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.