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.....................