Friday, 31 December 2010

Main horse blues

As we hoist or lower the main, tack or do anything that takes the wind pressure off the main, the main sheet block attached to the horse would slam back and forth against the stops. Toots hated it, drove me spare and I hadn't found anything suitable that could cope with the battering. But wandering around a schooner up in the Vineyard I saw a neat solution....
a hole drilled out of the centre of an ice-hockey puck to match the diameter of the horse, then split on one side  and a hole drilled through the edge to take a bolt and the whole thing forced onto the horse. Bolt screwed though and yer in business.......................not sure how easy ice-hockey pucks are to come by in most countries but it works very well. 

Aah the joys of a gaffer.

So Happy New Year to all from MBT

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Day Outing

So about 3 weeks ago Bee found a woman round the corner with a kayak to sell....true it was in a poor state but at $35 we thought it was a steal. Well, with a couple of coats of paint of opposite colours the "Mooyak" was born. Toots took to it in style and went aboard for a paddle around  Hannah...the walk along the foredeck was unplanned and we'd forgotten to put anti-slip on but the disaster never happened. She may not be so lucky next time. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The journey south begins

Months have passed since we left Shelburne and many of the miles sailed are so familiar to both Hannah, her crew and browsers of these pages. Waiting for weather windows, returning to Belfast etc and for that reason I'll probably condense much of the journey. We did return to Belfast, had a great time, met up with all our friends  and were fortunate enough to be tied up across the jetty  from Phil and Teri AND Steve and Susan thanks to Kathy, the Harbour Master. Time spent in chatting, future plans and visits to S&S house, a sensible 16'x14' they've been steadily building over the last few months. 
We also scrubbed off one fine, cold Maine morning as the sea smoke rose and the early risers gathered to chat.But time passed  quickly and we needed to getting south before it got too late and so we set out with Robin and Jac. With a fair forecast we opted to head straight for P'town and arrived the following evening, leaving the following morning for a long beat down to the canal entrance. Although we had a favourable tide going through the 7 mile canal, the western end, being more open to the wind ,saw us both reduced to a couple of knots as a chop built up. 
 That night we anchored in Marion and the following day, courtesy the Harbour Master we picked up a couple of mooring buoys as he remembered us from our last visit.

With the winds forecast to blow from the west for a while we headed south across Buzzards Bay toward Martha's Vineyard for a first time visit. Lumpy sea and a stiff breeze made spotting the entrance buoy into Woods Hole difficult and despite the seeming array of electronics we now have, the tension slips from my shoulders when I hear Bee say, as she always does in the end,  “Got it”  as she found the buoy. Nothing like a visual! That night we anchored in a sheltered bay before going through Woods Hole and onto MV itself. Woods Hole is a narrow passage between islands where the current is fast, rocks and shallows lie either side of the channel and the local ferries take no prisoners. That said we still feel that the Letete Passage Narrows, in the Passamaquady Bay, is top of the list for broiling water!
Martha's Vineyard is an interesting place, tad too obsessed with wooden boats for our tastes but we met up with Dennis, a guy we'd met in the Caribbean a few years back. He'd got the HM to agree to us using mooring buoys in the harbour and Julie, his wife, took time out to show us the island so all in all we had a good time. Like us, Dennis was heading south though in his case he was heading direct and we were coastal hopping. Eventually the forecast eased a little and gave us enough of a window to head off. Not for long though as the wind began to fade as we approached the end of the sound. Carry on or ever once the decision had been taken to stop at Block Island (some 4 hours away) we found the wind gradually picking up. But being so close to an anchorage, the possibility of a drink and warm bed for the night had us pressing on when common sense suggested we'd be much better heading on to New York. But sometimes we need to learn the hard way (still) and it wasn't until we'd beat up the coast to the harbour entrance that what we knew all along (lee shore, narrow entrance, unlit buoys etc!) brought us to our senses and we turned away from the nights shelter and headed out to sea. What followed was a night, albeit cold, of wonderful sailing as we sped along close to the south shore of Long Island getting the benefits a good breeze but little if any wave action. 

The following evening we entered New York with light airs but a  glorious sunset and settled behind Coney Island for a few days rest. The sail down had left me with a nagging pain in my groin and as Robin had suffered a double hernia in Labrador that was very much on my mind...certainly the symptoms seemed similar. Trussed up(me that is) we set out on the next stage to Cape May for yet another over-nighter. At least where we were the winds were lighter and the waves smaller – the forecast for Georges Bank (much further out to sea) had winds of 45knots and 25' seas!!! Into Cape May, battling a nasty cross current that had us pointing NE but heading NW before letting us slide behind the shelter of the breakwater. The anchorage had 5 or so boats already at anchor and we found a spot amongst them. Over the next few days the wind blew hard and we were thankful to be at anchor and sheltered. Then we were off on the final leg  and before long we were vying for space with naval ships,
hovercraft and sundry fishing boats....and then into Scotts Creek to be met by a smiling Cary and news that a Docs appointment was sorted. A week or so later we heard the awful news of our friend Dennis  and his trip south. Caught in the Gulf Stream by a front that stalled, they were rolled by huge waves. His friend of 30+years was swept over the side and held by the rigging and masts that had been smashed off. Willy was struggling to keep his face clear of the water as Dennis and Amanda, Willy's daughter, tried to clear the rigging. Willy pleaded with them to cut the life-line that was securing him to the boat, reluctantly they did so but, unable to hold onto him in the seas, could only watch as he was swept away. For 3 days they pumped and patched in an effort to keep the boat afloat and then were able to jury-rig a mast  and “sail” south. Took a further 9 days before they were picked up by ship about 200 miles from Bermuda. And then a week or so ago we heard of the murder in Guatemala of a Canadian guy we had met here a couple of years previously... Each of the cases shocked us  enormously and still do.

So after discussing with the surgeon about this hernia I decided to go ahead and have the op. The price  I'd been given seemed to be much the same as having it done privately in the UK (NHS would have possibly meant a long wait as it would probably have been seen as elective rather than urgent) and I dutifully turned up, having paid the surgeon , $500 before hand. At the hospital I went through to reception but before answering any questions I wanted to know that the info I'd been given on pricing was accurate as I didn't want any financial shocks. The price was $2172.50 plus $351 for the anaesthetist. So I get the op and have been recovering for the last few weeks. Luckily Jac & Robin was able to fill me in and the side effects(a little too graphically from Jac); swelling, bruising etc and for the most part it has been fine.  Now of course the hospital has seen fit to add bits to the, as far as we're concerned, settled bill. Interestingly the hospital cost of the operation was $8690 but because we had no insurance  and had to pay up front the cost was reduced to $2172.50 or 25% of the cost! Why? Who knows but it would seem the villains in the US health care are the hospitals and insurance companies. But weeks on from the op. the surgeon seems happy with the progress and is comfortable with us heading off before the entire recovery period is over on the proviso I take it easy so we have set a date for the first week of Jan.

Christmas draws near, the healing continues, temperatures continue to fall though nothing as bad as much of Europe seems to be getting, We have clearance to head off in the first week of January. It'll be a cool trip south..

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A summer in Labrador

Anse de Portage, Quebec coast
Wed 30 June
So here we are, at anchor on the southern Quebec shore in a small bay called Anse de Portage. To the east of us Blackthorn rides to her anchor and they periodically call us to report wind strengths. 42knots in the gusts but generally around 30 and tho we have a bit of wave action we're all comfortable and safe. We left Cape Breton about a week ago and worked our way up the west of Newfoundland and crossed over a few days back. The crossing, an overnighter, rewarded us with a cold night but the day brought whales galore and ice-bergs drifting with the current or more probably aground. Unfortunately too far away to photograph but no doubt that'll change in the next month as we get further north. Yesterday we tramped across the hills that surround the anchorage to check out at sea for whales (non) and ice-bergs(one). No trees of course but lots of rock, fresh water pools to drink from and tiny flowers abound. The few cabins that are around belong to families from St Augustin who use them in the summer as fishing camps. When fishing was the major (only!) source of income for local people, summer would arrive, the ice disappear and entire families would leave their homes on the mainland, coming to live at these outposts to spend the summer jigging for fish. Whilst these places are still in use, the fishing is mostly illegal as quotas are small. Last winter had been so mild that the folks were unable to drag the wood across the frozen bay by skidoo and have to bring it to the cabins by boat. Our fire is running happily, thanks to a shed load of wood from Cary and Kevin, a kettle boiling gently and Toots has managed to raise herself from the prone position in front of the heat to feed from her bowl....but only because Bee is holding it at the correct angle and she can eat without too much effort! By the way the temperatures are a balmy 46F. And that’s during the day when the sun is out and no wind is blowing. Virginia it ain't as we hear the east coast of the US is wilting under 100 degree heat. This part of the coast has a Hebridean feel to it, bare rock, few, if any trees, very sparsely populated probably less rain here than the Outer Hebs. But generally the pack ice is pretty solid until May so a hard environment to live in. We were talking, the other day, with a guy, Kelly, who was originally from here . (He'd come by the boat to give us a salmon that was about 18" long!!) He began life as a fisherman, became a teacher but 5 years ago gave up and moved to Quebec and now works for an Insurance Company. He returns each year with his family (his wife is from the next community up the coast) to fish, look for ice-bergs and reconnect himself. The kids miss the city, think it’s too cold here and nothing to do!!. No road to connect to the rest of Canada just a rapidly disappearing way of life. Until about 30 years ago the Hudson Bay Trading Company still maintained a trading post where the locals could bring in pelts to trade for goods but no more of course. When you read about the history of these places, those further north in Labrador and much of the Newfie coast it brings it home how rapidly life has changed in the last 100 years but more especially for these communities in the last 50 or less. The skidoo changed things immeasurably when it began to replace the dog teams. Easier to handle than dogs and without the tendency to attack young children, skidoos enabled a much greater social life allowing visits to family on a more regular basis I guess. Kelly's father ran a team and hated his dogs and all the trouble associated with them. The little we've seen of the Quebec coast has had us planning a future trip to this shore but approaching it via the Northumberland Strait and starting much further west..will we ever get out of the North Atlantic?
Dolphins, |Belle Isle Strait

Since I wrote those lines we have moved on and are currently awaiting a fair wind to take us up to the east coast of Labrador. We're at anchor in Red Bay having arrived a couple of days ago with R&J. And then soon after by a 60' boat from Maine heading for Greenland. Red Bay is famous for the sunken ships found in the bay - this area was a huge Basque whale processing area back in the late 1500's and a lot of artefact's have been uncovered. Along the shore is a coastal steamer that broke loose in a northerly storm and ran aground off an island. The hull is slowly rusting away having been there for 40 odd years. Outside the harbour an iceberg is visible (or would be if the fog lifted...) aground and further out we passed one, also aground, that broke up with an enormous bang. Luckily it was at least a mile away. Whales are everywhere, often very close into shore as the capelin have arrived in huge numbers and humans and whales are in competition to see who gets the biggest share. Apparently capelin, some sort of small fish, only appears for a limited time each year so the activity is frenetic. All this talk of ice-bergs and pack ice would make you imagine we're in the Arctic Circle but we're about the same line of latitude (51.43.7N) as Maldon

The previous port of call was Lance A Loup where we tied alongside for the princely sum of Can$1 a night which included the shower. Locals wandered down to the quay to chat or wave as they headed out to catch capelin. By the standards of what we saw last year (and so far this year) this is a fair sized and prosperous town with a thriving fish plant. Hopefully it'll continue.

On our previous trips across from Cape Breton we've used Ingonish as a springing off point but thanks to info from various people we used Dingwall and found ourselves a great place. We were worried about the depths going in but had been assured that by sticking to the centre of the channel we'd have no problem with our 7' (2.10 metres) depth. We're often led to believe that the depths are fine for us but we've learnt that it pays to ask what size boat the person supplying the info runs.... but in this case Hammy (our informant) had brought deep draught vessels in and large fishing boats still went in and out so although we entered slowly it all went smoothly and we tied up to a fishing boat for a couple of nights.
Thurs 8 July, Finally it seems the wind is about to move out of the east and round to the SW giving us a free run up the coast. Well the weather reports have promised us that before and not delivered so we'll see how true this one turns out to be. The sun is trying to burn the fog off, breakfast is over, the bread is baking and we're ready to go...

July 14 Penny Harbour 53 08.81N 055 46.47W So much has happened and with no chance of posting this page for some time I'm resorting to periodic updates as we move north. In Red Bay R&J headed back to Newfoundland to get a medical issue sorted after much soul searching. It was a subdued pair of boats that parted company that morning as we, separately, headed out into thick fog and little wind. Our course was taking us north and we pottered on through the fog, visibility reduced to a few hundred feet. Unlike the previous fog trips we now had the "comfort" of a radar we'd fitted a few months ago and it proved its worth as we were able to "see" something on the screen that wasn't on the chart and out of the fog loomed a large berg.... 
Cape St Charles, Labrador

Onwards we motored and finally approached Cape St Charles and our anchorage for the night. Still the fog persisted and we crept in as the wind began to pick up and found the deserted wharf still in usable condition and tied up for the night. Toots was ashore before we'd even got a line on and that was pretty much the last we saw of her as she roamed her new home.

Part of the joy of these trips is in reading the pilot books to pick out spots we think we'll like. Sometimes we're disappointed, sometimes overjoyed. So our next destination, Eagle Cove and Squasho Run were, we felt, over rated and hadn't lived up to the anticipation. Squasho, a narrow 3 mile run between rolling hills was OK rather than exceptional but was made interesting by the COMPLETELY wrong directions on the buoys in the channel....but the anchorage for the night and where we are at the moment is simply wonderful. 
Penny Harbour

Cabins dot the shore, though few are used any longer and last night as Bee was stood on the companionway steps she almost screamed her delight when she spotted a black bear ambling along the shore toward some of the more remote cabins!! We spent an entertaining hour or two watching it grub amongst the grass, stand on its back legs to scratch its back on a convenient cabin wall and occasionally peer in our general direction.

I might add that we were watching all this from the safety of the steps. Not because of the bear but simply because the amount of Black Fly and mosquitoes are unreal and we have a purple net stretched across the entrance. A green one over the skylight and a white one across the fore hatch! The bugs are a serious threat to your sanity as light winds mean they're everywhere - coming through Squasho yesterday they were joined by, what looked like large, evil looking horse flies but may have been a hornets of some kind. Soon after the bear wandered off and a fishing boat came into the harbour and unloaded gear. One of the guys came over to chat explaining he was the only one now who used his cabin, giving a quick rundown on remaining cabins, relationship of owners to him etc. before heading back in to get his cabin sorted out. The bear came back soon after but not for long and no sign of it this morning.
5 years ago today(July 14) we left Labrador for Greenland. How different things are for us this time around. Better prepared, able to get weather forecasts and with protection from the wind and sea I wonder how we would fare this time? I doubt the fear element would be any less somehow.
Slick from a crash dived whale...

This last winter has been a mild one for the folks around here and for us it seems we get to see a lot of icebergs, mostly aground as we make our way up this coast. Lot of growlers and smaller lumps about as well but the winds have been light enough for us to easily spot them and so far we have resisted the urge to get too close unlike the whales who seem to delight in surfacing alongside us or more disconcertingly immediately in front of the bow.
Sometimes we just swerve out of the way but one was so close we had no time to react and watched as it crash dived a matter of yards away and we sailed over its slick. Whales are everywhere and you can see, dotted around, their distinctive plume of spray as the surface to breathe. Mostly in pairs but sometimes in groups: we never tire of seeing them around us.

Wed July 20 Rogers Harbour 55N 58W Ever further north we move although we have had one day of sailing and a lot of motoring. The sailing day saw us on our way from Packs Harbour to Emily Harbour with big seas and speeds between 7 and 8 knots. A deep low south of Greenland was the culprit and whilst it helped us move rapidly to a good harbour it proved to be a stressful day. Not content with big swells we were also moving through an area that had numerous rocks and shoal areas that are off shore.

The breakers are fairly clear but as we passed by we'd wonder to each other how many boats had come across them, too late, in thick fog. As they say in the Pilot book - all yotties use out of date charts on the grounds that the rocks don't move. Up here they ain't found all the rocks yet.. By the time we arrived at the anchorage we were pretty tired from the combination of fog, icebergs, growlers and’s good job we do this for pleasure 'cos the money is crap! We stayed at anchor the following day and were rewarded with a second sighting of a Black bear roaming the nearby hills.

Yesterday was spent under power with the help of our secret weapon - a spinnaker we fly when all else fails...actually this was the first time we'd flown it and though it certainly helped it ain't a sail we'd leave up overnight or at the slightest hint of an increase. Luckily we'd dumped it as we approached Cape Harrison and the main was well reefed down to stop us rolling...the wind began to increase as we neared the Cape and by the time we'd rounded it, the wind, had doubled or trebled in strength and we were faced with icebergs blocking the entry to the bay we were due to anchor in. Thankfully the second entrance was free of such beasts and we struggled through under motor, working our way across the bay to anchor. The wind continued (caused by the downdrafts from the high cliffs that front the southern side of this bay) and we crept close into the shore before dropping anchor. As the Rocna anchor bit, dug in and held us yet again without fuss or failure (we would previously have come into an anchorage like this hoping desperately that the CQR would hold) we were thankful we'd shelled out the cash for such an important item. As Bee said yesterday, as we worked our way through growlers and fog, "this is like some kind of video game - last year we were in Newfie and this year it seems we've gone up to the next level of difficulty..."

Whilst the ice continues the whales do not and we haven't seen one for several days now.

Friday 23 July...Hah! Yesterday we woke up and in one of those bizarre connections thoughts: the amount of motoring we faced and the possibility that we'd have to motor back as well. Listening to the forecasts for northern Labrador have shown us that the winds there are lighter than we've experienced so far. Anyway to cut it down to a sentence or so we decided that the prospect of 600 miles of engine work wasn't what we'd joined up for so decided we'd turn around!! As I write these lines the wind is still very light and whilst Hannah is a wonderful sea boat her weight means we rarely get above 4.5 knots under power and more often around 3 or less. To seaward of us lie a ragged line of BIG icebergs, aground in deep water. The last couple of days have seen 30 or so icebergs around us (luckily not too close) including a couple with seals sunbathing(!)...the temperature is about 10-12C so it ain't that warm although the seals probably have a different perspective. We're spending a couple of days pottering between some cracking anchorages awaiting the passing of a strong SE'ly and hope to use the equally strong NW'ly to get across this next section which has few suitable anchorages. Last night we anchored after a long day having passed a solitary tug and tow heading north. He couldn't resist calling us up to ask what the story was. Turns out his trip will end in Hebron and then they pick up another tow to the Arctic Circle...he gets home in mid-September.

Today we moved slowly through the islands to an abandoned processing station. It's a great setting and the government wharf built in 1990 is still usable. Toots is ashore, of course, and to our surprise another boat came in a few hours ago, From Makkovik. it's heading toward Lake Melville to pick up some research workers for a month of studying puffins etc. Randy, the owner, is Inuit and staggered us by casually informing us that he just loves "Are You Being Served" the sitcom from BBC TV of the 70's or about culture clash - at least in our minds. Bee also persuaded him to try Marmite.."I prefer seal meat" he muttered after a tentative taste.

This is a remarkable place. For the most part the islands/mainland we've seen so far are fairly low lying mebbe less than 300' although we were just reaching the area where the Benedict Mountains offer themselves as a backdrop when we turned south. The islands are barren although the ones in this area have moss or lichen growing on them but here trees are a rarity. There are few communities now that are inhabited - Cartwright; Makkovik; Hopedale; Nain are the major ones

July 31. Anchored in the shelter of Hawke Harbour, an abandoned whaling station. Astern of us lie a couple of rusting hulks, small whale catchers.
Behind the point lies the station; like the ships rusting away. It looks to be a bigger site than the one we saw last year (Fourchou) and, perhaps because of its setting amongst green, wooded slopes, less foreboding than it too.

We've had a couple of cracking days sailing, found some great stopovers, "met" another yacht and had tea with a couple in Bateau Harbour. A small, well sheltered bay with a few cabins occupied for the summer. Jim and Shirley come back every year (she was born there although her home has long since fallen down) Jim hailed us from the shore as we turned Hannah to get ready to anchor, urging us to use the tiny jetty and stood by to take our lines. Great place with friendly folks. Luckily Jim had a chart that covered the "missing" few miles between our charts and we were able to make a rough copy with waypoints to take us through the various tickles and save us heading further out to sea. We pottered south using a combination of main and engine, poked our nose into Square Harbour before heading further south to Occasional Harbour. The entrance had several 'bergs aground and numerous growlers drifting around in the swell. This is the place we'd left from 5 years ago (though no ice at all that year) and our memories were of a long search to locate shallow enough water to anchor in. Better informed this time we worked our way behind a small island with a minimum of 10' of water (3' under the keel) and anchored in a well sheltered spot for a day or so. Wonderful place as trees line the hills and the sun shone brightly and warmly. Think the temperature must have got above 20C!!

Today (Aug 2) we've moved a few miles further south and fetched up against the inevitable abandoned government wharf in Ship Harbour.

Built about 20 years ago these wharves were the life-blood of many communities but with the death of the cod industry most were simply abandoned. Now they make handy calling points for yachts heading up and down the coast. Toots, of course, loves them and heads off as soon as the first line hits the shore. Rocks are her favourite... As often happens when you least expect it you stumble across a cracking stopover and this proved to be. Quite stole our hearts with its evidence of bear pooh and a noisy chipmunk!

August 10. We've been holed up for a few days, firstly in Fox Harbour and then for the last two days in Henley Harbour. A natural harbour, Henley has been in use for the last 500 years or so. The Basque's used this harbour extensively and then perhaps a 150 years ago the Stone Family arrived from Dorset. Many of their ancestors still have cabins here but no one has lived here permanently since the '70's when the government withdrew teachers, ministers and other necessary people for the community to flourish. I say permanently but, in fact like all the families along this coast, families would live here in the summer and then move to nearby a winter home, in this case Pitts Harbour.
Notwithstanding the government decision the families returned each summer to fish until the cod industry collapsed and each year the fishing restrictions increased as the amount of fish dwindled. We met several families, all related, who were actively rebuilding the cabins. 10 people were on the two islands, fishing, bake-apple hunting and trying to avoid being chewed alive by voracious black fly before returning to various communities around Canada. Up and down this coast there is evidence of these abandoned communities as there are in Newfoundland and the southern Quebec coast. Sometimes we're lucky enough to be at anchor when these folks return for the summer and are able to learn a bit about their history. This area has a striking resemblance to the Outer Hebrides and yesterday we watched the fog roll in, clear, the sun come out and disappear all from the safety of the companionway as a stiff SW bowled through.

Friday Aug 13. St Anthony's harbour. Tied up alongside Blackthorn having had a 50 mile sail down from Henley a day or so ago. The day started well at 5am when Toots returned from her nights wanderings with a live mouse......she let it go in the saloon and we spent a frantic few minutes trying to recapture it so allow it to return (unharmed) to its proper habitat. As we were up we decided we'd head out early and had a blissful 4 hours crossing the Belle Isle Strait with hardly any sea, 15 knots of wind and a very comfortable 6 to 7 knots. We opted to go round Cape Bauld rather than Quirpon but found little enough breeze and a lumpy sea pushing us into using the engine to cover the last miles to the harbour. Blackthorn was easily spotted amongst all the fishing boats and we managed to tie up before R&J got back from their wanderings. As "Happy Hour" was approaching we knew they wouldn't be too long and sure enough along the quay they came. The last they'd heard we were heading along the Quebec coast so it was a bit of a shock for them. With Robin's recovery going to plan they hope to leave here early next week, helped by our man Ham from Dingwall. So we've filled the fuel and water tanks, and entertained the local fishermen who, for some reason, cannot believe a man with a beard, dreadlocks and pink Crocs has appeared amongst them...obviously led sheltered lives.

18 August St Barbe Another few days pass as we wander the Newfoundland coast. We left St A and R&J and headed off to have a look a Hare Bay, an area we'd missed last time around. We had wanted to look at 2 spots in particular and managed to spend a night in each. Both were OK but not what our minds had built them up to being much larger than we'd imagined. The pilot guide suggested Maiden's Arm to be a haven of wildlife but we saw only gulls and Goose Cove was a small fishing harbour. Back up the coast we went, spending a night alongside the wharf in Quirpon and then pushing on along the northern coast. We opted for a small community called Raleigh and found a real gem! Sailing into the natural harbour we dropped the main and began motoring across to anchor. A small boat came out from the shore warned us about a shoal area and suggested we use the wharf. At that moment Jackie rang us on the vhf to let us know they were on their way from St. Anthony and changed their plans to head into this place too. Friendly folks, the town bathed in bright sunshine and, it seemed to us, an air of prosperity about it. Talking to local people produced a familiar litany...few families, kids moving away as soon they're able, schools closing and the fishing industry almost dead. The fishing industry is in trouble everywhere we've been as quotas are cut and fewer people are able to earn a living. The quota system seems pretty dumb as the nets etc seem indiscriminate in what they catch and once the net is up and the catch sorted anything that is "illegal" is thrown back but by then it is often dead anyway. The opinions as to why the industry is like this vary enormously. Many feel the rush of mechanisation; ice and processing ships accelerated it..... Draggers destroy the sea bed....and many older fishermen say that seals have destroyed fish stock.....Who really knows but we watched a number of boats come into St A's to unload shrimp and crab and talking to the guys they told us they were unloading 65,000 tons of shrimp from each boat. I know nothing about shrimp, their life span or breeding habits but that seems a lot of fish. How long can that last?

Both boats left the following day and spent a mind-numbing 10 or so hours motoring down the coast. Flat calm for most of it with a brief hour of wind we eventually pulled into Flowers Cove for the night. Big, well sheltered dock with a welcoming committee. Towns regularly have "Home from Away" weeks when ex-residents come back to see everyone and have a good time. This one had started last Sunday and we were welcomed with alcoholic gusto, urged to attend the dance and the festivities that would continue for several days more. Needless to say both boats opted out and slunk off to bed. Although many Newfoundlanders have English ancestry they must have got their partying habits from the Basques as the dance didn't start until 00.30 and continued until 4am.....Blackthorn left early to continue on down the west coast whilst we dawdled before heading out. Opting to motor a few miles down the coast to await a bunch of easterly days heading our way we got caught in a huge thunderstorm and downpour that, thankfully, only lasted an hour and we were soon anchored up in a river behind the ferry terminal.

Aug 27th: Alongside a floating dock gathering our breath after a crappy day in the office getting to Kegashka. But what a week or so we've had! We crossed from Newfoundland back to Labrador and tied up to a fishing wharf in the harbour. The forecast was for calm with easterly wind the following pm. As we were very exposed to the east we went to bed hoping the forecast would be accurate. But at midnight the easterly wind began and Hannah began bumping and creaking, chafing against the lines. Sleep was no longer a possibility and we fled before it got any worse, cruised through the night and made a longish passage to get to the Petite Rigolet area. An aside. Looking at the names of these places and their obvious French origin we've pondered for some months how to pronounce them..Rigolet might be "Reecholay" or "Reegolay" we thought. So we asked and found the local pronunciation is more "Rigullet" with no French influence whatsoever. That night we anchored in a deserted bay to the sound of loons after an interesting sail, in gathering winds, through narrow channels aided by a wonderful set of leading lights or marks. Up the next day with an easterly still blowing we cruised down to the Rigolet under staysail alone and entered this absolutely brilliant 19 mile passage with little wave action but a following breeze. The hills aren't steep but rounded, grass covered and interesting to look at. From time to time we see a small house and passed, some distance away, the community of St Augustin and began checking out several bays before we reached the exit. Found a gem, anchored in 20' and listened to the lonely. evocative cry of another loon as we opened the home-brew for the evening ritual. Then on again, still under stays'l to Passage Germaine.

This narrow, perhaps 50' or 15 metres, gap in the rocks guards its eastern side with numerous rocks and shoals forcing the boat to run parallel to and close to the rocks. The chart indicates the depths to be around 5 metres but we went through, under sail with 8 metres of water and out into the bay. Crossing the bay we decided to head for Anse de la Portage, a narrow cut that would give us some shelter from the easterly then blowing. A few miles from the entrance the new forecast warned of a switch to the NE, the way the cut faces yet we pushed on! Needless to say it was useless, the wave action was reduced but even the easterly wind funnelled down it and the depths were excessive so out we go. By now options were reduced but Bee's reasoning prevailed and we pushed around Mecantina ("Macatna") and northwards to yet another great spot featuring rocky, intricate passages although mostly exposed as we're close to low water. Light was fading as we worked our way in, anchored to a repeat of the Loon from the previous few nights. The following day we motored out, checked a couple of nearby anchorages before setting sail for a slow beat in sunshine, blue skies and a light breeze for Harrington. While still some miles off we watched a bright yellow plane take off and then head low across the water for us. Then back around us before he headed north. A hour or so later he came back, buzzed us and then flew on toward the coast. Tied up alongside in Harrington the pilot later came down to talk to us - the plane is an Ultralight and he'd taken photos of us as we did of him...

Harrington is a jewel. A small, thriving community of about 300, their multi coloured houses are clustered around the harbour. A wooden walkway serves as a road, the vehicle of choice is the Quad bike and the views from the hill top are stunning. We walked the town, marvelled at the wooden roads and, like so many other visitors I'm sure, thought..."we could live here" We'd met a couple in Baddeck, Chris and Annie Law, who had lived and cruised this area for a number of years. A keen eyed resident had seen us rounding Mecatina the previous day and mistaken us for them or rather the boats and telephoned the news around. Sadly for all concerned it wasn't the Laws but at least we were able to pass various messages back and forth.

With a few days of easterlies coming we needed to position ourselves closer to the Cape and so left in a SW wind for a beat to the next available anchorage. The winds are normally light from early morning until 10am then build until late afternoon before easing in the evening. The 14 mile distance took 36 miles to achieve as we fought both wind and current to reach it. What looked to be a soso anchorage turned out to be good and with the promise of strong easterlies arriving overnight we opted for short sleeps to enable us to leave at the first opportunity. It never came. The winds were late but we left anyway at first light using the motor to help get round Cape Whittle were the angle would free us up for the wind. The seas began to build but the much trumpeted wind never really did and we ran before a lumpy, quartering sea using the engine to keep up speeds. It was not our finest day as we pondered about whether to stop or continue to hope that the wind might increase (but only so far) and we might make a destination before dark. Well we kept on for Kegashka, the chosen point of departure for the southern leg. The coast we're now on is shoal and rock strewn. In a SE wind it is also a lee shore with all that implies. The harbour we were heading for has a narrow, SE facing entrance but I felt confident we could get in and find shelter without too much hardship.... In a lull and just off the entrance Bee nipped forward and dropped the main, despite the fact that the wind was astern of us and just that would normally make it a sod of a job. Not this time but as we were getting it stowed I saw a flash of white to port and realised just how shoal things were off the entrance as the sea was breaking with some fury over the rocks and a rock strewn shoal to starboard. So no straying off the line here then! Inside we dumped the stays'l and tried to work out the layout of the place. A yacht and a coastguard boat were bouncing around on the jetty, the sea spray was breaking over the wall so we sensibly chose to anchor and sort ourselves out the following day. This morning a RIB approached to warn us the barges we were anchored would be moving soon and were we aware that we were a boat length off the shoal area...

Sept 03 2010. Big Harbour Bras D'Or Lake....and we live to tell the tail. We spent a few days in Kegashka in the company of another guy from England who was taking his boat north over the next year or so, tracing the journey of an Inuit captain in 1811 ( before we headed in separate directions. We headed south on a long beat to try to get a good angle for the next wind change..hah!! The idea was that we worked our way to the Magdalen Islands and then through Canso Lock. The wind died, picked up but never stayed. The weather forecast began to warn of Hurricane Earl approaching as we slowly, so slowly moved south. With 110 miles still to go to the lock we decided it made more sense to head east and over the top of, nearby, Cape Breton and into the Bras D'Or allowing us to quickly seek shelter should we need to. No wind had us motoring the distance and we went through the Narrows in the dark with the tide running almost 3 knots against us. But we were in and now we had options. 13 mile from the entrance afforded us the first chance of good shelter and we pulled into Big Harbour, slightly taken aback at the sight of a new dock with large yacht on it and another smaller one at anchor. Plus two smaller local lying to moorings. A stiff drink and bed after a 311 mile, 87 hour trip. In the morning I woke from a dream of being anchored in some remote part of Labrador to the sound of an engine. Peering out of the companionway showed no boat but I couldn't believe the green, wooded hills and houses of civilisation!! Later that morning a couple, George and Lillian, came over to move their boat to a more sheltered part of the bay and came aboard to chat. In the course of the conversation they confirmed that a yellow boat had been anchored here but had left some time back. So close!! The yellow boat is, of course, Pete and Lucia and they were hoping to meet us in Newfoundland someplace so our paths had crossed but not coincided and we were unlikely to see them now for years. As George and Lillian were heading into Surprise Cove and claimed the water was deep enough for Hannah I accepted the offer a ride, took along our lead and line and sounded our way along the channel. Sure enough we found 3 metres, except for one tight area, all the way through . The pilot book they were using was from the 70's and as we came to the end of the "known" bay as far as our charts were concerned a narrow, perhaps 10 metres wide channel opened up. Trees overhung the edges and roots were visible at the water’s edge but they were confident we could get in and as a hurricane hole, they said, it would offer complete shelter. As we rounded the final corner I was staggered to see, serenely at anchor the familiar shape and colours of Fair Grace at anchor!! I ducked out of sight below decks and we motored up to them; Lillian asking a bemused Pete various questions supplied by me before I popped up like some kind of out of control Punch and Judy show ending Pete's increasing belief that Care in the Community had been taken too far. Much catching up to do of course and in between we managed to get back to Hannah and with Pete standing on the bowsprit we edged our way into a very sheltered spot. Rafted alongside, we strung out 4 lines from the 2 boats to hold us in place and we'll see what Earl brings.

Wed 8 Sept. Well Earl brought very little for us, except leaves on the deck but a lot of strife for many others. The tree tops moved but the water remained placid as the cliffs and woods surrounding the shelter we were in proved to be a winner, True we had to rescue a lobster boat that wandered off but that was down to poor anchoring rather than weather. In the two days before Earl arrived we even managed to go swimming as temperatures reached 30C and the cool water beckoned. George and Lillian came by, entertained us with stories about life in South Carolina, raccoons, alligators and such like and extracted a promise to call in on them on our way south. The two Brit boats left the anchorage together although P&L were heading for Baddeck and Internet facility whereas we wanted to push on a bit. In the event we spent most of the day beating against a stiff headwind and tide combination. And then to rub it in we found the quiet anchorage already had 4 other boats at anchor - almost as many as we'd seen the entire summer! But we moved on the following morning, leaving a startled P&L to their own devices as we wanted to be moving and they are still trying to decide what to do about the winter. We got down to the canal about 4pm, tied up and relaxed. In the end we spent a couple of days there, renewed friendships and went through the lock to have a look at Isle Madame. Through the Lennox Passage and its narrow Bascule Bridge that opens on demand and then south to get ready for the long haul to Shelburne. The long term forecast had spoken of 3 days of medium strength winds from the north but come the day it proved to be 36 hours of northerlies, very strong in the area we currently were. We left early, managed to keep ahead of the worst of it and had an exhilarating 24 hours or so. As ever, it seems, as the front passed through the light winds followed, the speeds declined and with 15 miles to go we opted to motor the remaining distance to one of our favourite towns.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Portsmouth to Belfast

Well what can we say’? Nearly 6 months since we last wrote and I’m not sure what the hell we’ve been doing in all that time... Certainly we worked on Hannah far more than we had originally intended and did some work on other boats to keep our hand in but the time just slipped away and before we knew it we reached our departure time plus and slipped our moorings in early May. So here’s a quick run through on what’s happened.

Hannah. A colour change as we found the cream latex paint we’d used on the coach roof, whilst durable, turned black from the soot from the chimney and we could never get it clean. Our great friend Cary had supplied us with some paint he’d had left over from a job and we used that to tidy up the boat. Plus we decided to try the Cetol teak stain and have been more than happy with the result. All this took several weeks/months, as we needed to work between weather systems. In fact at one point we nearly didn’t work at all as, standing on a float alongside Hannah, I dropped an electric hand-sander into the water. I could see it buzzing away under water and hauled it up by the cord and grabbed hold of the unit to turn it off............. You’re probably ahead of me on this one but the resulting buzz I got made me glad it wasn’t the UK’s 240 volts I was receiving. Luckily Bee was on hand to disconnect me before any damage was done. Happily enough after we’d washed the unit out with fresh water and dried it over the next few weeks it worked fine. We used the time to remove booms, gaffs, and bowsprit and get them cleaned up and checked over.  The dinghy got the once over too, a new mainsail cover made, lines replaced and some changes made to how things run. Hauled out for 48 hours to clean up and paint the bottom, helped Cary on various projects with his boat Red Bird, bit of e-baying and kept up the home brewing. 2 weeks before we were due to leave we bit the bullet and bought a second hand radar to help us get through the fog of summer and once we can learn to interpret what we’re seeing it’ll be very useful. Or so we’ve been told. 2 days before we’re meant to pull out the vhf began to play up so we replaced that unit too as we feel happier getting weather forecasts than going blind. And then in the closing hours of our time in Portsmouth Bee was offered a vacuuming job. Cary was removing some ports from a ferro boat that had involved huge amounts of grinding with subsequent amounts of dust. Took Bee 5 hours of dusty work to get the boat sorted but Cary and the owner were grateful.
Earlier this year Bee began to suffer from toothache and, being the stoic she is, ignored it for several months. However when she voluntarily takes Ibuprofen then it has to be serious. When she increased the dose then even she agreed something had to be done. Cary rang a good friend who happens to be a dentist and he agreed to see her the following day. Turns out the tooth had 3 roots and the infection was too close to the gum so she needed to see a specialist............the appointment was made and Bee went off to see him. She’d been told that this sort of extraction required the patient unconscious but her query to the dentist on the cost determined that it could be done under local which was cheaper and minutes later the job was done. As she says $285 versus $500 made it an easy decision!
Soon after this I managed to jam a splinter under a fingernail. It went in deep enough to bury the end very close in and Bee and Donny had a ball clamping my hand down in an effort to get it out. Donny installs a/c units and in an effort to freeze the finger enough that I wouldn’t feel them poking around under the nail with tweezers he squirted Freon gas at it. In the end we checked the ‘net who suggested leaving it to work its own way out rather than use tweezers/knives et al. We did and it does.
One of this winters jobs was to make a mains’l cover and we duly completed this using a cheap local sewing machine. However a Dutch friend had found, and sent up to us, an old manual Singer sewing machine. Cary introduced us to a guy who had worked for Singer and he identified it as Model 27 built somewhere between 1910 and 1920.................. He checked it over, found a piece we needed from someone who restored the things, threaded it, and gave us a demo on how it all worked. OK it doesn’t do anything other than forward stitch but the sound it makes more than makes up for it. We gave the electric one away to another cruising boat!
The time had come to leave, the goodbyes had been said, and all that was left was the physical detachment from the land.
A VERY tough time for us and Cary as we feel part of his family and emotions were high as we hugged each other goodbye. He is a remarkable man from a remarkable family and we are lucky to have found him. Hopefully when next we meet he and Linda will be retired and living a life of Riley in the Keys.
Provincetown but an hour out it died away to a gentle, light wind and we shook the reefs out to maintain some speed. About 4 miles from the hook that protects the town the wind switched from the SW to the NW and within minutes was hitting 30 or 40 knots. Luckily we hadn’t got the genny up and had the engine running to try and get to the anchorage before it got dark. Hastily got the 2 reefs back in and we made excellent progress toward the shelter of the land where we got the stays’l up to help balance the boat. Prior to doing that we were very close to the shore and the weather helm kept pushing the bow up to windward and toward the beach but the engine kept us out of trouble. But it is a chancy thing to do because all your safety is with the engine continuing to run................
The following day I checked the water level as I’d noticed, on the way up, the radiator was low. Sure enough it was low again and we began to look around for the cause. The obvious one would be the elbow from the heat exchanger as one had corroded on us before but this time it was clean. However as I began to check various pipes I touched the feed pipe to the saloon heater and the pipe fell off the block and water poured out. The connection piece had fractured, leaving threads inside the block and we’d found our leak! Luckily we were able to get into town, find a tool that I’d seen Donny use, and back the threads out of the block and replace it with a stopper. OK so we don’t have a saloon heater from the engine but we do have an engine!  We’ll say nowt about the timing of this....
We spent a few days at anchorage waiting for the NW winds to ease away but with future forecasts indicating the winds were due to move to the North we headed out on Monday. Initially we went well and found ourselves moving gently through pods of whales that were feeding off Stellwagen Bank but as the wind shifted around we tacked back and forth in an effort to clear the land.

By the following morning we were just 50 mile north of the headland but thereafter we made good progress and by 4am on Wednesday we were off Monhegan Island though the absence of adjacent lobster pots kind of threw us. Up the Penobscot Bay we sailed, marvelling at the colours and knowing that if the opportunity ever presented itself we’d think very seriously about living here. Into Belfast Bay with still no pots in sight and even more startling was the complete lack of boats on moorings in the harbour. But we’ve never been this early and, in fact, have never been in Maine in May before. As we dropped sail our favourite Harbour Master, Kathy called us to “come on in”, and we pulled into the harbour and alongside to be greeted by a whole bunch of friends including Pete and Lucia, back from Qatar. An emotional time along this coast.
Since then we’ve gradually caught up with a bunch of people, begun a few repair jobs (already!!) and getting ourselves ready for the next stage which is to spend the summer cruising Labrador. We spent a morning getting a load of wood from a yard in north Maine and will be on the move again by the end of May. Actually the wood presented us with a real logistical problem as to where to stow it. Visitors to the town became temporary friends as they came onto the jetty to help move this mound of wood to the boat and over the next few days we managed to get it on board and stowed away. When we eventually meet up with Robin and Jac in the Bras D’Or Lakes, Hannah will float several inches higher
So there we were chatting to a very good friend about this and that. OK he says when I die I’m leaving you my ashes so I can always go sailing with you. One thing led to another and before we knew it we had a business plan for “The Final Destination Cruise......” we take your ashes, chuck most of them in the spot you select (no smart-arse destinations like Antarctica or Everest) and keep a small bit back to add to paint or stain or whatever for posterity. Its got to be a winner we decided......