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......