it saved us a good 2 hours given the wind direction. We were initially headed towards Lunenberg, but decided after looking at the weather forecast to try and go as far as we could, so we changed course and headed towards the Lahave River area. The wind gradually increased until we were in 20-25 knots, but we were on a close to beam reach (90 degrees from the front) so it was not too uncomfortable. The odd swell would hit you wrong and bounce you around a bit but we were able to hold speeds between 6.5 and 8 knots.

We arrived in Lahave and given the wind direction, anchored between 2 islands so they would block the wind and waves. To a large extent they did, but wrap around swells made sleeping that night rather uncomfortable until the wind switched to the south west. Right after sunset the clouds opened and it poured for a good few hours before letting up – we were thankful to be inside out of the weather.

Next morning we awoke, and after breakfast decided to move the boat into the lee of a larger island that would give us calmer water. We stayed in this area 2 nights because there was a gale warning issued and they weren’t kidding. We saw winds around 45mph, so moving the boat to a calmer spot was a good idea. Although we could hear the wind howling through the rigging all day, a soft moan that got a lot louder when the gusts hit, the water was very calm and so we enjoyed a sheltered day and night. I worked and we caught up on correspondence with family and friends. The sun did peek out and warm things up a little as well, so that helped raise our spirits.

One thing I do know, day after day after day of heavy unfavorable winds really wears you down, especially when its cloudy and cold. You have nowhere to go. You can’t go back to the dock which is now almost 1900 nm away, you just have to endure and hope that the next passage doesn’t beat you up too much and that the anchorage is sheltered enough that you will be able to rest. I do hate motoring, so some nice, warm trade winds in the 15 to 20 knot range would be great! Since leaving Quebec city, we have had very little in the way of that type of wind, for the most part it has been 20-30 and from forward of the beam, which makes for a pretty rough ride. Leaving Perce and leaving Canso we had a few hours of that type of breeze, but it has howled the rest of the time we were on the water. Nova Scotia is definitely WINDY!

And so, after watching a few DVDs on day one of our stay in Lahave River (we are going through “The Bible” series), and enjoying some sunshine in the late afternoon with mildly moderating winds in the low 20s, we turned in for the night. Our anchor spot was a good choice, the wind did come up again during the night and by morning it was howling at 30-35 again and the rigging was moaning in response, only this time we had fog and visibility was around a half mile! The waters were calm and protected in our chosen spot so we slept well, but once again we were held by the weather. Even the short distance (150 meters) between us and the shore was long enough to generate whitecaps. Our Destination is to the South West and the wind was 25-35 knots (30-40mph, or 48-65kmh) out of, you guessed it, the South West. So prudence reigned and we sat for another day in our sheltered anchorage. Sometime around late afternoon the previous day, we had a visitor. A C&C 30 sailboat pulled up behind us and anchored as well, we’re not sure where they came from but I am sure they were hiding from the weather as well.

The weather lived up to its billing, the fog burned off eventually, but the wind moaned and howled through the rigging all day long. After work we watched another movie and then turned in for the night. The wind did moderate, and in the morning we woke to 10 knot winds with pea-soup fog. This was the first time we had seen fog this trip. It was THICK!! We hauled anchor and motored out, measuring against a buoy on the chart how far we could see – our visibility was less than 300ft! Very disorienting as everywhere you looked was just bright white.

We motored out of the cove into a gently rolling swell; 6-8 ft swells about 150 ft apart, the left overs from the previous day’s gale. We put up sail and were able to make between 4 and 5 knots straight down the coast. The wind gradually faded away and the fog cleared out in the ocean; we were about 5 miles from shore. We had some bright sun but land was shrouded in a thick layer of fog. We reluctantly fired up the motor and started motoring. About 2 hours into our trip, the wind came up again, a solid 15-20 and close hauled we were able to make our mark for the next evening. We hoisted the sails and killed the motor and got in a good 4-5 hours of quality sailing. The wind however gradually shifted in the span of a half hour until we were headed almost perpendicular to our next stop, so we tacked and within 5 minutes of that we were headed back in the opposite direction away from our destination! Sails in, motor on. We motored the last hour or so and the fog rolled back in again with visibility around 200ft.

Right as we were coming into the cove we got a couple of warm gusts of air off the shore and the fog lifted so we could see where we were headed. We slowly motored into the anchorage and dropped anchor at Carters Beach outside Port Mouton. It is known as the Bahamas of Nova Scotia and I can see why! The beach was creamy white sand and the water was that famous Bahamas Azure color. We anchored in about 20ft of calm, glassy water and I saw the anchor on the bottom – that’s how clear the water was! After setting the anchor, we dropped the dinghy in the water and motored in to the beach so that Windsor could stretch his legs. The sand was like flour; soft, white fine grains – warmed by the sun – it felt good to be in shorts and not dressed up like Shackleton!

After a good spell on the beach we came back to the boat around sunset and soon after that, the fog rolled in again, so we closed up the boat to keep the humidity out and were able to watch a DVD movie before turning in for the night. Next morning we woke – to dense fog and a howling wind as forecast. Winds were 25-35 knots which for us was good as we had issues with the batteries being charged. Our batteries had run down low enough that we had to hand crank the engine to start it! Turns out the controller which converts the electricity from the solar panels and the wind generator into power to charge the batteries was not working properly. The charging port was actually discharging the batteries! With the howling winds our batteries went from 13V down to 10.9V! There are direct power connections on the controller, so I hooked the batteries up to one of them and now our solar and wind are actually charging! The bad thing is I have to monitor the batteries to ensure that the direct connection does not overcharge them; I will have to disconnect the controller when they do get full. One thing we will have to replace in Norfolk I guess.

We went in to the beach to take Windsor for a walk after breakfast, and were able to refill our water jugs courtesy of a kind lady who saw our boat anchored in front of her beach front home. I came back and worked while the latest gale howled itself out during the course of the day. The fog lifted a bit in the late morning, but rain moved in so we were cooped up below while the wind shrieked and howled through the rigging all day. Late that night the wind finally blew itself out and after taking a walk on the beach the next morning, we hauled anchor and headed out. In thick fog. We rounded a huge island that we couldn’t see and the fog then lifted for just a minute or two. There was a fishing boat aground on the point of the island about 10 ft above the water, a sobering sight. Then the fog closed in again. We motored to Lockporte about 20 miles away and when we were about an hour from our destination, the fog lifted so we could see our way in.

We fueled up, then motored out towards Brazil Rock on the South West corner of Nova Scotia. The wind was in our face, so no sailing, just motoring. The fog closed in once again about 10 miles from the rock, and that is where things got strange. We saw a sailboat on our plotter, and it looked like it was going around in circles. We thought perhaps there was a mechanical issue or worse yet, a man or pet overboard. We hailed them on the radio and there was no answer. We decided to investigate as they were about 10 miles offshore and if in trouble, we knoew they would appreciate the help. After unsuccessfully trying to contact them, we hailed the coastguard and told them the situation. They tried hailing them too without success. As we crept closer the boat started to move away from us, always remaining about a half mile away. This of course is happening in fog with about 100 yards of visibility.

After chasing them for a while, we hailed the coastguard and they told us to continue on our way, so we headed towards Brazil Rock again, and the other boat did too – converging courses. At one point we saw them briefly as they cut in front of us about 1/8 mile ahead of us, then they sailed parallel to us for about a half hour, just out of sight in the fog, every once in a while coming towards us, then swinging away. Almost like drunken sailing. We hailed the coastguard twice more to report in what was occurring, as we were a little wary. Then they dropped behind us and followed about a mile behind for a good 2 hours, and then slowly they dropped off our screen. We turned to the Northwest towards the coast of Maine, and they went Southwest. We were actually relieved, I had visions of piracy flitting through my head.

The night was calm, no wind but large heaving gentle swells lifted the boat as we motored through the fog. Next morning it was still foggy, and the wind was still a no-show. Late morning the fog lifted temporarily and then the wind came up for a short while. Then our trouble began. We smelled diesel and sure enough, the fuel filter housing on the engine was leaking diesel. We stopped the engine and drifted around for a half hour or so while I repaired the problem. We had the issue previously and I thought I had it fixed. So I did the same thing again. We started up the motor and no leak, so off we went.

An hour later, diesel smell, same thing. So I tried tightening the seal. We motored for about a half hour and then realized it was still leaking. Our filter was clogged so I thought it could be pressure buildup and I took the fuel filter out. Then I made the mistake of starting the engine before filling the fuel bowl with diesel, so I spent a half hour bleeding the lines to get going again, then realized that the leak was still occurring. We were about 50 miles from Maine, and once again stopped in the water. I took the fuel filter housing off and flipped the O-ring over. Then I greased it with vaseline. Still no luck. After motoring for about an hour, the fan belt wheel for the water pump fell off! Stop engine. Fix that. Start engine – now the leak was getting pretty bad, so we stuck a pot under the engine to catch the leaking diesel to help us figure out how bad the leak really was. We figured it was leaking about 3 gallons an hour, which would have run us out of fuel about 20 miles from shore.

The fog lifted thankfully and we could see storm clouds over the Maine coastline. So, I drove while dodging lobster pots, and Melanie caught diesel in the pot and used that to fill a bucket. Once we had a gallon, she would pass it up, we would stop, I would pour it into the tank and then we would be on our way again. We did that for 6 hours until we hit the 100ft water depth. Then the lobster pots got VERY thick – and we both had to be up, one to drive and one to spot pots. We made our way up a channel and anchored in the lee of the Cranberry Islands around 3am, exhausted but we made it. The boat stunk of diesel and we both had headaches from the fumes. We slept like babies and woke to a beautiful view the next morning; sunny with a cool breeze. Back in the USA and glad to be “home”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gannets And More…

Ile Bonaventure is home to thousands upon thousands of beautiful gannets, large, white, graceful seabirds with buttery yellow heads and black outlined eyes that live in huge colonies on the steep, rusty red crags of 200 foot cliffs that line the edges of the island. Their long pointed white wings, tipped with jet black as if dipped into an ink well, flap effortlessly above the sea and then collapse against their bodies as they nose dive straight down into the water to grab an unsuspecting fish for dinner. Now image, not one gannet but 30 or more of them hovering nearby your sailboat and on some silent cue, all plunge into the water together. That is how it happened all around us as we very slowly sailed around the east and south sides of the island. Hundreds of gannets drifted on the water, dotted the sky and blanketed the cliff tops. My thoughts immediately went to my dear bird watching friends and how they would have loved to witness what we were privileged to see.

We continued on, heading south, and Bonaventure, in all of her living splendour, gradually slipped below the horizon. The both of us relaxed in the cockpit with Auto the pilot at the helm. Winds were light out of the northwest with following seas making for a gentle sail onward, thus reassuring us that our decision to do an overnight passage of 160 nautical miles to Summerside, PEI, was reasonable. Because my watch would be from 6:30pm to midnight or 1 am, I went below to nap for 4 hours. During that time, the wind had gradually shifted to close hauled 10 to 15 knots and waves were 2 to 3 feet. When I took over the helm, we were still under full sail and husband went below for his nap. By 9 pm, winds had slowly increased to 20 knots and waves were now 5 feet. At 10:30, I struggled to roll up the Yankee head sail so he came up and helped me and from there on things deteriorated. By midnight, winds were a steady 25 knots and hitting us on the bow.

20170818_132300

Before the storm…

We shifted watches and I went below knowing this was going to be a rough night and I would never get to sleep with the intensity of the wind and waves. I was right! I joined husband on deck very early in the a.m. to find him braced at the helm, battling 30 knot winds with gusts up near 40 and 10 foot waves, some hitting us from 3 different directions. Waves broke continuously over the bow so fiercely that we were doused repeatedly with gallons of cold salty seawater. The hours rolled by so slowly as did Southern Cross. In early morning’s light, the west shore of Prince Edward Island gradually rose out of the water and hoping to seek smaller waves, we headed in her direction.

It became necessary to motor sail as we made no progress in the heavy chop wrapping around the island, thus our beating journey continued and then, just to add a little more discomfort to our situation, it started to rain. I laughed when husband said, “it may as well snow.” The prospects of reaching Summerside by early evening dimmed as 40 nautical miles lay between us and our destination and sailing in darkness was out of the question. I did not have 40nm’s of energy left in me nor did he as we were already awake over 24 hours, exhausted, weather beaten, sopping wet to the skin, shivering and very hungry, a dangerous combination for levelheaded decision making.

He had heard of a Shediac Bay Marina west of our location on the shores of New Brunswick and according to our chart, it was only 19nm’s away. With the sun setting now, he attempted to radio the marina several times but with no response. The last evidence of sunset was fading in the western sky as we continued heading towards this unknown Shediac Bay and finally in my frustration, I got on channel 16 and announced that “this is the sailing vessel, Southern Cross. we are 4nm’s from Shediac Bay, we are seeking safe harbor anywhere close. Can anyone out there give us information where we can find dockage?” Almost instantly, a woman’s voice came over the radio from the Canadian Coast Guard.

She asked all the standard safety questions, how many on board? wearing lifejackets? any medical emergency? our location? I answered and she replied, “Stand by.” I was very grateful for her assistance because she found the marina on the chart, called them, told them our situation, gave us the phone number and stayed with us on the radio until we were in contact with Shediac Yacht Club. A BIG shout out to the Coast Guard is in order. The channel into the bay was long and convoluted and hadn’t it been for the very patient, instructive voice on the other end of the radio guiding us past every red buoy, I’m sure we would have gone aground. The bright lights of the marina were now before us and seeing so many eager helping hands at our assigned slip made me certain that all radios were listening in to our stressed broadcasts. So nice to be on land, I thought. We stayed 2 nights with some of the most hospitable fellow sailors at that club. They drove us to the grocery store, invited us to a special regatta dinner at the club and even gave us a bottle of champagne when we left. Met many wonderful people who share the love of sailing. We left for Summerside after many heartfelt goodbyes and promises to keep in touch.

After a good night’s sleep we readied the boat for departure. We had to reposition the dinghy in the davits as it had been dislodged in the storm, so we did that along with a few small repairs. Once our laundry was done we cast off and went down to the pumpout station, then picked our way back down the channel to the sea and set a course for our original destination, Summerside on PEI. There was a 10 knot breeze from the SW, so it was pretty much a dead run. We put up the spinnaker and sailed for a few hours at between 3.5 and 5 knots until the wind died. Begrudgingly we turned on the engine, lowered the spinnaker and motor sailed the rest of the way. A flood tide gave us quite a good push as did the wind, which came up again so we killed the engine and sailed at between 6 and 8 knots the rest of the way, dropping our sails at the start of the channel into the marina and then motoring in. We stayed at the Silver Fox Sailing and Curling Club – a marina in the summer and a Curling venue in the winter.

After checking in we sat at the bar and had a few Irish coffees to unwind while we chatted with the bartender. He took us back to show us the Curling rink and found a practice stone for us to look at – they weigh 35 pounds! We got to see all the tools of the trade but it was dark and we could not see everything clearly, so we decided to return during daylight hours the following day. We went to bed.

Our dock is right at the wall where the Silver Fox restaurant is located. It is open to the public for lunch and dinner, so we had a few people walk by and ask us questions about the boat, where we are from and where we are headed, our dinghy caught some people’s eyes as well and they had questions about it. We met some very nice people during the day and then at lunch, Phil Hamlin’s wife Pauline came to the marina and met us. She works in the building right next to the club and could see our boat from her office.We met Phil in Columbus at the Polaris Grill. He is a rep for a company and lives in PEI, so we exchanged information and contacted him when we arrived in Summerside where they live.

After work, they picked us up and took us on a quick tour of the PEI countryside and then took us out to dinner. It is beautiful! The north side of the island is scoured with huge inlets and bays that are very shallow and inaccessible to sailboats, but are used by the local fishing fleets. Many of these areas contain Mussel farms, as they are shallow and easily tended. We drove through the beautiful rolling countryside, past the huge Malpeque Bay inlet (Oyster capital of the world) and up along the North coast of PEI – its very rural and there are no highways. We stopped at one of the golf courses at the top of a hill – it felt like we were on the highest spot on the island – with a beautiful view out over towards the ocean and we ate dinner there. One thing I noticed – no geese on the course, but they had seagulls instead – lots of them. We had the obligatory PEI mussels and we both had Haddock with Capers and shared a bottle of Malbec with Phil and Pauline. It was a wonderful dinner. Then they took us back to the boat through the town of Summerside so we could see the commercial side of it as well, then dropped us off at the boat. We made new friends that night and will always be grateful for their kindness and generosity – thank you!

Next morning we were scheduled to depart for Charlottetown, the capital of PEI. During the night the winds came up and by morning it was blowing 30. I went outside and took down our dressing flags before the wind shredded them, and we decided to stay an extra day and wait for the winds to abate. Good thing we did! Although it was still reasonably warm (low 70s), the wind howled all day and then rain moved in, so it would have been a miserable trip.

We went out to dinner with Pauline at the club restaurant that evening and enjoyed a great seafood dinner. Then we went home with Pauline and Phil and chatted for a while over tea and dessert before heading back to the boat for the night.

Next morning we headed out after chores into a rapidly dying wind from the SE – it was supposed to be SW. So we ended up motoring all day AGAIN – at first against a 2 knot current until we passed under the bridge, and then we were helped by a 1 knot current going East. We spent the whole day dodging lobster pots, some of them had looooong leader lines with polypropylene line that floated (illegal btw) and actually managed to get one of those wrapped around the rudder. A quick 180 to head back the way we came, along with some coaxing from the boathook managed to dislodge it. I was this close to cutting the line out of frustration. Its bad enough you have to dodge the pots, but when they put a 200ft line on a pot in 40 ft of water that is ridiculous and dangerous. Apparently some unscrupulous fishermen do it to prevent others from putting their pots near them. With the current and the lack of wind we ended up reaching Charlottetown just after sunset.

We stayed at the Ch’town marina which had the “best” rating of the local marinas. It was disappointing however. Not clean, sparse services and in general not a good place to stay especially considering it was the most expensive marina we have stayed at yet on this trip! The local boaters however were very nice and friendly. After work the next day we had lunch at the restaurant on the marina – lunch consisted of a 3 pound bucket of mussels. We explored the town next afternoon, walking around and soaking in the local culture. The main downtown area is quite small – the town is only about 30,000 people, so a long afternoon walk covered prettty much the whole area.

It is dotted with churches and other old buildings and was quite pleasant to stroll around. It is high tourist season so things were quite busy. We came back to the boat and did some chores before eating a light dinner and then we started chatting to some of the local boat owners. That turned into a challenge and Melanie who has never touched a live fish in her life got a quick lesson on how to clean a fish. They had been catching Mackerel off their boat that day, so Jerry taught her how to clean it and then gave us about 20 which she did and then he wrapped them for us to take, so now we have a freezer full of fish!

The following day we left around noon. There was a nice breeze out of the SW which was favorable for us to head East. Half a mile out and we realized we had forgotten to buy ice, so we turned around and headed back in to pick some up. Then we started again, and motored out of the Charlottetown area and into the channel where we killed the engine and sailed. The wind was a little shifty, and it jumped around a little before fizzling out entirely. We decided earlier that based on the favorable wind forecast, we would attempt to sail through the night and try to get to Canso. So Melanie went down below and I took the first watch. After switching to the North and dying completely, the wind gradually filled in until we had a good 7-10 knot wind from the North and once again we were close hauled.

The wind direction stayed steady but the wind came and went. Sometimes we had a great breeze and then it would fizzle, not that we were concerned because it was a long night, but by dinner we were approaching the Wood Islands which was the last bail out point on PEI. The wind had filled in nicely so we continued. I went below and tried to sleep, but the wind came up as usual and rest down below was scarce. We were bouncing around quite a bit. At 11pm I came up and helped Melanie roll up the Yankee as the winds were now 20. It was hard to go back to sleep again, so we chatted for a while and then she went to bed and I stood watch. The wind fizzled and for a while we were rolling around quite a bit before it came up again. Around sunrise we were coming out of the large bay at the North end of the straits of Canso, having sailed all night and the wind finally fizzled completely, not to reappear. The last 2 miles to the lock were under power. We passed through quite quickly and ended up motor sailing the rest of the way to Canso, where we anchored for the night.

Our first impressions of Nova Scotia were quite favorable. The land is very unspoiled; lots of life up here, but you have to be self sufficient. It is beautiful, reminds us both a lot of the wilderness in Alaska. Seals spy hopped and watched our progress down the strait and into the Atlantic. Whales were feeding as they cruised by and then slipped below the water to escape our eyes. Islands, both large and small, all very rocky, dotted the landscape. And best of all the sun was out, so we gradually peeled off our foulies during the day until we were in shorts again. It was a nice relaxing day. After motoring past the quaint little town of Canso, we headed into a sheltered bay among some rocky islands and there we dropped the anchor for the night. Then we napped for a few hours to catch up on sleep before waking up in the late afternoon to prepare dinner.