Wednesday, 3 August 2016

East and North and South and....

Dingwall and North

With a favourable forecast we, sadly, left Dingwall early Sun June 16. Though initially we made reasonable progress although a tad hairy off the northern end of Cape Breton as the winds came down off the hills some 3 miles away and exceeded 40 knots. But on we romped, the wind was good, the temperatures cold as we headed for the Belle Isle Strait area. The second day, of course, the winds eased dramatically and we covered 40 miles in the 24 hour, noon to noon, period. As yet another forecasted 25 knots failed to appear we opted to motor the12 miles back to St Barbe on the Nwfld coast. Soon after it came in and stupidly we bashed on rather than use it to get further north to Red Bay. The following day we made that journey and crept in around 6pm to be greeted by Mervyn, who has been greeting us for the last, who knows how many years. The community gets smaller, the school now has about 8 kids……

For the first time that we can remember we encountered ice inside the harbour - a ‘berg had grounded and broken up either side of the entrance channel. When we left, early the following morning, a large section had drifted across the channel to ground itself on the other side. Plenty of big ‘bergs outside, as there were last year. The day began bright and sunny, enough to lure us away from the dock, but rapidly went downhill with thick fog. The winds were still strong and though heavily reefed we were still moving quickly. Radar and eyes strained to detect stuff but nothing was”visible” although, having messed with the ground on the radar we were now only getting a 3 mile signal so stuff may well have been out there. As we found out when the sun made an appearance in the late afternoon. Huge ‘bergs seemed to be everywhere although the biggest surprise was the sight of another yacht heading in the same direction. Eventually Francis B hailed us, having recognised the boat, despite the sail colour change. They were bound for Fox Hbr, which we’d toyed with but thought the 3 day SW’s might be a great start. When the wind suddenly switched to the north then north east we gave up and motored to join them.

On again the following day, Sat 25 June. Little wind but we hoped to get clear of as much ice as possible in daylight…. A number of mistakes were made! The log shows poor speeds, until we’d been out 50 plus hours and we didn’t cover much. We also heard a vhf conversation between two ships where one warned the other to stay east of a position as the ice to the west was very hard. The position was close enough, I felt, to our route for me to keep to the east of our rhumb line. In the end it worked against us as the wind veered from NW to N and we were now heading toward the Cape Farewell area. True it was some days away but as the hours went by and we rattled along at a good rate  I became increasingly concerned. Long time readers may recall the beating we took around this area when we returned in 2005, a beating that has remained etched into my mind. In the end this is just an excuse of course as the decision was made to abandon trying to head through the PCS (much to Bee’s utter despair) and head south of east to give Farewell a wide berth. The winds treated us kindly to begin with but a day’s run of 29 nm was recorded. Still, although slow, we were making progress toward Reykjavik a little over 600 miles away. The stiff NW’s kept us moving, albeit a little south of the rhumb but all was good. As ever, with us, we have trouble getting weather info…Bee had done a great job picking up stuff from Canada on the ssb but it was becoming less relevant as we had turned the southern tip and were out of their area. We had no success with Iceland or Greenland and I have never have been able to persuade weather fax to appear on the laptop. So we did what we always do, look at the barometer and read Alan Watts “Instant Weather Forecasting” However we did remember a snippet from the Canadians which indicated stiff easterlies(!!) coming on Tuesday. And they did. Initially we were able to make use of them and make some northing to get above 60N but as wind speeds hit between 30-40knots we surrendered and hove to, under reefed main for what we hoped would be a short time. As our course was taking us inextricably toward Scoresby Sound and the ever attendant ice we changed tack and drifted south. Not the worst sea conditions we’ve been in by a long way but the dreariness of the sky, a dull, dripping grey with poor visibility made worse by the patchy fog had a demoralising impact on us both. and our moods matched the bleak greyness. We remained hove to, checking the sky, childish hoping/imagining/wishing that we were seeing signs of improvement. And we did…blue sky sometimes briefly made itself known only to be snuffed out by the relentless grey ”wallpaper” we were covered by. We read up on what we could, deciding in the end that whatever it was had stalled and no change would be possible for some time. The wind, somewhere between E and NE favoured a southerly escape rather than a northerly one and so here we are; 3 days into a grey, sapping mire than shows little intention of easing. The winds remain resolutely out of the eastern quadrant, the direction we want to go of course, and whilst they eased from the 25-30+knots the seas remain lumpy. Our course wanders between SE and S, whereas our temporary destination lies firmly East. We’re hoping that we might soon, within the next 48 hours, pick up favourable westerlies and a little sunshine would be very welcome too.

Aboard, life continues although we’re both pretty fed up about things, weather wise. At the height of the blow when winds were consistently between 35 and 40 knots, the bitter end of the outhaul on the traveler came free and wrapped itself around the bobstay. This is the line that enables us to drag the jib to the end of the bowsprit from the safety of the deck so without it life was going to get harder. As the seas were still running hard we delayed tackling the job until things looked safer. It meant lying on the foredeck, armed with a boat hook and laboriously trying to persuade the line to reverse its tangling. Easier said of course as the waves seemed to recognise a bit of sport a periodically leapt onto the deck burying parts of me in water. The last part we left for a calmer day as it would require one of sliding out on the bowsprit to untangle the mess. Bee wanted to do that bit and today we duly suited up, roped her into a harness, attaching same to the jib halyard and away she went. She had discovered how to make the vids with our camera and I clung with one hand to the halyard, I filmed with the other. It took her about a minute to sort it out and we were both glad we’d allowed the seas to moderate and we’d done the thing first thing this morning as the seas are running again.

Mon 11 July

We continued heading SE for far too long, not that we had any choice in the matter as it wasn’t until 4am yesterday (Sunday) that the winds finally moved, reluctantly, into a westerly element. Finally we were able to make a more easterly course, albeit toward the SW tip of Ireland. With the change came a brightening of the weather, if not our mood, and blue pushed aside the awful grey that has dominated. Much, much worse than the last northerly crossing we did for sure. Toward the afternoon the winds backed a little more and we set a course for Barra in the Outer Hebrides, still a good 750nm away. When the winds eased yesterday we ran with more sail but reefed down again for the night. Hannah seems to run best with a quartering breeze under a double reefed main, stays’l and working jib, remaining, for the most part balanced allowing the steerer to cope. Speeds remain good, the last 5 days have all been above 100nm. As I write we’re bowling along at well over 6 knots….

The seas have been a frustrating combination. A long, loping swell usually out of the N or NE, battles with the normal wind-driven wave train meaning we sometimes get hit beam on by a great lumpy wave. Most are harmless but sometimes a larger version hits and we’re knocked over, lee deck under water and the sound of heavy spray and water tumbling across the windward deck.The swells are running at around 3m (10’) so are a real nuisance and we run at a less than optimum course in order to retain some comfort aboard but it remains a life at an angle. I’ve spoken of the “Air Only Vents” before but they really are a wonderful piece of engineering. Despite the lee rail being under, or when the bowsprit gets buried, either way we can get a torrent of water coursing across the deck in search of mischief, the vent lives up to it’s name. No matter what the conditions outside we’ve always been getting air in whereas when we fitted dories we’d remove the cowls and shut them off. If you still want to keep your dorades these little gems will fit inside giving you the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for a solution to ventilation try looking up this company.

Sat 16 July Under 200nm to Castlebay, Barra.

Been a rolly week as we continued east. Stiff winds have been the order of the week, mostly off the beam forcing to heave to once again just to escape the madness. we’ve begun to see ships and able to get weather info from them. One informed us we would be getting SE9 the following day, a prospect, as you might imagine we found less than appealing. We rang off and began to contemplate to what we might do. Obviously heave to but we’d need to keep going as long as possible…. A few minutes later the guy rang back to apologise. They were travelling SW at 300nm a day and the forecast was for them not us. He kindly read out the correct one, wished us safe onward passage and rang off. Not only were we spared an unpleasant bit of weather but the new weather was favourable for our course. And apart from the southerly that had us heaving to it has remained so all week. On top of this we’ve had hours at a time of blue sky and sun and three days ago we picked up the BBC Shipping Forecast via the ssb. Once again the lilting melody “Sailing By” wafted into the saloon, admittedly very crackly, but welcome all the same. Our approach to sea area “Rockall” was in a stiff W5-7 with gusting 8. It took a little time to get the steerer to cope with the seas that built up but we knocked off 130nm and today’s forecast of a repeat wind strength has been a little more muted. The seas remain lumpy and confused of course, occasionally hitting the beam or quarter, shoving our stern sideways and lifting the speed from 6 knots to 7.5k and even 8.5 at times

Thur 21 July.

The journey ended with a whimper as we ran out of wind about 20 miles from Barra and the ebbing tide wanted us closer to the shore than we wanted so we motored to an anchorage. Thick fog accompanied us of course and the radar resolutely refused to produce a signal. We’d already opted to go for Vatersay rather than Castlebay as it would be less crowded. We crept in slowly although it’s a wide enough bay free or almost so of much danger. We checked we were where the chart was saying we were by testing actual depths against the chart, picking up the 10 metre contour and slowly made our way in. Dimly through the murk could be seen the shapes of boats and beyond the glow of lights from a small village. About 2am the anchor dropped into 10 metres, we dug ourselves in, went below lit the fire and poured a stiff drink and luxuriated in the notable lack of motion. Toots climbed onto the table, stretched out in front of the fire and went to sleep.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Departures and engines......

As April morphed into May and last minute jobs were completed we began checking the weather for a window to cross the Gulf. A forecast for West 25 - 30 looked promising and the following few days would be helpful too and so a date was set. We rushed up to NE Harbour by car rather than sail to see Phil and Helen, met a last few interesting people on the dock and finally slipped our lines early one morning for Pulpit Hbr. 
Martha and Patsy's Traveling sweater

We've always tried to find a quiet place to head out from as it gives us time to get our heads together plus allows us a small shakedown to get us into the rhythm. This time with a stiff head wind we opted to motor much of the 20 miles to make sure all was well with the engine. And it was. Or at least until the last 4 miles when it cut out minutes after we had slipped through a narrow gap between a couple of rocky islands. As we had sail up we simply carried on sailing and once clear had a quick go at starting it. Of course it started but this was beginning to be more than frustrating. We sailed into Pulpit, with the engine ticking over until we needed it to back down on the anchor. It performed without a hitch. Hmmm. 
As we'd been ticking over for a while I revved it hard to clear the "tubes" and on the final rev it cut out. Ordinarily we would have abandoned the trip across, returned to Belfast and sorted the problem out but the weather window and the chance of getting delayed beyond our May 31st deadline decided us and the following morning we left Pulpit for Lunenburg. As we hadn't sailed anywhere for 5 months or so we reefed right down and then decided to use the trys'l anyway as with the 30 knots forecast we would still maintain good speeds without needing to worry about a preventer on the boom. In the event the wind speeds were more like 20 than 30 and within a few hours we'd changed to the main and soon removed a reef as the winds eased even more. The trip across was uneventful other than dodging lobster pots which continued until about 20 miles from the border between the US and Canada. As we crossed we began to get our towing generator ready to deploy but found ourselves coming across Canadian lobster pots and gave up on the task as a 50metre line with a small prop on the end is bound to become entangled and get wrecked.

Cape Sable is always difficult to get right when coming from any distance away and this time had us arriving as the tide turned against us. We were far enough out, about 15 miles, to miss the worst of it but as it turns favourable earlier closer in it you can't stay too far off. Of course the wind died or at least became very light and we resorted to hand steering in an effort to squeeze more miles and make Lunenburg at a reasonable time.  At one point with Hannah bowling along at 6 knots we seemed to be on target for an early morning arrival but it never lasts of course. By the time we got within 20 miles of our destination it was late afternoon and the wind finally gave up and our speed dropped to 0.7 k and we switched the engine on. Of course nothing happened. Before we got to work on it we called the Coast Guard to see if we could get the OK to anchor in a nearby bay rather than try to work our up to Lunenburg. After taking all the usual details the CG patched us through to the Customs and Immigration. They weren't too taken with the idea and asked us to notify them, via the CG, when we were anchored. Rather than mess with filters etc we just stuck a pipe into a jerry can leading it to the lift pump and dropped the return hose into the same can. Engine fired up, ran successfully and we started, slowly, for Lunenburg arriving about 11pm after Bee had done an amazing job spotting the local lobster pots in the dark. Even with our full keel we still get twichy about snagging these things so anyone with a fin keel and exposed prop must be having palpitations.  

Still into Lunenburg we steamed, dark of course apart from all the town lights and we motored slowly up and down not quite believing that the town has not yet put out any jetty's for visitors to lie alongside. Not normally a problem for us as we anchor but the Customs guy's want us to tie up on the Government Wharf when they inspect us. Except that wharf is out of bounds as they're renovating...... after an hour we give up, not even the marina has a jetty out and we drop anchor, call the CG, get patched through to Customs and are told to ring again in the morning. We do, via Skype, and explain everything for the third time. We can see an empty wharf we can tie to but it will mean the Customs guy's climbing down a ladder to get to the boat. The voice on the telephone says fine, go there immediately as the officers are on their way. We motor over, get alongside and have some irate ticket seller for the charter boats come rushing over to say we can't tie up there. We do as we figure the Customs and Immigration trump a local misdemeanor. 10 minutes later they're with us. They look down 8 feet to where Hannah sits. "Can't we get the boat closer by removing the fenders" - we demur but offer to drag the stern closer by easing the bow. They agree and we comply but the number of ropes going everywhichway leaves them all a little uneasy. In fairness to them they were all pretty big guys bulked out with flak jackets and an assortment of matt black "weapons" dangling from their waists. In the end we were told to bring all our docs and come ashore and they'd interview us there. All civil and reasonably good natured and then we were free to go. A quick check around town, and then off to see John and Phyllis and get the engine sorted. 
We began by removing the hoses that feed the filters from the tank. Although we used a pump to blast air through little came out but poking a wire through revealed a fair bit of crud. Part of the system is copper tubing and a closer look at this revealed it was going an unhealthy shade of pink and that was cut and removed. The worst part was in the ball valve which turns the fuel on and off. Bee discovered a large amount of crud in there and we decided to scrap the lot and replace. The hose, barbs and shut off valve were duly delivered and eventually the job was done. We had intended to install an old Racor filter we had but couldn't cleanly work it into the system and ended up installing it into the hand pump we use to fill the tank from the jerry cans. This enables us to fill the tank at sea without opening the fuel filler cap. The jugs are in a cockpit locker, the end of the hose is inserted, the bulb squeezed a few times and fuel flows into the tank. Now it has it's own filter (which has been lying around since our Taylor's Cooker days).
We went out to test everything, running the engine at 2000 revs and gradually increasing for long periods of time, even hitting 2800 (our maximum) and all without a murmur  or complaint. Back on the buoy we did the oil change, changed an impeller and are ready to go. But the weather isn't. A brief period of SW, followed by a long period of head winds leave us unwilling to head off. We ponder, mull, look at charts, wonder how much we're gaining by moving up the coast to Cape Breton and, for the moment, think we'll head for Iceland from here saving ourselves a detour around the Grand Banks. 

We "amuse" ourselves by helping out on Morgan's Cloud or painting over at Steve and Marilyn's. The work on MC is simply stripping and cleaning winches. The small ones, about the size of our largest, are easy and quick to work on. Not so the huge (to us) #65 which are complex and heavy. In total they have 13 winches but only two headsails whereas we have two winches and a possible 7 or 8 headsails.

We took a day off and went sailing, something we rarely do. Day sails I mean. Not much wind but pleasant enough as we sailed quietly amongst the islands north of here. A few lobster boats gathering in their traps as the season would end in a few days but essentially the waters were ours. We had to motor at one stage as the wind was blanketed by an island but once clear we had a great beat back toward the mooring. It may be our imagination but since we had the new sail the boat slips along much better in very light winds and for the first time ever we have found ourselves pointing closer to the wind. OK there were no waves to knock us about but we were 10-15 degrees closer than we have ever been before.

For much of the time we spent at John and Phyllis’s we were watching the weather, hoping we’d get enough days to knock off some miles and make a dent in the journey. As it became clear that more than two days of favourable winds for the trip to Iceland were unlikely in the near future we began to widen our thinking and find an alternative. Sometimes we (or really me) get fixated on where we are bound and miss the obvious. Which in this case was to break up the trip and, hopefully, go via the Prins Christian Sund in southern Greenland. This will allow us to get up to Fox Harbour in Labrador and then have a shortish 700 mile trip across to Julianehaab, Greenland. So when the winds came in from the SW we took off having said our farewells to two sets of good friends. Of course the 30 mile trip across to Halifax was slow as we rarely made above 4 knots but the following day was good and being 10 or so miles off shore we avoided most of the lobster pots. As ever the forecast didn’t quite live up to actuals and with the wind intending to switch to the NW we began the last section up to the canal. It turned into a beat and then a wet beat as the rain fell. With 4 miles to go we switched the engine on motored in. The staff, as ever, were friendly although we were initially mistaken for “Ironbark” which we accepted as a compliment! At the other end of the canal Jack and Glenda were waiting to greet us, refusing to believe our email that had said we wouldn’t be coming through this year. An all too brief stopover and the following day we were on our way again to anchor for the night in Maskell’s Harbour, where it is possible to end up completely landlocked in solitude. A wonderful stop.
Maskell's, soon after we anchored..

We left early the next day and motored the 20 mile to the exit. The northern section of the Lakes isn’t as picturesque as the southern bits but we were eventually out into the ocean. The winds remained light but the promise was for very strong easterlies overnight. With this in mind we continued to motor-sail and arrived off the harbour entrance to Dingwall around 7pm in mist and rain. It’s a narrow entrance, a little more than 100’ wide with a bar. When a big easterly swell is running it would be extremely dangerous but the seas were small, much less than a metre, and we slid in between the welcoming breakwater overjoyed to have made it before the rapidly building clouds astern of us arrived. The anchorage is about 1/2 mile from the entrance, landlocked and completely sheltered - scarcely a ripple on the water, a definite hurricane hole. The following day no fishing boats left and we could hear the surf pounding onto the shore and knew why. A friend had seen us come in the night before and it was good to see him again after 6 years. We’ll lay here for a few days until wind changes to a better angle and then push on.

A year ago we bought a second hand Pudgy. In the last couple of weeks we have got around to sailing it. The two of us can stretch out in reasonable comfort and, whilst it is not the speediest dinghy I’ve ever sailed, it is a delight. Stable enough yet it’ll still pick up speed with a small gust. Even better from our viewpoint is that Toots has taken to it and will readily come aboard to be ferried ashore for a roam around. We haven’t, as yet, persuaded her that she should try the sailing rig. 

Are they expensive? On the face of it yes. BUT it does not require periodic inspection, at huge expense, for an item (your life-raft) you hope never to use….. You know when you dump it over the side to escape your home that it will work because you’ve been using it regularly to row ashore or pleasure sail around the anchorage which represents genuine value for money. Anyway, it's our choice on the matter and we're very pleased.

And finally. For years we have carried a small log on our foredeck. Casual visitors aboard; always comment on it, querying its purposeand inevitably guess it to be some sort of esoteric gaffer fender. We picked it up in Rockland Harbour in 2004 and it has remained in the same place ever since. Well here's the reason we carry it; nothing nautical.
Toots and her scratching post, lashings by Capt. Lance Meadows, Timberwind.....

Cape Breton

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Bit of a nostalgia trip...and an update on selling Hannah

Along the Nova Scotian coast last year - a tad windy

For those of you who have come to these pages via the advert on the ferro site, indeed for anyone wondering what happened to the plan we had to sell…..well it’s on the back burner. We felt we had another trip in us, did it and then we felt that we might have another long trip in us, which is where we are with our current thinking. Where we will go to is still in the thinking stage and we’ll write it up once we decide but for the moment the possibility of the sale has been postponed. However things can change so if you have an interest you can write to us at
Labrador reality, fog, motoring and rocks...

As March moves toward its end and the snow comes, retreats and then comes again we realise with a bit of a shock that we're down to the last 4 or so weeks of our visa…soon be time to get the show on the road. 

We were recently sent the tale of a French boat that sailed the Pacific from 1966 to 1968 and the photos alone got me going….but would it be this way now we wonder? Folks we know who have sailed the area say it is still possible to have anchorages to yourself as so many boats seem to stick to a very narrow track, rarely deviating from that which is written up and just 20 or so miles off the line can open up new, relatively unexplored vistas…..we’ll see. Plenty of time at sea make it all seem very attractive

One of the reason's we keep getting drawn back..
But whilst I’m on a ’60’s theme, you will know, I’m sure, of the wonderful Golden Globe 2018. I’m not into racing boats, sure as a young child I crewed and raced dinghy’s, did the odd race when I was at BKYC but I’ve always been drawn to boats that look interesting, work boats and such. Having said that I followed the original race and the subsequent books that came out of it. The modern RTW race does nothing for me, the speeds seem insane, the technology beyond belief and the boats bear no resemblance to anything I could possibly own, or want to, afford. Then I read about this and found myself smiling, chortling at the number of people who are eager to get involved but mostly gratified at the ordinariness of the boats that will race. It will be a hard race for sure and the restrictions on modern equipment (essentially, if it wasn’t on Suhaili you can’t take it) may make it “un-newsworthy” simply because reports can not be obtained instantly and so will hark back to a different time but if you haven’t already checked it out, I’d urge you to do so. 

this mess will be tidied up before we leave...

Aboard Hannah things are moving along as a brief, and welcome, warm interlude enabled us to crack through some cosmetic type jobs, brightwork and non cosmetic, replacing bowsprit shrouds etc. We needed to come up with a way of supporting the Pudgy on deck and with the help of long term friend John T we were able to sketch out and then make a template. He found a fabricator who could knock up the steel base very quickly, whilst John roughed out and then cleaned up the wooden cross piece. All we needed to do was paint the steel and then bed it to the deck. It all came together so smoothly and watching John casually measure the angles, the amount he wanted to remove and then do so with a few clean saw strokes etc was a joy. The dinghy sits solidly on its mount and lashing it down will be simple. Very pleased.

Another result came about when I mentioned to another friend the problem we had been having with our radar. Essentially it wouldn't produce a return at any distance above 0.75nm. We'd lived with it but it was a little frustrating at times. His immediate response was to "check the ground" We did. The contact was good but it was a poor ground in that it was attached to the engine block. We moved the wire to one of the studs that hold the zinc anode and turned it on. A return all the way up to 16nm! 

And finally. You may remember me mentioning Trevor Robertson when we were in Labrador last year. Well he did leave Newfoundland in November as he intended and headed out. We heard this morning (Apr 1st) that he had arrived in Freemantle, Aust. yesterday after 171 days. We have no other details; I believe it was non stop and his account will, eventually, be published. I can hardly wait.  
Only a few weeks back.

 Lastly, the first 3 pictures on this post belong to Russ Nichols. Please don't use them outside this post without written permission. Thanks.

On a similar note: I've noticed a lot of traffic of late from two specific areas. One was Russia about 6 weeks or so and Germany in the last fortnight. The latter came about because an article I written for AAC was lifted, re worked and published over there. But Russia I have no idea how that happened... I'm curious how folks get to know of an English sailor's blog and how it "translates" to your language. Drop me a line if you can shed any light.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Ash blocks to Baggywrinkle by way of mats

Here we are, possibly half way through winter and very little snow, by Maine standards, has fallen. The temperatures have been up and down with last week recording 50F (10C) and next week-end projecting to fall to -6F (-21C). Still beats being in the Caribbean as for as we're concerned.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the ash blocks we had bought from Peavey' the end of a recent astro class John, the guy leading the course, said he'd had a message from his mate, Brian in London, asking what we intended doing with them. “Burn them” I replied. It seemed a straight forward answer to the question but John took a step back, his face draining of colour and in a strangulated voice croaked “burn them.....!.” 
Ash blocks from Peavey's - $10 for half a cord..
Well two things were going on here. Both John and Brian are wooden boat people and the ash blocks they were thinking of are frequently used aboard traditional vessels. Indeed we probably have twenty or more scattered about our boat. But I was possibly guilty of sloppy English by simply referring to the wood as ash blocks. So here's a pic of said item to ensure that wooden boat people everywhere are not even more offended that the heretical concrete gaffer crew burns precious stuff.

On a recent trip to HM we were looking at lobster rope mats. Kathy,the HM, thought we could knock them up ourselves and ”it might be fun”. She duly talked to the lobster men around the harbour and asked them for their old float rope. 

As they can no longer legally use the stuff  (the Northern Right Whale can become entangled in it) we were given several hundred feet of the rope in a variety of colours and we set to work after Bee had found a site that showed a jig, Kathy organised the needed bits, made the jig and turned us loose. The first couple were pretty disastrous as I completely got the measurements wrong and the mat was too big for the space we wanted to put it in. 
Bee adding a "through" line - still a bit of work to complete

However undoing and restarting isn't hard and we now have several mats that fit the intended spaces. The time to complete varies – anything from a couple hours to most of the day for the large size and if we were going to produce a number of them we might well re-design the jig and save ourselves a lot of work. The biggest advantage, as far as we're concerned is, unlike the mat that has normally sat on the bridge deck, they don't hold water and are fairly easy to keep clean. Plus a good use of colourful, old rope.

The start of the baggywrinkle process
And here's another good use of old rope, Bee, having cut down the old 3 strand to the required length can be seen cow hitching the strands onto line in the first stage of making new 'wrinkle for the rigging. The bitter end is tied off, the strands teased out and then the whole lot is attached to a shroud and wound around to produce the mop like effect that constantly baffles folks wandering by. 

Just needs teasing out..

And once, notably, a yot motoring by us in the BVI, filming as they went. The audible conversation went along the lines of wondering what they (the baggywrinkle) might be, before concluding they must be to trap rats or some such nonsense. Jeez where do they get it from.

When we first arrived in Belfast in 2004, a railroad ran long the front and up country, taking day trippers. Now the line has been torn up and a walk-way constructed and it is possible to walk the "line" out to the head of the tide where the railway now resides. 

We did it recently, tramping through snow on a brisk day, enjoying the day and viewing the river and surrounding countryside. Ice was much in evidence, and the sound of it cracking as the tide fell took us back to Greenland... but here the ice would soon be making its way down stream and probably gathering around the dockside boats.

Winter resting place..
Many of the houses along the river are, by US standards, quite modest although a number of "grander" ones are beginning to appear as Belfast loses its working class image - chicken processing plants, the river full of feathers and guts - and becomes more trendy. We recently walked back from friends who live out of town, through streets we'd never been down, marveling at the houses, sadly many of them shut down for the winter as the owners flee south to warmer climes.

 I think the railway has a chequered history and I don't know/remember enough to write about it but it adds a touch of colour to the landscape. To get back to town involves returning by road so not so interesting but a pleasant trip overall. 
 One of the joys of anchoring in this part of the world is to share the anchorage with loons. Nothing compares to a quiet, well protected anchorage, lit only by the stars and moon and the solitude broken only the loons haunting cry. It never fails to stop us doing whatever it is to simply stand and listen. 
Sitting out the falling snow..

Belfast Me

Monday, 25 January 2016

Henry Worsley

For the last two months we have settled down in our warm saloon, glass in hand to listen to the nightly “broadcast” by Henry Worsley from Antarctica. At the end of his, often difficult and arduous, day he would file a short report of how it had gone, how he felt and the progress he had made, taking time out to address questions from"Young Explorers", school children from around the world who were following the journey. Thus in that short time we came to appreciate and like this man, idly dreaming that we might meet one day and he could be sat around our fire entertaining us with his stories.....

Sadly not, as we read the dreadful news this morning that he had died from peritonitis in a hospital in Punta Arenas where he had been flown to. I can't begin to tell you how sadden we are, how the tears flow and the loss we feel. It is, as Bee said “a shit start to the week” You can read the statement on the expedition site here. Our condolences to his family and small comfort perhaps, but he has touched SO many people with his quiet courage and fortitude.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Blue sky days, wood stove nights

The end of the season, traps in the late afternoon sun

With a further spell of cold but clear weather we opted to get away for another few days. The wind strengths were nothing like our last jaunt and we took advantage of the remarkable abundance of anchorages and sailed across to Isleboro, the nearest inhabited island to where we are. Actually about 30 minutes before we cast off, Earl McKemzie had dropped off a bag of kindling and suggested we pick up his buoy in Seal Cove which we were happy to do so. Normally the buoy holds the 60' schooner Bonnie Lynn so we had no worries about its capabilities of holding us. As before we used only the mizzen and #1, enjoying a brisk sail across the 8 miles of water. Certainly cold despite the bright sunshine and we lost no time in firing up the wood stove once we'd sailed in and (almost) onto the huge buoy. We launched the dinghy and rowed ashore to view the progress on Bonnie and Earl's new house which has been on going for a few years, they having only part of the winters to work on it. Essentially it is a flat (apartment) built above a large workshop, warm, not too big and will afford them fine views over the water and the schooner they charter during the summer months. One of the other benefits of having friends who are building houses is there is frequently scrap wood lying around for the taking and we came away the following day with bag of kindling and a pile of mags to browse through. We took a short ride with Bonnie to the local Post Office, remaining in the car whilst she collected their mail. Apparently in the short time she was in there 2 people said to her they'd seen a real pretty boat on their mooring and what on earth were they (us) doing still sailing around at this time of the year...

The wind was a whisper and we motored gently to Warren Island some 3 miles or so from Seal Cove. It was here in 2004 that we decided to go to Belfast lured by the prospect of being able to buy coal and we fancied seeing the place once more. Deserted of course, all the mooring buoys hauled for the winter but plenty of room to anchor where we enjoyed the solitude, quiet and a big moon shining into the saloon. Oddly enough we were still able to pick up the Internet and checking the weather it looked as though the following day, Thursday might be the best until after the week end and we decided to sail back,hopefully getting in before the wind picked up too much. A leisurely breakfast, donning of warm clothes, up anchor and away we went catching the last hour or so of the flood. As before we neglected the main -don't you just love this about ketches, this ability to make fine speed's without bothering with the main? 
In fact we didn't even take the 1.5 metre chimney down or the wind generator but simply made sure the boom and gaff were well secured and headed out. The 11 miles passed fairly quickly, we slowed down a little toward the end as the tide turned to slack water and nearing the harbour area we came across a nasty bit of wind over tide but beyond that the waters turned calm with little wind to ruffle the surface. The jetty we are on requires us to slalom around another set of jetties before making the turn into the slot. We must have entered at least four times now and each approach has been different. This was one of the better entrances, certainly slower than the last one so seemed less frantic. But always good to get in without carving up the boat next door with an errant bowsprit...
Toots before the temps dropped...
Winter is beginning to creep up with -C temperatures regularly appearing. Oddly enough it wasn't until today that the temp. inside the boat dropped to 6C, a figure we had last seen in August when in Labrador. This was early morning, well 7am and it goes up gradually as we run the cooker and fire up the Aladdin lamp for the day. Generally the wood stove stays off until noon or later when we decide enough is enough and get it going. Toots who, upon finishing her breakfast, makes a beeline for the vacated bipeds bed and crawls into the specially prepared duvet "cave" Bee has made up. There she will remain, snuffling and dormant until the sound of a fire being lit is heard when she will poke her head out to check on progress. If it meets with feline approval she'll emerge, scoff some biscuits then take up position on the table, stretch out and fall asleep again.

Finally two sites you might be interested in.

Following on from the bit about celestial navigation (still plugging away) there is a free online course you might be interested in here

We also came across this by chance a journey on foot across Antartica by a descendant on Frank Worlsley. The trip has only recently started and his progress can be followed via a daily phone call he makes. This might be pod cast or something - we tend to be vague about all that is happening with this sort of thing but it makes engaging listening. Here's the link to
If this is the hardest frost we get, I'll be quite happy!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

You need to look at this

Imagine you'e sailing along, trussed up as per the current thinking, in a pfd and harness. You're working on deck, the boat lurches and suddenly you're over the side... Well something like that happened to me a few years back, except I wasn't wearing a harness or a pfd. That story is here and if you wonder why on earth I wasn't wearing a harness etc (and perhaps think "well it serves you right") then take a look at this article.

People fall off boats, it's a fact of life; a risk we are aware of and take into account in our travels. Sometimes a mistake is made but on the whole we know that the boat is really a narrow path with a steep drop and you need to be very aware that death is a short step or stumble away. Go forward only on the windward side; keep your body low and crawl if need be; one hand for the boat, one for yourself always. I'm not saying this is the right way just the way we chose to work. Life jackets and harnesses may have a role but they are not a sure fire way of saving your life.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Port bound

A month drifts by as we settle into this dockside routine, hunting and foraging for cheap food and wood and getting ready to brew up some home made wine. Can hardly wait..

Belfast - early morning

With the tides dropping away we took a chance on being neaped and slid onto the scubbing berth at 5am one morning. We wanted to scrub, clean the prop and check whether our altercation with a growler in the summer had done any damage. Well it hadn't other than removing some anti-foul making us thankful we don't own a grp version of Hannah. What we did discover was this: When we painted back in the spring we used two different brands of anti-foul. One side had a tin we bought in the UK from Gale Force and might be described as "cheap and cheerful" whilst the other was Petit Trinidad. No doubt about which side had less stuff clinging to it and although the Trinidad is significantly more expensive than the other stuff it was clearly far more effective.

Bow end with bow thruster lowered.......
As mentioned in the last update the Shipyard now dominates the waterfront in terms of buildings and acreage. The docks don't appear too busy but perhaps given the time of year it's hardly surprising. At the end of the jetty we're on, lurks a massive shed and out of it recently came a 125' sail boat. It remained slung in the travel hoist supported fore and aft by a combination of stands, a cradle and a shipping container whilst it was rigged and made ready for the water. The rigging crew were lifted aboard via a “cherry picker” to attend to the mast stepping process and even the forestay had to be supported by crane as the weight was too much for humans to manipulate it across the foredeck into position. It remained on the dock for a week whilst various, who knows what, tasks where carried out then left for south at a rate of knots. Clear of the harbour it motored at close to 13 knots, arriving in Newport RI (about 200 nm) some 18 hours after casting off. Bound for the Caribbean, of course, to charter....$65,000 per week.

Here in reality we took our own journey; venturing up to see Philip and Helen in NE Harbour. We had been before we headed north and love the security of it. Little if any surge seems to enter and whilst it would normally be off-limits to us because of cost, in the winter the HM takes a relaxed view about those still wandering. The day we chose to sail up was dictated, naturally, by the wind. 25-30 with gusts of 35 from the NW would suggest we might have a good sail. It wasn't good it was brilliant! 
7 knots down Eggemoggin
 Not bothering with the main we ran with a reefed mizzen and #1 heads'l, the boat was light, comfortable and romping along. Whilst the tide was against us about half of the way it seemed to make little difference as we roared down Eggemoggin Reach with not a soul in sight. The wind seemed to be consistently around 27knots but no real seas until we crossed Blue Hill Bay when they picked up, covering the boat and us with solid water and spray. The sky was blue, the sun shone and it was pretty cool, probably high 30's F but just a wonderful day to be out on Hannah. The last few miles against wind and tide we used the engine as the sun was sinking quickly and a mostly
cloudless day meant it would rapidly get cold. Into the harbour to find Philip watching from a nearby dock as we tied up. About 7 and a bit hours to cover the 43 miles. Great company, a lasagne and wine to die for that night completed a wonderful day.

During the few days we spent with them they kindly took us off to see a friend of theirs they thought we might like. They were right. Donna lives off grid in eastern Maine in a house she and her late husband built. Her near neighbour is Geri, they have been friends for decades and were part of the “back to the land” movement of the '70's. The houses were stunning, both very different and their lifestyles have captivated us since we visited. Yes I know that we live off grid too for the most part but there is something about a simple house with solar & oil for lights; wood for cooking and heating that has such a pull on us. They share a well but neither has a pump so water is carried to the houses. Too much work? We don't think so and as we sat around a table drinking home made wine and cider exchanging stories both me and Bee knew we will want to get back there to learn more. It might be a couple of hours drive from here so more difficult to organise but next time, and there will be a next time, we'll see if Donna and Geri are ok with us photographing the visit. 

At the moment the weather is pretty benign ( for Maine at this time of the year) with temps rarely falling below 5C. In fact we can judge how cold things are within the boat simply by checking the washing up liquid which, in Labrador, would thicken to a gooey paste rather than its normal translucent runny self. But we are thinking about building a shelter, then believe we have a few more weeks before we might need it, then wonder if we should take advantage of the still weather to build it anyway....but these wonderful crisp days with the huge attraction of great anchorages a few hours away keep us shelter free. You can see when we do build by checking here ......Bee uses the webcam to check if her coast his clear to escape from the boat into town
  And finally. Some years ago our very good friend Cary gave us a gift. Well, many actually but this one in particular is special as it had come from his dad. 
 A Tamaya sextant, new and unused and as Cary would never go back to sea again he felt it would be fitting if I used it. I never have as what little I learnt has long been forgotten through neglect. It may be about to change as a bunch of sailors get together weekly to learn the skill thanks to a keen tradionalist who runs a boatyard. Early days yet of course  but this time, assuming I learn the skill, I hope to use it rather than lose it. Not because I think that the GPS will collapse as many armchair sailors would have us believe but simply because it is interesting.

Belfast, Me.


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Home is where we park it...

With time on our hands before the visa appointment we spent it helping out around friends houses. Steve and Marilyn have swapped their life afloat (25years+) for a place overlooking Mahone Bay whilst John and Phyllis from AAC fame live close by and loaned us their buoy or dock dependent on which was vacant.

Toots making a leap for the shore
 Toots loved being able to stroll ashore via the gang-plank Bee had set up and we appreciated the easy access to the shore, notwithstanding the heart stopping climb up the hill from the boat. It is a fine anchorage too, excellent holding and great shelter from all but the south. On the appointed day J&P drove us into Halifax and dropped us outside an ominously busy building where the US Consulate resides. A fire drill was about to be called and access was denied to all. When eventually we were allowed in, made our way to the 9th floor and joined a short queue we were already 10 minutes late. But the queue was short and we thought we would soon be in.....More folks arrived, security asked for appointment times and as many of the newcomers were scheduled to be seen before us they slid to the front and we moved back. More arrived, the procedure is repeated, seemingly just as we thought we were getting close to the head of the line. It bore an uncanny similarity to beating in a gaffer against a foul tide....up and down the same bit of water gaining inches at a time. But we did get in, after being warned that access through the door meant your waiting was now down to 45 minutes (but at least we could sit down) The interview was painless and successful with a 10 year multiple visa granted without any hiccups. Not for everyone of course - if we read the body language correctly all white skinned applicants got in but not all non white skinned folks did.

The visas were duly delivered and we scanned the weather for a slot that would see us across the Gulf of Maine and onto Belfast some 300 miles away. A small opportunity presented itself albeit with 30knot winds from the forward quarter but with nothing else in sight we set out at 08:30 Sunday. The passage down the coast of NS was fine with our course taking us gradually away from the coast. the wind from the NW and the waves small. At some point we had a snow flurry but neither long enough or heavy enough to stick although the wind remained cold. Rounding Cape Sable is always a challenge and, knowing the chances of arriving at Brazil Rock in time to carry a fair tide all the way round and well into the Gulf was slight, we opted to stay about 15 mile off to avoid the worst of the flood. As we cleared the now distant land the swell built up and the full effects began to be felt. In order to make better progress and keep the water off the deck we dumped the headsail, eased off the wind more and plugged on. The wind was blowing 30 knots with stronger gusts, we were comfortable although not heading in the direction we wanted. Worse as the flood strengthened our course suffered too. Through the night and the next day we sailed on, occasionally taking a big wave over the side. Sometime during the day the wind backed to the north then veered to the NW overnight. Around 1 am we found the self-steerer was behaving oddly resulting in us having to hand steer..... not a comfortable few hours. This was one of those occasions where a harness was deemed necessary as the wind had picked up and the seas too. By 4am I decided enough was enough and heaving to was a far sounder option where we remained for the next 12 hours. When the wind eased we set off again but still unable to get the self-steerer working we reverted to being hove to. The wind had moderated and we decided to have a go at repairing Stan as the steerer is called. The problem lay with a badly bent bolt that the rods connect to. The distortion was causing the bearings to bind when the blade was in one position. We could replace the bolt (once we had straightened it) but it requires the paddle to be held securely otherwise the chances are said paddle will drop to the bottom of the ocean. We opted to just straighten the bolt........... So making sure the harness is attached to both me and the boat I crawl across the aft deck, straddle the tiller and lie over the top of the horse with my chest on the top of the rudder. Clutching a 13mm spanner in each hand I start to undo the various nuts that hold it all in place. Stood in a dinghy on quiet water this is a simple operation; hove to in sub 2 metre seas it isn't. Not least because whilst the boat is not moving across the water it is certainly moving up and down in the water.... First my hands were under water then up my elbows, then inevitably a bigger wave came and my face was underwater. Bee meanwhile was crouched behind me as the nuts came off, the grips were handed to me and the bolt bent into some semblance of straight. A hasty reassemble and a retreat to the relative warmth of the saloon. By noon we had a favourable 15 knots and were making progress but by 4pm the breeze had gone and we drifted silently with the current. A faint breeze returned around 8am the following day and from the SE so we were cock a hoop. As the day progressed the wind picked up and we romped along. The islands off the coast came into view and soon we were amongst lobster pots and buoys. An occasional fishing boat but no pleasure boats at all and Penobscot Bay was ours. The tide turned in our favour and carried us to Belfast. By now it had gone 6pm, the harbour quiet and we called Customs and Border via Skype to check in. Not good enough it seems as they "require" incoming boats to contact them 2 hours before hand by phone and not having one is viewed as irresponsible! "What do you do if you get into trouble..." Still we got through it with gritted teeth, and the following morning the field officer arrived to check us in, stamp our passports and the yellow flag came down. Four and a half days from dock to dock. As Bee says it was probably one of the hardest trips of recent times.
A quiet night in the inlet
 Since then we have renewed our library cards, driven up to Peavey's to buy a pick-up truck full of ash blocks for $5 and met up with a few of the many friends we have here. The big shipyard that started up a few years back has grown bigger and dominates the waterfront. Not our cup of tea but we remain fond of the town and its people and will settle down to spend our third winter happily.