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.