Wednesday, 28 December 2011

All who ponder.........are frost..

It's been a month since we posted and I wish I could say the time has been spent in warm idleness. A month of decadence, deck-chairs and alcohol... For sure we've had an unseasonably warm pre-winter with temps in the 50's, about 10C, but once  Hannah was blocked up we began the thought process of building the "barn". The original height was to be 18' (5.48m) but we took fright at having such a huge "sail" facing the north so cut it down to 15' (4.5m).
The smaller of the two height versions
With a length of 42'(12.8m) and 16'wide (4.8m) it was still a big shed. We toiled on, often in sub 30F temps, ice forming in my beard as we struggled to get it looking straight even if it wasn't. A couple of old pieces of railway line were used to weigh down the front and rear, braces and gussets applied. Friends dropped by with timber, ply and help. The building progressed along with comments about "were we moving in permanently..." and whether we had planning consent.

Bee at work removing ice from the keel
The cold weather has caused some serious ice within Hannah. Working on the shelter we neglected to start the fire until late afternoon and found the thermometer reading 30F or 1C above the bed. The water tank froze, the condensation dripping into the bilge from the hull formed into a solid sheet of ice that took the best part of 3 hours to melt with the much used heat gun and one day we found ice forming on the hull where the ballast sits.

The subject of many, many sleepless nights was how we would get the plastic wrap over the boat. We switched between putting up 3 separate sheets, each 40' wide and cutting the thing into more manageable chunks of walls and roof sections. The joins would be where our masts stood and would involve us in a series of convoluted measurements and tacking one sheet to another with a heat gun. The day we chose to begin the wrapping the wind picked up and the stern section of plastic billowed away from Hannah like an out of control spinnaker. Rapidly conceding defeat we bundled the whole lot up again and retreated. In the end we wisely opted to make the shelter out 7 pieces, 4 individual walls and 3 roof sections

The shelter up and shrinking the roof...
It still caused sleepless nights as we struggled to work out how we would get the wrap neatly around shrouds, masts and chimney. The beauty of the stuff is, of course, that once heat is applied it tightens up and the job looks very professional and, should you get carried away with applying said heat and blow a hole in the stuff a patch can easily be applied. But the real secret is in getting the stuff as tight as possible to reduce the amount of time and energy you'll need to spend shrinking...

Beneath this bland exterior lurks...
We'd built something similiar when we were last back in the UK so had some experience of the benefits. There we'd had the masts removed so it was all much simpler. For the most part the structure doesn't use the boat at all for support and whilst the additional height of the ridge pole would have been welcome as we move along the deck, we had to ensure that our chimney remained above the ridge height to ensure a good draught. The door is hidden away on the back wall. It took a while but we eventually got the whole shelter up, noticing the difference immediately we stepped behind its walls. We used the yard's gun to heat the walls but often used a small heat gun to do much of the roof. Last night we had a strong blow out of the S and, because the plastic is now fairly rigid, it passed almost unnoticed.

The bonfire after a dose of something...
As Christmas approached we visited friends around the town and then spent some of Christmas Day with Steve and Sue at their home. They'd hoped to have a bonfire but the wood was frozen and unwilling to burn, despite liberal doses (on separate occasions) of kero and petrol. Looked nice from the house though. And we needed a warm photo to end on after all that cold.
True to form the Hannah Brewing Company has been in action. An old favourite with 23 litres of Wheat Whiskey and a new one, for us, a 5 litre batch of Beetroot wine. Neither will be ready for some months (or even longer if the cycle of hot evening fire followed by very cold early mornings have anything to do with it) but they'll keep us company on whatever next brings our way.

So there it is. Apart from the good times spent with friends over the holiday break, a slightly ignominious end to what has been a great year; from Virginia to Cuba to Labrador and back to Maine, 7,800nm and very rewarding in terms of friendships forged and sights seen. What a life! Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Finally in Maine

It has been a while since we posted and we're now safe in Belfast, Maine where we'll spend the winter.

On Mon Sept 26th we sailed out of Neddy harbour leaving Randy, Karen and Capt J after promising them we'd be in sight for some hours...we were. A long slow beat out of the entrance took all of the afternoon and into the evening. By the time we cleared the tide had changed and we spent a frustrating few hours off Rocky Harbour trying to get into clean water before finally giving up and motoring away.

The wind arrived and we headed on "south" taking several days to get within distance of the entrance to the Bras D'Or Lakes. As ever with these things our arrival was too late for the ingoing tide and a stiff headwind didn't help. We thought of anchoring outside but the weather was due to go south that night and we'd be too exposed for comfort. But the anchorage immediately inside the Lakes is also open to the south as well so we'd have to go on. We beat through the narrow channel under reefed main and staysail, helped by the engine. Progress was reasonable, if at times scary, against a powerful ebb. We plugged on. And on. Approaching the Seal Island Bridge the ebb goes into turbo drive and with .7 of a mile to go our speed at one point slowed to such an extent that we were looking at TWO hours before we got through. Luckily whatever was happening there eased off and we made better progress, got through and looked forward to a beat against a weakening ebb. Instead the wind died and carried on motoring to Big Harbour for the night. Distance from the outside entrance to the anchorage - 14 miles; time taken 8 hours

The following morning we sailed off the anchor and moved slowly down the harbour wondering when our friend George, who has a summer house there, had left. Bee happened to look behind to see a small boat pursuing us and so we found George. He'd seen us at anchor, hollered at us from the bank and unable to make us hear, rushed around to the cove where we'd sheltered from a hurricane last year, jumped in his dinghy, rowed out to the boat and chased after us. He greeted us and said "I guess you've come in to hide from the hurricane" What hurricane! True to form the Canadian weather people give no hurricane warnings until 3 days before it's due to arrive which ain't a lot of time in a small boat to find somewhere. (This one in fact passed a long way off so little was felt where we were). We spent the day with George and Hughes; gratefully returned the charts to Henry Fuller who, on seeing me, instructed me to get in his car as he'd been told to do something. He drove away from the yard and straight to the liquor store and presented a boggle eyed crew with two boxes of wine, courtesy of Robin and Jac who recognise a dry ship and don't like it! What a pair.

A day sail took us to the Canal where we stayed for a week as a strong northerly was coming through and even the Lakes has 40-50knots promised. On the canal all was calm but the approach was a mass of heaving water and we were glad not to be offshore.
Inside the Bras D'Or Lakes not far from the canal
The Sydney - Port Aux Basque ferry was cancelled for 3 days with 60 knot winds and 11 metre seas forecast, effectively marooning Russ and Alison in Newfoundland. But we had the chance to spend time with another great couple, Jack and Glenda, who have be-friended us over the years, and help on the rebuilding of the house and barn they have. The barn, believed to be around 200 years old had a sagging roof, bulging walls and, in the view of the local council, was ready to be knocked down. Jack, thankfully, is one of those people who have no understanding whatsoever of the word "Can't" and was simply going to begin restoring it. It is the oldest documented building in St Peters so has some history. He'd already done a lot of support work and with a 5 part block and tackle, a tractor and a bit of old bobstay chain we soon had the roof straight and beams fastened up to support the roof.
The barn after we'd lifted the hogged roof

A few days of working on the house followed before the winds moderated and switched to a favourable direction. At 7 am on Monday October 10th we headed off from the canal saying a sad farewell to these lovely folks. I have said this before but it does bear repeating. It is not the gales etc that are hardest but the farewells.

The day started well with far more wind than predicted but eased toward nightfall. A bright moonlit night saw us in a lumpy sea but moving well. We passed Halifax in daylight bound for the Mahone Bay, hopefully before the wind died, and another visit to friends. The wind didn't die and we took the decision to make use of it and keep heading west. It did ease around 2am but as the self-steerer was coping we weren't too bothered. But as daylight came on the thought of stopping for the night seemed increasingly attractive and we pulled into Shelburne. A big mistake of course as we could have used those easterlies to make a Maine landfall. On the plus side we caught with friends the Christies of Windward Flutes fame  see their site here.
and Paul Gartside link here

We left on Tuesday 18 Oct and sailed down the bay to Cape Negro Island for the night and then motored down to Brazil Rock to pick up the west going current the following day. The forecast was for 30 knot easterlies followed by a quick switch to 30 knot S or SW winds. Well it came and we sailed through some very lumpy seas, a number of which were determined to come aboard. Hannah is such a stable platform that we rarely wear safety harnesses but this trip was the second time we felt it might be prudent. We pushed on westwards rather than NW in anticipation of the switch and it paid off. When the wind came in hard we were well placed and roared on into the night. Lobster pots could be heard banging against the hull as they were brushed aside in the 7 knot romp and as we turned more beam to the wind the seas smashed against the hull dumping green water into the cockpit and across the deck.

Rockland Harbour
Although the route up to Belfast was more off the wind and thus easier I opted to sail into Rockland Harbour and anchor for the night leaving ourselves a great sunny day of sailing to reach what we feel is our home port. We have always had a good relationship with the Customs and Border Agency in Maine and the guy who booked us in this time took things to a new high when he carefully listened to our request for a longer visa than the usual 6 months and happily gave us over 9 months! It pays to ask I guess and it'll make leaving Maine easier, at least in terms of weather windows.

We had been pondering what we'd do about the winter and the fact that we really needed to haul out and paint.Various options were thought about but the deciding factor was always going to be cost. 
Early morning and the sea smoke rises...
A few days into our stay in Belfast we were offered a wonderful option from Alex and so here we are. As we wouldn't be hauled for some weeks we opted to spend a week or so cruising Penobscot Bay. If you have never sailed here but hope to do so then you have one of the premier cruising grounds awaiting you. Anchorages abound, hidden behind picturesque islands. If the wind is heading you well then go somewhere different and the wonder of it all is the thick mud that awaits your anchor. Maine has some of the best anchorages we have ever used and at this time of the year there are few boats and not too many pots. We had bitterly cold days; we had bright sunny cloudless sky days.

We left the main tied up and cruised gently under mizzen and a couple of heads'ls, content to sail at whatever speed we achieved - anything from 3 - 6knots+. All local anchorages and anything  from 10 - 15 miles apart. A leisurely breakfast, sail off the anchor and pootle along toward the destination for the day. A glorious sail through the Fox Island Thoroughfare, an area we had somehow missed in other travels. At the end of the day we'd anchor and sit around a warm fire rejoicing in our amazing lifestyle. A wonderful week.Back in Belfast we were hauled and chocked for the next few months. Well more than a few as we probably won't paint until April and then ...Who knows.

So this is our home for the next 6 months. The plan is to build a shelter over the boat to keep the elements off us and allow some if not all of the prep work to be done over winter. With temperatures dropping to 20F or -something C  living in a concrete hull may get to be chilly. The shelter will improve the temperature by 20 degrees or so and stop the bitterly cold wind from sapping our energy. Then yesterday we were given notice that a major storm was on its way and would possibly hit this part of Maine in the early hours. Some folks scoffed, some didn't.....................


Sunday, 25 September 2011

"...rain and fog dissipating at midnight....."

So often we have heard those words - it seemed we'd go to the grave with the damned things but 3 days ago the weather changed and we've had hot sunshine and even the locals are complaining about the heat. And now here we are in Makkovik and reaching decision time about where to point the bow.....

We left our good friends Randy and Karen in Neddy Harbour with a promise to return soon. They'd certainly made us welcome and hours were spent, as we drifted slowly through the night, chatting about how well we'd "clicked" and why that happens with some and not with others. No answer other than that's how it is but we miss them already. But we eventually worked our way up the coast and then across toward Labrador. A timely VHF call from Russ and Alison the friends we hadn't yet met, persuaded us to change our plans and we sailed into Red Bay to finally meet up, share a meal and a drink before parting company the following morning. We sailed on up in thick fog breaking the monotony by chatting to R&A who were miles ahead....again a call from Russ as we shaped up to head into Charles Hbr informed us that the dense fog would lift and blue skies and sunshine prevailed if we sailed another few miles north. And it did as we passed Battle Harbour, revealing a large 6 metre lump of low ice a little more than 400 metres ahead. Sometimes you just get lucky! We tied up to a fishing boat in Fox Harbour and parted company yet again the following morning as they sailed away into the distance.

We put in a long day a we knew the winds would turn against us and made it to Punchbowl for the night. Serious misgivings surfaced in the last couple of hours as the wind turned against us, became squally and rainy....but we made it, tied up, walked the boat round to a better, more protected spot and slept. The following day a wander up onto the nearby hills after a few hours collecting wood for the stove rewarded twice. Great views, only slightly obscured by a biting cold and fog, and a chance to kip in the afternoon. Rudely interrupted by a voice ordering us to get up! So sound asleep we hadn't heard the boat Robin and Jackie were crewing on arrive!! BIG celebrations all round and so good to see them both.

Grady Harbour
We left a sleeping Alca i (the boat R&J were on) sleeping and headed out at 5am for another long day finally anchoring in Grady Harbour. A local family from Cartwright were there and came across to remind us they seen us last year at another nearby anchorage and gave us the wild greens they'd just picked.

 We stayed in Grady a couple of days sheltering from adverse weather, happy that the stream always seemed to run the same way - south

The trip from Grady is the one we commented on last year; across relatively open water with numerous rocks to keep you on your toes. This time the weather was less threatening and we enjoyed the trip up to Smokey Tickle. We spent a couple of days there, then onto Emily before tackling the longish bit to Webeck Harbour. The wind allowed us to sail and we spent most of it without the main. As the wind was SW we knew that Cape Harrison would intensify any wind there was and so it was. From a gentle pootle of 3knots+ we were suddenly screaming along at 7knots. Unlike last year the ice has been almost absent, a few growlers and the odd iceberg but not so scarce as to make us think that night sails might be an option..... We anchored and had a windy night as the winds continued to blow hard off the mountain. The following morning seemed to promise a fast sail but we could see flat water beyond the white caps where we were anchored. However our departure was delayed by a few hours as Toots began to take a sudden interest in one of the food cupboards.....we began removing food suspecting the worse and had it confirmed when, after 6 cupboards had been emptied we suddenly saw a mouse.  A live mouse...a live, very agile mouse who evaded capture. As we knew we'd be holed up for a day or so at the next stop we replaced everything and headed out. It was a quiet day sailing, almost boring but enlivened by Bee coming across our stowaway (brought on board by El Tooty at Smokey) attempting to get into the rice. Quick thinking had her dragging rice and mouse onto the deck whereupon it took off with Bee in pursuit. The next few hours were an episode in idiocy as we tried to catch the mouse and it didn't want to be. It would race at speed between the windlass and the skylight as one or other of us tried to catch the thing. We'd already blocked off any entry to below decks but the mouse remained free. At one point Toots joined in the "chase" but her effectiveness was amply demonstrated when the mouse rushed her from behind with me in pursuit, ran across her tail and disappeared. She turned in confusion at this but seemed unable to react in time to do anything. Then gave up any sign of interest and sloped off. The mouse remained at large and we got on with the business of getting somewhere. Our destination proved to be a difficult entrance, narrow, rock and shoal bound with rock faces that helped intensify the wind enough to make progress difficult for us. At the last moment my nerve failed and we abandoned and headed down to Makkovik. A wise choice. It was only 5 miles further on and we were elated to see Russ and Alison in Andante tied up alongside, there was space on the dock for us and we were able to spend the evening swapping war stories. The following day we all walked up the hill for a great overview and had a sunbathe on the warm rocks. Payback came with vicious bites from the flies that are everywhere and then the day after Wanderbird arrived for the start of their 17 day trip to Northern Labrador, Baffin and onto Disko Bay.

Departure day and Andante left some time before us as we wandered over to Wanderbird to say our "tarras" but our destination for the day was Roses Island so they were waiting up on the hill as we sailed in. One of the problems up here is any reduction in wind as you close the land in accompanied by an unwelcome increase in mozzies. I marvelled at Russ and Alison, seemingly immune to the damned things as they strolled along the hilltop taking photos (they're professional film makers) Even down on the shore side or in the kayak they didn't seem to allow the bugs to bother them and it wasn't until they kayaked over as I was laying out more anchor rode that I realised they were wearing bug nets over their heads!  SENSIBLE!!

The only way to dress to avoid the "flies"...
We left early the following morning for the Hopedale area, soon after followed by Andante. They assumed we were heading for Greenland but we'd opted to come back onto the "route usually followed" line rather than cutting through a tickle. What a day of sailing! Good winds, lots of sail and speeds of 7 knots meant the usually faster Andante struggled to catch us as both crews enjoyed the sunshine and wind. A call from them suggesting we carry on rather than stop early had us passing Hopedale and them taking another cut through. At one point Russ urgently gestured to come off our track and I assumed they knew of a navigational danger that we'd overlooked but they were in their professional role and wanted shots of us from a particular angle. We spent the next few miles being filmed and if the film they showed us of their previous trip to Labrador is anything to go by we can't wait to see the results. The day moved on, the wind eased and the rain came. We plugged on under engine and then spotted Alca i on the AIS and so we all ended up for one night at least in the same anchorage. Mozzies, raining but good protection from the westerlies that were running. Unfortunately the forecast was for 35 knots from the NW by the following night and after some discussion both Hannah and Andante left at 5 am to return to the Hopedale area where we felt shelter was better. Disappointing but with the forecasts being so iffy it was felt that the next harbour up would offer an unknown level of protection, particularly for two boats, and we opted for caution. Alca i came down some hours later, using the wharf in Hopedale whilst we anchored in Tooktoosner Bay, south of the town. That evening Bee spotted Wanderbird on its way into the harbour! It seems remarkable to us that we should keep bumping into friends up here, last year we saw no one until we'd begun the return trip.

July 30th. We've moved on a little further north (57 49.79N 62 03.85W) anchored in Calm Cove or Horr Harbour as its also known.
Calm Cove living up to its name

We've had some cracking days, wonderful anchorages, interesting navigation and stunning scenery. As Rick of Wanderbird said "When you get past Nain it's a whole different world" If you ever get the slightest chance to sail this port of the world - GRAB IT- you won't be sorry. The navigation is interesting as the charts we're using, borrowed from Henry Fuller in Baddeck, are all old. Nothing wrong with them at all and we'd have been banjaxed without them but charts this old are not GPS compatible and I'm really enjoying sailing along with a chart in me 'and comparing where we might be with the surrounding hills etc. Quite takes me back to me youth!!

So we've been into Nain, so many boats in we had to anchor off but that was ok - we left the following morning with Russ and Alison for points north and anchored that night in a tiny cove at the top of the Port Manvers Run. A few days on and we're now anchored ready to go through the Mugford Tickle where, we have been assured, polar bears will be far "only" black bears but ice has made its re-appearence, in fact we're sharing the anchorage with a few growlers; one of which is now much smaller as Russ kayaked out to hack off few big chunks for the evening drink.

Aug 1st. Well we went through the Mugford Tickle but no bears to be seen
Whilst wildlife has been scarce, hardly any whales, few seals but zillions of mozzies to the point  of distraction. The weather too is fairly cool bordering on cold, even during the day and thermals are generally needed. The average summer temperature seems to be about 50F or 10C....

 On up the coast we wandered and finally into Hebron. A shock to see so many people on the shore and a passenger boat at anchor! Andante (Russ and Alison and his sister Debbie) were already at anchor and we dragged our dinghy off to ferry both crews ashore. The other vessel had left by the time we arrived and we were greeted by the summer resident caretaker, Buddy and his sons Julius and Simieone. Buddy showed us round the site, at one time an important Moravian settlement and now being slowly "restored". After some assurance from Buddy and safe in the knowledge that at least one of our group had bear bangers, whistlers and other scaring devices he said we should be ok to walk to the top of one of the many nearby hills.... Neither me or Bee has really considered the problem of Polar Bears. They exist up here but as we rarely frequent the shore (Why do you do this? someone once asked...) Russ and Alison had considered the problem to a much greater extent as they do often go ashore and had thus come prepared. So we wandered up the hill, accompanied by Buddy's husky dogs for a while. Great views but no bears. The following morning we heard Buddy roar by in his little boat and Bee stuck her head out to have a look. Buddy was seeing off a Polar bear that had been foraging in his camp!! They followed it at a distance as the bear swam across the harbour and onto the rocks and then loped up the hill at a rapid rate of knots - FAR faster that any of us could run on a flat surface I suspect!!! Yowser - our first siting of a bear, honey coloured rather than white but impressive! No more walking in them hills for us.

 On further north, a quiet night in Maidmont Island and then onto Saglek fiord, working our way past a large 'berg aground off the tickle . Drifting quietly along at a couple of knots we were shocked to hear a VHF conversation between the base camp at Saglek and a ship. We knew there was some sort of base camp here as the Canadians maintain a DEW station (Distant Early Warning) though to what purpose I've no idea. Its a large radar set up, visible from a long way off and manned ALL year round. As we passed the anchorage we saw a large ship leaving, heading down to the other, main anchorage. And so it was that on the day we arrived in what we thought would be a quiet anchorage we found two local boats, the Clipper Adventurer and us and Andante sharing the space.
Saglek Base Camp for Parks Canada

The Clipper A was a charted ship for students studying ice conditions and had come from Iceland via Greenland and on their way to Ungava Bay. Parks Canada now have a sort of tourist site set up at Saglek where hikers can come to use as their base to explore the surrounding area. Transport from the base is either by local boat (from Nain) or by helicopter. We'd seen and heard a number of "choppers" in the last few days coming and going from here and even a small plane from time to time. A big barbeque was planned for the evening and everyone was invited. Russ, Alison and Debbie took advantage of the organised hiking, complete with armed bear guides, (Russ had called us on the vhf to tell us about the free bear guides but we'd misheard and thought he'd said Free Beer Guides....) to go up the hills whilst we stayed on board in time honoured Hannah tradition. Folks from the ship came by to talk to us and one of the local boats offered to run us in for the barbeque.....not sure why I accepted (Bee doesn't do large social gatherings) but I did and as we got closer and the hundred or so people on the shore could be clearly seen it struck me forcibly that almost all of them were wearing bug nets - a sort of net curtain that you drape over your head to keep the "critters" from devouring you....I lasted about 15 minutes before blagging a lift in one of the ships zodiacs to escape the torment. As I sit here the purple net we have across the companionway entrance is festooned with the damned things. And I've just agreed to go hiking with the Andante's (Russ says its a gentle stroll up a slight incline to the waterfall - I don't believe him)

Friday Aug 5 Anchored off Kangalasoirvik Island 58 27N 62 54W

We left Saglek this morning after mulling over things. When we borrowed the charts from Henry we didn't check how far north we could get but assumed we'd picked up all we needed to get to Cape Chidley...well we haven't and our paper charts end at this anchorage. The electronic charts for Labrador that we have show no detail so navigation is a bit iffy to say the least; we're also down to our last 100 litres of fuel so probably enough to get back to Nain if we're careful and this far north it is very difficult for us to get weather forecasts. How ever much we despair at the lack of accuracy at least when you're getting something you're hopeful that some sort of warning would come of an impending blow....yes of course we have a barometer and we watch it closely but the direction it might come from helps. The anchorages in this part of the world are generally deep and rarely land locked so anchoring requires careful consideration and a lot of scope.

Sunday 7 Aug. No sooner had I written about deep anchorages and lotsa scope when we find ourselves in one! We pootled up the coast, off the chart and into the sort of unknown. Chatted to a tug we'd seen in Nain, now bound for Quebec having come back down from Ungava Bay or further north. He kindly rang back later with an updated weather forecast although we didn't really get the winds we'd hoped for. Into Ramah Fiord and a hail on the vhf from Andante alerted us to a mother and cub making their way up a steep climb from a shingly beach; as we were some distance away the snaps we took are a tad.... Ramah was another important Moravian site although no buildings now exist and its position in the pilot books is vague but both boats plugged on. A likely spot seemed to have too much fetch from the now building wind and we moved on further into the fiord and were rewarded by the sight of 3 polar bears, 1 a cub, lying around in the sunshine on a grassy knoll. We anchored, with great difficulty behind the knoll in very deep water which shoaled rapidly to less than 10' (3 metres) in seconds. Our depth sounder sometimes won't work in muddy conditions and this was one of them. Andante were anchored, having dropped in 35' but were now sat in 76'....we dropped, lay out most of our scope so lay at the end of 220' (70 metres) and then tried to work out the depth we were in.....'bout a 100' (30metres) give or take. Not perfect but we were holding, the bottom from the lead and line showed mud so we'd be ok. Unless the wind swung hard into the north of course. Soon after the passenger boat we'd first seen in Hebron arrived with a party of hikers and dropped them ashore, confirming on the vhf that the whole fiord had deep water and our chosen spot was no better or worse than any other.

Bee spent a lot of time watching from the companionway for bears and was rewarded with the sight of the 3 we'd seen earlier now wandering along the "beach" adjacent to where we were anchored; rolling in the grass, paddling in the shallows and relaxing. Our imagery of polar bears seems to be one of huge creature on ice but never of them wandering the hills, scrambling over rocks etc.

Bishops Mitre from our anchorage

So this morning we awoke, in this the most stunning scenery of Labrador, where the highest mountain at 5500' (1535m) lies at the head of the bay; where the views from sea of the huge mountains sweeping straight down into the sea are unbelievable, where nothing could be seen 'cos we were in thick fog. And raining. And you had to feel sorry for those hikers the boat dropped off; camped across the bay from us ( "I thought this would be a wilderness and we've got 2 boats anchored here...")too far away to see last nights bear frolics, raining, foggy, and having to deal with the flies and mozzzies!

11 Aug

Back in Ramah after a couple of days in Nachvak Fiord. We sailed a few hours behind Andante and were lucky enough to see 2 adult and 1 young Polar bear steadily climbing up a steep scree slope. As ever in life the young 'un lagged behind no doubt grumbling to itself. In the anchorage the Andante's had been keeping an eye on a huge male that was occupying the shore... Before we'd been this far we all thought the $300 a day fee for a bear watcher to be expensive - in the Torngat area where we now are yachts are not allowed to take weapons ashore even though this is where they might be most needed. Funny how our opinions have changed; if you want to go walking up here I think $300 is a bargain for a local person, armed, who understands the terrain and is familiar with bears. The morning after we anchored Bee heard a noise and thought Toots had fallen in and got up to investigate. Unzipping the canvas flap that covers the companionway we and the swimming bear where both startled to see each other and later in the day Russ had gone off for a kayak around the bay and we were all horrified to see him blithely paddling back toward a feeding bear we'd spotted. He made it safely back, the bear continued feeding and entertaining us as he surface dove and waggled his back paws in the air in an effort to get deeper.
Polar bear feet as it dives for mussels

Up early the next day we began our long trip south, for us it'll be some 1500 miles before we get back to the US, Andante opting to leave the boat in Newfoundland for the winter but we both faced the same beat into a SE wind over a SE running current. With this combination the seas built rapidly and as we lag behind our quicker travelling buddies we copped the worst of it. We thought we might be able to make it further south but as water continued to flood over the deck the prospect of a quiet anchorage was too much and we followed them some hours later into the anchorage. Not the one we'd used before but this time off the old settlement. A water party went ashore to get fresh water from the fast running water fall, wash hair and wander about whilst I kept a lookout for any bear that may come along. We had considered night sails as the wind is generally quieter and as the middle of August approaches we really should be making tracks. But leaving Nachvak yesterday we came across several car sized growlers and then approaching the Ramah fiord we saw a massive ice island. So big it created a smooth patch of water as we beat down one side of it. We think this was still floating but that and the growlers put paid to any thoughts of night sails until we get MUCH further south.

Up this morning at 4, even though the wind had been blowing all night and we both knew it might be pointless. It was but as I wandered out to take the chimney down, minutes after I'd got up and happened to see 2 white blobs in the water close to the bowsprit..... a couple of curious adult bears watching the boat and giving me a shock at the same time. Too dark to photograph and I'm suddenly aware that Toots has wandered up on deck and we're upwind of the things! Luckily Bee was inside and by the forehatch and snatched Toots up and below decks before the pb's decided to investigate. I kid you not when I say these things have paws the size of her (Toots that is).

15 Aug.
Approaching Mugford Tickle after another 4am rise and a day of motoring. We've had a couple of great anchorage's.  One just north of the Saglek fiord which affords very protection and reasonable depths with good holding. The journey down was a combination of light wind sailing/drifting with a fair amount of fog thrown in. But the highlight was presented when still some 7 miles from the island we were heading for and about 3 miles off the mainland Bee spotted 2 polar bears swimming, against the current. in a northerly direction! We assume they had come from the nearest island and were making their way north but startling to see them so far off shore. It may well be common behaviour but we know so little about them that everything we see is new. As we passed Shuldham Island we saw 2 more wandering along the ridge, making that 15 polar bears we've seen this year. Or ever!!

Cape Uivik early morning 58 29N 62 34W
A beat the following morning, followed by more motoring had us tied up alongside Andante for a couple of night as we let a stiff SE go through before resuming the plod south today. Luckily Russ has a good ssb so is able to get weather forecasts as we get nothing on the VHF this far north of Nain. Unfortunately the weather is a continual supply of SE winds with little prospect of change. Thankfully Andante had brought a lot of fuel with them and loaned us 40 litres or our prospects of getting to Nain to refuel would be slight. The weather, already cool, has begun to get colder and night sails don't bear thinking about.

The terrain here is partly awe inspiring, partly terrifying. No trees have been seen for several days and the rock has moss but little else it seems. An incredible harsh environment that few people have ever inhabited. Innuit and Innui peoples roamed, surviving on hunting and fur trade I think but reading of white exploration is a humbling experience in todays world of GPS and Sat. phones; of winter temperatures of -64F, starvation meals of leather soaked overnight and eaten for breakfast.....

Aug 20.
Anchored in Challenger Cove, Port Manvers.

One more polar bear to add to the list, numerous black bears and a couple of days of tough going. The 2 boats split up for a day as we chose different anchorages to sit out a blow meant to be coming through. It didn't materialise but we spent the night in Nutack fiord and thoroughly enjoyed the spot. Had to beat out as the wind tends to funnel down it but had an interesting time as we cleared the channels and reached open water to be met by large swells and a confused sea caused by said swells hitting the land and bouncing back out to be met by the next swell trying to get to land. A wet old time... Both boats opted to head for Dawes Harbour as the entry into Port Manvers in the current wind would not be pleasant. Little did we know! Dawes Harbour lived up to its description in the pilot book "...subject to swell..." and how! Its a small harbour and even though the wind was coming off the land the swells still entered resulting in a bouncy night, made worse by the knowledge that the wind was due to shift to the east and would be blowing straight into the entrance. A quandary; do we stay or go? For a variety of reasons, getting dark, difficult entrance to leave, possibility of bergy bits and no where to go in the near area meant we stayed but not much sleep was had by either crew. Bee utilised the time by making bread and various treats at 3am and both boats headed out soon after 5am for the south. The wind had gone round to the east but was light and we punched out way out into a lumpy sea to finally clear the place. Andante forged ahead (they're about half Hannah's weight but have the same size engine and with a tightly sheeted, reefed main and stays'l set a crackin' pace). We were doing ok and with the engine running and 3 sails set were plodding along in a lumpy sea with insufficient wind. The seas were big, some of the swells must have been 30'+ (9m) in length as Hannah would slide down them and bury the bowsprit...too much like the blows off Greenland for comfort thank you. Around 11 we got a call from Andante warning us the entrance to Port Manvers was a maritime hell with breakers and surf everywhere. The seas were breaking hard over Willis Islands that block a lot of the entrance plus the surf and bouncing waves off either side of the 800 metres wide inlet was making it difficult. They'd managed to work out a strategy for getting in, avoiding the two underwater rocks with 9'(2.8m) and 11'(3.2m) clearance and were now in smooth water. Oh and just to add to the mix the current is running against you entering!!. As we were still some 9 miles from that point and a lot further in beating terms we hoped that things might have changed by the time we got there. Eventually we did after a relentless day spent working our way gradually south. I was reminded (frequently) of Illingworth's (yacht designer) comment of the ability of Colin Archer's to go to windward..." like a cow in a bog...". Make it a ketch and it gets worse!  But, as in all things, we slowly got there worked our way around Willis Rocks and into a confused and lumpy sea and into the safety of the inner passage. The chart we had of this area is a B&W from 1985, is not compatible with GPS (positions show us to be moving sedately across the land) and the tiny detail of the entrance is further made worse by the fold in the chart. But Russ had given a clear description of how they dealt with it and it made our life easier as we worked our way in. A short quiet sail of 5 miles was our reward and we dropped the anchor about 6pm in 5 metres of green water.  

24 Aug. Heading south from Nain, little wind but chance to view the surrounding hills, trees and greenery. How different from a few days north of here.

31 Aug. Moving south after sheltering from the remains of Hurricane Irene. Both boats headed for Meshers Harbour, an almost landlocked, deep pool surrounded by trees and were joined the following day by a local fishing boat. It was secure and uneventful (as these things, thankfully, so often are) and we headed out at first light this morning for Webeck.

The last week has been mixture of some good sailing, interesting beats through narrow tickles and the reappearance of whales and sea birds after a paucity further north.

Sept 15

We're further south approaching Red Bay as the VHF continues to broadcast the rapid approach of Hurricane Maria and it's 60 knot gusts - we said a subdued goodbye to Russ and Alison on Andante this morning as we both left the shelter of Chateau Bay for different destinations and the concerns of the next 48 hours. We'll see what happens!

The weather has not been favourable to getting south and we now find ourselves a couple of weeks behind and still in Labrador. OK panic hasn't yet set in but things are getting tight on the food and booze front not to mention toilet paper. But with luck we'll get somewhere soon and at least 2 of the commodities can be replenished ... unfortunately it won't be the booze but..

Sept 16. 2pm

Awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Maria which is closely followed by a deepening low 979 from the Gulf of St Lawrence. The barometer has dropped 5 in 5 hours to 1005 and winds are forecast to reach 55 knots for this area. This area being the Strait of Belle Isle. The 3 boats, us, Andante and Morgans Cloud ( who passed us on our way to St Charles) are each in different areas due to differing speeds and destinations but all areas have storm warnings issued for them. Ho hum. We got into Red Bay and have decided to shelter up behind the substantial dock. it has a small entrance open to the south although partially protected by a shoal and headland. The entrance to Red Bay itself is from the SW, via a narrow entrance and protected by an island and the west side of the bay. which is where this blow is coming from....Every person we have spoken to assures us the harbour is bullet proof and whilst we may get a "bit 'o slop boy" curling around the entrance we'll be safe. As ever with these things the height of the weather is forecast to arrive after midnight. This will be the first blow we've sat out inside a harbour (apart from when we've been wintered in Portsmouth or Belfast) and the reason is primarily because the depths in the harbour where we'd anchor are fairly deep and we really don't have enough scope for us to be comfortable. So will we regret it? We'll see.

Sept 21.
We didn't regret it - the harbour was very well protected and we were comfortable with 8 lines emanating from boat to dock. It blew hard for about 36 hours; first with Maria then with this second, deeper low but by Sunday night all was calm and we headed out, anxious to use the forecasted favourable wind. Made it across the Strait and into St Barbe, anchoring off the ferry dock in good, thick mud. The following day it blew 25+ from the SW and we stayed put leaving on the Tuesday at 6 to get as far as we could. Initially that wasn't far as the winds were lighti-sh and heading us and we sailed 18 miles to make 2 miles off our journey......We persevered until the winds had almost deserted us and then motored. And motored. By the evening we had made it  almost to Port Aux Choix but opted to continue as the wind had picked up (still heading us of course). We beat through the night into an increasingly lumpy sea, hanging onto more sail than we would normally to weather the last headland. But that wasn't until 5am the following morning and we were sick of the motion and ready to stop. As we turned for the Port Saunders area wind and waves increased and we had a rough old time crossing the Bay and gaining the safety of the lee. Now we're anchored, eaten and slept and tomorrow it looks as though we have it all to do again. And again. Will this SW wind ever relent and give us a break? Yesterday we kicked ourselves repeatedly when we looked at the long term forecast (as we had in Red Bay after the hurricane) and wondered why we hadn't gone the long way round where the winds had been favourable for much of the time...

And finally we're back in Neddy with Randy and Karen -

the circle complete and we even managed to take Jeffrey and his 2 pals, Jay and Chris out for sail around the harbour

And no we never did find the mouse..

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

On our way back south - more to follow

We're on our way south and will update when we get a good connection. All well, good polar bear count and stories to tell

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Now we're cookin'.....and it ain't on gas!

Finally the "primus" we'd ordered arrived and we were able to relax knowing we had an alternative. Jack took a look at some of our old burners off the Taylor's and thought he might be able to make them work by the time we passed through on our way to wherever we're going next. As we were alongside the canal we simply stood the primus on top of the stove and used it knowing we'd construct something to gimbal it over the winter. Of course as the days have progressed and we're further along on the journey Bee has had to become remarkably adept at holding the cooker, manipulating pans and producing meals whilst maintaining her balance. Reminds me of the posters I used to see about Gingers Rogers - did the same thing as Fred Astaire except backwards, in high heels and wearing a long tight dress...
Anyway whilst the new cooker lacks the sophistication of the Taylor's (now there's a sentence I never thought I'd write...) it works well, has a good flame and is easy to use. True the thing is noisier than the Taylor's (and not just because it works) but Bee has baked bread and more on it.

A few days ago we pondered what to do about the non gimballing, having tried using the sink as a base for the cooker and finding the heat rapidly spreading hence the foil everywhere. Far from perfect but we needed a quick solution and at least any spillage could be pumped away with a minimum of cleaning, 
But we needed something that would allow some flexibility and overnight we thought we might be able to use half the Taylor's by removing the existing burner base. We already knew the primus was too big to fit into the hole so partly dismantled the cooker and slid in our new burner. Jiggling the thing around we managed to get the pan supports to go through existing slots on the hob-top and back into the primus. Filling the thing was a problem until we sacrificed the hose and tap we use when we're making home-brew and suddenly we're in business. Except the primus is much larger than Taylor's and so protrudes out a long way. A length of metal coat 
hanger judiciously bent at varying angles gave us a
way of stopping pans sliding (although not in big seas)  

Yesterday, June 28, we had another go at the Taylor's and even managed to get that working after yet more messing with the pump handle... So now we have two burners which seems a little greedy but no doubt it'll change before we get too far along'

We left the canal after Bee had wandered around the local supermarket toting a 50lb bag of potatoes, said sad Goodbye's to Jack, Glenda and Grant,  stayed a few days at Baddeck, borrowed charts from Henry, had a conversation with Chris Law after he landed in the anchorage in his microlight and taxied over to see us
and left one late afternoon to sail overnight up to Newfoundland. Of course as we left an interesting, to us, boat came in and we hove to to exchange compliments and "where you bound" questions. Elizabeth, the name of the boat, is a Bristol Channel Cutter (BCC) and lovely to look at. Good friends of ours own BCC's in Maine too. We parted company and soon after we were beating our way toward the exit to the Lakes. Not to be of course as the wind died and we began to motor. We pondered on whether we should anchor in Kelly's Cove but opted to go on but as we were swept into the fastest part of the channel, the swells began in earnest and I had a change of heart as the thought of yet another night bouncing around in lumpy seas with no wind seems a poor second choice to being anchored with a warm fire and a stiff drink in our hands. Kelly's Cove it was then. One of our favourites in the Bras D'or as it happens. 
We left around 9 the following morning, had a lumpy exit (serves me right) and began a slow plod north. Soon after Bee spotted Elizabeth exiting the Lakes and before long they'd caught up with us, chatted and headed north quickly.....

As night drew nearer we opted to motor to help get us out of the Cabot Strait as quickly as possible - not a place to be when things get hairy as the forecast suggested it might do in a day or so. By 2am the wind had picked up and the self-steerer was working. By 8 that night we were drifting again but by Sunday the winds had picked up and the rains were coming down but we were moving up the coast. Yippee...!! By night all had deserted us, apart from the fog and with silence around us we dropped the sails, lashed the tiller and went to bed. Well we did keep a bit of a watch but a warm bed is difficult to prise yerself from on a cold, wet foggy night. By morning nothing had changed other than the batteries needed charging so we motored on and on and eventually made it to Neddy Harbour, on the edge of the Gros Morne National Park, where we still are.

Motoring, for us, is never an easy option. Apart from the cost of fuel which is always a consideration we REALLY HATE MOTORING AT NIGHT! We don't have an auto-pilot so we have to hand steer and things are never that desperate that we'd want to be up all night steering and listen to an engine droning on. So we normally drift around, one sleeping, one on watch. Actually by setting the anchor alarm you can determine how far you want to be pushed before you do something about it and the quiet, once the main, is dropped is blissful.

All this has taken its toll on us of course - to such an extent we're now having to drink this..!!?? Any ideas what it might be?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Zen and the art of kerosene cookers...

Well we made it. Not a journey or a storm but 6 days of living on crisps(chips) and wine as we struggled to make sense of the cookers refusal to work.
Looks like crisps again!
 We stripped burners, replaced parts, changed fuel, cleaned out the fuel tank, reamed out burners and blew through pipes. One day it worked and then the following day wouldn't. In despair I refused to even look at it and that evening it worked but then failed yet again. We wrote to the manufacturer's, Taylor's, Annie Hill and anyone else we knew used them. All but Taylor's replied with various suggestions. On the day the cooker worked Bee cooked a meal and a loaf of bread and that evening we headed off from our friends Steve and Marilyn for Cape Breton with a promising forecast which, like the cooker, failed that evening and 18 hours and 50 miles later we slipped into Halifax to see what we could do. As we'd arrived in daylight we used the remainder of the day to re-do everything we had done before and the care with which we reassembled the thing meant we were bound to be successful. ...and were this a Hollywood movie we would have been. But it ain't and we weren't and we were left wondering how much further we would be able to go on this trip. Bizarrely we found the pump handle mysteriously rising by itself and, as Annie had said about a valve located in the tank somewhere, the following morning I turned to Nigel Calder's BoatOwners Manual and read through the section on kero cookers. Well the combination of Bee spotting the pump handle, Annie's prompt and Calder's writing had me looking at the valve on the pump, replacing it and the cooker came to life. And then died again. But a couple of sharp wraps with a blunt instrument soon cleared the carbon and a flame roared into life! Bee who had gone ashore by kayak returned to find the bread she had kneaded yesterday baking on the cooker. Such a feeling of relief but whilst we may well continue with the cooker, despite my harsh words, were still going down the back up road of a stand alone kero cooker.

That afternoon we left Halifax for a fast sail to St Peter's Canal. The forecast was good but...ah why do we do it? Why do we lay such store on what someone tells us the weather is going to be when our own experience tells us that somehow between the words leaving the forecasters mouth and reaching the listeners ears it all goes pear-shaped? True we left with a good wind but as the evening arrived the wind died.

The forecasted 15-20 knot winds struggled to get above 5 knots, it was slow but the first night out we managed to keep the self-steerer to keep us moving. The second day proved a slow one too and the second night the wind almost disappeared completely. The current had been against us the whole way, frequently above 1 knot, so we were covering perhaps 9 miles in 4 hours... That night we lit the cooker to get some heat into the boat after I had screwed up setting the clock for my watch and slept for 90 minutes leaving Bee to steer in the cold. She needed a hot water bottle and a strong coffee to get  her warm again. Oddly enough she didn't take to my rum laced coffee.

By daylight we had a little more wind and slowly we crept along the southern coastline of Nova Scotia, round Canso and up toward Cape Breton. As we cleared the last headland the wind shifted to the north and we had a 6 mile beat to finish. The beat was probably the most enjoyable part of the trip, bright sunshine, sparkling water and interesting water to get through. A converted fishing boat passed us heading in toward the canal and we met them when we eventually made it in. But not before we were both forced to strip off our thermal union suits and multi-layered tops to t-shirts and shorts as the temperature rose dramatically. Boy was it warm! The little beach that sits outside the canal had families bathing and everyone seemed cheerful....seems the previous 37 days had been rainy or foggy and cold.

Through the canal and we tied up at the far end, opposite Jack and Glenda's house and responded happily to their shout of "come over for a cold beer"
Toots loves this stop-over with it's nearby long grass and reed beds and few cars to bother her. When we returned several  hours later from our visit she was, unusually, no where to be seen and didn't respond to shouts and whistles for sometime but strolled out from wherever she'd been to peer expectantly at her food bowl.
We'd spent a little of our time up at Steve and Marilyn's helping out in the garden. That is Bee helped out and I'd write up the blog.
Me and Steve gardening....

After 30 years of living aboard their boat they've bought this little place and are coming to terms with novelty of land based living. They can't get used to having a freezer or getting dirty and being able to take a shower. But the bit they really love is not having to walk down a jetty burdened  with groceries, arms aching and then having to load it all into the dinghy and get out to the boat and then get it out of the dinghy and onto the boat. Frequently in the rain. I sometimes find myself in a house stood at the kitchen sink, my right foot tapping up and down. Not in response to some silent tune playing through my head but because the Pavlovian reaction to wanting water to come out of the tap is to pump it with a foot pump.

And this is just because we saw it and thought ?
Yup that's a scooter on the back of that boat..

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Lunenburg at last

Been a while since we posted and much has happened since we left Cary and Portsmouth behind. We set out for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia with a favourable wind and made good progress the first day. But, as ever, it seems predictions and actualities are far apart and the wind eased and progress slowed. After 3 days we were closing the coast of Long Island as the forecast was for stiff easterlies....progress was slow but steady around 3 knots as we were passed by yet another 60 odd foot boat under power. Violent thunderstorms could be seen between us and New York but we were to far east to get wet or fried but we did have Queen Mary 2 pass within a mile of us .

Fog came in and we eventually made our way into Block Island to wait a better slant of wind. We've been meaning to get into here for the last 5 years or so but never made it for various reasons. Good shelter and, at this time of the year, very few boats. A boat we know of but have never actually met came in a few days later and as we were talking to Robin and Jac on Skype we were able to get Andante's (the boat we wanted to talk to and they knew) email. Soon after they came on the vhf to hail us- the wonders of technology. Of which more later he muttered darkly....
We both left the following morning though to slightly different directions. We had a long haul up Buzzards Bay in the inevitable fog, anchored for a few hours to await the tide turn. As we hauled the anchor up the wind was squally and the sky black with rain. No fog but poor visibility as we sailed up the channel and into the canal proper. As we exited the other side with a stiff wind the prospect of a night sail with a beam wind and rolling seas slamming into us overcame me and against Bee's protest we sailed into Provincetown for the night. Which turned into several days as we, again, waited a better slant. But a few more jobs were done, Bee kayaked ashore and we followed the local news as the CG searched for a missing lobster diver. Sadly the body was recovered days later in 56' of water.

But the weather turned and one bright morning at 6am we set off. OK a bit of fog around but the cruise up the coast in sunshine was pleasant as we were passed by the inevitable fast moving yot under power. We cleared Cape Cod, all sand dunes and a few small cabins and set the course for Lunenburg. Sometime around 10 we sailed into the fog and there we stayed. And stayed. The trip across took about 90 hours and we saw nothing until we entered Lunenburg harbour about 300 miles later.Often the vis was about 1/2 mile or less and sometimes it may have been a tad further but mostly it was a wet, cold silent trip. We spoke to the Arcadian - a ferry (I think) that runs between Canada and the US and when we ended the call were surprised to hear from Andante who were about 7 miles from us and moving at 6knots to our 4. I can see the advantages of a roller furling in this situation. Want more sail? Release this line and away you go...whereas we need to take one down, put another one up and then stow the wet one somewhere - usually on deck, hopefully lashed well down. Still we were making our usual steady progress and Stan the steerer was working so no complaints really. Andante were bound for Halifax but in the end pushed onto St Peter's in Cape Breton. Our paths will cross and meet soon we know.

Into Lunenburg for the first time in 6 years and luckily one boat on a mooring who, in response to our hail,  left the movie he, Michael, and his girlfriend, Hannah were watching, leapt into a dinghy and rowed to a dock to take our lines, joined by a couple, Richard and Jo off a huge brigantine, Concordia.  Phone was borrowed, Customs contacted and whilst we settled down to wait our line handlers left for the night. Customs arrived about 2 hours later and conducted the usual thorough interview, particularly about how we fund ourselves..........., whether we had gifts etc etc. Finally by 11.30pm we were cleared in and sleep called.
The following day I wandered off to find out about the jetty we were on and returned to find Hannah and her mum, Laurel on board . Hannah has been at sea on various boats for the last 10 years from the Picton Castle to Maggie B to an Arctic Tug and is only 27!! Amazing woman.  Our next visitors were Steve and Marilyn and Bee treated them to a cup of coffee, the significance of which is about to follow.....

The last time we were in Lunenburg we felt the town was a dying, everything seemed as though it was on its knees but this time around was much better. It has an amazing waterfront, colourful, interesting and unspoilt. No huge marina just a few buoys or you anchor. We really liked the place.

So we left Lunenburg with a cooker that for some reason had decided to stop working. It would light but the flame would die within a few seconds. But we were on our way to see Steve and Marilyn who, after 30 years in a boat, have opted to do a bit of land living. We anchored in a bay close to their home and set about getting the cooker to work. Well it didn't. We have cleaned pipes, cleaned out the tank, stripped the burners and more you don't want to know about. This went on for days and days; meals consisted of crisps and alcohol and dreams were dominated by kerosene fueled antics... One day was taken out as I couldn't bear the thought of yet another day spent messing with the damn thing and we rode off to visit the local sail maker, a really neat woman called Michelle Stevens who, as Bee says, took pity on the old man and gave us a lift back to the boat. See her site here  We also visited a guy who has a Wylo (like Blackthorn) and he'd ditched his Taylor's in favour of a simpler "Primus" cooker system and that's the way we think we're going.. But in the meantime we persevered and persevered and finally last night, Sat 4 June we got it going.. A good flame and we ran it for 3 hours as Bee made a loaf of bread, cooked a meal and we kept an eye on it. Finally we were back in business and emails were sent out to various folks who have been advising us. This morning the roaring sound of a Taylor's cooker was once again back to the silence of the cloister as it refused to work. We know it wasn't a dream 'cos we have a meal and a loaf of bread sitting there. So there you have it - primitive technology still has the ability to beat modern thinking or something. Today we refused to touch it and wrote this up, Bee helped in the garden, we cleaned the prop and changed the fan belt. In an idle moment we thought we'd try the bloody cooker again. It worked.....

It'll be up for sale when you read this.