Sunday, 30 September 2012

Crocs Away...or how a pension saved my arse

Cow Head proved to be a good choice as we were able to move from one side of the harbour to the other to obtain better protection from the wind. Though not from the company of minks which were everywhere. Having been regularly fed by the local fishermen they seemed to have little fear of humans (or cats) and wandered quite close to the boat. Toots attempts at harassment were met with disdain and they would simply duck into a small hole out of her way.

With Leslie raging on the other side of the island we had some wind but mostly rain and, with the wind, easing and backing we decided to head out the following day. It may have been a mistake as the winds were fitful and the seas still a little confused. By 2am the following day they had died and we drifted slowly northwards on the current losing abut 4 miles before they returned and we were able to sail on down to Neddy Harbour in Bonne Bay. 17 hours for a 30 mile journey....not our finest perormance!  We stayed for a few days, meeting with friends and awaiting a favourable wind. The weather looked set to remain out of the SW but a small window gave us  a day of south winds followed by a day of west winds and we headed out. I don't think we have EVER left or arrived from Neddy without a windless struggle and that night proved no exception. This time we lost well over 6 miles before the winds came in and we began the trip south proper. Initially the winds came and went but before long we were heading slightly south of east toward Anticosti Island, a hundred or more miles away. As the winds increased so did the seas and with a beam  wind we inevitably had seas come aboard. About 30 miles from the island we had a welcome wind shift from S to SE and were able to work our way south off the long bank that extends eastwards and as the wind shifted to the west were well placed to head down to, and clear, Cape North at the end of Cape Breton. Big, lumpy seas built up and broke over us as speeds increased. At one point the log said 8.6k whilst the SOG registered 9.4k with the help of a friendly current and 33knots of wind. Onwards under a double reefed main, stays'l and our miniscule spitfire jib we ran. Once under the shelter of the land the seas eased dramatically but so did the wind and progress became slower. Too slow really as we'd hoped, for once, to get to the "Narrows", the entrance into the Lakes with a favourable wind.
In the end we ran the engine to try and get there before the worst of the outgoing tide but might have well have saved ourselves the fuel. The wind meant we could keep sailing albeit hard on the wind as we came down the channel. But even with the engine running, the crew willing her on each time the rigging creaked to a welcome gust and Hannah heeling steeply from them, progress was slow.


Whilst the log said we were motor-sailing at 7 knots the speed was much less. Gradually speed declined from 6 knots to 4 and less. At one point we were down to 0.4knots as we approached the narrowest part but only for a minute or so and then we were through and approaching Kelly Cove for the night and a stiff drink or two.

Tues 18th Sept. On a bright, sunny cloudless day we began a long beat down the Bras D'Or channel toward our next anchorage. It was a wonderful sailing day although a little early for an entirely favourable tide. The first challenge was Seal Island bridge with its rips and currents. Our tacks took us right up to it and as we beat across the channel at 5 knots we were obviously going sideways as well as forwards and thus crabbed through the bridge and out the other side accompanied by a cacophony of truck horns from the passing traffic. In the far distance we could make out a yacht heading our way and an hour so later met up with George from Big Harbour and where we decided to anchor for the night. 42 tacks after starting we pulled into the anchorage and stopped.

Days later on a day of constant and heavy rain we hauled the anchor up and headed south. The forecasted SE was in fact NE and couldn't be wasted. Unfortunately the fog was thick and not much could be seen. With 3 miles to go we called the bridge keeper to warn him of our approach.....the wind is astern of us and we've got the full main up so the speed is never less than 6 knots and often higher. We call him again with 3/4 mile to go and he assures us he'll have it open......with 1/2 mile to go the barriers start to drop and as the bascule complete their opening we roar through the bridge under full main to the obvious delight of the bridge- keeper - all smiles and thumbs up as he lent well out of his watch window. Exhilarating for sure although we'd run the engine just in case the current which swirls about inside the narrow gap decided, as it did the first time we ever went through some years ago, that it would prefer if we were closer, much closer to one side than was deemed safe by the nervous nellies that count as Hannah's crew. The wind dropped steadily as we sailed further south and we opted to spend the night or two in Georges Harbour.

Onwards to the Canal, a brief visit with Jack and Glenda before motoring through the 1/2 mile or so to the other side from where we left on Tues 25th Sept. for Glasgow Harbour some 20 odd miles away. Good sail tho a tad  nippy saw us entering the channel for another couple of nights rest whilst we awaited a fair wind to take us along the Nova Scotia coastline. The harbour, whilst open to the east gives good protection from the winds we were having and the only sound was that of dozens of seals "barking".....well we think they were the ones making the racket. A brief, silent, visit from a local fishing boat was our only entertainment. The other advantage of the harbour is the close proximity of Andrews Passage, a narrow channel that lets you cut out a dog leg around the headland and, to some extent, much of the rough water that can be found off Cape Canso. We motored through the channel in smooth water opting to leave the sails until we'd reached a more open space. A wise choice in the end as at the moment we decided to raise the main and Bee was about to start hauling lines the wind blasted across the sea and went from 10-15 knots to something around 30.......we changed our minds and raised the stays'l, mizzen and the working jib and took off across the bay at 6 knots plus.....and settled down for what we hoped would be a quick passage. A few hours later the wind began to  ease and though we stayed under the same rig we knew we were going to have to change to the main to keep the boat moving well. Luckily the seas had dropped considerably and were now less than a metre. The wind was on the beam and we decided to get the main up. All went well until Bee tried to raise the boom off the gallows and found the main-sheet had jammed in the block allowing the main to clear the doghouse by a few inches only. As the boat rolled in the swell the boom, now free of the gallows, was able to swing back and forth although its travel was curtailed by the main=sheet still firmly cleated down. Normally I work from aft of the boom as being alongside the aft end is a dangerous business (booms are not called "widow-makers for no reason...) but this time I was alongside and simply fended off the gently swinging boom with one hand as I uncleated the sheet. The boom, now free of its restraint promptly increased its arc of swing from 30 cms to well over a metre and fending off became instantly harder and more dangerous. As it came back at me for the second time with increased force I moved aft to escape it, fending off with one hand and ducking to escape the worst of its intentions....and found myself falling. As luck would have it I was between the mizzen shrouds and was knocked backwards and through them. I remember thinking " Shit I could end up getting wet here" before I realised I was not only wet but upside down and under water, dressed in heavy clothing.......... Hannah was under the control of our self-steerer and whilst our speed was a sedentry 3.5 knots it still meant we were moving through the water at almost 2 metres or 6' per second.......
As I popped to the surface I realised with relief I still had the mainsheet clutched in my right hand and I'd broken the surface alongside rather astern of a, to a dumped sailor, rapidly disappearing boat. Of even greater comfort was the presence of Bee leaning over the capping rail, quietly encouraging me and, seemingly, calmly wrapping an additional line around me to stop me drifting away from the boat. Luckily the water was warmish but even so I could feel the desperateness of the situation. Hannah does not have a huge freeboard, that distance between the sea and the deck or capping rail in our case. But in water logged clothing climbing out was going to be a problem and I could feel mentally I was already beginning to think "hmmmm...I'm not sure I can do this." Bee, of course, was having none of it and with her help I was able to get my left leg high enough for her to grab the oilskins and heave. With a struggle I came back on board, perhaps a few minutes after I'd been dumped in. We were both shaken by the whole thing and knew that the outcome could have been so different. Had the seas been higher, colder, the winds stronger, Bee not on deck etc... I wouldn't be the first or last sailor to be lost overboard under similar circumstances and it has made us realise we need to close that gap between the shrouds before we do much else. Bee made light of it; telling me that with my pension due next year there was no way she was letting me out of her sight.....Unfortunately out of my sight were the size 11 pink Crocs I was wearing as they floated away in the struggle...so I'm now down to 3 pairs of the same...

Some hours later we got the main up and made our way toward Halifax. We'd hoped to clear the shipping lanes in daylight but the failing wind also began to head us and we began a slow beat to the west. Although the lanes were busy both before and after we crossed them the hour or two we spent crossing was quiet. We listed to a ship getting clearance to leave. It was Sept 28 and its next port of call was somewhere in Italy at 00:00 7 October!! As we watched it pass some 5 mile to the south of us at 20.2 knots we understood how it could be well into the Med in 9 days.

30th Sept. In Prince's Inlet on a buoy belonging to John and Phyliss of Morgans Cloud. (see site) They run an interesting website that has a wealth of info, sound advice and some excellent photo's. The weather when we arrived yesterday, like today, seems to be verging on torrential rain and the winds are either foul or light so well be in Mahone Bay for a while it seems. We had hoped to get here early enough to see the launch of the new "Bluenose", Nova Scotia's famed schooner but not to be. Our arrival not the launch which we understand went ahead in fine style without us.


As an aside: I can't remember where we were but I'd been off watch and sleeping but became aware that our motion had a more than normal tilt to it. I came up on deck to find Bee filming a charging Hannah as under full main we were thundering along with the rail under water! That is NOT a position I like to be in but Bee had found the whole thing exhilarating and in truth something the boat seems to revel in. Certainly cleaned the decks although I rapidly had order restored and a reef stuck in sharpish! Bloomin' youngsters!!



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