Friday, 18 December 2009

Here’s to absent friends........

 The last log of 2009, 9 years and who knows how many words since we started on this life...?

After a couple of weeks in Belfast we needed

to be moving south if we were to avoid the colder weather that hangs around at that time of the year and we duly said yet another bunch of very sad goodbye’s to friends even though we knew we’d be back in  May to catch up with folks before pushing north.

We had a quiet few days and then sheltered for a few days to avoid a blow. The following day as we prepared to head out we heard a yacht talking to the coastguard about the possible need for a tow. As they were only 4 miles away we called and said we’d come down and see what we could do. On arriving it seemed their engine had packed in and where they were anchored was surrounded by shallows etc. We crept in, got a line to them and made ready to leave. For some reason he felt then was a good time to let us know he was an Episcopalian minister and we wondered if he was about to launch into a sermon but no, it was a conversational piece it seems... Once clear he decided that rather than tow him to wherever it was (against the ebbing tide and into the wind..) he’d sail for his home port and as we’d heard about a very sheltered, if a little tricky to enter, anchorage near to there, we followed suit.
 The Basin, as our anchorage is called, was everything we’d been led to believe. A tight, shallow entrance coupled to a fast running tide gave us an interesting 15 minutes or so. Inside was much larger than we’d imagined but sheltered and empty. A couple of days later with a strong favourable forecast we left for Provincetown (P’town)... Of course the weather hadn’t heard the same forecast we had so didn’t follow the rules and as evening came round we looked for an alternative to a night spent drifting......

The harbour we chose was about a dozen miles away and as we closed and began searching for the buoyed entrance the thought struck us that the chart we were using hadn’t shown the light characteristics. But that’s because there weren’t any to show as we realised when the buoys failed to show up.
Provincetown and the Pilgrims Monument
 We crept as close in as we dared but with night on us and no way of establishing the entrance we turned away to continue a drift through the night for P’town. Luckily even with the little wind there was we still managed to get the self-steerer to work  and so it wasn’t the purgatory it might have been. Crossing the shipping lane and fishing fleets  was interesting but like most things we survived them and with some desperate motoring we crept into P’town harbour about 10pm.

Onwards to the Cape Cod Canal, through and anchored in Pocassett Harbour where a friendly passing boat invited us to use any mooring buoy.  They were taking their boat to be hauled as they sold her that day after an ownership of 30 years and at 70+ years old felt they might need something a little easy to handle.  A few days later we had a leisurely breakfast and headed off down Buzzards Bay toward our destination of Block Island. In retrospect we wondered what the hell we were doing dawdling around over coffee and toast when we had 60 miles to do and consequently the evening saw us still with15 miles to go, a beat to finish and then a narrow entrance where it looked as though some buoys may be lit but not others.
The breakwater with high tide still to come...
 In the end we opted for Point Judith as the place had never really let us down before... We should have known things were not as we remembered when, on entering; we saw the height of the water in relation to the breakwater and thought we were at high tide. A quick check showed how wrong we were and though the tides are tiny in this part of the bay we knew that the direction the next blow was coming from would send the swell over the top. And it did giving us several days of sleep starvation to mull our leisurely breakfast.

The journey down to the Chesapeake was started with a favourable 3 day forecast and the first 24 hours lived up to hopes as we bowled along making enough progress to commit ourselves to doing the trip in one hit. Of course once the decision had been made and enough hours passed so that we really were at the point of no return the weather turned foul with wind, rain and fog as we edged our way through yet another shipping lane; this time for the Delaware Bay. Naturally at this time we discovered the antennae cable to the AIS was a poor connection and we were, once more, blind.  We’ve since sorted that out so, hopefully,  it’ll be the last time it figures on these pages!

We made progress, dealing with a jib sheet that mysteriously came adrift in the night. It could have been far worse as, with a strongish breeze blowing, we could have found the jib in tatters. As it was we had to deal with a sheet wrapped around the inner forestay and the jib flapping around like a demented flag. Working together we managed to get the jib in, the sheet unravelled and everything back together again. Whilst we were at it we took the opportunity to reef and set a smaller head’l as the falling barometer heralded more poor weather which was due to head us, on the way. Before it arrived we had a period of very light winds coupled to heavy swells left over from yesterdays winds.
 We motor sailed to try and get at least past Cape Charles before the wind changed. We made it and continued our way up the Bay, this time opting to head north toward an anchorage on the east side rather than beat our way to Portsmouth. It’s an artificial harbour created by the sinking of 15 ferro-cement Liberty ships from the second war. And although it doesn’t look much it was great protection, off a nature reserve.

So the following day we headed for Pompey with a wind that didn’t really materialise in the company of more yachts than we’d seen all summer! Portsmouth is the start of the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway) a “channel” that runs all the way down to Florida some 1000 miles to the south. It enables boats to do the run without the need to head out to sea, in particular avoiding the Capes – Hatteras, Look Out and Fear with their shoal water and proximity to the Gulf Stream.  Our excitement mounted as we slipped along, reverting to the engine as the wind died. Turning into the channel that leads to the creek Bee hopped up onto the doghouse to check if their was a space for us.. not only a space but she could see Robin and Jac’s RV parked in the street!!. We hastily moored up, crept out onto the road and thundered on their door. In one of those bizarre coincidences they had arrived about an hour before us and we wasted no time in cracking the colostomy bags of red wine. We called Cary and Linda and despite their invalid status they too came over to join the celebrations.
Well since then we’ve settled in, R&J have gone home and we have allowed ourselves to get sucked in to working on Hannah. Though not much as in the last few weeks rain has arrived with a vengeance. A few weeks back we were told of a front coming through. Listening to the radio gave us wind strengths of 50 or 60 knots from the NE.........  well, we sort of face the NE in this slip so that was good news.
 But the Elizabeth River on which this whole place stands is open to the NE. So we listen and on the Wed. we’re told the winds could reach 70 knots and tides will be high. They got both of those right!! For 2 or 3 days we had winds so strong that the tide was unable to ebb and consequently each high tide got progressively higher.

Normally at high tide we’d have a couple of feet under the keel. Now we had close to 8. The jetty was underwater and the water was level with a hand rail that runs alongside the jetty.

Eventually the water would rise ABOVE this rail. and this is a metre above the jetty..the water normally stops a foot or so below the jetty

At its height the noise from the wind as it flattened the waves was so reminiscent of Greenland that the fear on Hannah was palpable. In some ways we felt worse as the jetty was a matter of feet from our rudder, we’d taken the tiller off to work on it some days earlier, the anchor was un-shipped and rock hard land wasn’t that from our stern. All in all a very frightening few days and we watched the storms progress across the Atlantic as it barrelled up the English Channel causing havoc. If you’re interested we use (when we can get a connection)  The “front” casually mentioned turned out to be a downgraded Hurricane Ida now relegated to a Tropical Storm...oh the joys of the east coast USA.

So that’s about it. Got a couple of web sites to share with you. You may remember the blog we gave you before called Boxes and Bellows. Run by Andrea from the wonderful Island of Lewis. She has started charting the progress of a crofter near to where she and Eve live. Not only are the photos excellent but she has a humorous writing style. So the new site is

Lastly some great friends of ours in Monroe, Maine have a bought a farm. Not just any farm either but one that requires a HUGE amount of work, will be run organically and looks as though they will have the time of their lives. The blog is called

And finally; many, many thanks are owed to dozens of folks who have kept us going through the years. We think of you often.

Enjoy your festivities, keep the wine flowing as we do – the rice and raisin wine we knocked out when we got here is particularly good this time and we’ll write again early next year.

I suppose you think this is funny...?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Question: Why are Newfoundlanders happy to die and go to heaven?

                              Answer: ‘cos they’re going home...

And here we are back at Shelburne in the home of the wonderful and generous Forbes and Yola, having had the best summer cruising ever. So much to enthuse about, so many photos to share..

We did say that we were off to the Azores and as we left Trepassey, with its wonderful librarian Patsy, made our way around Cape Race and onto the east coast of Newfie that was certainly our intention. We met up with some Dutch friends in Ferryland, waved them goodbye as they left for St Johns and a day or so later we headed out to sea en route for the Azores. Beset by doubts.... Were we doing the right thing? Should we continue with the plan or use the opportunity to explore more of this wonderful coastline. Luckily the wind was light, we were hardly moving and faced with a first night at sea drifting around we opted to head back to harbour and set off again the following day. But we didn’t leave the next day for the Azores but chose to stay in Newfoundland. A great choice as it happens, and no regrets at all.

                                                                                                                                                                      Up the east coast we sailed toward St Johns. Now we had no interest in the town but felt we needed to check in with the authorities as we’d last assured them we were only here for a couple of weeks.

Through the fog we sailed, marvelling at the hundreds of thousands of auks and puffins we encountered. At times it seemed like the marine equivalent of Trafalgar Square, with pigeons replaced with sea birds. There are a couple breeding grounds, islands that are now nature reserves and here birds rule and humans are spectators to their antics.

With the fog around we didn’t see as much as we’d hoped but even so were a little startled to hear us being hailed on the VHF; a nearby tourist whale watching boat asking if we’d spotted any whales in our travels, as he needed to show his punters. We had of course, though several miles back, though they could be anywhere by now. It’s the fine mist the whale exhales that alerts the watchers to their presence, that and the strong fishy smell that accompanies said breathing, but in the fog the mist breath is invisible.  I can tell you that having one of these huge creatures surface about 5metres/15 feet from Hannah and breathing out gives you an enormous shock and certainly stops any day dreaming.

Approaching St Johns we called Coastguard Traffic to warn them of our presence, casually slipping in that we do not have radar.
  Listening to their broadcasts to inbound/outbound ships we pondered on the fact that whilst they warned them of our existence they didn’t feel it necessary to let them know we were blind. About a mile from the harbour the reason became very clear. Literally, as the fog had disappeared and bright sunshine prevailed.

The entrance to this fine harbour is known as “The Narrows” for obvious reasons, very photogenic but it looked at bit crowded as a Canadian CG vessel came out and we opted to hang about outside until they rang us to gently inform us that we were hove to on their route...

St Johns. Well, like Stornaway in the Hebrides, it worked its spell on us. Tied up to a pontoon with our Dutch friends, the town is within walking distance and whilst the charging structure for boats is innovative ($5.99 a day with a minimum of 5 days levied) it represents great value. OK there is no water or electric available but a matter of metres away from the dock head we were entertained by bands and Shakespearean plays. The harbour authorities came down whilst we were visiting Customs, who were happy to let us remain in the country but unable to provide an answer to our question of whether we would be liable to pay tax on any home brewed booze we brought in on board Hannah the next time around, claiming that no one had ever asked that before. I can’t think why.

We spent 5 days in St John’s and made several new friends. There is a tiny harbour to the north called Quidi Vidi which, amongst its attributes is a fine brewery. Chatting to a local tour boat ended up with us meeting Patric and Karin who live aboard a boat at the brewery and they, in turn introduced us to Steve. Sailors all and fine folks. Other visitors included a press photographer, a variety of Brits either on holiday or living there and the husband of Clio Smeeten who is, of course the daughter of Miles and Beryl. And then one afternoon we were below decks when we heard someone fall against one of the lines and went up on deck. Some yards away 3 guys in their early twenties were trying to get photos of themselves with Hannah as a backdrop. They came over to apologise as their enthusiasm or drunkenness had persuaded them that getting on deck would be a neat thing. They turned out to be some of Canada’s finest, serving aboard a recently docked warship. As they were leaving to traverse the North West Passage in a few days and the ship was throwing a party for invited guests they were insistent that we should come on the grounds that if we’d crossed oceans in Hannah we must be proper sailors and they felt sure their captain would/should meet us and “learn how its done.....”  It coincided with a meal we’d arranged for Patric and Karin so we doubted whether we would make it. They took this on board, as only the very drunk can, and duly reappeared several hours later clutching invites meant for some of the nubile women of the city. Alas for all concerned our get together on Hannah went on longer than that of the warship Toronto and we never got to give the long suffering captain the dubious benefits of our experience.

We headed north, tried to anchor in a small cove called Heartbreak before plugging onto a harbour. The fisherman we chatted to as we tied up alongside smiled as he told us that these places have a reason for their names..... His wife gave us a fresh home baked loaf and we headed out the following day for Irelands Eye. Newfoundland abounds with great anchorages, the majority of which are deserted, not just of boats but very often houses as well. Sometimes a smattering of cabins can be seen, small single storey buildings for summer use, often neglected but still usable and all a reminder of an earlier life. Each anchorage had its own characteristic but joined together by this feeling of solitude.

We moved slowly up the east coast, crossing Trinity, Bonavista  and Notra Dame Bays. We by passed Twillingate, apparently known as the Iceberg Capital of the world to anchor in, yet another, Deadmans Cove. It was a warm, sunny August day and to sea could be seen the billowing white sail of a huge ship....but it wasn’t of course just a lonely and large iceberg drifting around gradually melting into the sea. Sadly the only one we were to see this trip.

As we made our way west and north we ventured close to the town of Lewisport and were shaken to see 3 other yachts at the same time which was as many as we’d seen since leaving the French Islands.... An anchorage we slid into had another boat already there and the next day another boat followed us into our choice for the night. In both these spots the Lewisport Yacht Club had felt it necessary put down mooring buoys for visitors...Time to move further north!

One of the major advantages we’ve had on this trip is the American VHF our mate Cary gave us, as this gives access to local weather on very frequent basis. It was on one of these broadcasts that we heard the news that we were soon to experience 40 knot winds, our first warning that Hurricane Bill was on its way. We made our way into a small harbour called Fleur de Lys for a few days until it passed (with a whimper for us, thankfully) and then moved onto the final coast, a long, pointing neck of land that heads up SE toward Greenland and once rounded would set us south and mark the end of this particular bit of the cruise. Firstly though we sailed over to Fourchou, a long, steep sided fiord that house the remains of Newfoundlands last whaling station. We anchored off the old settlement, gravestones reflecting in the setting sun and ate a contemplative meal surrounded by silence. The anchorage is exposed to a slight swell and we’d had to anchor in deepish water to avoid drifting back onto a clearly visible rock garden. Bee, feeling that we stood a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, opted to read after we went to bed whilst I settled down to sleep. A strange bang alerted us and we got up to investigate what we believed to be the chain snagging on an underwater rock. By torch nothing could be seen off the bow and the chain showed no sign of snatching. Stranger still Toots, who had been on deck sleeping under the dinghy had not come out to investigate with us. I wandered back and shone the torch over the stern to see a very frightened Toots, eyes like chapel hat pegs, clinging desperately to the rudder blade of our self-steerer. Her front legs were wrapped in a death squeeze around that slim bit of wood and she was not letting go. Neither of us know how it happened but my call of alarm had Bee from one end of the boat to the other and over the side clinging to the self-steering struts as she made a grab for one very wet, skinny, clearly terrified Toots who showed no resistance to being bundled into a towel and dried off. That water is cold and Bee’s idea that we should have some form of line she can attach to herself so she can fling herself overboard was not met with approval. The only saving grace to this whole episode, aside from Toots still being with us, is the effect upon her coat which is shiny and smooth. Like me her fur had become slightly “dreadlocky” so she hasn’t been at her best!

Further north we sailed to roughly the same latitude as London although much cooler and when, in late August, a local warned us that autumn was arriving we swallowed and thought we should make plans to head south soon. We decided to head in Griquet (pronounced Gricket) to wait out some northerlies that were coming through. The only chart for this place seems to be an old French one that we don’t have. The electronic ones we have show no soundings at all and the only reason we attempted it was the new guide to Newfoundland has a copy of the chart and a line indicating the best way in. It involves rounding an island before picking up the channel. The weather was lumpy outside  and we doused sail at the entrance and made our way intending to leave the island to starb’d. But some memory made me question my decision and we rounded up into the wind whilst Bee went below and found the relevant page and found we should actually leave it to port. The following day a figure appeared on the jetty and entertained us with his story of how, from the veranda of their summer house they had watched with shock as a boat had actually come in from the sea (the waves were pretty impressive from the shore) and their shock had turned to horror as the boat had begun to go the wrong way and then suddenly turned. Their first thought had been we’d lost power; followed very closely by the picking up the phone and about to ring the coastguard.......

From Griquet we headed north into a lumpy and very uncomfortable sea for a narrow tickle called Quirpon (Carpoon). As so often with these situations the shelter of land changes the nature of the seas and we experienced wonderfully calm water. An outgoing fisherman assured us we could pass either side of the buoy and we entered into a tranquil and lovely area. Unfortunately we needed to push on as the next tropical storm was heading our way and we wanted to use the easterlies to get down the infamous Belle Isle Strait. And so it was. This was to be our first long, serious trip for some time and coupled with a forecasted 30 knots plus had a quite unnecessary effect of turning my bowels to water. But once we got going and settled into our routine it is surprising how calm and clear we become. The journey turned out to be easier than we’d imagined and as each day came along we kept pushing south knowing that soon the wind would switch to the SW, the direction we were heading, and we’d need to seek shelter. We chose to do so in Beach Point, a small summer community that was deserted and arrived about 8am one morning.
 The entrance is narrow, perhaps 15-20 metres and the swell was beginning to run into the entrance. A bar across the harbour cuts down the swell entering but also gave me a bit of a turn as we swept in with wind and following sea and the depth beneath the keel began dropping rapidly to 3 feet (don’t you just love this mixture of imperial and metric we fling about!) Once in we were faced with turning the boat in a very confined space with a gusting wind in order to tie alongside a fishing boat. Took several attempts but we were safe in and we headed for some much needed kip. Only to woken a few hours later by voices – the crew for the fishing boat.....luckily they weren’t going out as the wind and seas had risen but were simply doing a bit of maintenance. We went back to bed.
We spent a day or so there and then headed out to make it down to Nova Scotia or as much as possible before the next wind shift. Opting to by-pass the Bras D’Or Lakes we made decent progress passing Cape Breton and onto Nova Scotia. As the wind turned against us we made a rapid decision to pull into a nearby anchorage to wait a more favourable slant. The following evening we headed out into a very lumpy sea left over from the gusty SW wind that had blown. We struggled to get through the channel and spent a couple of hours beating until the  wind, as forecast, switched to the north and we were away. Shelburne was a couple of nights away and the first night slipped by as kept up the speed. But with 40 miles to go the wind speed suddenly increased well beyond the 20 knots forecast and the seas seemed to come from all direction. A very uncomfortable night. Approaching Shelburne we peered anxiously up the harbour expecting/hoping to see a familiar boat but nothing. We anchored and rode ashore having been hailed by Paul Gartside with a “Welcome Home” and met up with Forbes and Yola who instantly put a large and very hot shower at our disposal. Which brings us back to where we were a couple of postings back.

 Robin and Jac, whose boat we expected to see on our arrival, we find are now behind us having to deal with a family problem back in Europe

 So there it is, 3 months and a couple of thousand miles in a few thousand words. Newfoundland is an island of contrasts held together by the people

 It’s been several weeks since I wrote this up and we are now back in Belfast and soon to be heading back down to Portsmouth, Virginia. The trip across from Shelburne proved uneventful although the prospect of strong SE winds had us sliding into a better protected harbour before Belfast. A quick radio call to Kathy, Belfast’s Harbourmaster, had her alerting the Customs and they duly cleared us in without a problem. In fact after he listened to our story about the difficulties of leaving the US in March he granted us an 8 month stay rather than a 6 month one thereby removing one enormous worry about our departure date for next year.

The trip across also gave us a wonderful opportunity with a wind battered kestrel that had been blown out to sea. It alighted on the mizzen sheet and balanced precariously there, inches from my head. Whilst attempting to seek better shelter it was blown backwards and fell into the sea, recovered and flew back onto the sheet but closer to the furled sail where it recovered for several minutes, watching us closely through bright eyes. At some point it must have felt sufficiently recovered to make another attempt at leaving but soon realised its mistake, wheeled and appeared to dive into the side of the boat. We couldn’t see any sign of it in the water and felt it must have hit the hull and gone under. Happily the following morning it hopped out from under the dinghy and flew off having spent a quiet, sheltered night getting its breath back. Thankfully for all concerned Attila the Claw was not on duty that night so the kestrel was left in peace.

And then a few days ok I was below when I heard the murmur of voices followed by a hefty “ Anyone on board” and came up to find Mike and Eilean stood on the jetty with big grins on their faces! We’d last seen them thousands of miles away on another continent – I mean C’mon how many times in your life are you going to be able say - "We haven’t seen you since Senegal"!!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Lost and Found in our idea of heaven...

Greetings from the SE corner of Newfoundland, a cruising ground worth travelling miles for as indeed you must in order to get here! We left from the Bras D’Or Lakes some 700 miles and 6 weeks ago and have spent most of that time alternating between thick fog or brilliant sunshine. Sometimes both at the same time...
We left a small anchorage, Kelly’s Cove, on the east side of the lakes and headed through the narrow channel back into the ocean. The "forecasted" wind didn’t arrive and we spent a restless few hours trying to work Hannah toward a 90 mile distant Newfie. Half way through the morning we heard a voice calling us on the radio. Calling US not the boat and we heard Rick from WanderBird asking where we were. We had suggested we might meet them in Mickle’s Tickle, a favourite anchorage, but weather had not worked for us and we found ourselves with another day to go. What was amazing about this call was that they were in the Tickle and so 90 miles away and yet we were able to speak via VHF. Normally we would expect 15 mile or so. We agreed to meet up along the way and slowly drifted toward Ingonish for the night. The sail to Burgeo the following day worked well although we ended up sailing through the night and got into Burgeo to find a disappointing anchorage and hearing that WB were in nearby Rameo decided to head over to catch up. 

We spent the next few days in their company before we moved in different directions. From there we wandered into Hoon and Aviron where we were lucky enough to see an otter. Actually we didn’t move much at all as the fog descended and the chart we were using carried the cautionary note that positions from a GPS needed to be moved x  in order to agree. It then went onto to say that even doing this would leave the navigator out by as much as 1/3 mile.... We stayed put. ...
Interestingly, well for me at any rate, I was reading David Lewis’s book Ice Bird where he took his boat down to Antarctica in the early ‘70’s. After days in fog and gales he managed to snatch a sun sight which placed 50 miles north of where he believed himself to be and here was I worrying about 1/3 mile. How times have changed. Another change, for us, is we have found ourselves having to use the electronic charts on the lap-top as we don’t have anything that covers this area in enough detail and can now understand why CMap is so popular. We know cruisers who no longer bother with paper at all but use this free system to get themselves about.

Eventually, tiring of the fog and running short of wine we headed for the French Islands of St Pierre & Miquelon – accurate charts! Some 12 miles off the nearest Canadian coast these two islands are part of France and have a long history of booze smuggling. Not now of course but... We arrived in Miquelon having failed to see the 500’ cliffs until ½ mile off the coast because of the fog and worked our way into the anchorage. Into the dinghy the following day to book in and then a rapid wander around town to find wine and cheese. But with the wind due to blow in hard from the east in a few days we had to leave the anchorage as it offered no protection and so headed down to St Pierre. Different again from its other half; more of a town to a hamlet I guess, St P offered bigger shops, more tourism, and a lot more shelter. We anchored off the French Sailing School, spoke with another yacht (the first we’d seen on this coast) who provided us with the code to unlock the showers and settled down for a few days to await the passing of the weather. We stocked up on wine, wandered the streets and read. One day offered a slight break in the weather we hoisted anchor and motored out of the harbour. Some 3 miles out and still working our way clear we shipped a sea over the bow that hung, malevolently it seemed to me, in the air for several seconds before coming down on top of me.... at that point I thought “Now hold on we don’t need this we’ll end up in a harbour we don’t want to be in ‘cos we need to book back into Canada...” so we turned and ran back in to St P at twice the speed we’d come out at. Anchored off the Customs building and stayed there until the winds were favourable.

This time we chose to head for Argentia in Placentia Bay. However as the distance from St P to Argentia was about 180 miles and the wind usually drops in the late evening we thought we’d break it up by anchoring. We found a couple of small places that certainly whetted the appetite for what was to come. Burin, for example, is very reminiscent of parts of Scotland but is now a shadow of what it used to be. As with so many of these places the collapse of the fishing industry has left many communities without work and consequently populations have moved to areas that could support them.

To Argentia, a forsaken outpost that once was a US Navy base but now seems to be little more than a ferry and container terminal. We spoke to Placentia Traffic, the CG who controls the movement of ships around the bay and they tried to put us through to Customs. Apparently the Customs like 2 hours notice of your arrival so the can meet you. As we couldn’t phone them a connection was provided via the VHF but it didn’t. Connect that is so we had the CG asking us the questions and relaying our answers to Customs. Wish that it was always that simple!. In the end we were cleared in without having to land, given a recommended anchorage and headed to it for the night. To be joined, soon after, by an American boat, considerably smarter and bigger than us. Placentia Sound, where we were anchored is a long, deep, winding fjord that’s easy to enter but ends in depths comfortable enough to anchor in. 

Valen Harbour
 But the following day we were anxious to be away and headed for a place called Indian Harbour which, although very photogenic, was too narrow to anchor in any comfort so headed out for Dog Harbour. Over the following days we had easy sails to places you can only dream about.
Valen Harbour is almost landlocked with a narrow, possibly 60’ wide cleft between the rock face. Inside a ledge is there to catch the unwary (not us this time) and then a pool offers a sublime anchorage. 

We crept in, waving at the few fishing families about and dropped the hook, idly watched by a leaf chewing caribou. Or was it a moose? Whatever 4 legs and a lot of antler stood showing little interest in our antics. Unlike us in him!

Western Cove, St Kieran and then onto Marystown and one of those situations that we occasionally bump into. We’d anchored off the Government wharf, decrepit and falling apart when a figure was seen rowing out to us. He told us we could use the other side of the wharf (it was in very good condition) turned and rowed back. We moored alongside and were chatting to George (the rower) when another guy turned up, beer in hand. Introducing himself as Neil he had, within 5 minutes, established we needed showers and the internet. As he was drinking, had to go and see his mother and sister that evening he pointed to his truck, then his house and suggested we make use of both to do what we needed. George offered to guide us to the house and within 30 minutes of being tied up we were in a hot shower. In set the tone for the few days we spent in the area. Neil suggested we’d be better moving to Little Bay, where he kept his fishing boat. What a lovely spot!. In a bay and well protected from most winds the small community seemed very peaceful. Visitors came down to the dock and chatted but mostly we were left alone. 

 Neil came over, collected us and our jerry cans, and took us off to a local spring for fresh water. Introduced us to his family, invited us to a wedding, and really looked after us. But and isn’t there always a “but” in these stories we were meant to be heading out to sea and hadn’t seen another “must see” place called Oderin.   We kept pronouncing it as Ohdurin whereas locally its pronounced Odarerin. And the accent sounds Irish to us although Jackie may not agree. So up to Oderin we went. Like so many of the places we have been to this had once been a settlement of fishing people who were enticed/cajoled to leave their generational homes in the 60’s after the confederation of  Canada. I’ve written, briefly, of this before and can’t begin to say I know the whys and wherefores of it all. Certainly from the privileged position of the deck of your own boat and in the height of (what passes for) summer these places are absolute gems. Looking at the settings it must have been heart-breaking for the families to have left behind everything they couldn’t carry.

Now, 50 years on, few people talk about it and the houses that are now springing up are often the sons or grandkids of those families. The homes are just for summer use but in some way seem to be an attempt to re-establish their identity amongst these wonderful islands. And Newfoundland is full of such places. Little, if any of the original settlements remain in most places but there is an air around them. Placentia Bay, I guess because it is not really on the way to anywhere else, is possibly by passed by many boats and perhaps that’s to its advantage. But if you are reading this and are planning to cruise Newfoundland we would say it has to be one of the best cruising grounds we’ve ever experienced.
From Oderin we went back to Burin, (pronounced Bjorn!) to set ourselves up for the wind direction and a good sail to Trepassey. Although Rick and Karen really like the place we have found the “softness” of the country compared to the cliffs and hills of the bit we have travelling along a bit disappointing. But the bay offers a couple of wharves to tie to and lots of anchorages to escape the wind. The entrance is easy and probably the only drawback seems to be the belief that most of the fog in Newfoundland starts its life here. But not at the moment. In fact the locals deny there has been much fog at all this year although concede that easterly winds are not common. Of course they don’t consider visibility of less than 200 yards foggy so all things are relative.

Much of the last 6 weeks have been spent on the endless discussion of what do we do next. We had a plan, which involved a lot of miles to an area that has its share of windy weather, but we’ve hummed and hahed about that. Should we winter here or somewhere else or go to the Azores and take it from there. Well today the decision is Azores but from the boat to the library is about ¼ mile so by the time this is posted we may have changed our mind. Certainly by the time this is read by anyone we’ll either be on our way or still cruising this area with a winter abode in mind.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Too many goodbye’s for comfort...

We left Cary’s jetty in very heavy rain, not helped by an emotional and tearful farewell. With the weather forecasting favourable winds for a couple of days we felt if we didn’t move we’d get stuck both emotionally and weather wise so we headed off into a miserable day. Initially the wind stayed with us and we made reasonable progress down the Bay but as the day drew toward evening the wind died and we made slow progress north. If there is one word that, for us, sums up the east coast of the US it’s “volatile”. Because it is. We’ve lost count of the number of intense electrical storms we’ve either been part of or close to. The journey north was no exception as storms came off the coast, illuminating whole tracts of sky but luckily for us they were either ahead or astern of us and heading out to sea. Had we been heading for the Azores of course we wouldn’t have been so “smug” but sometimes you win, sometimes.. We’d listened to the weather channel on the VHF. Strong wind warnings were being given and as we had a lot of sail up we thought we’d reef well down. To windward of us lay a big expanse of black sky, billowing cloud, and general nastiness. Minutes after we’d reefed and dumped the jib we were hit, without any prior warning, by a huge slab of wind. We had gone below and suddenly felt Hannah roll hard to starboard! Bee honestly thought we were sinking the motion was so violent and sudden. We rushed on deck but the worst had already gone through and Hannah had righted herself, pulling the starb’d rail from under the water and was moving steadily on. I’ve said before that Hannah is such a stable boat that we don’t, in our mate Geoff’s terms, do “tipping” so the wind strength must have been around 50+knots.

We toyed with the idea of heading up through the East River and using Long Island Sound to anchor and proceed at a more leisurely (!) pace but we’d need to get the tides right for the entry into NYC and also Bee had concerns about being in the big city with out of date paperwork so we plugged on and eventually made Point Judith about 4 days after leaving the Bay. (Point Judith stands between Long Island Sound and the Buzzards Bay/Martha’s Vineyard area.) Temperature was noticeably colder, particularly at night but generally more comfortable for us. The great thing about this anchorage is you’re ignored and going ashore is not an option unless you head up river and into the towns. We moved a little further up Buzzards Bay the following day, anchoring in a sheltered cove before heading on up to the Cape Cod Canal. We had intended anchoring for the night but at the last moment opted to get closer to the canal, anchor and wait for the tide to stop running so hard. In the end I got that wrong leaving an hour earlier than we should and took several hours to transit the 7 or 8 miles which, with the tide running hard with you takes about 40 minutes. Light winds greeted us on the northern side and we got into P’town about 2am, briefly considering heading on to NS.

The following morning was grey and windy with a strong SW’ly. Leaving the anchorage with a single reef was effective but as we cleared the peninsula we reefed down again before finally dropping the main and cruising blissfully on under mizzen and heads’ls as speeds were exceeding 8 knots and 7 knots felt more comfortable. We’d battened down but were horrified or more likely pissed off to discover that we had a leak in our doghouse where some of the adhesive had come adrift. Why on earth we couldn’t have discovered this when we were happily settled with Cary who’s experience would have been invaluable. Aah well. Off the coast and amongst the shipping lanes we spotted breaching whales throwing themselves about but a defunct camera means you’ll have to take our word for it!

 We were hell bound for Shelburne as R & J had promised a delivery of Marmite and all the way across we had visions......

A passing Canadian Coast Guard ship called us up to check on what we were up to, their attitude and demeanour so very different from their US counterparts. But the easy passage was about to come to an end as the fog began to form. The wind kept up, the current stayed with us and so we sped on at 6-7knots peering out into the white blanket that surrounded us. Not a situation we enjoyed and in ordinary circumstances we would slow down but we were approaching Cape Sable where the tide runs hard and we wanted to get far enough past before it turned against us. However, as the day wore on and daylight, such as it was, faded life became more complicated. True we could (and should) have slowed down but for the reasons above we kept on. Religiously we came on deck to check around every ten minutes but even so Bee got the shock of her life when on her next look around  a drifting fishing boat was visible less than 100 metres away and slightly off to port! The fear could be felt throughout Hannah and we spent the rest of the night on an almost continual watch-a wet and miserable experience for both of us. Periodically we’d give out our position on the VHF and received a friendly call from a passing ship who reassured us that the only signal visible to them on radar was a weak signal some 2.5 miles ahead of the position we’d transmitted. Luckily we realised from the lat/long he gave us that he was actually picking us up and the coast ahead was clear. Through the night we ran and began closing the NS coast. The fog stuck with us and despite using buoys as waypoints to guide us in we didn’t see a single one before we made the harbour of Shelburne. Back in Portsmouth we’d fitted an AIS receiver, which picks up a signal from ships and displays their name, course, and speed within a specified radius on a screen. And whilst not all ships carry them, certainly few fishing boats, we’ve been very pleased with the help it has given us so far.

Shelburne. What can we say? From a sailing viewpoint it is such an easy entry, wide open, safe and, for the most part, good shelter. Although it’s a Port of Entry no custom officials work there and have to come from Halifax - some 3 hours away by road. 

 They arrived, cleared us in and were on their way back about 15 minutes later. The Yacht Club hadn’t changed much although our favourite person at the club had moved on and after a night on the pontoon we moved out to an anchorage between the Dory Shop and the Barrel Factory and opposite the road Forbes and Yola our friends live in.

We met them 4 years ago, they’d spotted us again whilst we on the pontoon awaiting clearance, were so pleased to see us and very welcoming - giving us the run of the house. We’ve been here 2 weeks now awaiting the arrival of some packages from the UK. The 3 packages came from that duo of reprobates, Robin and Jackie, who dispatched some much needed Marmite for the coffers. Having said that on her first foray into the local supermarket Bee, making her usual beeline for the reduced section, had found 5 small bottles for 99cents each and then came the arrival of a further 1700 grams and then a further 7 bottles from Forbes and Yola. 
 So Marmite stocks are looking good for the moment...So besides awaiting parcels we also got involved with Forbes and Yola and their flute business and a house renovation project for a boat designer, Paul Gartside, who had recently moved across from British Columbia In between Bee has managed to get in a bit of gardening –too much like hard work for me - and hunt down every charity shop in town.

But the time came to move on, yet another sad farewell as we said goodbye to the Forbes and Yola. They’d made us more than welcome, entertained and fed us and besides being very nice people make the most wonderful flutes. 

It is one of the amazing things about this life how we can get involved in people’s lives and businesses enjoying the variety and challenge and then just move on and meet more people.

The trip along the coast of NS was good. We picked our weather, made good and, for us, new anchorages and took the time to cruise up the Le Havre river which was wonderful. Scenic and sheltered, at times remote it is so often passed by as yotties push on for the “delights” of Bras D’Or as we did last time. 

We spent time anchored off Dave and Mary Fran’s boathouse, a couple we’d met in Lake Worth last year but as we dropped the anchor a voice hailed us from the bank and offered us the use of a nearby dock. He was the owner of a shipyard and had never met us before. We stayed put as the mud was good and we had plenty of water. Bridgewater, the local town, is a good place to stock up – the supermarket getting Bee’s seal of approval and we managed to get Toots her annual Rabies jab. As we were waiting for the appointment who should come out of the room but Forbes with one of their cats!! Talk about surprise. And of course we met up with Yola later who’d just had a cataract operation but, knowing my reluctance to hear details, thankfully spared us the slice by slice account.
With a favourable wind we pushed on up the coast stopping at Rogues Roost, apparently one of THE places to anchor. The northern part is very rocky but the southern niche was mud but quite small. We hadn’t been there long when another boat came in...a small power-boat with a guy from Manchester on board but he only stopped for a few minutes, shared his champagne and headed back home.

Ever onwards but the light in Rogues Roost had pushed us into camera mode and we headed for Halifax for a two day stopover. The weather had swung round to the east with rain and we used to the time to tramp the streets looking for the one we wanted. Many hours and footsore miles later we returned tired and successful.

Over several days we made our way toward Cape Breton and finally reached St Peter’s on June 10. Easy passage through the canal and we spent the night tied to the canal edge on the lake side. Got taken, by a local, to view a wooden boat he wanted to rescue – seems like a lot of hard work to me, particularly as he is doing up a house at the same time but Jack thrives on challenge so no doubt when we next go through he’ll have completed both!

Ever since we were last here we have talked about one of favourite anchorages - Cape George where we anchored in such a way as to be able to climb into the dinghy and onto the shore without rowing at all. As we approached we viewed the new houses we could see around with dread and sure enough the entrance to the tiny bay now has 3 houses facing it. True the bay itself was untouched, although a stroll along a track shows that some logging and land clearing has started as yet another place gets a summer home. Such a shame.

Despite Jack’s assurance that fog rarely gets into the Lakes we awoke to find thick fog everywhere and we waited patiently for it to clear. As the wind was due to go north the following day we decided to leave as soon as visibility improved and so set off with viz about ½ mile, a bit of rain and a small breeze. We called ahead to ensure we’d be able to get the bridge opened and eventually motored to push us on a bit. Going through the bridge we were swung one way then another as the current bounced off the piers supporting the structure. At one point we were a metre from colliding with the thing but slid through with a smiling bridge-keeper above us enthusiastically commenting on Hannah’s looks to us. Approaching Baddeck I chose a short cut but a combination of strongly gusting wind, fog, water that was rapidly getting shallower and the inability to correctly identify the channel through made me decide that we’d better go the long way round. Bee worked miracles and dropped the main with speed as we came round and headed into deeper water. Into the harbour in torrential rain to anchor in the same spot we had four years previously. Ahh the bliss of a wood stove and a glass of wine.

Tomorrow we push onto the south coast of Newfoundland and a hoped for rendezvous with Rick and Karen on Wanderbird.