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but we’d need to get the tides right for the entry into NYC and also Bee had concerns about being in the big city with out of date paperwork so we plugged on and eventually made Point Judith about 4 days after leaving the Bay.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.